Hnefatafl is an ancient Norse board game that is sometimes refered to as the chess of the north. Unlike conventional chess the sides are not equal, with one side on the defensive and the other on the offence. The fewer white pieces are surrounded and menaced by the larger dark army. There has been some back and forth about which side holds the advantage. Much of this is derived from the fact that although examples of the game, like the one pictured have survived, the game’s rules have been less durable. Conventional thought has been that the offence or as in this case the black pieces have held the advantaged, but more recent discovery indicates that it is the white defence that holds the advantage. 

The Coronavirus has arrived. The first diagnosed patient in Missouri turned out to be a young woman, a student studying abroad in Italy. She came home with it and has been quarantined. Unfortunately, she lives in Saint Louis County. She is literally one in a million now, but don’t expect those long odds to avert a panic. Our governor and county executive appeared on TV to calm the masses, but I’m sure that this will be for naught. The hype in the press has been too relentless.

The paper’s by-line was from Clayton. I’m sure that that is because Clayton is the county seat and not that the origin point was there too. Mercy, a hospital that is located further west was mentioned in the report, indicating that the infected person also resides further west. That would put her in West County, the most affluent region around Saint Louis, which dovetails with her studying abroad.

Yesterday, Anne and I walked to Clayton. She to absentee vote in Tuesday’s Presidential primary and me to mail some packages for her. It was a warm day and the weather was perfect for a walk. We kind of hoofed it going there, with twin deadlines of a closing polling place and post office, but we made it fine. Afterwards, we stopped for lunch at Manhattan Café and then home for a nap.

The License Plate Game

States We Visited in 2019

In 2019 a whole lot of road-tripping was going on! This colored US map catalogs all of the states that we visited this year. We managed to color states from coast-to-coast and from Canada to the Gulf. Doing more than half of them. We mostly drove, except for Virginia and DC, where we flew. Putting a lot of miles on the old Prius. That was this year, but I’m already looking forward to next year. We have a new car that is yearning to explore the open road. We already have a few trips planned. Actually, our calendar is filling up fast. Places to go, people to see and things to do.

While we are driving, in order to pass the time, we play road games. There is that old saw the Alphabet game, where you try to find the letters of the alphabet on passing road signs, but our favorite one is the License Plate game. We even have an app for that now. We’ve managed to win this game a couple of times this year, getting all fifty states, including Alaska and Hawaii. Timing our play to begin at the start of a trip, we can usually get more than half the states in one day. After that play begins to slow, until new plates become only a trickle, but by the end each new plate is a major victory. We once encountered a family that played a rather restrictive version of this game. According to their rules you had to get the new plates in alphabetical order. That would take forever.

Watch-a, Watch-a

Space Orks

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, Dave and I used to play Warhammer 40K, with figures just like those pictured above. He texted me this photo, which coincided with Anne finding in the news that there has been a shooting in the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn (4 dead, 7 shot). Dan lives in this neighborhood. Her motherly concern caused her to reach out to eldest her son and ask for proof-of-life. Not immediately getting an answer, she continued worrying and soon tried again. I checked the news and discovered that the shootings occurred at a gambling parlor, on a cross street near Dan. Eventually, he got back to us and everything was alright. Dave is with him in NYC this weekend and they are at a gaming parlor, playing Warhammer. They are playing for points, so no gambling is involved and hopefully no gunplay either. We really shouldn’t worry so much, NYC is safer than Saint Louis is these days.

Anne has been dissecting owl pellets at school. An owl pellet is something that owls cough up from their gizzard. Usually, they are composed of indigestible components of the prey that they feed on and comprise things like bones, feathers and bits of fur. Sounds truly disgusting, right? That’s what the third graders thought at first, but they got into it and soon took to the task with relish. She claims that she never touched any of the pellets, but instead used tweezers and toothpicks to examine them. The kids ended up doing most of the work anyway and Anne washer her hands afterwards. According to Anne, on a continuum of grossness, owl pellets are less gross than dead mice found while opening the cabin for the summer and way less gross than phlegm. I’m sure youth wanted to know. We’re planning on getting our flu shots this week, because although it is unlikely one would ever catch anything from owl pellets, there are plenty of other sources of disease in the third grade.

Sand Dune Arch

Anne and I at Sand Dune Arch

“I am a Jedi, like my father before me.” A Jedi at playing Solitaire that is. My Dad plays Solitaire on his PC, while I play it on my phone. Either way, it is a solitary pursuit, but also a pleasure that we have in common. I’ve had to throttle the phone App that I use though, cutting off its access to the Internet. I prohibit it from using any part of my data plan. If granted access it would only download annoying ads that I don’t want to watch. Likewise, I’ve turned off its use of the phone’s speaker, because occasionally this naughty App circumvents my will and plays an ad. It has figured out how to do this in two ways. First, if wi-fi is on and I enter the game, then it uses wi-fi to download and play ads. I’m usually pretty careful about this and turn wi-fi off, before entering the game. Its other method is when the App is occasionally upgraded. Each upgrade is accompanied with a new ad. This is how yesterday, the game finagled an ad. It also introduced a new future ad generating feature. Previously, I could choose to play a new game or replay the old one. I rarely chose the later option, but I did occasionally. The new feature that was added to this list was to choose to play an “easy” game. This option was seeded with three free games, which I played and handedly won, but I was left feeling somehow cheated, as if the deck had been stacked in my favor, which it had. I never even thought about buying more easy games, by watching an ad. I’ve gone back to the way that I have always played this game and have somehow earned another three free easy games. So far, I have not had any inclination to play them. I like messing with this App almost as much as playing the game of Solitaire.

Axe-ceptable Losses

Team Axe-ceptable Losses

They brought in a ringer from Boston. I hear he’s wicked smaht! And they then went on to win the whole tournament. Dan and Dave cleaned up at the Carcosa Club in tony Williamsburg yesterday, playing Warhammer 40K. The boyz were planning this rendezvous over Thanksgiving. I’m glad everything turned out so well for them. 40k is a fun game to play, but it’s even more acceptable to win!

Closer to home, what ya got cooking? For breakfast, my go to dish—avocado toast was augmented this week, by an early seasonal present from Monsieur C. Like an X-Man, he put the X-mas back into Christmas with some of his tasty, homemade, smoked and oven-roasted San Marzano tomatoes. They were served as a side, like bacon, only they’re better for you.

For dinner, I crock-potted some beef stew. Which we’ll be having it for dinner all week-long. This will clear the boards nicely for my annual foray into cookie making for Smokin’ Joe’s holiday cookie party. Last year, I mimicked Mr. C’s gift and made visions of sugar plums dance in their heads. C had included a recipe for them and they turned out quite nicely, if I do say so myself. I could reprise them or the filo fruit cups that were featured earlier this week, but I’m thinking that I’ll make gingerbread men, with emoji expressions instead.

Wizard World’s Comic Con

Anne went off campaigning today for her school tax issue, so left to my own devices I headed downtown and attended Wizard World’s Comic Con. This was my first time, although I have been to a Star Trek convention before. There were lots of freaks and geeks in attendance and everyone was having a good time. Anyone in cosplay or costume play would gladly pose for a picture if asked.

There were a number of celebrities present for autographs and photo-ops, but you had to pay extra for that privilege. There were also talks and I would have liked to hear William Shatner, but he was on too late in the day. There was all sorts of things that you could buy, from art to souvenirs. Tattoos were doing a surprisingly brisk business. There was even a booth that would scan you on the fly and then create a one-foot 3D printed statue of yourself. Mainly, I just people watched. In addition to the well costumed people pictured above, there were many others. Most of the guys tended to want to look like badasses, while most of the girls were into looking sexy.

Dr. Who seemed to be the main draw of the convention. They had the actors that played doctors #10 and #11 present, plus numerous blue phone booths. There was a large video arcade, near where Lou Ferrigno and the cosplayers posed, but there was also a small table top gaming area. When I first passed by two women were playing Candyland. They asked if I want to play too, but I explained that one summer my niece Ashlan had burnt all love of that game out of me. On the way back to the MetroLink, I passed by the Blues Museum, which opened today. It was lunch time and I tried to get into Sugarfire, but it was too crowded. The museum was doing a brisk business and together the museum patrons and convention goers on the lunchtime sidewalks made for an eclectic mix.