Category Archives: Vikings

And, in Viking news…

lastDid you know that Bernard Cornwell’s wonderful Saxon Tales have been made into a series by the BBC? The first season is based on The Last Kingdom, and premiered Saturday night.–by–Bernard-Cornwell–5692

The first episode is awesome. There’s a touch of humor as a wordy priest nearly drowns Uthred while baptizing him, a touch of gore when Uthred’s older brother (the former Uthred)’s head is cut off and thrown at the feed of Uthred’s father, and some wonderful dragonship sailing. The series seems like it’s going to stay true to the novels and keep historical verisimilitude. Yay!

Thomas Del Watkins, II.

ThomasDelWatkinsMy father passed away last week. This is my eulogy from his service.

Dad was a soldier. He was a husband and a father. He was a teacher, a patriot, and a hero. Those are big words, but I don’t use them lightly. He was a quiet man, but deep and serious, interested in the world of ideas and knowledge and always ready to share his thinking. I had a few stories I wanted to share which you might not have heard before about Dad.

Dad was a teacher by nature, although not by profession – he did come from a family of teachers. His head was an encyclopedia of knowledge about most any topic. If you wanted to know the history of the Federal Reserve Board, or how steel is made, he could tell you. He was also extremely practical and hands on. He taught me how to make furniture by hand, there’s a bookshelf in the house we made together. I would always try to sit down and do it. He told me, “You can’t work sitting down“. Ironic as I make my living sitting down now, but I understood him to mean, “you can’t take shortcuts”.

One day he was changing the oil in the car and listening to the radio (boy did he love his radio), and teaching me how to change the oil. A news story came on, I forget the details but somebody had done something questionable to make millions of dollars. Dad said something that’s stuck with me to this day, he said, “There’s so many people who will sacrifice their principles for a few bucks“. And I knew he didn’t mean a few bucks, he meant millions, but compared to his principles, that’s what it was to him. I didn’t want to be one of those people. He always wanted his children not just to be better off than he was, but more importantly to BE better than he was, and he and my mother were a team in making that happen.

Dad knew that money wasn’t worth your principles, but he was always interested in the theory and practice of money. He was a child of the depression and the war and was extremely frugal. He’d take on the hard jobs in the military because he got paid more and eventually started his own business after retiring from the military. He was always very interested in the investing and the stock market. A few years back we bought him an iPad, and it was like an artifact from the future for him, he could sit in his chair and get instant stock quotes and research, and it was such a joy to watch, I didn’t think I’d ever get an email from him but I did.


I mentioned Dad was a soldier and a hero. Dad did two tours in Vietnam, was career military, and was awarded numerous commendations. He received the following commendations:

  • Bronze Star with V Device (our nation’s fourth highest award for bravery (Valor) in combat)
  • Purple Heart
  • National Defense Service Medal
  • Parachutist Badge
  • Ranger Tab
  • Combat Infantry Badge
  • Air Medal
  • Meritorious Service Model (2nd oak leaf cluster)
  • Army Commendation Medal (1st Oak Leaf Cluster)
  • Vietnam Service Medal
  • Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal
  • Honor Medal China
  • Republic of Vietnam Staff Service Medal 1st Class
  • Republic of Vietnam Armed Forces Honor Medal 1st class
  • Meritorious Unit Commendation
  • Republic of Vietnam Cross of Gallantry with Palm
  • Republic of Vietnam Civil Action Medal First Class
  • Bronze Star (2nd Oak Leaf Cluster)

I’d like to tell you the story of his bronze star and the purple heart.

[Read from newspaper clipping]

bronze star

Like many veterans, Dad didn’t like to talk about anything special he’d done. As he said, “you just do what you have to do and don’t make a big deal out of it.” But we’d sit up late many times, there might have been a drink or two involved, and one night he told me the story. Those of you old enough to remember Paul Harvey the radio guy, he’d say, “And now for the rest of the story”. Dad said, “Here’s the part I never told anybody before”. He said it was SO hot in Vietnam, they’d all sleep completely naked. He said the entire rescue, he didn’t have a thing on except a pair of Army boots. But he’d never wanted to tell to tell that part, but it gives you a sense of what he was capable of.

Dad had a great life, and together with Mom made a great family, and he will be missed.

And in Viking News, The Vikings traded with the arab world

Arab ring found in Viking hoard

More than a century after its discovery in a ninth century woman’s grave, an engraved ring has revealed evidence of close contacts between Viking Age Scandinavians and the Islamic world.

Man, that’s a long way to sail in a longboat. Down the coast of Europe, across the Mediterranean and back….Reminds me of Michael Crichton’s Eaters of the Dead, where an Arab journeys with the Vikings…or Stephen Lawhead’s Byzantium, where an Irish monk turned Viking goes to the Mediterranean.

And in viking news, interesting thoughts on a Viking war game / board game

You Have to Play This 1,600-Year-Old Viking War Game. Especially if you’re a diplomat, soldier or spy, says one ex-spook, says Robert Beckhunsen in this recent article.

Hnefatafl is a Viking’s worst case scenario: Outnumbered, cut off from their boats—and on the verge of being massacred. Understanding the game played by Viking war parties on the way to raid England of its booty meant understanding something about the way the Vikings saw themselves. The total time spent playing the game may have been more than any individual warrior spent sacking the Anglo-Saxons, for instance.”

Hnefatafl is interesting because it’s asymmetric – White has 12 “hunns” and has to hustle their king to one of the safe castles to keep him alive, whereas Black has 24 “hunns” and is trying to hem in, capture and kill the King. Ex-spook Kristan Wheaton thinks it’s great training for military and political thinking:

“I love the asymmetry in this game. To win in this game, you absolutely have to think like your opponent,” emails Kristan Wheaton, a former Army foreign area officer and ex-analyst at U.S. European Command’s Intelligence Directorate. “Geography, force structure, force size and objectives are different for the two sides. If you can’t think like your opponent, you can’t win. I don’t know of a better analogy for post-Cold War conflict.”

While Hnefatafl is almost extinct as a game, there are in fact world championships – e.g. here in Scotland last year.