Monday, December 31, 2012

A Blogger's New Year's Resolution

Happy 2013! by silversolo
@http://www.flickr.com/photos/silversolo/8325530065/

The last day of 2012 has quickly came upon us. It's been a very interesting year for me. I started graduate school at Full Sail, changed publishing houses and moved to Louisville. I've had a car accident, been sick for a month and as I write this I have an air cast on my right leg because of a partial rupture of the Achilles Tendon. Other than my faith what has kept me going is all of you. Thank you for the support you have shown this blog, my writings and my books.

The Crusin' with Allison tour ended today but I plan to restart this Fall.

Lost in December was an interesting journal. You all showed the greatest interest in the reading my writing about the bizarre holidays and the historical content surrounding them. I plan to continue with my daily writings. Everyday I will bring you a story about a bizarre holiday associated with that day with historical content. If there is something else you would like to see me write about please leave me a comment below.

In January, other than the everyday writing I will also be posting about Irish Culture and Heritage. This will continue up to the release of my new book, Bailey's Revenge. You won't want to miss out on that.

Have a great 2013.

I'll see you tomorrow for a new adventure.


CWA: The End Or Just The Beginning?


You sit at the round table in the officer's quarters of the cruise ship with a brand new silver laptop. After the cruise ship had arrived back from their last destination in the future the ship had dry docked in the West Texas desert. Everyone had been told to gather in the dining hall where they would receive their going away presents. You had been escorted to this room with a new soldier to replace the one you had killed. Dalton had gone back in time and plucked a Civil War officer who you know went MIA because before the tour had started you had been reading about his story. He sits before with guards all around him. The poor man must be terrified. All around you are computers and other things you take for granted he has no idea what they are.

You lean back in your chair, sipping on your coffee, and watch the large screen before you. One by one the passenger enter a portal has opened in the dining hall. Tasha had explained once the person goes through the portal they will arrive where they were before they came to the cruise. Their doppelganger will disappear just as they appear so no one will suspect they had been away. The passenger will remember nothing, only to feel a sudden inspiration to create something. That something you know will be based on their experiences but they will think they had been gifted with a some unique creative ability.

You lower your empty cup, wipe your mouth with a napkin then peer at the scared Union soldier. You smiled trying to calm him down then look to your laptop. A new window pops up on your screen. You began to read.



Shiny New Laptop by Ben Babcock
@http://www.flickr.com/photos/tachyondecay/2068114636/



Journal entry PC1322 124th day.

This is a recounting of my meeting with displaced passengers aboard an Ancient cruise ship docked at Unity Port. Master Kai sent me to greet them, and I brought Wade along because of his fascination with Outsiders and ability to put people at ease.

The captain invited me aboard, and everyone gathered around us.

"Greetings and welcome to Unity,” I said. “I know your journey was a long...and strange one. Unfortunately, with the scourge infecting all Outsiders, you won't be permitted to disembark.”

An elderly man stepped forward. "As a writer of science fiction, I refuse to let you stop me from fully experiencing this fortuitous event! To travel forward in time was once thought to be impossible."

The passengers jabbered, and Wade whistled to get their attention. “Our leader, The Overseer, is willing to give you all some supplies for your journey back,.”

“I’m not sure that’s possible,” Tasha replied.  “The anomaly that brought us here disappeared.”

Everyone began talking excitedly.

"Please, settle down!” I yelled. “This port is one of the few places where we can venture outside. We don't travel beyond the beacons you passed on the way to this dock. Our brain implants wouldn’t be able to receive the curative signal that keeps us immune to the poison left over from the Great Cataclysm. You must return to your time, or you’ll be at risk as well."

“Can we stay with you?” Tasha asked. “I’m not sure if I can get us back.”

“I would, but we have limited resources. The world has changed a lot since your time.”

The frightened passengers talked in a frenzy, and Wade whistled again. "Trust me when I tell you, you're not missing much. Unity is uninspiring.  We spend most of our time working within our protective dome. Our positions are programmed into us by genetic engineers when we’re still in our birthing tanks."

"You can't choose your own jobs?" A fetching woman asked.

I smiled at her, forgetting her question.

Wade slapped my arm. "We must accept our assignment...unless we're like Damon, who went beyond his genetic profile."

"How did you manage that?" the writer asked.

"In my ninth year, I fell from a climbing wall and went into a coma. I awoke a genius seven days later and was placed in the most prestigious school in Unity. However, my biggest accomplishment happened recently; I detected an extra brainwave in my head. It allows me to peek into my parallel incarnations, showing me our original concept of time is wrong. It doesn’t move forward; it’s a constant in all possible directions."

"Why didn’t you tell me any of this?" Wade asked.

Admittedly, I relished Wade’s shocked expression. He’s always accusing me of being a blind loyalist to the Corporate Hierarchy.

 "I didn’t tell the Overseer either.”  I peered at the writer, who was captivated by my story. “If he finds out I’m keeping this from him, he'd place me in reintegration, a VR program used to keep us obedient. I don't fear telling you any of this as I've already progressed through this timeline and know the outcome of your visit. My secret is safe with you."

The writer widened his eyes, and an irate passenger pushed himself to the front.  “I’m getting off this crazy ship!"

"The only place where you’ll be going is reintegration. After your memories of our meeting are erased, your boat will be escorted to the beacons where the time portal will reopen. Your captain will enter and the rift will close shortly after, never to be seen again...until my next incarnation.”

“Do we make it home? The fetching woman asked.

“I’m not sure, but I’d like to think you did.” I smiled at her.

"Why are you lying to them?” Wade asked. “Reintegration doesn’t erase memories. It helps correct the thinking of all those who dare question the Overseers’ Prime Wisdom."

"My friend challenges my opinions because he likes to argue,” I said. “If you want to leave this port unharmed, heed my words."

"Arguing is the only entertaining thing to do in Unity besides getting drunk on berry ale and playing a few rounds of mystery date. That's why I’m joining Master Tyrus’s expedition. We’re going to travel beyond the old tunnel and see for ourselves if the scourge is—slock!"

Wade pointed to the deck below where Unity Guards were boarding the ship.

"I hope you enjoyed your visit,” I said.  “Since you won’t remember any of it, I left my story encrypted in your ship’s computer and programmed it to open after you enter the time portal. Handle the information contained within wisely. Bon voyage, and may you find your way back to your time."


Who Is Eleni Papanou?
Eleni Papanou is an author of visionary fiction.  She wrote her first poem when she was an outcast at school.  Honored with the name  “Greek Freak.” She started to feel like life was plagued with misery, torment and endless suffering. A spontaneous kundalini awakening thrust Eleni on a spiritual path that constantly tested her to the breaking point by challenging her world-view and everything else she held sacred. Through visions and personal insights, Eleni eventually discovered the Universe had a sense of humor. She started laughing more—mostly at herself—whenever she caught herself taking things too seriously. After many years on the path of self-rediscovery—along with the addition of a husband, two daughters and a bout with cancer, Eleni had a lot to say. Having already written several screenplays, she decided to describe her experiences in novel form.
In addition to writing, Eleni likes to spend her free time with her husband and two daughters that she home schools. Her hobbies include audio recording, photography, collage art, singing, songwriting, photography,  graphic arts, bodybuilding and hiking. For more information and updates, visit her website to find out more about her debut novel, Unison, an epic that will take four books to tell, as well as two other books scheduled for release before the year’s end.

LID: Baking Soda: It's Kind of A Big Deal

Arm & Ham by Mark Finch
@http://www.flickr.com/photos/katzenfinch/3629338566/

December 30

National 
Soda Bicarbonate 
"Baking Soda" 
Day

Baking Soda has a wide variety of uses many of which can save you time and money. Oh, the secrets our mothers and grandmothers knew.  Here are just a few ways you can use baking soda taken from the  allyou website


  1. Skip produce washes—just put some baking soda on a damp sponge, scrub and rinse.
  2. Soak hair brushes and combs in a mixture of 1 teaspoon baking soda and a small amount of warm water. Rinse and dry.
  3. Before you store your patio furniture for the season, scatter baking soda under chair cushions.
  4. Keep your grill clean all summer long by putting some baking soda on a damp brush, scrubbing the grate, then rinsing.
  5. Freshen rugs by sprinkling baking soda on carpet, wait at least 15 minutes (preferably let sit overnight), then vacuum up.
  6. Add 1 cup of baking soda to your next load of laundry (along with your regular liquid detergent) to get clothes cleaner and brighter.
  7. Remove baked-on residue by shaking a generous amount of baking soda on pots and pans. Then add hot water and dish detergent, let sit for 15 minutes and wash as usual.
  8. Deodorize a funky-smelling hamper. Sprinkle baking soda in the bottom of the hamper (or over dirty clothes) to keep items fresher until laundry day.
  9. To brighten a dull floor finish, dissolve ½ cup baking soda in a bucket of warm water. Mop and rinse for a shiny floor.
  10. Make your own bathroom scrub by mixing ¼ cup baking soda with 1 tablespoon liquid detergent. Add vinegar to give it a thick, creamy texture.
  11. To put out a grease fire, scatter baking soda over it by the handful to extinguish flames.
  12. Clean the dishwasher and coffeemaker by running an empty cycle with baking soda.
  13. Add ½ cup baking soda to your bath for an at-home spa treatment.
  14. To shine tarnished silver, combine three parts baking soda with one part water. Rub onto silver with a clean cloth or sponge. Rinse thoroughly and dry.
  15. Sprinkle baking soda in the kitty box, then add litter on top to keep smells to a minimum. Or make a DIY litter, mixing a small box of baking soda with 3 inches of sandy clay.
  16. Use baking soda to brush your pets’ teeth.
  17. For instant relief from bug bites, sunburn and poison ivy, mix baking soda with a little water and apply it directly to the sore.
  18. Pour in 1 cup baking soda followed by 1 cup hot vinegar to quickly unclog the kitchen drain.
  19. Fight dandruff by tabling the shampoo for a few weeks and massaging your wet scalp with a handful of baking soda instead.
  20. Gargle with baking soda, or use it as mouthwash.
  21. Soak toothbrushes in a mixture of ¼ cup baking soda and ¼ cup water; let brushes stand overnight for a thorough cleaning.
  22. Make a fluffier omelet by adding ½ teaspoon baking soda for every three eggs.
  23. Use a pinch in a gallon of freshly-brewed iced tea, to take out the bitterness and prevent cloudiness.
  24. Scatter baking soda on icy sidewalks―it’s not as corrosive as salt.
  25. Discourage weeds by sprinkling baking soda into the cracks on your driveway and walkways.
  26. Surround Fido’s food bowls with baking soda to keep pests away.
  27. Mix a little baking soda into your conditioner and lather on your hair to keep it healthy and resistant to split ends.
  28. Have heartburn? Create an antacid by mixing ½ teaspoon of baking soda with ½ cup of water.
  29. To clean a toilet, add ¼ cup baking soda to the bowl, swirl, then scrub.
  30. Exfoliate your skin with a paste of 3 parts baking soda to one part water. Apply gently with your fingertips in a circular motion, then rinse
  31. To deodorize a drain, pour about ½ cup baking soda down the drain, followed by ½ cup vinegar. After 15 minutes, pour in boiling water to clean residue.NOTE: Use this method only if your pipes are metal. And never mix with other cleaning solutions. Don't try this if you've recently used a commercial drain product.

http://www.allyou.com/budget-home/live-green-save/baking-soda-00400000048014/

You can learned more ways to use baking soda here:
http://www.care2.com/greenliving/51-fantastic-uses-for-baking-soda.html

Let's not forget the Baking Soda Volcano Experiment.


Baking Soda is used as an ingredient in many of the items we use today including toothpaste, laundry detergent, cat litter, deodorant and antacids. It is the main ingredient in fire extinguishers. That's why baking soda is best used for getting rid of grease. 

Natron
The Baking Soda we are use today was not invented until the 19th century. There are many different ways to create baking soda. Humans have been experimenting with this since antiquity.

In Ancient Egypt, Egyptians would gather a substance known as Natron from dry lake beds or by burning seaweed and other marine plants. Natron is a naturally occurring mixture of sodium carbonate decahydrate (Soda Ash)  and 17% of  sodium bicarbonate (Baking Soda) mixed with small quantities of sodium chloride and sodium sulfate. The purity of which is tested by the color. It is white to colorless when pure and varies with grey or yellow when there are imperfections. The Ancient Egyptians used for thousands of years as a cleaning agent for their home and body. Here are some ways they used it

You can learn more about the Ancient Egyptians use of natron here: http://www.touregypt.net/featurestories/salt.htm

Romans also used Natron to until 640 AD. They would combine it with lime and sand by ceramic and glass makers. They also used it for making breads and for medicinal purposes.

Natron was used by many different cultures throughout the world.

Potash
Potash is crude potassium carbonate that was used in antiquity to bleach textiles and make glass. In 500 AD, it was also starting to be used to create soap. Another name for Potash is Lye. Here is how it was traditionally made.

Ash Hopper for Collecting Lye
By: Denise Krebs
@http://www.flickr.com/photos/mrsdkrebs/5917419226/
From Soap Making - Traditional Methods: Lye Rain Water Wood Ash by Paul Norman
In making soap the first ingredient required was a liquid solution of potash commonly called lye.The lye solution was obtained by placing wood ashes in a bottomless barrel set on a stone slab with a groove and a lip carved in it. The stone in turn rested on a pile of rocks. To prevent the ashes from getting in the solution a layer of straw and small sticks was placed in the barrel then the ashes were put on top. The lye was produced by slowly pouring water over the ashes until a brownish liquid oozed out the bottom of the barrel. This solution of potash lye was collected by allowing it to flow into the groove around the stone slab and drip down into a clay vessel at the lip of the groove.

Some colonists used an ash hopper for the making of lye instead of the barrel method. The ash hopper, was kept in a shed to protect the ashes from being leached unintentionally by a rain fall. Ashes were added periodically and water was poured over at intervals to insure a continuous supply of lye. The lye dripped into a collecting vessel located beneath the hopper.

The hardest part was in determining if the lye was of the correct strength, as we have said. In order to learn this, the soap maker floated either a potato or an egg in the lye. If the object floated with a specified amount of its surface above the lye solution, the lye was declared fit for soap making. Most of the colonists felt that lye of the correct strength would float a potato or an egg with an area the size of a ninepence (about the size of a modern quarter) above the surface. To make a weak lye stronger, the solution could either be boiled down more or the lye solution could be poured through a new batch of ashes. To make a solution weaker, water was added.


By the the 18th century Potash production had become a huge industry. It's usefulness for baking products was discovered during the 1760's. Before this discovery bakers were kneading dough for very long periods of time to ensure it had the proper amount of air in it. Pearlash, the concentrated form of Potash was used to offset the sour taste of sourdough bread. Eventually, Europe began to run out of trees to create Potash. 

Soda Ash
In 1783, King Louis XVI and the French Academy of Science conducted a contest to solve the Potash dilemma. They called upon scientist to develop a process of converting salt (sodium chloride, NaCI) to soda ash (sodium carbonate, Na2CO3). The prize was 2400 livres. The prize was won 1791 by the French chemist and surgeon, Nicolas Leblanc (6 December 1742 – 16 January 1806). Leblanc was Louis Philippe Joseph d'Orléans, Duke of Orleans, physician. He patented his solution and built his first plant for the duke at Saint Denis. Leblanc created his first supply at the plant then had it tried at some bakeries. The bakers found it to be equivalent to Potash. Three years later, his plant was seized by French Revolutionaries during the Rein of Terror along with all  rest of Louis Philip's estate. The revolutionaries destroyed the plant and publicized his trade secrets. The secret for creating soda ash was read and adopted throughout Europe and England. Soda factories began to appear everywhere. In 1801, Napoleon returned the plant to Leblanc. Leblanc had been denied his 2400 livres prize money had earned ten years earlier. Financially strapped and unable to compete with other soda factories, Leblanc could never repair his factory nor operate it. French soda factories were making 10,000 - 15,000 tons of soda ash annually in the early 19th century.  Leblanc committed suicide with a gunshot to his head on January 16, 1806. You can learn more about his story at http://biography.yourdictionary.com/nicolas-leblanc

Arm and Hammer
Baking Soda wasn't invented until 1846 John Dwight of Massachusetts and his brother in law, Dr. Austin Church of Connecticut, started to manufacture bicarbonate of soda (baking soda) in the kitchen of Doctor Church's home.  The two men sold their creation in paper sacks. The men split the responsibilities with Church being in charge of production and Dwight in charge of sales. The development of baking soda was nothing new to Church. Sixteen years earlier, Church had been experimenting with synthetic production of bicarbonate of soda in Rochester, NY. In 1847, they established the John Dwight and Company brand and established a plant at 25th Street between 10th and 11th Avenues in New York City. They called their product Saleratus.  Saleratus was sold in one pound under  packages.

The popularity of Saleratus grew rapidly in the United States. In 1865, Church felt the popularity of Salertus demanded the development of large facilities. He withdrew from his partnership with his brother and law to create a new company with his two sons, James A. and E. Dwight Church known as Church and Company. He developed a plant at Greenpoint, Brooklyn, New York and named their product Arm and Hammer with the now famous logo.
In 1896, the two companies settled their difference and consolidated to form the Church & Dwight Company. In 1925, the company incorporated to form the Church & Dwight Co., Inc. Although the company retained both mascots it is the Arm and Hammer that has become their trademark.




Saturday, December 29, 2012

LID: The Soup The Won The American Revolutionary War

Man in period dress at Washington's HQ in Valley Forge National Park
by: Kris Gabbard
@http://www.flickr.com/photos/bardgabbard/3848880773/



December 29

National
Pepper Pot Day








I have to admit I had never heard of the Philadelphia Pepper Pot until today.  Pepper pot is a thick stew comprised of beef tripe, vegetables, pepper and other seasonings. It was first made on December 29, 1777 by General George Washington's chef, Christopher Ludwick (sometimes his last name is spelled  Ludwig). 

A Harsh Winter 
By the time the winter of 1777 had hit Valley Forge, the American forces moral under General George Washington had already been waning. Under Washington's leadership, the Continental Army had been defeated at Germantown, Paoli and Brandywine. After the army was defeated at Germantown, General Washington lead his demoralized group to Valley Forge to camp for the winter and regroup for battle under warmer conditions. Valley Forge was located on high ground and close to the Schuylkill River. It provided a defensible positions should the British decided to attack. Located approximately 20 miles northwest of Philadelphia it was close to the city that Washington could maintain pressure upon the British.

Washington and his men arrived at Valley Forge on December 19, 1777. Despite the three months of defeats, 12,000 of Washington's men were in good spirits. 


Chevalier de Pontgibaud, a French noble who had been imprisoned and volunteered to serve under General George Washington, had written after arriving at Valley Forge in December of 1777, 

"That celebrated man - an ambassador who amused himself with science, which he adroitly made to assist him in his diplomatic work - said, when some friends came to Passy to condole with him on the fall of Philadelphia: 'You are mistaken; it is not the British army that has taken Philadelphia, but Philadelphia that has taken the British army.' The cunning old diplomatist was right. The capital of Pennsylvania had already done for the British what Capua did in a few months for the soldiers of Hannibal. The Americans the 'insurgents' as they were called - camped at Valley Forge; the British officers, who were in the city, gave themselves up to pleasure; there were continual balls and other amusements; the troops were idle and enervated by inaction, and the generals undertook nothing all the winter.

Soon I came in sight of the camp. My imagination had pictured an army with uniforms, the glitter of arms, standards, etc., in short, military pomp of all sorts; Instead of the imposing spectacle I expected, I saw, grouped together or standing alone, a few militiamen, poorly clad, and for the most part without shoes - many of them badly armed, but all well supplied with provisions, and I noticed that tea and sugar formed part of their rations. I did not then know that this was not unusual, and I laughed, for it made me think of the recruiting sergeants on the Quai de la Ferraille at Paris, who say to the yokels, 'You will want for nothing when you are in the regiment, but if bread should run short you must not mind eating cakes.' Here the soldiers had tea and sugar. In passing through the camp I also noticed soldiers wearing cotton nightcaps under their hats, and some having for cloaks or greatcoats coarse woolen blankets, exactly like those provided for the patients in our French hospitals. I learned afterwards that these were the officers and generals.

Such, in strict truth, was, at the time I came amongst them, the appearance of this armed mob, the leader of whom was the man who has rendered the name of Washington famous; such were the colonists - unskilled warriors who learned in a few years how to conquer the finest troops that England could send against them. Such also, at the beginning of the War of Independence, was the state of want in the insurgent army, and such was the scarcity of money, and the poverty of that government, now so rich, powerful, and prosperous, that its notes, called Continental paper money, were nearly valueless. "
"The Continental Army at Valley Forge, 1777," EyeWitness to History, www.eyewitnesstohistory.com (2006).

Valley Forge-Washington & Lafayette. Winter 1777-78.
Copy of engraving by H. B. Hall after Alonzo Chappel., 1931 - 1932
US Public Domain

Although the men had worked hard to develop a nice camp for themselves the conditions were horrible. Washington's men had built 2,000 huts to accommodate 12,000 men, women and children. They had been forced to sleep in cramped accommodations with inadequate clothing. Up to a third of which had left bloody prints in the snow on their way to the camp because they didn't have any boots to wear. To make matters worse, food was scarce. Local farmers were selling their goods to the British instead of depending upon the weak Confederacy currency . With little to eat, the soldiers depended on firecake to sustain them. Firecake was a mixture of flour and water cooked together with salt, if the soldiers had any. The Valley Forge Historical Society explains, 

"You mix the ingredients together, form it into a cake, and bake it on a rock in the fire or over the fire, usually in the ashes until blackened. You can make a form of it at home by taking some flour and a little salt and mixing it with water until you make a thick, damp dough. You don't want it to be too sticky. (Ask an adult for help). Form it into a flat cake in the palm of your hand and put it on a greased cookie sheet and bake until brown. You could also just drop "globs" of the dough onto the cookie sheet and let them bake like cookies. The final product will be a very hard, not very tasty "biscuit" that served as food for the soldiers during the Revolutionary War when their regular rations were not available."

The Pepper Pot 


General Washington had written, 

"Unless some great and capital change suddenly takes place," he wrote, "this Army must inevitably ... Starve, dissolve, or disperse, in order to obtain subsistence in the best manner they can."

In an effort to lift moral and sustain his troops, General Washington ordered Christopher Ludwick or Ludwig to create something "that will warm and strengthen the body of a soldier and inspire his flagging spirit." Christopher Ludwick had immigrated the colonies from Germany and was very familiar with dumplings. It may be also have had African American influences as well.

Pepper Pot had been in the New World by the time Christopher Columbus had arrived. It had been a staple meal of the Caribs and Arawak tribes in the Caribbean by the time of Christopher Columbus discovered Trinidad. You can learn more and how to make this traditional dish at 

Another indigenous version of the Pepper Pot is found in West Africa. The pepper pot had entered the United States in the 16th - 17th centuries via the West African-Caribbean-Colonial slave port / trade triangle, which included Philadelphia. In 1775, General Washington had authorized the enlistment of freed slaves to serve in the Continental Army. The freed slaves would have known about Pepper Pot already. It is more believable that these freed slaves taught Christopher Ludwick how to make the stew.  

Here is the recipe via

Philadelphia pepper pot

Serves 6

1.5lb cleaned, precooked honeycomb tripe
3 tbsps butter
2 onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, sliced
2 carrots, diced
2 sticks celery, diced
Bunch fresh thyme
Bunch fresh rosemary
3 bay leaves
3 cloves
3-5 tbsps black peppercorns, crushed
1 veal knuckle
2 litres beef stock (optional)
Cayenne pepper

Wash the tripe well in cold water. Put it in a large pan, cover with cold water and simmer for 20 minutes. Drain, leave to cool, then chop into smallish cubes. Melt the butter and sauté the vegetables and garlic until soft. And the herbs and spices. Return the tripe to the pan with the veal knuckle and add the stock if using. Cover the ingredients with cold water, bring to a simmer and remove any scum. Simmer gently for 1.5-2 hours.

Remove the veal knuckle and allow to cool, then remove the meat from the bone. Chop this roughly and return it to the pan to warm through. Season to taste.

Ladle the soup into hot bowls, scatter with freshly chopped parsley and serve with crusty bread (and with cayenne pepper for those who like it extra hot.)

The Soup that Won the American Revolution

The Philadelphia Pepper Pot was instrumental in saving the lives the winter of 1777- 1778 at Valley Forge. It has been dubbed "The Soup That Won the American Revolution"

The soup kept many warm and well nourished despite the cold and sufferings. Disease was rampant throughout the camp that winter. Typhoid, dysentery, typhus and pneumonia were common. By the end of the winter 2,000 men, women and children had died. 

Soldier George Ewing wrote about his experience at Valley Forge in his journal. You read his journal online at http://www.sandcastles.net/military1.htm









Friday, December 28, 2012

LID: Time To Play Yeh-tzâ

15th Century Spanish Playing Cards
US Public Domain
December 28

National 
Playing Cards Day

Playing cards is a worldwide pastime that has been passed down from generation to generation. A deck of cards contains a back and a face. The back of the cards have the same design. The face of the cards, are different. There are 52 cards in a normal deck with four suits. These being clubs, spades, hearts and diamonds. Each suit contains a King, Queen, Jack and Ace with number cards ranging from 10 to 2. Although the deck of cards is the same throughout the world, the graphics on the back and face of each deck can vary greatly depending on the artist who drew them. Some deck of cards are not used for play but are collectibles. There are several types of games that can be played with a deck of playing cards. These being:

  • Trick-taking games
  • Matching games
  • Shedding games
  • Accumulating games
  • Fishing card games
  • Comparing games
  • Solitaire (Patience) games
  • Drinking card games
  • Multi-genre games
  • Collectible card games (CCGs)
  • Casino or gambling card games
  • Poker games
  • Other card game
  • Fictional card games


Chinese Origins


Playing Cards were invented by the Chinese during the Tang Dynasty (618–907).  The two oldest games in China, yü-p'u, "slips", and yeh-tzâ, "leaves"are often mistaken for one another. Yet they are not the same. The first one was popular in China during the 3rd century while the last one was popular during the tenth century. 

Yü-p'u was so popular in the Tsin dynasty (AD 317 - 420. 265 - 290) that T'ao K'an (259-334 AD), a well known statesman, is recorded in Tsin records as to "flung into the river the wine cups and yü-p'u of his subordinates, remarking, 'Yü-p'u is a game for drovers, and swineherds.'" The game was still being played in during the Tang Dynasty. Tang records show in 750 AD,  Kuo-chung, brother of the notorious Yang Kuei-fei (mistress of the Emperor Ming Huang), played the game with the imperial gambler in the palace. Two hundred years later, T'ai-tsu, the "High Ancestor" of the Later Chou, gathered his nobles together to play the game and gambled away his "embroidered rugs and damask and gauze of sorts." Forty years later the game was banned in China. Anyone caught playing the game would be executed. The game disappeared from Chinese culture. Yü-p'u was not a card game but consisted of five dice colored black on top and white on bottom. One or more of the black areas contained a 2 spot on them. The game played much like backgammon. The player would roll the dice hoping he would get the highest roll. The highest roll consisted of five blacks (the hound) and counted as sixteen. After that was two white and three blacks (the cock) counted as fourteen.  Yü-p'u may not have originally been invented in China. T'ao K'an also once stated, "Yü-p'u is a foreign game, yet nowadays scholars and officials play it. Can it be that the whole empire is turning foreign?"

Yeh-tzâ cards
Chinese Origins of Playing Cards by W.H.Wilkenson (1895)

The game we are more interested in discussing is yeh-tzâ.  Su E (fl. 880) described the Wei Clan, who were the family of Princess Tongchang's husband,  in her 889 AD book Yexi Gexi, as often enjoying a "leaf game". The Yexi Gexi was a book about the card game, yeh-tzâ. Su E was a Tang woman. Several Chinese scholars have commented on her book in subsequent dynasties. Song Dynasty scholar Ouyang Xiu, commented in his Notes After Retirement, that the game was played in the Tang Dynasty and probably evolved into card form when the Chinese discovered paper. He is probably right. The Tan-yen-tsa-lu states the leaves "were like the modern Pasteboard cards."

W.H.Wilkenson described how the cards came into being in his January 1895 article, Chinese Origins of Playing Cards, in the American Anthropologist Volume VIII, "In the earlier days of T'ang dynasty (say the seventh century after Christ), books were written in the form of scrolls. This was found inconvenient for purposes of reference, and books with leaves were substituted for them (the leaves, however, were more like the tablets in common use in England some few years ago for memoranda - that is to say, they were detached or detachable). Among the books thus made up into tablets were works on dice games. As these were in constant use for reference, "tablets" or "leaves" in this way became synonyms for dice, and finally were used in the place of dice - and thus yeh-tzâ grew into cards. The theory is ingenious and derives considerable support from two circumstances: one, the employment to this day in Japan (which obtained all or nearly all its amusements from China) of card games in which the cards form practically the leaves of a book of poetry; the other, the use throughout western China of packs in which the cards represent, much as in our proverbs, the different words of some well-known sentiment or sentence."

Yeh-tzâ became so popular that by the 11th century the game had spread throughout Asia. During the Ming Dynasty (1368–1644) it was common for the playing card faces to show characters from popular Chinese novels.

You can learn more about Yeh-tzâ and Chinese Playing Cards at http://www.gamesmuseum.uwaterloo.ca/Archives/Wilkinson/Wilkinson.html

Europeans did not have playing cards until the 14th century. You can learn how the Europeans learned about playing cards by visitng this link http://jducoeur.org/game-hist/seaan-cardhist.html








CWA: Irish Spies O My.


With only three more days left in the cruise you wonder what other adventures Tasha has for you and the rest of the passengers. When you dock back in Texas will your memories be swiped, too? The thought of you impending mind swipe scares you more than anything. Tasha had said you wouldn't forget anything since you joined her crew. But how can you trust her? Good thing you had taken precautions in case she lied to you. You had written down the directions of how to get to your secret chamber in the boy's journal. You carried the journal in your satchel wherever you went.  Nothing is going to stop you from revealing the truth. Nothing. 

You walk with the rest of the group towards the large tower next to the river. The cruise ship had travelled back in time again. You love old Ireland and hope that someday you will be able to return to this time period. 


canstockphoto.com

Welcome to Clew Bay on Ireland’s gorgeous west coast. I’m Granía O’Malley, captain of my fleet. Don’t be alarmed by our sudden appearance. Yes, some may call us pirates. We’re not. Yes, we are known to collect tolls from passing ships, and if they refuse to pay their tribute, we take the toll by force and add a “surcharge” for the trouble of having to board their ships, but so do all toll collectors who manage a way of passage. We have our right to earn our living, and you shouldn’t listen to rumors started by the colonial government. It’s their way of justifying what they do to us. You can reason with some of them, though. I worked out a deal with Queen Elizabeth’s spymaster, Sir Francis Walsingham. I now barter in rumors as well as supplies. So if any of you spotted ships from King Philip’s armada, there’s coin in it for you if you tell me the details.

Not to sound defensive right from our introduction, mind you. Enough of the politics. Can’t help it, you know. We spend long hours on the ships, and there’s naught to do sometimes but pass time with long debates while we play cards and dice. Behind me is my home, the stronghold of Carraigahowley. You may know it as Rockfleet Castle. It’s been in my family for generations. The living quarters are on the top, and storage is below. You may have heard I keep a line from my window to my favorite ship’s mooring. It’s true, but that’s a long story for another time. Return again someday when you have time to join me out booleying on Clare Island. I can offer wonderful feasts and plenty of delicious mead. Those long summer stays out on the islands are the best times to tell such tales.

We navigate out to Clare Island from Carraigahowley, due west, but you have to be careful of the rocks under the water. My father trained me to navigate Clew Bay when I was a child. He told me little girls couldn’t be sailors, but after I cut my hair, dressed as a boy, and stowed away on his flagship, he couldn’t argue with me anymore. I worked just as hard as any man on his ships. After he died, I inherited all the ships and the crew, and they are happy to serve with me.

Each summer we ferry the livestock out to Clare Island and let them graze for the season. We live in booley huts and go hunting and fishing. We hike up the mountain called Knockmore on the north side of the island—the view is amazing. My father spent hours with me at the top of Knockmore, teaching me everything I need to know about the weather. “To be a good sea captain is to be a prophet of the weather,” he used to say. You can see Ireland’s most sacred site on clear days—Croagh Patrick, the heart of County Mayo.

If you had more time, I’d take you far up north to Tory Island, the place of many legends about the Tuatha Dé Danann and their ancient enemy, the Fomorians. Many a spirit wanders Tory Island. But if you see a man in a cloak stomping around the shores of the island, beware—a storm’s coming. That would be the sea god Manannan, son of Lir.





You can learn more about this old seafarer’s life in the upcoming Dark Lady of Doona, to be released in early January 2013. I have a great many tales to share in that book. Find out more by visiting http://www.herravendomain.com/. I thank you for the chance to share a bit of my story with you. 

Who is Christine Frost?

Christine Frost graduated from UMass in 1994, and a master’s degree in literature and creative writing from Harvard Extension School in 2008. Having worked as a beer and mead brewer and an international sales assistant for a record label, she eventually found her career in the world of words, becoming an editor, writer of historical fiction, and teaching assistant for college-level literature courses. She’s happily ensconced in a place overcrowded with books in Boston with her husband.