Saturday, August 19, 2017

This Week In Vexillology #225

I'm dipping back into the archives this week for another 'Lost Week In Vexillology' this time featuring the last flag of Central America on my list- last, but very much not least, we've got the flag of Belize.
A relatively new flag, as flags go, the flag of Belize was adopted on September 21st, 1981 which was the country's very first independence day. From 1870 all the way up through 1981, the country was a British colony known as British Honduras.  It features the Coat of Arms at the center and the colors blue and red.

We'll get to the Coat of Arms in a second, but let's deal with the colors first. Belize (like the Seychelles and Panama and a few other countries out there I can't remember) struck a political compromise with their two main political parties at independence. The People's United Party (PUP) had colors of blue and white- which were originally proposed for the flag, but surprise surprise, the United Democratic Party wasn't about that had the colors of red and white. So, how do you get to a compromise? You add some red stripes at the bottom and the top and then you have combinations of both red and white and blue and white in the flag. Everybody's happy.

Let's break down the Coat of Arms. The fifty leaves that circle it represent the year 1950, which is when the PUP first came to power. Within the circle, you find a mahogany tree that stands behind the shield. On the shield you've got the tools of a wood cutter in the upper sections and a ship in the lower one- this is to symbolize the importance of the mahogany tree to the economy of Belize back in the 18th and 19th Century. The shield is supported by a Mestizo and an African who have an axe (to cut down the mahogany trees) and an oar (to represent ship building). Belize is one of the few countries in the world to feature people as a major design element of their flag. The motto underneath it all: 'Sub Umbra Floreo' or, 'Under the shade I flourish.'

And that's the flag of Belize!  Remember, until next time- keep your flags flying, FREAK or otherwise!

Friday, August 18, 2017

Time To Take Our History Back

I've never lived in the South- but I've been to the South and while up here in Iowa and I'm sure a lot of northern states, the Civil War seems like a subject confined to history books, in the South, it's not. It's alive down there and it can sneak up on you in unexpected ways.

The first time I ever saw the Stars and Bars- the actual Confederate flag and not this dishrag- was in downtown San Antonio of all places, flying over a super old looking hotel. I had to do a double take at first...  was that? It was. Holy shit. It actually was. I didn't get it. I didn't understand it- especially in Texas, which seems to have a separate subtext entirely, namely: 'we were our own country once- piss us off, we could easily be so again.'

Then there was one of our trips to Atlanta. We met up with some friends of the Parentals. The Dad was a tropical disease specialist so they were doing a stint down at Emory and working with the CDC. We ate Cuban food at this nice little place somewhere in suburban Atlanta and then kind of walked around the district, which seemed pleasant, vaguely hip, fun and then we turned a corner and ran smack dab into a Confederate memorial of some kind. I couldn't tell you what it was.

That was also the trip we went to Stone Mountain. Don't even get me started on Stone Mountain... I have no idea why that thing hasn't been chiseled away decades ago. It's like a weird, Confederate Mount Rushmore and it's...  uncomfortable. (Even more so when you find out that the Klan launched it's revival at Stone Mountain back in the day.) The whole experience didn't compute in my brain... it was like a gigantic Confederate Mount Rushmore. All the flags of the Confederate States, complete with dates of secession and dates they were re-admitted to the union. It's like stepping into an alternate version of history where what actually happened didn't happen at all. (Once you're done with the weird fantasy land at the bottom of the mountain you can walk up the thing itself and see Atlanta in the distance. Then the thought occurs to you that Sherman would have burned his way through most of the horizon in his march to the sea. And you still wonder why any of it is still here.)

History, they say is written by the victors. Except in America's case, it wasn't somehow. It almost was, but then Reconstruction ended and somehow all the important stuff- like the war being about the right to keep slaves and oh, the fact that the Confederacy lost got swept under the rug. It wasn't about the slavery. It was about 'state's rights' and other things that were distinctly not slavery. And gradually, over the decades, our history was rewritten by the losers.

Every street name, every elementary school, every statue should be taken down. You know that scene in Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade when he's fighting on the ship about the Cross of Coronado and he yells, "It belongs in a museum!" So do every last one of those monuments.

That simple sentence should have been the principled position of every American, left or right, Democrat or Republican for years, if not decades now. The fact that it hasn't been says a lot about the state of our political discourse today. Where was everyone on these monuments five years ago? Ten, even? I see a lot of people announcing that 'it's time to pick a side' after what happened last weekend in Virginia. Now it's time to pick a side. Now? Shouldn't it be pretty obvious what side to be on, a century and a half after the Civil War ended?

We won. It's time to stop letting the losers write our history.

I originally wanted to write this post because Iowa kept getting named checked in articles about the number of Confederate memorials that exist in the country. There is a Civil War monument down in rural Davis County. It remembers the Bloomfield Raid, when Confederate forces, dressed in Union uniforms crossed the border. It was the furthest north Confederate forces of any kind ever got. Doesn't seem to be on the same level as a statue of Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis or god forbid, Nathan Bedford Forrest. Monuments and markers like that. A marker to state, clearly and simply: this was the farthest north they ever got. I'm okay with that.

Weirdly enough, in the years after the Civil War when the first monuments and markers started to go up, it was the north that accounted for the majority of them. When we went to Shiloh, the battlefield park was full of them. I wanted to go somewhere for the 150th Anniversary of the Civil War because I thought it would be both cool and important to see some history. I had to do some research though, because my initial instinct was to go to Gettysburg, but I figured everyone would want to do that. Turns out that no Iowans fought at Gettysburg, but plenty of them fought and laid down their lives for the Union at Shiloh. They held the Hornet's Nest and saw fierce fighting along The Sunken Road. The picture above is the Iowa Memorial you will find there. At it's base, the inscription reads:
"This monument is erected by the state of Iowa in commemoration of the loyalty, patriotism and bravery of her sons who on this battlefield of Shiloh on the 6th and 7th days of April ADMCCLXII fought to perpetuate the sacred union."

This is the history that should be remembered.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Boozehound Unfiltered: Yipee Ki-Yay

My Dad took a business trip to Utah a few months back and stayed in Park City at a very expansive and nice looking hotel (the perks of his job, I guess) but he also brought back a couple of bottles from Utah's only distillery, High West Whiskey and I was lucky enough to get to try some of this stuff a couple of weekends back and it a delight. I don't have much experience tasting blended whiskies, but however many they mixed together and aged to make this stuff, but they got it absolutely right.

Digging into the distillery itself reveals a fascinating story. High West is Utah's first legal distillery since 1870- writing a new chapter in Utah's distilling history. (I know: the words 'Utah' and 'whiskey' don't exactly seem like they should mix, but go figure.)

There's a lot to like about this stuff. It's a blend of rye whiskies- the exact ratio, High West keeps secret, but in terms of percentages they list one with 95% rye and 5% barley and another with a split of 53% rye, 37% corn and and 10% barley- the ages on the blend range from 2 to 16 years. How did they age it? Well they used barrels originally used to age wine and if their website is anything to go by it seems like vermouth and syrah were both involved. But what did it produce? Let's find out:

Color: Very dark- almost amber in hue.

Nose: This was the hardest to pin down for me- there's something sweet that's immediately obvious- it came close to reminding of Jack Daniels in a lot of ways, but there's notes of maple and honey here as well. 

Body: Balanced! It sits nicely on the tongue- it's not to weak and watery, but it's not syrupy either. The spice is immediate but balanced as well. Like a firework it sort of bursts across the tongue.

Finish: Nice and balanced as well- it warms gradually but it's not harsh at all.

Overall: Well, I want to go to Park City and check this place out- that's for sure. And a more thorough exploration of their range seems to be in order- this was sweet, smooth delicious stuff and went down quite nicely. **** out of ****

Monday, August 14, 2017

Norks and Nazis


In the past week, the President has tried to out crazy North Korean Dictator Kim Jong-Un and there was a straight up Nazi riot in Charlottesville, Virginia where three people died. This is not the 2017 I was expecting and it sure as shit isn't the future that I want for my children. I was hoping, hoping that maybe, maaaaaaaaybe that I could get through the majority of my life without having to worry about a straight up nuclear exchange. Guess that's out the window now. Ditto with Nazis. Haven't we had this argument? Can't we consign fascism to the dustbin of history where it belongs along with all the other shitty, terrible -isms that infect our daily lives?

Let's deal with the Norks first: Am I worried about war with North Korea? Yes and no. In the short to medium term, unless Kim Jong-Un says, 'fuck it, let's do this thing' and starts something, I doubt that we'll launch a preemptive strike. The status quo is what China wants to maintain and they've said that if the Norks start something, they're on their own. I don't think we want to start anything in the short to medium term either. A war on the Korean Peninsula would be rough stuff- most of the defense and strategic summaries I've read from people who know more about this stuff than I do seem to be of the mind that a war over there could be won, but the initial few days would be rough rough stuff indeed until Allied air power comes to bear and starts degrading Nork capabilities. 

The long term is where I sort of bite my nails a bit. I don't think it's in our national interests to let North Korea develop a nuclear weapon capable of striking the US Mainland. I think unless some serious diplomacy gets a breakthrough, I think we will be forced to act militarily to prevent that and I'm not sure how the Chinese will feel about that. Could be they're fed up with Pyongyang and make a lot of angry noise and do not much else. Could be they intervene themselves to preserve the status quo. Either way, I think this is coming to a head in the next two to eight years anyway and I don't know a Presidential candidate of either party that would think it's a good idea to let North Korea have nukes that can hit the US mainland. 

The Nazi Riot in Virginia... I don't even know where to begin with this. Three people died. The President's abject failure to condemn the white nationalist marchers was beyond disgusting. While I wasn't Charlottesville and I will concede that maybe, maybe we haven't been given a full picture of what actually happened, it sure as hell looks like the Nazis showed up armed and ready to rumble. This wasn't a peaceful protest. They were spoiling for a fight and they got one. So, let's clear a few things up:

1. Fuck fascism. (And all the other -isms, for that matter. But, this weekend- especially fascism.)

2. Anyone who flies a Confederate flag isn't a good American. The Confederacy lost. The streets should be renamed, the statues torn down, Stone Mountain dynamited to rubble. You people fucking lost. Americans laid down their lives to make sure they lost and anyone who tries to convince that it's flag or any of it's symbol should be used to celebrate 'our heritage' can fuck right off. I went to Shiloh for the 150th Anniversary of the battle and they had a grand illumination, with a candle lit for every fallen soldier- it stretched all over the damn park. One of the many things that still burns me about Steve King is his insistence on keeping a Confederate flag on his damn desk when so many Iowans died fighting the Confederacy- nowhere more so than at Shiloh. There's a beautiful memorial to them down there. Anyone in Iowa who thinks the Confederate flag is something to celebrate should take a trip down there and look at it.

3. Statistically, in a nation of 300 million people I honestly don't think that there are that many of these Nazi scumbags in America. What this weekend made clear, however, is that President Trump's failure to clearly and openly condemn them and their ideology is sure as shit emboldening them.

4. Violence is bad. It was bad at Berkeley when those idiots tore up their own campus of the Milo Speech. It was even worse here where people actually died. And yes, as Ferguson proved there's a difference in the way people get treated when they protest in this country. It's not wrong to point that out.

5. Do you remember how the right collectively lost it's mind when President Obama refused to condemn radical Islamic terrorism? Because I sure as shit do. So I don't want to hear another goddamn word about it after this weekend.

6. I am both appalled and amused that we now live in a world where Tiki Brand has to put out a statement condemning the use of their torches by Nazis. (Oh and the delicious irony of them using Tiki torches, which are Polynesian in origin.)

7. Naming and shaming these people I am 100% fine with. If you're going to march for what you believe in, then you shouldn't be afraid of the consequences. Like you losing your job. Or people finding out that you're a Nazi. The flip side of that, of course, is that when AntiFa/Anarchist types start throwing bricks through windows, I'm fine with the same thing happening to them. Public shaming all round!

8. 50% of the country doesn't bother to vote most of the time which makes me wonder what's going to happen when that 50% gets tired of the extreme ends of what amounts to 26% of the electorate running the show and decides to do something about it. Our political discourse is poison. The internet is an open sewer after tragedies like this. Congress can't legislate it's way out of a wet paper bag and there is a great, big, silent majority out there. What happens when they get tired of the hyper-partisan rancor? Because a true political independent with a relatively sensible platform who just wants to get things done and help some people out...  right now, that sounds batshit crazy. But if we keep doing this to the country, then who knows. Each side is now convinced the other is out to get them. What does 'victory' even look like in our ongoing culture wars? I'm not sure I want to know.

9. The right wing counter narrative is already emerging today: where were the police? Did the Democratic mayor order the police to stand down in order to blame the ensuing violence on President Trump? I think it's a good question to ask, but given how armed a lot of the Nazis were, I can understand the impulse to contain and restrain instead of obstruct and separating the protestors, especially from the point of view of officer safety- though admittedly, I haven't had need to learn about riot tactics thus far in my job. That said, there's a whiff of: 'oh this is a grand liberal conspiracy and really this is all their fault' which is bullshit. Nazis rioted in an American city. Blaming the police or looking for leftist/liberal conspiracies under the bed should in no way shape or form excuse an administration that is actively emboldening white nationalism by it's silence.

10. Ditto with the "this is what identity politics looks like" narrative that's coming from the right as well. Yes, broadly speaking 'the left' should have a message that cuts across race, gender and class to win elections and trying to assemble a political coalition like Voltron- one giant robot cat at a time lead to white people sort of kind of voting in a block as well. However- once more with feeling: 'oh this is a grand liberal conspiracy and really this is all their fault' is a bullshit rationalization for this. Nazis rioted in an American city. There's no excuse for that.

In general, this was not a good week for America. It's Monday, people. Lets do better this week.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

This Week In Vexillology #224

Oh man, I'm really digging now. I went through the wiki-page on the flags of secessionist and autonomy movements and that's one hell of a rabbit hole to get lost down- but after some scrolling and some thought, I decided to settle on taking a peek at the flag of Tibet- the one used by the official government in exile based in Dharamsala, India. Here it is:
This flag just past the 100 year mark- it was adopted 101 years ago by the 13th Dalai Lama (the current Dalai Lama is number 14) in 1916 and has been banned by the Communist Chinese authorities in the Tibet Autonomous Region since 1959. If you like symbolism, well you've come to the right place, because this flag is chock full of it.

The yellow border/adornment stands for the teachings of the Buddha ("which are like pure refined gold and unbounded in space and time, are flourishing and spreading." ) The white triangle that dominates the bottom of the flag stands for a magnificent snow clad mountain, which represents the Nation of Tibet. The six red bands across the blue dark sky stand for the original six tribes of the Tibetan nation. The combination of the blue and red bands stands for "the unceasing enactment of the various deeds of protection of the spiritual teachings and secular life by the black and guardian protector deities with which Tibet has been connected since time immemorial."

At the tip of triangle, the Sun with its rays represent "the equal enjoyment protector deities with which Tibet has been connected since times immemorial." The snow lions on the slopes of the mountain standing for the accomplishment of a unified spiritual and secular life. The three colored jewel held aloft stands for the reverence held by the people of Tibet for the three gems, "the object of refugee Buddha, Dharma and Sangha." The jewel held between the lions stands for the "people's guarding and cherishing the self discipline of correct ethical behavior, principally representing and spreading the ten exalted virtues and 16 human modes conducts."

I did a little more than my usual dig on this flag, because the Wiki-page had a good description of the history and the design process, but not so much with the symbolism, but happily had exactly what I was looking for- huge h/t to them for the info on this post.

I love this flag. I wish I had it in the collection, because honestly, I think it's the perfect balance of symbolism and good design- it's busy, but not too busy and use of the white triangle to represent the snow clad mountain focuses the design on the center of the flag and the sun, the red and blue bands do the same as well. It's focused, it's packed with symbolism and it's striking. What more could you ask for in a flag? I know that there are some pickier vexillologists out there that would argue it has too many colors and is too busy, but I disagree- this is the kind of flag that I would love to add to my collection.

It's also the kind of flag that makes me wonder about what to do with my collection and the future of this little venture over the long term... I'd like to figure out something to do with my collection other than have it sit in a tote down in my basement, but I have a decent amount of flags so space to hang them is going to be hard to come by. It's something I'll have to ponder in the months ahead...

But until next time, keep your flags flying- FREAK or otherwise!

Friday, August 11, 2017


Well, after doing some consulting with Mr. Google and finding this article, I had my foursome for this season: The Ukrainian Premier League, Liga MX, Brasileirao and the Argentine Primera Division. (True story: I was surprised at how high the UPL was ranked in that article...  might just plan on doing them next season.) But anyway, after some random shuffling and slips of paper, I ended up with:

Argentine Primera Division!

And a visit to a random number generator with a minimum of 1 and a maximum of 28 got me number 9, which for right now anyway is Defensa y Justicia, so welcome aboard, boys! I'll be following your progress throughout the season and wish you a better fate than NEC Nijmegen who I followed around last season- they were relegated!

MLS Quest
You've heard me say it before and I'll say it again: I need to watch more MLS in the back half of the season! We'll see if I can make good on it, but for now, we've got the following teams in the race for my allegiance:

FC Dallas
Sporting KC
Minnesota United

and a late entry, the Chicago Fire. I was never really into the Fire as an option because honestly, Chicago isn't my favorite city to travel too- but when the Missus and I were in Chicago for our U2 concert in June I realized that Toyota Park is actually relatively easy to get to from Iowa City and I can do so without tolls.

In more specific MLS related news- Deadspin ran this article that piqued my interest a bit. Is MLS A Ponzi Scheme? I think it's a question worth asking because MLS's Expansion-pa-looza can't continue forever and while soccer appears to be increasing in popularity, it's still easier to find Premier League games on the television than MLS games a lot of weekends- but that fact runs up against the imminent shift in the television landscape. Nobody knows what it's going to look like post-cable-- which is why I think that expansion will probably get to 28 teams or so in the next few years and then I think promotion/relegation will become a reality- hopefully with the USL and NASL forming the lower two divisions. I want to do some more reading about this issue, because there's a lot I don't know- but given the fact that MLS has gone through contraction before, I think fans of our domestic league should be at least aware of the potential road ahead.

Come On You Gunners!
Alexander Lacazette. Sead Kolasinac. Giroud, Sanchez and Ozil are all still here. The transfer window isn't closed yet and Arsenal has collected the Community Shield, Emirates Cup (in a weird way by goal differential) and the International Champions Cup. I'm not really sure what to make of the preseason, but I'm optimistic. I caught a good chunk of the Community Shield match vs  Chelsea and even without Sanchez and Ozil on the pitch, Arsenal looked good. They've got momentum going into the season, that much is certain. What they can do once they get there- especially with the Europa League usually meaning greater travel time- is anybody's guess. But they've got the big mo!

Hawkeye Football Predictions:
Yes, football of all kinds is almost back in action and college football is soon to be among us and looking at the schedule for Iowa this year, I'm honestly not sure what to expect and I don't think anyone else does either. I think most predictions seem to have us around 6-7 wins which seems like a safe prediction to me, but not necessarily an accurate one. The schedule sort of works against us this year in many ways, but Iowa has this tendency of doing better- sometimes much better- than expected when there are precisely zero expectations on their backs going into the season. I think people are sort of banking on a mid-range bowl game and not much else, but I don't know.  Let's look at it:

Wyoming: W (but a test right out of the gate for Iowa. Wyoming were legit good in the MWC last year and if Iowa loses this, I think that 6-7 win range could be more like 4-6.)
@ Iowa State: L (ISU got beaten down here last year. I feel like they'll be ready for this one.)
North Texas: W (well, shit. We better win this one.)
Penn State: L (Barkley and their offense is just scary fast. Not traditionally Iowa's strength)
@ Michigan State: W (East Lansing is always tough, but Sparty was a mess last year.)
Illinois: W (Lovie Smith still a year or two away)
@ Northwestern: L (As much as I hate to say this... and I really HATE to say it.)
Minnesota: W (PJ Fleck is inheriting a program in decent shape, but we'll see.)
Ohio State: L (Though to be fair, we're about due for a once a decade victory over the Bucks)
@ Wisconsin: W (It's in Madison though, so it could either way.)
Purdue: W (I think Purdue made a good hire, but he's a year or two away as well.)
@ Nebraska: W (Could go either way here, but it depends on Nebraska's season. If it's a good one, they win. If it's been bad, they don't.)

I have them going 8-4, weirdly enough. But I can easily see how people are predicting them lower... the non-conference run matters a lot this year I think because it's going to set the tone for the rest of the season. Assuming we can get out of our non-con run at 3-0 (which is a big assumption this year) then I feel pretty good about this prediction.

I think we could beat ISU*. I've been reading a lot of buzz about their incoming class and I think in his second year, we're going to get a better sense of what Matt Campbell's about (other than cheating at golf.) They'll play up for this game and I think Iowa will as well, so whichever way it goes, I think it'll be an entertaining edition this year.

I feel like between Penn State, Ohio State and Northwestern we'll beat at least one of those teams. If we're better than expected, it could- could be two. But all three? That's a stretch even for me. If we've been waiting for a shot at Penn State and we're 3-0 coming into conference play for a night game at Kinnick I could see that. We got absolutely smoked by them the last time they were here so at the very least I'm hoping for a more respectable result. We're away at Northwestern, who always give us fits but we get Ohio State here and if we're good and they're good, it should be another night game which is always an intangible. Of the three, we'll win at least one game that we have no business winning. It's the Iowa way.

(Of course the Iowa way also includes losing at least one game we have no business losing: Purdue, Illinois...  I'm lookin' at you.)

In the end though, I have absolutely no idea what to expect this season. Gonna be interesting to watch.

*Went to a wedding in Ames last weekend and saw Jack Trice Stadium for the first time. I really feel that with facilities as nice looking as those, ISU should be better at football than it is and that got me thinking: what would it take for ISU to win the Big 12? (Other than 'an act of God') It's an interesting thought experiment to consider. Especially if we beat them early in the season only to have them go on a tear.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Let's Talk About The Writer's Workshop

So, the Writer's Workshop has had an age discrimination claim filed against it by a rejected applicant and I'm just not sure how to feel about it. In fact, I have a very conflicted relationship (in my head, anyway) with the Writer's Workshop as a whole. Not because I wouldn't jump at the chance to be a part of that- because hell, who wouldn't? But because it makes my semi-responsible adult brain itch uncomfortably at the idea of paying a lot of money for something that I can do for free.

Don't get me wrong: I get it. You get access to world class facilities, instructors and you get your work critiqued by other amazing writer's and learn how to be a better writer and usually go on to do great and awesome things. It's a hell of an opportunity and if you get it, you'd be dumb as a box of rocks not to take it. But at the same time, I think it's either a young person's game (if you get in, you're making a huge down payment on your future potential) or a late career kind of game (you've paid your bills, your kids are grown and almost out of the house and you want to finally pursue your passion kind of thing.) So in that sense, I think this complainant might maybe- maaaaaybe have a little bit of a point.

However, you don't need to be accepted into the Writer's Workshop to be a writer. And really that is what bugs me about this complaint. That it sort of implies that you need this validation to be considered a writer, which is complete bullshit.

Here's my writing philosophy: I want people to enjoy reading what I write. I'm not chasing the Great American Novel. I'm not after high literature or the Man Booker Prize or anything like that. I want people to enjoy the books I write. I want people like them- maybe leave a review or two on Amazon for 'em and suggest 'em to their friends. I want to tell a good story more than anything else. That's what I shoot for- I get that some people will probably dig what I write more than others. I get that some people will hate what I write. And all of that is fine! If you don't like my stuff, then don't read it...  I'm cool with that. But at the heart of why I write is that I want to create characters and stories that people will enjoy reading.

If I aim for that and somehow end up with the Great American Novel or a New York Times bestseller or the Man Booker Prize or hell, even something good enough to get into the Writer's Workshop, that will be a very nice bonus. But it's not what I'm aiming at.

And if I have a mild complaint about the Writer's Workshop it's probably that- they are aiming for literature. Which is totally fine, but I don't want to be the next Thomas Pynchon or David Foster Wallace, left to torture English majors and poor sadists like myself (Gravity's Rainbow is in my cue... it'll be take 3- or maybe 4 at trying to crack the damn thing and get through out). No, I want to be somebody's beach read. If I'm a good enough beach read to get into something like The Writer's Workshop someday, I'll be very very happy.

But until then, I'll just keep writing. Because at the end of the day, you don't need to get into a place like The Writer's Workshop to be a writer. Just sit down and do it every day. (Check.) Read everything you can get your hands on. (Check.) And if you're lucky, you'll create something that people love and if you're even luckier, the ideas will keep coming and the characters will spring to life on the page in front of you and the stories will keep getting better as you go.

You don't need something like The Writer's Workshop to be a writer. You don't even need it to be a good writer. If you really want to be a writer, get a pen, some paper, sit down and start.

It's that simple.