Monthly Archives: November 2012

Poem of the Week–Inertia


Inertia

Tonight I am going
Nowhere
While
All around me
The seasons are changing
The earth is turning madly
People are rushing here and there

The leaves have fallen
Decay is setting in
I am a day, a week, a month, a year older
Babies are being born
Children going to school
Graduating
Finding jobs
Having children
Growing old together or apart
All is changed and
All is changing
But as for me
I’m just sitting here
For now
Going nowhere.

Dan Verner

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Advice for Writers–Accursed Cursive

I broke out in a rash just seeing this again. Oh, the humanity!

I’ve had cursive writing on my list of things to write about for a couple of years, but never have seemed to be able to get around to it. 
Basically, like most guys, I never did well with cursive, lacking the fine motor skills  to produce the beautiful flowing script  found in our handwriting books.

Yes, we had Zaner-Bloser Handwriting instruction books, which our parents had to pay extra  so that we could have the privilege of being frustrated at every turn. There was even a special what we would call now ergonomic Zaner-BLoser pen (part of the package) that had a place for your fingers and an  odd point to it with a little ball near the other end. The pen was good to chew on when I got frustrated with trying to write correctly, which was most of the time.

I did very well in elementary school, but received constant “C’s” in handwriting. Like most guys, I switched to a sort of half-cursive, half printed style It looked (and looks like this): This is how my buddies and I wrote throughout high school and college, and how I write even to this day.

My  daughter Amy, who teaches fourth grade, says that cursive writing is not even on her radar. I think they teach it in third grade, and Amy writes in it so the kids will be able to read it, but she avoids inflicting that sort of anguish on her charges.  In any case, keyboard has become the new normal, and I’m even doing this on a keyboard. I’m finally able to produce the beautiful, flowing script that has eluded me for so long.  Just not with a pen and paper.
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Technology Wednesday–Keeping It Simple

I got some fast food the other day for lunch, and since I had two drinks, I grabbed one of those drink carriers (pictured above). I was looking at it and thinking that sometimes the best technology is the simplest technology. The carrier is made of cardboard and molded into a form that compensates for different sized drinks. Each carrier costs 17 cents in lots of 300 (in case you want to order a bunch), although the big fast food companies probably get a price break. Somehow.

Another example of simple, effective technology is the “Disturb/Do Not Disturb” hang tag found in hotels. I’m not sure who was the first to patent this idea, but they have made a bundle off it. It’s one of those inventions that you look at it, smack yourself in the head and say, “Why didn’t think of that?”

The last simple and effective form of technology I’m thinking of is the paper book. I use ebooks, and they’re easy to carry around and easy to order new books on, but I still use paper books. They’re a proven, centuries old technology. They’re easy to mark you place, easy to take notes on in the margins and their batteries never run down. So, for now, put me down as having a foot planted firmly in the digital world and in the old school world of simple, effective technology.

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Bob Tale–Uncle Jim and the Flying Pig

I always enjoyed breaks in college, getting to go home to relax and see friends.  I also enjoyed coming back to school after breaks, catching up on what had happened to everyone during the vacation. After one Thanksgiving break at college, my friend Bob returned with the story of Uncle Jim and the Flying Pig.  It seems that Uncle Jim had gotten engrossed in the Winter Olympics the year before, and especially in the skiing events.  As he sat watching the ski jump competition one evening, Bob heard him say, “I bet I could do that.”

Dot was in her chair reading. “You could do that and break both legs like an old fool and then I’d have to do all the work around here.” Uncle Jim didn’t say any more, but Bob could tell he was thinking about how he could learn to ski jump.

The next morning, Uncle Jim was involved in building what was obviously a ski ramp for a jump. As Bob helped him, he said to Uncle Jim, “I thought Aunt Dot said you wouldn’t be doing any ski jumping.”

“I’m not,” Uncle Jim answered.  “At least not at first. I’m going to test it out on something else.”

“Like what?” Bob asked him.

“Well,” said Uncle Jim, “I’ve been reading how those rocket fellows needed a creature to test how a living thing would stand going into space.  So they decided to use a pig. Problem was, the pig was lying down in the spacecraft on its back and pigs can’t do that.  Poor thing died of fright or something.”

“So you’re going to test your ski jump on a pig.”

“That’s right. And instead of snow, which we don’t have, you and I are going to build one of those big air cushions like stunt men land on. The landing’s the hard part anyhow.”

Bob said he just shook his head. He and Uncle Jim finished the ramp, which was maybe 25 feet high, and then sprayed water on it so it would ice over. Then they took two big vinyl tarpaulins and glued and stapled them around the edges.  When they stuck an air hose from a compressor in one of the seams, the homemade air cushion inflated but lost enough air that they knew it would give with the impact of the pig.

Bob did some skiing around the farm when there was snow, so he let Uncle Jim have his skis.  Uncle Jim made up four trotter holders for one of the pigs from an old harness and fastened them to the skis. Uncle Jim, like most farmers had an affection for animals and would not mistreat them, although he was willing to make them into bacon or ground beef or chicken nuggets when the time came.

Uncle Jim wanted to be sure that the air cushion worked, so he and Bob hauled a hay bale up to the top of the ramp and sent it down.  The bale flew off the end of the ramp, bounced once on the air cushion and then came to rest in the middle. The jump was ready.

Persuading a pig to the top of a ramp is one thing; fitting its hooves into the holders on the skis was another, but finally they succeeded. “Should we have a countdown?” asked Bob.

“Nah,” said Uncle Jim. “Just let her go.” They gave the pig a shove and she skied straight down the ramp for a few feet, squealing the whole time. Then, struggling to free herself, she turned sideways and started to roll.  

The skis flew off on the first rotation and soon the pig was rolling rapidly down the ramp. She flew off the end, rotating like a sideways forward pass. She hit the air cushion, bounced high in the air, came down on all fours and ran off the cushion and across the fields.

“Wow,” said Bob.  “When pigs fly.”

The pig came back after a day or so, but she wouldn’t come near Bob or Uncle Jim. Dot had to feed her. 

As usual, Dot didn’t say anything about the incident, but at breakfast the next morning, Jim’s bacon came flying over from the stove onto his plate.  “What was that?” he asked Dot, who had been the pitcher on her fast-pitch high school softball team and still had a strong, accurate arm.

“Oh, just a little flying pig, since you like them so much,” Dot answered.  And that was the end of it.

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Wax Paper and Sandwich Bags

You’d think that with the advent of plastic film wraps (after World War II–it was originally called “eonite” after an indestructible material in the Little Orphan Annie comic strip and then was a greasy dark green  that the military sprayed on fighter planes to protect them from water and corrosion damage) wax paper (so-called because it consists of paper with a wax coating–I just love the simplicity of the name) would have gone the way of the dodo, but not so fast there, Sunny Jim! Wax paper is alive and well
Wax paper had its origins in antiquity as oiled parchment which was used by butchers to wrap meat. It was also used as a translucent material for windows since glass was so expensive. A method for applying purified paraffin to paper about 1876.
I remember my mom wrapping my lunch sandwiches in wax paper , which were then put into a paper lunch bag. Very biodegradable. The ZipLoc bag came along in about 1968, and I packed my own sandwiches (I am a terrible sandwich maker, even with decades of practice) in them. Bit of family lore here: when Amy was young, she heard “Zip Loc” as “Loc Boc,” so to this day we called them “loc boc bags.”
The point is (and I do have one) wax paper continues to have its uses. Here’s an article with 14 uses for wax paper: http://www.foxnews.com/leisure/2012/02/19/home-economy-14-uses-for-wax-paper/ We also use it to cover food in the microwave so it doesn’t splatter, to slide furniture and to put on Nacho the Cat’s tray for her food since she is a senior cat and finds it harder to eat from a bowl there days.
I’m sure you have your own stories of wax paper, and I hope you’ll share them with me. And for me, for now, that’s a…wait for it…wrap!

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Technology Wednesday–Keep It Simple

I got some fast food the other day for lunch, and since I had two drinks, I grabbed one of those drink carriers (pictured above). I was looking at it and thinking that sometimes the best technology is the simplest technology. The carrier is made of cardboard and molded into a form that compensates for different sized drinks. Each carrier costs 17 cents in lots of 300 (in case you want to order a bunch), although the big fast food companies probably get a price break. Somehow.

Another example of simple, effective technology is the “Disturb/Do Not Disturb” hang tag found in hotels. I’m not sure who was the first to patent this idea, but they have made a bundle off it. It’s one of those inventions that you look at it, smack yourself in the head and say, “Why didn’t I think of that?”

The last simple and effective form of technology I’m thinking of is the paper book. I use ebooks, and they’re easy to carry around and easy to order new books on, but I still use paper books. They’re a proven, centuries old technology. They’re easy to mark you place, easy to take notes on in the margins and their batteries never run down. So, for now, put me down as having a foot planted firmly in the digital world and in the old school world of simple, effective technology.

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Technology Wednesday–Rambler Gambler

Ease up there, readers, the title to this post came from a song that Ian Tyson (of Ian and Sylvia) used to do called “Rambler Gambler.” The first verse went

             I’m a rambler, I’m a gambler
             I’m a long way from my home.
             If you people don’t like me
             You’d best leave me alone.

Uplifting and personable, I know, but really I couldn’t identify less with the song, being neither a rambler (too much of a homebody) nor a gambler (too cheap). But I was thinking about the Rambler, a car produced first by Nash Motors division of the Nash-Kelvinator Company (yes, they made refrigerators as well) from 1950-1954, after which it was made by the merger company of Nash-Kelvinator and the Hudson Motor Company, which was called American Motors or AMC. This Rambler was produced during 1955. AMC revived it for 1958, although I recall seeing them through the early ’60’s. There was, as the ad above shows, a ’63 Rambler.

The wagon was touted as a family car, with a fold flat front seat suitable for camping in the car. The feature caused somewhat of a scandal since someone, somewhere, some time, might fold down the seat and have sex. I remember sermons were preached about it, and that’s what might have killed off the Rambler. Too hot to handle apparently.

In today’s cars, the front seats recline, but they don’t fold flat. Maybe automakers learned a lesson from the Rambler wagon. In surveys, though, car owners have consistently said that cup holders are more important to them in a car than reclining seats. I for one don’t know what to make of this. Maybe you do.

Notice: we here at the Biscuit City Studios are going to take a Thanksgiving break to spend time with our families. Look for the next post Monday, November 26. Have a glorious holiday!

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