Person of (No) Interest

by Angus McPeters

The other day while Bob and I were hanging out at the park, I tried a new game. There were a several <ahem> men of my generation playing it. They seemed to be enjoying themselves. I asked one to show me how to play.

What fools these mortals be.

I know what you’re thinking. I’m just a corporate shill for Mayfair Games. They’re the source of my paycheck. I spend all day being both informative and hilarious about Mayfair and its offerings. So of course I’m in the tank for them.

And all that would be utterly true! It is true, however, because Mayfair deserves it. Their games are so well made, so interesting, so fun to play that only I (and the inimitable Bob MacWordell) could explain to you how good they are. We deserve one another, you see.

So it is established fact that Mayfair is the King of All Games in much the same way Godzilla is King of all Monsters. But that doesn’t mean all other games have to suck! And yet suck this one did!

First of all, the art direction was extremely poor. The entire board only sported two colors: black and white. Welcome to Snorestown. Did the game designers think to snazz it up using the pieces? No, of course not. They two were only black and white. Now, look, sheep may have problems with all the color blindness, but even we could do better.

The rules were also confusing. Every piece moved in a different way with no rhyme or reason. Most the pieces couldn’t move until I spent several turns moving the lamest ones around. And the ones that could move, made no sense! What, is that Knight on a pogo stick? There were no dice, no cards, no chits, not even a score pad. Why, there weren’t even rules inside the box! I spent the game in mild befuddlement.

And to make my muddle worse, the game had no theme! I settled no islands, refurbished no cities, built no might towers, and canoed no streams. Nothing! The man who taught me this ridiculous game claimed we were generals fighting a war, but I didn’t see it. Who sends their King and Queen out to war? Let alone Bishops? Do those guys even know how to fight?

In short, the game looked ugly, played uglier, and didn’t make enough sense to poor water out of a boot with the instructions printed on the heel. It didn’t even print the instructions!

It reminded me of the time someone tried to teach me a game about bridge building. Except I couldn’t understand why Kings and Queens were building bridges out of little shovels, hearts, and other detritus. Really, friends, there just isn’t any substitute for a proper Mayfair game.

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It’s a Kind of Magic

by Angus McPeters

The McPeters house recently went through another viewing of the extended Lord of the Rings trilogy. All those glowy swords and magic rings naturally got me to thinking about all the fantasy gaming I’ve tried in the past and how prevalent the magic items are in those worlds.

But we live in the modern world! Shouldn’t we be just as well off as the primitives with their mysticism and arcane knowledge?

I mean, sure, everyone wants to turn invisible or have a cloak that transforms them into a bird or whatever. But we should have magic items in the real world! The next question, naturally, is what would they be? I’ve been thinking pretty hard about it, and I came up with these.

  • The Dustpan of Clean This Mess Up While I Do Something More Interesting – My first realization about magical items in the real world is how we’d mostly want them to do banal things for us. Like say I’m getting myself a bowl of cereal and knock the box off the counter. Now my kitchen floor is wall-to-wall raisin bran. Who has time to clean this up? That’s where the Dustpan comes in. I go on my merry way, and it cleans up behind me.
  • The Mystical Compass Of Never Getting Lost And Looking Like An Idiot – I am not great at directions, as our little post-GenCon trip can attest. I often wished that I had a little magical compass I could just tell where I wanted to go so it could give me directions.
  • The Tome of Answers For Questioners Who Never Shut Up – This came to me while hanging out with Ewan. That kid wants to know how everything works! How do airplanes bank? What kind of cloud is that? How does an emergency brake work? What’s the melting point of iron? The questions just never stop! How neat would it be to have a book he could just ask the question to and get the answer instantly?

I have to say, I feel betrayed by my modern world! In these worlds of mystical powers, these items seem like they’d be easy to come by. But here I am, living in the 21st century, The Future for all intents and purposes, and I can’t get anything like these items! For shame, Modernity! For. Shame.

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No Grazing Allowed

by Claire O’Brien

Last week I went to a bridal shower garden party. I had never been to one before, but I tell you, from the moment I walked along the perfectly manicured, sprawling lawns, past the potted gardenias lining the driveway to the topiaries framing the entrance to the estate, I knew I was in heaven, or close enough. And talk about wanting to keep the guests happy… the hostess used hors d’oeuvres to guide the guests around to the garden in back. Those were the tastiest Queen Anne Roses I had ever eaten.

The backyard could have hosted a wedding, not just a bridal shower. The tent draped in pink and white silk, with a large crystal chandelier, added an elegance to an already beautiful space. For the next hour, the wait staff passed out Mint Juleps while everyone talked about the bride to be, the upcoming wedding and so on. While I’m a social sheep, I took the opportunity to sample the lush food that had been set out everywhere, and I do mean EVERYWHERE. There were flowers on the gift table, garlands wrapped around the tent poles, flowers floating in the fountain and a wide variety of flowers throughout the garden itself. The hostess most assuredly wanted her guests to enjoy themselves. The most convenient food arrangement had to have been the pink and white roses atop tall cylindrical glass vases, filled with floating rose petals, set in the center of each table.

I know I shouldn’t stuff myself before the main meal, but I couldn’t help myself; I had skipped breakfast. I wasn’t as quick to rush off to the seats by the fountain, where the bride-to-be was opening her gifts (I bought her a game that I thought was apropos, at least in title as she enters this new phase of her life: Age of Discovery. The game is about balancing trading with the challenges of being a great explorer, which isn’t that different from being newly married where a couple has to balance their jobs with the challenges of married life.) Don’t get me wrong, eventually I joined the festivities. I just moved a little slower than the others as I tasted my way over to them.

The bride loved all of her gifts, especially my present. I already knew she was a big fan of Settlers of Catan, so I knew my gift would go over well. After the bride finished opening the presents, everyone headed back to the tent for lunch to be served. That’s when we heard a very high-pitched shriek followed by a tray of glasses hitting the ground. I’m not sure what happened next, but there was shouting, sirens and ultimately medics rushing to the bride’s mother. Chaos had erupted, and the guests stood off to the side, clearing a path for the medics to carry the bride’s mother out on a stretcher. Apparently, she had feinted from shock, though what had shocked her still wasn’t quite clear.  he guests were whispering in hushed tones. I heard a few say something about deadheaded flowers, vines stripped of leaves, and ruined decor.

I slowly looked where the guests were pointing and realized that they were pointing to every spot where I had stopped to sample the fine food. A rosebush here, a garland of gardenias there…  is it possible that I had committed some garden party faux pas? I’ve never been one to knowingly break the rules.

Needless to say, I snuck out before anyone could notice the Gardenia bud stuck between my teeth (I really should carry dental floss with me). I don’t know if anyone ever figured out who the culprit was, but if I’m not invited to the wedding, I’ll fully understand. My advice to you, dear readers, is if you ever go to a garden party, observe the #1 rule that I learned a bit too late: No Grazing Allowed!

Enjoy those parties!

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You Vet Your Life

By Bob MacWordell

Recently, a sick friend of mine called me for help. This friend had grown too sick to take herself to the doctor and asked if I could drive her. It was the least I could do, and, as she was a human friend, it would be a new experience for me. I’d never been to the doctor’s office.

Oh, I’ve been sick before. I mean, I’m a healthy vegetarian who tries to stay in shape, but I’m not indestructible. And you probably haven’t thought about it, but my medical care has to come at the hands of a vet.

After all, when was the last time you had to take de-wormer or woke up thinking, “I’m not feeling too well, I bet I have parvo.”

I’ve heard a lot about the state of modern medicine. And I often wondered what it would be like to get treatment on the other side of the species divide. Well, I have to tell you guys, this single visit to the doctor’s office was absolutely eye opening!

Let’s compare and contrast, shall we?

Wait Time

We sat at the doctor’s office for over an hour before the nurse called my friend’s name. Then we sat in the exam room for another thirty minutes. I asked her how long it takes when she has an appointment. Her response? “I made this appointment.”

At my vet, I’ve waited at max twenty minutes between lobby and exam room. And that was just the one time when somebody’s dog had been hit by a car.

Advantage: Vet

Magazine Selection

At the doctor’s office, the reading material consisted almost exclusively of incredibly dated issues of entertainment magazines with similarly dated gossip and news or pamphlets aimed mainly at octogenarians. At my vet, there are dog lover and cat fancier magazines. The doctor’s office did have Highlights, so I’m throwing them a bone.

Advantage: None

Medicine

When my friend finally saw the doctor and had a diagnosis, he then wrote her a prescription. Which we had to fill on the way home at a whole other place called a “pharmacy.” I have never heard of such a thing.

At my vet, they give me what I’m prescribed right there. I’ve heard that some tougher to come by medicines have to be ordered or picked up elsewhere, but that’s never happened to me.

Advantage: Vet

Cost

I know my friend only had her five dollar copay but I got a look at her itemized bill and I thought I’d need to see my vet due to heart attack. If my vet bills are the gross national product of, say, Cuba, then her doctor bill is the GNP of the USA.

Now you human readers want to use insurance to give the advantage to the doctor’s office. But Angus and I are way ahead of you. Each of us have pet insurance on the other guy. We figured it would throw fewer red flags that way. I mean, wouldn’t you look sideways at a guy named Bob MacWordell who had a pet sheep named Bob?

Regardless of copays, I’m giving this one to the vet. I don’t want to go in there without insurance, but if I had to, I could pay it off with a loan from Angus instead of one from a real bank.

Advantage: Vet

And there you have it in plain black and white. Vets are so clearly superior that I wouldn’t wish a visit to the doctor’s office on a dog.

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Not Sung Enough History: Amelia Earhart

by Angus McPeters

Those of you who do not respect the scholarship of my Unsung History posts are now anxiously waiting for another one of my “crazy Angus” stories. Maybe something like “Amelia found an entrance into the Hollow Earth and is living out her days there as a barbarian queen.” Or, “Amelia didn’t crash; aliens abducted her.”

Well, I’m not going to do that. Instead of my usual Unsung History, I’m going to focus on History That Isn’t Sung Enough.

Amelia Earhart was of the finest pilots – of either gender – to ever fly. And that doesn’t mention Amelia’s pioneering work in the area of women’s rights. She pushed forth the cause of aviation, and the role of women therein, in a way that’s hard to imagine anyone else being capable of. All that is why we celebrate her on her birthday, July 24.

Amelia Ascendant
Bit with the flying bug by a dive-bombing World War I ace at an aviation exhibition, Amelia’s desire to fly was cemented by a dollar-a-minute flight that lasted ten minutes. She eventually took pilot’s lessons after doing a host of odd jobs to save $1,000 in 1921. Even then, she had to take a bus to the end of the line and walk four miles for the lessons.

We all know the details of Amelia’s transatlantic flights, one failed and one successful. Well, technically, the first one wasn’t a failure, she just didn’t have much to do. Most of the flight had to be done with instruments, and Amelia hadn’t yet trained for that type of flying.

But by 1932, Amelia, the United Press’s “Queen of the Air,” mirrored Charles Lindbergh’s epic flight across the Atlantic.

Jane-Of-Many-Trades
Amelia wrote many books about her experiences and became a successful author. She championed women’s rights by becoming a charter member of the 99s, an organization for female pilots. She worked as faculty at Purdue University’s aviation department and counseled women on possible careers.

Amelia joined the National Woman’s Party and became an early supporter of the Equal Rights Amendment. She never stopped championing the cause of either her occupation or her gender throughout her entire career.

In a time when women had few options and fewer opportunies, Amelia Earhart became famous and successful just for doing what she loved. And she became an inspiration.

The Queen of the Air naturally said “today success, tomorrow…the world.” Amelia Earhart set her sights on circumnavigating the globe.

Amelia Interrupted
The flight around the world would also be attempted twice. A controversial ground-loop mistake grounded her first attempt almost before it could begin. But she tried again, and the second trip ended her life.

I encourage you all to read more about this amazing woman’s life and adventures. Gallons of ink have been spilled on reams of paper discussing what went wrong and where Amelia, her navigator, and her plane may have landed safely or crashed to bits.

They’re all wrong of course. Aliens abducted her. Or, more to the point, they saw her talent and recruited her for their own interstellar war against Xur and the Ko-Dan armada.

Shut up. She was awesome and I wanted everyone to know it! We can all just agree to disagree on how Amelia’s story ended.

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Salad Shooter

by Bob MacWordellDSC_0192

Many of you know me as a connoisseur of fine dining, especially in my own home. As you can surmise from my handsome, ovine countenance, I am also a vegan. Combine these two things and you just know I can make a salad that’ll make even the toughest palate sit up and beg like a dog.

I also toy with photography in an amateur way, so I thought I’d combine all these interests into a single blog post showing my step-by-step salad making method. Bon appetite!

  1. DSC_0191It all starts with the ingredients. If you have substandard veggies, you’re going to wind up with a substandard salad. I like to get mine as fresh from the farm or garden as possible. So I either pick them myself from the raised bed garden I have in my backyard (not pictured because I couldn’t get the light just right) or I take a trip to the farmer’s market. I’m at my local farmer’s market so much they yell my name when I come in like Norm on Cheers!

    You’ll see that I’ve chosen some crunchy carrots, some crisp arugula, a few dried cranberries for garnish, cucumber for sweetness, cherry tomatoes for color and a burst of flavor, croutons for a hint of garlic, and then olive oil and balsamic vinegar to top it all off. I’m off to a great start!

  2. DSC_0197You must chop your vegetables. I prefer a sort of coarse cut of my own devising. I can do all the fancy chef knife tricks reasonably well, but for my salads, I like chunks of vegetables I can really sink my teeth into. Call me a barbarian if you must.
  3. Now we can finally start assembling our salad. The arugula goes in first, then the chunks of cucumber. I do a light toss to mix these up. Then I add the tomatoes, carrots, and cranberries and give the whole thing another light toss to make sure the colors mix in well. Presentation matters, people! Lastly, I throw the croutons on top where people can fight over them. It’s always fun to watch!
    DSC_0250
    I keep the dressings on the side since not everyone loves them or loves them in equal measure. And you might be asking what other tastes I need to worry about since I’m making this salad for me. Well, this brings us to step Four!
  4. Because food is best when shared with friends, call one and invite them over to enjoy your amazing salad! See how happy Angus is to have access to such an amazing meal? And how excited we are to share one another’s company? Surely nothing enhances the flavor of good food like true friends.
  5. Watch your friend who has the table manners of a billy goat (trust me, goats have the worst manners) wreck your salad by face planting and going to town. Behold as your careful work and DSC_0276presentation are ignored in favor of gluttonous abandon!
  6. Enjoy your own salad at a leisurely pace and bask in the appreciation your friend has given your culinary efforts. After all, I expected nothing less from Angus. And, truly, he doesn’t have any higher compliment to give to a chef than burying his face in the plate and devouring everything in sight.

    After all, as Angus is so fond of reminding me, “No matter how you arrange it on a plate, it all winds up looking the same…in the end.”

Thanks for coming along on this culinary voyage with me! If you enjoyed it, say so in the comments and maybe I’ll do another one in the future. In the meantime, tell me some of the dishes you take particular pride in making and serving to friends.

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