Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 31, 2015 0 comments

Or maybe New Gears!

I hope your 2016 is awesome!

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

Join the Adventure!

Monday, December 7, 2015 0 comments

Join Madame Saffron Hemlock's Parasol Duelling league!

So what do you do when you have a piece of epic music and a pile of fantastic photos from Parasol Duelling competitions?

You make a video ad that's what!

Here is the latest ad for Madame Saffron Hemlock's Parasol Duelling League on Facebook.

I hope you enjoy it and please pass it along to anyone interested!

As always thanks to the Ladies of Madame Saffron Hemlock’s Parasol Duelling League.

And the great photographers who make us look so good.

Karlo Keet.
Clare Gibson
Katie Edwards
Lindsay Dunlop
Phi Vernon

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

Practical Airship Design Analysis of a Real System!

Sunday, November 22, 2015 0 comments

Steam Plants for Aircraft analysed in 1926!

I found an interesting report from NACA (NASA's original name) concerning the analysis and experimentation of light weight steamplants for use in aircraft.

The paper is entitled "Steam Power Plants in Aircraft" and compiled by  E.E. Wilson at the Bureau of Aeronautics in 1926, and you can get the paper in PDF format here.

In this paper the author analyses a lightweight boiler setup capable of generating sufficient steam at high enough pressures to power an aircraft. He then estimates the weight and efficiency of a complete system model using this boiler and compares it to the current internal combustion power plants used in the heavier than air craft of the time.

The result of the analysis is that with the current state of the art in 1926, using steam power for heavier than air craft was NOT practical. This is not really a surprise given the power/weight ratio of even an efficient boiler and turbine setup. However there were two constraints that really tipped the analysis over against the use of steam power for aircraft.

  1. Fuel consumption/efficiency of steam power compared to internal combustion power plants.
  2. Weight and area of the system for condensing the steam for re-use.
If you have been reading the other parts of my Practical Airship Design series you will note that neither of those constraints exist in the design of our airship!

First the fuel consumption issue doesn't exist because of our fantastical core, which uses no fuel but produces steam at potentially very high temperatures and pressures. Second the condensation issue is moot because the exhaust steam can simply be added to the lift system and condensed on the hull condenser as described in Part 4.

Interestingly enough the author concludes something similar and even postulates a turbine electric propulsion system, which was very cool to read indeed!

Again we do not have any worries about efficiency in our design.

Fascinating to see this analysis and it is an interesting read if you are curious about the analysis of a real system that could be implemented in an airship like I have been describing.

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

Here is the table of contents for the whole series of Practical Airship Design posts.

You can see all the posts related airships and airship design here.

Role Play Serial Story from the Messdeck Part VI

Friday, November 20, 2015 0 comments

Remember those chickens I mentioned?

Here is the next part of the serialized tale from our role play group "The Messdeck".

You can start from the beginning here.

Previously, Lt Cmdr Maxwell MacDonald-Smythe (Max), and his crew aboard the aged HMAS Doris, had arrived at the remote manor of their shipmate Doctor Christine Pearse. The good doctor, in addition to her duties as Ships Doctor aboard the experimental airship the HMAS Velvet Brush, is also the Duchess of Argylle.

The journey north in the old Doris in the dead of winter was icy cold, so Max and the crew are happy indeed to spend the evening enjoying the hospitality of the good Doctor.

Frozen Sky
A serial story from The Messdeck.
Part VI
Collected and edited by Kevin Jepson 
What follows is a slightly edited transcript of the role playing we did for our visit to the Manor at Davaar.
The crew settles onto the couches and chairs in the elegant parlour, enjoying the warmth and the food which the servants bring steaming hot from the kitchen.
Christine says, smiling broadly, "Since the Doris doesn't have a 'Bubble Bath Room' I'm sure you'll enjoy the bathroom adjoining your room Miss BB...the tub is very relaxing."

Miss BB overhearing Max's comment about counting chickens says, "There's chickens? I don't see any chickens?" then turning to Christine she asks, "Doctor, are you sure that all those rats and things are gone gone gone?"

Iveta smiles, "If need be, we can find some books for the rats."

Christine sips her tea and nods. "Yes, we've not seen a trace of them. The tunnels have been sealed off and with the improvements and upgrades to the Manor, I think it's safe to say that the rats are gone."

BB smiles back at Iveta and pats her bag on her lap. "Oh, I brought my book. I sure did."

Cpl Cooke moves to meat pie #3. "I have my jamming equipment with me too if it is needed."

Sgt Fraser looks to Cooke and laughs. "Slow down lad or you won't be able to get back on board!"

Max looks around the parlour and says, "Ma'am, it seems everything got put back together pretty well, it were a shame we had to make such a mess."

"Ah Commander, that's what happens when you are set upon by villains. I have to say, it was a blessing in disguise really. Much needed improvements were able to be made during the repairs, so it wasn't such a bad thing after all I suppose."

"Glad to hear it Ma'am." Max stretches his bad leg and says, "Oooh it is lovely and warm in here."

Fraser looks up from a sandwich. "Sorry about the front gate Ma'am, did they ever manage to get it fixed?"

"So much has happened since then..." Christine is momentarily lost in thought and then comes back to the room at Fraser's question. "Oh, yes, the gate has been fixed with some new technology. It's quite impressive, if you want to go out and take a look later, feel free."

Fraser nods. "Thank you Ma'am, I will do a walk around later when Cooke and I do our ship check."

Miss BB reaching for another slice of steaming meat pie says, "Doctor, you know what we did? We went to a Parasol Duel. It was wonderful. They had all kinds of outfits and parasols. Did you ever go?"

Christine raises her eyebrows, "Parasol dueling? My word! I've not been to London since before Christmas, so I'm afraid I'm terribly out of step with the new fashions. Might I assume that you've participated?"

"Oh I wanted to. But Madame wouldn't let me. She said I needed training. Hmmm. There was lots and lots of ladies."

Iveta winks at BB. "In time I think you'll be quite a natural."[1]

Christine smiles at BB and says, "I would imagine so. Very sensible sport, parasol dueling. Combines fashion and defense nicely."

"And you have the best parasols, anyway." says Iveta, grinning at Miss BB.

"Oh I hope so. It is just ever such a wonderful thing to see." says BB as she starts in on her meat pie.

Max says, "It is quite the thing now Ma'am, the clerk at the Officer's hostel his mum is a judge. Heard all about it, seems fascinating. I'm going to read up on it in me spare time."

"And when we were there, I saw a Lady who we knew, and when I yelled, she just kept walking like she didn't even hear me. But I yelled real loud." says BB.

Fraser takes out a small pipe. "I heard that even Private Mitchell was looking into it."[2]

Looking at her half empty tea cup Miss BB whispers to Iveta, "Just tea. no medicine yet."

Overhearing, Christine smiles and says, "If you think your tea might need some fortification in order to thaw the marrow of your bones, that could be arranged."

Iveta turning to the Doctor says "The small parasols are what intrigue me most. They are held in twin holsters at the hips. Fascinating!"

"Oh? There are different classes of parasol? How very interesting! What is the reasoning behind that?"

*Cooke moves on to the pastries.*

Iveta says, "The small ones were used for, something called street dueling I think."

Miss BB nods. "Ya, street duels are the best thing ever. You can even do them at pokooor games."

Fraser raises an eyebrow and chuckles. "Street duels? Yep Mitchell is going to love that."

"Oh my!" says Christine. "That sounds so very wild west! How exciting! The Metropolitan Police have turned a blind eye to this? I'm surprised Parliament hasn't passed a bill outlawing this new sport. They'll think that such behaviour will cause the women to think they should vote next." she says grinning broadly.

"Oh, they don't let you poke anyones eye out. So the police just watch." says BB.

Iveta says, "I'm interested in studying the craft, myself. Who knows? It may prove useful sometime."

Miss BB looks thoughtful and then nods. "Vote? yes we should vote. That is a great idea."

Carefully pouring another cup of tea for Iveta, Christine says, "Well, I must say, that any sort of self defense a lady can have is a good one. Especially one that uses such a lovely accessory as a parasol."

Fraser pipes up, "Wait. There's no contact I thought."

"No" says Miss BB, "They say it is too dangerous. Can you imagine that? Bah. Sometimes though, you can show your ankles."

Christine nearly chokes on her tea, trying not to laugh. "Good gracious!"

Cooke looks up from a pastry and says to Fraser "Mitchell won't like that."

"Mitchell has nice ankles." says Miss BB.

Max chokes on his tea. "Er sorry, wrong pipe."

Christine laughs. "And how would you know Miss BB?"

"Bubble bath room." says BB, "That's all I will say."

Watkins looks over at Simpson who is blushing and grins at him "Eer Simpson steady on."

Christine smothers a laugh and tries to compose her face, eyes twinkling.

Iveta grins. "I'm sure the British don't know what to do with me, as I show mine all the time. I think it's a perfect way to disguise a warrior's skill, even if they have to wear dresses."

Miss BB carefully puts a spare meat pie in her bag.

Fraser chokes again and nudges Cooke. Who, trying not to laugh, goes back to eating.

The crew and their hostess continue in their pleasantries enjoying the warmth, good food and companionship.

While out in the cloakroom, by the great front doors, several tiny metal insects crawl from under the bands of the crew's hats. They unfold wings and begin to rise. Spreading far to the outer walls of the vast foyer, they keep near the edges of paneling joins and tapestries, all but invisible against the dark wood, with only the rarest, briefest glints of light on metal to betray their whereabouts. They spread room to room, seeking the sound of human voices, sending their tiny beacon signals to the cloaked airship hovering not far away in the grey icy winter skies.

[1] Miss BB, known in real life as Karen Siemens, was in fact the very first Parasol Duelling Word Champion of modern times.
[2] Private Camile Mitchell is the only female member of the Royal Marine detachment aboard the HMAS Velvet Brush.

2015 Parasol Duelling World Championships

Thursday, October 15, 2015 0 comments

A beautiful day for duelling!

The Second Annual World Parasol Duelling Championships took place on September 19th, 2015, in Calgary Alberta Canada.

Central Memorial Park in Calgary AB Canada
Central Memorial Park
The Championships were held in Calgary's elegant Central Memorial Park which was the site of one of this year's Beakerhead installations, "Intrude" by Australian artist Amanda Parer.

The park had three giant inflated white rabbits, a quirky and exotic back ground for the World's greatest Parasol Duellists.
 On the Thursday evening before the competition the Rabbits were lit up with coloured lights and synchronized music which made for a magical evening.
We added a little parasol fun to the event.

Cover illustration by
Kipling West
As part of Calgary's annual Beakerhead event we had great coverage leading up to the day, even making it onto the cover of one of Calgary's regular "things to do" magazines.

On Saturday afternoon the results of the coverage showed in the excited crowd that was gathering to watch the Ladies compete.

Soon the Chief Judge Madame Saffron Taxus-Hemlock arrived and was escorted to the Judges table by Doctor Adler joining the other judges for this year's World Championships.
Madame Saffron Taxus-Hemlock, Chief Judge, arrives and is greeted by Doctor Adler

Judges for the event were:
Photo by MetallYZA
L to R seated at the Judges table:
Her Grace, Christine Pearse the Duchess of Argylle, aka Christie Vanderloh.
Virgo Vermeil, aka Char-Min Wade-Creller.
Chief Judge and Black Sash, Madame Saffron Taxus-Hemlock, aka Jayne Barnard.

The Doctors for the event were:
Photo by Peter Justine

Left: Maxwell MacDonald-Smythe, aka Kevin Jepson (me).
Right: Doctor Johann Portsmouth Adler, aka Stewart MacPhee.

We had nine contestants for this year's World Championships.
L to R
Sarafina Kain, Josanna Justine, Nicki Brown, Cindy Bedford, Katherine Eleanor Lingwood, Cali Brewer, Deanne Robbins, Monica Willard and Raven Hawthorne (missing)
Photo by Karlo Keet

After a brief demonstration of the rules for the audience and an explanation of how the afternoon would proceed, we asked if anybody in the audience would like to try it out. Two young Ladies leapt at the chance!

Being shown the ropes by Raven Hawthorne
Photo by MetallYZA
Future Duelists try their hands at doing Snubs
Photo by Karlo Keet

 This year Street Duelling was included for the first time as an exhibition sport. The exhibition was conducted in the form of a "hold the field" type challenge. After each bout the victor held the field against a new challenger.

Steely gazes and intense action ensued!

Monica Willard
Photo by MetallYZA

Here is the bout between the 2014 Compulsory Figures Champion Josanna Justine and one of the most famous Street Duelists, Monica Willard with dual parasols always at the ready.
Photo by Karlo Keet

After a short break while the judges finished their paper work, the formal competitions began with the Compulsory Figures.

 The Ladies were paired off and each pair did three sets of the figures, the order being determined in advance by the judges. The sharpness of the completed figures and the smoothness of the transitions were notably better this year.

Deanne Robbins with a perfect Snub
Photo by MetallYZA
Raven Hawthorne with an elegant Twirl
Photo by MetallYZA

Raven Hawthorne and Sarafina Kain
Photo by Karlo Keet

Josanna Justine and Monica Willard
Plant and Plant with Ankling!
Photo by Katie Edwards
The Flirtation Trials, always a crowd favourite, demonstrated the artistic interpretations, and flirtatious stylings of the competitors. The competition was also done in pairs. In addition to the judges score, one point came from a vote from the audience by way of applause at the end of each round.

There was a lot of applause!
Nicki Brown and Raven Hawthorne
Photo by Katie Edwards
Cindy Bedford
An elegant Oriental Twirl
Photo by MetallYZA


Monica Willard in mid flirtation
Photo by Clare Gibson

The formal Parasol Duelling competition had only eight contestants as one Lady had to leave to attend a family wedding. Timing is everything wot?

The first rounds of the competition showed the speed and intensity increase noted at every competition since last year's Worlds! The Ladies really showed their skills and both the Doctors and the Judges needed to keep a sharp eye on the competitors to make sure each figure was complete at the hold.

Parasol Duelling in the Streets!

Monday, October 12, 2015 0 comments

Anytime and any place!

At the 2015 World Championships on Sept 19th  Street Duelling was included as a demonstration sport!

Since then I have had some questions about what Street Duelling is and how it compares to the usual Parasol Duelling we are all familiar with.

Street Duelling first appeared in the later years of Queen Victoria's reign and likely originated somewhere in the American West. The reasons for its popularity probably have to do as much with how "exotic" and a bit "unladylike" it was, in comparison to the more stately and formal duelling of the British Duelling Schools as with anything else :-)

Street Duelling is based on the Brandenburg Variations rules that we normally use but with a couple of changes that result in a strong resemblance to an Old West gunfight. Tales of such rough gun play were popular in England long after the real "Olde West" had passed into history.

 A Street Duel is conducted with miniature parasols, typically 8" or so long. These are kept in holsters, like that for a gunfighter's revolver, or tucked into a belt. They can also be kept in a "Parasol Pocket" sewn into a Lady's skirts.The figures are the familiar Twirl, Snub, and Plant. Because the Street Duelling parasol is so short the plant is just held straight down, and the twirl only has to go to the side.

There are some Street Duelling parasols that are even smaller that can be operated with one hand which can make for a very fast duel indeed!

The Duels themselves are typically conducted without a Doctor, the count being done by the duelists themselves. This meant that Ladies could duel anywhere! It also meant grudges and "duels for cause" between Ladies could be conducted in private.

Under Her Majesty's Rules any "duel for cause" must be conducted with a Doctor present.

Street Duels start with the Ladies facing each other, rather than back to back. They stand closer too, only a few paces apart just out of reach of an extended arm holding the short parasol. Much better for giving your opponent the "look".

Monica Willard
Photo by MetallYZA
The Duelists start with their parasols holstered, their arms at their side. Then like a gunfight the Ladies "draw" their parasols quickly and bring them upright in front of their face. The first Lady to get her parasol into position starts the count and the other Lady must follow that count.

From there the duel proceeds like normal.

This sequence of photos from Twitter user MetallYZA, taken at the 2015 World Championships, captures the intensity of the "draw".

Monica Willard is one of the best Street Duelists in the world and carries dual Street Parasols in her tooled leather holster.

Monica Willard
Photo by MetallYZA
The Draw! 

She draws the parasol and holds it up in front of her face.

Her eyes never leave her opponent's face!

Speed is important but so is being able to move smoothly into the figures once the count begins.
Monica Willard
Photo by MetallYZA

Here she has moved into a well executed snub still focused intently on her opponent.

From this position she could easily move into a plant or a twirl as needed.

Two things to keep in mind here:

1) There is no start signal for the draw like there is when the Ladies turn from their paces in a normal duel. This gives great opportunities to try to psyche out the opponent.

2) Counting while doing the figures is trickier than it seems :-)

At first Street Duelling was not permitted in formal competition because it was considered rather unladylike. It was very popular however and many Ladies carried Street Duelling parasols, even sporting elegant leather holsters on finely tooled leather belts imported from the American South West.

In a nod to this popularity Her Majesty decided to allow Street Duelling in competition. However Her Majesty decreed that the duels must be conducted with a Doctor present to do the count. The duelists still face each other and do the draw on their own time but, in competition, the Doctor starts the count when the first Lady gets her parasol into position upright in font of her face.

Street Duelling was never included in the scoring for the World Championships but there were still prizes and awards given for the best duelists.

The Street Duelling at this year's World Parasol Duelling Championships was very well received and the Ladies demonstrated great intensity and speed.

Next year's competition will include a formal Street Duelling tournament and is going to be very exciting indeed.

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

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.

Graphical calculations

Sunday, September 6, 2015 0 comments

Graphs, straight edges, and math oh my!

An interesting "Pie in the Sky Project"

Back in the days before the availability of ubiquitous computing capabilities complex mathematical relationships and rules of thumb were often calculated using graphical computations known as Nomograms or Abacs.

These graphs were laid out in a way that using a straightedge one could determine the result of often complex multi-variable calculations. They were used in everything from engineering and navigation to accounting. They were also used in business and government where there was only a vague mathematical relationship between inputs.

This one for example, is used for "quantitative risk assessment of food to guide sampling/analysis for the purposes of official control of food and to support the enforcement of food safety/consumer protection law."


This series of posts by Ron Doerfler describes the process by which such graphs are generated:

So what is the Pie in the Sky Project here?

  • Why not create our own Steampunk Nomograms?
  • What kind of Nomograms would our Steampunk Mad Scientists use?
  • Would they be complex and arcanely illuminated or simple and elegant?
  • Would they be kept in massive bound books chained in our laboratories or kept in our pockets in miniature books with fold out pages?
  • Would they have pockets in the covers to hold exotic curves and circular slide rules or would they have a simple straightedge that would also work as a bookmark.
  • What kinds or equations and nomograms would a Dr Frankenstein use?
  • What about an Airship Engineer? 
  • What would the Abac book of an Aetherwave operator look like?

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

P.S. This book from 1918 has an amazing amount of info and examples of interesting nomograms. The math isn't too bad but it does need some concentration to follow :-)
Graphical and Mechanical Computation

P.P.S Lots of good Nomography tools and some interesting examples here:
Society for the Conservation and Advancement of Nomography

Who will be the new World Champion!

Wednesday, August 26, 2015 0 comments

Coming soon!

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.

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

Join the corp!

Monday, August 24, 2015 0 comments

Her Majesty's Airship Corp Huzzah!

Lots of images of real and movie airships plus a very catchy tune.
Even though in our Roleplay the Airships are part of the Royal Navy I think Max and his crew would approve of this message!

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

Morcambe Seafront in 1900

Friday, August 14, 2015 0 comments

A panorama of Ghosts!

This delightful film, taken from the footplate of a tram in 1901, shows the harbourside of Morecambe in the UK.

A look at a typical day with ordinary people of all classes and occupations going about their business on a bright sunny day.

Also a little creepy to me because these are all ghosts, nobody in this film is still alive.

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

"I'm working on it!"

Wednesday, August 12, 2015 0 comments

"Just another minute" she said!

A month from now Calgary will be host to the world famous event called Beakerhead.
This five day extravaganza of Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Music takes over much of downtown Calgary.

This is also where we will be having the Second Annual Parasol Duelling World Championships!

That is if we can get there barring a few technical difficulties...

Me and the talented Monica Willard working on the "Tin Fish"
Photo taken by the brilliant Neil Zeller at about 2:00am

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

Steampunk Negative

Sunday, August 9, 2015 0 comments

A "mirror mirror" version of Steampunk

Recently I posted the following picture on our local Steampunk community's Facebook page.

My comment on it was "At least she is wearing her goggles!" which was meant to be ironic, because it is very rare to see Steampunks actually wearing their goggles!

welder by creativephotoworks

Needless to say it elicited a fair amount of comment!

Some were critiquing her badly adjusted cutting torch, others suggested that perhaps her safety gear was insufficient... One comment attracted my attention for two reasons, first it missed the intended irony entirely and second it said, "Not even sure why it was posted as it is in no way Steampunk related."

For this poster missing the ironic point was not a surprise, however the second point got me thinking.  This picture is not Steampunk in the traditional sense, BUT it illustrates several Steampunk aesthetic elements that are worthy of comment. The elements are displayed in the negative, much like the "Mirror Mirror" episode of Classic Star Trek!  

For starters there is the obvious element of the goggles actually being used as I mentioned. Then the lack of any overt Victorian dress, no corset, no lace, no leather, no brass, not even a hat. 

Being inappropriately dressed for a dangerous activity such as welding or cutting is pretty common in Steampunk imagery so in this sense it is not an opposite, although exposing this much skin when doing so is and would definitely run a foul of the local O.H. and S. inspectors!

The gritty industrial setting is common in Steampunk, but this one has no gears, no gauges, no steam even.

It is an interesting counterpoint to our "standard" Steampunk industrial imagery. So in that sense I think it works as a Steampunk illustration.

After all who didn't think that this version of Spock was a more interesting one?

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

Three Years Ago Today!

Tuesday, July 21, 2015 0 comments

Time flies when you are having fun!

Three years ago today I started blogging here.

It has been a great ride and I hope you have found it as interesting and fascinating as I have.

Thanks for coming along for the ride, lots more to come!

As always...

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

Airship Technical Papers from the NACA

Friday, July 17, 2015 0 comments

An Airship Technical Gold Mine

Previously I reviewed one of the only books ever published on real airship design.
The author Charles P. Burgess worked for the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, the NACA.

During the heyday of the great rigid airships, in the first third of the 20th century, the NACA commissioned and collected a series of technical studies, papers and technological reviews of airship design. These papers show just how seriously rigid airships were taken as the future of heavy lift and long distance aircraft.

Recently NASA (the direct descendant of the NACA) has made scans of these reports and analyses available through the Internet Archive.

If you are curious check out this simple search:

Airship Technical Gold Mine 

Here you will find yellowed type written reports, with hand drawn graphs, diagrams, plans, and old photographs, documenting in detailed analyses the state of the art in Airship design in 20's and 30's.

The files are available in many formats including plain text, colour PDFs, html, epub and other ebook formats.

The titles alone make this old Flight Engineer drool!

Here are some examples to "wet yer whistle":

By Hans Ebner


By 0. Krell
Part II is here
From Zei'tschrift f'.r FLigteohnik und. Motorluftschiffahrt
September 28, 1928

Forces of Flow on a Moving Airship and the Effect of he Control Surfaces
By H. Naatz

Many of these reports are translations of German reports. The Germans were the acknowledged world leaders in Airship design at the time. The first report listed includes a German paper written in 1933 while the Hindenburg was under construction and before the loss of the Akron, which is noted in a footnote. The full report was not translated and acquired by the NACA till 1938.

Since these reports were typewritten they often contain typos, to me these little errors bring these fairly dry technical reports alive. In a way they show them as being human made. Prepared to record important information not just display elegant formatting.

For anyone interested in the technical details of real airship designs these reports are truly a gold mine of information.

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

Here are some sample pages of the kinds of details included in these reports:


At the Parasol Duels Part II

Saturday, July 11, 2015 0 comments

Ankling, bloomers and fanning oh my!

Here is Part II of my compilation of the very first time Parasol Duelling appeared in our Role Playing group The Airship's Messdeck.

In Part I  Madame Saffron Taxus-Hemlock, her maid Maddie Hatter, and the Comms Officer of the HMAS Velvet Brush Lt Beulah Bueckert (Miss BB) meet  Lady Mary Formingham at a Parasol Duelling event at the Savoy Hotel in London. Lady Mary is the wife of the former head of the Royal Navy's Experimental Airship Division (the EAD) now posted to the bleak and isolated navy base at Scapa Flow due to a scandal involving the design and construction of the experimental airship the Velvet Brush.

I have been serializing a set of stories from our adventures as crew and passengers on that ship. You can follow Lt Cmdr(E) Maxwell MacDonald-Smythe, aka Max (me), Miss BB and other members of the crew, in our adventures starting here. 

The events portrayed below took place several months before the events in my serial story.

We join the Ladies as the Parasol Duelling continues.

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

At the Parasol Duels
Part 2
An episode from the Airship's Messdeck
Compiled by Kevin Jepson

While appearing to watch the elegant sweep and motion of the expert parasol duelists competing in the middle of the Grand Ballroom of London's Savoy Hotel, Madame Saffron Taxus-Hemlock ponders all that Lady Mary Formingham has revealed of her interest and knowledge in the designs of the HMAS Velvet Brush.

"Lady Mary,” says Madame, “you must have been a great help to your husband through his career. Or did your social life keep you too busy for dry science and technological advances?"

Mary, taking advantage of a lull while the judges argue a ruling, says, "I don’t have a great deal of social life. At school, I was the odd one out, always. When Sylvia came to the school, she too was left out, though that was because of her family. Or rather its lack. Girls can be rather beastly to those who do not fit the correct mold of young womanhood.

The duelling continues and then is suddenly stopped. Madame exclaims, "Gracious! Did you see that? The one in blue tried the Hungarian sideways stab. She'll surely be disqualified now."

Miss BB watches the commotion around the duel closely. "That lady in the stripy outfit is very fast to have jumped out of the way." Then, referring back to their previous conversation about pants, "I have some pants." says BB, "I got them in Africa. They are really good for riding camels."

"Ew camels, don't they spit?" Maddie says, once again a bit too loudly. Heads turn.

Miss BB says, "Camels are very spitty, and stinky. More stinky than spitty. I got a blister on my bum when I rode one for a whole day."

Maddie laughs, "I think that's what happened to the young queen when learning to parasol duel. The blister that is."

As the next pair of Duelists take their places and begin Maddie says, "Hmmm, very clever tactic. It's really a mind game, the parasol duel."

"When she pretended to move one way and then went the other?" BB asks, staring hard at the duel.

Madame claps her hands. "Oh, well played. Maddie, did you note that very forceful snub? And just where one would have expected a reverse twirl!” She leans back to Mary. “Did Sylvia share your interest in aeronautics?"

"Snubs, snubs, I could do a snub I bet," says BB.

Mary claps as a bout comes to an end with the loser weeping gracefully into a lacy hankie. "Sylvia? No. She thinks of nothing but the houses and keeping the lower servants in line. When she used to come out with us – me and Max and William Macleod – it was in part because I needed a chaperon. Then she fancied the Macleod, who returned her regard for a time. But nothing came of it in the end. She was not at all interested in anything to do with the ships they were on, or their dreams of joining the airship navy. The EAD was very small in those days, you see, and not all sailors were suited for it."

Maddie says, "My parasoling coach said my twirls were inspired."

"Can you teach me the twirl? I would love to twirl," says BB.

Madame is watching the crowd. "I say, is that Lady Grantham’s oldest daughter? I had no idea she was a duelist.” She looks at Maddie. “You’ve gone white again dear. Are you not well today?"

Miss BB looks at Maddie with concern. "Oh, you are very white. Like a sheet. Would a drink of medicine help you? Like the Doctor's Medicine?"

Maddie, slinks further behind the greenery. "Am I? Perhaps it's all the excitement."

Madame watches Maddie for moment, then calls, "Waiter! A very small brandy for the young lady. The excitement is too much for her."

Looking for the lady Madame mentioned, BB asks, "Do you mean the really tall one? With the ugly dress? Should we wave at her?"

“No!” gasps Maddie, grabbing BB’s arm.

"No." Madame nods across the room. "Miss Grantham’s the dark-haired one with the haughty expression."

Miss BB spots the lady in question and hrumphs. “Her dress is ugly too.” She puts her hand to her mouth. "But I shouldn't say such things. Maybe I need some medicine as well. We should all have medicine."

"I would benefit from some brandy as well," says Mary.

BB shakes her head. "I can't drink brandy, only medicine."

Again half hidden by fern fronds, Maddie says to herself, "I cannot believe that girl made it as a duelist, her prancing was dreadful and her twirls were weak at best."

"So Sylvia is still with you, Lady Mary?" Madame inquires.

Mary waves to the waiter in a manner more suited to a tavern than the Savoy Ballroom. "Yes, as my housekeeper. She travels between all the small farms and estates that Sir Gordon and I both have inherited, terrifying the staff into obedience. Just now she is off on the Welsh border, I think, worried that the kitchens there would not have prepared properly for any early lambs that must be raised by the hearth on account of being born into the inclement weather they have on those mountains. I’m sure the staff would have done it, being bred up in those very mountains and coming to us from those very farms and crofts, but Sylvia has a will of her own in these matters, and I long ago gave her leave to attend to the estates as she chooses."

Madame says to BB, "It's the same medicine, Miss BB. Only here they keep it in nicer bottles."

Maddie chuckles. "And charge a nicer price!"

Madame explains, "Crystal ones, like the chandeliers up there. No, don't point with your parasol, dear. You could have taken out the Duchess of Devonshire's eye."

Maddie, anxiously watching the crowd from behind her fern, thinks to herself, "Oh wouldn't that just be the thing, to be found out and found to be drinking as well."

BB looks shocked. "Oh no, it can't be the same stuff. I can't drink brandy, only medicine. They must be different. I would go to hell for sure if I drank brandy."

Maddie hoots from behind her plant. "Hey are you blind? That was intentional fanning!"

"Can you teach me fanning? That looked oh so clever." says BB.

Maddie explains, "Strictly against the rules, fanning is. It involves opening and closing your parasol quickly  to create a breeze. Also called bellowing. Dust could blow in your opponent’s eye, giving you an advantage."

All the room hushes as a particularly well orchestrated Free-Style duel begins between two past champions. After the Mayfair Duelist raps her opponent’s ankle and ladders her stocking, a move for which no penalty can be grave enough, the displeased crowd emphatically rattles their teacups in their saucers, and turns their backs until the disgraced duelist is removed from the ballroom.

The waiter, taking advantage of the rustle of shoulders turning, slips between tables with a crystal decanter and several elegant, though very small, glasses.

"I wonder where she got those stockings," says BB. "They sure are nice ones. Before they were laddered."

"There is a penalty for that laddering, Miss BB. The offender will lose her parasol AND her previous champion's glove," says Madame.

"Well! Bunch of wimps. They would never make it on the farm," says BB, shaking her head. "But I could learn fanning, and laddering. Just in case I mean. It could save my life one day. And maybe the life of baby sheeps."

"Have some medicine, Miss BB," says Mary. "They will start the next duel in a moment."

"Oooo. medicine. I don't mind if I do. These glasses are very small."

Lady Mary once more leans toward Madame Saffron, saying softly, "These documents. Please, can you advise me what to do with them?”

Madame leans in close. "I don’t know if the Commander passed along this suggestion, but I could readily arrange for the documents to be ‘found’ aboard the ship by an EAD worker, as if they had been shoved into a corner and forgotten, perhaps while the ship was being repaired after the Portsmouth explosion."

More History in Colour

Friday, July 10, 2015 0 comments

A city of ghosts.

Previously I mentioned the odd effect that colorized historical photos had on me.

This delightful film of Berlin in 1900 has been colourized and edited for Facebook by Paul Hardy.

It is a city of ghosts indeed, since every single person shown has passed now.
Seeing black and white photos and the grainy old movies sometimes brings on  a bit of "memento mori" but this film with its muted colours, showing street scenes from a bustling metropolis is moving indeed.

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



Over a Million FB viewers have been moved by my film, experiencing a surreal mixture of emotions that few have been able to fully describe.It was coloured about 10 years ago but I've now digitally sharpened it as well as removed dust and grain to give an even better experience.Truly magical, moving footage that I've cut and edited to my favourite piece of classical music. The original film which I took the footage from is very much darker and also depicts a large amount of military segments.I wanted to edit this however to show the positivity and pride of the everyday people in their day to day lives as they embrace all the splendour of that time period on a human level.Clearly, like today, some seem richer than others, yet all of them seem to display a sense of dignified purpous often missing in todays world.

All these forgotten souls are left rotting on old grainy dark films often with sombre depressing music thrown over. It's my belief that they deserve better. Beautiful music and beautiful images presented in the right way can be incredibly emotive and powerful and I felt that this was needed in order to properly transport the viewer back through time and really ''feel'' what it was like.I've worked hard to convey that sense of splendour and make people see and feel that a sunny day then looked just like a sunny day today. These people lived, loved, laughed and cried and had real lives. They did not live in darkness with grey skies and grainy mist as we are often used to seeing on decaying films.

The wonderfully emotive music I've used is the soundtrack from the movie 'Somewhere In Time' and was written by Film Composer John Barry, not to be confused with 'The Eighteenth Variation of Sergei Rachmaninoff's Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini' which also runs throughout the film.Savour this as you watch it. All these people whose lives were just as important to them in their time era as we think ours our now. I noticed how happy they seem to be going about their business and I tried to study different characters.... who were they?... what was their story? Watch the woman adjusting her hat for example at the end of the film. She seems very concerned about her image as she proudly sports the latest fashion..and notice how happy the kids are playing in the street.The more you study these people the more it will fascinate you. Their lives are less complicated than ours in terms of technology but you can clearly see the overwhelming community spirit here without video games, TV or computers. Somewhere in time, all gone forever..all just ghosts....yet frozen here for you to glance upon as if through some magical time machine window.

Enjoy, The Time Guru.
Posted by Paul Hardy on Thursday, 30 April 2015

At the Parasol Duels Part I

Tuesday, July 7, 2015 0 comments

Intrigue and Parasol Duelling at the Savoy!

This story is the very first time that Parasol Duelling ever appeared in our Roleplaying group,  the Airship’s Messdeck.

The official Parasol Duelling rules hadn't even been drafted yet, but these Ladies still had a good time playing out an episode during a Parasol Duelling event at the Savoy Hotel in London. I have distilled the role play text a bit to make it easier to read.

If you have been following my serialized story from the Messdeck you will recognize one of the characters. Lt Beulah Bueckert, Miss BB to the crew, is the communications officer on the HMAS Velvet Brush who, along with Lt Cmdr MacDonald-Smythe and other members of the crew, are currently on their way to Scapa Flow in the dead of Winter. This episode takes place several months before that story.

The two other crew members present are not Navy personnel but passengers. Madame Saffron Taxus-Hemlock (Yes, THAT Madame Saffron!) and her maid Miss Maddie Hatter. The fourth character is Lady Mary Formingham, the wife of the former head of the Royal Navy's Experimental Airship Division, the EAD, Sir Gordon Formingham. Sir Gordon has been posted to bleak and lonely Scapa Flow due to a scandal involving the design and construction of the Velvet Brush.

Miss BB is a brilliant communications officer. She comes from a rural background and is still very naive when it comes to the "big city" that is London in Queen Victoria's time. Fond of "medicine," she would never touch “alcohol”. Oddly capable of winning any game of chance, she would never “gamble”. She is a simple soul and much beloved by the crew for her forthright commentary on nearly everything. This is the first time she has been exposed to Parasol Duelling.

Madame Saffron Taxus-Hemlock, officially a professor of "applied botany", is in reality related to many of the crowned heads of Europe. She is not above indulging in espionage on behalf of her powerful family as well as her friends in the crew of the HMAS Velvet Brush. Madame is also a "Black Sash" Parasol Duelist and has recently judged the Flirtation trials at this very event.

Madame's Maid, Miss Maddie Hatter, has a secret past. She has obviously been trained in Parasol Duelling, as most well born Ladies of the time would be, however she is clearly nervous about being recognized by the grand Ladies in attendance. (Maddie has her own adventures in "Maddie Hatter and the Deadly Diamond" by Jayne Barnard, from Tyche Books.)

We join these Ladies as Madame Saffron arrives to meet with Lady Mary Formingham under the cover of attending the finals of the Parasol Duelling event at the Savoy.

At the Parasol Duels
Part 1
An episode from the Airship's Messdeck
Compiled by Kevin Jepson

The Grand Ballroom of the Savoy Hotel

Madame steps into the lobby of the Savoy and looks around. Will she recognize Lady Mary Formingham, only met once over tea many months ago? But that lady is easily spotted, pacing an 8-foot square while a maid watches peaceably, her back to a column.

Madame sails forward, hand outstretched. “Lady Mary, how lovely to see you again!”

The Grand Ballroom has been readied for the Freestyle Finals of the Greater London Ladies’ Parasol Duelling Society. Some argument has taken place between the waiters, who had orders to put in as many tables as possible, and the organizing committee, who were determined to leave a generous space in the middle to comply with the international standard and avoid accidental damage to spectators and judges.

Madame leads her guest into the ballroom and looks over the throng of excited young ladies and staid matrons, hoping to spot Miss BB already installed. She had sent Maddie on ahead to make sure the Comms Officer was served promptly. Waiters could be snobbish but Maddie’s handling of them is so adept she might have been born to a life of servants instead of servitude.

Miss BB’s brightly hued parasol waves wildly in a corner, threatening the hats of several nearby ladies. If she isn’t careful, she’ll inadvertently challenge someone to a duel. Since it is doubtful she has ever participated in formal training, she is more likely to smack someone over the head as she has done to rats, voles, cockroaches and possibly a few villainous humans over the past several months.

Miss BB shouts out "Oooo ooooo oooo They are here, they are here. ooo ooo ooo." Then she wonders to herself, "I wonder if I have to get up when they get here? There is hardly any room for our skirts with the tables all pushed together the way they are. We should move them out."

Miss Maddie sits with her back to the wall pretending to be interested in a very dull potted fern.

BB says, "Miss Maddie, Miss Maddie, did you get a new parasol in honour of this occasion? I did. Do you want to see it?" BB swings the bright parasol across the table, narrowly missing the chimney of the little table lamp in the middle of the flowers forcing Maddie to duck. "Ooops. Sorry, but it is quite beautiful."

Maddie smiles at Miss BB's exuberance, "Oh no, I am afraid no new one for me. I couldn't frequent the old shops, and one can never trust a black market parasol. Often they are weighted incorrectly. One could get hurt."

Miss BB looks closely at her parasol "Weighted? I thought they were just for keeping the sun off?"

Maddie says, "Oh yes, but not a fighting parasol. Strict rules."

"Oooo, fighting, can you teach me about the fighting?"

With everyone seated, served, and the preliminary speeches beginning before the judges’ table, Lady Mary leans close and puts a hand on Madame Saffron’s arm. “Max er... Commander MacDonald-Smythe, tells me you are to be trusted, and already know about the documents I sent him from my husband’s study. May I confide in you? I’m very troubled.”

Madame is surprised by Mary touching her arm. Winning the younger woman’s confidence is not going to be a problem, apparently.

"Of course you may say anything to me. I will not wantonly repeat your confidences, and the others, as crew members on the Velvet Brush with me, would not, even if they felt inclined, discuss anything touching our ship with anyone outside it. I think they are not paying much attention in any case. Such a great crowd. I think they will not pay us much mind at all."

Mary leaning close to Madame says softly, "Thank you, Madame. I only took the designs because I feared for Max, up there with no proper warning that the ship’s technologies are largely untested. There have been prior ships destroyed in this program, that I do know from Gordon. My husband, that is. Sir Gordon Formingham. He was head of the EAD until very recently." She looks down, clearly troubled, "And Max is a dear, very old friend... of both myself and Sir Gordon."

Maddie, talking to Miss BB says, "Apparently the strict rules are due to an unfortunate mishap the queen had in her younger days. A splinter of bamboo, if I am not mistaken."

Miss BB shakes her head "That sounds most uncomfortable. To have a splinter of bambooooo. Where did she have it?"

Miss Maddie, watching the crowd, says, "In the courtyard I believe..."

Miss BB ponders Maddie's comment for a second then says, "In her courtyard? How can that be?”

Maddie looks back at Miss BB and says, "I beg your pardon? Oh you mean ... Oh dear..."

But Miss BB has already turned to Madame. "Is the Doctor coming tonight to the parasolling? I do so like her."

Madame says, "I fear Her Grace is remaining at Davaar. There is much to settle in a newly rebuilt home."

"Oh yes, I hope she had lecticity put in during the rebuild."

"I believe that was her intent." If the rumours of testing up north are true, Madame thinks, the crew  may see the electric lights of Davaar blazing up in the night sky on their way past.

Miss BB turns back to watching the throng of Ladies filling the room and mutters quietly to herself, "eelectric, eelectric..."

Madame claps for the speech of which she has not attended a single word. "Oh, look, the duelists! Did you ever see so many ruffles and flounces, Miss BB? They aren’t allowed to have lace on their cuffs, or puffs to their sleeves, so they make up for it everywhere else on the gown."

Miss BB opens her eyes wide at the sight. "Oh my, I would dearly love to have a gown like that."

Madame smiles at Miss BB. "But surely not in these pale colours, Miss BB? She would look entirely unlike herself, would she not, Maddie?"

Miss BB watches the contestants parade before the judges.  "Do they have to be pale colours? Really?"

Miss Maddie says, "It's considered bad form to wear distracting colours."

"Bah, pale is distracting," says Miss BB with a hrmph. "Oh... they are tall ones and short ones. Which ones will do the best?"

Miss Maddie, watching the Ladies, says, "I've heard they even go to the trouble of weighting their practice gowns so that they will feel lighter on game day."

Madame gives Maddie another keen glance, and then pats Mary’s arm. "You may tell me anything, Lady Mary." And I very much hope you will, she adds to herself.

The past in colour.

Sunday, July 5, 2015 0 comments

History to me was always Black and White.

Previously I posted how colour changed how I viewed history. How the modern wars of the 20th C were mostly in black and white whereas the wars of history were in colour, but the colour of romanticized paintings.

The same goes for the early days of photography, which of course was black and white.

Now through the use of computers and careful analysis, artists can recreate classic photos from the past in colour.

Posted on Powerful Primates are a selection of  53 Colourized Photos from the Past

These pictures produce an odd effect for me.  My mind does not know how to treat obviously historic images when they are so realistically coloured. It's as if I can't figure out if they are real or not. If they were in their original black and white form that wouldn't be a problem.

Here are some examples for you:

Madison Square Park New York City around 1900.
Mark Twain in 1900

Union Soldiers taking a break in 1863

See what I mean?

I recommend checking out the linked article for more fascinating photographs.

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

Role Play Serial Story from the Messdeck Part V

Wednesday, July 1, 2015 0 comments

A visit to Davaar Manor

Here is the next part of the serialized tale from our role play group "The Messdeck".

You can start from the beginning here.

Previously Lt Cmdr Maxwell MacDonald-Smythe and the crew of the aged cargo airship HMAS Doris are on their way to the Royal Navy base at Scapa Flow in the dead of winter. During a very cold night tied up to a docking tower at York, Max is visited by an old acquaintance, a Lt Barbesly, who tells Max about the events surrounding the precipitous departure of the HMAS Velvet Brush from Esquimalt two years before. Lt Barbesly now works for the formidable head of the Royal Navy's Intelligence service Fleet Admiral Avis Chicheley. Continuing on their journey North Max takes the Doris on an un-authorised side trip to visit the home of the Velvet Brush's  medical officer Christine Pearse the Duchess of Argylle.

Frozen Sky
A serial story from The Messdeck.
Part V
Collected and edited by Kevin Jepson

*It is late in a bright but frigid winter afternoon and The HMAS Doris is approaching Davaar Manor, the home of Dr Christine Pearse, and her husband the missing scientist and inventor the Duke of Argylle.*

Max at the wheel keeps his eyes fixed on the looming Manor. "Hold her elevation steady at 200' I'll get a feel for the surface winds as we pass"

"Aye Sir." Sgt Fraser is at the elevator controls beside him watches the angle and the elevation closely.

"Hmmm, no sign of any winds, none of the chimney smoke is moving, should be good to go. We will do a pass then line up on the courtyard. It will be a tight fit."

"Aye aye Sir!"

*As the old airship slowly passes over Davaar, Max eyes the courtyard looking for anything that might cause problems with landing.*

"Looks a lot different than the last time we was here eh Sgt?"[1]

"Aye Sir it do indeed."

*The Navigator and Miss BB come out of their cabin and watch the manor passing below.*

"My compliments Lt Belava, your navigation was superb."

"Thank you Sir!"

"Any messages from the manor Lt?" Max asks Miss BB as she stretches out over the window sill to look down into the courtyard.

"Oooh looks nice, much better without all that smoke! Um, yes Sir, The Doctor says 'Welcome back exclamation point' Sir."

"Thank you Lt. Right, let us go down and see how the good Doctor is faring shall we?"

"Aye aye Sir!"

*Max sets the telegraph to engine stop and begins to vent hydrogen slowly to let the airships settle. As the Doris lowly begins to drop towards the courtyard of the Manor Max can see the Duchess and her mechanical butler Mr Gears waiting by the doorway.*

I hope we don't scratch up all that nice new paint!

Fraser calls out the elevation "40 feet, 30 feet, 20 feet, 10 feet". The old Doris inches lower, the roof of the Manor rising beneath them until it is even with the airship's envelope. "Contact Sir!"

*Max sets the telegraph to finished with engine and the Doris settles down with a slight creaking nestled neatly in the courtyard.*

"And that is that! Secure from flight stations and let us go ashore."

"Secure from flight stations aye Sir!"

Any landing you can walk away from Max me lad, any landing...

(Continued below the break)

[1] After a sabotage attempt on the HMAS Velvet Brush while in the airdock at Portsmouth, Doctor Pearse returned to her Manor at Davaar. The manor was attacked by a band of mechanically enhanced mercenaries attempting to acquire the secret research of the Doctor's husband the Duke. Max took the ship's Marines and other members of the crew North on a "private" rescue mission. The ensuing battle, while successful in repelling the mercenaries, left the manor severely damaged.

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