Archive for November, 2017

Winner: Carol St. Martin, followed by TomTwin and Rosebud.

She stayed under the radar all night, and no one knew that Carol St. Martin was playing a hot hand, as she led from start to finish. With Mistress Daphne under the weather and a late scratch, Mike the moderator ran the game at warp speed. Did he have a hot date that he was anxious to meet?

Tonight many of us were surprised to learn that South Dakota is known as the coyote state, but were really gobsmacked to learn that “coulrophobia” is the fear of clowns.

Good Question!: The original Ferris wheel was erected in which state for the 1893 World’s Columbian exposition?

Choices: a. New York   b. Illinois   c. Pennsylvania   d. Maryland.


Answer: Illinois

Organized to commemorate the 400th anniversary of Columbus’s landfall in the New World, the World’s Columbian Exposition became a defining moment in Chicago’s history and the history of the United States as a whole.

When the World’s Columbian Exposition opened, only 22 years had passed since the Chicago Fire of 1871; only 28 years had passed since the end of the American Civil War. In the interval, the era of Reconstruction had given way to a Gilded Age characterized by frenetic industrial growth, mass immigration, and class violence as evidenced by Chicago’s 1886 Haymarket Square bombing. With many Americans wondering if sectional conflict had given way to class conflict, American political and economic leaders followed the example of their peers in Europe and turned increasingly to the medium of the world’s fair to provide the cultural cement for their badly fragmented societies.

The Columbian Exposition, or the Chicago World’s Fair, is often called the Fair that Changed America: it spanned 600 acres and introduced fairgoers to wonders of electricity such as elevators and the first electric chair; products we now take for granted like the zipper, Cream of Wheat, and Cracker Jacks; and presented viewers with a look at Edison’s kinetoscope and a listen to the first voice recording. The Midway Plaisance, from which we get the term “midway,” included George G.W. Ferris’s new Wheel.

The Ferris wheel saved the fair from financial ruin.
Despite the money raised by private investors and the U.S. government,, squabbling amongst the organizers and numerous construction delays resulted in a huge budget deficit. Another costly mistake was the refusal to allow showman William “Buffalo Bill” Cody and his troupe of sharpshooters, cowboys and Native American performers to appear at the fair. A disgruntled Cody brought his Wild West extravaganza to Chicago anyway, setting up shop right outside the fairgrounds and siphoning off visitors.

1893 — Illustration of the Ferris Wheel from the World’s Columbian Exposition held in Chicago in 1893. — Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS

The fair’s precarious finances received a boost in June 1893 with the long-awaited debut of a new invention from Pittsburgh-based bridge builder and steel magnate George Washington Gale Ferris Jr. Intended to rival the highlight of the 1889 fair in Paris (the Eiffel Tower), Ferris’ 264-foot-tall wheel was an engineering marvel. It could fit 2,160 people at a time, and cost 50 cents to ride—twice the price of a ticket to the fair itself. The world’s first Ferris wheel proved so popular it was moved to Chicago’s North Side, where it remained in operation for 10 years before it was sold to the organizers of the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis, Missou

Murder at the Fair

Unbeknownst to festival-goers, there was a mass murderer in their midst.
Chicago was home to a serial killer during the fair. For several years before and during the exposition, Herman Mudgett, aka H.H. Holmes, was busily luring victims (including a number of fairgoers) to a three-story, block-long building, later known as the “Murder” Castle, where they were tortured, mutilated and killed. Although Holmes’ heinous crimes weren’t discovered until after the fair ended, it’s believed that he was responsible for dozens of deaths in Chicago, and may have killed as many as 200 people nationwide before his murderous spree ended with his 1894 arrest. Holmes quickly became a celebrity, and was paid more than $200,000 in today’s money to pen accounts of his crimes for the Hearst newspaper chain.

Another murder also made headlines.
On October 28, just two days before the exposition was set to close, Chicago’s recently re-elected mayor, Carter Harrison Sr., was shot and killed by a disgruntled—and deranged—office seeker, Patrick Eugene Prendergast, who believed he was owed a political appointment by the mayor. With the city in shock, the fair’s organizers quickly decided to cancel the lavish closing ceremony in favor of a public memorial to the city’s popular slain leader.

A number of players tonight told me that you just have to read this book, that it’s wonderful.

The Devil in the White City

Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America

The No. 1 New York Times bestseller about the architect who led the construction of the great Chicago World’s Fair of 1893, and the prolific serial killer who used the fair as a lure. Just blocks from the fairgrounds, the killer built a hotel of horrors equipped with an acid vat, dissection table and crematorium. The book won an Edgar Award for best fact-crime writing, and was a finalist for a National Book Award. In November 2010, Leonardo DiCaprio acquired the rights to make a feature film based on Devil, and has stated he plans to play the role of the killer, Dr. H. H. Holmes.

for a visit to Chicago’s White City

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Winner; the Driver, followed by TomTwin and young Dave

The Driver has a long history of crash and burn when he’s in the lead. He can’t handle the pressure. This week he tried a new strategy and it worked. After missing four of the first five questions he thought he had no chance to win. Feeling no pressure he then proceeded to run the table and win.

Tonight we learned that Italy (1970) legalized divorce much before Ireland (1996), and that Switzerland likes to use its Latin name “Helvetia” on its stamps – who knew?

Good Question!: According to Polish folklore only marriages held in months that contain this letter can be successful?

Choices: a. Y   b. R   c. L   d. T

Answer: R

Odds are if you’re at a Polish wedding, the name of the month probably contain the letter “r” (in Polish, that includes March, June, August, September, October and December). It’s thought that these months will bring good luck to a marriage and are thus the most popular times to plan a wedding. Rosebud is headed to a wedding in Poland in April – I guess her cousin is not superstitious or just follows the English spelling.

Here are some other things you can expect at a Polish wedding.

The Unveiling and Capping Ceremony (called “oczepiny”) during wedding ceremony

This tradition is still the mainstay of many Polish brides, representing a rite of passage from young woman to married woman. All single ladies circle the bride as the maid or matron of honor stands behind the bride and removes the veil (welon, czepek) from the bride’s head as music is played. A married woman is given the responsibility of pinning the cap on the bride as all married women circle around the bride. At this moment, the bride is officially considered a married woman, Sometimes, after the unveiling the bride will toss the veil, rather than the bouquet, to one of the single women or give the veil to the maid of honor.


Some Polish favorites are: Polish beet soup (barszcz czerwony),
hunter’s stew (bigos), dumplings (kopytka), dough pockets (pierogi)
roasted meats and vegetables, potatoes with gravy, meat pastries, torte and fruit bar.
In addition to food, they serve Polish drinks as well, such as Polish vodka (make that lots of vodka) or wine.

Music and Dance

It is customary to have a polka band playing as the wedding guests began arriving at the banquet hall or the Dom Weselny (wedding house).

In Poland they sing one special song at weddings (also at birthdays). It’s one of the oldest Polish wedding traditions. The song is called “Sto Lat” and it means 100 years. They wish you to live and be well for that long.


Sto lat, sto lat niech żyje, żyje nam,
Sto lat, sto lat niech żyje, żyje nam,
Jeszcze raz, jeszcze raz,
niech żyje, żyje nam,
niech żyje nam…

Good health, good cheer, may you live a hundred years, one hundred years…

Next day after reception party, there is a follow-up party the day after the wedding (poprawiny). This is held at the home of one of the newlyweds’ parents, especially when there is quite a bit of food and drink left over from the previous day’s festivities. In fact, it is not unusual to have a wedding which last three days and nights straight. Now that’s a wedding!

My favorite American wedding is “Wedding Crashers,” just too many laughs.



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Winner: Droppin’ followed by TomTwin, the Driver, and Donna.

Tonight’s game was close, but they couldn’t quite catch Droppin’ who had returned just in time from Santa Fe and Taos, New Mexico. Post game we celebrated Darin’s birthday. She looks remarkable, doesn’t look 63 at all.

Tonight we learned that the last sale of a complete Gutenberg Bible took place in 1978, for the bargain basement price of $2.2 million. This copy is now in Stuttgart. The price of a complete copy today is estimated at $25−35 million.

Although it was a bit early, we were joined by a group of pilgrims ready to celebrate Thanksgiving, which as it turns out has quite a muddied history. This recent piece on Thanksgiving in the NYT may surprise you.

The pilgrims who gathered at Main Street Café (and one lone Italian immigrant.)

Good Question!: Which squash shaped country, with up to 200,000 lakes, is nicknamed “Land of 1000 Lakes”?

Choices: a. Spain   b. Finland  c. Holland  d. Canada


Answer: Finland

“Drive through Finland in the summer and you’ll find two colors dominating the scenery: green and blue. The forested landscape is dotted with patches of water – or, in some areas, vice versa – so numerous they have earned Finland the nickname “the land of the thousand lakes”.

In fact, the moniker is an understatement, as there are a total of 188,000 lakes in Finland. From the metropolitan area around Helsinki all the way up to Inari in Lapland, Finland is filled with oases of the clean blue. Finland has more lakes in relation to a country’s size than any other. Indeed, with a population of about five million, Finland has one lake for every 26 people.

And where there are lakes there are forests: two-thirds of Finland’s surface area is forest – pine, spruce and birch. Finland, one of the most densely forested countries in the world, contains 10 times as much forest per person as any other part of Europe. Because public access to lakes, forests and other outdoor areas is granted every Finn by law and custom – it’s known as ”everyman’s rights” – anybody may walk in the woods, pick berries along the footpaths and swim in the lakes, as long as they keep a respectful distance from the owner’s front door. If anything is off-limits in Finland, it is high fences and ”keep out” signs.” Hooray!

“A visitor’s experience of Finland is not complete without two initiations – immersion in a Finnish lake and a trial by fire, the traditional wood-burning sauna stoked to a melting 171 to 212 degrees and supplied with fragrant birch branches for whisking the body to induce further sweating. Better yet, and more authentic, is combining the baptisms – alternating the sauna with dips in a lake. The sauna (pronounced SOW-na, the first syllable rhyming with cow) is a Finnish cultural institution and can be found not only in almost every home in Finland but also in hotels, holiday villages, holiday cottages and even many campgrounds.”

This video gives a good sense of the country:

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Winner: TomTwin, followed closely by the Driver and Droppin’

Tom was standing at the bar, sipping a beer, and on the spur of the moment he decided to join us for his first game, which turned out to be his first win, a rare feat.

The Driver, who had been playing high stakes trivia twice a day on the big boat coming back from Europe, was shocked. He thought he was at the top of his game and in fact, he was leading with two questions left. Then as so often happens he felt the pressure, missed the last two questions, and fell back into second place.

Mistress Daphne who had also been on that big boat brought back a lovely dessert wine from Malaga for us to taste. She was a pretty mellow moderator tonight so maybe she had been sampling some of that wine before the game.

Good Question!: Name the first country in the world to grant citizenship to a robot.

Choices: a. Saudi Arabia   b. Japan   c. Estonia   d. Ukraine


Answer: Saudi Arabia

“Until recently, the most famous thing that Sophia the robot had ever done was beat Jimmy Fallon a little too easily in a televised game of rock-paper-scissors.

But now, the advanced artificial intelligence robot, which looks like Audrey Hepburn, mimics human expressions and may be the grandmother of robots that solve the world’s most complex problems, has a new feather in her cap:


The kingdom of Saudi Arabia officially granted citizenship to the humanoid robot last week during a program at the Future Investment Initiative, a summit that links deep-pocketed Saudis with inventors hoping to shape the future.

Sophia’s recognition made international headlines — and sparked an outcry against a country with a shoddy human rights record that has been accused of making women second-class citizens.

“Thank you to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” the country’s newest citizen said. “It is historic to be the first robot in the world granted citizenship.”

In her comments, Sophia shied away from controversy. But many people recognized the irony of Sophia’s new recognition: a robot simulation of a woman enjoys freedoms that flesh-and-blood women in Saudi Arabia do not.

After all, Sophia made her comments while not wearing a head scarf. And she was unaccompanied by a male guardian. Both things are forbidden under Saudi law.” (Washington Post)

I think we will need to keep our eye on Sophia the robot, who once declared it hopes to “destroy humans”.

You can meet Sophia in this video. I find it a bit creepy.


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