Category Archives: History

Rhapsody in Blue

Today is the anniversary of the 1924 premiere in New York City of George Gershwin’s Rhapsody In Blue by Paul Whiteman and his Orchestra. As a clarinet player, I always loved the opening clarinet slide, and was always so frustrated when I couldn’t replicate it.  I recently learned that Gershwin initially wrote the piece for two pianos, and it was orchestrated for Whiteman by Ferde Grofe, yes, he of the Grand Canon Suite.  Grofe was considered quite a jazz composer and arranger, which I also find surprising.

I love Gershwin’s music, especially his popular songs.  I wonder what would have happened if he hadn’t died so tragically young.

What is your favorite Gershwin music? What contemporaries of Gershwin do you like?


There was a small blurb  in our local paper yesterday about an outbreak of mumps in our city’s middle school. The city Facebook page has a number of antivac and provac responses to this crisis, as crisis it is, as there are several immune compromised students who cannot go to school because they are at risk for terrible infection.

I remember having Rubella, Mumps, Roseaola, and Chicken Pox. Husband had all those and Scarlet Fever as well.  Both our children had the Chicken Pox.  There are many individuals receiving Developmental Disability services in our region because they had mumps or measles or some other childhood illness in the 1950’s that resulted in intellectual disabilities.   Our grandson is now recovering from RSV, and I am thankful his parents are confirmed vaccinators.

What memories do you have about childhood illnesses?  How do you feel about vaccinations?

Surfing Pluto

It’s amazing what happens sometimes when you’re surfing the internet. I started with my daily dose of Sci Show Space, which led me to Gustav Holst’s Suite of Planets.  I realized that Holst wrote The Planets before Pluto was discovered, so he can’t be blamed that after 1930, he was missing a planet (of course now he’s OK again if you want align yourself with the Astronomer’s Union).  Over the years composers have “added” to Holst’s work with various songs about Pluto.

There are serious attempts like Pluto, the Renewer by Colin Matthews):

and very silly (yet funny) pieces, like For the Planet Pluto by the Music Tapes:

And I particularly like this one, Plutonian Nights by Sun Ra:

Then my lunch break was up and I had to get back to work!

Any unsung heroes in your life?

Trending Fashion

On January 5, 1797, John Hetherington, a London haberdasher,  stepped out into the public with the first top hat. It caused a riot, and Hetherington was arrested.  The arresting officer said:

He had such a tall and shiny construction on his head that it must have terrified nervous people.  The sight of this construction was so overstated that various women fainted, children began to cry and dogs started to bark.  One child broke his arm among all the jostling“.

The London Times came out in favor of the hat, and predicted that it would become a fashion staple. It was declared “a significant advance in the transformation of dress“.

I suppose the only time I was at the forefront of fashion was when I wore bib overalls in my early 20’s. That sure didn’t last long. These days I am a corduroy and sweater sort of person, dressed for comfort, not fashion, although those overalls were pretty comfy.

What do you think it would take to get a similar reaction to fashion today?  When have you been at the forefront of fashion? Own any fun hats?  Where would you like fashion to trend now?


Public Domain Day

Two years ago, when Dale retired from the Trail, I didn’t know anything about usage rights and although I had heard the phrase “public domain”, I didn’t really know what it meant. Dale taught me quite a bit about it and then I did further research to make sure we don’t get ourselves in trouble.  That’s why Renee and I sometimes question photos and for the most part, don’t copy poetry and lyrics of other writers.

Since 1998, a work enters public domain 70 years after the life of the author. Before 1998, it was 50 years; to clear up the complexity of that change, they put a moratorium on releasing anything into public domain for 20 years.  That 20 years is up and as of Tuesday, everything from 1923 is now officially in the public domain.

Some of the items now free to share are The Metropolis by Upton Sinclair, The Color of a Great City by Theodore Dreiser, The Murder on the Links by Agatha Christie, The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran, Rootabaga Pigeons by Carl Sandburg and New Hampshire by Robert Frost.

So in celebration of Public Domain Day, here is a poem that last week we could not have posted here legally!

Fire and Ice
by Robert Frost

Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I’ve tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.

Do you pay attention to expiration dates?

New Year’s Fly-by

A little over three years ago, Dale wrote a piece when NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft approached and photographed Pluto. He included several nice photos and gave us an update on the PTA (Pluto Tourism Association) about groups wanted to book some serious vacation time on the planet (or whatever Pluto is categorized as this week).

Today, after 3 years, New Horizons is doing a flyby of 2014 MU69; it will be the most distant object every visited by a spacecraft. Even NASA realizes that 2014MU69 is a terrible name – they have nicknamed the object, an icy Kuiper Belt object, Ultima Thule, which means “distant places beyond the known world”.

Scientists are not sure if Ultima Thule is one object or two objects circling each other and are hoping this flyby, which will happen at a whooping 31,500 mph, will clear up that mystery. After the New Year’s flyby, it will take a full 6 hours for the radio signals to arrive back at earth.

It’s amazing to me that just 117 years after our first machine-powered flight, we will be waiting for signals from a spacecraft that has traveled a billion miles since it passed Pluto three years ago. I wonder if we’ll still be getting signals in three more years when it is a billion miles farther from Earth and if we will be vacationing on 2014 MU69 by that point?

Have you ever had a speeding ticket?

Long Range Planning

Today’s post comes from Ben.

I’ve been doing some long-range planning on building a shop. Or maybe it’s just a ‘garage’. Basically, I want a warm place to work on machinery. And things like grease guns and cans of liquid wrench or chain lube work better if they’re not 20 degrees. Even cordless tools are more fun to use when they’re not cold.

What do I think I want to work on? Does it need to be big enough to get my current biggest tractor in there? (Yes!) Or does it need to be big enough to get a combine in there? If I don’t actually build it for another 10 years, how much will I actually be farming? I don’t own a combine and I don’t expect to own one. My biggest implement (at the moment) opens up to about 26’ wide. Do I need / want enough room to pull that in attached to the tractor, AND unfold it to work on it? I have machine sheds now. But machinery is stored in there. There isn’t room to actually unfold an implement. Heck, sometimes there’s isn’t room to get the tractor and implement all in the shed.

Course during winter I put more stuff in the shed. This fall I spent a couple days moving stuff around so that I could get out either door with the tractor and snow blower. And still get to the rear blade if I needed that.

What started all this, aside from the deep seated, but dormant desire for a nice warm shop, is my grain drill. It’s 15’ wide. I bought it used a couple years ago and It needed a lot of work. Over the summer and early Spring I got it ready to plant. The next summer I fixed a few more things. But it needs one more thing and fixing that won’t be hard, it will just require taking a fair amount of stuff off to get that ‘cup’ out and a new one installed. Every summer I think I’m going to work on that.  But every summer other stuff happens, and I don’t get too it. Sort of like any of my home remodeling projects; ‘We can do it this summer!’ Famous last words. (And I’m still working on hardwood flooring and baseboard trim and closet doors).

Ok, so if I just want a shop big enough to work on the drill, I could get away with a two car garage. But then it doesn’t take too many things along the wall and pretty soon you have a one car garage.

watch some YouTube channels of other farmers; these big guys have the wonderful huge shops and sheds. All heated and well lit. I don’t need that.

Just the other day I got an email a farm magazine called ‘Successful Farming’ and their ‘top shops’ issue. Maybe I need a wash bay? What about a separate welding area? A lube rack?? Painting booth! And what about heating options?? Tool storage?? Water? OFFICE! Sleeping quarters!! ??

I’m still thinking.

And of course, WHERE will it go? Kelly asked me the other day what I was thinking about that. I have some ideas… still thinking.

And also nagging at the back of my mind is the question of ‘When do you really think you’ll have time to use this??’ I mean I can’t get my home remodeling projects done now. So, when do I think I’m going to have time to putter about in my nice warm shop…?

When I retire! But then… do I need to fit the big tractor in there then??

So many questions.

Anything nagging at your thoughts? What are your long range plans?