Imbolc Maple Mead

Preamble: I know I haven’t posted here in a while, so I thought I’d revive this as a good place to keep my booze records. Below is the process (and eventual outcome) of a maple mead I’m brewing. I’ll keep adding to this entry gradually until it’s complete, so if you’re waiting to see how it turns out, you’ll just have to keep checking back!


  • 2 gallons light maple syrup from Meadowbrook Farms 
  • 4 gallons distilled water 
  • 1 packet premier cuvée yeast 
  • 3 tbsp yeast nutrient 
1. Make Starter: Boil 2 cups of water with 2 tbsp maple syrup. Pour into a sterile container and cool to 100°F. Add yeast and leave to proof for 12 – 24 hours.

2. Boil Wort: In a large pot, bring 1 gallon of distilled water (minus whatever went into the starter) to a boil. Gradually stir in 6 quarts of premium light amber maple syrup and boil for 15 minutes. Pour into primary fermenter with two more gallons of (cold) distilled water and cool to 85°F.

3. Ferment: Once the wort has cooled, take your first hydrometer reading, then add starter and stir vigorously. Seal with air lock. Stir twice daily for one week, then once daily for another week.

4. Rack: At the beginning of week 3, rack the mead. Take a hydrometer reading. Add one more quart of syrup and enough water to bring the level up to 5 gallons (probably about 2 quarts). (Boil it if you want – I didn’t bother because the syrup and the water are both sealed, but if you do, make sure to cool it to at least 85° before adding to the must.) Take another hydrometer reading. Calculate the difference between the two readings to determine the current ABV*. Keep stirring every other day for another two weeks.

Calculate: To calculate the δ between gravities, first calculate the ABV of the must at its present volume and determine the exact volume of the alcohol. Seriously, write it down, because you will forget it. The second reading will tell you the potential alcohol in the must after you’ve changed the volume, but the ABV will be incorrect. Figure out the percentage of alcohol in the new volume and work backwards.

In other words, multiply the volume by the percentage of alcohol to get the volume of alcohol. Then, once you’ve added water (and/or syrup), take another reading. Divide the original volume of alcohol by the new total volume to get your new percentage, which you’ll add to any further readings.

For example, take my first topping off: SG was 1042 (8%), and the volume was 4.25 gallons. 4.25 x .08 = 0.34 gallons of alcohol. Then I added a quart of syrup and two quarts of water, bringing the total volume to 5 gallons and the SG to 1054. 0.34 gallons divided by 5 = 0.068, or 6.8% alcohol.

Rack: At the beginning of week 5, rack the must into a 6-gallon glass carboy. Again, take a hydrometer reading before and after.

Rack: Once a month for another 4 months. Be sure to take before and after readings with each racking. If fermentation has ceased after 6 months, bottle. If it’s still bubbling, keep racking until it stops.

5. Bottle: Once fermentation has ceased, rack one last time into a bottling bucket. Take a hydrometer reading and calculate your final ABV. 5 gallons should give you about 25 750mL bottles. Cork and seal. If you end up with a half bottle… drink it!

6. Age: Age bottles in a cool dark place for 1-2 years before opening. (Maybe test one every 6 months or so.) Ideally it will be ready for Imbolc on the second year.

What Really Happened...

So that’s the plan. Of course, we know how plans work. Here’s what’s actually going on:

2015.08.02 – Moon disseminating in Pisces. OG: 1103. 

The starter and wort went off without a hitch. I left it to cool overnight since I don’t have a fancy wort chiller, and cast the yeast (added the starter) the next morning with the yeast nutrient.

That’s when I discovered that I had given away all of my airlocks when I moved from Minnesota. Fortunately, though, I’m crafty in a pinch, and I managed to construct one out of some air hose, part of a hydrometer case, and some tape. Okay, it was mostly tape, but it got the job done. I like to use vodka in my airlocks instead of water because it seems to keep the bad things out a little more readily. It didn’t bubble as nicely as a manufactured airlock, but bubbles came out and nothing was going in, and that’s the point! I also high-tailed it upstairs and ordered an airlock on Amazon which I received the following day.

I religiously stirred the hell out of it for a couple of days, then mostly forgot, but managed to stir it at least once a day.

2015.08.09 – SG: 1072 (4.0%ABV)/4.4gal

I measured the gravity after a week and found it was up to about 4% already. I continued to stir it once a day or so, or at least a few times a week. It was bubbling at a rate of about 4 bubbles per minute (about 15 seconds apart).

2015.08.23 – SG: 1042 (8.0%ABV)/4.25gal δ 1054 (6.8%)/5gal

I didn’t rack it as planned; I just topped it off with 1 qt of syrup and 2 qts water to bring it up to 5 gallons. Final ABV after topping off was 6.8%.  Bubbling had slowed to about 3 bubbles per minute (about 21 seconds apart).

2015.08.30 – SG: 1040 (8.8%ABV)/5gal

I finally racked it, straight into the carboy. Bubbling had slowed to less than 2 bubbles per minute (around 32 seconds apart). The gravity was still strong after racking. I planned to add more syrup and top it off, but the jolt kicked the fermentation back into action, so I decided to give it a few days to see how it looked.

The only new unexpected twist was that the cap I had ordered for the carboy (along with my emergency airlock order on day 1) wouldn’t stay put. It was a sort of weird waxy plastic that kept popping out.  I solved that with about half a roll of electrical tape.  I guess I’ll deal with that the next time I try to rack or take readings.

By morning, it was bubbling at a rate of more than 10 bubbles per minute (5-6 second apart). Measuring the rate of the bubbling isn’t terribly scientific, but it definitely helps to see when fermentation is slowing or picking up again, so I like to write it down.

2015.09.06 - SG: 1030 (10.0%ABV/4.75gal δ 1034 (9.5%)/5gal

It’s a little harder to measure volume now, because the carboy doesn’t have any handy markings on it, but that’s probably pretty close. There’s a line in the glass of the carboy that I’ve decided must be the 5-gallon mark, so I’m going to use that to estimate the volume from now on. It shouldn’t be off by more than a few cups altogether.  The bubbling after racking had slowed to about 6 bubbles per minutes or a bubble ever 10-11 seconds.  

I was just going to measure it and top it off with water, but it occurred to me that I had accounted for 8 quarts of syrup in the recipe, so I was still a quart short. I also still had a few quarts of distilled water left over from the initial four gallons, so I mixed about a quart of water with a quart of medium syrup, brought it to a boil, and cooled it again to about 80°F. I topped off the mead with about a quart of the syrup mixture and added 1tsp of yeast nutrient, which might have been a little too much. ½ a teaspoon should be plenty next time. Final ABV: 9.5%

2015.09.13 - SG: 1032 (9.75%)/5gal δ 1034 (9.325%)/5.5gal

Racked the mead and returned to the carboy with enough of the leftover syrup/water mixture to bring it up to 5.5 gallons (the top mark of the carboy).  (I also took the opportunity to put gallon measurements on the outside of the carboy to make the measuring process easier in the future.)  There has been a fair amount of bubbling over the past several days (remaining consistent at about 5-6 bubbles per minute, but that’s not really reflected in the gravity readings. The gravity has only gone down by 2 (about .25%) over the past week.  So there was also little change when I topped off the carboy, giving a current ABV of 9.325%.  We’re now on to the “rack once a month” phase, though I may update more frequently if anything of significance comes up.

Oh, and I also finally did something about that airlock situation... Crude, but effective, and even kinda pretty.

2015.10.18 – SG: 1032, no δ, estimate 9.5%/5.5gal

Racked the mead, which is now getting very clear. No change in ABV, and not enough of a difference in topping off to measure. Fast-forward a couple of weeks, yeast has pretty much stopped collecting at the bottom and the mead is fairly clear. Bubbling has decreased to less than one bubble every 5 minutes. I don’t anticipate a lot of change between now and bottling time, which I still estimate to be somewhere around the beginning of February, except that the bubbling should have slowed by then to about once per hour.

2016.01.21 – Moon gibbous in Cancer. FG: 1025 (10.5%), no δ – Bottling time!

There hasn’t been much activity over the last couple of months, and although I had initially thought I would wait to bottle until Imbolc, I decided the moon was best for it today and tomorrow.  I had ordered some very nice 32oz EZ-cap cobalt bottles from Midwest Supplies, as well as some cobalt wine bottles that I thought would fit the bill. I racked the mead into a fermenter (though there was very little in the way of lees), then attached a bottling arm to my siphon and went to town.  (Some people swear by using a bottling bucket, but I just think they’re kind of a pain to clean and they don’t really make anything much easier.)

In all, I filled twelve 32oz. bottles and 10 750mL bottles… which should be just about exactly 5 gallons. I kept them in the boxes the bottles came in and stuck them in the cellar. In six months, we’ll see how it turned out – I’ll post an update then!

2017.01.25 – Tasting!

Actually, I opened the first bottle on the Winter Solstice. I'm not going to whether or not it was any good, but let's just say that box of bottles on the right above now only has one bottle left in it. I have to try to keep at least a few bottles until Imbolc, which is what I intended these for anyway! It's surprisingly good with cookies...


WTH, fashion?

I'm not really one to get too far into men's fashion.  I have some nice clothes and some nice shoes (and also some crappy clothes and shoes), and that's really good enough for me.

But for the past six months or so, I cannot find a decent shirt to save my life.  Everything is all plaid or gingham, and you won't catch me dead in either one unless I happen to get caught in a logging accident.  Did Michael Kors or someone with some undue influence suddenly decide that plaid and gingham are "the thing" this year?


I want my vertical stripes back!


The Jamin & Karen Supper Club: Masu

Pending... Karen and I have talked about going here a few times now, but haven't made a fetch of it yet.  Stay tuned!


Don't Worry, Your Sign Hasn't Really Changed (and other grumblings about astrology)

So the big news everyone's worried about today, apparently, is a story, that as far as I can tell, without caring enough to spend a lot of time researching it, comes to us out of Chicago, that claims that due to stellar drift, the alignment of the sun has changed relative to the stars behind it, ("behind" being another rather relative term), and as such, the astrological sign we're born under has changed by about one sign.

Then, because the general population who is a little too far into astrology without really understanding any of the mathematics or principles behind it weren't quite nutty enough to begin with, someone started floating around this idea that they were going to add a 13th sign - Ophiuchus or Serpentarius - into the zodiac.

I think I've made clear before how I feel about astrology generally, and would consider myself more of an "astronomologist;" that is, I believe that astrology was originally the study of what we would now call astronomy, and when modern astronomy came along, they pretty much swept everything they didn't understand about it - most of it - under the rug like a red-headed step-child and refused to ever talk about it again, even though there are a few sound theories in it.  Not all, mind you, but a few.  I've already ranted about mercury retrograde ruining my life, right on schedule, every four months, so I'll spare you the reprise.

But here's the deal.

The zodiac is not based on constellations.  It's much more specific than that.  It's a system of measurement.  The twelve houses of the zodiac are measurements that deal with the earth's revolution around the sun, and really have nothing to do with stars.  In particular, the zodiac "starts" (inasmuch as any circle or spiral really starts, i.e. arbitrarily) at the sign of Aries, which very specifically marks the vernal equinox.  From there, each sign measures a perfect 30° segment of the 360° of the "circle" of the year, i.e. the path of the earth around the sun.  So, about one sign per month, give or take 5 days over the course of a year.  In fact the 12 zodiac signs is where we get months, but you can see that's off by about 10 days now too, thanks to Pope Gregory.  (Or was it Julian? Another thing I don't care enough about to look up in the middle of my ranting.  A pope changed the calendar, end of story.) 

The actual constellation of Aries, years ago, fell within this first 30° "starting point," and so the zodiac sign was called Aries because it was a good and recognizable marker. Likewise Taurus, Gemini, and so on around the wheel. Cancer marks the summer solstice, Libra the autumnal equinox, and Capricorn the winter solstice. This is a perfectly natural and regular system of measurement, even to those who do not follow western astrology. The Chinese, for example, divide the solar part of their lunisolar calendar up into 15° increments, called the 24 solar terms (節氣), each of which has a name related more to the seasonal conditions (such as 大雪 ["great snow"], or 小滿 ["grain in bud"], at the time rather than the zodiac sign behind the sun at the time, but the time periods are exactly the same, e.g 大雪 = The second half of Scorpio, and 小滿 = The first half of Gemini.

Think of the constellations like signposts on a fault line.  Over the years, the fault line that is our galactic rotation, or stellar drift, or whatever it was I didn't care enough about to look up, has shifted the signs down by one building, so now it says "Butcher" in front of the Bakery, but the bakery still has cake in it, and the butcher next door still has meat, even though out front it says "Flowers."  Oh, and Ophiucus is just some graffiti someone scribbled on an old fence post, or maybe a reward for a lost dog - it's not a legitimate business.  Ophiucus is just another of thousands of signs and bits of writing (read: constellations) along the street in front of these twelve buildings (read: zodiac), and it just now happens to be right out there in front of the Florist.

So take heart:  Virgos and Sagittarians are still just as obsessive-compulsive as ever, Scorpians just as venomous, Taureans just as stubborn, Librans just as indecisive, Geminis just as aloof, and Pisceans just as given to drink as they ever were.  But from a galactic perspective, they're just mislabeled.

(Wait, which signs have I missed?  Who among my friends is still speaking to me?)

...Leos just as vain, Aquarians just as air-headed, Aries just as full of control issues, Cancers just so much emotional wreckage, Capricorns still fretting and wringing their hands with worry...

So, to sum up:  Feh.  Stars move.  Stars also have little-to-nothing to do with astrology (it's really about the earth's position relative to the sun, moon, and other planets).  And the zodiac has little-to-nothing to do with constellations.  So get over it.

Bah.  Humbug.  And other words of snorting contempt.

And rot like that.


Towards a new identity for "GLBT"

Speaking as a linguist, the “word” GLBT (read: (GL/LG)BT(T[T])(Q[Q/?])(I)(S)(A[A])(2)(&c)) is getting untenable. First of all, it just doesn’t end. Everyone always wants to tack the initials of more and more granular sub-groups onto the end of it, which may or may not be part of any of the groups before it. GLBT – Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender – is simple enough. Then sometimes we get an extra T for Transsexual. And a Q, for either Queer, which offends some people, or Questioning. I’ve also seen I for Intersexed, A for Ally or Asexual, another T for Transvestite, a ? instead of a Q for Questioning, and even a 2 for “two-spirit.” And this is to say nothing of the Curious, Unsure, Pansexual/Polyamorous (and I’ll have another rant sometime about the word polyamorous, and how people inventing new words should stick with a singular language root), or even Other.

Oh, but wait! You might also get smacked down for using any of these letters in the wrong combination with any number of groups, to the extent that we can’t even agree at the foremost level if it should start with GLBT- or LGBT-. (Sorry, B and T, but your positions as third and fourth seem pretty firmly fixed at this point.) And i would just like to posit that i fall into the “GLBT” camp, not because i’m advocating that gays should come before lesbians, but because “gl-” is a feasible word-initial combination while “lg-” is not. But regardless of what order you put them in, i consider this word to be phonetically unviable, phonemically confused, and generally linguistically unacceptable. Everyone represented by any particular letter in this group seems to be offended by some part of it, or lack thereof. Myself, i’m offended by it linguistically, aside from the fact that it’s just kind of ugly.

Of course, we have enough vowels to rearrange it into some sort of pronounceable word (Glibtacquo? Galactopigs? Wait, who am i forgetting?), but there are always going to be letters we don’t/can’t use and someone’s going to be determined to feel excluded, upset that they’re not first, upset that they’re last, or in some other way slighted.

What we need is a single, pronounceable, non-acronymic, non-agglutinative word to describe the GLBT+ community that isn’t going to offend anybody or contain bits of other words that might offend some of us, many of whom are already a little overly sensitive. They tried that already with “queer,” but there are some who feel like the word hasn’t been fully “taken back” yet, and so choose (yes, choose) to be offended by it, regardless of the context in which it’s used. I think that’s kind of stupid on some level, but on another level, i don’t really want anyone calling me queer, either, even if i fit the bill.

No, we can’t go on recycling old words to “take them back” and hope their meanings will just change overnight into some joyous hippie lovefest. No offense to hippies or lovefests: I’m a fan of both. And i do appreciate the idea of taking back words (like queer) to use them in a positive light in a way that drains them of the venom with which they are all too often used, both by those in and outside of the GLBT+ community.  But what we need is a blank slate word with no previous connotations or assumptions associated with it, which can act as an all-inclusive word to define our community. Or a word that has fallen so far out of use that any connotations have been wiped clean. Where do we find such a word? We ask a linguist, of course.

So where do we start?

Well, in english, we have a few different choices. English really is an amalgamation of germanic, italic, and hellenic languages, all of which play different roles in the language. Going back to its earliest history, old english (or anglosaxon) was a direct descendant of the west germanic branch of protogermanic, which in turn split off from indoeuropean sometime around 500BC. (And yes, I say BC, not BCE, but let’s just attack one acronym at a time, shall we?) For a while, probably while it was still mutually intelligible with other neighboring languages, we traded a lot of words back and forth with old norse, and probably a few others as well. Then, in 1066AD, english acquires a bunch of french via the norman invasion. (Which everyone says was french, but that was a little bit viking-related too; think about it: Norman. From Nordman. Norðman. Northman. cf. norðmaðr/norrœnr. That’s right – the normans were vikings who had settled in northern France, specifically, “Normandy.” But anyway, they spoke french by this time, so we introduce french and all of the delicious foods associated with it into the anglosaxon world). Thus, middle english was born, spelling went completely out the window, and we suddenly have duplicate words for animals and the foods we make out of them. But that’s a whole different post, too. Eventually, the Renaissance comes along, we dump a bunch of latin and greek into our anglosaxon/norse/french soup, and undergo the Great Vowel Shift thanks in part to the Black Death. Then the twentieth century comes along, complete with globalization and eventually internet, and we suddenly have bits of hundreds of languages seeping in from every major language in the world. So how do we decide?

Well, in my opinion, we should stick with plain old english; that is, an anglo-saxon derivative of a protogermanic word. Immediately coming to mind are words that have fallen out of use in modern english, like “blithe” (< OE blīþe < PGmc bleiþaz or blīþaz; “happy, joyful, blissful” cf. “gay”). Or maybe a nice compound like “elkind” (< PGmc alja, “other, different, foreign” + kundiz or kunþiz, “kind, type, sort; gender; child, kin,” cf. “kind,” “kin,” “kindred,” probably developing into OE ælcynd)... though it also sort of makes me think of “elf-kind,” which in itself is actually kind of cute. Or, perhaps, go with the short-vowel version (cf. “kin”) and use “elkin”? Hmm, perhaps no – it makes me think of “elk-en,” like we’re a bunch of deer or moose.

Now to take this linguistically one step further, a word like “elkind” has a fundamental problem, which is that it is a stressed syllable (el-) followed by a syllable with a long vowel (-kind), which according to the germanic rules of mora loss suggest that the long vowel should actually become short [ɛ́l.kɪnd], or it’s awkward to pronounce. Alternatively, the long syllable could become stressed, which is not the norm, but becoming more normal in english all the time since the introduction of non-germanic languages with words that have non-initial stress: [ɛl.káɪnd].

And for those of you who aren’t fans of traditional anglosaxon etymology, we could take those same ideas – like blithe – and take them back through indoeuropean to make something nice and latin out of them. Blithe < blīþe < bleiþaz < bʰleitos > ɸleitos > lat. flētus (> fletous? fletan?) or grk. φλιτος or φλισος (phlitos/phlisos > phlisan?)

Anyway, blithe and elkind are my two suggestions for now. I’d be interested to hear what others in the blithe/elkind and linguistic communities think about it. Then, of course, there’s the slightly more uphill battle to get it introduced into the language and get people to actually use it; maybe Dan Savage can plug it for us.

Please leave me a comment with your thoughts!


☿℞, ♄▢♇, and other identity crises

So i'm not really too big on astrology.  Most of it is kinda silly.

But i think there's some of it that's fairly legitimate that gets overlooked by "rational" people because it's lumped in with a lot of other superstitious foolishness.  If you believe we're not affected by things like the phases of the moon, you don't deserve to believe in tides, and don't blame me if you get sucked out to sea by a superstition.  And if you think the moon doesn't mess with people's heads, go to a hospital or a police station during a full moon.  Or tell those various sea creatures that only spawn during the full moon that they are evolutionarily out-of-touch, and they should just go extinct.

I think there are a lot of things that affect us very subtlely, sometimes subconsciously, and my rational brain says that should end with the moon, since that's the only thing that really has much of a "pull" on us, literally and figuratively.  But for several years now, i've been keeping track of other subtler astrological happenings that most definitely impact us, even though i can't find a logical explanation for them.  Two of the most profound of them just kicked our collective asses this weekend.


Mercury went retrograde on Friday, and will remain in retrograde for another three weeks.  And experience tells me that it'll be yet another three weeks after that before all the things that go wrong in the meantime get put right again, when Mercury again passes the point where it "stationed" on Friday.

Mercury retrograde is an imaginary phenomenon whereby, due to our perspective in the solar system, Mercury, moving faster than us, appears to stop in the sky and move backwards about three times a year.  What this means in practical terms for us is that "the Messenger planet" basically takes a vacation.  Emails bounce.  Shipments get delayed or go missing.  Mail gets lost.  Computers break down.  404 File not Found errors abound.

I'm waiting to see how this plays out in this year's 1L orientation.  I can already tell you that our 4GB flashdrives that we plan on passing out at orientation are indefinitely backordered, and it now looks like they're not going to be here in time.  Worse yet, the incoming class size has increased and i'm getting worried that we are not going to have enough laptops for everyone.  I've placed an order for more (significantly before Mercury went awol), but no word on them yet.


On a more personal note, we just completed our third run-through this year of Saturn square Pluto on Saturday, and the last for another twenty-some years.   Now, i can buy that the inner planets affect us.  Even Saturn and Jupiter have a gravitational affect on the Earth, cosmically speaking.  Jupiter is even in a 12:1 synchronous orbit with us.  But Pluto?  As far as i'm been able to tell, Uranus and Neptune don't really have much affect on us at all.  But that icy, rocky little former planet has the ability to mess things up on a grand scale.  I don't know why.  It has a particularly nasty affect on my life personally, and on select others i know, though some don't seem affected at all.  It's almost like an allergy of sorts.

Saturn square Pluto is all about conflicts between control issues, money, and secrets.  The traditional astrological definition calls for corruption in high places coming to light, governments and corporations failing, and general lack of compromise causing ruin and downfall.  Sneakiness and greed getting exposed all over the place.  Shady-Ass Behavior revealed.  It'll be interesting to see what, if anything, that means in the world at large.

Anyway, this is just some meaningless rambling at the moment, but it'll be interesting to look back at this in a month or two and see if anyone says, "Oh yeah, that's when blah-blah-blah happened."

So, good luck out there, stay safe, back up your computers, back up your backups, don't trust the mail, don't trust anyone, back up your computers again, and try to have fun.

On a particular note for IT folks - this is not the time to start working on your Disaster Recovery Plan: it's time to use one if you have it, and if you don't, you're just plain screwed.  (Creating one now, you're going to miss something fundamental, and you won't discover it doesn't work until it's too late.  Thanks Mercury.)


Gothic for Goths: Stuff!

So, not one, not two, but THREE new Gothic for Goths videos this weekend!

Now, don't get all excited, they're not the regular sorts of meaty videos full of romans and chupacabras that you're used to, but there are two vlogs that i'd like to think are rather informative, and a "secret" lesson of Gothic for Goths that is being made available only to those lovely individuals who have purchased a T-shirt from the Gothic for Goths storefront.

The first vlog is just about random various things, and the second is a spin-off about a sore subject that gtets a little long.  Check 'em out on my YouTube channel, or watch them right here!

And yes, i know my roots are getting a little out of control.  Don't worry, i'll be doing Something Interesting With My Hair for orientation soon.

And if you'd like to see that third video, which i promise is very interesting and informative, go buy a T-shirt!  And remember that all sleeveless shirts are 25% off for another three, four days or so!


The Jamin & Karen Supper Club: Midori's Floating World Café

Actually, the title is a little misleading: I went to Midori the other night with The Sweeties, not with Karen.  They treated me to what is possibly the only sushi place in the Twin Cities that i haven't been to yet in exchange for some laptop fixin'.

I wasn't really sure what to expect from Midori's Floating World Café, but what i definitely did not expect was how overwhelmingly cute it was!  It's just adorable.

We got some tasty beef pot stickers as appetizers with our drinks, and i was very pleasantly surprised by the delicious peach sake cooler - pretty much a sake spritzer with peach syrup in it.  Very refreshing. Then came little octopus dumplings and some sort of tofu salad.  As cute as they were, i need to accept the fact that i just don't like octopus. 

For an entrée, i got the sashimi and tempura bento dinner, and it was nice enough, pretty; nothing special.  The tempura was particularly good - especially the sweet potato; the sashimi was fine but nothing to blog about... and, having just relearned my lesson for the nth time, i gave the tako to Ms. Fledermaus.


The Jamin & Karen Supper Club: Rainbow Chinese

It occurs to me that there are a lot of "rainbow" things around the Twin Cities.  Rainbow Foods, the grocery store chain (our local version of Food4Less, if you're from California, or maybe the Grand Union if you're on the East Coast, and somewhere between the Piggly Wiggly and Food Lion for you southerners -- by the way, has it ever occurred to anyone that it's weird that there are totally different grocery store chains in every part of the country?  Same gas stations.  Same restaurants.  But totally disparate grocery stores.  But i digress...), Rainbow Taxi, and of course, my favorite, Rainbow Chinese.  All of them surprisingly not gay.  (Not anti-gay, mind you, just un-gay.)  There are also Rainbow Tree Service, Rainbow Research, Rainbow Lawn Care, and even Rainbow Pest Control.  (I don't really know the "gay" status of those last few.)

The first time i ever heard of or set foot in Rainbow was over ten years ago now, on a date with a very nice young man named Steve, of whom i was rather fond, but who was scared away by the now-infamous Evil Matt #1, by introducing himself as my boyfriend long before he was.  But that's another story entirely.  In any case, i've been going there for many years now.  Every time she visits Minneapolis, my mother insists on going there so she can get the Honey Walnut Shrimp, which I'll get to in a moment, and you haven't lived a full and rewarding life until you've tried the Tangerine Beef, now to be had only on their Chinese New Year menu.

Karen and i went there this evening, and they -- almost, mostly -- delivered as usual.  I have to say, though, it's taken some downward turns in the couple of years since i was there last.  No more cloth napkins.  The new formica tables are disturbingly truck-stop-diner-chic.  I didn't notice any blooming orchids tonight (back in the day, they were thick on the ground).  And the new menus, well, they've been upgraded, but to what?  They now weigh several pounds, and their bronze bindings don't really make up for the fact that nothing inside them is the same.  Including a total lack of my own S.O.T., Chicken with Crown Broccoli.

Anyway, we started off with appetizers of calamari and pan-fried vegetable dumplings.  The calamari recipe has changed.
I'm really not a fan, but it was palatable enough.  Not enough to get it ever again, though.

I'd never had the dumplings before, but there was a strange taste to them that didn't agree with me.  Was it lovage?  Celery?
Pan-fried Vegetable Dumplings

I also started things off with a lychee martini, which is the one thing that seems to have improved with time.
Lychee Martini

After what seemed like a fairly long time, Karen's entrée, Jai Mai Fun, arrived,
Jai Mai Fun
...and was very tasty, but then i was informed that they were out of asparagus, and so my Sate Asparagus Chicken was a no-go... but would i like it with green beans instead for the same price?


I felt badly for the waitress, who had to bear the brunt of Karen's obvious question, "Why the hell not tell us they were out of asparagus when we ordered it?"  Apparently, the kitchen doesn't work like that.  Lame.

So i ordered an old stand-by: the Honey Walnut Shrimp.
Honey Walnut Shrimp

Sometimes when Peat and i go there, we'll order a regular meal and get that as dessert, or at least get some to go.  It's so awesome. And that's the one recipe tonight that doesn't seem to have changed. 

Now, i'm not a food critic, nor do i play one on TV, so i'm not going to give this a rating or anything, but i have to say my Rainbow experience this evening was less than stellar.  It was a solid Meh.  At best, a Meh+.

Rainbow is not particularly cheap, but it's worth a shot just for the Honey Walnut Shrimp.  If i'd forgone the need for an appetizer and just stuck with that and the martini, I'd have been blissfully happy.  In all the bill came to right around $35 a piece.  Yeah, and no discount for not bothering to tell me that my meal was out-of-stock until the other had been delivered.  Fail.


New Gothic for Goths Storefront: Official Opening! Free Shipping this Weekend!

Háilai, Gutilans!

I just wanted to announce the official opening of the Gothic for Goths storefront on SpreadShirt.  Thanks to the patronage of our own dear Ms. Fledermaus and Mr. Matt, i've gotten enough orders to upload more designs and present a pretty decent selection of gothy gothware!

Visit http://gothic4goths.spreadshirt.com for a great selection of T-shirts, bandanas, ties, and, yes, even fancy new black underwear!  We currently have eight designs available on a selection of 52 different products, including:

My fancy new black underwear is chafing.

Okay, this party's getting dirty... 

Then on the back:
...I'm putting on my clothes and going home.

...with the optionally cheeky followup of:

Announce to the world just how goth you are with these:
I am gother than thou.

...for the gentlemen, 'gutiza' being in the masculine declension, 
but for the ladies we have 'gutizei':
I am gother than thou. 
...in the feminine declension.  For those of you falling somewhere in the middle, if you are holding out for 'gutizata' you'll have to wait until I can upload more designs, after I've sold another nine products.

And of course, from the infamous Lesson 5, we have:
Goths. Don't. Frolick.

And finally, if you're feeling emo:
I'm going to the corner, alone, to cry.  

Please note that 'áinakls' in the last is only in the masculine declension.  Ladies, you'll have to wait for more uploads if you feel like crying in a corner 'áinakla'.

The above designs are flex-printed on black fabric in your choice of parchment or red lettering.

The t-shirts are all available in standard weight or heavy-weight fabric.  The heavyweight is a couple dollars more, but much more durable.  There are also a couple of v-necks in there, but i thought they looked a little silly, so they're not available for all products yet.  If there's a demand for them, i'll happily expand the line.

If there are any of the above designs that you'd like to see on a different type of fabric or in a different color, please let me know and i'll be glad to create it for you.

Finally, for the grand (official) opening, there is FREE SHIPPING this weekend only!  From now until Sunday you will receive free shipping on all orders!  Just enter "FREEWEEKEND" at checkout.  So go out there and get gothed up!

Cheers, Gothlings!

PS - My categories are kinda farked, and some of them lie.  I'm still trying to sort that out, but ideally you should be able to sort by your choice of Lesson (3, 4, or 5), Apparel (Hamideis [t-shirts] or Undarhams [underwear]), and physical or grammatical Gender (Qēnē [Women's] or Gumanē [Men's]).


Gothic for Goths: Some More Thoughts on Pronunciation

I got most of it out of my system in that last post, but let me just touch on one more pronunciation issue while i'm at it. Fortunately, this one really isn't quite as controversial as the last; this is really just a clarification, though i promise there is a bit of contention to overcome for those of you just tuning in for the drama.

While everyone agrees that the digraphs ai and au are the most contentious to pronounce in gothic, one of the most confusing letters by far is g.  (Well, giba, really, but i'm not going to confuse the issue by using actual gothic letters in my blog.)  Fortunately, there are a pretty solid and undisputed set of rules governing its pronunciation in various circumstances.  I'll try to enumerate them all here for your reference and reflection, as well as the one contentious bit where i once again have to disagree with my hero Mr. Joseph B. Voyles, whose thoughts about g aren't so much wrong as his thoughts about h.  But that's another story.

  • g = [g]
    • when word-initial.
      • gaggan [gaŋgan] (to go)
      • giba [giβa] (gift)
    • when adjacent to a voiced obstruent or sonorant (other than g).
      • baurgja [bɔrgja] (citizen)
      • brigdil [brɪgdɪl] (bridle)
  • g = [γ]
    • when intervocalic.
      • agan [aγan] (to fear)
      • igil [ɪγɪl] (hedgehog)
    • (maybe?) before a syllabic sonorant.
      • hagl [haγl̩] (hail)
      • baugms [bauγm̩̩s] (tree)
  • g = [x]
    • when word-final.
      • dag [dax] (day, acc.)
      • galiug [galyx or galɪʊx] (lie)
    • before an unvoiced obstruent.
      • dags [daxs] (day, nom.)
      • dulgs [dʊlxs] (debt)
  • g = [ŋ]
    • before a velar consonant (i.e. g, k, or q).
      • gaggan [gaŋgan] (to go)
      • drigkan [drɪŋkan] (to drink)
      • igqis [ɪŋkwis] (y'all)
I would also throw a clarification in there that "word-initial," in my view anyway, includes after prefixes, so "gagaggan" would be [gagaŋgan], not [gaγaŋgan].

Voyles postulates that initial g may in fact have been continuant ([γ]), and while i find this unlikely, i don't argue that it is a possibility.

The real controversy i promised is Voyles' (not unreasonable) speculation that the appearance of g instead of h for [x] is evidence that all instances of h were pronounced [h] and never [x].  This contrasts with the other stops b (which becomes f in similar circumstances) and d (which becomes þ).  Once again, i attribute this to orthographical conventions rather than phonetics, and hold firm to my belief that h = [h] when word- or word-segment-initial (except perhaps before a sonorant, i.e. hl-, hn-, or hr-), and [x] elsewhere.  Or perhaps we're both sort of correct, and where i have posited that h = [x], it may in fact be something more like [ç].

Gothic for Goths: Some Thoughts on Pronunciation

You know, no matter how many times i say it, people keep asking me why i pronounce things a certain way in gothic, or "Shouldn't it be ____ instead of ____?" or "How come you say ____ when that other guy on YouTube pronounces it like ____?"

Of particular contention among all gothic scholars are the diphthongs (and/or digraphs) ai and au.  So let me put this to rest here, once and for all.

First of all, no one is "right" or "wrong" about this.  Nevermind, that's not true.  There are a lot of "wrongs," but it's impossible to know if one is right, because gothic just plain doesn't exist anymore.  So let me present the theories, the evidence, and my own personal take on the situation.

Ideas about gothic pronunciation really fall into three basic camps, one of which is just plain wrong.  I fall somewhere between the second and the third, if we think of these three camps on a sliding scale.

Theory #1:  ai and au are pronounced as [ai] and [au], respectively.

This theory is the easiest to explain, and the easiest to discredit.  It's just plain not the case.  Look at any greek word with an epsilon that is borrowed into Wulfilas' bible and you'll find it transliterated as "ai," and epsilon was just plain old never pronounced as [ai], but always as [ɛ].  And this shouldn't be construed as the mispronunciation of a non-native greek speaker trying to render the words: It is thought that Wulfilas' mother was possibly greek, and that he spoke it as a child.

Theory #2: ai and au are prounounced [ɛ] and [ɔ] in some cases, and sometimes [ai] and [au], respectively.

The trick here is to decide what constitutes "some cases," and what doesn't.  My theory of gothic pronunciation falls pretty firmly into this category, as do most scholars, but they are far from uniform on opinions about which are which.

Some of the nicest gothic lessons out there are those by Slocum & Krause, and they fall squarely into this category.  They fall into what we might call "Theory #2a," which would be that ai and au are usually pronounced [ai] and [au] except in very specific circumstances, like in borrowed greek words or when occurring before r, h, or hw.

My own theory i would classify as "Theory #2b," which I'll spell out in some more detail below, but it may be summarized to say that it is Slocum & Krause's pronunciation with mora loss in unstressed diphthongs, particularly in noun and verb endings.  Pronouns are a different story, and i explain more about them below.

Theory #3: ai and au are pronounced [ɛ] and [ɔ], respectively, in all cases.

There is some interesting evidence to back this up, at least in the case of au, particularly in the use of certain transliterations in gothic like the name of the Apostle Paul, where Wulfilas renders Παυλος as Pawlus (instead of the expected Páulus), or the latin "cautio," transliterated as "kawtsjō."

Voyles falls strictly into this camp, and extends his germanic ai/au-to-ē/ō rule to apply to all instances of ai and au in east germanic.  In particular, the germanic rule:
Monophthongization of unstressed ai, au
Stage 1: ai,au → ɛ̄,ɔ̄ when in a word-final unstressed syllable immediately preceded by an unstressed syllable in east germanic only.
Stage 2: ai,au → ɛ̄,ɔ̄ when unstressed, then → ē,ō in northwest germanic only.
Later he expands this rule in gothic.
Monophthongization of ai, au
ai,au when stressed → ɛ̄,ɔ̄ when word-final or before a non-vocalic consonant.
So there you have a run-down of the classic theories.  Now allow me, if you will, to spell out my own, which as i mentioned earlier is "Theory #2b."

I think that Voyles was pretty darn close, but i would simply cut out his later Gothic Monophthongization of ai,au rule and attribute his evidence for it to orthographical conventions rather than phonetics.  I also have little doubt that this later rule actually did take place, but i don't believe that it had completed at Wulfilas' time.

So in a nutshell, i would posit that:
  • ai,au = [ai],[au] 
    • whenever stressed, with a few exceptions, below.
  • ai,au = [ɛ],[ɔ] 
    • always when unstressed.
    • always before r.
    • always before l. (This would explain away the rendering of Pawlus.)
    • before h(w) except where stressed and from germanic [au], instead of from germanic [u] via the gothic expansion of first umlaut.
      • For example, PGmc hauhaz → hauhs [hauxs], but PGmc luhō- → lauh- [lɔx].
One aspect which stumped me for a while are monosyllabic words with standard endings which ought in most cases to be pronounced [ɛ] and [ɔ], such as bai, twai, etc.  After much consideration, i've come up with the following rather ad hoc rule which is still open to some debate, and is largely based on what seems the most natural to say:
  • ai,au = [ai],[au]
    • when final, as in bai, þai, twai.
  • ai,au = [ɛ],[ɔ] 
    • when followed by a consonant, as in þaim, twaim.
A problem word:

raida:  I've been saying [rɛða], based partially on the much later spelling of the letter R as rēda (from the 9th century Codex Vindobonensis); it is uncertain if the proto-germanic was raidō or rēdō.  It is very likely that the later spelling is reflective of Voyles' later rule.  In my first lesson, i pronounced it [raiða], which stands an equal chance of being correct as far as i can tell, but i've grown to like the sound of [rɛða] better.


The Jamin & Karen Supper Club: Wasabi, revisited

Karen and i haven't visited a new place in a while, so we planned to go out tonight to a new sushi place - Origami, Nami, or Midori's Floating World.  Somehow, though, we ended up back at Wasabi, getting almost exactly what we got last time.  Only we got the spicy tuna, which was very nice, instead of the rainbow roll, which was kinda boring.

I won't spent a lot of time on the details, since I already talked about Wasabi, but I did get some pictures of the volcano roll this time.  Sorry, they're taken in bad light with a fairly low-end camera phone.  But Behold!

Sorry, i'd already eaten a couple before i thought to get a picture of it!

A closeup of the "volcano," which kept burning for a disturbingly long time. By the way, those little orange bits i think are cripy-fried sweet potato, though i can't be certain. Nom!

Spicy tuna on the left and volcano roll on the right.  I love those silver chopsticks!