gwalla: (Default)
1/2 oz creme de violette
1/2 oz Saint Germain elderflower liqueur
1 shot (1 1/2 oz) Pimm's No. 1
1 shot white rum
fill with about 2 parts Dry Soda cucumber soda to 3 parts Reed's ginger brew
1-2 dash(es) orange bitters

garnish with a cherry

A spur-of-the-moment concoction that turned out pretty well in one try, with just the addition of the orange bitters. OF course, Pimm's, ginger ale, and cucumber are known to be a good match, and rum goes with everything, but the two flower liqueurs were grasping at straws. This is the first drink I've concocted with Dry Soda cucumber soda that didn't just taste like cucumber soda. 1/2 oz of creme de violette is usually too much, but here its presence is fairly subtle (while still noticeable).

The "2 to 3" proportion of the sodas is an estimate. I just poured from both bottles at the same time at about the same rate, and stopped pouring cucumber soda about a half an inch from the top of the glass. The sides of the glass are diagonal, so who knows what the exact proportions were. I'm pretty sure it's altogether about 1-to-1 between boozes and mixers.

I have no idea what to call this.
gwalla: (Default)
1/2 oz St. Germain
1/2 oz Canton ginger liqueur
1/2 shot (3/4 oz) Mathilde Poire pear liqueur
1 shot Plymouth gin
1 splash Stirrings blood orange bitters
1 dash Angostura bitters
maraschino cherry

Pretty good, a little on the sweet side (the dash of Angostura rescued it from being cloying). The pear flavor is a little hidden; I might adjust the balance between it and the St. Germain a bit. The proportion of the Canton seems just right: assertive enough to tell you it's there but not taking over. Could use a little work but honestly not bad as-is.
gwalla: (fgsfds)
Put together a pretty good cocktail last night.

1 shot gin
3/4oz Sloe gin
1/2oz Campari
1/4oz Creme de Violette
1/4oz Cointreau
1 splash orange juice

Didn't have a garnish but an orange or lemon twist seems most appropriate.

A nice balance of herbal and fruit flavors, mellower than you'd expect from the ingredients. Very easy to drink. I was aiming at a blood red color but it ended up a very nice shade of magenta instead.

I'm particularly happy with this because it's something that uses a decent amount of sloe gin, which I hadn't had much success with. I was curious about the stuff, but not impressed when I got some (and BevMo only carries it in pretty large bottles). Maybe it's just that Hiram Walker makes crappy sloe gin, I dunno. Here its sort of indistinct tutti-frutti blandness actually works in its favor, cutting the harshness of some of the other ingredients without fighting with them or really diluting their flavor either.
gwalla: (Default)
I revisited my banana concoction a couple of nights ago. Here's the latest iteration:

~3 inches of a banana, muddled
1/2 oz molasses
1/2 oz Nocello
1/2 oz Benedictine
1 oz rye
1 egg white

Definitely not too much liquid this time. Quite the opposite: this was so thick it took some coaxing to get it through the strainer, and the half banana garnish actually floated. I think next time I'll reduce the molasses to 1/4 oz, and maybe boost the Benedictine to 3/4 oz to give it more of a presence.

As for the rye, I'd say I chose it because with no bitters or citrus I needed its dryness to help cut the sweetness of the mixers...except it was really because the rye was in front in the pantry and the bourbon was buried in the back. And I'm not sure it was the right move. I'll probably go back to bourbon and see what that gets me with the proportion changes.

In other cocktail news, another experiment of mine has borne fruit. It's a fairly simple highball:

1/2 oz Nocello
1 oz calvados
fill (approx. 1:1) with Martinelli's sparkling apple cider

This balances out just right. The Nocello is there but not overpowering, it's sweet but not too sweet (probably good with a light dessert), and it masks the funkier notes of the calvados. Not too sure what garnish would be appropriate. I tried sprinkling a little cinnamon on top, but without a foam to sit on it doesn't look like much. Maybe a cinnamon stick? Or just a maraschino cherry, I dunno.

Last night's attempt used rye instead of calvados. The calvados version is clearly superior.
gwalla: (Default)
So I discovered last night that the Gemini is an excellent cocktail. Martha Stewart is good for something after all!

As far as my own experiments, I have one involving St. Germain, Lillet Blanc, and calvados. Lillet and calvados are an unexpectedly good combination, as I found out one time at Absinthe, when a cocktail based on that mix was on the specials menu. St. Germain and dry vermouth are also a great combination (my own discovery, which I used in my Shanghai 1929), and since Lillet is another herbal fortified white wine (albeit sweeter, and with quinine), I figured the same principle may apply. Attempts so far, based on 1/2 oz each Lillet and St. Germain, and 1 oz calvados, have been promising but aren't there yet. My first try added a splash of Stirrings Blood Orange Bitters, and was drinkable but nothing special. My second replaced that with a dash of Angostura bitters instead, and (inspired by the recipe for the Gemini, though decided on before actually trying to make that drink) topped with prosecco. The prosecco was a good match, but something still was a little off. The floral aspect of the St. Germain was buried. Tonight I tried it again, but this time with a splash of orange flower water, on the reasoning that that had thrown off the balance of a prototype of the Shanghai 1929 too far towards the floral side. It didn't make much difference on this though. I'm going to have to fiddle with proportions. Next I'll try bumping the St. Germain up to 3/4 oz and see what happens; I hope it isn't too sweet.

Also tried tonight: a preliminary experiment with green Chartreuse and Cynar. Equal parts mixed was a little harsh: adding one part Lillet as a buffer calmed things down. I tried adding 1 oz gin (Hendrick's) and filling with cucumber Dry Soda. That was a poor choice: the cucumber soda overpowered everything. It didn't taste bad, but it tasted pretty much like cucumber soda with a little spiciness in the background. I think I may try the Chartreuse/Lillet/Cynar triad with tonic water; I'm not sure about the gin as the base spirit either. On the plus side, the resulting drink was a really unusual shade of yellow, like it couldn't tell whether it wanted to be amber or a slightly greenish hue.

EDIT: Tried 3/4 oz St. Germain, and Peychaud's bitters instead of Angostura. The extra 3/4 did not make it too sweet. I may be just about done fiddling. Probably not an instant classic, but a good drink nonetheless.
gwalla: (Default)
1/2 oz Benedictine
1/2 oz Velvet falernum
1/2 oz Becherovka
1 shot white rum
1 dash Angostura bitters
on the rocks

Excellent! Maybe a little on the sweet side*, I might try bumping it up to 1/2 shot Becherovka just to see what happens, but the flavor balance is very good. This may taste even better with an aged rum (I want a bottle of Montecristo 12 year, that stuff is amazing), but it's damn good with a white. A cherry seems like the right garnish.

I need an alcomahol icon.

*I doubt you'd agree, [ profile] merri_chan. It's drier than most of your creations, though I doubt anybody would accuse it of being dry.

EDIT: 3/4 oz Becherovka is indeed superior. This is a definite winner. Still haven't tried aged rum (due to limited shelf space, I still haven't gotten any).


Oct. 6th, 2010 11:12 pm
gwalla: (quantum superstate)
More fartin' around in the liquor cabinet tonight.

1/2 oz Cynar
1/2 oz Benedictine
1/2 oz Galliano
1/2 oz Dubonnet Rouge
1 oz gin (Hendrick's)
1 dash Angostura bitters
1 splash Stirrings Blood Orange bitters
1 splash soda water

I first combined the first four ingredients, estimated the amount of gin after tasting, and then added the bitters and soda after further tasting.

The results are good. Better than expected. I thought I would get (and was actually kind of aiming for) something very herby and medicinal, and instead got something light and almost flowery. I'm not sure how much the Benedictine is contributing to the flavor, though. I might want to bump it up a 1/4 oz. Maybe the Dubonnet too, I dunno. The floweriness might invite a bit of Creme de Violette (long shot). Still, fairly happy with this effort.
gwalla: (halloween)
Hey [ profile] merri_chan, I gave that banana idea I was talking about a trial run.

~3 inches of a banana, muddled
1/4 oz molasses
3/4 oz Nocello
1/2 oz Benedictine
1 shot bourbon
1 egg white

Proportion FAIL. Way too much Nocello (I always forget how overpowering that stuff is), and too much liquid overall. The fizz didn't really fizz, it just got a foamy layer on top. I knew I'd blown the proportions before I even added the egg white. Still, I wanted to see it through. Next time I'm going to try 1/2 oz each of the molasses, Benedictine, and Nocello, and maybe just 1 oz of bourbon. I think part of the liquid problem is that I muddled the banana with crushed ice, and that all melted by the time I added the egg white.

Garnished with the remainder of the banana and some cinnamon on top. I think I'll stick with that.
gwalla: (dave & chester zonked)
1/4 oz Creme de Violette
1/2 oz Galliano
1 oz Dubonnet Rouge

split that in half (roughly) and mixed one half with 1 oz Tanqueray Rangpur and the other with 1 oz Hendrick's gin. After initial sips, each got a dash of orange bitters (which improved things), then a splash of soda water (also an improvement). Not bad in either version. Goes down easy. The Hendrick's version was better than the Tanqueray Rangpur before the soda water, but after dilution there was less of a difference.

This is a closet cleaner cocktail. I'm not a big licorice flavor fan so I've been trying to find something to do with the Galliano. Also, we've ended up with two bottles of Dubonnet Rouge; I like the stuff, but that's excessive. The Tanqueray Rangpur is also something that's been sitting in the closet taking up space for a while now (the Hendrick's, on the other hand, is good stuff I bought recently). The only thing I've been trying to find a way to use up that isn't in here is Cynar, which I know wouldn't mix well with the others.

I'll probably try a 1/4-1/4-1/2 proportion next. Also, try using soda water that hasn't gone flat...
gwalla: (language buff)
A recent discussion about the grammatical terminology regarding adjective comparison on Conlang-L has got me thinking that, instead of giving Ilion adjectives distinct comparative and superlative forms, I should give them an elative that does double duty. This goes against my usual pattern of adding one more distinction to a category than an English-speaker would expect (e.g. adding a distinct iterative aspect, which English expresses sometimes with the perfective and sometimes with the progressive) and my (already rather loose) "rule of three", but it does add an interesting twist that isn't terribly hard to understand, and works well with other parts of the grammar, particularly unadorned nouns in the oblique case as adjuncts to adjectives.
gwalla: (smash my enemies)
Been working on another chess variant. It's a "large board" (10x10) type, and to some extent a kitchen sink variant incorporating a bunch of pieces I find interesting. Still, even though it's not really finished yet, I think it holds some promise.

Each side starts with ten pawns on the third rank, "elemental" pieces on the second rank, and "complex" pieces on the first rank. The elemental pieces are the Rook, Knight, Bishop, and Squire. The complex pieces are the Lionheart King, Queen, Archbishop, Marshall, Cavalry, Gryphon, Hippogriff, and Unicorn.

The Rook, Bishop, and Queen move as they do in standard chess. The Knight is enhanced: It moves as a standard chess knight but, if the square it jumps to is unoccupied, it has the option of sliding one more space diagonally away from its starting rank and file. This sliding move may be used to capture. The Squire (S) moves like a standard chess King, but is not royal: it is not prohibited from moving onto a threatened square, and can be captured like any other piece.

The complex pieces consist of each compound of two elemental pieces, and a "bent" or extended form of each elemental move. The compounds are the Queen (Rook + Bishop, of course), Archbishop (bishop + knight), Marshall (Rook + Knight), and Cavalry (Knight + Squire).

The Gryphon is taken from Grande Acedrex, a very old variant of medieval chess (Shatranj), where it is called a giraffe. Its move is one step diagonally followed by any number of orthogonal steps away from its starting rank or file. It is a "bent rook". The Hippogriff* is its counterpart, starting with a single orthogonal step and proceeding diagonally away from its starting rank and file. It is a "bent bishop".

The Unicorn is a bit odd: it slides any number of spaces, alternating orthogonal and diagonal steps. If another piece is in its path, it may jump that piece like a standard chess knight, but must stop after the jump. This is the extended version of the knight-move.

The Lionheart King takes the place of the bent or extended Squire, and is the royal piece that must be checkmated to win. It takes its name from the lion from Chu Shogi and Dai Shogi**. It moves as a standard chess king, but as a half action, and a player may make one or two half actions in a single turn. It is thus able to capture two pieces in a turn, or capture and move back to its starting square (the latter called igui), though there are restrictions. It cannot end its turn on a threatened square (same as standard chess), it cannot capture on or move through a threatened square to capture unless it captures the only piece threatening that square ("check en passant"), it cannot take its second step if it captures a pawn on the first step ("pawn stalling") and if it starts its move in check it may only take one step unless the second step would capture the only piece giving check ("staring down"). There is no castling; the king is much more mobile in this variant, so there seems to be less need (also, the king and rooks start on different ranks).

Pawns have the same basic move as in standard chess: moving passively one step directly forward, and capturing one step on either forward diagonal. There are a few differences, however. When sitting on the third rank, it can also move passively one step diagonally forwards, but loses this ability as soon as it has left that rank. A pawn move is a half-action, like the Lionheart King's move, but a single pawn cannot be moved twice on a single turn (in other words, you can move two pawns per turn). The only exception is if the pawn has not moved on a previous turn: in that case, it may make two passive moves. A pawn that has made a double move as its first move may be captured by an enemy pawn on the opponent's following turn as if it had only made the first of its two moves (en passant capture). No more than one pawn may capture on a single turn.

To balance first move advantage, white's first pawn move is a full action.

Pawns may promote when they reach the 9th or 10th rank. A pawn may only promote to a piece that has been previously captured by the opponent. Promoting a pawn is a half action, with two restrictions: no more than one of each player's pawns may promote in a turn, and a promotion cannot be the only action taken (at least one half action must move a piece). All of the pieces that a pawn may promote to move as a full action, so it's not possible on a single turn to promote a sitting pawn and then take the promoted piece's move.

Half actions may be mixed. For example, in a single turn a player may move two pawns, or move and promote one pawn, or move a pawn and the king (one space), or move the king two spaces, or move the king one space and promote a pawn.

I haven't really decided on a board setup yet. I think I want to keep the king and queen next to each other in the middle. There are 4 2nd-rank piece types and 10 files, so there will be four of one piece on that rank (probably the guards; they're a bit cannon-foddery) and two of each of the others.

*In his article on bent riders on, Ralph Betza names this piece the "Aanca", but I don't like that name. It's just Spanish for "gryphon". I prefer Hippogriff because it is like a gryphon, but also like a horse (knight): its move includes the Xiangqi horse (mao, a knight that cannot jump), and it always ends up on a square of the color opposite the one it started on. uses "hippogriff" for a limited form of the Gryphon, but they seem unlikely to coexist in a single game.

**Old, larger variants of shogi. Chu shogi ("middle shogi") was played with 46 pieces per side on a 12x12 board. Dai shogi ("large shogi") used 65 pieces per side on a 15x15 board. Sho shogi ("small shogi") was played on a 9x9 and evolved directly into modern shogi.
gwalla: (Default)
Got to thinking about chess variants lately. Specifically, spicing up pawn promotions.

In standard chess, technically a pawn that reaches the back row can promote to any first-rank piece other than the king. In practice, it almost always promotes to a queen, and only very very rarely to a knight. There's no point in promoting to rook or bishop, since the queen contains the moves for both. The choice of promotion would be more interesting if the pawn could promote to any compound of simple first-rank pieces: the queen (bishop+rook), archbishop (bishop+knight), or marshall (rook+knight). Possibly other pieces of similar strength as well.

The idea of allowing pawn promotion to fairy chess pieces not found in the starting array is not new. My idea is for the promotion to be undeclared, and revealed by how the piece is moved. There would therefore be an element of deduction on the part of the opposing player. For example, if the promoted pawn slides orthagonally, the player knows that it has a rook component (a queen or marshall); if it later makes a knight's move, it must be a marshall.

A bit like a particle in quantum mechanics, its move only "collapses" into something definite as it is observed. Until the player commits to a specific move, it could be anything. In other words, the player doesn't have to decide on a promotion as soon as the pawn reaches the back row, but fixes components as he goes. If only one component has been used (for example, an orthagonal move meaning the piece is part rook), the player can still keep his options open and decide whether it's also part knight or part bishop later.

We can say that a pawn that has reached the 8th rank but has not moved yet is unexposed: its nature is not known. One that has made only one type of move is partly exposed. One that has made two types of moves is fully exposed: its move possibilities are fixed, and it is effectively

The problem here is that a pawn that is not yet fully exposed is immensely powerful. If it is unexposed, it threatens all of the squares for any of its potential moves (since it's free to choose any of those moves as a component). If partly exposed, it still threatens all squares for all possible components, because it is still indeterminate between the two unknown components. This is way too powerful, effectively an amazon (rook+bishop+knight): the game Maharajah and the Sepoys pits a single royal (kinglike: unable to move into threatened squares, game lost if it cannot escape capture) amazon on one side against an entire chess army on the other, and the full army only barely outclasses it. To fix this, we can rule that squares are only threatened if the player reveals that they are on his turn (explicit), or they are threatened by a move that has already been exposed (implicit). If the space is not threatened (explicitly or implicitly), the promoted pawn is not allowed to capture a piece that moves there on the next turn (although it may fix a component later that would have allowed it to make that capture if it had been set beforehand).

This rule could also be limited to determining threatened squares only for purposes of giving check (since a king is not allowed to move into check).

Let's add another possible promotion to the mix. A piece with the king's move (minus royal restrictions and castling) is called a "mann", and is a valid basic piece that could be used as a component. The combination of a mann and knight is called a centaur, and while it is short-range and seems weak, it is actually a pretty strong piece in the same range as the previously mentioned compounds (and maybe a bit stronger than the bishop+knight). Mann+bishop and mann+rook can be safely ignored; while perfectly valid pieces in their own right, they are both subsets of the queen and therefore redundant in this case.

The addition of this piece causes some interesting complications. A single-space move, orthagonal or diagonal, no longer unambiguously reveals a full component (a knightwise move still reveals a knight component on its own). A piece that has made a knight's move and a single-space orthagonal move may be a marshall or a centaur (if it also makes a single-space diagonal move, though, it's clearly a centaur; if it slides more than one space orthagonally, it's clearly a marshall). A piece that has made a single-space diagonal move and a knightwise move could be archbishop or centaur. One that has moved only like a king may be queen or centaur.

Now another type of piece: the bent riders gryphon and aanca. Technically these aren't compound pieces at all: a gryphon moves one space diagonally followed by sliding at least one orthagonally away from the starting space; the aanca swaps these (one orthagonal, multiple diagonal). However, I believe they around the same range of strength, especially in the endgame when the board is relatively cleared out. They also make deductions more complicated, because they include the knight's move, but not exactly. Unlike a knightwise jump, they can be blocked: a gryphon on a diagonally adjacent square, the aanca on an orthagonally adjacent square. An unimpeded knight's move could be any piece but a queen, but if there was a piece in the way, the possibilities narrow.

While it seems like this element of uncertainty would be a sort of "wild card", the game is still actually deterministic. It may not seem so, but it is still a complete information game: the possible moves of every piece are known to both players.

Another way of achieving a "black box" effect of pawn promotions would be for a player who promotes a pawn to determine at the time of promotion which piece it now is, note it down, and hold to that decision. Under this rule, there would be no "declared threat": if the piece can capture with one of its moves, it can, and if the opposing player moves his king to a threatened square, he must be told that he has moved into check and allowed to take back the move. While this is probably easier to understand, it actually does add an incomplete information aspect to the game, and would play very differently. Call this one "Clue Chess".
gwalla: (fgsfds)
A while back I was given The Art of the Bar: Cocktails Inspired by the Classics, a cookbook by the bartenders at Absinthe, an upscale cocktail bar in San Francisco that I like. Aside from making some of the concoctions in the book, it also got me to try my hand at coming up with my own drink recipes.

I'm pleased to say that recently, these experiments have been quite successful.

George Washington:
  • 1 shot (1½ oz) bourbon
  • ½ shot (¾ oz) Maraschino liqueur
  • ½ oz Cherry Heering liqueur
  • 1 splash orange flower water
  • 1 dash orange bitters
  • 1 bourbon or maraschino cherry
Combine the liquid ingredients in a shaker with ice and shake well. Strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with the cherry.

This one is a rare example of a drink that didn't need any tweaking. The proportions turned out to be just right the first time. It was like Athena bursting fully-grown from the head of Zeus. The two different cherry liqueurs balance out with neither dominating, and match well with the bourbon. Orange bitters of course work well with fruit flavors, and keep the liqueurs from making it too sweet. The orange flower water adds a floral scent and some complexity.

It's named in honor of the first American President's childhood arboreal antics (and his still).

Shanghai 1929:
  • 1 oz white rum
  • ½ shot (¾ oz) St. Germain elderflower liqueur
  • ½ shot (¾ oz) dry vermouth
  • 1 dash Peychaud's bitters
  • soda water
  • 3 mandarin orange wedges (canned in syrup)
Combine the rum, liqueurs, and bitters in a shaker and stir. Pour into a cocktail glass. Top off with soda water (about ¼–½ oz) and stir briefly. Garnish with the mandarin orange slices on a cocktail spear.

This is a very refreshing drink, and would probably be nice on a hot summer day.

I first encountered St. Germain in mini-bottle form, and quickly discovered that it works very well mixed in equal proportion with dry vermouth. All it needed was a base liquor, and I didn't want to use gin (because then it'd just be a St. Germain martini). The idea languished for a while (not much in those mini-bottles to work with!), but I started into it again more recently. My first try used a whole shot of rum and ½ oz each of the St. Germain and vermouth; it didn't have enough flavor. Another try used the 1-¾-¾ proportions, but also had a splash of orange flower water, and it ended up tasting just like slightly fizzy, diluted St. Germain. I was going to use more vermouth, but my mother suggested that maybe the orange flower water was throwing off the balance by accentuating the floral taste of the liqueur. I dropped the orange flower water, and it worked! Thanks, mom!

St. Germain tastes vaguely like lychee, hence the name of the cocktail.
gwalla: (language buff)
The first verb: yseul, "to commit adultery, cheat on, cuckold". Yeah, I know it's an odd choice, but I couldn't resist the cross-linguistic pun (slightly more obvious with the imperative ending -t).

Yes, this means that <y> is now a vowel. Specifically, a compressed (semi-rounded) central close vowel. Orthography and phonology have been in flux recently. I've reluctantly dropped <rh>, for various reasons: differentiating between two rhotics is a bit tough; the approximant is probably easier in clusters, but letter groups like <drh> are awkward and don't look right for the language, and the alternatives of neutralizing the /ɹ/-/ɾ/ distinction in clusters or swapping the spellings around would just get confusing; and it turns out that <rh> isn't an "Irish-like" spelling at all, but rather Welsh and Greek (this is not so important, but the others are deal-breakers). On the other hand, I'm trying to find a use for <bh>, which does look appropriate, but I've already got <v> for /v/; I'm vaguely leaning towards using it for /w/, like Irish Gaelic, but I'm not totally sold yet. Not sure how I want to spell /j/: <j> is already taken (/ʤ/, under the Naïve Anglophone Won't Mangle It principle), but I also don't want <y> to do double duty as vowel and consonant.

Still not settled on how I want to use diacritics.

Prosody has gotten some attention. Syllables can be light (one mora), heavy (two morae), or superheavy (three morae): a short vowel is one mora, a long vowel or diphthong is two, and a consonantal coda adds one (whether a single consonant or cluster); an onset consonant or consonant cluster has no effect on syllable weight. Current thinking is that stress falls on the syllable containing the third mora from the end. In other words: if the last two syllables are light, the antepenult is stressed; if the final syllable is heavy, or the penult is heavy or superheavy, stress falls on the penult; if the final syllable is superheavy, it takes the stress. This rule is actually the same as Latin, except that there are no superheavy syllables in Latin. The only problem I have with this is that I've gotten used to the name "Ilion" having a stressed first sylable, but this would mean that stress would actually fall on "io" if it's a diphthong or "i" if the vowels are in hiatus. Bumping it up to fourth-mora-from-the-end would mean that the final syllable couldn't take stress, though. And I want stress to be regular. It's frustrating.
gwalla: (domoslide)
Been a while since I've messed with chess variants. Here's one based on chess's predecessor, Shatranj (aka medieval chess). It uses a standard 8x8 board, and can be played with a standard set of pieces with a couple of additions (checkers will do in a pinch).

There are 7 kinds of pieces in the starting array:
  • Pawn - These behave just like Shatranj pawns (i.e. like modern chess pawns without an initial double-step option or en passant).
  • Knight - The same as modern chess knights (leaping in an L-shape over any intervening pieces). The knight promotes to a warrior.
  • Fers (councillor) - Steps one square at a time diagonally. In Shatranj, this is the equivalent of the modern queen, but here it replaces the alfil (elephant), which is the equivalent of the modern bishop. The fers promotes to a bishop.
  • Thief - Leaps two squares diagonally or orthogonally over any intervening pieces. Fairy chess problemists call this piece an "alibaba" (alfil + dabbabah), so I called it a thief. It is colorbound, and can only visit ¼ of the squares on the board. If necessary, it may be represented on the board by a single checker (black for black, red for white). It promotes to an assassin.
  • Wazir (vizier) - Steps one square at a time orthogonally. Represented in a modern set by the queen. It promotes to a grand vizier.
  • Rook - The same as the modern rook: sliding any number of squares orthogonally until reaching an obstacle or the edge of the board. It is the one starting piece that does not promote.
  • King - Same as the modern chess king. Moves one square at a time orthogonally or diagonally. It may not move into a threatened square nor remain under attack at the end of the player's turn (check), and the game is lost when it cannot avoid capture (checkmate). It promotes to a warrior king.
Each player has 8 pawns, one king, one wazir, and two of each other piece. Pawns start on the third rank, rooks in the corners of the first rank, and everything else on the second rank in the order. The thieves are the outermost pieces, followed by the knights, then the fers, with the king and wazir in the middle. The king is on the left and the wazir on the right for white, and vice versa for black: think a stardard chess setup with thieves in place of rooks, fers in place of bishops, and wazir in place of queen.

The following pieces are obtained only through promotion. To mark them, I suggest placing a checker under the basic piece (so a warrior would be a knight on top of a checker, an assassin would be a stack of two checkers, etc.).
  • Warrior - This piece may move as a knight, or may move one space orthogonally.
  • Bishop - The same as a modern bishop: sliding any number of squares diagonally until reaching an obstacle or the edge of the board.
  • Assassin -The thief does not gain a new form of movement by promotion. Instead, it gains a new form of capture, by overtaking: the assassin may capture by jumping over an enemy piece and landing on an unoccupied square. While it is still can only visit ¼ of the squares on the board, it is capable of capturing pieces on all squares with the exception of the player's first rank and the file opposite where the thief started. Note that the assassin may only capture by overtaking if its landing square is empty; it cannot capture two pieces (one by overtaking, one by displacement) in a single move.
  • Grand Vizier - Moves as a king (one square, any direction), but is not subject to restrictions against moving into or staying in threatened squares, and it may be captured like any other piece. It may additionally promote to a regent by returning to the player's first rank.
  • Warrior King - May move as a king or as a knight. Rules regarding check and checkmate are still in force.
  • Regent - Moves as a king or grand vizier. When a player has a regent, he is immune to check and checkmate, and his king (or warrior king) may freely move into or stay in threatened squares. If the king is captured, the regent immediately becomes the new king (thus there is no more regent, and check and checkmate are once again enforced). Note that if a warrior king is captured, the regent still only becomes a plain king, not a warrior king; however, it may promote as a king.
A piece is promoted by landing on the 8th rank (the opponent's home row). Promotion is automatic.

Checkmate is a win. Stalemate is a win. Baring the king (capturing all of an opponent's pieces except for the king) is a win, unless the opponent can bare one's own king in the next move, which is a draw. There is no castling and no en passant. These rules are all the same as in shatranj.

The occasional rule that a king in check may switch places with a friendly piece once in a game is not present (the wazir/grand vizier/regent promotion track serves a similar purpose). The medieval chess rule of the "king's leap" (the ability for a king to make a knight's move once per game) is also not present (the promotion of the king to warrior king gives a more general mechanism for this).

The idea is to get a more dynamic game using primarily short-range pieces (like classic shatranj). The two sides start very close to each other, letting the weaker pieces get into the thick of things more quickly. All of the pieces' movements are either found in shatranj or shatranj variants (like Tamerlane Chess), or are combinations of those moves. For example, the thief combines the 2-square diagonal leap of the traditional shatranj alfil (a very weak piece, only capable of reaching 1/8 of the squares on the board!) with the 2-square orthogonal leap of the dabbabah (war machine), which is found in some old variants. The only exception is the assassin's capture, which has no equivalent in any predecessor or traditional relative of chess (with the possible exception of the chu shogi lion, which is considerably more powerful). The double promotion of the wazir and "substitute king" rule is adapted from the "pawn of pawns" and "pawn of kings" rules of Tamerlane Chess.

The assassin's capture can be quite dangerous: an assassin may capture a piece that is "protected" by another piece without risk of being captured.

I haven't decided how pawns should promote. One option is to let them promote to any other starting piece (other than the king, of course), which can not promote further. Another is to stick with the shatranj promotion rule in this case and only allow them to promote to the queen-equivalent (in this case, the wazir) without being able to promote further. Still another would be to allow promotion to any basic type, with the ability to promote further by reaching the player's 1st rank. I'm undecided.

Another change I'm pondering is adding two more thieves to the initial array (bringing it up to 4 thieves per player), starting on the 1st rank, each a knight's move away from the closest thief on the 2nd rank. This would allow all of a player's thieves, taken together, to visit any square on the board. Since these 1st-rank thieves could never reach the 8th rank, they would have to promote on the 7th. I'm currently leaning towards this.
gwalla: (Default)
Okay, last time I said I'd post about some grammar fundamentals. No more putting it off.


Ílion has 7 lexical categories ("parts of speech") currently, although I'm not sure where to put some things so this may change:
  • Nouns represent "things"*. They inflect for case and number. They also have gender, which is lexically determined (some nouns are masculine, some feminine, some neuter). It is an open class.
  • Verbs represent "actions"*. They inflect for tense, aspect, mood, and voice. Also an open class.
  • Adjectives represent "qualities" of things*. They are like a cross between nouns and verbs: they inflect for tense, case, number, and gender (agreeing with the head noun in all but tense). Open as well.
  • Prepositions do not inflect. They are capable of limited compounding but are otherwise a closed class.
  • Degree modifiers show the extent to which a modifier applies to a head: words meaning things like "very", "much", or "little". They can modify pretty much any word, except for nouns in the primary case, conjunctions, and particles. The negative (equivalent to English "not") falls into this category.
  • Complementizers. Function words used to nominalize verb phrases, which inflect as nouns. A very small closed class: there are only two.
  • Particles. This category is a bit of a cheat: it's a catch-all for various non-inflecting function words, like conjunctions and subordinators. Nothing like Japanese particles, sorry folks. A closed class.
Pro-forms are considered subcategories of the main categories (e.g. a pronoun is a type of noun).

You may have noticed that one familiar category in English is not included: adverbs. Degree modifiers are typically considered adverbs in traditional descriptions of English grammar, but they're a closed class and considerably more specialized (they really only cover "how much"). Ílion uses nouns to cover most of the territory that adverbs do in English. I'll go into this a bit more when I write about nouns and cases.

Now that we know the building blocks, we can go on to how they're assembled. Without further ado, Ílion word order:
  • Noun phrases are head-first, meaning modifiers (such as adjectives) follow nouns. If you consider prepositions to be the heads of prepositional phrases (rather than just extending noun phrases), then PPs are also head-first.
  • Verb phrases and adjective phrases are head-final.
  • The one exception to verb phrase head-finality is imperatives, which are usually fronted.
  • The core arguments to a verb are in descending order by degree of agency: subject, then objects. For ditransitives, the primary object (recipient) precedes the secondary object (patient).
This is actually a lot like Latin unmarked word order, but while Latin can shift things around because agreement and cases can keep things straight, Ílion cannot.

Next up: nouns and cases.

*More or less
gwalla: (Default)
Consonants: labial dental alveolar post* dorsal glottal
stopp bt dc/q g
affricateçh j
fricativef vth dhs zsh jhqh gh

In this table, as usual, when consonants appear in space-separated pairs the first is unvoiced and the second voiced. All flaps and approximants are always voiced (in earlier stages I included unvoiced <wh> and <yh>, but I'm currently leaning against them), except for <h>, which is always the unvoiced /h/.

/h/ always appears alone, never in clusters. The digraphs with <h> are therefore unambiguous.

I'm calling the final column "dorsal" because it encompasses both the (dorso-)palatal and velar places of articulation: Ílion makes no phonemic distinction between them. The stops are more often velar, but may be palatal when juxtaposed with front vowels (depending on dialect), while the fricatives are more often palatal, and the voiced fricative is always palatal (I just don't like the sound of the voiced velar fricative, really; it just sounds gargly and kinda makes my throat hurt). There is no phonemic dorsal nasal, although /n/ before a dorsal may be pronounced as such.

I decided against using the letter <k> because I felt that it looked too angular and "hard" to fit in with the aesthetic I was going for (I rejected <x> for the same reason). The unvoiced dorsal stop /k/ is instead spelled with <c> and <q>, depending on context: as an onset consonant, if it is followed by a front vowel (/i/ /e/) or /w/, it is spelled <q>, while if it is followed by any other vowel or approximant, it is spelled <c>; if it falls at the end of a word or is followed by a consonant, the spelling is determined (in the same way) by the preceding vowel. This was to avoid situations that might result in confusion or mispronunciation on the part of English-speakers, particularly the hard/soft c problem (e.g. how many people pronounce Celeborn as "seleborn", even though <c> is always hard in Tolkein's languages) and <qu>. It also gives me an excuse to throw in the letter <q> without making spelling less than round-trip phonemic or introducing something like uvulars.

My "in-world" rationale for the c/q thing is that originally they denoted distinct consonants (palatal for C, possibly uvular for Q), but palatal stops before front vowels became fronted from dorso-palatal to lamino-palatal (postalveolar), becoming <ch> and <j>, and the uvulars moved forward, merging C with Q. This nicely explains why <c> is dorsal but <ch> is laminal, but unfotunately doesn't really explain the independent existence of <j>. I'm not sure if I'll expand on this; it's really only an excuse for a weird bit of spelling, and I'm not going to bother seriously creating a proto-language and deriving the modern tongue from it.

The c-with-cedilla is only used in the digraph <çh>. It's there mainly because I wanted to have a cedilla. It's silly but I like it.

Phonemically speaking, there are two kinds of R sounds in Ílion: the alveolar flap <r> (the "Spanish" single r, /4/ in CXS), and the rhotic approximant <rh> (the American English r). Phonetically, there's more like three: the trill (Spanish "rr") also appears, but is not phonemic. When two /4/ appear in sequence (which can only happen across a syllable boundary), they are pronounced as a trill. Predictably, this is spelled <rr>.


Yeah, it's just the five cardinal vowels. Back vowels are rounded and front/center unrounded. Nothing too special here, really, but that's fine. Mid vowels are more close-mid (/e/ and /o/) rather than open-mid (/E/ and /O/). I'm not sure whether <a> should be /a/, /6/, or /A/. I'm kind of leaning towards the last (it has a smoother sound, to my ears, and euphony is a goal here), but the phoneme seems to pattern with the front vowels more than the back, so I'm kind of torn.

I know I want diphthongs, but haven't decided on any yet. They will be spelled as digraphs, I know that. <eu> and <au> are likely, <oe> or <oi> possible, <ae> maybe more likely than <ai>. Not sure if I want more, or how exactly they'll be pronounced.

In earlier drafts, I had an explicit schwa, which I was spelling ÿ. This was mainly an excuse to use the Latin-1 character set's y-umlaut, because it's a pretty absurdly showy symbol for a vowel that so rarely takes stress. It had some interesting features, for example being pronounced with breathy voice (the glottis partly closed but lax) after fricatives and approximants (or in some drafts, always) and being unvoiced between unvoiced consonants like the Japanese /u/ and /i/. I still kind of like that idea, but I don't think it fits with this language, particularly the goal of being able to explain basic pronunciation and grammar in a page. The schwa still survives, barely, but is epenthetic, appearing only when a proclitic ending in a consonant fuses to a word beginning with a consonant, and not within words. It doesn't have a letter, although the apostrophe used when attaching clitics could be considered such sometimes.

Phonotactics are still a little sketchy. Syllables may end with a single consonant, never a cluster (the affricates <ch> and <j>, which act like clusters in some respects, are also verboten), and open syllables (ending in vowels) abound. The muta cum liquida rule, which means that a stop followed by an approximant must be part of the same syllable as the approximant (a syllable break cannot fall between the two) is in effect. It sounds right, and I think it's common in natural languages for articulatory reasons ([ profile] padparadscha, am I off base on this?). Allowed consonant clusters will probably be restricted to a stop or fricative followed by an approximant.

Syllable accent will be regular (I think), but still marked orthographically with an acute accent. I don't know why the Ílion people would explicitly mark something they could always predict anyway, but I can always fall back on the old "spelling rules don't always make sense" excuse if pressed. With diphthongs, the accent mark would fall on the first letter of the digraph. Ílion has pitch accent rather than stress accent, which I think would provide a bit of a sing-song quality.

Vowels can occur in hiatus (that is, a syllable break may occur between vowels). When it does, the second vowel is marked with a diæresis, unless the second vowel is a diphthong, in which case the first vowel is marked, or the second vowel is stressed, in which case the second vowel is only marked with the acute accent. Word-final <e> is always marked with a diæresis, even when it is not in hiatus (which would actually be rare, I think). This is to prevent English-speakers from interpreting it as a "silent e"—a trick I stole picked up from Tolkein.

Any questions?


May. 24th, 2006 11:24 pm
gwalla: (magma)
I've been intending to post about my conlangs for ages now. About time I did so.

My most active conlang project is Ílion, and is for a setting/story project I've been calling Galiant, a space opera/fantasy/mech warfare comic idea. It's the language of a humanoid alien race, the dominant civilization in the solar system in which the story is set, and as such is also the lingua franca of interplanetary trade and diplomacy. Most characters are humans and speak something rendered as English natively. Ílion dialogue would appear as Ílion, but would be translated in captions. In the back of each issue/collection would be a Ílion-English dictionary containing all of the Ílion words used in that issue, plus a page explaining the grammar and pronunciation. The one-page limit for the grammar is a tough constraint, although I'm cheating a bit by letting myself put grammar words in the dictionary part.

It's also supposed to be aesthetically pleasing. This is pretty subjective, but I'm taking as my visual model French and Irish Gaelic. The orthography is meant to evoke these languages by containing a lot of letter combinations typical of them: e.g. "ll" and "nn" from French, and lots of consonant-"h" digraphs from Gaelic. The spelling is much more phonemic than either of those arcane orthographies, however.

I'm trying to balance ease of learning with introducing concepts that English speakers may find unfamiliar (but not too alien). Since English has a lot of binary distinctions, there ends up being a lot of "threeness" to the grammar: three noun cases (primary, oblique, genitive), three genders (masculine, feminine, neuter), three verb moods (indicative, subjunctive, imperative), three aspects (perfective, progressive, iterative), "three" tenses. It has strict SOV, head-final word order (although verbs are fronted in imperative sentences).
gwalla: (master plan)
It's gotten to the point where I can't find a damn thing I'm looking for on my hard drive. Especially in my images folder. There's just too much stuff, and I, a total packrat by nature, am unwilling to delete much of it. So I've been looking around for tools to help me categorize files so I can find what I'm looking for.

I tried out Google's Picasa, but it's a mess. Google has some sort of philosophical aversion to directory hierarchies, so all of the subfolders of the My Pictures folder, and all of their subfolders, etc., appear at the same level. This can be a pain if you, say, have two folders with the same name differentiated only by which folder contains them. Also, while you can label images with categories, categories are basically treated just like folders (except your file can be in more than one). You can't do intersections of labels: e.g. bringing up a list of every file labelled both "anime" and "cats". It also isn't accessible through the filepicker, which is probably asking too much of a third-party app, but which severely limits its usefulness to me because when I'm searching for a graphic it's usually to upload to a site like iichan or 4chan.

Also, why limit categorization to images? It would be useful for pretty much everything.

I wish there was a program or extension that would allow categorization of all files, as a sort of alternative interface to directory hierarchies. I envision it as having the following features:
  • Files can be given multiple labels
  • Labels act like "directories": the files marked with a label can be found as if they were all the contents of a single directory
  • Set operations such as intersection ("and"), union ("or"), and exclusion ("and not") can be performed on labels; te results are treated like any other label that can be opened
  • Labels can be organized into hierarchies. A file grouped under a label is also implicitly grouped under that label's parent label
  • Labels can be key:-value pairs, e.g. "author: Philip K. Dick". Keys and values can have their own hierarchies, e.g. "band/artist", "original band", and "remixer" could all be grouped under "performers", so opening the label "band/artist: Nirvana" would find all songs performed by Nirvana, "original band: Nirvana" would find all songs originally by Nirvana (including covers performed by other bands), and "performers: Nirvana" would find all songs performed by or originally performed by Nirvana. Since "band/artist" is a sublabel of "performers", labelling an MP3 "band/artist: Nirvana" would mean that opening "performers: Nirvana" would still find it, without it having to be explicitly also labelled "performers: Nirvana"
  • Labels would be available through the filepicker (GNOME integration?), both for labelling while saving, and for finding files. The file open dialog would allow for set operations
  • Labels can apply accross media: if I insert a CDROM containing labelled files, they should be accessible through their labels just as if they were on the hard drive
  • Files on removable media are stored on the hard drive along with a CDROM name or index number, so backed up files can still be found and the proper disc found
  • Access control lists for labels: nobody needs to know how my porn is organized except for me
I think this'd be something that most people wouldn't really think of but, like browser tabs, would find it makes things a whole lot easier and wonder how they ever got along without it once they started using it.
gwalla: (kid vid)
God only knows what possessed me to devise my own poker variant, as the one time I've played poker (Texas hold 'em) I didn't enjoy myself very much. I suppose it's the same reason I fiddle with constructed languages, and come up with video game designs that will never get programmed. I find playing with ideas more interesting than how they are put into practice. So, even though I didn't enjoy playing, I still had a grand old time looking up existing types of poker*. And whenever I go info-trawling, I end up thinking about putting my own spin on the subject. Hell, I even half-assed came up with my own fictional Gnostic sect after reading a bunch of pseudepigrapha.

Without any further ado:

Crosstown Traffic
(aka Three-By-Three Hold 'Em)

This is a community card variant (like Texas hold 'em or Omaha), with a board of nine cards arranged in a 3×3 square. It's inspired by Double-Board Hold 'Em (the way the pot is split by boards rather than high/low), Tic-Tac-Toe Poker (the square board), and to a lesser extent Sixpack (the way the board deals are arranged to evenly distribute information between phases).

The initial deal is three hole cards face down to each player, then a betting round. After that, the shared board is dealt three cards at a time in three phases—the flop, turn, and river—each followed by a betting round. The flop, turn, and river are dealt in the following pattern**:
where F is a card dealt in the flop, T one in the turn, and R in the river. Within each phase, the cards are dealt left to right.

After the river and the final betting round is the showdown. The highest row hand (two of the player's hole cards together with any three-card row) and the highest column hand (two hole cards plus any column) split the pot, cards speak. It is possible for a player to scoop by having the highest row hand and the highest column hand. There is no rule that the player's row hand and column hand use the same two hole cards (although obviously they will have at least one in common). Also, if playing with wild cards, a wild card on the board does not have to play as the same rank and suit in the column as it does for the row for the same player.

*Incidentally, poker variants have some of the silliest names, like Spit in the Ocean (actually seems to be two different variants by that name), Crazy Pineapple, and Kenosha Cheese Porn. The Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society (which Larry Niven once belonged to) was rather prolific when it comes to oddly-named poker variants, among which are Double Jesus, Low Flying Outhouse, Hot Pastrami, Metaphysical Hyena, Piggish Mopsqueezer, and Terminal Acne.

**Actually, any arrangement that results in each row and column receiving exactly one new card per phase would work. The order of these subpatterns could be swapped around, or the whole pattern could be mirrored, or both, and the players would still have the same amount of information about the board at the end of each phase. Likewise, the actual order of cards dealt within a phase is irrelevant. However, it's important to follow a mutually agreed upon pattern to avoid accusations of dealer cheating, and the given arrangement is as good as any other and less confusing than some, so it's recommended.

P.S. Does anybody else think that stud poker should be played with a bigger deck than other kinds?


gwalla: (Default)

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