Octopus's Garden Issue Thirty-Nine

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HELLO, good evening and welcome to issue 39 of Octopus's Garden, the subzeen with its very own discussion of American counties. An html version of this subzeen is available on the Web at http://www.manorcon.demon.co.uk/octopus/index.html. It's also sent to the TAP mailing list, which you can join automatically by sending the message 'subscribe tap' to majordomo@igo.org. The message 'unsubscribe tap' sent to the same address will get you off the mailing list.


None at present. I have at least one stand-by for either/both of the games below, but more are welcome!


Conrad von Metzke writes :

You seem to know all manner of trivia, but here's one item anyway: The city of Seattle, Washington, is located in the governmental division of King County, named a century-and-summat ago for William Rufus DeV King - why, I have no idea, probably the earliest settlers who set up a government came from Alabama and wanted to honour one of their own - but in any case WRDeVK was of course a slaveholder and plantation owner, which is no longer Politically Correct in most places and particularly in a diverse and cosmopolitan - and rather liberal - area such as Seattle. So a couple of years ago the present-day County Fathers officially re-named King County. It's still King County, only now it's in honour of Martin Luther King, Jr.

((This would make rather more sense if the state itself wasn't named after someone who was not only a slaveholder and plantation owner, but also a traitor to his King. Or is that meant to be for Booker T. Washington now?))

For some reason this got my thoughts going to the question of county names throughout the US. In Britain it seems to me the counties are named mostly for the major towns in them, or for the old Anglo-Saxon or Welsh area names that have adhered for centuries. But in the US this is substantially not the case. In most of the original settlements (the "13 colonies" and the two additional New England states that were carved from them) the names are either transferred from English place names or are local Indian-origin names. But most of the rest of the country makes great use of 'honourary' names - in honour of early pioneers in the area, and a few Famous National People (Jackson, Jefferson, Adams and Washington are most common, plus Lee in the south). The exception seems to be California, where rather few county names are of people at all, and none for "famous Americans." The state is divided into 58 counties, and of those, only five are named for people (excluding saints, meaning the names taken on from Spanish days): Glenn, Humboldt, Kern, Stanislaus and Sutter. Of these, only one (Humboldt) is a person known outside local-area lore: He was the Russian admiral, and the county is in an area which was once the site of some Russian trading-trapping posts. Sutter is famous because it was on his land that the first gold was discovered in 1849, but apart from that he was not an"important" figure elsewhere. Kern and Glenn were both area pioneers. I have no idea who Stanislaus was - the county is actually named for the river that crawls through it, but where that name came from is unknown to me. (John Boardman would probably know, he was born there.)

Other colourful facts about the 58 California counties: In population the largest is of course Los Angeles with 9 million or so, the smallest is Alpine with barely one thousand. In area the largest is San Bernardino (20,000 sq. mi., twice the size of its closest competitor - but mostly the empty Mojave Desert land), the smallest is San Francisco at 46 sq. mi. That was exciting....

'Bye, and I won't do this sort of thing too often, Conrad.

((Why not?))

Okay, more sillies - the state with the fewest counties is Delaware (3) and with the most is Texas (254). Of course, many of the Texas ones are just tiny little nothings, probably extensions of someone's ranch in the days when each homesteader was a law unto himself....

As to Washington - the name of the state - there are two considerations: First, George was relatively well-known for things other than being a slaveholder and a cipher in the history books. Second, it is one thing for a county commission to make what amounts to a mere technical change, and quite another to rename a state. Actually, if they had actually been "renaming" the county, e.g. from King to Malcolm X, there would have been a bit more involved than just a resolution.

Certainly there have been a few renamings in this country, some with some controversy attached, but at least we haven't gone the wholesale route that the USSR did for years....

((One of the better "trick" trivia questions is "What was the name of Red Square (in Moscow) before the 1917 Revolution?" The answer is, of course, Red Square, as the name has nothing to do with communism, but is simply (I seem to remember) a reference to the original colour of the surrounding buildings.))

((I have no problems with re-namings per se, although it does worry me to see references to the Battle of Volgagrad or the Siege of St. Petersburg during World War Two (a.k.a. The Great Patriotic War). Changing a name back is one thing, trying to pretend the name was never changed is another. Remember Orwell's 1984 - "We are at war with Eastasia. We have always been at war with Eastasia."))

((Of course, living in a country that has the city of Londonderry in the district of Derry in the county of Londonderry, I can't really be too sanctimonious. For what it's worth, the parliamentary consitutuency ignores the city altogether and is called Foyle, after the river.))

Rip Gooch writes :

Thanks for the flattering reference in relation to standards of draughtsmanship. I loved doing those old maps. They were hand drawn using all my trusty old pens which are, sadly, in storage a long way away now. It would be great to take up the challenge again. I have put together various automated hex generating routines on CAD packages. I generated the original postal 1829 maps in AutoCAD, but the routines could be converted to something more user-friendly like AutoSKETCH or GenericCAD. Anyone with a rudimentary knowledge of Visual Basic or AutoLISP can put a routine together. Note that hexes are notoriously difficult to draw using traditional draughting methods!

((The main problem would be not so much the initial hex grid, but getting all the rivers and the like on the correct hexside. I would think this through more, but we have games to run:))

Round 1 -- "William Rufus de Vane King"

Railway Rivals Map TT (Leapfrog)

GOOCH, brown: Conrad von Metzke
1a) (Newcastle) - Gateshead [+ 6] ; 1b) (Gateshead) - L59 ; 1c) (L59) - Sunderland [+ 6]. = 20+12=32
BLUES, blue: Berry Renken
1a) (Newcastle) - G58 ; 1b) (G58) - F58 - F61 ; 1c) (F61) - Durham [+ 3]. =20+3=23
TURN, green: Rip Gooch
1a) (Newcastle) - I56 - I55 ; 1b) (I55) - I53 - H52 - H51 ; 1c) (H51) - Morpeth [+ 6] - I48. =20+6=26
PEAT, pink: Richard Weiss.
1a) (Newcastle) - G58 ; 1b) (G58) - Chester-le-Street [+ 6] - F61 ; 1c) (F61) - Durham [+ 3]. =20+9=29

Rolls for Round Two : 4, 4, 6. Could you all let me have Round Two orders by FRIDAY, 6th AUGUST, 1999 to Peter Sullivan, octopus@manorcon.demon.co.uk


PEAT - MOSS JOKE TELLERS ASSOCIATION: Peat and Repeat were in a boat. Peat fell out. Who was left? Peat and Repeat were in a boat, Peat fell out, . .

TURN - GOOCH: Usurping the family name? What cheek! If you can quote the text of the plaque affixed to the Bedlington watering hole, I shall bear no grudge. Be warned: Any references to broad gauge within press items associated with this game will be met with swift and ruthless retribution. In other words, my builds will become even more bizarre than usual.

PEAT - GOOCH: And the race is on. Any wine down here?

GENEVA: Well, the best (or at any rate, most convenient) off-license in Durham City is probably Blaneys, opposite the County Hotel. I understand the range of wines is very good, as they supply several of the Durham colleges' cellars.

TURN - All: The kind of problem which deprives one of a good night's sleep. In the absence of allocated exit hexes, I'm prepared to wager that three out of four players will take a similar route. The clear favourite is south, since there is a greater spread of numbers there. But the danger of taking a slightly different route and parallel building comes into play. To guard against this, why not go north? Monopolise the region and make everyone else pay! But what if all the others have thought this way? I've seen a few deckchair striped maps in my time! So, start double-guessing. How many will try to outguess the opposition? Everybody - so why ask? Go south, go north? Toss a coin - but, wait a minute, this is leapfrog. So does it really matter? Probably not. I'll carve a route through Jesmond and lower their house prices again. Serve 'em right. Bedlington, here I come!

Round 0 -- "John C. Breckinridge"

Railway Rivals Map TK

BOURBON (Barno's Old Unreliable Railway Bordering On Nothing), violet : Mike Barno
Start : Nashville
BLUES (Blue Locomotives Using Electric Steam), blue : Berry Renken
Start : Knoxville
REDNECK (Rebel Engines Departing Now, Eventually Conquering Kentucky), red : Neil Hopkins
Start : Hopkinsville
CUDZU (Countryside Under Developmental Zoning Unctions), green : Richard Weiss
Start : Morristown
TSR (Tennessee Sleepy Railways), orange, Andrew Glynn
Start : Rockwood

Rolls for Round One : 6, 6, 6. (All genuine, no re-rolls. Maybe I should take up professional Dungeons and Dragons character creating.) The deadline for Round One orders is FRIDAY, 6th AUGUST, 1999 to Peter Sullivan, octopus@manorcon.demon.co.uk

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