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.

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!
    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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Packing for A Journey to the Center of the Earth

By Claire O’Brien

While playing Mayfair Games’ Journey to the Center of the Earth, I realized the importance of making a list when traveling. Let’s assume you are planning a trip similar to the one Professor Lidenbrock, his nephew Axel and their guide Hans took in Journey to the Center of the Earth. Sailing in a wooden raft down a river of hot molting lava just doesn’t seem like the best choice for a vacation, but I know how to go with the flow (no pun intended). Aside from the normal items (toothbrush, clothing, hoof trimmers, curry comb, 100 calorie pouch of lemon grass crisps, money, phone, etc.), pack items that are specific to where you are going.

Items to Pack:

  • Extra bag/suitcase – for bringing presents, souvenirs and fossils home.
  • Good book – A good book makes time fly. You could read Jules Verne’s Journey to the Center of the Earth on a plane ride. You would learn about geology and paleontology and have fun recognizing all the details that the game’s creators drew from Jules Verne’s classic novel.
  • Portable Game – You never know when you’ll meet a nice Ram and want to have some reason to keep the conversation going. A card game such as Struggle for Catan is small enough to travel with and only requires two players… Perfect for spending time with a new friend.

Items to LEAVE HOME:

  • Pickaxe – While the pickax will allow an explorer to pass through a rock space in the game Journey to the Center of the Earth, it won’t get you through airport security (just the opposite!). Leave it home!
  • Rope – This is Mr. McPeters’ suggestion, not mine. When I asked him why the adventurers in the board game Journey to the Center of the Earth would need a rope, he said, “I need a rope to tie up Bob to keep him from moving an explorer to the Mushroom Forest space first.” Since I wasn’t getting anywhere talking to Mr. McPeters, I read the rules. In the game, the rope is used for crossing a ravine. I’d like to say you can leave rope off your list, but McPeters suggested another use for a rope. I’m not sure I should pass his suggestion along, but he insisted. McPeters said, “If that kid behind you on the plane starts kicking your seat, and refuses to stop when you ask, tie his feet to the bottom of his seat!” I see McPeters’ point: You will fly in peace (but I think you’ll have some explaining to do as they drag you off the plane in handcuffs).

On a Final Note

Wherever you travel, just take the time to make a list ahead of time and be practical about the items you bring. The portable edition of Settlers of Catan is another good idea when traveling with at least 2 other people, but please leave all pickaxes/ropes/questionable items at home. Despite what Mr. McPeters says, our actions do have ramifications.

Happy Travels! (and don’t ask Mr. McPeters for travel advice!)


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Catan World Championship vs. The Super Bowl

By Angus McPeters

Every year, throughout the United States, there is one day where the streets empty of people, stores drop to minimal staff (and those who remain tend to gripe about having to work), and outdoor grilling is the only way to prepare a meal. That’s right, I speak of Super Bowl Sunday.

However, while the rest of the country stumbles towards the largest screen they can find, like zombies searching for brains, those of us not addicted to American football, can only sit back and wonder what the fuss is all about. This is a phenomenon that appears beyond my ability to relate, that is, at least, until the Catan World Championships begin. Now there’s a real sport. Don’t believe me? Let’s compare the two.

Number of competitors for the Super Bowl: 2. Number of players during each round for the Catan World Championship: 4. A little basic math tells me the Catan Championship is twice as awesome. But moving on, how does one decide which Super Bowl team goes first? Coin flip. How do we decide which Catan player goes first? Roll two dice. Doing a little more math tells me a two dice roll has thirty-six options while a coin toss has just two. That makes Catan eighteen times more awesome. Multiply those two awesomeness factors together, and we can safely conclude that the Catan World Championship is at least thirty-six times more awesome than the Super Bowl, and the game has not even begun.

Now let’s take a look at land types. Settlers of Catan has five land types (six if you are playing with gold), but the Super Bowl has only one, and it’s Astroturf. I’m not even certain what resource is supposed to grow in Astroturf, but either way, this is yet another win for Catan. Length of game? The average Superbowl lasts about three hours, with actual playing time of 11 minutes (don’t believe me, go ahead and Google search it, I’ll wait). A Settlers of Catan game lasts about an hour, with all of that being game time. That’s six times as much time squeezed into a third of the time, which is an all-around better use of time.

Also, the Catan Championships have no lame half-time show, no silly matching uniforms, no overhyped but ultimately disappointing commercials, and I cannot think of a single injury ever in a Catan Championship game. Win, win, win, and win.

So let’s all take a moment and mourn the loss of status for the comparatively lame Super Bowl. Then go buy a ticket to Vienna, and I will see you next November for what we can all now agree is the greatest competition on Earth.


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Road Rally Road Rage

by Claire O’Brien

I’ve heard reports on the news lately about road rage, and I’d like to explore the phenomena. What causes road rage?  Is it a sense of competitiveness? The need to be the leader of the pack and leave all the other cars behind, eating your dust?  Perhaps those who experience road rage feel the need for speed.

If any of these qualities describes you, then you might be a prime candidate for road rage.  And that’s the equivalent of poor gamesmanship around here. One occurrence of road rage might be forgiven, but if you repeatedly demonstrate road rage by ‘bumping’ the board or being cross with your fellow gamers, you run the risk of never being invited over for game night again.

Oh, sorry, I should have clairified (get it? Claire-ified) that I’m talking about Road Rage in the Mayfair Game Road Rally USA.  This is a fast-paced game that gives any driver – licensed or not –the chance to prove that you can rally from behind and beat your fellow racers just by keeping cool and using your wit. Granted, staying calm during Road Rally USA can be a challenge at times, even before the cars get on the road!  The first choice of car goes to the oldest player. (No wonder Mr. McPeters likes this game!)  This shouldn’t be cause for road rage, however.  It doesn’t matter which car you get.  It’s how you use your cards and strategize that matter in Road Rage USA.

I can see where jockeying for position could cause some drivers to become a bit irritated.  For example, if you land on the same space as another car, you must go directly behind that car, and if you drive as slowly as Mr. McPeters, that can cause a bit of frustration right there. But that doesn’t justify having a little ‘fender bender’ on the board and causing certain cars to go flying across the room, does it?  Certainly not!

Let’s claire-ify this right now (yes, I’m over-using the word ‘Claire-ify,’ but this is my blog so I can get away with it).  Being in the lead doesn’t make you the winner. To win Road Rally USA, you must be efficient about how you manage your fuel so you can come in first at checkpoints to maximize your points. If you find yourself behind the pack and feel the need for speed coursing through your veins, resist that urge!  The faster you go, the less cards you can draw.  And if you run out of cards, you run out of gas.  Try a few calming techniques to stay focused on HOW you will maximize your points.  Perhaps hum a tune, or remind yourself that being in the lead is not the way to win. Certainly, too much caffeine while driving might make a person jittery or anxious, so avoid those caffeinated drinks. You could alter the rules slightly so that at each checkpoint you have to have a lemon grass cookie and a glass of decaf sun tea.  That would put me in a good mood, even if I was trailing the pack.

As for adjustments to the game, if I could change one thing about Road Rally USA to reduce the number of road rage incidents, it would be adding a car wash to the board. Who doesn’t feel better when they get their car washed?  That would be a great way to lower stress.

Remember, when playing Road Rally USA, “Speed’s Not All You Need!”

Happy Racing!


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Don’t Follow the Herd

By Bob MacWordell

Don’t Follow the Herd, I tell you. They’ll get you into trouble every time. There’s the time I followed a herd of sheep down the street and sorely regretted it. I had just come out of a restaurant when I saw a mob gathering for no apparent reason. This of course piqued my curiosity, so I casually slipped into the fold. I didn’t know where they were headed, but I blindly followed… right to a large parking lot full of grills and a huge sign overhead that said “Welcome to the Fall BBQ Festival.” Well, I slipped out of there as fast I could, before anyone got the idea I’d look good slathered in honey BBQ, Mesquite BBQ, Rockin’ BBQ or any other sauce, especially those ending in BBQ!

What I learned that day will stay with me for the rest of my life. Sure, being adventurous can be fun, but it can also mean the difference between life and death. Always have at least some idea of what you’re getting yourself into before it’s too late to turn back. Granted, most gamers are not at risk in a lot full of hot empty grills waiting for a slab of prime meat, but let’s face it, gamers do have a tendency to dive into games without reading the rules first. Think of the dangers of diving into Oceania for the first time or jumping on the Australian Rails when you haven’t had a chance to build tracks in Empire Builder. If you are the type to leap without looking, then keep these tips in mind:

5 Tips For Playing A New Game

  1. Don’t cave when faced with a table full of experienced gamers and their strategies. Sit down, claim your territory, and focus on having fun (at least until you get good enough to win, then you can gloat…. I know that isn’t sporting, but it is fun, especially if you’re playing someone like Angus).
  1. Sit out for a game and observe other gamers. Ask them to explain their strategy (you’ll find they may whisper some of their replies, because protecting one’s strategy can mean the difference between winning and losing, life and death – just imagine if I had yelled “Make Way! Large Tasty Sheep coming through” during my hasty retreat at that BBQ festival).
  1. Join a Gaming Forum. Forums give you a chance to ask your questions about strategies or to clarify the rules. Here is one forum that is packed with strategy.
  1. Read and Play, Play, Play. There are several sites you can read up on the strategy for your game of choice. These blogs usually exist for the more challenging games like Settlers of Catan. You can learn useful tidbits from these pages. For example, this reviewer points out that, “There are only 3 brick and 3 ore tiles while there are 4 of every other type.” Not everyone knows that. This reviewer gives some useful tips on how to use the Robber to your advantage, why you should expand early, and how to trade for profit. He includes information on Seafarers of Catan and Cities and Knights as well. Find a strategy that appears sound and try it. It may or may not work for you, but you will learn from the experience, and maybe even devise your own strategy in the process. Most of all, keep playing! There is no substitute for playing the game.
  1. Don’t be afraid to lose. Chances are, unless you’re a Ram-tastic player from the start, you’re likely to lose for a while until you gain a better understanding of the game. Each time you play, the rules will become more familiar, and soon you will develop your own strategy. Try different strategies to see what does and doesn’t work.

In Conclusion

Remember, whatever else you do on game night, Don’t follow the Herd! Find what works for you, and always, and I can’t stress this enough, have fun!



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I Do DeClaire: Declaration of Independence

By Claire O’Brien

I’ve heard gamers complain that the world around them doesn’t understand their pursuit of fun and happiness through gaming. I agree that they are indeed often misunderstood, but at least they have the freedom to pursue their love of gaming. No one will tell them they can’t play Chicago Poker or Martian Rails, or where they should play. They can play in a park, at home, or on an airplane (though Catan Dice Game might be a bit easier to handle on an airplane). Sheep, on the other hand, are often prevented from pursuing happiness. Sure, while we’re finally allowed into Gaming Conventions and Exhibits (and that was a hard-fought battle I’ll have to tell you about another time), we’re not allowed to graze anywhere we like. Even public property such as a park is often off-limits to our grazing.

Some of my sheep friends think we should rise up against the government and form our own Ewe-nion. Unfortunately, we sheep aren’t organized enough to launch any type of grass roots organization, especially when we keep eating the grass – which is really the crux of our problem. We tend to be followers most of the time, not leaders. Nor do we have our own land… For that matter, we don’t really care where our land is – we just want to graze in peace without being chased out and accused of vandalizing the grounds! So, instead of writing a De-Claire-ation of Independence, perhaps I should demand full rights under the Constitution of the United States. After all, many of us were born here. We are citizens, and we deserve equality under the law! Unfortunately, sheep aren’t usually aggressive either, so demanding equality won’t work for us. A more subtle approach is required.

Adding an amendment to cover grazing rights may be enough to satisfy many disgruntled sheep without offending any humans. For you gamers who can’t relate, think of this as adding on the expansion maps Age of Industry Expansion #1 to the board game Age of Industry. A few slight adjustments to the wording of the Constitution of the United States might be appropriate too, to ensure all sheep understand where we stand (aside from forbidden parks).

I just started tweaking the Preamble from the Constitution of the United States. Let me know what you think:

We the Sheep of these Ewe-nited States, in Order to form a more perfect Ewe-nion, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the Ewe-nited States of Americaaa.

One day, I believe sheep will have equal footing with people. Until then, I’d appreciate any support you can give my cause. If you think this is a good idea, or you have any suggestions, please leave your comments on facebook or here on my blog . If you think I’m off my rocker, let me know, but please don’t tell Mr. McPeters (he’ll never stop teasing me!).

Happy Independence Day to all!


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