The Melon Meets Mercury

There’s a lot of excitement about new photos from the hot planet Mercury, and the news drew a response from an old friend in the enhanced food business – Dr. Larry Kyle of Genway, the supermarket for genetically engineered foods.

Greetings, virtual space travelers!

I’ve been waiting over six years for the Messenger spacecraft to arrive at Mercury, thinking all the while about the ways we can take parts of our natural world and blend them with equally natural parts of other worlds!

Yes, I work in a grocery store, but why should I let that limit my thinking? We can draw inspiration from anywhere, and the universe is full of useful ideas if only we will allow ourselves to dream and not be deterred by nagging questions like “why”?

Look at this amazing photo that was taken just two days ago!

A rare close up of the planet Mercury orbiting an angry sun?

Good guess, but No! It’s Genway’s new EXTREME Cantaloupe!

The cantaloupe is a wonderful melon – golden like squash but sweet like candy, it’s easy to love and fun to eat. But so limited! After you cut it open, scoop out the seeds and cut it into slices or chunks, there’s little left you can do with a cantaloupe except make a cold soup. And I hate cold soup!

Inspired by the Messenger mission, I decided to create a craggy bit of spherical produce that was up to the rigors of outer space, particularly the type of scorching heat and intense cold endured by Mercury in its slow rotation so close to our intense and merciless sun.

I combined normal cantaloupe DNA with genes taken from deep-sea creatures that live near boiling steam vents in the intense cold of the lower depths of our vast oceans. The result? A sturdy fruit with a tough outer shell that that can be tossed in the freezer or the bonfire, with delicious results!

Finally, an easy way to make HOT cantaloupe soup. Here’s how:

Ingredients:

1 Genway EXTREME Cantaloupe
1 sprig of mint

Tools:
1 pair Welder’s Goggles
1 Industrial Blast Furnace
1 pair Insulated Tongs
1 Impervious Robot with Remote Drilling Capability

Take the EXTREME cantaloupe, and using welder’s goggles to protect your eyes from the glare, open the door to the raging blast furnace and toss in the fruit.

Leave it in there for ten full minutes, or until the rugged surface of the melon appears hopelessly charred and totally unable to support life as we know it.

Using insulated tongs, remove the EXTREME cantaloupe and set it on an insulated, ceramic surface.

Making sure that you are more than 20 feet away from the EXTREME cantaloupe, instruct your Impervious Robot to drill a hole in the rugged crust. A jet of sweet, superheated steam will erupt, filling the room with a golden warmth that may also fuse exposed parts of your robot together into a single, useless mass.

If the robot is still operational, have it pour the bright golden molten contents of the EXTREME cantaloupe into an asbestos bowl.

Periodically touch the surface of the soup until it does not raise blisters on your skin.

Toss on the sprig of fresh mint, and Enjoy!

On the drawing board – Saturn Squash, surrounded by rings of butter!

Share a recipe or a story about food that is Too Much Trouble to make.

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Ask Dr. Babooner

Dear Dr. Babooner,

They say it is the custom to disguise one’s identity when addressing the great Dr. Babooner, but I am not afraid! My greatness and your greatness can stand side by side because there is something about your face that tells me we are like a brother and sister.

As my sister, you will already know that I do not ask for advice – I share my wisdom with the people. What I have for you today is this – when you are told you must leave a place, especially if it is a place where you have been comfortable for quite some time, it is best to be defiant! Yes, one could pitch one’s tent elsewhere, but the world is unkind to those who are easily dislodged. Jet lag, for example, is God’s vengeance on the weak-willed. Boldly express your insanity and make your critics move instead!

I have no question other than this: How magnificent am I?

Irrationally,
Moammar

I told Moammar he did not appear at all on my personal magnificence chart, but as a provocative, incoherent ranter he is right up there with Charlie Sheen. Saying fatuous, inexplicable things is a well-trod path to getting attention in the world today. However, a publicity-seeking person taking the crazy dictator approach should know when to cash in and move on. Given what I’ve heard about his personal situation at this point, if offered a slot on a reality show, Moammar should take it. Donald Trump’s “The Apprentice” would be a perfect vehicle for him. Perhaps the next season could also include Mr. Sheen for a guaranteed ratings bonanza in the first week at least. But it would be wise to get paid in advance.

I did allow that he might have a point about jet lag.
But that’s just one opinion. What do YOU think, Dr. Babooner?

Love (letters) for Sale

I’m trying, with mixed success, to get back into the routine of writing every day. Even though the heavy lifting has just begun, it can help to catch your breath, so today I’m turning the blog over to Tamara Kant-Waite, Past President Pro-tem of the Future Historians of America.

I believe she has an inspirational message for us all!

Dear Prospective Primary Sources,

You may think you’re a dull nobody today, but once you’ve become part of the unalterable past, you and your things will turn into objects of fascination for historians of the future.

For example, on the lower east side of Manhattan, there’s a wonderful place called the Tenement Museum where the lives of poor immigrants of the 19th and early 20th century are immortalized through conservation of the building where they lived and worked. You can visit the dingy, crowded apartments that generations struggled to get out of! The people who lived in these tenements would no doubt be flabbergasted to see well-fed tour groups shuffling down their narrow hallways.

And I’m guessing when Elizabeth Taylor was 17 years old, in love, starring in the movies and writing ten page long gushing mushy letters to her fiancée, she wasn’t thinking about being dead and having those letters published in national newspapers and sold to the highest bidder.

But there you go. That’s what time will do – it magnifies everything. Whatever purpose you had in mind for that mundane thing you just did, you can be sure history will see it as a fascinating window into another era.

So remember, anything you touch today could become an artifact! Be attentive when you interact with things because that cherished object of yours could have a glass case in its future. Tomorrow’s archivists have just one request – be sure to develop a story about your object and by all means write that story down.

And please, for the sake of historians and auctioneers of the future, use paper.

Yes, e-mails are easier and they supposedly last forever, but the history that impresses us most has to do with things we can pick up and hold, carry around, frame, encase and send on tour. Nobody would buy a ticket to see King Tut’s blogs.

That reminds me – if you ever get the chance to completely cover something in gold, do it!

And remember – these historic objects and artifacts will need to be categorized by curators. That’s honest work for Future Historians of America, a group of people who are mostly unemployed at the moment, and in many cases not even born yet. So do something good today for the economy of tomorrow – write a crazy love letter to someone who you think would be shallow enough to sell that honest expression of devotion to an auction house.

Make it something special, and the scholars of nexter-year will make sure it lives forever!

You’re a dead celebrity. What have you touched or produced that collectors will want to buy?

Upstaged by Animals

Many thanks to Barbara, Anna, Clyde, Jim, Beth-Ann, Sherrilee, and tim – the guest bloggers who kept the conversation going in my absence. I spent a large part of the week with my family in New York City, getting my annual dose of subway grit, crowded sidewalks and car horn serenades.

We also saw some shows. One day had an “Animals in Wartime” theme, starting with a performance of “Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo”, Rajiv Joseph’s intense take on the madness and brutality surrounding the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Robin Williams played the tiger. In a brilliant bit of misdirection, he played the role like a tiger who was trying to look and sound enough like Robin Williams to get Midwesterners like me to buy a ticket. It worked! The rest of the play featured a lot of shouting, gunplay and profanity. It asked big, insoluble questions, like “How much control does God really have over a crazy world?” and “How long would I have to stand by the stage door to get Robin Williams to sign my program?” The whole experience was unsettling and thought provoking to a much greater degree than the classic musical revival that was our fallback option for the Wednesday matinee. Though to be fair, each play was set in an environment where “Anything Goes” pretty much sums up the rule of law.

The second play in our “Animals in Wartime” drama series was “War Horse”, a transplant from the National Theater of Great Britain. This one is based on a book by Michael Morpurgo with an ambitious goal of presenting World War I as seen from a equine perspective. That’s a tough assignment, but fascinating and meaningful on multiple levels, chiefly because the Great War was hell on horses. The development of barbed wire made cavalry charges suicidal, and artillery shells finished the grim job. This was another drama full of loud voices and gunfire, but it had something more – a huge heart and an amazing technical and artistic achievement in puppetry. Handspring Puppet Company created the life sized horses at the center of this show. “Joey” and “Topthorn” are each operated by three people. To call them technicians or anything less than actors would be unfair, since the trio that animates each puppet collaborates to bring a fully realized character to life.

I’m sorry I don’t have video of the actual performance, but if you get a chance you should try to see this show. There are some You Tube videos of the horse puppets in action at promotional events, including this one at an English racetrack.

Before technology made it possible to create virtual characters on a computer, one of the only ways to depict a non-human or exaggerated personality was with a puppet. From ventriloquist’s dummies like Charlie McCarthy and Howdy Doody to Shari Lewis’s Lamb Chop, Soupy Sales’ bodiless dog leg named White Fang and Jim Henson’s Muppets, our culture has a host of icons who can only move with the help of a hand up their back.

Name your favorite puppet.

time to timprovise!

Today’s guest blog is by tim

dale is a way and the blog will play

this weekend we will do an excercise in improv blogging.
the art of improv is cool but there are a couple of rules to have success.

never mind what you had in mind if the person before you throws a different direction at you you have to accept it totally and go from there.

i will put a final line on it at 12:01am and you can catch it on the next morning or if ben is up in the middle of the night he can read it then.

so heres a test of the group poem:

i write: i am a blogger and i’m ok
anna writes: he blog all night and i blog all day
clyde writes: his poodles named fido because its french
steve writes: his ex wife is an awful evil wench

the rest goes off to lord knows where…..
its ok to change the tempo and go with something new
one fish two fish red fish blue fish
or the midnight ride of paul rever are ok to throw in…
take a line or a stanza and run with it.

if while you are posting the poem gets responded to by someone else it could get confusing but i think we can follow multiple directions with this group. follow one or the other ort both

cmon in the water is fine

for real this time:

i’m a baboon blogger and i’m ok
i blog all night and blog all day….

next line?

Machinery on the Mississippi

Today’s guest blog is by Sherrilee.

My father was proud of his intellect and his vocabulary. When I was a kid, my sister and I would try to stump him by picking out random words in the dictionary to see if he knew them. He was better at this than most, since he had studied Latin for law school and could weasel out the meaning of almost any Latin-derived word. We quickly learned to look for words with their origin in Greek – he wasn’t as good at those.

When I was in junior high, my dad decided that he didn’t like the words “get” and “got”. He thought they were “lazy” words and that it was a sign of intelligence if you could use other words in their place. If you slipped up and used “get” or “got”, he would said “What?” until you replaced the little offender. This led to some hilarious conversations when my younger sister decided just to use the word “obtain” all the time, even if it didn’t make sense. “Do you think we’ll obtain rain this weekend? or I’m going upstairs to obtain a sweater.” Finally in college I decided that I didn’t have to play anymore either and my dad had to give up trying to enliven my language.

So, it was these memories that I was thinking of when I happened upon Kickstarter.com. In response to the Mark Twain professor who is bringing out an n-word free Huckleberry Finn, the Kickstarter group is raising money to print an edition of Huckleberry Finn with the n-word replaced by the word “robot”. If you pledge a dollar or more, you get a hard-copy version of this book when it is finished. I coughed up the dollar immediately and just the fun of getting the e-mail updates has been worth the price of admission.

If you could get rid of a word, which word would it be?

Family Heirlooms

Today’s guest blog comes from Jim.

As a seed saver I am dedicated to collecting, maintaining, and passing on seeds of vegetables and other plants that are rare and in danger of being lost. In the past, many families knew how to save and pass on seeds that they valued from one generation to another. This tradition is dying out. The Seed Savers Exchange (www.seedsaversexchange.org ) and other groups are making an effort to get the public more involved in seed saving. Saving the stories that are connected to seeds is considered by many seed savers to be as important as the seeds themselves.

I asked my Uncle Jake if he had any seeds that came from my Grandfather. He did have a jar of very old seed for a flat Dutch green bean that my Grandparents would slice up and make into a homemade product similar to sauerkraut. Unfortunately this seed was too old and wouldn’t germinate. Then I learned that my Uncle was willing to share some seed he had saved for many years. I am now growing and saving seed from a tomato and a bean that my Uncle got from his German neighbor. The tomato has fairly large, sweet, pink colored fruit that resembles some other tomatoes that originated in Germany. I call this tomato, Jake’s, in honor of my Uncle.

The bean is a very large white dry bean, which I call Large Navy. I like the bean because it came from my Uncle and because I haven’t seen another exactly like it. My cousin told me that this bean was used in cooking by my Uncle’s parents and I am looking forward using it myself. I gave my Uncle a copy of the Seed Saver’s Yearbook where my listing of the seeds I got from him is published. My cousin told me that his father would probably frame the Yearbook pages with those listings and hang them on the wall.

My Aunt Ida preserved a rose that came from my Grandmother. This is a large, very hardy, old fashion, pink rose. My Aunt told me that my Grandmother said the rose is an Austrian perfume rose. My Aunt also said that you couldn’t necessarily believe everything that my Grandmother had to say! I very much appreciate my Aunt’s sense of humor and somewhat sarcastic stories. She doesn’t hold back from speaking her mind and will say some things that might be a little offensive to some people and which I find to be very entertaining. She has some other stories I treasure about my Grandmother which are very funny and not entirely respectful.

Do you know any “heirloom” stories about your ancestors?

Perhaps I Didn’t Make Myself Clear …

Today’s guest blog is by Beth-Ann.

I pride myself in my ability to explain things both complex and simple. After all I have successfully explained alpha thalassemia major in Hmong and can go on (and on) about the likely association of immunoreactive trypsinogen to spontaneous intestinal perforation in extremely premature infants.

Why then does my family not always understand what I say?

After college graduation my parents left me in charge of the younger kids when they went abroad. They also left my college-age sister as an assistant since I was working full-time. One night I explained that the following night’s dinner would be a family favorite-chicken pot pie. I prepared all the constituents as my mother always did. I reviewed the assembly with my sister. “Just put the chicken, the sauce, and the vegetables in this pan, and cover it with the crust,” I said with great patience to my sister who wasn’t exactly a domestic goddess. When I asked if she had any questions, her response left me speechless. With all sincerity she said, “Can I leave the vegetables in the can or do I have to take them out?”……I picked up dinner at McDonald’s rather than risk eating her preparation.

Fast forward many years to when my son was in first grade. Because of his bone disease and frequent fractures he didn’t often dress himself. There were, however several days when I had the flu and a high fever and since he could walk I would send him to his room with instructions to put on clean underwear and the pants and shirt I had put out for him.
On the 3rd day I looked up from my delirium and noticed that his leg looked much more crooked than I had remembered it. I had hope that the giant bend in his femur was just a fever-induced illusion. I arranged to meet his physical therapist when she came to school that day to see Scott. The three of us went to the bathroom to slip off the sweatpants and look at his leg. I was surprised to see that my son was wearing 3 pairs of underpants. His response has become a family classic for failure to follow directions-”You didn’t say to take them off before I put on the clean ones.”

When did the message not get through?

Leonard … It’s Over! – Steve

Today’s guest blog is by Anna.

Seeing this message written in the snow, carefully laid out by someone adept enough to leap to the right spot to start the next letter, you can tell this is a message sent with care. A message with a story; a story one might find an obvious start to, given that this missive is directly below the heart-shaped “M+S.” But that seems too trite. Frankly, I think the “M+S” is there as a clever bit of misdirection. Here is what I think led up to the note in the snow:

Tomorrow is the last one, better do it right. One final job for Leo, then I’m on to the next adventure. Small thing, should be an easy acquisition. Not my favorite, but the price is right and a body does have bills to pay. It is amazing what people are willing to shell out to have me do the dirty work of getting something; high pay for challenging procurements. I am just a well-paid expeditor and shipper, a liberator of information and doodads.

And monkeys. Why did this last one have to be a monkey? Monkeys are noisy, foul and they steal my fruit. Last time I had a gig with a monkey he sat on my fedora, left scat on the top of the piano and tried to have his way with my Chewbacca doll. I wish I weren’t so good with monkeys. Small monkey, Leo said, a marmoset. A marmoset with a penchant for ping pong, killer skills mixing a dry martini, and other “unnamed” abilities the client wants. Stick him in your pocket and you’re good to go, Leo says. With something that tiny and my big duster coat to hide it, it should be an easy move from the lab to the meet up. Good thing I’m not a gin drinker or it might be tempting to keep this one around, just for kicks.

Dad said I should have become a dentist. Mom was hoping for an MBA. Four years of cultural anthropology and another two at chef’s school and I’m stuck ferrying bar tending monkeys for cash.

Focus. Get the goods, write a note in the melting snow, and get the final payment. Leave Leo to the foul play without me from now on. This is the last time, Mom, I promise. Your little Stevie starts grad school Monday.

Ever send a coded message?

Trying One On

Today’s guest blog is by Clyde..

I will not be joining you on The Trail today.

Instead I will begin the process of moving our stuff, much too much stuff, to our new home, or as Thoreau described it, pushing my possessions down the road ahead of me. Fortunately it is only a 2.5 mile push from a 1600-square-foot ground-level association home to a 1200-square-foot ground-level apartment. For the next three days I will haul over boxes. Then the pros will haul our furniture on Thursday. “Why are you moving?” everyone asks, since it does not seem like much of a change. Not many seem to like our answers. After all, we are giving up home ownership, the Great American Dream.

Most of our reasons are not worth your time to explain, but one I would like to offer especially to you because I think Babooners, unlike almost everyone else, will understand it. You, see, we want to try on a new life style. I admit it is not much of a change, but it depends on how you, or rather we, look at it. And, alas, it as much of a change as we can manage at this point in our life. For six years we tried living in an association, Efrafa as I have called it on here, which is not as bad as I have hinted, but does not suit us. We imagine a freer life, with a bit more ready cash and predictable expenses and no maintenance responsibilities. My wife, the addicted viewer of HGTV, will have a new blank canvas to decorate.

The real challenge will be for both of us to envision and use this new space and location—plus our money, time, and creativity—to think in new ways about ourselves, our place in church and community, and our limited time on earth.

Thoreau in Walden explained that in his imagination he had owned every farm in the vicinity. He had organized each farm in turn, tilled it, planted it, and harvested it without the bother of actually owning it. Similarly my wife and I have often tried on other life styles in our imagination: renting an apartment in one of those old buildings on Grand Avenue or in Dinkytown, teaching in a rural Alaska village, owning a hobby farm, spending a year living only from a small motor-home and driving North America, flipping houses, or going to seminary together. Because my favorite reading topic is travel books and books about what it is like to live a different kind of life somewhere else, I have in my imagination lived hundreds of lives.

I believe Babooners will understand my explanation because so many of you have deliberately crafted a life style, whether in rural Carlton County, in south Minneapolis, western Dakota, or all the places and ways you live.

My question for you is simple:

What other life styles have you lived in your imagination?