Category Archives: Uncategorized

Pepper Pandemonium

I had a kitchen disaster over the weekend. Following an online recipe, I added a tablespoon of cayenne to a crock pot of rice and veggies.  The recipe actually called for TWO tablespoons, but at the last minute, I said “that can’t be right” so halved the amount, even though that amount seem excessive to me.  Long story short, I should have followed my instincts as it was painful to dump the whole crock pot.  It was too hot, even for me and none of my usual tricks could save it.

There wasn’t a lot of hot food in my house growing up. My mom didn’t cook anything Mexican or Spanish that I can remember, nothing Indian or Caribbean that might have had any added heat.  I found hot and spicy when I was in college (from the special vegetarian dinner line at school).  Since then I’ve been lucky to eat some really hot foods around the world and I love it.

Once, in the early days of learning to love hot foods, I made a critical error. I was with a client in Sedona, Arizona when she spotted a little gift/food shop that she wanted to stop in.  The shop had a salsa bar filled with many kinds of salsa, peppers and crackers and chips, as well as a container of little teeny sample spoons and a sign that said “Try Me”.  One of the salsa was called “Habanero” which I had never heard of at the time.  Knowing I probably wouldn’t be buying anything, I didn’t want to eat a lot of chips so I just put a good dollop of the salsa on a little spoon and popped it straight into my mouth.  Suffice it to say, it was much hotter than I was expecting; my throat burned a bit, I got flushed and dizzy and I had to go outside and sit down on a bench for a bit.

I haven’t had a reaction that severe since, although to be honest, I’ve never been stupid enough again to put something in my mouth that I wasn’t really sure what it was!

When has it been too hot for you?

Arithmetic Assault

Decades ago I knew all of my friends’ phone numbers by heart. I knew almost everybody’s address that I sent mail to on a regular basis.  I knew my multiplication tables.

Over the years, most addresses have faded since I have them written in my day planner as well as on a spreadsheet. I recognize them when I write them out on envelopes, but that’s about it.  If a pixie got into my planner and re-arranged the house numbers, I probably wouldn’t know.

My cell phone has helped to alleviate the trouble of remembering my friends’ phone numbers well.  As people have added cell phones to their lives and dropped land lines, I have added their new numbers to my phone’s contact list but I have never memorized any of them.  With the exception of my BFF and YA, I don’t think I know anybody’s number by heart any more.

But the cruelest blow happened this morning. I was working on a program and deciding on how many beach towels we needed to order.  Without much thought at all, I entered 64 into the calculator on my desk and then hit “divide” by 2.  To get 32.  As soon as I did it, I realized what I had done. I used a machine to divide 64 by 2. This is horrifying to me.  Not that I’m worried about my ability to figure this out on my own, but that I would automatically go to a machine if I needed to do arithmetic.  Ouch.

My new practice starting tomorrow is to not turn on the calculator until I actually need it.

What technology has crept up on you?

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?

 

Making Things Pretty

Today’s post comes to us from Port Huron Steve

In the summer of 1974 my parents invited my erstwife and me to a dinner. They explained that my dad had made a serious amount of money recently, much more than they needed. There could be no happier use of that money, they said, than to send us to London “all expenses paid.” We wouldn’t need to spend a dime of our own money for two weeks of touring London.

Of course we were thrilled. We were grad students eking out a living with on-campus jobs at the University of Minnesota. This gift would let us live like rich people for two weeks. Even better, we realized there was enough money enough to allow us to travel around the United Kingdom. Instead of staying in a posh London hotel, as my parents had anticipated, we could sleep in B&Bs in the countryside. The money saved would cover a cheap rental auto. We could travel wherever our whims directed.

Our two-week vacation in September featured a week of exploring London and a week of bumbling about the country. We visited Oxfordshire, Gloucestershire, Wiltshire, Devon and Dorset. We nipped into Wales briefly, which was funny. The Welsh were astonished that tourists would intentionally enter their country. They had no infrastructure to accommodate us, and we didn’t stay long.

We took hundreds of photos. Photography was trickier then than now. We shot slide film, a touchy and unforgiving medium. Our Fujichrome slides weren’t as pretty as Kodachrome, and they had gobs of grain. The British weather did us no favors, raining every day. The fugitive sun made a brief appearance three times. When not raining the skies remained overcast and harshly bright. Our slides were drab, with unpleasant tonality.

You can’t view slides without a slide projector, screen and dark room. Several years ago I hired a company to scan our slides, converting them to digital files. When I got the scans I was dismayed. The scanning process was crude. All the scans were underexposed and grainy, with ugly colors and tones.

A few weeks ago I came across those scans where they’d been hiding in a remote file on my computer. I opened a scan in my photo editing software. It was easy to brighten the image. I made some areas of the image darker, lightening others. I tweaked some colors. I tamed the harsh sky. My editing software has ways of reducing grain. Soon I had a new version of the slide that was pretty, or at least prettier than it had been. Some scans were too compromised to salvage, but that left nearly 200 scans that begged for a beauty makeover. With a big grin I began editing the 1974 trip images.

That kicked off three of the happiest weeks I’ve known. Because my computer is attached to good speakers I could stream an internet folk music broadcast while I worked.

Photo editing is tricky. I kept returning to images I had edited earlier, tweaking them, and often making my edits more subtle. Of course, no amount of editing can make fuzzy images sharp. Many things can go wrong in photography. I was puzzled by an icky color cast in pictures of suits of armor. I finally figured out that the armor was in a room lit with fluorescent lights, giving the metal a green cast. Aha! That could be fixed. In the end I produced 189 pleasing images.

The project was emotionally complicated. I was having so much fun I tuned out the horror show of our national politics. It was a joy to revisit moments from that extraordinary trip 44 years ago. Each image presented unique challenges, old memories and surprising rewards. Christmas—actually, a splendid Christmas—came and went. I was almost too absorbed with editing to pay it much attention. I was too busy making ugly things prettier. What is more rewarding than that?

Do you have ways to add beauty to your life?

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?

High on Sprouts

Today’s post comes to us from our own Crystal Bay.

In the early days of Animal Fair, Dad had to hire six women from the community to make his animals on six sewing machines. As they gained popularity, he moved into the old Tonka Toy building, then to Chanhassen, Animal Fairs final resting place.

Most of the early business was solely dependent upon large companies seeking promos for their products. Such was the case with Jolly Green Giant. He designed a little facsimile of the giant in their ads, appropriately named “Sprout”. They were really cute little guys and everyone loved them.

This corporation immediately put in an order 10 times the ability of Dad to produce at that time. In desperation, he corralled every extended family member and anyone in the community to help fill this huge order. I was just one of many. We worked every weekend and night. His business depended upon delivering the promise goods.

My job was to glue noses on each of these Sprouts. Unfortunately, I did so with airplane glue. Every time I worked there, I walked out higher than a kite. No one understood my bizarre behavior at the time. Not even me. I later wondered if this explained my unusual behavior as an adult.

We did end up getting the order filled and it saved his ram shackle business.

How do you do with deadlines?

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?