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Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Wild Turkey, Rolling Thunder

A thunderstorm swept through to the Northeast of us the other night. It wasn't close enough for the CRACK! but there was plenty of rumbling, grumbling, rolling thunder.

At the first big rumble Fiona the Princess cat dashed into the house from the cattery. Memories of July 4th fireworks, perhaps. She wasn't taking any chances.

On the second rattle and roll, I stepped out onto the deck. After several days of inversion, with temperatures at 100 or better and not a breath of wind, I was hoping for at least a fresh breeze - perhaps a little rain. So I sat and waited, watching the distant flashes and counting seconds, and worrying about fires in the Cascade mountains to the East.

On the third big rumble, the wild tom turkey who was apparently battened down in the woods next to the cul-de-sac down the hill let loose with a very irritated GABAB-
GABAB-GABABBLE. The rumbles and bumbles continued almost non-stop, and with each introductory boom old Tom voiced his warning: gabbletygabblety gabble.

Thunder: rolling basso profundo
Turkey: full-voiced tenor descant

After a few of those verses, the very large dog next door added his WURF WURF. The nearly-as-large dog down in the cul-de-sac joined in: RORF RORF.

thunder: basso profundo
turkey: tenor
dogs: baritone

THUMBLE Rummmmmble GABBLEGABBLE Wurf! Wurf! Rorf....

Needless to say, something more was needed, so the little yap dogs further down chimed in: alto and soprano. YIPPITY YAPPITY BARK BARK BARK.

You get the idea.

By now it was almost 11 pm and time for the Chorus: The voices of several dog owners, calling in their pooches.

The barking stopped, but the thunder and the turkey went on. And on.

A small breeze kicked up and I lifted my nose to appreciate it.

I have to wonder if turkeys always react this way to thunder, and if so, do turkey hunters every use this as a ploy to locate the birds at night?

I couldn't say....I only hunt with the camera.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

The Mystery of the Sacking Bottoms

Now and then a piece of ephemera comes along that just tickles my curiosity. So it was with an innocuous little early-20th Century receipt from a Portland, Oregon laundry. In list of otherwise normal-sounding items there were a couple of head-scratchers: life preservers, and sacking bottoms. The customer name was also odd: Undine. Who or what, I wondered, was Undine? And what, pray tell, were sacking bottoms?

I put the fragile slip into an archival sleeve and backer board, and lodged it in the row of things at the back of my desk “for future research.” Now and again I would clean the desk (that doesn’t happen too often, to be sure) and it would pop up again. Undine. Sacking bottoms. Hmmmm.

In the course of events, I acquired as customer a museum whose curator asked me to watch for images of sternwheel steamers that plied the Columbia River. In going through a batch of postcards, I used a loup to read the names on some of the boats. And thus was the mystery of the “Undine” solved! It was one of the fragile-looking but sturdy little sternwheelers that plied the river in the late-19th and early 20th centuries.

That explained the life preservers, and the museum purchased the receipt when I described it. But, I asked the curator – what were sacking bottoms? He had no better guess than I – which was that they might have been pieces of sacking (burlap or sailcloth) used to wrap around cargo. It still didn’t seem likely that the steamboat company would go to the expense of having such items professionally cleaned, though.

(The images here are of the Bailey Gatzert, a steamer that was contemporary with the Undine.)

I did some research in books on maritime and dictionaries, as well as on the Internet, but found no clues.

And several more years passed. Then the other day a bookbinder on one of the mailing lists I subscribe to raised a question about some book boards on an old book he was rebinding – boards that were black and that appeared to be composed of a “fibrous substance impregnated with tar.” A reply offered a link to a description of “tar board” - a millboard “manufactured from old tarred rope, sail cloth, sacking, etc.” Sacking?

That sent me off to explore the Internet again, knowing that many items have been added since my last search. And my first attempt yielded another clue in a description of Georgian Campaign furniture on an antiques site, “elegant Four Post & Tent Bedsteads, with Lath or Sacking bottoms." Ha! So, sacking bottoms were part of a bed, cloth used on the bottom of the bed frame to support the mattress. And finally the use for sacking bottoms on boats was revealed in an article on the “Eye Witness to History” site. Describing the sleeping arrangements on an Erie Canal boat, an historical account notes:

“The way they proceed is as follows - the Settees that go the whole length of the Boat on each side unfold and form a cot bed. The space between this bed and the ceiling is so divided as to make room for two more. The upper berths are merely frames with sacking bottoms, one side of which has two projecting pins, which fit into sockets in the side of the boat. The other side has two cords attached one to each corner. These are suspended from hooks in the ceiling. The bedding is then placed upon them, the space between the berths being barely sufficient for a man to crawl in, and presenting the appearance of so many shelves. Much apprehension is always entertained by passengers when first seeing them, lest the cords should break. Such fears are however groundless. “

Of course I sent the description off to the curator, who probably thought I was nuts for persisting on this topic, but who expressed appreciation for the effort. And one more little “curiosity” itch was scratched for me.

Friday, March 7, 2008

The Comfort Hip Corset

Found on the back of an old trade card, advertising the “Comfort Hip” corset. Presumably to be sung to the tune of “The Old Oaken Bucket.” If you have ever wondered why so many women suffered “the vapors” in old novels, the corset was to blame. One great outcome of WWI was that women contributed their corsets to the war effort (steel stays were being used by then). For some reason, the fashion never came quite back into style.

How dear to my heart is the “Comfort Hip” Corset,
A well moulded figure ‘twas made to adorn,
I’m sure, as an elegant, close fitting corset,
It lays over all makes I ever have worn.
Oh, my! with delight it is driving me crazy,
The feelings that thrill me no language can tell;
Just look at its shape, -- oh, ain’t it a daisy!
The “Comfort Hip” corset that fits me so well.
The close fitting corset – the “Lock Clasp” corset –
The “Comfort Hip” corset that fits me so well.

It clings to my waist so tightly and neatly,
Its fair rounded shape shows no wrinkle or fold;
It fits this plump figure of mine as completely
As if I’d been melted and poured in its mould.
How fertile the mind that was moved to design it,
Such comfort pervades each depression and swell,
The waist would entice a strong arm to entwine it, --
The waist of this corset that fits me so will.
The close fitting corset, -- the “Lock Clasp” corset –
The “Comfort Hip” corset that fits me so well.

Of course I will wear it to parties and dances,
And gentlemen there will my figure admire!
The ladies will throw me envious glances,
And that’s just the state of affairs I desire;
For feminine envy and male admiration
Proclaim that their object’s considered a belle.
Oh, thou art of beauty – the fair consummation –
My “comfort Hip” corset that fits me so well.
The Five-Hook corset – the “Lock Clasp” corset –
The “Comfort Hip” corset that fits me so well.

Friday, February 29, 2008

The Ajanta Caves

It helps if you spell a word right. There are many websites about the Ajanta Caves, mentioned in my last post. It's worth looking up. While Petra is undoubtedly the most famous carved cave site, the Ajanta caves are no less remarkable, especially as they are on a hillside.

Click here
and here

An even more fantastic story, though, is that of Oberto Airaudi, an Italian businessman who dreamed of fantastic temples and a benign culture, and who initiated the creation of secret underground recreations of his vision. This installation was revealed only in 1993, but already a spiritual community has grown up that includes organic farms, eco-friendly homes, and a commune operating as an independent "Federation of Damanhur."

It's too rich a story to try to summarize here - go to:
See Damanhur

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Trapped in a Web of Words

Last night I was reading about the Deccan Traps and I distinctly heard my Grandmother’s voice saying, “Don’t forget your traps.” Grandma has, of course, been gone for many years, but her quaint sayings, as well as her admonitions and words of advice linger on. Grandma was not, in any way, referring to animal traps. But before I get to that, let’s return to the Deccan Traps for a minute.

Although this term sounds rather threatening, in fact it refers to a volcanic formation in India. In this case, the word comes from the Swedish trapp, meaning steps. The Deccan formation consists of layers of lava flow in huge terraces, laid down over a period of years. The jury still seems to out on the duration of this period (somewhere between 1.5 and 4 million years) but the major eruption occurred about 65 million years ago - about the time of the dinosaur extinctions. Some scientists theorize that the gases from this eruption may have contributed to that extinction, possibly in combination with a meteor strike in the Yucatan. (This combination poses an interesting scenario, which so far I haven’t seen addressed.) At any rate, it is estimated that the original flows covered up to 600,000 square miles. Today they cover about 200,000 – about the size of Oregon and Washington together. This is still one of the largest volcanic features in the world.

In a valley high in the Deccan Traps, the caves of Ajunta were discovered by a British horse officer in the 19th Century. These caves are carved out of the solid lava, with amazing statuary, including life-sized elephants, many figures of Buddha, and even a free-standing two-story temple; as well as many well-preserved frescoes. The caves were carved between the 2nd and 7th centuries A.D. – then abandoned and forgotten until their rediscovery.

Grandma’s word “traps” had nothing to do with geology or Buddist carvings. She would say “Don’t forget your traps” when you were leaving after a visit, and she was referring to your belongings – usually coat, hat, purse, whatever you had brought with you. I always assumed that it came from the word “trappings,” which it does, although both are shown as dictionary terms. We do sometimes come across “trappings” in older literature – phrases like “their elegant trappings.” The term also sometimes refers to caparisoned horses, and the word can also refer to a small horse-driven wagon. But I don’t recall ever seeing or hearing “traps” used the way Grandma did. Apparently the word – along with “trappings” – is slowly fading from use.

Me and my Grandma, Vera Green, fishing in Arizona when I was about five years old.

Frequently Grandma would say, “Company is coming, so I have to redd up the spare room.” The only other place I have heard or seen “redd” was in a book by a Scottish poet. that puzzled me, since most of Grandma’s phrases came from her Pennsylvania Dutch background. In fact, *redd* is Scottish dialect (from Old Norse rydhja) and brought to the American midlands by Scottish immigrants. “Redd up” is a particularly Pennsylvania use of the term. As a child, I was used to hearing “kaffee” for coffee, “pruins” for “prunes," and grammatical constructions such as “I’m going to take the broom out and sweep the walk around.” Mind you, Grandma spoke no German, but these inflections carried into everyday English for her family. Although her “dubishy” may have been a purely Grandma word – it meant “dubious.”

Pages from an altered book that I did, honoring my grandmother

Saturday, February 16, 2008

What’s in your back yard?

Well…after a week of sub-freezing weather, a week of snow and snow-begone, a couple of weeks of rain….we have had our usual second-week-in-February “spring break.” It happens nearly every year….clear sunny days, warmish (50s) temperatures, crocus and camellias and heather starting to bloom, irises and other bulbs poking through the ground. We enjoy it while we can, because we KNOW that winter is not over. We KNOW the weather will be crap again. It’s just that little window of hope that gets us through the rest of Flabuweary and the muck of March.

Something else happens this time of year. As Valentine’s Day rolls around, there is a certain romantic influence in Nature.

I finished up a bunch of chores the other day and decided on a rest break on the deck to enjoy the sunshine. I let my gaze wander across the yard, past the labyrinth and over the rock garden boulders into the woods beyond. I admit that my gaze was somewhat swimmy – so at first I didn’t notice anything unusual. I was just admiring the sunshine on the basalt rocks out there on the perimeter, when one of them said, “Bork!”

There is nothing like having a medium-sized boulder say “Bork!” to get your attention. It was then that I realized that there were actually far more rocks out there than usual. It was a moment later that I realized that they were wild hen turkeys hunkered down and not boulders at all. I stood up and walked over to the railing where I could see more of the yard, and out there were more hens and a proud Tom, strutting his stuff in full display. Yes, it’s that time of year that a turkey’s thoughts turn to …. well, reproduction.

Normally the males don’t display – unless they are being protective and/or showing off for hens. While they seem pretty much the size of the hens when they are deflated, a puffed up male turkey with his wings spread to the ground, his hackles fully raised, and his tail widely spread makes a fairly impressive show.

I chanced going into the house for my camera – most times, by the time I return with it the birds have moved off. But no – they were undisturbed by my presence although I knew they were aware that I was up there above them. Of course as soon as I tried to get a picture of Tom, he turned away. Fine – a photo of a big fluffy turkey butt was not what I was after. He then managed to maneuver himself along so that any time he was front-forward and in full display, there was a bare-branched bush in front of him. It was frustrating. Turkey-butt, bush. Turkey-butt, bush.

Far back in the woods I could see a red head or two pop up now and then, and I figured that the young males, recently ostracized from the flock, were keeping an eye on things, too. I finally decided to make my way out the front door, around the house, and down into the yard in hopes of a better photo.

Tom stood his ground, but by now he had the hens moving along toward the fence at
the other side of the property. I got my photos – not without Tom doing that sort of booming-spitting thing that’s a bit of a friendly warning – and decided to retreat so as not to upset them any more. I could hear the hens flying over the fence and saw some of them land on the neighbor’s roof.

Back on the deck, I watched as the young males moved down through the woods. Well, I thought, it will be interesting to watch this. I fully expected some feathers to fly. But no….Tom just poked around at the ground, letting the youngsters join him. He did chase one that got a bit challenging, but that was over quickly. Eventually they faded back into the woods, and I assume that Tom rejoined his harem on the other side of the fence.

What a nice piece of passive resistance, I thought. Hang out with the boys for a while so they don’t feel totally dispossessed. Nice turkey. Nice day.

Response to a comment - Whither goest Internet bookselling?

I find the following comment left on my blog on bookselling:

“I think that this is an interesting, well thought out, post but I wonder if you could elaborate on your final sentence, 'The generalist Internet bookseller, however, either needs to develop a specialized market niche, or to adapt to the realities of an online marketplace.' It seems to me to be a contradiction in terms.”

I can understand how some confusion might occur in regards to my statement. Simply rephrased, it means that – given the proliferation of books available on the Internet -- anyone who is now a generalist bookseller needs either to become a specialist with a specialized inventory (thus being no longer a generalist) or to be able to sense the direction of the general book market and take steps to move with it.

I have thought and thought on what to say regarding the general book market. But, since I don’t sell in that category, and since I don’t sell on the sites that cater to mass market books, all I could offer would be hunches and guesses about where that market is headed. I leave it to the general-interest booksellers to figure out how and why and what affects their businesses.

I don’t think we yet appreciate the profound influence that the Internet has had on contemporary culture. It is huge, it is global, it affects every aspect of our lives these days. And it is very, very young. There are still many opportunities for it to be exploited, or regulated, or used and misused.

Bookselling was one of the first successful retail businesses to make use of the Internet, but it is being swirled around now like a woodchip in a whirlpool. With so much changing so fast, it’s no wonder that we feel that we can barely keep afloat. The only sure thing is that things will not go back to the “way they used to be,” and they will continue to change at a breathtaking pace. We can only try to anticipate what some of those changes will be, and what they will mean to us as entrepreneurs (not to mention, as consumers).

Friday, February 8, 2008

A Personal Review of the Bookselling Trade

Many of us earned our “bookseller badge” the old-fashioned way. We come out of an era of bookselling that drew its ethos from centuries-old traditions. Not much had changed from the time that books went into print, and much of what persisted in terms of trade standards was drawn from the European guilds of the sixteenth century on.

Then came the Internet. Some of us eagerly jumped on the opportunity to trade on the Internet. Books that were unwanted in our local areas were eagerly sought after in other parts of the world. We tried to bring our “old-fashioned” standards and ethics along with us….But!

Since bookselling was among the earliest successful Internet retail ventures, venture capitalists were quick to look for ways to jump into this small but potentially viable marketing scheme. Entrepreneurs quickly saw the potential and issued book after book about how to make money selling books on the Internet. People with little or no background or knowledge of books saw the opportunity in treating reading material as a commodity. Suddenly the old standards were at risk, or had been disregarded altogether. Websites that attempted to retain them were purchased by investors who also saw the medium as a moneymaking opportunity, not as a means to preserve a centuries-long tradition. Today, “traditional” booksellers struggle against a tide of cheaply priced merchandise. It’s market economy – supply and demand. If booksellers cannot embrace the changes wrought by the Internet, they are an endangered species.

The problem is one of making adjustments. That does NOT include lowering any standards. It does mean that ideas about marketing and business methods need to change. Efforts to retain the old models are doomed to failure. We are NOT going to go back to the old ways, at least not any time soon.

I handle a lot of ephemera and I’m always intrigued by advertising from those periods when a technology was in process of change. For many years, ice was a luxury and most of it came from ponds, lakes, and rivers (and sometimes caves) where ice could be cut and transported to markets where it was not otherwise readily available. This was a very lucrative business, and one that reared up in shock when refrigeration methods improved, and local markets could offer artificially produced ice. (The American South was primary in this development.) The “natural ice” marketers tried in vain to claim that theirs was a healthier product (never mind the issue of pollution that were present even then) but they were doomed. Artificial ice was more readily available and a lot less expensive in the areas that provided the largest market.

The advent of the farm tractor threw the makers of horse-drawn plows and equipment into a frenzy of advertising the advantages of the horse over the gasoline engine. (Cheap fuel, recyclable waste, easy maintenance, lower cost, easier on tilth.) The gasoline-powered tractor, however, allowed farmers to produce more work for less labor.

Then came the automobile. It’s interesting in some of the period magazines to see ads for buggies and carriages on the same page with ads for early autos. [See below] There were, of course, attempts to build autos that were propelled by steam, electricity, and gasoline internal combustion engines. [See below] What is most interesting is that the manufacturers who jumped onto the automobile phenomenon were the buggy and carriage makers, as well as bicycle makers. So you can see horse-drawn conveyances from Buick, Studebaker, Cadillac, Dodge, etc., companies that became some of the earliest makers of autos. Bicycle makers who turned to manufacturing autos included Pope and Columbia. In fact, it was a bicycle manufacturer (Stirling Elliot) who solved the problem of wheel-turning ratio, a solution that is still used on cars being manufactured today.

Well, the natural ice industry melted away and the horse-drawn plow still has its advocates, not only among groups such as the Amish but also with some modern farmers. In fact, as the old manufacturers abandoned their trade, and as the old equipment wore out, many small entrepreneurial firms sprang up to offer horse-powered equipment to a new generation of farmers who want to pursue this method. There is now an annual trade show called Horse Progress Days (they have a nice website) where modern horse equipment manufacturers can showcase their wares.

And yes, there are still buggy makers, and buggy whip makers, catering to a specialized market. And the horse population is larger today than it ever was.

All of which is to point out that bookselling has changed radically with the introduction of the Internet. Booksellers who cling to the traditional models are going to have to change perspective if they don’t want to follow the path of the natural ice merchants. Those who can convert their methods – as the buggy and bicycle manufacturers did – to take advantage of the new technology may prevail. There is still room for the specialist, and brick and mortar stores that have something special and personal to offer their customers (so long as they are in appropriate locations) can survive, so long as they accept a modest market share. The generalist Internet bookseller, however, either needs to develop a specialized market niche, or to adapt to the realities of an online marketplace.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

The transition from Horse and Buggy to Early Autos

The little runabouts were probably fairly impractical at a time when paved roads were pretty much unheard of.

White Sewing Machine Company got into the act with this steam automobile. Steam had a short burst (so to speak) of popularity.

Early Electrical Woods auto.

Ads for horse-drawn vehicles and autos often appeared on the same page in magazines, as in this 1903 page featuring an ad for a Cadillac auto along with the Babock Stanhopes and Phaeton. Not only did the names of horse-drawn vehicles carry over to autos - many of the styles did also.

Later a premier auto manufacturer, Studebaker was still building horse-drawn vehicles in 1903. This was advertised as a Station Wagon.

Another cross-over 1903 ad with Studebaker carriages and Northern automobiles.

Bicyle manufacturer Pope offered this auto in 1903.

Oldsmobile was early on the scene, with this 1903 version, advertising Mother Shipton's Prophecy, "Carriages without horse shall go!" In this ad, Oldsmobile claims 23 years "of practical experience in gasolene (sic) motor and automobile construction. Located in Detroit, they had 58 selling agencies.

Early Autos - bicycle makers to Cadillac

Columbia was another bicycle manufacturer that segued into automobile manufacture, as shown in this 1905 advertisement.

By 1906, Studebaker was firmly into the auto business

Bicycle manufacturer Pope moved easily into the automobile business. They understood the appeal to women and used it extensively in their advertising.

By 1907, Cadillac was pushing for the elite market.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

ATCs - Maybe Not Fine Art, but Fun!

Perhaps you have heard of ATCs - Artist Trading Cards. These are tiny works of art, just 3.5 x 2.5 inches (64 x 89 mm) in size. The whole idea was conceived in 1997 by a Swiss fine artist, M. Vanci Stirnemann. He was concerned that his work was becoming so expensive that many of his friends could no longer afford it. Then he saw a sports card trading session, and he had his bright idea – miniature art works that would be traded, not sold.

The idea caught on and has spread around the world. Although the preferred method of trading is live and in person, many artists have met to share their work through the Internet when local groups are not available. (Needless to say, some have taken advantage of the interest in ATCs and offer them for sale, sometimes under a slightly different name.) The size format and idea has been adopted by rubber stampers, scrapbookers, digital artists, and others. But I happen to belong to a group that, while it does trade through a website, restricts its work to original drawing, painting, and sometimes printmaking (engraving, etc.) Other groups focus on collage or mixed media.

It can be a bit intimidating to join a group like this, particularly if you are unsure of your artistic skills. However, most groups are friendly, warm, and welcoming not to mention encouraging and helpful. Each group operates a bit differently – some have themed swaps or round robin type trades. Our little group is strictly one-on-one: if you see a card you like, you request a trade. You might not always get it but there are no hurt feelings if someone declines. It’s all about doing what we love, and acquiring artworks that we love.

And looking through the cards that you acquire can make you feel utterly wealthy – most of us keep our collection in albums and imagine what it’s like to open the covers on your miniature art gallery!

I’m including a few of my own little productions – I don’t think of myself as a “fine artist” and I certainly have no training. But it is a whole lot of fun!

If you are interested in joining the Yahoo Fine Arts ATC group I described, here's a link: (sorry if there are some "junk" words - when I tried to clean this up it was rejected.)

alt="Click here to join FineArtsATC">
Click to join FineArtsATC

Friday, February 1, 2008

The Ice Box with some Ephemera

Speaking of ice and snow, as we were a couple of days ago, I overheard Emeril use the word “icebox” on his TV show the other night. And I had to wonder how many people knew that he was referring to the refrigerator, and of those who did, how many actually knew what an icebox is – or was. And of those who knew, how many had ever had to live with one.

With the kind of serendipity that often befalls an ephemera dealer, the very next day I turned up this advertising piece for an ice delivery company in San Francisco.

It was clearly made to hang next to the icebox, an early version of the advertising refrigerator magnet. The verso of it shows how to place the ice, and where in the box to put various food items. This piece was probably produced at about the time that electric (and gas) refrigerators were being introduced, since the slogan is, “A Block of Ice Never Gets Out of Order.”

That may be, but if you ever lived with an icebox, you must remember the “drip tray.”
“Drip” is a nice term for all that melted water. Now, it may be that the icebox in this image had some kind of draining device, but the one we had when I was a kid had a sheet metal tray under it that had to be pulled out and emptied.

That ice tray pretty much controlled our lives. Trips and visits were often cut short with the phrase from my mother’s lips, “Oh, we have to get home and empty the drip tray.” There were a few times that we didn’t get there in time – we’d walk in to find a stream of cold slimy water inching its way across the cracked linoleum floor.

Removing a full tray was no fun, either, as you can imagine if you have ever tried to pry a flat wobbly tray brimming with water out of a floor-level hole, and balance and lift it to the sink. A deal of bailing had to be performed before the task could be undertaken with some degree of success. Our icebox was nothing like the luxury model in the above image. It was a low box with one compartment and a couple of wire shelves. A block of ice went into the bottom of the box, and a limited amount of food could be placed on the shelves. The only advantage to having to live with such a contraption was that it couldn’t keep things frozen. The other phrase from this era that comes to mind is, “We have to eat up all this ice cream, because it won’t hold in the icebox.”

The ice was made, I knew, in the ice house that we sometimes walked past on the way to the park. It was a huge warehouse building, rather formidable and scary with unpainted wooden steps and landings and, when the doors were open, a huge dark cavern was revealed. The whole building exhaled cold and damp. In fact, everything about it seemed to be wet all of the time – the walls, the loading decks, the ramps, the parking lot. The men who worked there were big and burly and aproned in heavy leather and … well, wet. It had to be a rather nice job in summer, since air conditioning was not yet common in our part of the country.

It’s no wonder that I dearly love my self-defrosting refrigerator, with the freezer on the side and the ice dispenser in the door. It has to be one of the modern age’s most wonderful inventions, and I make no excuses when I am caught hugging it with deep affection.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

The Snow Guy Heads for Home, with Mama Lee's Zucchini Fritter Recipe

If Sunday was a snow day, Tuesday was any kind of weather you might want. The sun shone, the wind blew. It rained, it hailed, it snowed. The sun shone again. It rained, it snowed again. At one point there was lightning and thunder (less than a mile away from us) WHILE it was snowing! Even the news station meterorologist commented on that.

If you skip down a couple of days, you'll see the Snow Guy on our front patio. With the rain and warmer temperatures, he is now on his way to his very cool home to meet up with his friends.

(Photo revised by Australian artist, Harmut Jaeger, using some of his art work)

During last week's sub-freezing weather, it seemed that soup was the answer to the chill. With temperatures near 40 today, we were in the mood for lighter fare. I keep a lot of frozen veggies for winter, but couldn't resist some small young fresh zucchini in the store the other day. So I tossed some things together to create Mama Lee's Zucchini Fritters:

For 2:
Heat about 1 T olive oil in a small skillet on medium heat
Chop about 1/2 cup onion into small pieces, add to skillet
Chop small about 1/3 cup bell peppers (I used frozen red, green, and yellow for color), add to skillet just as onion starts to soften
Grate about 1 cup fresh zucchini, add to skillet as peppers start to soften
Turn heat low
Beat 2 eggs in a medium-sized bowl.
Add salt and pepper
Grate about 1/2 cup cheddar (or other) cheese and add to eggs.
Drain the lightly-cooked veggies of any moisture, and add to egg mixture.
Sprinkle in enough flour to make it all stick together in a loose batter.

Heat a small amount of olive oil on a griddle, add a tablespoon or two of butter if desired. (Be honest - who doesn't desire butter?)
When the butter is bubbly, drop large spoonfuls of the batter to make four fritters. Fry until golden brown, turn once and fry the other side.

You could also add chopped green onion, parsley, vegetable seasoning etc. as desired.

This was yummy with some fruit on the side! (And no, I rarely use a recipe, and yes - we rarely have exactly the same thing twice.)

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

About the San Francisco Earthquake

A stereo view card of the Refugees' camp at the ball grounds in Golden State Park,
in the aftermath of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire.
Many tens of thousands of residents were displaced or homeless after this great disaster.
Card published by The World Wide View Co., Photo (screened print) by Griffith & Griffith

We tend to use terms such as “steady as a rock” and “solid ground” and “down to Earth” to describe stability and immutability. But in fact, our earth is a molten ball of melted rock covered with thin slabs of solid material that float, slip, slide, ooze, fracture, sink, collide, subside and that sometimes melt, flow, and spew. Meanwhile our little planet is whirling around our sun, in a solar system that is traveling through space at incredible speed. It’s enough to give you vertigo, and reading a book such as Simon Winchester’s A Crack in the Edge of the World can make you a lot less sure of your footing.

This book (Harper Collins, 2005) is ostensibly about the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire. As he usually does, Winchester uses the San Francisco earthquake as the major “character” in a story that covers a great deal more – plate tectonics, the Gaia theory, seismology, and other aspects of what scientists have come to call “The New Geology” – the revision of geological theories since the mid-1960s.

Winchester undertook a journey across the North American Plate – starting in Iceland at its Eastern perimeter, and traveling across the United States to San Francisco, thence to the northern reaches of Alaska. In order to understand what all this has to do with the San Francisco earthquake, one simply needs to read the book and make the journey vicariously with Winchester, who as always imbues his story with excitement, tension, humor, human interest and anecdote. Nor is he ever afraid to give his personal reaction to a town, a person, a book, or a theory.

Although he is a consummate researcher and made use of many experts in compiling his information, I’d have to quibble with his reference to the death of David Douglas in Hawaii. Winchester relates the old pit and bull story, which was considered to be highly suspect at the time, and has since been disproved by witnesses who came forward long after the fact to testify that Douglas was murdered and tossed into the pit with the bull to simulate an accidental death.

As for the San Andreas fault, Winchester uses a train-car analogy that make a fine clear image of what happens when it generates an earthquake. And as for timing – he brings forth a persuasive argument that another slippage is overdue and likely to occur at any time, but fairly certainly within the next quarter-century or so.

I was disappointed with the inside of the dustjacket – which cleverly unfolds the way that the jacket for The Map That Changed The World does. However, whereas the “Map” jacket had a large depiction of William Smith’s beautiful map of the geology of England and Scotland, the inside of this jacket has only reproductions of some of the disaster scenes from the San Francisco earthquake. Larger renditions of the endpaper maps of the North American Plate and of American earthquakes and volcanoes (and the author’s route), plus a better “close up” of the San Andreas fault itself, would have been far more informative.

Meanwhile, I’m not taking the ground beneath my feet for granted any longer.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

How to Enjoy a Snowy Day

Snow was forecast, and snow it did. It's not all that usual for us to have more than an inch or two here in the southern Willamette Valley of Oregon, but this time it was a good five inches up here on the hill.

For some reason we got very little done today - never mind that we didn't want to drive anyplace - it was just that the snow falling in fat wet flakes was so lovely to watch from the windows.

It did feel odd not to see children out playing in it - we used to see them sledding on the steep street across from us, making snowmen, tossing snowballs. Finally in mid-afternoon the kids across the street started rolling around in it. They never accomplished a snowman though.

Gary went out to knock snow from the shrubs and small trees - it was so wet and heavy that it was bending them down. He was kind of like a kid out there, messing around in it. When he didn't come in I went out to look for him. Poor guy - he stayed out there to enjoy it for a tad too long....