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:  (Guess they had the first AND second amendments covered)

* ‘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

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!

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 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: (This is the link to the paternal line DNA test my father took and shows all the other DeVore’s who are closely related)

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 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

Summer Solstice

The Best Day of the Year

June 21, 2022

On June 21 at 2:13 a.m. Pacific Daylight Time, the sun (which will be seen elsewhere around the globe, but not in our time zone) will stand still for a moment, thus marking its northern hemisphere zenith.

A mid-July ‘sunset’ over Bergen, Norway, harbor. The sun never completely sets during the summer months that far north. This photo was taken by the author in 1980 around midnight.

From then on it is, as one might say, all downhill from there.

The summer solstice is the longest number of daylight hours for us. In fact the sun will not set until 9:15 p.m. with civil twilight extending until just before 10 p.m. and not fully dark until 12:45 a.m.

While many think of the solstice as being the longest day, the change is imperceptible. In fact, the sun will set at 9:15 p.m. for the remainder of June and then, on July 1st, it will set one minute earlier.

Where the real change occurs is in the morning. Sunrise is at 5:09 a.m. on both June 20 and 21 but is one minute later on the 22nd. By that same July 1st date it will be a whole 5 minutes later. Now, for most of us, it will be unnoticeable since we are likely to be asleep.

While the Infallible Wikipedia does provide all sorts of technical information about the solstice, I like the website which shows in very understandable graph form all the geeky minutiae I crave. As seen here:

The June sunrise/sunset times for the Pacific Northwest

Of course, all this is very interesting, but it does not explain what it is about the months of May, June, and July which speak to my soul. I don’t love fall and I don’t love winter. By spring it’s getting closer to my favorite season. June is, by far, my favorite month of the year.

I would venture to guess that I, like many in the PNW, suffer with some degree of Seasonal Affected Disorder (SAD). All the hours of light (I hesitate to call it sunlight during a year such as this one where it’s been cloudy, cool, and rainy so many days) help to buoy my spirits.

It’s as if we need the extra light to carry us through the dark months of the year.

By the time I was 18 I was, intellectually, aware of the fact that the length of days varied depending on where you were. But it wasn’t until a trip with my parents and my sister to England, Scotland, and Norway in July 1980, when I personally experienced even longer days than what we have here.

We flew into Bergen, Norway in the early part of July, arriving late morning. I didn’t think much about it until that evening, after having dinner, we walked around the town… but it never got dark. I snapped a photo of my sister sleeping at 11 pm with sunlight still streaming through the window.

My sister asleep at 11 p.m. in Bergen.

It was a bit surreal. Back to A search for Bergen reveals that the sunset in mid-July is nearly 11 p.m. and that it never gets completely dark at night. As it says on ‘nautical twilight’ continues the rest of the night!

As tourists, we loved it, able to explore the country all times of the day… or night. We took a ride up a vernicular and visited the harbor late in the evening which provided the closest thing to a sunset they had.

The natives, also, adjusted their habits. In the early afternoon, all the shops would close up and the locals would go enjoy the extra sunshine too! And who can blame them? Come December, they pay for the extra light with extra dark.

As for me, I try not to think of fall or winter, but just enjoy the long light and count my blessings that I live in a place where I can enjoy the beauty of a light filled summer’s evening.

The Paper Clip

A Gem of a Great Idea

May 31, 2022

Chances are you have at least one of these objects within 20 feet of where you are currently located. I would also venture to guess that there is 99.9 percent chance (nothing’s ever quite 100, right?) that if you are in your abode, you could put your hands on one of these in less than two minutes.

The author’s colorful clip collection

It’s an object we take for granted, as they are as ubiquitous as a rock on the ground or a leaf on a plant.

The object: a paper clip.

Now, we haven’t always had paper clips. Someone did have to conceive of the concept and invent them. Like many innovations, it seems as if the idea was floating around in the cosmos waiting for the right person to wonder:

 “Hmmm… I wonder if I twist this little piece of metal wire into a couple of bends, will it hold together pieces of paper?”

The first to patent the most popular paper clip was Cushman & Denison

The concept is rather ludicrous, but that is precisely what happened.

But unbeknownst to the early paper clip inventor… or I should say inventors… the idea sprang forth in different places with a few years of each other.

Those crazy Norwegians – with little else to do in the winter – had one of their own create a ‘paper clip.’ He has been widely touted as the inventor of the device and even today you can find a paper clip monument to him. The Infallible Wikipedia tells us:

“Norwegian Johan Vaaler (1866–1910) has erroneously been identified as the inventor of the paper clip. He was granted patents in Germany and in the United States (1901) for a paper clip of similar design, but less functional and practical, because it lacked the last turn of the wire. Vaaler probably did not know that a better product was already on the market, although not yet in Norway. His version was never manufactured and never marketed, because the superior Gem was already available.

Long after Vaaler’s death his countrymen created a national myth based on the false assumption that the paper clip was invented by an unrecognised Norwegian genius. Norwegian dictionaries since the 1950s have mentioned Vaaler as the inventor of the paper clip, and that myth later found its way into international dictionaries and much of the international literature on paper clips.”

Johan Vaaler and his paper clip design… missing the last turn

The real inventor of the most used paper clip design in the world was – well, unknown. What we do know via the Infallible Wikipedia is this:

“The most common type of wire paper clip still in use, the Gem paper clip, was never patented, but it was most likely in production in Britain in the early 1870s by ‘The Gem Manufacturing Company’, according to the American expert on technological innovations, Professor Henry J. Petroski. He refers to an 1883 article about ‘Gem Paper-Fasteners’, praising them for being ‘better than ordinary pins’ for ‘binding together papers on the same subject, a bundle of letters, or pages of a manuscript’. Since the 1883 article had no illustration of this early ‘Gem’, it may have been different from modern paper clips of that name.

The earliest illustration of its current form is in an 1893 advertisement for the ‘Gem Paper Clip’. In 1904 Cushman & Denison registered a trademark for the ‘Gem’ name in connection with paper clips. The announcement stated that it had been used since March 1, 1892, which may have been the time of its introduction in the United States. Paper clips are still sometimes called ‘Gem clips’, and in Swedish the word for any paper clip is ‘gem’.

(snip)…the original Gem type has for more than a hundred years proved to be the most practical, and consequently by far the most popular. Its qualities—ease of use, gripping without tearing, and storing without tangling—have been difficult to improve upon. National Paper clip Day is May 29.”

Now, I love paper clips so much, that instead of celebrating them on only one day, for me this is National Paper clip WEEK.

I’m not exactly sure WHEN I became obsessed with paper clips, but I think it started back in 2004 when I took a novel writing course. Every week, we aspiring authors could bring six or so pages of our current work-in-progress (WIP). But the rule was that you must bring enough copies to share with everyone in the class. And, it was strongly suggested, that the pages be paper clipped together.

Who knows what got into my brain, but this gave me an excuse to purchase the colorful paper clips I coveted. You know the ones: red, pink, white, green, yellow, blue, and purple… no boring silver metal for me. Oh, no, I wanted the coated kind.

What’s still left of the original sets from Michaels

Soon, when taking something to share, my WIP was clipped together all in the same color paper clips.

Then one day it happened. I was at Michael’s in Kirkland pawing through the sales bins and I found a card with six beautiful hot pink paper clips. At the top of each clip was a rosette of pink netting and a trio of tiny seed beads – in sea green, sky blue, and pearl white, sewn in the center. I was smitten. Further sifting through the bin produced a second set, identical to the first, but with light pink netting instead.

Both sets found their way home and the next week, my pages at the writer’s group were passed out with my beautiful new paper clips brightening up the room.

Needless to say, they were noticed and the pressure was on. What paper clips would she bring next?

Soon, I was perusing office supply stores for new and exciting paper clips. For a while, Staples had this large tubular structure filled with paper clips in all sorts of wonderful shapes and colors: music notes, stars, hearts, triangles, kittens, butterflies, and suns, to name several.

Many of these were added to my growing collection. And then one day I had an idea. Perhaps there was a way I could create my own specialty paper clips? I experimented with making small embroidered hearts. I cut out flowers from material I had and glued them to the clips. I added small craft gemstones.

My legendary paper clip collection grew.

With Pinterest providing inspiration, I taught myself how to tie on ribbons and attach buttons and all sorts of baubles. I started giving away my specialty paper clips as gifts.

Some of the hundreds of snowflake paper clips I’ve made

The paper clip obsession continues to this day. The hubby just shakes his head and shrugs when the ‘bin’ of supplies comes out.

These past couple of years with my involvement in Eastern Star, I’ve specialized. The theme has been snowflakes. I’ve literally made a couple hundred snow themed paper clips which, as far as I can tell, have been well received. Either that or people are gracious enough to accept them while secretly worrying about the mental health of the ‘crazy paper clip lady.’

But no matter. A portion of my paper clip collection sits in a ‘lazy susan’ style pen holder at the back of my desk (I’m looking at it as I type!) and I find that, at least once a day, I spin the holder around to decide ‘which’ paper clip I want for some set of pages. The ‘ice cream cones’ with the white, purple, and blue striped ribbon? The wooden Valentine ’s Day buttons with the various shades of pink polka dotted ribbons? Or perhaps the flower buttons, adorable with the tiny flowered bedecked ribbons?

A portion of my paper clip collection including the first set found at Michael’s (on the far right in the lazy Susan holder)

The possibilities are, as they say, endless. Well, at least for the crazy paper clip lady.

National Walnut Day

A favorite food for thousands of years

May 17, 2022

While walnuts are typically double sided, occasionally they can be found with 3 or even 4 sides

It was in 1949 when the walnut got its own “National Day.” While I am certain that a large portion of my readers are thinking “National Walnut Day? Really?” Upon research I arrived at the conclusion that walnuts deserve such an honor. Of course, those who decreed the day might have been a teeny bit self serving. From we learn:

“National Walnut Day was created to promote the consumption of walnuts and the first National Walnut Day was proclaimed by the Walnut Marketing Board in June 1949.

On March 3rd 1958, a Senate Resolution was introduced by William F Knowland. The Resolution was signed by President Dwight D Eisenhower on the first National Walnut Day which was on May 17th 1958.”

Obviously the US Senate thought it was important enough, right?

Until yesterday I had not given the walnut much thought. Sure, I’ve eaten walnuts my entire life. I like walnuts especially when sprinkled on an ice cream sundae. They are delicious in a variety of other foods also. Like fudge. And walnut bread or banana nut muffins. Candied walnuts are superb. And who can forget what happens when you add them to apples and celery in a Waldorf salad?

The walnut forms inside a thick husk. When ripe, the husk splits open and the nut will fall – or can be shaken – to the ground

It turns out walnuts have been cultivated and eaten for thousands of years and have been enjoyed since at least 7000 B.C. according to

The Infallible Wikipedia does not let us down and shares the following:

“During the Byzantine era, the walnut was also known by the name ‘royal nut’. An article on walnut tree cultivation in Spain is included in Ibn al-‘Awwam’s 12th-century Book on Agriculture. The walnut was originally known as the Welsh nut, i.e. it came through France and/or Italy to Germanic speakers (German Walnuss, Dutch okkernoot or walnoot, Danish valnød, Swedish valnöt). In Polish orzechy włoskie translates to ‘Italian nuts’ (włoskie being the adjectival form of Włochy).”

The most popular walnut to eat is known as the English walnut despite its origination in Persia (Iran). The black walnut of eastern North America is also popular, but for a different reason. The wood of the tree is highly valued for its fine, straight grained properties. Unfortunately, the black walnut – like the hickory nut – is very difficult to crack.

Probably the best thing I’ve learned about walnuts is that I’ve been storing them all wrong. So very wrong. Walnuts, once shelled, are susceptible to going rancid and becoming moldy. Therefore they are best kept in the fridge.

My research included doing an internet search of the words ‘walnut + recipe’ – which garnered 339,000,000 – yes million – results. I found one recipe I hope to make this week which sounds delicious:

A scrumptious treat is vanilla ice cream, a squirt of whipping cream, Hershey’s Dark chocolate syrup, topped with a maraschino cherry, and sprinkled with walnuts. Yes, it was as delicious as it looks!

Now on to a fun game which, for my family, involves walnuts. Sometimes those who visit my house will comment on the walnut (or several) which sit unobtrusively on the top of a clock my grandmother made back in the early 1960’s – or others which are seen in other spots.

Inevitably the question will be ‘why do you have a walnut there?’

It’s actually a nod to the game ‘Huckle Buckle Beanstalk’ which the Infallible Wikipedia describes as thus:

“The seekers must cover their eyes and ears or leave the designated game area while the hider hides a small, pre-selected object. When the hider says to come and find it, or after the seekers have counted to a specific number, usually sixty or one-hundred, the seekers come out and attempt to be the first to find the object. When a seeker has the object in hand, he can alert the other players of his success by yelling ‘Huckle Buckle Beanstalk!’ (snip)

The clock my grandmother made in 1962. The face is all embroidered by hand. She made two of these, one for my mother and one for my aunt. My cousin, Tim, has its twin in Yakima.

A variation of the game has the person who finds the object, continue by pretending to look for the object and then call out ‘Huckle Buckle Bean Stalk’ to draw the other seekers attention away from the objects location. As the other seekers find the object, they perform the same deception until all the seekers have found the object. The winners take pride in how quickly they find the object and how much time passes between them and the next player who calls out ‘Huckle Buckle Bean Stalk’.”

I was introduced to the game by my grandmother at her cabin on Highway 12 near Rimrock Lake. As a child, my siblings, cousins, and I would play the game as described in the variation, honing our observation skills and – yes – earning the right to hide the walnut for the next round. A walnut was particularly well suited for hiding at the cabin which had honey colored pine board walls and wood ceilings interspersed with logs. The walnut blended very, very well.

When the cabin was sold in 2020, the Huckle Buckle Beanstalk walnut  which lived there was one of the things I brought to my own house. The other walnuts I have were collected off the ground in Yakima last fall during a ‘dog’ walk with my sister and her hubby.

Huckle Buckle Beanstalk! The main room of the cabin and the hidden walnut.

So, in honor of National Walnut day, be sure to eat a few walnuts or engage in a good old fashioned game of Huckle Buckle Beanstalk.

A few links: (Although this is about Hickory Nuts, it’s hilarious! And they do mention black walnuts which are equally difficult to crack)

The Potato Chip

Bet You Can’t Eat Just One!

May 10, 2022

Whenever I read statements of (fill in the blank) was invented on (fill in the blank) date, I scurry my way over to the Infallible Wikipedia to verify the information. Frequently, I can find zero confirmation of the particular event occurring on that date. And, as with today’s topic, glean new information that suggests that not only is the date incorrect, but the person credited with the invention really was not.

I present for your contemplation the story of how and when the potato chip was invented.

Saratoga Chips package

Now according to legend, it was a chef in Saratoga, New York, who cooked the first potato chip for a customer who complained that his potatoes were too thick/too soggy/too something. The chef – one George Crum (real last name Speck), trying to appease the customer, returned to his kitchen, sliced the potatoes thin and then fried them. Viola! The first potato chips.

George Crum and, possibly, his sister Kate Wicks who some claim was the real inventor

Upon deeper digging, however, a cookbook from the early 1800’s suggests that Crum was not the first. Yes, The Infallible Wikipedia provides us more information:

“The earliest known recipe for something similar to today’s potato chips is in William Kitchiner’s book The Cook’s Oracle published in 1817, which was a bestseller in the United Kingdom and the United States. The 1822 edition’s recipe for ‘Potatoes fried in Slices or Shavings’ reads ‘peel large potatoes… cut them in shavings round and round, as you would peel a lemon; dry them well in a clean cloth, and fry them in lard or dripping’. An 1825 British book about French cookery calls them ‘Pommes de Terre frites’ (second recipe) and calls for thin slices of potato fried in ‘clarified butter or goose dripping’, drained and sprinkled with salt. Early recipes for potato chips in the US are found in Mary Randolph’s Virginia House-Wife (1824) and in N.K.M. Lee’s Cook’s Own Book (1832), both of which explicitly cite Kitchiner.”

Kitchiner’s recipe for potato chips appeared in the Cook’s Oracle

As usual, there is a wealth of information which shares the exhaustive history of the potato chip from invention to modifications over the years. One need only walk down a grocery store aisle and see the entire length filled with the product to note its popularity.

It was in the 1950’s when the next big step in potato chips occurred: the addition of flavors. The Infallible Wikipedia continues:

“After some trial and error, in 1954, Joe ‘Spud’ Murphy, the owner of the Irish crisps company Tayto, and his employee Seamus Burke, produced the world’s first seasoned chips: Cheese & Onion. Companies worldwide sought to buy the rights to Tayto’s technique. Walkers of Leicester, England produced Cheese & Onion the same year. Golden Wonder (Smith’s main competitor at the time) would also produce Cheese & Onion, and Smith’s countered with Salt & Vinegar (tested first by their north-east England subsidiary Tudor) which launched nationally in 1967, starting a two-decade-long flavour war.

Bert Lahr – who played the cowardly Lion in the Wizard of Oz movie – was the face of Lay’s Potato chips in the 1960’s. I thought he was kind of creepy.

The first flavored chips in the United States, barbecue flavor, were being manufactured and sold by 1954. In 1958, Herr’s was the first company to introduce barbecue-flavored potato chips in Pennsylvania.”

But back to William Kitchiner. Does that sound like a made up name or what?

Back in the early 1800’s in England, the thought of a woman writing a book – even a cookbook – was simply not done. The famous novel Frankenstein was written by a woman, Mary Wollstonecraft Shelly, but published anonymously in 1818.

Which brings us back to the potato chip and ‘who’ really cooked the first ones. My guess is that it was a woman, experimenting in her kitchen. And that William Kitchiner, who could live off his inheritance, took her recipe when he published his cookbook in 1824.

Of course none of that really matters. What matters is that someone DID invent the potato chip, that delicious, can’t eat just one, crunchy and satisfying snack.

A typical display of Lay’s potato chips

But the big question is WHAT is your favorite potato chip flavor? I find myself torn between ‘Sour Cream & Onion’ or ‘Cheddar & Sour Cream’. In my family, my son gravitates towards ‘Salt & Vinegar’, while the daughter prefers ‘Lime’ or ‘Dill Pickle’ (although she really likes Tim’s Sasquatch flavor) Since I’m staying with my sister and brother-in-law for a few days I asked them also and the answer is ‘Barbeque’ for her and either ‘Lime’ or ‘Salt & Vinegar’for him.

But back to the hubby’s response which, I think, speaks for many:

“Salt and vinegar, BBQ, Lay’s original. Now I want chips…”

Whatever your preference, we can cheer for Mr. Crum, or Mr. Kitchiner, or perhaps some unheralded mother, slaving away in her kitchen and experimenting with new ways to cook potatoes for her family. Any way you slice it, the world loves potato chips!

A few links:


Tupperware Hidden In Nature

May 3, 2022

Astro – a member of Team Wrastro – checks out the page

This activity has best been described, perhaps, as a global Easter Egg hunt. But rather than having a doting parent direct you to where the ‘egg’ is hidden, those who participate use the Global Positioning System (GPS) and hand held electronic devices to find their location anywhere on earth.

Dubbed Geocaching, the sport was launched on May 3, 2000, just one day after the US Government made it possible for ordinary people to find their location within 3 meters of a specific spot.

We turn to the Infallible Wikipedia for additional information:

“Geocaching was originally similar to the game letterboxing (which originated in 1854), which uses clues and references to landmarks embedded in stories. Geocaching was conceived shortly after the removal of Selective Availability from the Global Positioning System on May 2, 2000 (Blue Switch Day), because the improved accuracy of the system allowed for a small container to be specifically placed and located.

Site of the first geocache in Oregon. We found it the summer of 2005 before it was archived

The first documented placement of a GPS-located cache took place on May 3, 2000, by Dave Ulmer of Beavercreek, Oregon. The location was posted on the Usenet newsgroup sci.geo.satellite-nav at 45°17.460′N 122°24.800′W. Within three days, the cache had been found twice, first by Mike Teague. According to Dave Ulmer’s message, this cache was a black plastic bucket that was partially buried and contained software, videos, books, money, a can of beans, and a slingshot. The Geocache and most of its contents were eventually destroyed by a lawn mower; the can of beans was the only item salvaged and was turned into a trackable item called the ‘Original Can of Beans’. Another Geocache and plaque called the Original Stash Tribute Plaque now sit at the site.

Elroy, George, and Judy – along with our original GPS at Longview, Washington, circa 2005. The cacher on the left, cacher name Nudecacher, was NOT there that day. Jane’s epic editing skills are such that she was able to commemorate Nudecacher’s, er, contributions to the sport.

Perhaps the above description would lead one to believe that it’s easy to walk to a spot and instantly find the Geocache (or, the cache, as we call it). Au Contraire, my friends. Some of the caches can be wickedly difficult due, in great part, to the size and clever placement of the container. Others are challenging because one must solve a puzzle to discover the GPS coordinates.

George, Judy, and Elroy at “Room With a View Cache’ near Long Beach, Washington. One cool aspect of caching is that you sometimes discover places you’ve never been before… such as this one.

While a further reading of the Infallible Wikipedia article states that “A typical cache is a small waterproof container containing a logbook and sometimes a pen or pencil,” after finding just shy of 5,000 caches, our family has discovered that they can range from being as large as a shed to as small as a tiny button.

The first participants tended to be computer geeky types who spent their waking hours on networks like Usenet. But that soon changed as people learned, via word of mouth, about Geocaching. Families discovered that it was a new and unique way to get outdoors and take a hike. For kids, it was fun to open up a cache and see what sort of treasures might be inside.

Additionally, there is an element of stealth involved, as one does not want to reveal a cache location to those outside the Geocaching community who might wish to harm a cache. Non participants have – in the spirit of Harry Potter – been dubbed as ‘Muggles.’

Perhaps one of the greatest achievements of any Cacher is to find a container right under the noses of lots of people without those people knowing it happened. It’s definitely difficult to do so!

Our family began our Geocaching adventure on December 26, 2003. I had heard about the sport from a friend and thought getting the hubby a GPS device (cell phones did not yet have the technology) would be a good Christmas present. The hubby had also heard about the sport. He was thrilled and spent a great deal of time that afternoon reading and learning how to operate the device.

Of course, the first big decision would be what to call ourselves. All Geocachers have to have a ‘handle’ and we decided on ‘Wrastro’ in homage to our White, 1998 Chevy Astro Van bearing vanity plates of the same name. Of course, this led to calling ourselves by the names of the Jetson family: hubby, George; Jane, his wife; Boy Genius, Elroy; and Teenage Daughter, Judy.

George and Elroy caching in the middle of an Eastern Washington dust storm on August 12, 2005. One of our most memorable caching experiences ever. You can read the cache log here:

Identities established, out we went the next day to a park in Sammamish with Elroy, age 13 and Judy (not yet a teenager) age 10, to go to the park, walk up to the cache, find some excellent goodies, and then go on to the next one.

Hah! It took us waaaaay longer than it should to find the container which was, I might add, wrapped in a black plastic garbage bag and sitting in the crook of a tree. To us it looked like a random piece of trash!

That week we attempted all sorts of caches but, being newbie’s, made everything much more difficult. The good news is that we got better at it. Soon we could easily identify if something was an LPC or GRC. Or the always dreaded DNF. Don’t know those acronyms? Well, I’d be giving up sacred Geocacher’s secrets if I revealed them to Muggles. Sorry!

At the height of its popularity, Jeep sponsored what’s known as a “Travel Bug”. These are items you find and then move them to another cache for others to find. 5000 Yellow Jeep Travel bugs were released in 2004 and 5000 white ones in 2005. As you might imagine many simply disappeared as they were a coveted item. Here George displays the white one we found on the banks of the Columbia River in 2005

We also became familiar with some of the tricks of the trade and ‘how’ people tended to hide things. This was thanks, particularly, to one Geocacher in Redmond, Washington, who went by the name of Beamin’ Demon (BD). They were a legend as no one knew ‘who’ BD was; no one ever saw BD place a cache – it always seemed to occur in the dark of night; and BD caches tended to be miniscule, containing only a scrap of paper requiring one to bring their own pen. For months, the BD caches would show up and Elroy, especially, wanted to try to earn the coveted ‘First to Find’ bragging rights. So out he and George (usually) or Jane would go to find the smallest, most evilly hidden caches ever.

Elroy even ventured out with his own handle “I Like This Game” and started hiding impossible to find caches. Yes, we were out of control.

Alas, Elroy eventually moved on to other passions, and Judy found the activity irritating. George, however, persisted which is why, 18 years later, he still drags Jane out to find caches. Nowadays, one does not need a special Garmin GPS device to play. Cell phones work just fine.

George has also discovered that having Jane along is good for a couple of reasons. One, Jane can navigate; Two, she knows what to look for with the LPC and GRC’s and can grab those when George inevitably pulls up next to them with HER car door nearest the cache locations; and Three – this is the most important thing to George – he insists that she write up the log for the cache since, as he says, ‘you’re the writer.’ Personally, I think it has more to do with the fact that he has written the majority of the logs over the years and he likes the fresh perspective.

Rosie and Jane at the largest Geocache which Team Wrastro has ever found. Longview, Washington April 22, 2022.

Which leads me to find a way to wrap up this rather long blog post. But, hey, having found 4,882 4,883 finds (as of May 2, 2022), there’s a lot Jane – er, I – can say. Now if you want to read about Team Wrastro’s adventures, all you have to do is go to and create an account. Then you can filter what you see by typing in the box where it says Found by the name WRASTRO. You’re welcome. Or not.

The Links:

The Prime Directive

Here’s Mine. What’s Yours?

April 26, 2022

In the original Star Trek TV series, one of the things we learn about is ‘The Prime Directive.’ Rather than try to explain it, I turn to the Infallible Wikipedia which provides this summary:

“In the fictional universe of Star Trek, the Prime Directive (also known as ‘Starfleet General Order 1’, ‘General Order 1’, and the ‘non-interference directive’) is a guiding principle of Starfleet that prohibits its members from interfering with the natural development of alien civilizations. The Prime Directive protects unprepared civilizations from the dangerous tendency of well-intentioned starship crews to introduce advanced technology, knowledge, and values before they are ready. Since its introduction in the first season of the original Star Trek series, the Prime Directive has been a key plot element of many episodes of the various Star Trek series and served as a recurring moral question over how best to establish diplomatic relations with new alien worlds.”

I have written about Star Trek on my blog before:

 This post is not about Star Trek, but rather the concept of a Prime Directive.

While our species has not, to the best of our collective knowledge, made contact with or interfered with the development of alien civilizations, I do think that we would do well to adopt a prime directive for life.

We all know that we should eat less, exercise more, not smoke, not drink to excess, and – well – do a whole bunch of other things to get or stay healthy. Easier said than done.

The Prime Directive which I have started touting to any who will pay attention is this:

Stay Upright

You would think that this would be relatively easy to achieve but, alas, it is not. According to the CDC, one in four adults over the age of 65 fall each year. While today’s Tuesday Newsday is a bit of a Public Service Announcement, getting into all the statistics is not how I wish to use this space. But you can certainly check out the CDC link below for additional information.

Instead, I have adopted a two pronged approach to my personal Prime Directive.

  1. Whenever I get up and am about to move about, I stop and look at my surroundings. The first thing I do is check the floor for possible items which might cause a fall: a pair of shoes, a blanket which has slipped to the floor, items which have been set down but don’t usually live in that spot.
  2. I hold on to rails and any other handles which are provided since I assume they are there for a reason and then I proceed only after my visual evaluation indicates its safe.

There is a reason for the Prime Directive. Perhaps the first time I recognized the need for a more measured approach to walking was in the spring of 2005. I was at a friend’s house where we were having an event for the Rainbow Girls. I had headed downstairs but failed to turn on a light OR look at the way the steps were laid out. There was one additional step separate from the others and I missed it.

That fall resulted in a badly sprained ankle and a boot cast which I wore for nearly 6 weeks. Chastened, I vowed to do better. And I did until one day in probably 2014 or so when, in a rush, I strode into our spare bedroom, headed for the closet to get wrapping paper. I did not notice that the bedspread had slipped off the bed. (We had houseguests either a night or two before and I had not yet dealt with the bed). Next thing I knew, my right foot was wrapped up in the bedspread and I landed on both knees – the left one taking the brunt of the fall. Which was a good thing since my head ended up inches away from the solid oak of a nightstand.

While that fall did not end up with a doctor visit, my knees hurt for quite a few weeks.

Which brings me to my most recent violation of the Prime Directive. I can take comfort that it’s been at least eight years since I’ve had a violation.

The hubby and I were headed back from an overnight to Kelso, Washington, and stopped to find a Geocache* at a rest area. We were out looking for it near a copse of trees and the grass was quite long. I noticed a huge ant hill with a gazillion ants and was fascinated by this.

In the meantime, the hubby had gone on and was off behind the copse of trees. I turned to go find him when I must have stepped on a branch, hidden in the grass. From what I can recall, when I stepped on the forward part of it with my right foot, the back part popped up and the other end went up into the hem of my jeans on the left leg.

I was doomed as the branch, as though it had a life of its own, twisted the pants leg and the next thing I knew I was on the ground. Fortunately all that grass provided a fairly soft landing and I walked away with a bit of a scraped knee, only one ant on me, and a couple days of soreness.

Guess I need to add ‘be aware of and remove all branches which might attack me’ to my Prime Directive.

*Geocaching is a sport which will be featured next Tuesday, on May 3rd,when we mark the 22nd anniversary of its start.