MeatLoaf

Two Out Of Three Ain’t Bad

September 27, 2022

When reading the Infallible Wikipedia about this artist, who was born on September 27, 1947, what comes across is a larger than life personality whose personal excesses drove his incredible success but also his failures.

As a child, Marvin (Michael) Lee Aday*, was the target of other children for his physical appearance. He once stated in an interview that when he was born, he was “ ‘bright red and stayed that way for days’ and that his father said he looked like ‘nine pounds of ground chuck’, and convinced hospital staff to put the name ‘Meat’ on his crib. He was later called ‘M.L.’ in reference to his initials, but when his weight increased, his seventh-grade classmates referred to him as ‘Meatloaf’, referring to his 5-foot, 2 inches, 240 pound stature. He also attributed the nickname to an incident where, after he stepped on a football coach’s foot, the coach yelled ‘Get off my foot, you hunk of meatloaf!’.”

The name stuck and, as a performer, “Meatloaf” became the name by which he was famous. In fact, until I started researching this article, I did not know his real name.

His story, like so many other artists, was one of forming a band and playing every gig he could get. He landed singing roles in several musicals including The Rocky Horror Show and Hair. These successes eventually led to teaming up with Jim Steinman, a composer, lyricist, and producer; together they put together Meatloaf’s most iconic album Bat Out of Hell. Also from the Infallible Wikipedia:

The official video for Two Out Of Three Ain’t Bad

“Meat Loaf and Steinman spent time seeking a record deal; however, their approaches were rejected by each record company, because their songs did not fit any specific recognized music industry style. Todd Rundgren, under the impression that they already had a record deal, agreed to produce the album as well as play lead guitar along with other members of Rundgren’s band Utopia and Max Weinberg. They then shopped the record around, but they still had no takers until Steve Popovich’s Cleveland International Records took a chance, releasing Bat Out of Hell in October 1977.”

It was a great decision. That album went on to sell an estimated 43 million copies, making it one of the best selling albums of all time. It has spent an incredible 485 weeks on the UK’s Album Chart, only two weeks less than Fleetwood Mac’s Rumors.

Meatloaf with his composer, lyricist, and producer, Jim Steinman

Like many artists, it seems as if his over the top persona was, perhaps, a way to overcome some of the teasing he endured as a child. In an interview he once said, “Being too fat to play with the other children, I had to spend a lot of time alone, which probably has a lot to do with the way I am today. I’m usually alone in my hotel room from right after the show until the next day’s sound check. And I’m never bored; I don’t get bored. Probably because mothers wouldn’t let their kids play with me.”

Sadly, he died suddenly on January 20, 2022 at the age of 74. He’d had Covid several weeks earlier, but no specific cause of death was listed.

Somewhat belatedly Meatloaf’s Bat Out of Hell album joined my hitchhiker music list when I found the CD at Value Village one day a few years ago. I admit that I had only heard his iconic Paradise By the Dashboard Lights a few times previously, preferring his ballads, particularly Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad.

I think that one of the reasons that song resonated with so many of my generation might have been due to the pain which the artist experienced early in life. To listen to his interpretation of the song there is absolutely no doubt that he understands what rejection feels like.

Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad is a song I can listen to again and again, appreciating Meatloaf’s vocal ability and soulful rendition. The year the song charted, I experienced a failed relationship and could truly relate to the words and music.

Rest In Peace Michael Lee Addy. The world was made better by your contributions.

*He changed his name to Michael as an adult.

A link:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meat_Loaf

Happy Days

Fonzie Jumps the Shark

September 20, 2022

There was, perhaps, no more popular and successful Sitcom of the 1970’s than Happy Days. In its eleven years on the air it was culture defining.

Its early success played off the nostalgia of the 1950’s, portraying a traditional family of that era. The Infallible Wikipedia tells us:

“Happy Days originated during a time of 1950s nostalgic interest as evident in 1970s film, television, and music. In late winter of 1971, Michael Eisner was snowed in at Newark airport where he bumped into Tom Miller, head of development at Paramount. Eisner has stated that he told Miller, ‘Tom, this is ridiculous. We’re wasting our time here. Let’s write a show.’ The script treatment that came out of that did not sell. But in spite of the market research department telling them that the 1950s theme would not work, they decided to redo it, and this was accepted as a pilot. This unsold pilot was filmed in late 1971 and titled New Family in Town. (snip) Paramount passed on making it into a weekly series, and the pilot was recycled with the title Love and the Television Set (later retitled Love and the Happy Days for syndication), for presentation on the television anthology series Love, American Style. Also in 1971, the musical Grease had a successful opening in Chicago, and by the following year became successful on Broadway. Also in 1972, George Lucas asked to view the pilot to determine if Ron Howard would be suitable to play a teenager in American Graffiti, then in pre-production. Lucas immediately cast Howard in the film, which became one of the top-grossing films of 1973.”

It was on September 20, 1977, however, when one Happy Days episode aired which has become a cultural catch phrase to describe a moment when a TV series, particularly, has passed its prime. That phrase is “jumping the shark.”

We can trace the moment back to a scene where Fonzie – arguably the most popular character from Happy Days – accepts a challenge from a character called ‘The California Kid’ to water ski over a tiger shark.

The ‘Kid’ chickens out but Fonzie, who feels he has something to prove, continues with the challenge, and is seen in his iconic leather jacket water skiing, successfully jumping the shark.

To be clear, Happy Days continued for seven additional seasons. It was only in 1985 when the phrase ‘jumping the shark’ was introduced.

Also from the Infallible Wikipedia:

“The idiom ‘jumping the shark’ was coined in 1985 by Jon Hein in response to a 1977 episode from the fifth season of the American sitcom Happy Days, in which Fonzie (Henry Winkler) jumps over a shark while on water-skis. The phrase is pejorative and is used to argue that a creative work or outlet appears to be making a stunt in a seemingly exhaustive attempt to generate elevated attention or publicity to something that was once perceived as popular, but is no longer.”

I can’t recall when, exactly, I became familiar with the phrase. But for me the term has come to be representative of what I refer to as a cultural reference.

Henry Winkler, aka Fonzie, about to jump the shark

When my kids were about six and nine years old, I found myself using what I believed were common cultural references only to discover that my kids did NOT know them.

Thus I began a program of renting – actually I would check them out from the King County Public Library – movies which I felt they should see.

At first it was all the old musicals from the 1950’s and 1960’s which kept us entertained for a number of years. Then, when the kids were a bit older, I decided to introduce them to movies like Top Gun, Blazing Saddles, Animal House, and Risky Business.

There were more than a few awkward moments when my 13 year old daughter would hide her face behind a pillow when some inappropriate scene would appear on screen.

Note to parents out there: be sure to preview all movies before showing them to young teens.

Thinking that they needed to know about Monty Python, we gave our son the complete Monty Python DVD set one year for his birthday. Soon he was the one making cultural references and for years would quote famous lines from the show, my efforts successful.

I’ve always felt that I contributed significantly to my children’s general knowledge base.

That said, there were many times when I would comment on what I thought of as a common cultural reference only to discover my children staring at me, blank looks on their faces.

Inevitably that would lead to me trotting over to the computer and searching the internet to find the clip or explanation so they could learn it too.

There are times, nowadays, when my daughter, particularly, is on the receiving end of the blank stare. Yes, I am frequently the one who does not know a current cultural reference.

Rather than admitting I don’t know the reference, I often make a mental note to check it out later. FWIW, its how I’ve learned what the pervasive acronyms splattered throughout social media mean. (FWIW= For What It’s Worth).

After experiencing an unfamiliar cultural reference, I’ve often returned home to watch a movie or TV show which their generation all know and, in some cases, I can see the attraction. But not always.

But I do think making a sincere effort to understand another person’s cultural references is important. After all, I’m not quite ready to jump the shark. Not Yet. WBU?

A few links for your cultural reference education:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Happy_Days

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jumping_the_shark

Alpha Phi

Celebrating 150 years of Sorority Life

September 13, 2022

The front of my Alpha Phi Pledge book and a photo of our house at the University of Puget Sound. 1977

The formation of Greek letter societies on college campuses can be traced back to 1776. The idea behind the first such group – Phi Beta Kappa – was to provide a place for like minded individuals in the pursuit of academic excellence. Phi Beta Kappa continues today as a prestigious academic honor society.

Over the next century Fraternities, as they came to be called, were social groups formed for men. It wasn’t until 1870 when the first actual Greek letter group for women was established. That honor goes to Kappa Alpha Theta which was formed in January 1870 at Indiana’s DePauw University; close on their heels was Kappa Kappa Gamma founded in October of the same year at Monmouth College in Illinois.*

Third on that list was Alpha Phi Fraternity, established on September 18, 1872 at Syracuse University in Syracuse, New York.

The term Sorority had not yet been coined to represent the female version of a Fraternity which is why the first three such groups for women were formed as Fraternities.

When I pledged Alpha Phi at the University of Puget Sound in the fall of 1977, I knew little of the Greek organizations. Yes, my mother had been a member of Delta Delta Delta but had talked little of her time in the sorority.

I also knew that my grandmother had been a housemother for the Sigma Kappa sorority on the University of Washington campus in the early to mid-1960’s.

A few of my sorority sisters from the official composite of the members in 1977-78

Knowing this, and having stayed at the Sigma Kappa house a couple of times while my grandmother was there, I had long wished to join a sorority when I attended college. More on that in a bit.

First, the Infallible Wikipedia tells us this about Alpha Phi:

“At the time of the founding there were only 666 women attending Syracuse; ten of them eventually formed Alpha Phi to create an organization ‘on the principles of the promotion of growth in character; unity of feeling, sisterly affection, and social communion among the members.’ Although the actual founding date is September 18, 1872, Alpha Phi has been celebrating their Founders Day on October 10 since 1902, since many colleges and universities were not open for classes in mid-September at that time. Alpha Phi considers itself a women’s fraternity because its founding date predates the invention of the word ‘sorority.’ (snip)

Like many other women’s fraternities, Alpha Phi recognizes multiple types of symbols, with the Ivy Leaf as their primary symbol. The fraternity’s official colors are Bordeaux and silver. The colors were originally blue and gold; however, these colors were similar to those of Delta Upsilon Fraternity so they were changed. The official flowers are the Lily of the Valley and the Forget-me-not. Alpha Phi lists its ideals as ‘Sisterhood, Generosity, Innovation, and Character.’ Alpha Phi’s public motto is ‘union hand in hand’.”

My roomies from my first semester atop the bunk beds: Dee, Susie, and Connie.

All of these things I learned after becoming a pledge. A pledge is someone who commits to joining the organization once they have completed a probationary period. I successfully completed my probation and was initiated into Alpha Phi in January 1978.

The two years I was a member of Alpha Phi were, perhaps, the most influential and memorable times of my life. I loved everything about Sorority life. The Monday night chapter meetings; the Friday and Saturday night functions with the Fraternities; the crazy antics of my roomies; having roomies; living on Greek row.

Unlike most students, I was a junior when I arrived on the UPS campus. I had spent the previous two years at Yakima Valley College (YVC). I discovered, spring of my sophomore year at that institution, that I was a few credits short of what I needed for my AA degree. Having the AA was essential to avoid spending an extra year – and extra money – getting my BA degree.

With Roomies Cathy and Sheila at Sheila’s home in Sooke, B.C., summer of 1978

The summer before UPS, I took a Spanish class at YVC to get those credits and ended up meeting a gal name Toni. Unbeknownst to me, Toni was a member of Alpha Phi at UPS and, due to her own issues getting her degree from UPS, had signed up for the YVC class also. I so appreciate Toni as she took the time and effort to write a recommendation for me, paving the way for my membership in Alpha Phi.

I assumed I would join Delta Delta Delta (Tri-Delta) as both my mother and my aunt had been members. There were rules regarding how a ‘legacy’ – someone who had a mother, sister, or grandmother who belonged to a particular sorority – was processed through ‘Rush.’ (Rush was a multi-day process where the Rushees would go, in groups of 25 to 30, to each and every sorority on campus. There you would meet and talk to members of a particular house before being ushered out and then herded to the next house.) Later, I came to understand, the members of each house would meet and decide ‘who’ to invite back the next day as they were limited in the number of young women they could choose.

Not knowing how Rush worked, I found out too late that having letters of reference were essential to receiving an invitation to return. For the second day of Rush, I was asked back to three of the seven Sororities on campus: Tri Delta, Alpha Phi, and Chi Omega. I did not have the recommendations needed for the others.

Undaunted, I show up at the appointed time at each and I think it’s gone pretty well. But, when the dust settled, the Tri-Delts had not invited me back to day three. I learned later that, as a Legacy, you were guaranteed an invite back for day two, but if they invited you back after that they were required to issue you an invitation to join. Being that I was a junior meant I would only be in the sorority for two – rather than four – years. The Tri-Delts were, I think, looking only for freshmen.

Ready for the alumni open house Fall 1978

Although disappointed, I crossed my fingers that the Alpha Phi’s would keep me to the end. While Toni had opened the first door, I was also helped along by Alpha Phi member I knew through the Rainbow Girls. I have no doubt that her influence was a deciding factor in the sorority inviting me to join. Thus I became a proud pledge of Alpha Phi, excited to have the sorority experience.

Alpha Phi’s dressed and ready for a cowboy function with one of the Fraternities

There’s little doubt in my mind that I probably would have been a more serious student had I NOT joined the sorority. But I also believe that one’s lessons in life come in many different forms. For me Alpha Phi was the perfect vehicle for transition from teenager to adult. It became my family. True it was a family of all sisters, but we looked out for each other; we were there to listen to tales of woe in regards to guys. We were there to give each other hugs of encouragement and dry the occasional tears. We had someone to walk to class with and there was always someone to eat a meal with. There were the after lunch TV sessions to watch All My Children and the weekend late night gatherings for Saturday Night Live. There were the runs to the “Pig” – aka Piggly Wiggly grocery store – for snacks; and the occasional pizza outings to Shakey’s. There were dances and social events with the Fraternities.

In the spring of 1979, with graduation looming, some of my sisters would say they couldn’t wait to be done. But not me. I knew I would miss everything about Sorority life and Alpha Phi.

But it wasn’t over; not really. The experiences live on in my memory and, perhaps, one or a dozen of those experiences may have become part of the book series I’m currently prepping for publication.

I owe it all to my sisters and the two magical years I spent with them as a member of the Gamma Zeta chapter of Alpha Phi at the University of Puget Sound.

A few links:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alpha_Phi

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fraternities_and_sororities#Establishment_and_early_history

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/University_of_Puget_Sound

*Although both Pi Beta Phi (Pi Phi) and Alpha Delta Phi (ADPi) can claim earlier formation dates than the three listed, neither adopted Greek letter names when created. Pi Phi – originally called I.C. Sorosis – switched to a Greek letter name in 1888, and ADPi – originally the Adelphean Society – in 1905.

The Typewriter

The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog

September 6, 2022

No one can point to the exact date when this item was invented. Without it, computers as we know them would not exist. Without it, many great works of literature would never have been written.

The Crandall -an 1884 typewriter

The concept for the typewriter can be traced back to as early as the late 1500’s when an Italian, Francesco Rampazetto, invented a device called scrittura tattile, a machine used to impress letters in papers.

The Infallible Wikipedia shares this:

“Although many modern typewriters have one of several similar designs, their invention was incremental, developed by numerous inventors working independently or in competition with each other over a series of decades. As with the automobile, telephone, and telegraph, a number of people contributed insights and inventions that eventually resulted in ever more commercially successful instruments. Historians have estimated that some form of typewriter was invented 52 times as thinkers tried to come up with a workable design.”

It was not until the 1870’s when the machine which became the modern typewriter began its ascent. Also from the Infallible Wikipedia:

“The first commercial typewriters were introduced in 1874, but did not become common in offices until after the mid-1880s. The typewriter quickly became an indispensable tool for practically all writing other than personal handwritten correspondence. It was widely used by professional writers, in offices, business correspondence in private homes, and by students preparing written assignments.

Typewriters were a standard fixture in most offices up to the 1980s. Thereafter, they began to be largely supplanted by personal computers running word processing software. Nevertheless, typewriters remain common in some parts of the world. In many Indian cities and towns, for example, typewriters are still used, especially in roadside and legal offices due to a lack of continuous, reliable electricity.

The QWERTY keyboard layout, developed for typewriters in the 1870s, remains the standard for computer keyboards. The origins of this layout remain in dispute.”

By the time I was in junior high, no doubt there were papers to be written which required use of a typewriter. The first one I ever used belonged to my mother. Made by Remington, it was their Envoy model. While I’m not sure why there were different models since they all looked the same, no doubt there were features added each year which improved on the previous model.

My mother’s 1941 Remington Envoy… and the device which replaced the typewriter… 80 years later.

I will admit right now that I just spent 15 minutes looking for the serial number on her typewriter. Yes, they had serial numbers. Turns out this machine, number S1161669, was manufactured in 1941. My mother was 16 that year.

From an early age I developed a love/hate relationship with the typewriter. I loved the feeling of rolling a blank piece of paper into the platen, its emptiness beckoning creation. Then with the first few pushes of the keys, words would magically appear on the paper. It was a rush!

By word three, however, a horrible thing would happen. Instead of typing say, “Amelia skipped merrily down the path,” what often occurred would be something which looked like this:

Amelia skip[ed merruly down teeh path”

Magic fixer solution

Unlike word processing on the computer, once those letters hit the page, you were stuck. Then you had a choice. Rip the paper from the roller in frustration, crumple it up, stomp on it and scream, and then start over OR go digging for that little bottle of the magic fixer, whiskey. Ha ha… just kidding. I’m talking about White Out, aka Liquid Paper.

If your mistake was early enough, replacing the paper was best. But woe unto you if it happened way down the page.

My papers were ALWAYS a mess of white out.

But I digress. I believe it was my sophomore year of high school when I got an electric typewriter. Which really only meant that I could now make mistakes much more quickly.

Me with the IBM Selectric in 1979

That machine served me well throughout high school and college. Then, in 1979 I was hired as a reporter and editor for the Eatonville Dispatch and I can still recall my first day on the job when there, on what was now my desk, sat a shiny IBM Selectric.

For those who don’t know, the Selectric was the gold standard of typewriters in that era for one very important reason: you could change the fonts.

Up until then typewriters pretty much featured one font and one font only: Courier.

The Selectic did not have a static set of keys. Instead, all the letters were on a ball – imagine a small metal disco ball covered in raised letters and numbers – which could be popped off and a different ball put on.

Oh the joy of being able to choose between Presitge Elite and Courier Italic! Serif versus San Serif.

IKE sophomores in Mrs. Rigo’s typing I class, 1974

After leaving Eatonville, typewriter use becomes fuzzy. I know I worked on them at various jobs right up until I joined Microsoft in January 1982. It was only then that we had a rudimentary internal email system which I figured out how to make work like a typewriter. The best part of that was the ability to correct mistakes. It only took a few times of painting the screen with white out to learn that the liquid saver was no longer needed.

By the mid-1980’s typewriters had pretty much become obsolete in most business environments. Like the horse and buggy, the teletype, Victrolas, and a whole host of other products which once dominated the culture, the typewriter was sent to the dustbin of history. (hmmm… I think a dustbin is part of that list of obsolete things also)

One final thought on typewriters. Of all the classes I took in high school, it was typing which benefited me more than any others. Kudos to Mrs. Rigos and typing teachers everywhere.

To you I say… jjjj… ffff…iiii… aaaa … and ‘The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog*.’

A few links:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Typewriter

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/E._Remington_and_Sons  (Guess they had the first AND second amendments covered)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IBM_Selectric_typewriter

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_quick_brown_fox_jumps_over_the_lazy_dog

https://dispatchnews.com/

* ‘The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog’ is a sentence used in typing classes as it contains all 26 letters of the English language.

Seeking a Friend for the End of the World

It’s a Universe full of objects hurtling through space

August 30, 2022

Chalk this week’s post up to ‘things I never knew.’ It was on August 30, 1979, when a comet collided with the sun. Whoa.

Artwork from TodayinHistory.com

How do scientists know the date? According to an article in the New York Times from October 10, 1981, it was over two years after that the event was uncovered:

“A comet collided violently with the Sun two years ago, generating tremendous energy and scattering debris millions of miles across the solar system, scientists at the Naval Research Laboratory reported today.

The event, recorded by satellite instruments, is the first known instance of a celestial body colliding with the Sun, said Dr. Donald J. Michels. It also marks the first time a comet has been discovered by a satellite.

Dr. Michels said the collision, which occurred Aug. 30, 1979, was recorded by an experiment called Solwind. Because of delays in analyzing the spacecraft data, the event was not discovered until recently, he said.

Captured images of the comet colliding with the sun August 30, 1979

Solwind monitors activity in the Sun’s outer corona, part of its atmosphere, by using an occulting disk that creates the effect of a permanent solar eclipse. Sun’s Heat Disintegrated Comet

‘Total eclipses observed from the Earth last no more than a few minutes,’ Dr. Michels said. ‘Solwind has been able to observe the Sun’s corona through these artificial eclipses night and day for nearly three years.’

He said the comet had passed through the instrument’s field of vision as it streaked toward the Sun and was quickly disintegrated by the Sun’s blazing heat. ‘We estimate that when the comet hit the Sun, the energy released was about 1,000 times the energy used in the United States during an entire year,’ Dr. Michels said.”

Of course even thinking about such an event is likely to cause anxiety for some of us. I’m in that camp. A few months ago my brother loaned me a movie from his collection. I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect from Seeking a Friend for the End of the World. It was an oddly compelling movie which explored the concept of what individuals might do if they knew the world would be destroyed by a comet in three weeks time.

It is upon this premise the audience enters a Dystopian world where the rules and norms no longer apply. We see the coming apocalypse through the viewpoint of a character named Dodge and his ‘friend’ for the end of the world, Penny.

Poster from the movie

Thanks to the Infallible Wikipedia we also learn:

“Seeking a Friend for the End of the World is a 2012 American apocalyptic romantic comedy-drama film, written and directed by Lorene Scafaria, in her feature directorial debut. The film stars Steve Carell and Keira Knightley as a pair of strangers who meet and form an unexpected bond as they help each other find closure in their lives before an asteroid wipes out life on Earth. The inspiration for the title comes from a line in Chris Cornell’s song ‘Preaching the End of the World’, from his 1999 debut solo album Euphoria Morning.

The film was theatrically released on June 22, 2012, in the United States by Focus Features. It received mixed reviews from critics and was a box-office bomb, earning $9.6 million on a $10 million budget.”

Had I read the review on the Infallible Wikipedia prior to watching the movie, I probably would not have watched it. Somehow, even as all sorts of insane events occurred, I kept hoping for a happy ending. Spoiler alert: there isn’t one.

Now, for those who are interested, the next close comet/asteroid encounter that earth is predicted to have is on Friday, April 13, 2029. But we don’t need to worry – or so NASA tells us. Although it will be one of the closest encounters ever, it won’t hit earth.

Carpe Diem! I have things to do and books to write!

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seeking_a_Friend_for_the_End_of_the_World

https://science.nasa.gov/science-news/science-at-nasa/2005/13may_2004mn4/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/99942_Apophis

Class Reunion

A snapshot in time

August 16, 2022

It occurred to me, after attending a class reunion this weekend, that somehow I’m pretty certain I’ve managed to attend all of the ones for my high school class.

A reunion book was produced for both our 10 and 20 year reunions

I suppose that’s not really a surprise, after all I was Editor of our yearbook my Senior year and have always had a keen interest in people’s stories. Attending a reunion is simply a continuation of those stories; an opportunity to get a snapshot every few years of those who were a part of the early years of our lives.

Before I go much further, however, I know all my regular readers will be glad to learn that the Infallible Wikipedia has a page for the topic ‘class reunion’ as follows:

“A class reunion is a meeting of former classmates, often organized at or near their former high school or college by one or more class members. It is scheduled near an anniversary of their graduation, e.g. every 5 or 10 years. Their teachers and administrators may also be invited. Those attending reminisce about their student days and bring one another up to date on what has happened since they last met.”

But I don’t think the Infallible Wikipedia’s description does the topic justice. So I started thinking about my Eisenhower High School reunions through the years. At our ten year reunion – the first one we had – there were easily a couple hundred who attended. Our venue was one of the buildings at the Central Washington State Fair Grounds and, besides a dinner and dancing, included a photographer who was taking photos which could be purchased.

At the time, the hubby and I were DINKY’s (back in the 1980’s a DINKY stood for Double Income No Kids Yet). The snapshot of that night was one of people in their late 20’s, still trying to figure out their place in the world. Some had children and, although I did not, I can still see the look of complete exhaustion on the faces of those women. But I didn’t yet understand what that was like, as careers were everything in my world that reunion. At ten years, there was a weird game of one-upmanship still in play.

Truly, few of us had yet experienced some of life’s harder lessons. Perhaps the most sobering aspect of the 10 year reunion was the short list of those with whom we had graduated but who had already left this earth.

Fast forward five years, and the organizers (we have been blessed to have a team of, primarily, women who have made all of these happen!) planned a half decade reunion. This one, held in the early fall, included attending a home football game on Friday night and a picnic on Saturday.

Now, as a mother with an 8 month old baby, I left my son with the most reliable babysitters in the universe, his grandparents, and headed out to the stadium. Partway through the game, I look down from the bleachers only to see my Dad standing below motioning at me. My night out was over!

The next day, my not yet walking son and I attended the picnic and enjoyed the more casual setting and smaller numbers, getting advice from experienced moms and meeting many of their children also.

Year twenty the reunion was held in a big outdoor tent at a country club. At the ten and the 20 year reunions, A “tell us about your life” booklet had been produced and by year 20, the cliques and the labels of high school had started to blur.

The crowd at the 20 year reunion. Definitely a ‘Where’s Waldo’ sort of exercise to find myself in the photo.

One of my favorite snapshot moments was when I was talking to another girl when one of the guys from our class came over to talk to her. Still standing there and feeling a bit like a third wheel, there was suddenly a lull in the conversation and I blurted out to the guy, who we will call Adam, “I had the worst crush on you in Junior High.” I seem to recall he choked on his drink and nearly spit it out.

With my BFF’s from high school on our way to the 40 year reunion in 2015

Onward the years have marched. Our group celebrated with a 35 and also a 40 and then, in 2020, a planned 45 year reunion was sidetracked.

Two years passed but our fearless organizers pressed on and proclaimed that 2022 would be our “Medicare Reunion.”

Suddenly, all those 17 and 18 year old kids I attended high school with were starting to retire. Most everyone had lost one or both parents; more names have been added to the dreaded ‘list’; there have been triumphs and disappointments; incredible joy and devastating sorrow; the loss of siblings; the loss of spouses; the loss of children. The cliques and labels have disappeared and what’s left are people who can simply enjoy a few hours of telling their stories and hearing other’s stories.

It’s the context which matters. These are the people who shared beginnings either in elementary school, junior high, or high school. When we look at each other we can remember the person and how they looked then. We can see past the wrinkles and gray hair. Their essence is still very much the same but is, I think, tempered by the experiences of life. We are kinder and more forgiving.

One of my classmates – who traveled from California for the event – said it best. My apologies for the paraphrase: It’s about the people and making connections with each other. And it’s important.

Our 2022 ‘Medicare’ reunion

Time – and Covid – have taught us all these things and can be summed up in my favorite Latin phrase: Carpe Diem.

So the next time your high school or college, sorority or fraternity, or any other group you’ve belonged to, plans a reunion, Go. Go and connect with the people who knew you ‘when.’ Laugh. Cry. Enjoy. Hug. And be sure to tell them how much you appreciate them having been a part of your life.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Class_reunion

Dominoes

An ancient game still popular today

August 9, 2022

From the time I was a wee tyke, this game was part and parcel of my life. There was something fascinating about these little black tiles with white dots on them. No doubt they helped me learn to count and add.

A typical set up for a game of traditional dominoes.

Additionally, they were often employed as bricks for tiny doll houses and set up in rows only to be knocked down.

The domino was first mentioned over 700 years ago. It is, no doubt, one of the oldest games known to man.

Yes, the Infallible Wikipedia has a page devoted to it:

The cover of a domino box which we discovered among my parents’ things. The inside box cover (below) is signed and has a date of 1910 in it.

“The earliest mention of dominoes is from Song dynasty China found in the text Former Events in Wulin by Zhou Mi (1232–1298). Modern dominoes first appeared in Italy during the 18th century, but they differ from Chinese dominoes in a number of respects, and there is no confirmed link between the two. European dominoes may have developed independently, or Italian missionaries in China may have brought the game to Europe.

The name ‘domino’ is probably derived from the resemblance to a kind of carnival costume worn during the Venetian Carnival, often consisting of a black-hooded robe and a white mask. Despite the coinage of the word ‘polyomino’ as a generalization, there is no connection between the word ‘domino’ and the number 2 in any language. The most commonly played domino games are Domino Whist, Matador, and Muggins (All Fives). Other popular forms include Texas 42, Chicken Foot, Concentration, Double Fives, and Mexican Train.”

Now, on the minute chance there are readers who are not familiar with dominos, the most common configuration features a set of 28 tiles. Each tile has two faces featuring from zero to six ‘spots’ on either face. The lowest denomination is double zero (blank on both faces), while the greatest is a double six (a six at either end). In between is every single combination of numbers such as one-five, three-four, two-six, etc.

The traditional game I learned was that each participant drew seven tiles and the one with the highest double would start the game by laying down their tile face up. The person to their left would either play a domino which matched their number (For example, if they played a double five, then the second player had to also play a tile with a five at one end) or draw if they did not have a play.

The game continued until one person was able to play all of their tiles before anyone else.

I have a distinct childhood memory of playing dominoes with my mother and grandmother at the family cabin. My grandmother was a keen game player and, it seemed to me, that she always won. But I’m certain my mother won her fair share also. As a kid, I never stood a chance against them!

After my mother’s dementia had taken over her brain, dominoes was the last game she was capable of playing and my sister would often get out the dominoes set which had been acquired just for Mom and engage her in the activity.

The set of dominoes acquired for Mom after her dementia diagnosis.

More recently, my sister, niece, and the niece’s hubby, introduced me to a domino game which I would describe as being on steroids. The game: Mexican Train.

Mexican Train, however, uses dominoes with up to twelve dots on each face, so there are 91 tiles. We turn to the Infallible Wikipedia once again to learn how the game is played:

“With a standard double-twelve set the double twelve is placed in the station. In each successive round the next lower double is used until all doubles are used. The double-blank is the final round.

Play continues to the left. Each person lays one legally placed domino per turn, or two if the player’s first domino is a double. If they are unable to, they must draw a domino from the boneyard. If they are able to lay that domino, they must do so immediately. Otherwise, their turn is over and play continues to the left, each player trying to place all their dominoes by playing matching dominoes one at a time, end to end.

A train can be as long as the players can make it; it ends only when all dominoes that could match its endpoint have already been played. As a result, trains can become quite long, especially with an extended domino set. It is acceptable to ‘bend’ the train 90° or 180° to keep the train on the playing surface, as long as it does not interfere with the endpoints of other trains.

All trains begin the game as ‘public’, and all players may play on them. When a player plays a domino on their train it then becomes ‘private.’ When a player draws a domino and is unable to play it, they must mark their train as ‘public’ by placing a marker on their train.

The Mexican train is an additional train that anyone may play on during their turn. They can start the train by playing a domino matching the engine (i.e. the double played at the beginning of the round) or add to the train.”

I must admit I was curious about how it became known as Mexican train. One last blurb from the Infallible Wikipedia:

The new Mexican Train dominos set up and ready for customers

“‘Mexican Train’ is a name typically used only in the United States. It is believed Mexican Train Dominoes is a variation on a Chinese game called Pai gow, which means ‘make nine’. Chinese laborers brought the game to Latin America once they began working in sugar fields in the mid to late 1800s. Cubans and other Latin American players adopted the game to use dominoes and called it ‘Domino Cubano’. It later arrived in the United States around the 1860s once Cuban laborers began working on U.S. railroads. Americans began referring to the game as ‘Mexican Train Dominoes’ because of its growing popularity among Cuban, Mexican, and other Latin American laborers brought to the United States.”

Playing the game with my sister and her gang has become one of my favorite things to do when we get together. This is in spite of the fact that the final score of the first round of 13 I ever played resulted in me taking high score honors. Oh, did I mention that you are trying to earn the ‘least’ amount of points? Exactly.  

My high score – which was somewhere in the high 600’s – has not, to my knowledge, been eclipsed by anyone else in our quartet. My niece tried hard to get there last week when the four of us spent a few days at the beach. I have yet to check with her to see if, from the past score sheets which are kept, if she is the new high score champ.

In years past, she has brought the Mexican train set she owns with her on the annual trip. But this year it was accidentally left behind. As fate would have it, the first day we were there was my birthday and, after a stop at Fred Meyer, there appeared a shiny new metal tin full of dominos as a gift.

Now one might think that since it was my birthday week, they would at least let me win the game. One would be wrong. Despite my best efforts, it was my sister who came out on top for this two day round of Mexican Train, followed by her son-in-law, then me, and then my niece.

Since I started playing with them, however, I would say each one of us has been the victor at least once.

Ultimately, however, I always come away from the game feeling as though I’m the winner, regardless of the score. For me being able to experience the joy of simply playing games with family and friends is the real win.

As for the new set of tiles, I opted to leave them in the owner’s closet at the family condo for all the to enjoy when at the beach.

The links:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dominoes

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mexican_Train

If you have a few minutes take a look at this YouTube video of dominoes set up and then getting knocked down. I don’t possess the patience to do something like this.

Alone Again (Naturally)

Reflections on Life

August 2, 2022

Over the course of the past several years, I’ve developed a list of potential topics for Tuesday Newsday. If something occurred on a certain date, I will sometimes pencil it in ahead of time.

This particular song, which reached the top of the Billboard charts for six weeks starting on July 29, 1972, has been on that list since the beginning. But each year at this time, there were other topics which resonated more.

I can’t explain why, exactly, except to say that while I liked this song as an angsty 15 year old, there wasn’t any particular tie in for me. Until now.

First, about the song.

Alone Again (Naturally) was written and sung by a young artist by name of Gilbert O’Sullivan. From the Infallible Wikipedia:

“The single spent six non-consecutive weeks at no. 1 on the United States Billboard Hot 100 singles chart, which ranked it as the No. 2 song for 1972. In Casey Kasem’s American Top 40 of the 1970s, ‘Alone Again (Naturally)’ ranked as the fifth most-popular song of the decade (Debby Boone’s ‘You Light Up My Life’ was no. 1). It also spent six weeks at no. 1 on the easy listening chart, and reached no. 3 on the UK Singles Chart. (snip)

‘Alone Again (Naturally)’ is a melancholy, introspective ballad. In the first verse, the singer contemplates suicide after having been left ‘in the lurch at a church’; in the second, he wonders if there is a God; finally, he laments the death of his parents. O’Sullivan has said the song is not autobiographical: for example, his mother was alive during its composition, and he was not close to his father, who was cruel to his mother and died when the singer was 11 years old.

The song received extensive radio airplay in the months after its release, and was critically praised. O’Sullivan commented that ‘Neil Diamond covered ‘Alone Again (Naturally)’ and said he couldn’t believe a 21-year-old wrote it, but for me it was just one song I had written.’ Neil Sedaka stating when he covered the song in 2020 that he wished that he himself had written the song, because its complexity was more typical of someone much older than 21.”

The complex lyrics tugged at the heartstrings of anyone who had ever suffered through a break up or questioned their faith or lost a parent. When I was 15 I had not experienced enough life to truly appreciate how profound the song is. What I do know is that I loved the song as somehow it spoke to something deeper.

And yet, when it came to including in my blog, I never did and was not going to again this week. Then, on July 29, something changed.

That something was the dreaded phone call, this time from the hubby’s younger sister, to let us know that my 96 year old father-in-law had passed a short time earlier.

To be clear, it was not unexpected. He had been struggling with ill health for quite some time. But dying, for those who have not been through it with an elderly loved one, is often a multi-week, if not months, long process. The steps are incremental.

For the family, however, his was above all else, a love story.

At the ripe old age of 20 in the autumn of 1945, he was on a Navy ship. Yes, he saw battle in WWII. But the particular day we always heard about was the day his ship was stationed in Seattle and, with a bit of shore leave, had disembarked.

In the crowds there to greet the young men, was an 18 year old girl from West Seattle. At the time, that’s what the young women would often do, go down to meet and greet the sailors who came to port.

It was a rainy day (of course it was, it was Seattle in October). My mother-in-law has always told the story that she saw him through the crowd and knew she wanted to meet him. He had ‘earrings’ on his ear lobes. Not real earrings, but droplets of water which clung to the bottom of his lobes just like the real thing.

Plus, I’ve seen the pictures of them from that time and they were both ‘lookers.’

I have no idea how long he was in port, but it was long enough for them to fall in love. They were married only five months later on March 20, 1946.

Photo taken a couple years ago with their wedding photo from 1946

This past March they celebrated their 76th wedding anniversary!

Through the years there were, no doubt, disagreements and times of challenge. But truly, theirs was a testament to the enduring power of love and commitment. Four children, six grandchildren, one great grandchild. Daughter and Son-in-laws. Heartache and joy. And being each other’s best friend for 76 years.

RIP my beloved father-in-law.

Ancestor Hunting: DNA

Who Am I? Where Did I Come From?

July 26, 2022

My page from Ancestry which displays my heritage groups. The two additional groups not shown are Sweden/Denmark and Scotland. When all the Scandahoovian pieces are added together, they represent the majority of my DNA

Between the internet and advances in DNA testing, tracking your ancestors has become infinitely easier. With these technologies, however, are risks. And sometimes people don’t want to hear what the facts reveal.

Of the two it is DNA testing which has unlocked more closets full of skeletons. But first a bit about the technology.

For anyone who knows me, they understand that while I love learning about the general science behind things, my eyes pretty much roll back in my head when the specifics are touted. In reading about DNA on the Infallible Wikipedia, my eyes were doing some pretty serious rolling back. As a writer I try to distill things down to their most basic as a service to all others who don’t want the Deoxyribonucleic acid, double stranded helix of polynucleotide chains explanation.

Deoxyribonucleic acid, double stranded helix of polynucleotide chains

Thankfully, there was a second Infallible Wikipedia article helpfully titled Introduction to Genetics. Here’s more of a layman’s explanation:

“Genes are made from a long molecule called DNA, which is copied and inherited across generations. DNA is made of simple units that line up in a particular order within this large molecule. The order of these units carries genetic information, similar to how the order of letters on a page carries information. The language used by DNA is called the genetic code, which lets organisms read the information in the genes. This information is the instructions for constructing and operating a living organism.

The information within a particular gene is not always exactly the same between one organism and another, so different copies of a gene do not always give exactly the same instructions. Each unique form of a single gene is called an allele. As an example, one allele for the gene for hair color could instruct the body to produce much pigment, producing black hair, while a different allele of the same gene might give garbled instructions that fail to produce any pigment, giving white hair. Mutations are random changes in genes and can create new alleles. Mutations can also produce new traits, such as when mutations to an allele for black hair produce a new allele for white hair. This appearance of new traits is important in evolution.”

Okay, okay, even THAT required we go wandering out in the weeds a bit. I recall first learning about genetics and found the concept of one’s chances of having blue or brown eyes fascinating. In my nuclear family there wasn’t a brown eye to be found; we ALL had blue eyes – well, except for my sister who ended up with green eyes which are kinda like blue eyes on steroids. It was only when I was older did I come to understand that some 8 percent of the world population has blue eyes and only 2 percent have green eyes! And, those who have either blue or green eyes are most likely to be able to trace their roots to northwestern Europe.

A helpful chart which sums up WHY there were no brown eyes from my parents all blue ones. My sister is truly rare!

Which brings us round to what is known as Genetic Genealogy. The Infallible Wikipedia describes it as:

“…the use of genealogical DNA tests, i.e., DNA profiling and DNA testing, in combination with traditional genealogical methods, to infer genetic relationships between individuals. This application of genetics came to be used by family historians in the 21st century, as DNA tests became affordable. The tests have been promoted by amateur groups, such as surname study groups or regional genealogical groups, as well as research projects such as the Genographic Project.

As of 2019, about 30 million people had been tested. As the field developed, the aims of practitioners broadened, with many seeking knowledge of their ancestry beyond the recent centuries, for which traditional pedigrees can be constructed.”

I am a big fan of DNA testing in the search of ancestors and have more than a few good stories about this pursuit. One of the early tests involved my Dad to have him test for what’s known as “y-DNA” or, more commonly, to trace the male line only. For years I had been frustrated with the DeVore family line as, apparently, my great-great Grandfather Hartley had been dropped into Wisconsin in 1848 from outer space.

A 23andMe kit

Thanks to my dad’s test, however, I connected with a close genetic ‘cousin’ who shared the name and lived in Georgia! In fact all of the folks who closely matched him have that common trait: a last name of DeVore. So far so good.

Then, in early 2019, I took the Ancestry.com test, and was very interested to see where that would lead. And my sister took it and, thankfully, we were still sisters. And then the Hubby took a test and, thankfully, our cousin-ness stayed firmly at multiple generations. In fact our genetics are so far removed, the DNA matching doesn’t go back that far.

Then in summer 2019 I purchased kits for our kids. And then we waited. Finally the first results came back for our son. Our daughter got hers the next day… and then the hubby and I checked our Ancestry accounts which helpfully tells you ‘who’ you are related to and how and I blasted out the message to the three of them something along the lines of “Good News! Your father is, er, your father.”

Which brought us, as parents, all sorts of amusement since we were both 100 percent certain that would be the result.

But it also highlights one of the issues with DNA testing. Sometimes people discover things they’d rather not know. On my sister’s husbands side of the family a ‘cousin’ popped up who no one had ever heard of or met. The wife of the ‘cousin’ contacted my niece and told her they had decided the testing must be flawed. Considering the fact that both Ancestry AND 23andMe connected him not only to my niece but also one of my niece’s first cousin and, eventually, her Dad when he took the test… well, it would seem that the mystery cousin’s heritage is not what he was raised to believe about his family.

My niece and I discussed it several times and she and I concluded that it was best to drop the whole thing as the possibility of an unhappy ending was great.

Recently I had a similar mystery reveal itself in my family. There is intrigue as to why one of the DNA ‘matches’ I have seems to suggest a further apart relationship than what we’ve always believed. It’s not something I plan to pursue unless the person involved also happens to notice.

From my perspective as a historian and genealogist, however, the facts are the facts. And I always want to learn the whole story in all its messy human details. It’s in my DNA.

So many links:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genetic_genealogy

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DNA

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eye_color#Green

https://www.ancestry.com/

https://www.23andme.com/

https://www.familytreedna.com/public/DeVoreDNA/default.aspx?section=ycolorized (This is the link to the paternal line DNA test my father took and shows all the other DeVore’s who are closely related)

https://www.familytreedna.com/

And a reward for all of you who read to the very end… this trailer from a 1964 Elvis movie: Kissin’ Cousins. Until a few minutes ago I never knew this movie existed. Not sure my life has been enhanced because of this new knowledge!

Ancestor Hunting

Did I really marry my cousin?

July 19, 2022

Who am I? Where did I come from?

These two age old questions are ones which humans often start asking at a young age.

In the home where I grew up, I became aware – at about age 10 – of an old photo album. Inside the very heavy, olive green velvet book were fragile pages of black and white photos of people who, my mother told me, were my ancestors.

The first family photo album I ever saw. It was full of photos of my great grandmother’s family. Sadly, she did not label many photos so it was up to me to try and figure out who the people were.

It was an odd thought to think that these people – dressed in old fashioned clothes and hairstyles– were related; people of a different place and time.

Thus was born, for me, a lifelong interest in genealogy and a quest to answer those two questions: Who am I? Where did I come from?

When at college at the University of Puget Sound, I took a month long intense study class (the session was called Winterim) in January of 1979 where the focus was only genealogy. With that excellent professor to guide us, class participants traveled to the National Archives at Sand Point in Seattle and pored over microfiche census records, perused the available book collections at the Seattle Public Library, and learned to craft letters to governmental agencies for information. And, of course, got a master’s class as to how to research and document one’s genealogy.

At that time there was no way to access digital databases because they did not exist. All research took excessive amounts of time and travel, often with limited results, and meticulous hand written records.

Then, in 1996, two Provo, Utah, residents changed the world for genealogists everywhere. The Infallible Wikipedia tells us:

“Paul Brent Allen and Dan Taggart, two Brigham Young University graduates, founded Infobases and began offering Latter-day Saints (LDS) publications on floppy disks. In 1988, Allen had worked at Folio Corporation, founded by his brother Curt and his brother-in-law Brad Pelo.

The genealogy program my mother in law purchased.

Infobases’ first products were floppy disks and compact disks sold from the back seat of the founders’ car. In 1994, Infobases was named among Inc. magazine’s 500 fastest-growing companies. Their first offering on CD was the LDS Collectors Edition, released in April 1995, selling for $299.95, which was offered in an online version in August 1995. Ancestry officially went online with the launch of Ancestry.com in 1996.” (The Paul Allen named is not the same one who co-founded Microsoft)

Over the years, there have been numerous entertaining – at least to me – events which have occurred. Which is why this is likely to be a multi-week series of articles.

My mother-in-law spent decades researching her family lines and she, and my father in law, literally travelled in a Fifth wheel travel trailer for ten years all across the United States sightseeing and researching. She had purchased Allen and Taggart’s $300 product and used it daily.

Photo of my great grandmother Rosanna Bell King DeVore and her three sisters, about 1886, taken in Fairmont, Minnesota. The photo is in the album which I still have.

The topic of genealogy has always been one which she and I have enjoyed discussing, ad naseum. Her impressive collection easily involves 50 large notebooks filled with carefully researched documents found throughout the United States as well as many garnered from other researchers who had made the leap ‘across the pond’, so to speak.

One thing she has always been quite proud about is her connection to one family on the first sailing of the Mayflower and the many ancestors who settled in the northeast.

Back in 1996, when she was heavily into the research, I had discovered some of the early ‘on line data bases’ and would frequently go out to Rootsweb to see if any potential relatives had posted something new.

Although I cannot recall the specifics of the event, one day I happened upon a distant relative’s family tree and started clicking backwards. Doing this often provided names and dates for previously unknown ancestors, thus enabling me to expand my family tree.

I was in my father’s line which had me back in Massachusetts. Not quite Mayflower connections, but darn close. It was a day when I ‘jumped the pond’ to England with my ancestor Elizabeth House… whose mother was one Elizabeth Hammond.

An ambitious King relative collected and compiled the family history back in the 1950’s. His work was essential to getting me started in my research.

Hammond? Where had I seen that name recently? Then it hit me. Hammond was one of the names from my mother-in-law’s family which I had seen earlier that day when discussing genealogy with her! Hmmm… I wondered.

As I had her paper ancestry trees on the desk next to me, I only had to turn a few pages and there was THE  connection. The one which proved that not only were my mother-in-law and I blood related but I had, in fact, married a cousin!

I think I let out a ‘whoop’ of some sort and then turned around to where my Mother-in-law happened to be sitting as she and my father-in-law were visiting, and announced that I’d found the holy grail of connections to prove, once and for all, that we were related.

Which meant, of course, that I had married my cousin (all legal since it was 10 generations back).

The chart I created in 1996 to document how the hubby and I were cousins

My poor daughter – only six that year – got the most confused look on her face when she learned that her Mom and Dad were related to each other which meant, and I quote, “Wait? How can I be related to myself?”

This caused all sorts of amusement for the family and I love to tell people that I’m married to my cousin if only to see the reaction I get.

As for my daughter’s question, the answer is that all of us are likely related to ourselves at some point. It kinda blows the mind, doesn’t it?

I must end, however, with the caveat all genealogists give. It is possible, that somewhere along the way there is an attribution for a person which will turn out to be wrong. Alas, none of us can go talk to the people involved to verify the information. All we can do is look for connections and, nowadays, to see if we have shared DNA to others claiming the same ancestors. But that IS a story for another week.

A link to https://www.ancestry.com/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ancestry.com