Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Dark•Heritage and Timischburg

OK, yeah.  I'm going to do it.  Officially, DARK•HERITAGE (Mk. V) and TIMISCHBURG are being merged.  Because the DARK•HERITAGE tag on this blog refers to material developed for Mk. IV, I'm going to retire the TIMISCHBURG tag and the DARK•HERITAGE tag, and in common usage in posts (and to prevent me from having to format the text all the time, I'm probably going to just call it DH5 as a shorthand. (With a corresponding DH5 tag on the tags field.) That is the reference to the actual setting, though—when referring to the country of Timischburg within the setting of TIMISCHBURG, I'm just going to type Timischburg, of course.  And yes, I will (probably shortly) draw up a draft map.  And I already created a Google site for it (although there's not much, if anything, there yet.)  I used the Timischburg name, because although outdated, I like the sound it it better than DH5 when read, but DH5 is more accurate and useful, really.  Oh, well.  By the time I thought of using that, I'd already created the site anyway.

So, what is necessary to pull this off?  Other than rearranging the already admittedly rather sketchy geography to make the two settings fit together, I mean, which is obvious?  The biggest problem is that Timischburg was meant to be a kind of FANTASY HACK (FH) alternative to the Grand Duchy of Karameikos; i.e., if FH is my version of D&D, then TIMISCHBURG was my version of a default setting for it, using all of the elements of FH.  DH4 as a setting was, however, deliberately not too close to D&D in terms of assumptions about how magic worked, what races existed, etc.  If D&D is fantasy based loosely on a Medieval Europe, then DH4 was fantasy based loosely on the Old West and the Golden Age of Piracy.  So, by merging, am I losing the ties to a D&D-like setting, or am I losing the specific flavor of DH4?

Actually, the question isn't quite as relevant as it seems because DH5 is actually more "Dark Ages Europe creates Eastern Seaboard colonies in a planetary romance alternative to "America" some 500-600 years earlier than it actually does and then gets cut off."   DH5 just has a different flavor then DH4 or D&D either one, although not so different that much of the material can't still be used more or less as is (or was) unless I specifically decide that I want it to change and evolve. I guess what I really mean, though, is "is there a place for elfs and dwarfs and whatnot in DH5? Let's go through all of the races of FH and DH4 and see how they line up with DH5, shall we?

FH Core Races
  • Human—naturally, humans are still integral to both settings.
  • Halfling—I envision that the halflings could linger in DH5 in quiet little hamlets here and there mostly in the Six Colonist nations and Carlovingia if you really wanted to use them, but I would personally completely ignore them and for all intents and purposes they wouldn't exist.  Although, I think that I may well use the stats to represent the native WHG remnants throughout the Eastern Seaboard.
  • Orc—I'm going to have orcs in Gunaakt, which will carry forward from TIMISCHBURG to DH5.  Seeing them outside of their homeland would be very unusual, though.
  • Elf—secluded and isolationist enclaves of elfs could exist, mostly if you really decide for whatever reason that you need them.  But I wouldn't utilize them for anything except maybe as villains.
  • Dwarf—these would be more like semi-legendary "spirits" of the mountains, and could be found there if you needed them, but again, I wouldn't use them myself.
  • Cursed—the Hyperboreans of Lomar are Cursed.
So, of the core races, three—elf, dwarf and halfling have places that they could exist if you wanted them to, but I'm going to assume going forward that they don't, and I won't treat them at all except (maybe) a brief discussion down the line about where they could go if you wanted to use them.  The human, orc and cursed, however, most definitely have prominent places in the setting.

FH Optional Races
  • Goblin—I can see using them as a variant phenotype of orc; i.e., as in Tolkien, the Snagas and the Uruks coexist in the same country.
  • Jann—are going to be a native race of the planet of New Earth.
  • Kemlings—same as jann.
  • Nephilim—should be very rare; I haven't yet decided if there's a "homeland" for these guys, or if they're just isolated individuals here and there yet.
  • Wose—same as jann and kemling.
Keep in mind that most of those races are DH4 races (except goblin.)  Granted, I've changed the names around just a little bit, and "shifters" and Neanderthals have been combined into the wose race.

All in all, I'd say that the racial picture looks more like DH4 than FH, although there are options to add the D&D-like FH races in if you really must.  In general, because New Earth is kind of Mongo-like in some ways, people are much less phased by exotic people in general, so if you really wanted to introduce an elf or a orc player characters, you could assume that people are curious, but not necessarily overly so about his presence anywhere that you go.

The race builder rules, then, could also be used, although I wouldn't necessarily recommend it unless you deliberately want a weird traveling circus approach to your PC party.  Again; what the setting will support as an RPG construct doesn't necessarily represent the setting in it's "Platonic" form, as it would or could be used in fiction.

What else was expanded when I moved from DH4 to FH?  I added a lot more spells, but the magic system is still more or less as is.  I do have flintlock and whatnot firearms in DH4, of course, but I'm not sure if I'll use them as native weapons that have dispersed to the Colonists or not yet.  I added a lot of new monsters, many of them very traditional monsters (although sometimes with new names); in fact, much more traditional than D&D's wont, quite honestly.  If there isn't a folklore or mythology source for the monster (or one of the Lovecraftian monsters, which really made the core of what I was doing from the get-go) or they aren't a real or prehistoric animal of some kind, then it's not likely that I have them.

But, again, given that New Earth is as much like Mongo in terms of tone, you can keep all of the FH additions without any problem, although the chances of any particular line item making an appearance is not necessarily high.  But how true is that for D&D anyway, amirite?  And in unusual circumstances, a monster race could be a protagonist character of some kind or another; a thurse as Chewbacca, for example, or an imp daemon as someone's familiar, etc.

In general, I'd suggest that that's another thing that changes a fair bit.  While DH4 was started to have a dark fantasy swashbuckling tone, the dark/horror elements are somewhat muted in DH5 in comparison, and it instead is a sword & sorcery meets planetary romance with some elements of horror still lingering here and there.

Happy Halloween, part 2 (EDM style)

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Happy Halloween!

I'll probably be busy tomorrow, so I don't know if I'll make this.  I'll do it now!  Happy Halloween!

Here's one of my favorite Halloween songs, from the actual genre of Halloween music.  Which, as far as I know, is made by all of two groups: Midnight Syndicate and Nox Arcana.

Here's my favorite Halloween song from the soundtrack to a horror movie.  By none other than Danny Elfman, of course, although here he's not sounding very, very Danny Elfman; he's sounding very much like he's imitating the soundtrack from Bram Stoker's Dracula by Wojcieh Kilar.

And here's one of my favorite Halloween pop songs, if there can be such a thing: Oingo Boingo's trippiest ghost story from the Dead Man's Party album.

Monday, October 29, 2018


Continuing my small digression into the world of political and social commentary for one more post, this is fun.

I suspect strongly that that's true, even if it is just his lawyer saying so.  Then again, those "mail bombs" weren't actually bombs.  They just kinda sorta looked like bombs.

Also; I love how the media is trying to sell us on the narrative that he's white.

By literally manipulating the image to wash it out.  Now, those aren't the same image, of course.  One is an earlier mugshot when he wasn't notorious yet, so there was no reason to do anything to it.

Rainbow-colored jackboots

Well, I've felt the "wrath" of Instagram.  I had this image "removed" for violating community guidelines, whatever the devil that's supposed to mean.

I had added text that said that if the army won't defend our country against foreign aggression and invasion, then it should be disbanded and defunded, since that's it's only job.  In this, I was paraphrasing Vox Day, who's meme this is.

I suppose it's a matter of some small pride that I've been able to be noticed by the fascists of the FAAG Four (Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Google.  Twitter is only excluded because they're not really important enough).  I've already quit doing Facebook.  Instagram is, of course, a division of Facebook now.

I'm posting this on a Google site, and Google is the G in FAAG.  As Angelo Codevilla says:
The logic that drives each turn of our revolutionary spiral is Progressive Americans’ inherently insatiable desire to exercise their superiority over those they deem inferior. With Newtonian necessity, each such exercise causes a corresponding and opposite reaction. The logic’s force comes not from the substance of the Progressives’ demands. If that were the case, acquiescing to or compromising with them could cut it short. Rather, it comes from that which moves, changes, and multiplies their demands without end. That is the Progressives’ affirmation of superior worth, to be pursued by exercising dominance: superior identity affirmed via the inferior’s humiliation. It is an inherently endless pursuit. The logic is rooted in disdain, but not so much of any of the supposed inferiors’ features or habits. If it were, the deplored could change their status by improving. But the Progressives deplore the “deplorables” not to improve them, but to feel good about themselves. Hating people for what they are and because it feels good to hate them, is hate in its unalloyed form.
How very true.
[T]here exists a remarkably uniform, bipartisan, Progressive ruling class; that it includes, most of the bureaucracies of federal and state governments, the judiciary, the educational establishment, the media, as well as major corporate officials; that it had separated itself socially, morally, and politically from the rest of society, whose commanding heights it monopolized; above all that it has contempt for the rest of America, and that ordinary Americans have no means of persuading this class of anything, because they don’t count. As the majority of Americans have become conscious of the differences between this class and themselves they have sought ever more passionately to shake it off. 
The bolded part (my emphasis) is what a lot of old-timey conservatives and libertarians still often fail to grasp.  But it's one of the biggest cruxes of the matter.  There doesn't exist any real lever of power that isn't fully converged to this anti-American, Trotstyite, globalist communist, Satanic ideology.
Our time’s sharp distinction between rulers and ruled, the ever decreasing interchange and sympathy between them, is rooted in the disdain for ordinary Americans that the universities have sown since the Civil War. Ordinary Americans and their rulers are alienated now in ways unimaginable to the Northerners and Southerners who killed each other a century and a half ago, but who nodded when Abraham Lincoln noted that they “prayed to the same God.” Both revered the American founding. Both aspired to the same family life. Often, opposite sides’ generals were personal friends. And why not? The schools they attended, the books they read, did not teach them the others’ inferiority. They were one people. Now, we are no longer one people. 
In our time, the most widespread of differences between rulers and ruled is also the deepest: The ruled go to church and synagogue. The rulers are militantly irreligious and contemptuous of those who are not. Progressives since Herbert Croly’s and Woodrow Wilson’s generation have nursed a superiority complex. They distrust elections because they think that power should be in expert hands—their own. They believe that the U.S Constitution gave too much freedom to ordinary Americans and not enough power to themselves, and that America’s history is one of wrongs. The books they read pretend to argue scientifically that the rest of Americans are racist, sexist, maybe fascists, but above all stupid. For them, Americans are harmful to themselves and to the world, and have no right to self-rule. That is why our revolution started from a point more advanced in its logic than many others. 
The anti-establishment “wave elections” of 2010 and 2014, in which the Democratic Party lost Congress and control of a majority of state legislatures, only led America’s Progressive rulers to double down on their positions of power in the judiciary, the media, corporations, etc. The Supreme Court struck down a referendum by liberal California defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman. The federal Defense of Marriage Act, which had become law by near-unanimity, was overturned bureaucratically and judicially. The Religious Freedom Restoration Act, on the books just as firmly, was undone by executive, judicial, bureaucratic, corporate, and mediatic subordination of religious freedom to anti-discrimination. By the 2016 election, America’s Progressive rulers were demonizing and punishing persons who define male and female by their birth and personal plumbing. 1984’s Big Brother had not been so imperious. 
The 2016 election’s primaries were all about the American people’s search for means of de-throning increasingly insufferable rulers. Even on the Democratic side, many bridled at their self-serving unaccountability. But since the Democrats are the party of government, it was clear that protection from and vengeance against the existing power structure would have to come from the nominal opposition party. Yet the Republicans were very much part of the problem. That is why 2016’s real struggle took place within the Republican primaries, the most enduringly significant fact of which is that Jeb Bush, the candidate most closely identified with the Progressive ruling class, spent some $150 million and secured only three convention delegates. Americans in general, and Republicans in particular, were looking for the polar opposite. 
Donald Trump was out of central casting—seemingly a caricature of what the ruling class said about its opponents. But the words he spoke were less significant than that he spoke with angry contempt for the ruling class. That—and the crowded field that never allowed a head-to-head choice—is what got him the chance to be the alternative to the ruling class. And that is what got him elected President of the United States. 
Those who voted for Trump believing or hoping that he would do a, b, or c, were fewer than those who were sure that he offered the only possibility of ending, or at least pausing, the power of an increasingly harmful, intolerant, disdainful, socio-political identity. In 2016 one set of identities revolted against another. That was the revolution’s first turn.
Civil War 2.0 is already here.  Most people just aren't aware of it yet.  And casualties are already mounting.  Not just in terms of economic casualties, as jobs are lost to Americans and given to foreign scabs and mercenaries.  The number of people killed by the troops that the liberals have brought in specifically to keep the American people pacified until they can be more or less eliminated is, of course, hidden from us because the media is on the side of the destruction of America.  But suffice it say for now that Kate Steinle was not an isolated case.

Friday, October 26, 2018

Friday Art Attack

We tend to think of barbarians riding in from the steppes as dark, like the Huns or the Mongols.  The Scythians are universally described in ancient sources from Greeks, Romans, Persians, Assyrians, Indians and even Chinese as being very European in appearance, with red or blond hair and blue or gray eyes.

An interesting take on the concept of the ghoul.

Cyberpunk meets Star Wars.

Too bad that the Tusken Raiders haven't been known to take on Imperial Walkers.  Why didn't Vader send any walkers to retrieve the droids anyway?  I mean, c'mon?  Dewbacks?

More crime and noir Star Wars.

By this axe I rule!  A Kull story originally, readapted to become one of the first Conan stories.

Some Legendary character models.


And.... more.

I'd love to go for a joy ride on Mars.

The sadly extinct American cheetah.  Which, although morphologically very similar to a cheetah, was actually not very closely related to them; it's closest relatives are (perhaps unsurprisingly) the puma.

It's gotta suck when whales beat up your submarine.  I guess that's why Aquaman isn't always lame.  Just mostly.

Heh.  I realize that this is kinda a joke, but it's great anyway.

3e iconics surrounded by low level vampires.  Nice!  I've always loved this picture and wish that it was better quality and maybe with a background instead of just "text white."

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Timischburg and Dark•Heritage

I was thinking a few days ago of not even bothering with a TIMISCHBURG map.  I'm now thinking of something even more radical (although if I do this, I'll almost certainly eventually put a map together after all.)  What if I combine TIMISCHBURG and DARKHERITAGE, Mk. V, where I am right now?  First off; what would be the advantages of doing something like this?

Well, first, both settings are at a stage of relative non-development.  TIMISCHBURG has been developed in one country only, with a few handwavey attempts to describe what else is out there in the setting beyond that country.  DARKHERITAGE is, if anything, even less developed in its current Mk. V version; it's got a bit of development on the East Coast and very handwavey expressions of what else is out there.  Since both focus on different areas and are handwavey about everything else, it would hardly be difficult to combine them.

It also gives me the benefit that I can utilize more of what I developed in DARKHERITAGE Mk. IV than I can currently.  Because the country Timischburg is the evolution of Tarush Noptii, I can fit it in.  I was already hoping to figure out where to use Terassa, although it would be "demoted" from protagonist country to alternate, southern "New Spain".  In step the old balshatoi, who were renamed Kozaky and renamed again Scramasaxons; none of which really hit it off quite right to me.  They are now the new protagonist nations, and they're actually refugees or Crusaders, or whatever you want to call them, from Earth, come to the New World across a mystical bridge or portal a hundred (or so) years ago, which would have been pretty much the time of Richard I The Lionheart.  This gives me a kind of Ivanhoe and Robin Hood vibe to my pseudo Saxon, Celtic, etc. nations which make up the protagonist countries.

The disadvantages of course being that TIMISCHBURG was created specifically to be a more D&D-like setting than DARKHERITAGE was ever supposed to be.  The former is supposed to have room for elfs and dwarfs and orcs and whatnot, while the latter doesn't really.  Of course, this may be a bit of a moot point, as I've found that I don't really like the D&D elements enough to try very hard to preserve them, and even as TIMISCHBURG has continued to develop, I've completely ignored them.

Although I'm leaning heavily towards doing this, and drawing up a map showing my nations, such as they are, and Weird Tales-ing it all up a fair bit to be more Hyborian Age and Hyperborea and whatnot, I need to give it some more thought before I decide for sure.  But I am leaning heavily towards doing it.

If so, how would I integrate stuff, and what would I integrate exactly?
  • My protagonist northern European nations would still be on an ersatz east coast, mostly.
    • The Six Colonist Nations: Westry (English, ruled by Normans), the Archenlands (English, ruled by Anglo-Saxons), Brochwel (Welsh and Cornish), Dun Nechtain (Scottish), Trondmark (a kind of hybrid of English, Scottish and Viking), and Vingulfold (actual Viking.)
    • Immediately to the south of that is Timischburg.  Their immediate source is unclear, but they claim to have come from the Holy Roman Empire, or at least the aristocracy does, although no record of them having left the Holy Roman Empire in the past is known.
  • To the immediate west of them would be frontier mountain ranges not unlike the Appalachians geographically, although more like the Rockies or the Alps physically.  These are mostly uninhabited, but protagonist settlers and homesteaders are moving into the area, and some lingering Wendaks (WHG type natives) still lurk about too.
  • To the immediate west of that is the Prairie-Sea.  Untash, Haltash and Tazitta tribes roam here, as a kind of analog of Comanches (the first), Scythians (the second) and Huns (the latter) in the vague way that the Aesir and Vanir of Howard's Hyborian Age were Vikings.
  • North of the Prairie-Sea is the vast Cerenarean Sea; actually kind of all of the Great Lakes rolled up into one super-great lake.  North of that is mostly boreal forest, inhabited by savage relatives of the Wendaks and the Lomar.  The latter are descendants of old Hyperboreans; pale and degenerate, and fleeing the advances of the savage Inutos even further north.  
  • The eastern coast between the Cerenarean Sea and the ocean (immediately north of the Six Colonists) is home to the Carlovingians, who claim to be the descendants of old Franks who came several centuries before the Six Colonists arrived.  Quite honestly, the origin of these guys is mysterious, and scholars among the Six Colonists find it very curious to have found them at all.
  • West of that are the foothills of the Massive Mountains, and in these foothills is where Baal Hamazi still lies.  It's now more a region than a polity.
  • South of the Prairie-Sea is the Hill Country; another settlement of homesteaders and pioneers and others who chafe for whatever reason under the governments of the Six Colonists.  This is a mixture of all Colonist ethnicities, but especially Anglo-Saxon and Scottish.  It has no real central government, which is just the way the people like it.
  • Southwest and West of the Hill Country is the Great Escarpment, and the High Desert above that.  The High Desert is home to the degenerate descendants of old Mu, and the High Desert still holds that name for some.  These are the red-skinned jann, more like a savage and degenerate Red Men of Barsoom in most respects than the Qazmiri of DARK•HERITAGE Mk. IV.
  • South of the High Desert and Hill Country is Terassa.  The geography will be somewhat swapped; the Mezzovian Sea now being an ersatz Gulf of Mexico in most respects.  Porto Liure will still be on some analog of Hispaniola or Cuba.  Nizrekh is here as well.
  • South of Terassa will be Kurushat, similar to how it is, mostly, from the older DARK•HERITAGE.  Here, they're the descendants of old Lemuria.
  • If you can imagine in this ersatz New World that some part of eastern Brazil came up as a massive peninsula closing off the eastern edge of the Caribbean Sea, that's where Tesculum and Gunaakt are. 
Well; now that I've done that, I feel even more confident that I'll eventually decide to actually go with this.  But still; I'm going to let it sit before I decide for sure.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Wave II vs Wave III

OK, here's an example of how Wave II changed into Wave III. Luca Antolini is a DJ who was successful in both waves, and he's redone a few of his hits from Wave II as Wave III remixes.  Check out "Heat."

First, the "Original Hardtrance Mix" from 2002, solidly in Wave II.

Here's "Heat 2012", redone as a collab with Steve Hill.  It's not the complete track; you'll have to buy that on Amazon or Beatport or something, but it's enough of it that you can tell how it differs.

And here's 2016's "RVRS BASS Mix" which is more overtly hardstyle-like.  Which is curious, because by 2016, hardstyle was past it's prime.  Curiously, discogs calls this both hardstyle and hardtrance.  It's a great example of the kind of Wave III stuff that really straddles the line.

If I had some Wave I hardtrance song that was remade or remixed in Wave II and Wave III, then we'd really be cooking with gas.   For the most part, the 90s were characterized by really hyper BPMs across all kinds of EDM genres; 170, 180, sometimes even more.  This ended up with the stupid parody that is speedcore music.

It's funny that I remember thinking in the 80s that 120 BPM was a solid dance tempo, and the 130 or so BPM songs I had were fast.  Now I listen to some of those old 120 BPM tracks (like CCCP's "American-Soviets" or MCL's "New York") and they sound really slow to me now.  I think my ideal BPM for hard trance is somewhere between 145-150.

Wave III Hardtrance

I've (admittedly, somewhat belatedly) gotten into some of the Wave III hardtrance acts.  If you recall (or if you don't, either one) I think hardtrance comes in three recognizable waves.
  • Wave I is from the mid-90s, has a high tempo, utilizes a lot of acid bass lines, etc. 
  • Wave II is from the very late 90s and is really centered on the first half of the first decade of the 2000s.  The tempo got slower, the build-ups and drops became more important, acid remains, but new bass line types, like the rolling bass of S.H.O.K.K., for instance, and the early reverse bass that later became a major feature of hardstyle.  The kicks get really exaggerated.  DJ Scot Project type work, including his many remixes and his Arome project are the best typified examples of this type of hardtrance.
  • Wave III is people who came along later; mostly within the last decade.  This is still lower BPM than Wave I, but the intensity is ramped up, and a lot of hybridization with other styles like hard house, hardstyle, tech trance, hardcore, aggrotech, acidcore, and just about every other type of harddance style is often present, although naturally it still has to lean in towards hardtrance, or it would be considered something else.  Newer techniques like side-chaining and stuff get used a lot more; all in all, I'd say that there's a fuzzier sound to most of the work here compared to Wave II, although that's not necessarily a given.  A lot of the artists don't necessarily consider themselves hardtrance artists, though—they're simply harddance artists, and they slip easily in and out of stuff that sounds like hardtrance, hardstyle, subground, or who knows what else.  Some of the iconic artists of this wave would be like Steve Hill, DJ W, Noizy Boy, Nomad, Dean Zone, The Sixth Sense, Nostic, etc.  
Anyway, I bring this up, because the Wave III is more dispersed and less focused on fewer "big names" like Wave II was.  This means that I sometimes have a vague awareness of an artist because I have a few tracks, or collaborations or remixes by them, but then I find out that they've got this whole huge body of work that I'm missing.

This just happened to me with Noizy Boy, Shock:Force and DJ W, for instance, and it happened several months ago with The Sixth Sense and Nostic.  There's probably a ton more guys that this can still potentially happen to me with, so it may be an ongoing issue.

Anyway, here's a few samples of this stuff: Wave III hardtrance.

And, of course, I'm still discovering lots of Wave II stuff that I hadn't had before, like most of the work of Ralph Novell, DJ Dean and K90, for instance, both of whom I only recently grabbed.

I sometimes tell people tongue in cheek that there's a lot of different types of EDM.  My daughter, for instance, listens to tropical house, which sounds like the laid back walk on the beach under a rising moon after a nice dinner and relaxed party.  The stuff I listen to is so intense it'll melt your face off and kick your butt so hard that three days later you'll still be pooping out pieces of its shoe.  This characterization is really pretty true for a lot of this Wave III hardtrance that is a fusion of trance, hardstyle, acid and more all just going freakin' crazy on your stereo.

One guy who was talking to me about my music called it death metal.  Uh... no.  The only metal of any kind that I listen to at all is the campy 80s stuff that's probably more properly known as the harder edge of hair rock.  I do think, though, that much of what I listen to can be called the electronic music equivalent of metal in many respects.  Hard, brutal, masculine, intense, you listen to too much of it at once, you might find yourself itching to go pick a fist fight with someone.  Awesome stuff.

I will own up to a lot of sameyness to it, though.  I've been going through in particular a lot of Noizy Boy today while sending emails and working and stuff, and while all of the tracks I have are great, I'd be hard-pressed to tell one from the other.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Second Friday Art Attack

What's not to love about this orc gladiator?

Since I'm exploring Timischburg again, I can't forget Nizrekh.

Vampires can and should be sorcerers too.

A mysterious traveler with ravens. If the guy wasn't so dark and Mediterranean looking I'd call him Odin.

More fodder for Nizrekh and Timischburg. I do love me some undead.

I actually think I've posted this before. Demogorgon, baby! Although it's kind of his 5e look, it's a good one.

A ranger from a game Nick Cole is working on, I think. I grabbed it on Facebook before I said screw you to Facebook. Great example of why I love the ranger concept in D&D so much.

If I'm going to do the 5e look for Demogorgon, better add Orcus too.

I don't necessary love the type of game Legendary: Game of Heroes is. But it sure has some great art.

They've also sdone some nice mythological stuff. Here's Scylla, for instance.

They've also done Mythos. Here's Father Dagon.

Nature Hulk.

Pretty much what Tolkien's barrow-wights are described as.

And lastly, this weird leafy werewolf.

Friday, October 19, 2018

Do I *REALLY* want a Timischburg map?

I had always assumed, of course, that I'd eventually draw up a map for my TIMISCHBURG setting.  Why wouldn't I?  That's what you do with settings, and besides, I love drawing maps anyway, for its own sake.  So, why wouldn't I draw one for this setting?

Quick reminder, since I haven't talked about it much in the last few months; what is TIMISCHBURG anyway?  Here's the quick summary:
  1. I'd been playing around with homebrewing the DARKHERITAGE setting for quite some time.  I went through no less than five versions of the setting, each significantly different from the others.  As a setting, it was more swashbuckling dark fantasy with a combination Golden Age of Piracy + The Old West + picaresque Mediterranean skulduggery all rolled up into a setting that had little to do with D&D as most people traditionally thought of it.
  2. Because of this, I'd played around with various rulesets to represent it, gradually migrating further and further afield from D&D exactly.  I started with D&D with an almost completely different selection of classes and a different magic system, and from there went to d20 Past and played around with house-ruled Old School Hack and more, before finally settling on a customized version of m20.
  3. Because I liked m20 so much, I played around with various other iterations of the game, including making a Star Wars version, and eventually coming up with one with which I could run CULT OF UNDEATH, a side project of mine.  CULT OF UNDEATH was more similar in its basic setting assumptions than DARK•HERITAGE was, so the m20 set I made for it was more similar to D&D, obviously.
  4. Kinda on a whim, I thought—hey, what if I expended my CULT OF UNDEATH rules into being a full-fledged alt.D&D that exactly fit my tastes, anyway?  I could probably do that without too much work based on what I already have.  (Famous last words.  Actually, it ended up being kinda sorta true, but of course, I ended up growing the scope somewhat and spending more time and effort on it than I anticipated.)  This became FANTASY HACK, my own "My D&D" ruleset.  Because I was mimicking to a certain extent the structure of the B/X ruleset, I ended up needing to include a small section of setting (like the Grand Duchy of Karameikosin the Expert book) and I took the work I'd done for CULT OF UNDEATH and turned it into the country of TIMISCHBURG and included it as a hex map with a few names and whatnot.
  5. And... of course, I ended up wanting to fill in some of the blank spaces beyond Timischburg per se, and that's how I get TIMISCHBURG the setting, which is bigger than Timischburg the country, although Timischburg the country is smack in the middle of it and is the most developed.  TIMISCHBURG the setting, therefore, ends up being the lightly developed and only somewhat vaguely referred to "default" setting for FANTASY HACK, if that makes sense.
I always assumed that eventually I'd draw a real map for the setting itself beyond the hexmap I have for the country.  Because, that's what you do with settings, right?  But I'm starting to convince myself that I don't even want to and that it'd be better if I didn't.  I've got this vague "bubble map" which doesn't do much other than show the relative size and positions of a few nations that I've name-dropped in so far.  But what if that's the only map I ever actually come up with, unless I need to do a specific regional map like I did for Timischburg itself?

After all, before Tolkien came along, we read fantasy books that didn't have maps all the time, and it didn't hurt us to not have a map, did it?  And unless you're the GM of a setting, how much of a setting map do you really need anyway?  Actually, even if you are the GM, I'd argue that you can certainly do fine without one.  The only thing I'd miss is that I do like maps for their own sake.

Anyway, once again, a quick rundown of what these nations are:
  • Timischburg—the first developed and main part of the setting; everything else is deliberately meant to surround it.    This is a kind of Medieval Transylvania or Wallachia or something like that; a pseudo-Austrian aristocracy over a more Eastern population of peasants, lots of Gothic horror influences.  Because it started as the setting for CULT OF UNDEATH, it bears some resemblances here and there to Paizo's Ustalav.  Certainly in tone, it should be almost the same, although almost every detail will be different.
  • Terassa—immediately to the east and a tiny bit to the south of Timischburg; this is a kind like Medieval Castile, Leon, Asturias, Genoa, etc. including that they may have recently thrown out the Qazmiri in their own version of the Reconquista.  If I actually care to have a place for elfs to live, they're in a forested enclave located here.
  • al Qazmir—an Arabian Nights-like country south of the sea from Terassa and eastern Timischburg; home of the jann as an exotic, aristocratic race.
  • Carlovingia—a pseudo-Frankish empire located to the northeast of Timischburg, and the probable source of the Timischer aristocracy.  Can be seen as either a unified Carolingian Empire, or an early Holy Roman Empire, or even an analog to the Warhammer Empire, if you like.
  • Lexovii—pseudo-Gauls and other Celts, directly north of the Timischburg lands.  This isn't a "country" so much as it is a "nation."  There could be other people who live in their lands—goblins and dwarfs, specifically, although that's more for people who need to have goblins and dwarfs in their D&D settings than for me; I'd just as soon do without.
  • Vossmark—north of the Lexovii are the fake Vikings.
  • Tesculum—west of the Lexovii and the northern parts of Timischburg, and even bordering on Vossmark is the quite large Graeco-Roman styled kingdom, and one where I'd like to see more expansion, actually.
  • Gunaakt—the orc-lands, south of Tesculum and immediately east of the southern part of Timischburg.
  • Baal Hamazi—fractured kingdom east of Gunaakt.
  • Nizrekh—an island kingdom south of Gunaakt; a hybrid of Cryx from Warmachine and an Nehekhara from Warhammer, kinda.  Undead, piracy, monsters, and ancient Egypt.

And the CULT OF UNDEATH tag will give you a lot more information on the country, as well as a sample adventure/campaign set therein.

Or maybe this link would be easier to use.  The content is the same either way.

Friday Art Attack

An unusual alt. Darth Vader design.

Another Sith Lord.

More art of details of the Hoth base assault that weren't ever filmed.

I'm not really a huge fan of chinoiserie, personally.  I kind of like how Lovecraft made chinoiserie ominous.  But still; this is a beautiful piece of black and white art.

Weird and awesome Bronze Age action shot.

Classic Hammer-style Mummy.

Moorcock's foray into Planetary Romance was pretty terrible, but this is a good cover for a reprint of it, at least.  I thought the books themselves were painfully bad.

Charge of the Thoats.

I picked this up on a tumblr blog somewhere. 

More Bronze Age witchcraft.  Nice work.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Lining up Anthony and genetics

OK, I guess yesterday's post wasn't quite my last word (for now) on genetics after all.  Sigh.  Here I am again trying to lay out David Anthony's model with some genetics.  Most of this stuff is in 1) his book, The Horse, the Wheel, and Language and 2) the Wikipedia summary of his book, which is where "Revised Kurgan Theory" redirects you.  But I'm interested in seeing how well (if at all) it lays out with genetics.  Granted, we don't have genetic data for a lot of these archaeological material cultures.  But let's see if I can lay this out in a way that's less text dense and makes sense to me personally.
  • Any material cultures that are earlier than 4,000-3,500 BC can't be Proto-Indo-European, or even proto-Proto-I-E, because there wasn't any animal husbandry, which is a necessary component of the Indo-European cultural package.  The two cultures that precede this, and which first start to pick up some animal husbandry late in their development (although they are initially hunter, gatherer and fisher cultures) are Dnieper-Donets I (5,800-5,200 BC) in the West and Samara in the East on the Volga bend area.
  • In the Balkans and Danubian region, the Criş (5,800-5,300 BC) is an EEF culture that first brings cattle to the region.  The Bug-Dniester culture (6,300-5,500 BC), local hunters and foragers and fishers from the eastern Balkans (using the term rather broadly) was heavily influenced by the arrival of the Criş and was the "membrane" through which the Neolithic Revolution came to the steppes, specifically to the Dnieper Rapids area, and the Dnieper-Donets culture.  These steppes are still too early to be called anything like PIE and have it make sense linguistically, although no doubt either the Dnieper-Donets and/or the Samara cultures (at least) spoke languages that later evolved into PIE.
  • Several Balkan EEF and mixed cultures (that are presumably not proto-Proto-Indo-European) cultures; Criş, Vinča, Bug-Dniester, etc. developed into the Cucuteni-Trypillian culture (really more of a horizon than a culture per se) (5,200-3,500 BC), which actually spread eastward and represents the greatest expanse of paleo-Balkan Old Europe; it was densely populated and had what were probably the largest cities on Earth at the time; bigger than anything in China, or Egypt, or the Middle East, etc.  Dnieper-Donets I evolved into Dnieper-Donets II (5,200/5,000-4,400/4,200 BC) which was now a cattle herding economy instead of hunting/fishing, and cattle, sheep and goats migrated as far eastward (at least) as Khvalynsk in the Middle Volga region (4,700-3,800 BC), which was the successor to and evolved from of the Samara culture.  At this point, Dnieper-Donets II and Khvalynsk probably correspond to the R1a and R1b populations (respectively) that later emerge in the Corded Ware and Yamnaya horizons, although we don't have enough samples to say that that's true, only that we would expect that.  Somewhere in that steppe spectrum was probably spoken a language that was getting close to a very early Indo-Hittite.
  • Somewhere around 4,200 BC, the horse was domesticated across the steppe, although it didn't appear in large numbers until 3,500 BC.  It's not clear exactly how and by whom this happened.  A lot has been made of the almost certainly non-Indo-European Botai culture from Central Asia and their horse domestication (or husbandry, or whatever exactly they did with horses) but curiously, the Botai seem to have contributed little if any genetic or cultural input into the more westerly steppe cultures, and the horses themselves seem to be the forerunners of the Mongolian wild horses, and contributed no genetic material to today's domestic horses.  Most likely, somebody out in the Khvalysnk culture can be credited with independently getting the ball rolling in domesticating the horse that led to today's modern horse.
  • At some point here, probably under an elite dominance or influence, at least, some Khvalynsk "chiefs" or cult figures, or other high status individuals of some kind turned the Dnieper-Donets II into the Sredny Stog culture on the western steppes (4,400-3,300 BC).  Marija Gimbutas saw the Sredny Stog as the core of early PIE, and based on the very few samples we have genetically, it is probably R1a in terms of Y-DNA and probably the direct ancestor of Corded Ware (as well as an important input into other cultures as well).  Exactly what the relationship between Sredni Stog and Khvalynsk is is still debatable.  Some more genetic testing would be welcome. Personally, I expect that Khvalynsk raiders or an elite warrior caste, or something like that, came to dominate the Dnieper-Donets II peoples and spurred the evolution into Sredni Stog.  Whether they brought an early version of Indo-Hittite with them, or if the Dnieper-Donets people already spoke a different dialect of it themselves is TBD.
  • Somewhere around 4,200-4,100 BC the climate deteriorated, as something not unlike the Little Ice Age struck Europe (previously, the Neolithic climate had been similar to the Medieval Warm Period.)  This made the steppes cooler and drier, and had a major impact on the arability of the farmland of the Old European Cucteni-Trypillian culture.  Settlements were burned, abandoned, fortified, etc. and evidence of migration from Sredni Stog into the Balkans starts around 4,200-4,000 BC with the formation of the Suvorovo-Novodanilovka culture.  Anthony sees this culture as not a mass migration and population replacement, but more of an example of elite dominance.  The S-N culture probably spoke an archaic Indo-European language, or Indo-Hittite language, and the Anatolian languages which later emerge like Hittite, Luwian, Palaic, etc. are assumed to come from this very early separation from the PIE steppe homeland.  I'd really like to see some archaeogenetic data that backs up this connection of Sredni Stog => Suvorovo-Novodanilovka => early Anatolian speakers in Anatolia, because as far as I know, there isn't anything much to speak of yet.
  • The next phase also really needs some genetic confirmation.  According to Anthony, this is where "classic" PIE develops over the course of several broadly related material cultures that were all in contact with each other, but which also retained a fair bit of regional variation (and of course, we know that there was still Y-DNA differentiation here too.)  There is substantial influence and trading (and probably at least some intermarriage and cultural diffusion too) with the Caucasian Maykop culture (3,700-3,000 BC), which was almost certainly not Indo-European, and may have been an early proto-Hurrian/Hattian speaking people.  But they were a major source of metallurgy, and and class differentiation, as well as the source of the kurgan.  They were also a vector for diffusion of some Middle Eastern cultural influence.
    • The Mikhailovka culture (3,600-3,000 BC) was the westernmost of these, and seems to have had substantial cross-pollination with non-Indo-European Trypillian cultures.  Not only do steppe-type potteries appear more frequently to the west, but Balkan/Mediterranean physical types appear more frequently among this culture.  More genetic evidence is desired.  It does maintain cross-steppe contact, however—late in this phase, Repin style pottery from far to the Volga/Don east is found here still.  Kemi-Oba is a Crimean variant of this culture.
    • Post Mariupol Early (3,800-3,300 BC) and late (3,300-2,800 BC) with a closer resemblance to the Suvororo-Novodanilovka peoples on the Dnieper Rapids area.
    • Late, or Phase II Sredny Stog, 4,000-3,500 BC on the Dneiper, Donets and western Don valleys.
    • On the northern Don region, Maykop contacts helped spur the regional Repin variant (3,950-3,300 BC) from a late Khvalynsk variant, although Khvalynsk in its more "pure" form continued on the Volga area until at least 3,800 BC, and probably longer.  At some point, the Afansievo culture splits off from the Repin culture and heads further east to the Altai area (3,700-3,300 BC.)  It's worth noting that the Afanasievo culture has been determined to be indistinguishable from the Yamnaya genetically, although we're getting to Yamnaya in the next bullet point.  Apparently, it made this rather epic journey across the steppes without any genetic admixture to speak of, and presumably took with it the fledgling proto-Tocharian languages, usually seen as the second most conservative and archaic, after Anatolian.
  • Between 3,500-3,000 BC there was further climatic deterioration, and this was especially hard on the eastern (and therefore drier and cooler already) steppes.  Late Repin and Khvalynsk turned into early Yamnaya on the Don and Volga regions, but it is really more of an economic change than a pottery change—a move to full-blown pastoral nomadism, wheeled wagons as houses, and only a few heavily fortified permanent settlements.  Stock raiding, warfare, elite dominance, The Patriarchy™, etc. all presumably evolved at this point as a reaction to the climatic changes, but also created a culture capable of sweeping into new territory, either because it had been depopulated due to climate change, or just because they were better at dominating culturally and providing economically than the EEF type folks that were there before.  The Yamnaya spread quickly across the steppe, from 3,300 BC or so when it was "born" out of Repin and Khvalynsk to 3,100 BC or so when it dominated the entirety of the steppes.  What happened to the peoples already living on the western steppe?  Were they culturally dominated and assimilated from (admittedly, already similar) cultures into the Yamnaya sphere, or displaced?  Anthony believed the former, but the genetics which have come out since then suggest the latter.  In any case, the Yamnaya horizon was long-lived, and lasted until 2,500 BC; a good 6-7 centuries of regional dominance over the classic Pontic-Caspian steppe territory.  What else was going on other than Yamnaya, though?
    • The Usatovo (3,500-2,500 BC) culture appears to be a Trypillian culture that was dominated by steppe elites and semi-transformed into a pseudo-steppe culture between the Dniester and the Vistula.  Anthony makes some vague references to pre-Germanic coming from this milieu, but that doesn't make sense to me.
    • A massive migration event seems to have happened between 3,100 BC and 2,800-2,600 BC or so into the Danube valley and further west.  A number of possibly Indo-Europeanized cultures appear during this period; Baden (3,600-2,800 BC), Globular Amphora (3,400-2,800 BC), Vučedol (3,000-2,200 BC).  Anthony suggests pre-Celtic dialects spread with the Beaker culture (2,800-1,800 BC) which spread from this area into Austria and up to the Rhine and eventually to the British Isles and the Iberian peninsula (its relationship with parallel developments going on on the Atlantic coast are unclear.)  Anthony suggests much later Urnfield and even Iron Age Villanovan cultures as the spread of the Italic languages (assuming that there is in fact a genetic Italic branch to begin with.)  It's worth noting that most accept the Urnfield as pre-Celtic, on its way to becoming the Iron Age Hallstatt culture which was definitely proto-Celtic, and the La Tene which was historically Celtic.  It's also worth noting a few things; this doesn't explain the arrival of Celtic to the British Isles exactly, nor does it account for the possibility of other branches of Indo-European, such as possibly Nordwestblock.
    • Anthony also, of course, credits the Corded Ware (2,900-2,350 BC) with spreading Germanic, Baltic and Slavic (or the languages that would eventually emerge as those, at least) to Northern Europe.  However, he glosses over the connections between the Corded Ware and further eastern cultures, like Sintashta, with its much more clear connection to Indo-Iranian.
  • The Beaker complex (and Urnfield, and other horizons that grew out of it) appear to have been the genesis of much of the R1b in Western Europe.  Most likely much of the western languages came from them; Celtic, Italic, maybe Germanic, to some degree.  The Corded Ware was mostly R1a, and is likely the source of much of that paternal lineage in today's eastern Europe, as well as in the Central Asia and Iranian and Indian regions today.  However, putting specific linguistic identities to many of the early post Corded Ware and later steppe cultures that eventually replaced Yamnaya is a little tricky.  It's in fact quite likely that descendants of Corded Ware cultures, displaced by the spread of Yamnaya earlier, in turn displaced the remnants of late Yamnaya and post-Yamnaya steppe cultures later on when further climate change made the steppes again more difficult to live on, an event which started in 2,500 BC and peaked in 2,000 BC.  Some of the cultures and movements are as follows:
    • Post Yamnaya cultures include Catacomb (2,800-2,200 BC) and Poltavka (2,700-2,100 BC)
    • Post Corded Ware, or eastern Corded Ware variants, perhaps, include Middle Dnieper (3,200-2,300 BC), Fatyanovo-Balanovo (3,200-2,300 BC) and Abashevo (2,500-1,900 BC.)  Anthony proposes that Poltavka and Abashevo peoples moved, following the further drying of the steppes, to where they had access to marshlands to water their cattle, developing fortified strongholds in the southern Urals and becoming the Sintashta culture (2,100-1,800 BC).  Meanwhile, to the immediate west of Sintashta, Catacomb, Poltavka and Potapovka cultures evolved into the Srubna culture (1,900-1,200 BC)
    • The Srubna and Sintashta cultures both seem to have been major vectors of R1a.  Sintashta in particular later became Andronovo, and is seen as a logical precursor to Indo-Iranian, although the same is often true of all of these cultures in general.  It becomes extremely difficult to propose anything that shows archaeologically a split between Balto-Slavic and Indo-Iranian, to say nothing of the later splits between Baltic and Slavic and Indic and Iranian specifically.  In fact, as Mallory pointed out 35 or so years ago, the fact that Indic and Iranian seem to be right on top of each other at a point in time where they need to be separating is a major unresolved piece of tying linguistics and archaeology together.  By the time Srubna goes away, it is replaced by the historical Scythians, but that doesn't mean that the Srubna are the ancestors of the Scythians.  In fact, it's been proposed that they were proto-Cimmerians, displaced by pressure from Scythians, which lead to their own historical raids on Anatolia.  This would be congruent with Herodotus, and would possibly give them a Thracian rather than Iranian linguistic identity.
So, this model isn't bad for the north and western languages, as well as Anatolian and Tocharian.  It becomes way too handwavey for my taste when it comes to explaining the various Balkan languages, although given that we know little about them, maybe that's the best we can hope for (and by Balkan I mean also Greek, Phrygian, Armenian, Thracian, Dacian, Illyrian, etc. which all presumably migrated into their later attested historical seats in Greece, Anatolia and Armenia from the Balkans; the Thracians (and Dacians?) might actually be a later arriving group from the steppes.  It also handwaves the origins of Indo-Iranians and Balto-Slavic peoples (and Germanic) from the same Corded Ware horizon (combined with post Yamnaya, I presume, although maybe the post-Yamnaya do a better job of describing some of the stuff that we later associate with the Balkans, like Thracian, for instance.)  Major dialectical "families" are only weakly correlated with archaeological complexes; we don't see a specific centum/satem split, for instance, and the explanation for the southern late Indo-European commonalities are kind of handwavey; assumed to possibly be areal features that spread from the Balkans all the way to east of the Caspian.  This (presumably) led to a number of correspondences that Indo-Iranian appears to have with Greek and Armenian, for instance, whereas you'd otherwise expect it to more closely resemble Balto-Slavic (which it also does, in some ways.)

Of course, some of this stuff will likely never be resolved, because we're unlikely to find texts in some of the languages that we don't know enough about to resolve their relationships, like various Italic languages, Thracian, Dacian, Illyrian, etc.  Holy smokes if we could, though, right?  On the other hand, further archaeological and especially archaeogenetic surveys can possibly tell us quite a bit more still

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Last word on PIE genetics (for now)

Of course, by the time I start to figure something out, it's often old news to the real specialists in their field.  But, I can take some comfort in thinking that I largely started figuring this out a bit on my own after reading Carlos Quiles pioneering work and Davidski's take-down of his hypothesis.  That's something, right?

This brief discussion has a few highlights:
  • R1a-M417 found in a Sredi Stog II individual, originally excavated by Dmitri Telegin in the 70s.
  • Reiterates again the big difference between eastern and western steppe y-DNA, with regards to the R1a and R1b lineages that later appear in the Corded Ware and Yamnaya cultures respectively.  It is unlikely that PIE originated over the entire steppe area, or even that the entire steppe area was really all that homogeneous ethnically (and therefore, presumably linguistically) anyway.
  • Proposes that actually the R1a guys are the more likely PIE originators rather than the R1b from the east that come from Khvalyinsk => Repin => Yamnaya, since the east lacked the cultural elements necessary to form the farming vocabulary of PIE
  • Before everyone got all crazy with genetics, Sredni Stog was already proposed on an archaeological basis as the likely origin of Corded Ware.  After flirting faddishly with Yamnaya, it now looks like we might be back to the archaeological solution after all.
  • More Sredni Stog and especially Maykop samples are needed.
  • In general, sample size (and therefore assumptions of sample representativeness) are a bit of a problem with some of the sweeping generalizations and conclusions drawn from genetic evidence so far, and conclusions could get turned on their ear with just a few more samples.
Anyway, the formation of Indo-European, even within the steppe milieu, is actually and obviously much more complicated that it's sometimes been proposed.  Marija Gimbutas, J. P. Mallory and Dave Anthony have all advanced the state of knowledge of the question, but all had to work without some of the data that is available now.  On the other hand, people today are often a little too anxious to run off with some sexy new piece of data and the tail ends up wagging the dog.  This is still a collaborative and multidisciplinarian question; archaeology, linguistics and archaeogenetics all have their place in telling the story of the origin and spread of the Indo-European languages and cultural package, and the story without one of those disciplines is probably wrong, or at least incomplete.

There's still a lot of questions to be answered about the relationship between the R1a and R1b lineages on the steppe, because they still cluster and don't mingle very much (although, again—more samples could change this apparent picture.)  This is especially true for periods of proposed Indo-European unity.  Heck, even now, there's a pretty decent split between Western and Eastern Europe, although it should be noted that populations of both are Indo-European speakers.  So, what model gives them both Indo-European languages without there being much mingling between the two y-DNA lineages, anyway?  Don't know.  R1a does seem to be associated more with the satem languages, but of course, the split between R1a and R1b is way too old to be linguistically useful in that sense.  But there were at least two populations of Indo-European language speakers, with different paternal lineages in the early days of Indo-European post-unity, and there is a correlation with satem and centum languages between these two lineages.  Maybe one group is a substrate or adstrate and picked up the language without much in the way of demic diffusion.  But that was the basis for Quiles' Uralic substrate hypothesis, which probably doesn't work, because there are better candidates for the source of Uralic languages from both a linguistic and archaeological and genetic standpoint.  But, he may well have been right about one thing; there were two distinct "globs" of steppe populations, and they still remained viscous and clumpy rather than mingling together to come out the other end as a clear hybrid.  A dominant superstrate of one portion of the population over the other is the go-to solution (and even before genetics entered the picture, late Khvalynsk culturally dominant elements over Sredni Stog II and Dereivka was already being proposed.)  But we don't have enough genetic samples to test this hypothesis yet, and even if we did, it's often hard to try and suss out the relative cultural importance of the individual who was buried who we're taking DNA from.

Any solution that handwaves the distinction between these two paternal lineages as insignificant or unimportant is not convincing. The Yamnaya and Corded Ware had significantly different DNA. More work needs to be done to explain the mystery still implicit in what we know so far.

Based just on those maps, I'd almost suggest that the R1b element might be associated with CHG expansions into the steppe.  Maybe.  I think that's still an open question about the origin of the PIE and pre-PIE population of the steppes; what relationship did the CHG (Maykop, presumably) peoples have with the Dnieper-Donets and Samara and early steppe populations as they eventually evolved into more recognizably Indo-European cultural packages with Sredni Stog, Khvalynsk, Dereivka, and finally Yamnaya, anyway?  Foreign elite dominant superstrate, maybe?

The Wisent

Not exactly new, although it is to me.  What a fascinating discovery from the field of animal archaeogenetics!  The wisent, or European Bison, is not actually a "natural" species, or rather, it's probably naturally occurring but not what we'd normally consider to be a species; it's a hybrid between two extinct animals, the aurochs and the steppe bison.  The latter went extinct, presumably during the Pleistocene extinction event, while the former lasted until the Middle Ages, and is the ancestor of modern taurine domesticated cattle.

That does raise an interesting question; does the wisent actually belong in a rewilding type project?  Or would a rewilder be better off trying to back breed an aurochs like phenotype (like Heck cattle) and then maybe start trying to back breed (or clone) extinct bison types?  There are three extinct bison that I know of; priscus, latifrons and antiquus.  While I'd most like to see latifrons, mostly just because it's so freakin' huge and impressive looking, I have to admit that antiquus would probably be the more "useful" of the bunch, as well as the most recoverable.  And in a pinch, it could "stand in" for priscus in a rewilded Eurasia anyway.

UPDATE: There's also occidentalis, although that seems to have been a small population and a genetic dead end. 

Monday, October 15, 2018

Hiking 2019

I don't talk all that much about hiking anymore.  Part of that is because I have a blog specifically dedicated to hiking ( but even there I haven't talked about it much lately either.  For a number of reasons, my yearly hiking trips have been a bit scarce the last two years; 2017 I actually went to the West Elks about a year ago, near Gunnison Colorado.  Late September, actually.  Fall color hadn't quite peaked, but I had beautiful weather rather than being cold and wet, as I could have been.  All in all, I can hardly complain at all about that hike, except that it was a bit drier than I expected, and as is sometimes my wont, I bit off more than I was really in the mood to chew on because hiking all day and seeing new things all the time sounds great when I'm in the planning stage, but less so when I'm actually there.  2018 was a bust year for hiking, because we went to Hawaii and I went rafting on the New River Gorge with a bunch of teenagers and stuff.  Not that I don't like doing that, because I did, but those two trips alone consumed three weeks of vacation, and when some family commitments and other things got mixed in, that left me without a spare week to go out west and hike.  This has actually been harder for me than I thought.  I recently ditched Facebook (although i haven't canceled my account like I probably should; I just got rid of the app on my phone and haven't logged on from a PC in weeks) and my blogging and online activity in general has slowed, oh, for years, really.  But being completely unplugged for a while is wonderful.

For that matter, I don't really like people in person all that much sometimes either.  Although I've taught myself, mostly, to be outgoing and social, I do so because it's a learned skill, not because it comes naturally to me.  And, frankly, I don't always like it very much.  I find I usually do better by myself.  It's one of the things that I like most about hiking; the solitude and the quiet, quite honestly.  But I also love the outdoors, especially the Western outdoors.  Although I usually tell people, only partially joking, that I'm a native Texan; the son of the exact same type of stock that settled Texas in the first place, but I'm probably also formed somewhat by events of the last few generations.  When my family joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, it was still at a time when people gathered physically, so my great-grandfather actually picked up from his home in the backwoods of the American South and moved to the frontier (although it was very rapidly becoming not much like a frontier anymore by that time.)  Southerners, especially the descendants of the backwoods Southerners (as opposed to the plantation Southerners) are my people, and I feel most at home culturally with them, but the West and Southwest is my true home, even though I find many of the people there, especially in the Utah centered "Mormon West" to be little more than Yankees in a better setting.  They have all of the foibles associated with the Yankees of more traditional Yankee territory in New England—nannying busybodies and community-scale totalitarians, too focused on "right-thinking" policing and virtue-signaling and with only a dim understanding of the concept of individual sovereignty.  Luckily, the more rural folks have an environment that mitigates this to a great extent, but in the urban and suburban communities... ugh.  My son and his wife, who is also a solid, multi-generational Texan herself, and so he gets her and vice versa much better than someone from another cultural tradition ever would, have lived in a college town in the West for a couple of years now, and they're still shocked sometimes by the busybodyish nature of life there, and their earlier enchantment with many aspects of the community has faded somewhat due to the incompatible cultural personality of the locals.  Sigh.

So, I find that the West and Southwest feels like home to me.  Wandering around the small towns, hiking, camping, sightseeing, I feel like I've been a stranger my whole life to everywhere else I've been, in some ways.  Until I start interacting beyond a certain threshold with the people.  There, I feel like the smaller town in Texas I grew up with and similar places in backwoods Tennessee, Georgia, South Carolina, etc.—y'know, the places my actual ancestors come from—I feel at home with those people, if not necessarily in love with the place.  And even that is, of course, under siege, because so many people live in those states now, especially in the larger cities, who have no cultural or genetic connection to the place, so they don't behave like the true locals.  They're colonizers and strangers, even if they've been there for decades.

Of course, where I live now, I'm surrounded by Yankee scenery and actual Yankees all the time, so it's lose/lose in some ways except when I'm talking to my better friends, many of whom, if they aren't the descendants of Appalachian Borderers themselves like me, are at least iconoclast in their personality type.  But there is no ideal place for me to live; I can either pick the people I get along with the best and hope that that doesn't change, or I can pick the scenery and environment that I prefer and take second-best rural Westerners as neighbors rather than Southerners.

Here's a couple of pictures from my last hike in the West Elks.

Here's a few pictures I took while spending the day at Palo Duro Canyon.  Maybe parts of West Texas would be ideal for me, or at least they would have been a generation or two ago before they got swarmed by migrants and colonizers from south of the border.

And the trip I took with my 17 year old three years ago.  When he was still actually not quite 14, and therefore not invited to participate in High Adventure, even though he was between his 8th grade and freshmen years.  At first that kinda ticked me off, but I got over it, in part because it gave me the excuse to take him with me on a solo trip anyway.

Of course, when I started typing this, I wasn't intending to ramble on about why I don't like people, what people specifically I don't like, and how I get away from them so I can come back ready to deal with them again for another several months, or whatever.  I was going to talk about what I hope to do in 2019 and maybe 2020.

I do have a few family commitments that will require some vacation time; a cruise to the Virgin Islands and elsewhere in the Caribbean, I think, is on the itinerary for around Spring Break time (or maybe it's a little later, early in the summer.  I can't remember.)  There will be requests on my time for High Adventure, since I'm in the Stake YM's presidency, although the nature of how we're doing it this year means that I might not be required to go, unless my own son goes.  (My youngest is a Type I diabetic, and although he's gotten pretty good at managing his blood sugar on his own now, my wife still can't handle the thought of him going on a trip like that without my direct supervision.  And he probably does still need it.  He's barely 15, after all.)  But it's not clear (yet) that we'll do that or won't.  This may be influenced also by the fact that a good friend of mine has been trying to reserve some time to go backpacking at Isle Royale with me, and my wife is even interested in going(!) and we've nailed down this summer as the time when this will finally happen.

All in all, that books at least ¾ of my vacation for the year, so my intention is to reserve the rest of it for a hiking trip.  But what to do?  And when?  Summers are always kind of tough because there's so many other things going on, but of course, it's the best time (only time, you could say, if you extend summer into at latest early October) to see the mountains.  But I also love the desert, which gives me the spring and fall, and maybe even the winter to some degree, depending on which desert I'm willing to go visit.  Fall also looks possibly rough; my oldest son still at home will have just graduated high school, will turn 18, and will leave on his mission service for the Church.  My wife will no doubt feel sad and lonely about him going.  Although I did take a backpacking trip shortly after my oldest son left for this same service in 2014, in retrospect, maybe it wasn't the best time to go.

I think my options boil down to maybe three possibilities:
  1. I could go for my birthday in January or early February to West Texas and see either Guadalupe National Park or Big Bend National Park a lot better than I did in the past.  I could use my folks' house in Lubbock as a kind of base from which to strike out, although I don't really need a base, and Lubbock is hardly close to Big Bend, and not really all that close to the Guadalupe Mountains either (7 hours vs 6 hours driving.)  I also have a brother who lives in Phoenix; if I flew to Phoenix and got him or his wife to drop me off at Saguaro National Park or the Supes or something, I could make a trip out of that too.
  2. I need to check on the timing of our cruise, but no matter what it is, I can probably work out some kind of Colorado Plateau trip in the spring and/or early summer.  The Needles district of Canyonlands National park beckons, for instance, or a more thorough exploration of Arches (although ugh, the people.)  Capital Reef National Park is a quiet one, although a bit farther, and a bit closer and many hours less driving gets me Colorado National Monument in Grand Junction.  Of course, there's also plenty of opportunities on BLM land or elsewhere in the same general vicinity of southern Utah and/or western Colorado from as far north as Dinosaur National Monument, to well into New Mexico and Arizona.  And as a potential spoiler, it would be fun (and closer) to do something very different from either, and explore the Black Hills, Badlands or Theodore Roosevelt National Parks too during this same time frame (April/May, probably.)
  3. August could potentially be viable too, which gives me all of the Rockies options.  There are so many; I'm not sure which ones I'd favor at this point.  Leading contenders at this point in time include a return to different areas of the Uintas, the West Elks of Colorado, the Sneffels area, and the Wind Rivers