Absinthium Redux

Wednesday, December 13, 2017 0 comments


A few years ago I was working on the design of a mechanical Absinthe preparer inspired by a mechanical wine pourer.

I called my device The Absinthium Project.

This machine which prepares a Gin and Tonic might just inspire me to start working on it again.


Keep your sightglass full, your firebox trimmed and your water iced!

World Championships 2017

Saturday, October 21, 2017 0 comments

A fine Autumn day of Skill and Elegance.

The 2017 Parasol Duelling World Championships were held on Saturday September 9.
Summer in Calgary had been very hot, and very smokey from the forest fires to the West in British Columbia, and this early September day was no exception.

The competition was held in a beautiful Confederation Park in NW Calgary.

Photo by Chuck Szmurlo, May 30, 2007
The park was built to celebrate the Canadian Centennial in 1967 and it stretches along a little creek that winds for almost a mile through a valley.  The park is a very popular wedding spot so we were not sure exactly where in the park we would be able to compete, but as luck would have it we found a beautiful spot amongst the cottonwood trees along the creek, within easy access of the main parking area.

The Grande Promenade of the contestants was very picturesque, the dark green trees with a scattering of bright yellow leaves falling made for a wonderful backdrop.

Photo by Dave Harold
Photo by Karlo Keet

Photo by Karlo Keet

Photo by Karlo Keet

Photo by Karlo Keet

Photo by Karlo Keet
We had eight competitors this year, including the 2016 World Champion, the 2016 Junior, Compulsory Figures, and Flirtations Champions.
Competitors and Doctors
L to R: Maxwell MacDonald-Smythe (aka Kevin Jepson), Barb Sand, Sarafina Kain, Monica Willard, Karen Siemens, Teagan de Boer,
Dr Johann Portsmouth Adler (aka Stewart MacPhee.)
L to R seated Raven Hawthorne, Briona Justine, Josanna Justine
Photo by Dave Harold

After the promenade the contestants and Doctors gathered for the traditional "Welcome and Admonition" from Madame Saffron Hemlock, given this year by Baroness Fawkes as Madame was unable to attend due to the smoky air.

The Welcome and Admonition
Baroness Daniella Fawkes (Dana Teh) and Erin Sand were the judges.
Photo by Karlo Keet
Salute to the Judges
Photos by Karlo Keet

The first competition was the Compulsory Figures.

The Ladies demonstrated great skill and confidence with their figures.
Here is a sample of some of the Compulsory figure forms.

Karen Siemens
Photo by Dave Harold

Barb Sand
Photo by Dave Harold
Monica Willard
Photo by Karlo Keet

After the Compulsory Figures were completed the Flirtation Trials were held, always a crowd favourite as the Ladies try to elaborate on their figures.

Elegance and drama were very much in evidence.

Raven Hawthorne
Photo by Dave Harold
Raven Hawthorne and Josanna Justine
Photo by Peter Justine

This year there were several unique examples of creativity including, for the first time, the use of a 'prop'

Teigan de Boer and Monica Willard (with prop)
Photo by Karlo Keet

 Some different interpretations of the Plant...

Teigan de Boer and Monica Willard
Photo by Peter Justine
And the Snub.
Teigan de Boer and Monica Willard

Photo by Dave Harold

After a short break for the Judge and her assistant to get their paper work prepared, the formal Duelling Competition was setup.

The formal duelling made use of the Dance Cards, as introduced last year, which makes the Doctor's job easier. With eight competitors we were able to run single bouts so both Doctors were able to watch the competitors. The speed of the duelists continues to improve so it was necessary to watch closely to insure that the figures were actually complete at the hold!

In the continuing quest to handle the inevitable draws we used a "sudden death" form of runoff. This was first used very successfully at the April Spring Regionals this year. The "sudden death" system has the duelists start back to back and they take the two steps as normal but, instead of turning, they choose and complete a single figure while still facing away from each other. At the command of the Doctor they turn to face each other and the duel is resolved according to the normal rules.

As it turned out there were only two draws during the formal competition this year and the new procedure worked really well.

Formal Duels.

Briona Justine and Teigan de Boer
Photo by Karlo Keet
Raven Hawthorne and Briona Justine
Photo by Karlo Keet

Raven Hawthorne and Josanna Justine
Photo by Karlo Keet
Sarafina Kain and Raven Hawthorne
Photo by Karlo Keet

The tension climbed as the duels continued resulting in some "bustling" and (very polite) trash talk.

Barb Sand and Monica Willard
Photo by Karlo Keet
Trash Talk
Teigan de Boer and Sarafina Kain
Photo by Karlo Keet

The intensity of the competition is very apparent in these pictures of the duels.

Sarafina Kain and Karen Siemens
Photo by Dave Harold
Josanna Justine
Photo by Dave Harold
Briona Justine and Barb Sand
Photo by Karlo Keet

Monica Willard
Photo by Dave Harold
Sarafina Kain and Raven Hawthorne
Photo by Karlo Keet

Raven Hawthorne and Josanna Justine
Photo by Karlo Keet

After 3 complete rounds the Judges announced the semi finalists.

Semi Finalists
Briona Justine, Josanna Justine, Sarafina Kain
Photo by Dave Harold

Two more quick rounds...
Josanna Justine and Sarafina Kain
Photo by Vendetta

Briona Justine and Sarafina Kain

And Briona Justine emerged the winner of the formal Duelling Competition!

Briona Justine  and Sarafina Kain
After the final duel!
Photo by Vendetta
While the judges were tallying the scores to determine the World Champion a "Hold the Field" Street duelling competition was held. This form of duelling has a duelist stand against all comers till defeated. Then the victor takes the field against the remaining competitors. A competitor may enter the field after being defeated once again but no more.

The duels were quick using the mini parasols.
Josanna Justine and Barb Sand
Photo by Karlo Keet
Josanna Justine and Teigan de Boer
Photo by Karlo Keet

Josanna Justine was the winner of the Street Duelling!

With that the formal competitions complete it only remained for the chief judge to present the winners of the various competitions with their sashes.

 First the Junior Champion, Briona Justine.
Briona Justine and Baroness Fawkes
Photo by Vendetta

Who of course is also the Duelling Champion!
Briona Justine
Photo by Karlo Keet
The Street Duelling Champion, Josanna Justine.
Baroness Fawkes presents Josanna Justine
with the Street Duelling award.
Photo by Vendetta
Josanna also won the Compulsory Figures!

Josanna Justine
Photo by
Karlo Keet
Raven Hawthorne, the Flirtations Trials champion.
Raven Hawthorne
Photo by Karlo Keet

Then a hush fell over the crowd as the moment came that everyone had been waiting for, the announcement of the new World Parasol Duelling Champion!
Photo by Dave Harold
The 2017 World Parasol Duelling Champion
 Sarafina Kain!

2017 World Parasol Duelling Champion
Sarafina Kain!
Photo by Vendetta
Here they are, all the 2017 World Champions!
Congratulations Ladies!

2017 World Champions
L to R
Briona Justine, Duelling and Junior Champion
Josanna Justine, Compulsory Figures and Street Duelling Champion
Raven Hawthorne, Flirtations Trials Champion
Sarafina Kain, World Parasol Duelling Champion!
Photo by Kevin Jepson
A special award ribbon was given to Karlo Keet for his photography at all our Championships and competitions.

Thanks Karlo!

Maxwell MacDonald-Smythe (Kevin Jepson) presents
Karlo Keet, Catstar Images, with a Special Appreciation Ribbon
Photo by Peter Justine

And so another World Championship comes to a close.

Thanks to all the competitors, officials, and doctors for making this event such a wonderful celebration of the our elegant sport.

Thanks as always to the photographers that make us look so good.

Karlo Keet of Catstar Images
Dave Harold
Peter Justine


See you all in 2018!

L to R Standing
Barb Sand, Teigan de Boer, Stewart McPhee, Monica Willard, Erin Sand, Dana Teh, Karen Siemens, Kevin Jepson
L to R Seated
Josanna Justine, Briona Justine, Raven Hawthorne, Sarafina Kain

Keep your sightglass full, your firebox trimmed and your water iced.

For more information and to find out more about this great sport go to:
Madame Saffron Hemlock’s Parasol Duelling League for Steampunk Ladies

Click here for information on the history and development of Parasol Duelling
or click the Parasol Duelling tag.

The Rules for Parasol Duelling

A wonderful Afternoon at the Duelling

Saturday, September 16, 2017 0 comments

Another great Championships.

Keep your sightglass full, your firebox trimmed, and your water iced.

Lost at Sea Part VIII

Monday, September 11, 2017 0 comments


Here is the final part of the second of three serial stories from our Role Play group The Airship's Messdeck.

You can start from the beginning here.

Previously, the engine of the Argo is beginning to fail, and even though the storm has abated the old trawler is being forced back by the swell onto the roaring breakers crashing against the iron bound coast of Norway.


Keep your sightglass full, your firebox trimmed and your water iced.

Lost at Sea
A serial story from The Messdeck.
  by Kevin Jepson

*The engine is making a loud grinding and knocking sound, but the smoother patch in the breakers has moved almost astern. It is clearly a spire of rock rising up from the seabed just below the base of the great swells, its seaweed covered surface can be seen just below the foaming troughs as the waves break across. It is almost full daylight now and there is indeed a bay reaching back beyond the rocks. Max and the members of the Velvet Brush's crew are all in the wheelhouse.*

    "Lt Bueckert, collect all the bits of your aether wave gear and your code books and put them in a sack and prepare to get them overboard!"

    Miss B.B. looks shocked "My, my code books Sir?"

    "Aye we are going to hit the shore and maybe sink, but if we don't we don't need anyone finding their Lordships codes to play with eh?"

    "Oh, oh yes, aye of course, I'll do that right away." Surprisingly Miss B.B touches her cap in salute and then drops down the ladder.

    "Simpson, gather up the navigator's charts, and the records from the Chirper, get them into a weighted bag and move them up onto the upper deck where we can grab them if we have to leave in a hurry! If the worst happens they should sink too."

    "Aye aye Sir!" and Simpson also drops down the ladder.

    Iveta makes to follow him but Max says "Lt Baleva, things are going to happen really fast once we are amongst the breakers, make sure everybody is on the upper deck. We'll likely roll over if we hit broadside on and I don't want anybody trapped below, understood."

    "Aye aye Sir."

    "And Lieutenant..."


    "Mr Angus and I will stay at the wheel as we get close so if anything happens to me you will be in command get them back to England as best you can."

    "Aye Sir, I..."

    Mr Angus growls, "No you bloody well won't laddy! You is an old salt and no mistake. I know how the Argo steers but I can't see behind us. I'll need you looking out to give me some proper helm orders as we get close. You get up on that bloody deck and see if there's a way through!"

    Max watches the grey old fisherman grimly gripping the shattered wheel and shakes his head, comes to attention and salutes. "Aye aye Captain Angus, Aye aye."

    *The crew collects on the roof of the cabin, the roar of the surf is like thunder, the air thick with salt spray. Miss B.B. clutching the canvas bag with the remains of her aether wave gear and the code books watches the crashing surf for a moment and throws the bag overboard. The motion of the Argo is wilder now, corkscrewing and bucking in the confused waves close to the breaker line. The smooth patch is anything but this close in. A churning mass of foam and breaking water shooting high in the air.*

    Max calls out "Port 10!". Then "Midships!"

 *The rocks are closer, the water gushing in great frothing torrents onto and over the submerged rocks.*

    "Starboard 20!" Then "Midships... That's all Mr Angus we are on them now!"

    *Grabbing anything solid everyone hangs on as the Argo's whistle begins to sound, long, continuous, and mournful. Blasting her last defiance at wave and rock.*


2017 World Parasol Duelling Championships

Saturday, September 2, 2017 0 comments

Who will be the new World Champion?

Join the Ladies of Madame Saffron Hemlock's Parasol Duelling League as they compete to choose the 2017 World Champions!
The event is open to the public but you must be a member of Madame Saffron's to compete.
There will be competitions to choose the Champions of Duelling, Compulsory Figures, Flirtations, and Street Duelling.
The event will be held at Confederation Park, in Calgary Alberta Canada. Starting at 2:00pm Saturday September 9th 2017

Photo by Grant Zelych
Ladies grab your Parasols and join the fun.

Keep your sightglass full, your firebox trimmed, and your water iced.

For more information and to find out more about this great sport go to:
Madame Saffron Hemlock’s Parasol Duelling League for Steampunk Ladies

Click here for information on the history and development of Parasol Duelling 
or click the Parasol Duelling tag.

The Rules for Parasol Duelling are here.

Lost at Sea Part VII

Friday, August 4, 2017 0 comments

Drifting astern...

Here is the next part of my serial story from our Role Play group The Airship's Messdeck.

You can start from the beginning here.

Previously Max and his shipmates from the HMAS Velvet Brush, are struggling to keep the aged steam trawler Argo from being driven against the iron bound coast of Norway, following one of the greatest storms ever recorded.  The ship has been damaged and even though the storm is finally releasing them from its grip the swell is driving them relentlessly astern towards the breakers.

Enjoy Part VII.

Keep your sightglass full, your firebox trimmed, and your water iced.

Lost at Sea
A serial story from The Messdeck.
Part VII
  by Kevin Jepson

   *Another hour and a very welcome mug of Miss BB's hot tea later, sans medicine unfortunately, and the sky has become lighter. There is a definite horizon now.
    *For Max, the view out the shattered front of the Argo's pilot house is anything but encouraging however. As the light grows the long serried ranks of rollers can be seen looming up in front of the Argo. Their crests blowing spray and cascading in foam down their steepening fronts.*

   Grimly holding the broken wheel, he mutters to himself, "Like being in front of a bloody cavalry charge that is! Still as long as we can hold our position we may be able to get off this shore now that the wind is dropping."

    *The wind has indeed begun to drop away and the brightening sky shows spreading dark blue spaces with only the brightest stars still shining to the West. Now that the wind is no longer screaming, Max can feel the steady thump of the Argo's engine beneath him and hear the terrifying bass notes of the surf astern.*

    *It is a struggle to keep the Argo's bow pointed directly into the waves. For a while, after the mast had collapsed, it had actually been easier as freed of the resistance up forward the wind had helped to keep the Argo pointed correctly. Now it takes both Max and Mr Angus to hold her as she exhibits a frightening tendency to turn broadside to as she charges down the wave fronts into the troughs. Even a moments carelessness would cause them to broach and roll broadside to the waves. They would be swept helpless into the breakers as the Argo's engine would not be powerful enough to correct their course against the surf in time.*

    Mr Angus, stolidly guiding his labouring ship, along with Max at the wheel, suddenly lifts his head, like a hunting hound who smells the stag on the wind.

    "Something's wrong with the engine!"

    Max listens carefully to the steady thumping. "Maybe running a little slower but..."

    "No Laddy, I know my ship like I know me own hands and I tell ye something is amiss"

    *There is definite change in the engine vibrations now, a subtle slowing without the engine actually seeming to slow down. *

    Iveta scrambles up the ladder from the cabin. "We are loosing ground Sir! Last quarter of an hour we have definitely gotten closer to the line of breakers."

    "Blast! How long before we are in them? Can you tell how fast we are moving astern Lieutenant?"

    "Hard to tell Sir. The shoreline is still in shadow but the ground rises sharply beyond, I would say at our current rate maybe an hour at most."

    "That low patch in the surf, can you tell what is beyond it?"

    "Not really Sir, the shoreline seems to swing away to the east at that point. There is a slight north set to the tide though, so we are moving towards it."

    "Right, see if you can get a better idea what's beyond that patch and try to estimate if we will be abreast of it before we are in the breakers."

    "Aye aye Sir!" Iveta drops down the ladder.

    "And what bloody Navy foolishness are ye planning now Laddy?"

    Max gives a grim smile. "I'm not sure yet Mr Angus, depends on what the Navigator can tell us."

    *The engine vibration is harder now, a slight knocking can be felt through the deck.*

    Simpson scrambles up the ladder drenched in sweat and covered in grease and coal dust. "Sir! The sea water has gotten into the oil and the bearings are overheating. I tried to rig up a secondary oil supply but the bearings are mostly shot. We're going to steadily loose power until they seize."

    Max shakes his head. "God Dammit! Somebody really doesn't want us to get back to Scapa! How long?"

    "Half an hour maybe three quarters, she's working damn hard, something could let go as the vibration gets worse and that would be that."

    Mr Angus swears loudly then shakes his head sadly. "She's done well to keep going this long, we should have been retired years ago."

    "Well she hasn't quit fighting yet, and as long as she keeps swimming we don't have to! Simpson get below and have the boys stoke the boiler as best they can to be able to run unattended for an hour or so then get them up out of the stoke hold."

    "Aye aye Sir!"

    "Lieutenant Bueckert!"

  Miss B.B. climbs up the ladder clutching a teapot in her hand. "Yes Sir?"

 "Get the Navigator and come back quick as you can."

 "Ok...er.. Aye Sir"

  "Mr Angus I'm afraid we are going to have to put your fine ship ashore. Without power we'll be on the rocks anyway, least ways we can maybe choose where while we have some control."

    The old fisherman, now grey like the seas boiling around his struggling ship, simply nods and grimly continues to keep her head aimed squarely into the waves.

   *Iveta and Miss B.B clamber up into the wheelhouse*

   Iveta says,"Sir, at our current speed we will be abreast of the smoother patch just before we hit the surf line. It is not a lot smoother though."

   "Our engine power is failing so we will likely loose ground faster. Any idea what the smoother patch is?"

   "Looks like a pinnacle of rocks out front of the shore, at this state of the tide they are awash but I bet they aren't when it is low. Looks like there is a gap in them, though it isn't very wide. The shore beyond is a ways back, could be a bay."

   Mr Angus says "We can't turn and run into that spot. We would be rolled over before we could get around."

   "Then maybe can get there before we loose our engine. As we surf down these waves see if we can angle a bit to the north and maybe gain on that patch. Let's make use of what engine power we have left and back down onto it. We won't have much control but it's better than none at all!"

    "Aye true enough."

*Max follows Mr Angus' lead at the damaged wheel as, gritting his teeth, the old fisherman begins to carefully angle the old Argo to the north slightly as she slides down the back of each passing swell.  The rumble of the surf astern is louder and the knocking from the engine beneath their feet is like the ticking of some demonic clock.*

Part VIII is here.

A Sea of Words

Sunday, July 23, 2017 0 comments

All the words!

In the early 18th C there was a kind of mania for "dictionaries". While often oriented to the rapidly expanding vocabulary of English, they also covered many distinct subjects.
Many Victorians in the 19th C would recognize these subjects.
Some persist to this day others have faded from the main stream of academic pursuits.

This is from "The New World of Words: or a Universal English Dictionary" by John Philips, first published in 1706, (edited by John Kersey 6th edition). The 6th edition included, "A brief Explication of all terms that relate to the Arts and Sciences, either Liberal or Mechanical, viz."

Here is the list:
Grammar, Rhetorick, Logic, Theology, Law, Metaphysicks, Ethicks, Natural Philosophy, Natural History, Physick, Surgery, Anatomy, Chymistry, Pharmacy, Botanicks, Arithmetick, Geometry, Astronomy, Astrology, Cosmography, Hydrography, Navigation, Architecture, Fortification, Dialling, Surveying, Gauging, Opticks, Catopticks, Diopticks, Perspective, Musick, Mechanicks, Statics, Chiromanct, Physiognomy, Heraldry, Merchandise, Maritime and Military affairs, Agriculture, Gardening, Handicrafts, Jewelling, Painting, Carving, Engraving, Confectionery, Cookery, Horsemanship, Hawking, Hunting, Fowling, Fishing, etc.
I suspect there was still a lot included under "etc"

Keep your sightglass full, your firebox trimmed, and your water iced.

About Gears, Goggles, and Steam oh My!

Here I collect interesting bits of information related to the world of Steampunk.

Category List

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