Mouhalabieh (pic by Patricia latelierdescouleurs on Pinterest)
The summer after my high school graduation I went to Israel to do unskilled labour on an archaeological excavation. Reading a guide book I found mention of a Near Eastern dessert pudding called mouhalabieh, “delicacy”. I asked for it at a couple of restaurants, but no luck. One Jerusalem café owner laughed and pointed to the ads in a newspaper for porn movie theatres in Tel Aviv, “There’s your mouhalabieh!”.
The memory floated up from deep storage the other day, and I googled for recipes. Turns out that I have kind of made mouhalabieh / muhallebi / malabi many times already. It’s simply sweetened milk thickened with starch: blancmangé or maizenapudding in Swedish. What mainly differentiates the Near Eastern version from the Northern European one is that it’s flavoured with rosewater and / or orange blossom, and topped with chopped nuts.
Travertine-forming rapids in River Krka at Roški Slap
Here’s the photo album from my recent ten days on Croatia’s Dalmatian coast. Most pix are from the town of Šibenik, various spots in the River Krka national park, the island of Zlarin and the hills north-east of Šibenik.
Dalmatia is an excellent December destination for a quiet vacation with walks, photography and reading.
16 December, and another blogging year gone by! I will remember 2018 as
- The year with the incredibly hot and dry summer
- My first post-academic year when I had five jobs
- The first election year when I was politically active
- My last Fornvännen year
Dear Reader, what will you remember 2018 for?
Extra likes for mentions of Croatia, high school teaching and forthcoming books about Medieval castles.
Yesterday was my last day as Managing Editor for Fornvännen, Journal of Swedish Antiquarian Research (est. 1906). I started in April of 1999 and so I’ve been involved in 20 annual volumes of the quarterly, almost 80 issues. It’s been fun, and a great education!
From the start I purposely grabbed as much responsibility as I could. A main reason was sheer careerism: I needed a better platform in academic archaeology than the shaky one I had as a PhD student. Another reason was that originally I was paid by the hour, so the more work the better. Fornvännen has been my one steady source of income for all these years. The Royal Academy of Letters is a very good employer and takes care of its people.
The Fornvännen editorship was the one big occasion where academic nepotism worked for me rather than against me. My thesis supervisor got me the job when I was only 27. As for being an academic platform, it certainly gave me more professional recognition and expanded my contact network enormously. But through the years I found that academic job application referees didn’t value the editorship very highly.
An unexpected drawback was that good editors make enemies in their line of daily work. One influential professor apparently became my sworn Nemesis after I turned down an exceptionally bad debate piece of hers. I guess it’s give and take: without the editorship far fewer colleagues would know who I am today, but fewer would also bear a grudge against me.
Still, the editorship was fun and valuable to me through the years, just in itself. But I always also saw it as a means to an end: tenure. In 2016-17 I finally came to accept how little meritocracy there is on the massively over-populated academic labour market in the Scandinavian Humanities, how gross the nepotism is there. I abandoned all ambition in that direction. And I’ve grown quite tired of copy editing and proofreading. So in February I told my co-editor friends that I’d do the four issues for 2018 and then resign on November 30.
I look forward to seeing what my highly qualified successor Dr. Peter Carelli, Editor-in-Chief Prof. Mats Roslund and the other eminent members of the editorial board will do with the journal. I wish Peter a long, happy editorship!
It was really good to come back to the annual boardgaming retreat after a year off. 48 hours at an off-season golf & country club near Trosa with fellow gamers.
I played thirteen sessions of twelve different games. To give you an idea of how popular each game is, I’ve included its current BGG rank in the list below. For instance, Container’s 586 means that right now there are 585 boardgames that the largely US-based users of Boardgamegeek.com rate more highly. But they have rated tens of thousands of games!
- 7 Wonders Duel (2015). Ranked 13. Neat two-player version of the excellent civilisation-building card game.
Azul: Stained Glass of Sintra (2018). Ranked 2104. Abstract tile game: a somewhat more intricate take on the basic ideas of last year’s hit Azul. Either is fun, either is enough.
- Century Spice Road (2017). Ranked 210. This cards & cubes game’s illustrations are nice, but there’s hardly any player interaction. Don’t know why it’s so popular.
- Chosön (2014). Ranked 3465. Card game with fun illustrations and some unusual mechanics. I’d like to play this again.
- Container (2007). Ranked 586. Container shipping & trade. We played a recent edition with massive plastic ships that would serve well as close-combat weapons. I didn’t understand the strategy at all, but I’d like to learn.
- Gaia Project (2017). Ranked 7. Civilisation expansion & development. Scifi re-skin of the 2012 fantasy hit Terra Mystica. Not great, not bad, huge replayability.
- Heaven and Ale (2017). Ranked 348. Euro game ostensibly about monks making beer, where the theme has little to do with the mechanics and player interaction is scanty.
- Koba Yakawa (2013). Ranked 2295. Minimalist card game with almost as few components as Love Letter and far simpler rules. Fun for what it is!
- Secrets (2017). Ranked 2094. Hidden roles game about CIA and KGB agents. I soon became completely confused.
- T.I.M.E. Stories (2015). Ranked 58. Beautifully illustrated co-op story game, like a shared choose-your-own adventure. The box contains the basic rules and hardware plus one fine scenario. It has roughly the same re-playability as a short novel has re-readability, though. Many additional scenarios are available, each costing 54% of the basic box’s price. Compare this to normal boardgames where you buy the basic box and happily play 25 times without having to buy anything more.
- Tichu (1991). Ranked 127. Interesting variation on the popular Chinese card game Zheng Fen, which combines trick-taking and hand-shedding. You can easily play Tichu with a normal Western card deck provided you can find four jokers or other extra cards with the same backs plus a felt-tip pen.
- Twilight Struggle (2005). Ranked 5. Long two-player cards-chits-board game about the Cold War. Fun for modern history buffs.
I’ve blogged before about the retreats in 2010, 2011, 2012, 2014, 2015 and 2016.