Archives

Prime Meridian

Time Is a Construct

October 13, 2020

When one thinks of impressive British cities, London immediately comes to mind. It is, after all, steeped in rich tradition, full of historical buildings, awash in history.

A few miles west of central London, however, is a place also with rich traditions, historical buildings, and brimming with history. It is a place whose name has become common due primarily to the decision by the International Meridian Conference on October 13, 1884.

It was on that date that Greenwich was declared as ground zero, so to speak, for determining – literally – the longitudinal address of every place on earth.

The story began hundreds of years earlier when Greenwich, located a little over 7 miles west of Parliament Square in London, developed into an important maritime port. At the time, it was a separate entity from the capital although it has long since been annexed into the city of London. Its location on a broad section of the Thames river, and proximity to the seat of power, made it a logical location as it is a short 50 miles to the North Sea. It was from this location the British Empire launched its navy and, arguably, several hundred years as the world’s greatest power.

One of the challenges that the seafarers encountered was to develop an accurate navigation system. Using the position of the sun during the day, and astronomical star charts at night, sailors were able to determine their location based on where they started or the “Prime Meridian.”

Of course, it was not only the British who needed this technology. Dozens of “Prime Meridians” were established throughout history. From the Infallible Wikipedia:

Sphere sculpture and ‘prime meridian’ line where you can locate 0 degrees longitude. Photo from Wikimedia

“The notion of longitude was developed by the Greek Eratosthenes (c. 276 BC – c. 195 BC) in Alexandria, and Hipparchus (c. 190 BC – c. 120 BC) in Rhodes, and applied to a large number of cities by the geographer Strabo (64/63 BC – c. 24 AD). But it was Ptolemy (c. AD 90 – c. AD 168) who first used a consistent meridian for a world map in his Geographia.

Ptolemy used as his basis the ‘Fortunate Isles’, a group of islands in the Atlantic, which are usually associated with the Canary Islands (13° to 18°W), although his maps correspond more closely to the Cape Verde islands (22° to 25° W). The main point is to be comfortably west of the western tip of Africa (17.5° W) as negative numbers were not yet in use. His prime meridian corresponds to 18° 40′ west of Winchester (about 20°W) today. At that time the chief method of determining longitude was by using the reported times of lunar eclipses in different countries.”

By the 1800’s, the whole Prime Meridian thing was a mess with dozens of civilized countries establishing their own locations. In Germany it was Berlin, France had Paris, Denmark had Copenhagen and, of course, Britain had Greenwich.

It was the British, however, who led the way. The Infallible Wikipedia continues:

“Between 1765 and 1811, Nevil Maskelyne published 49 issues of the Nautical Almanac based on the meridian of the Royal Observatory, Greenwich. ‘Maskelyne’s tables not only made the lunar method practicable, they also made the Greenwich meridian the universal reference point. Even the French translations of the Nautical Almanac retained Maskelyne’s calculations from Greenwich—in spite of the fact that every other table in the Connaissance des Temps considered the Paris meridian as the prime.’

In 1884, at the International Meridian Conference in Washington, D.C., 22 countries voted to adopt the Greenwich meridian as the prime meridian of the world. The French argued for a neutral line, mentioning the Azores and the Bering Strait, but eventually abstained and continued to use the Paris meridian until 1911.”

Once the French came around, so did the entire world with the term ‘prime meridian’ and Greenwich synonymous.

Personally, I have always found the concept of an arbitrary line stretching from top to bottom of earth kind of weird. And then there is the whole plus/minus hours to figure out how many hours ahead or behind one might be from Greenwich.

Here in Washington State we are eight hours behind until we are not. I find myself constantly having to count on my fingers whenever I read something that establishes a particular event happening at, for example, 11.45 UTC. Which stands for Coordinated Universal Time. Shouldn’t the acronym be CUT? But I digress.

In 2018, the autumnal equinox arrived at 1:54 a.m. on September 23rd in Greenwich. But it was still September 22nd here when it arrived at 6:54 p.m.

Although I’ve never crossed the International Date Line (located in the middle of the Pacific Ocean and drawn in such a way as to not cross any populated islands), my one trip to England involved getting on a plane in Seattle around 9 p.m. Pacific Daylight Time, flying up and over Canada and Greenland, then landing in London the next morning.

My parents’ – who had traveled to Europe before that trip – had a method worked out. They’d arranged for our hotel to be ready earlier in the day. When we arrived it was agreed that we’d all go to sleep for about 3 hours, then get up in the afternoon, and proceed with the local time.

That afternoon, we did a bit of walking about London, went to dinner, and then retired at the same time as most of England’s citizens would. The adjustment was easy.

Of course on the return trip we arrived back home earlier than we left. Talk about mind bending. It took me a solid three days to readjust.

Nowadays I try to avoid taking any flight which involves leaving at night and arriving at my destination the next morning. My theory is that we are only allotted so many ‘all-nighters’ in our lives and I’ve used most of mine. I pulled more than one all-nighter during college and too many to count from when my children were babies.

My children are both now grown so they are no longer inclined to keep me awake all night. It’s my oldest, however, who has coined the phrase “Time Is a Construct.” After all, in the grand scheme of life, does it really matter if it’s 1:53 p.m. or 12:53 p.m.? Perhaps we will find out in a few weeks when ‘time’ falls back.

The one thing I do think I will need to make an exception to are the overnight flight rules. I am sorry I missed visiting Greenwich when I was there before. I’ve decided that, for at least once in my life, I really want to be in the right time and place. Literally.

For those other geeky musers like the author, a couple links:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prime_meridian_(Greenwich)

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

Pigmania!

Pass The Pigs

September 29, 2020

This ancient game was first played some 3000 years ago and, according to the official rules, in the ‘renowned land of Pigalonia.’

I suppose all my readers can be forgiven their ignorance of pig tossing as an enjoyable pastime as we now live in an era when doing so would immediately draw the scrutiny of the PETA police directly to your abode.

Since most civilized people in the United States no longer have a pig or two residing in a sty or a corner of their cabin, we can assume that had it not been for Dr. Cyrus Whopper, who discovered the game while traveling in Germany, it would have been lost in the mists of time.

How the game looked in 1977.

A debt of gratitude is owed to said doctor who introduced a more mundane version of pig tossing in a game he named ‘Pigmania!’. According to the literature included with the game:

“In 1977, Cy Whopper, a lover of kosher bacon since boyhood, decided to enhance the rather tarnished image of pigs by introducing Pigmania to the modern world. ‘After all,’ snorted Whopper, ‘pigs have been pushed around long enough. Every day you hear people saying ‘you look like a pig,’ ‘you eat like a pig,’ ‘you dress like a pig,’ ‘you smell like a pig,’ ‘you’re a male chauvinist pig,’ ‘you have swine flu.’

In truth pigs are the most intelligent creatures on earth, only exceeded by some human beings and all dolphins.

Pigs are lucky, pigs are useful, pigs have class.

It is time something is done on their behalf… thus Pigmania.”

To play the game, each player takes turns tossing a pair of tiny plastic pigs out of a cup labeled ‘pig sty.’ To earn points, the players are seeking to have their pigs land in any of the following ways:

A mixed combo…. hoofer and razorback.

Siders – two pigs laying on their sides, facing the same direction

Hoofer – a single pig standing on its feet.

Double Hoofer – yes, two pigs standing on their feet.

Snouter – a single pig leaning on it’s snout and two front feet.

Double Snouter – two pigs resting on their snouts..

Razorback – a single pig laying feet up.

Double Razorback – two pigs on their backs.

Leaning Jowler – a single pig, listing to the left, using it’s left ear and left leg for support.

The rare Double Leaning Jowler

Double Leaning Jowler – the rarest and most difficult to achieve toss.

Mixed Combo – Any combination of both pigs being in two different aforementioned positions.

If the pigs land on the table with their snouts facing opposite directions, then that’s called a ‘Pig Out’ and your turn is over. Same thing if you end up “Makin’ Bacon’ which is the pigs land touching one another!

Alas, the original Pigmania! was acquired – as is the way with pretty much any successful game idea – by a much bigger farmer.

Now, if you thought the Infallible Wikipedia might draw blanks on this topic, you would be wrong:

“Pass the Pigs is a commercial version of the dice game Pig, but using custom asymmetrical throwing dice, similar to shagai. It was created by David Moffatt and published by Recycled Paper Products as Pig Mania! in 1977. The publishing license was later sold to Milton Bradley and the game renamed Pass the Pigs. In 2001, publishing rights for North America were sold to Winning Moves, which acquired the game outright from David Moffat Enterprises in early 2017.”

Pass The Pigs is also available with more pigs, giant pigs, and in a handy travel game

It was sometime in the early 1980’s when the hubby and I were introduced to Pigmania! I can no longer recall who introduced us. Undoubtedly when that person reads this article they will take their rightful credit and shout ‘soo-eee!”

Simple in its concept and play, it provided some fun as an amusing parlor game. Over time, it was relegated to the game ‘cupboard’ which was actually a repurposed credenza from a business office. When our son was about 1 ½ , he discovered the wondrous credenza full of mystery boxes. A daily favorite activity was to excavate all his favorites (which was all of them unfortunately) and soon there was a mess of Monopoly money, Clue markers and weapons, poker chips, and tiny soldiers, scattered across the floor. 

Being a first time Mom I put up with this for a while then decided that a few games could be sacrificed to the enthusiasm of a toddler. The rest, however, were stowed away on a high shelf. It was several years, and a second child, later before the games reappeared. 

Turns out that the tiny Pigmania! pigs were highly popular. Said second child left her mark on the directions, ‘coloring’ the pictures of pigs with a Number 2 pencil. At some point she either used a thumb tack to post the story and rules to a wall or poked the pencil through the paper.

Our well loved Pigmania! directions ‘colored’ by my youngest child.

Over time the obsession faded and Pigmania! – rather worse for the wear – returned to the game cupboard, forgotten. Or so I thought. 

This past weekend we had a planned trip with our daughter and her fiance to the beach. Being that it was the beach, and the weather is always a question mark, I asked her if there were any games the hubby and I should bring along in case of inclement weather. Her response: Uno!

Her reply was followed with this text message exchange:

Me: “Only Uno?”

Her: “I don’t really know what the other options are.”

Me: “Well, I’ll bring Uno. Padre is willing to play that. I put in a couple decks of cards also. There’s Sequence. And Skipbo.”

Then I sent a photo of our current game cupboard. The following one word reply was all she included:

Her: “Pigmania!!”

Me: “I didn’t get it and we are in the car. Do I need to go back? I can. We haven’t left the driveway.”

The middle shelf of the game cupboard. As you can see it took some doing for the daughter to pick out Pigmania! from the jumble.

Her: “Nope.”

Of course, I could almost hear the disappointment through the text message. And even though it was raining Noah and his ark sort of rain, I returned to the house and got Pigmania.

On Saturday, my 27 year old daughter, her fiancé, and I played Pigmania! We competed, we threw shade at one another, we laughed, and we connected. 

For both she and I it was reliving just a bit of her childhood in the very best of ways. When the mud had settled from our three way Pig Sty battle, the daughter and I each had a pair of victories in our columns, while her poor fiancé was left out in the cold.

Even more than that, however, is that I was glad Pigmania! had survived the purges of a couple of moves as well as the enthusiastic scribblings of a little girl. In the process it became a tangible symbol of the best of childhood and will always have a home in our game cupboard, no matter how shabby. Pass The Pigs! and may your Pig Out’s be few.

Looking rather worse for the wear is our Pigmania! box.

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

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pig_(dice_game)

The History of Canning

The Great Canned Peaches Escapade

September 22, 2020

A stroll down most any aisle in a modern grocery store reveals shelf after shelf of this item which is taken for granted in today’s world.

Yet, this method for the preservation of food has only been around for 200 years and, without it, our way of life would not be possible.

The process of canning foods was invented in 1809 by Frenchman Nicholas Appert. Appert – a brewer and confectioner – “observed that food cooked inside a jar did not spoil unless the seals leaked, and developed a method of sealing food in glass jars.”

The French Government was in need of a reliable food source for its troops during the Napoleonic War and had offered a cash reward for anyone who could successfully develop one. Ironically, the war was over before canned foods were available. Regardless, it was an invention whose time had come.

From the Infallible Wikipedia:

“The original fragile and heavy glass containers presented challenges for transportation, and glass jars were largely replaced in commercial canneries with cylindrical tin can or wrought-iron canisters (later shortened to “cans”) following the work of Peter Durand (1810). Cans are cheaper and quicker to make, and much less fragile than glass jars. Glass jars have remained popular for some high-value products and in home canning. Can openers were not invented for another thirty years – at first, soldiers had to cut the cans open with bayonets or smash them open with rocks. Today, tin-coated steel is the material most commonly used. Laminate vacuum pouches are also used for canning, such as used in MREs and Capri Sun drinks.

Image from Press Connect

To prevent the food from being spoiled before and during containment, a number of methods are used: pasteurisation, boiling (and other applications of high temperature over a period of time), refrigeration, freezing, drying, vacuum treatment, antimicrobial agents that are natural to the recipe of the foods being preserved, a sufficient dose of ionizing radiation, submersion in a strong saline solution, acid, base, osmotically extreme (for example very sugary) or other microbially-challenging environments.

Other than sterilization, no method is perfectly dependable as a preservative. For example, the spores of the microorganism Clostridium botulinum (which causes botulism) can be eliminated only at temperatures above the boiling point of water.”

This time of year, with fruits and vegetables in abundance, the industrious individuals who like to do such things might turn their efforts to canning their favorites at home. Caution, of course, is always a necessity to avoid improper methods and exposing themselves and others to botulism.

From the pioneers of the 1800’s to the thrifty housewives of the Great Depression, canning was a necessary activity each summer and fall.

My mother was never one of those. I think she endured more than her share of  rugged independence growing up from the late 1920’s until she left for college in the 1940’s. There was, however, one food she adored and canned it every year: peaches.

The Yakima Valley is fertile grounds for fruit orchards, its main crops being cherries, apricots, peaches, plums, pears, and apples. We each have our own favorites. For me, as a child, I have a distinct memory of biting into a fresh peach and declaring to my mother it was ‘my favorite fruit.’ I would say that they now share the ‘favorite’ status with cherries, blueberries, and raspberries.

They were, I’m guessing, my mother’s favorite also. Because it was the ONE thing that she canned every year. When the fuzzy orbs were finally ripe, a flat or two of them would make their way to our house and for one or two hot afternoons, she’d can the peaches.

By the time I was about 10, she discovered that there were a couple of custom canneries in the area where she could take her peaches and let them do the final part of the process. For a couple of years I was ‘employed’ as one of her helpers and she, my dad, and me and my sister, would go to Toppenish for an afternoon of canning. 32 ounce cans, purchased from the cannery, were supplied to us sterilized and ready to go.

The peaches would be blanched and we would remove the skins, cut them in half, pull out the seed and the roughage in the middle, before sliding the slippery fruit into big tubs. It seems as if my dad was in charge of packing the halves into the cans and my mom would add the requisite sugar. Once a dozen cans were filled it was on to the conveyer belt and off to be cooked and sealed.

A few days later our hard work was rewarded when Mom would arrive home with stacks and stacks of canned peaches in the large tin cans.

Of course one issue was where to store said peaches. Growing up in a late 1950’s, 1300 square foot house (after an addition!) provided no pantry space. So the next best place was in the unused bottom of my older brother’s closet.

The date is September 25, 1970 and I – now age 13 – have spent the entire day at home by myself. My brother, age 17, is at work and then has gone out with friends. My sister, age 15, is at an all day event and slumber party. My parents have gone to Seattle to attend the opera and will not be home until well after midnight.

The tiny house as it looked in the 1960’s – before the addition and before new chairs.

Somewhere around two in the afternoon I am in my room just sort of hanging out when I hear a loud ‘thump.’ Being home and alone there is a niggle of fear which this noise inspires. So I leave my room and walk the entire house. Which doesn’t take long since it is a ranch house and, as I said, only 1300 square feet. The doors are all secure and I can find no evidence of anyone trying to break in.

I return to my room and  some time later I hear another ‘thump.’ I am truly mystified. I know it’s coming from somewhere within the house, but cannot figure out where.

By this time there’s another phenomenon in play. There’s a yeasty sort of smell permeating the air, as if someone is baking bread. But, since I do not know how to cook and no one else is home, that is also a mystery.

Fast forward to about midnight. My brother arrives home. I tell him about the two thumps (verified by my Diary entry from the next day, September 26th) but, like me, he’s mystified. A short time later he goes to his room and opens the closet and I think some sort of expletive may have escaped his lips.

Of course I hurry across the hall and peer into the closet. There’s yellow slime on everything and what appears to be a couple of cans of my mom’s precious peaches with their side seams opened up.

The brother – whose tired after working all day – decides to shut the closet door and go to bed. Right.

And then our parents get home and my mom immediately notices the smell. We tell them about the slime, the split cans, and the thumps. An evaluation of the canned peaches reveals a swelling of the containers and its determined they need to be removed from the closet to the outside. While my parents are doing this, I’m in my brother’s room. He’s in bed and I’m standing about four feet from the open closet. According to the diary:

“one box was still in there (the closet). I heard a fizzing sound, said ‘oh no’ and a can blew up on us.”

My diary entry does not begin to describe what actually occurred. My brother and I heard the sound at the same moment and locked eyes in mutual understanding of what was about to occur. I dove for the side of the bed away from the open closet while my brother yanked the blankets over his face for protection. The can blew. Little bits of vomited peach rained down on us, splattering the walls and ceiling. And then we started to laugh hysterically.

The last flat of botulism laden peaches were expedited to the back yard where my dad – in some sort of sacrificial ritual worthy of Brits at Stonehenge – used an ice pick and a hammer to puncture each and every can. From the small hole an arcing stream of peach guts formed an impressive pureed rainbow across the crisp, black September night.

My mother never went back to that cannery. She found one in Ellensburg it seems and went there for a few years until they closed down. From then on, canned peaches were purchased from the grocery store shelves. Which is kind of anti-climatic after the great exploding peaches event of 1970.

Okay, I’m weird. There’s something satisfying about being able to get the peel of a peach removed in one piece.

A couple of useful links:

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

https://visitfarmfreshfun.com/yakima-valley-produce-schedule.asp

Fall Has Fallen

The Start of Meteorlogical Autumn

September 1, 2020

Did anyone notice last Sunday that someone flipped the switch from summer to fall? You could tell it was coming about a week before that… the days still boasted temperatures in the high seventies and low eighties but suddenly the nights were cooling well into the 50’s.

We’ve flipped the switch to Fall

And then it happened. It was a noticeable ‘ping’… then another… and then another… on the windshield just around 5 p.m. Soon, a light drizzle. By the time the hubby and I left the restaurant where we had gone to celebrate our wedding anniversary on August 30th, it was honest to goodness rain and the temperature was 63 degrees.

Now, I will state right up front, I don’t much like autumn. I’m already missing summer. Soon I’ll have to put away my Capri’s and sandals. Soon the short sleeve shirts will be replaced by long sleeves and then turtlenecks, sweaters, and fleece. I’ll have to wear real socks and shoes; Raincoats and jackets.

You can keep your pumpkin spice everything, thank you very much.

If you’ve been reading my blog for any length of time, you know that I’m weather obsessed. I know when daylight savings ends and the dark times begin. (It’s November 1st this year!) I know the dates and details of some pretty incredible autumn wind storms. And I know that despite meteorological fall beginning today, September 1st, we will be lulled into thinking ‘oh this isn’t so bad’ when we get our mid-September heat for a few days. But the crisp mornings don’t lie.

Photo by JEN LEWIS; CONNOR TOOLE; PHOTO ILLUSTRATION BY SARAH MACKINNON

Two years ago I discovered that for those of us who live in the northern half of the northern hemisphere, autumn does not truly begin on the Autumnal Equinox, usually on September 22nd. Nope. It actually begins on September 1st. When I learned this it was as if all those years of KNOWING – despite it not yet being official ‘fall’ in the Pacific Northwest – that it sure acted like and felt like Fall.

Don’t believe me? Then we need only go to the Infallible Wikipedia for confirmation:

“September is the ninth month of the year in the Julian and Gregorian calendars, the third of four months to have a length of 30 days, and the fourth of five months to have a length of less than 31 days. In the Northern Hemisphere September is the seasonal equivalent of March in the Southern Hemisphere.

In the Northern hemisphere, the beginning of the meteorological autumn is on 1 September. In the Southern hemisphere, the beginning of the meteorological spring is on 1 September. “

Don’t believe the Infallible Wikipedia? The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association states on their website:

“Meteorologists and climatologists break the seasons down into groupings of three months based on the annual temperature cycle as well as our calendar. We generally think of winter as the coldest time of the year and summer as the warmest time of the year, with spring and fall being the transition seasons, and that is what the meteorological seasons are based on. Meteorological spring includes March, April, and May; meteorological summer includes June, July, and August; meteorological fall includes September, October, and November; and meteorological winter includes December, January, and February.”

All of this made me curious. When did meteorologists start using this system? Turns out they’ve had it a well kept secret since the mid-twentieth century.

I just wish they’d told me sooner. Then I wouldn’t have fought so hard against turning on my furnace before September 21st. Or tossing that blanket over me when I watch TV.

What I do know is that with fall now ‘officially’ started by the weather people, it  means that in 91 days it will be winter and then only 90 days after that, its spring again! Hooray!

Those of us who are spring and summer lovers need all the support we can get.

Courtesy of KingKullen.com

For the rest whose favorite season is fall, just don’t feed me pumpkin spice or make me wear orange and we’ll get along just fine.

The links:

https://www.ncei.noaa.gov/news/meteorological-versus-astronomical-seasons

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

Rhubarb Roots

June 9, 2020

20200521_211226

Rhubarb pie (no strawberries!) baked  by the author for Memorial Day weekend 2020

I love pie. I don’t always love making it, but I love eating it. So what better way to celebrate June 9th than to acknowledge the rhubarb plant and national Strawberry Rhubarb pie day?

 

Rhubarb is an amazing plant. It’s hardy, high in vitamin C, and is touted as a blood pressure reducer.

For centuries it has been recognized for its medicinal purposes and was, during the time of Marco Polo, more expensive than saffron. Historically, its origins can be traced to China. From the Infallible Wikipedia:

“The Chinese call rhubarb “the great yellow” and have used rhubarb root for medicinal purposes for thousands of years. It appears in The Divine Farmer’s Herb-Root Classic which is thought to have been compiled about 1,800 years ago Though Dioscurides’ description of ρηον or ρά indicates that a medicinal root brought to Greece from beyond the Bosphorus may have been rhubarb, commerce in the drug did not become securely established until Islamic times. During Islamic times, it was imported along the Silk Road, reaching Europe in the 14th century through the ports of Aleppo and Smyrna, where it became known as “Turkish rhubarb”. Later, it also started arriving via the new maritime routes, or overland through Russia. The “Russian rhubarb” was the most valued, probably because of the rhubarb-specific quality control system maintained by the Russian Empire. (snip)

The high price as well as the increasing demand from apothecaries stimulated efforts to cultivate the different species of rhubarb on European soil. Certain species came to be grown in England to produce the roots. The local availability of the plants grown for medicinal purposes, together with the increasing abundance and decreasing price of sugar in the 18th century, galvanized its culinary adoption. Grieve claims a date of 1820 in England. Rhubarb was grown in Scotland from at least 1786, having been introduced to the Botanical Garden in Edinburgh by the traveller Bruce of Kinnaird.

Though it is often asserted that rhubarb first came to the United States in the 1820s, John Bartram was growing medicinal and culinary rhubarbs in Philadelphia from the 1730s, planting seeds sent him by Peter Collinson. From the first, the familiar garden rhubarb was not the only Rheum in American gardens: Thomas Jefferson planted R. undulatum at Monticello in 1809 and 1811, observing that it was “Esculent rhubarb, the leaves excellent as Spinach.”

20170420_12275520170420_12250520170420_122452

The rhubarb plant at our home in Kirkland, 2017

 

Fifteen years ago I enrolled in a class at Bellevue Community College which was touted as one that would explore the various types of articles one could write for publication in magazines. This was, for the most part, before blogs and individual web pages took root.

Each week we were given an assignment to write an article of a specific type such as “How To” or “Humor.” I recall clearly the day I shared my version of a “personal essay” – near the end of the course – and the reaction. When I finished reading my piece aloud, the room was silent; even the instructor did not say anything for several beats. When she did speak she said, “I think this is your strength.”

The development of this blog was the natural result of decades of extrapolating small slices of life and looking for the story gems hidden within. What follows is the article I wrote back in 2004…

Rhubarb Roots

 

The story of that rhubarb plant didn’t stop with its transplant to Kirkland, however. Root balls have been gifted to family and friends whenever requested. In fact when my friend Mary – who grew up in Kansas – heard the story of the rhubarb and its connection to her home state, she asked for a piece of it which we gladly shared. Every so often she will post a picture of the VERY healthy plant on social media or send me a message providing updates as to what delectable delight she has created. (Being that she is one of the best cooks I know, no doubt the end result is fabulous!) Our niece Carolyn – who we gave a hunk of it to back in 2016 and another great cook – also recently posted that she had cooked a pie with the rhubarb stalks along with thanks for our sharing of the plant.

When the hubby and I moved yet again in 2018 there was never any doubt that the rhubarb was coming too. But there was a catch. We were moving to a condo/townhouse and there was no spot for a proper garden. Instead, all the rhubarb moved north to the hubby’s family century old farmhouse and acreage in Blaine to be planted there as a means of keeping it for us and future generations.

Rhubarb in the pot

The rhubarb we transplanted to a pot next to our front walk. It is scheduled for a change of scenery to allow it to grow unfettered by the constraints of its environment.

We did manage to plant one root ball in a pot alongside our front walk at the new place. We soon discovered that our next door neighbor, Bob, is a plant guy. I mean a real plant guy in that he has spent his career working with plants and the development of new vegetable varietals. Following his lead of finding space for fruits and vegetables in some of the common spaces, a second section of our rhubarb was recently repatriated and is now taking root at the edge of the back fence. Of course Bob, would like his own rhubarb also, a request which will soon be obliged.

And so it goes… another leg in the journey for my rhubarb roots. I’m pretty sure I have just enough to make another pie.

A couple of links for your edification:

https://nationaldaycalendar.com/days-2/national-strawberry-rhubarb-pie-day-june-9/

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

 

 

Palm Pilot vs. Paper Planners

March 10, 2020

This technology was all the rage

528912-usrobotics-palmpilot-1997Twenty three years ago, this product was the “be all, end all” in new technology. A year earlier, business people everywhere were snapping these up, sure that they would be the ultimate organization tool. That product was the Palm Pilot – the highly successful Personal Digitial Assistant (PDA) computer you could carry in your pocket.

On March 10, 1997, the second generation Palm products were launched and – much like the latest iPhone or Android phones of today – they were the ‘got to have it’ device of the late 1990’s.

The Infallible Wikipedia tells us:

“Pilot was the name of the first generation of personal digital assistants manufactured by Palm Computing in 1996 (by then a division of U.S. Robotics).

The inventors of the Pilot were Jeff Hawkins, Donna Dubinsky, and Ed Colligan, who founded Palm Computing in 1992. The original purpose of this company was to create handwriting recognition software, named PalmPrint, and personal information management (PIM) software, named PalmOrganizer for the PEN/GEOS based Zoomer devices. Their research convinced them, however, they could create better hardware as well. Before starting development of the Pilot, Hawkins said he carried a block of wood, the size of the potential Pilot, in his pocket for a week. Palm was widely perceived to have benefited from the notable, if ill-fated, earlier attempts to create a popular handheld computing platform by Go Corporation, Tandy, and Apple Computer (Newton).”

Palm – they had to drop the Pilot designation following a legal dispute over the Pilot pen trademark – is a case study of a wildly successful startup. After it was sold to US Robotics, the company switched hands multiple times. Today it is a division of Hewlett Packard. No doubt its founders have prospered financially from their invention.

Personally, I’ve never owned or used a Palm product. Back in the late 1990’s when they were all the rage, I was a Mom just trying to get through each day and making sure my kids were both alive at the end of it. I do recall that there were lots of people who raved about their Palm Pilots and swore they could not live without the thing. When in meetings or trying to set up something with many of the other people I knew, out would come the device – seems to me there was a little stylus thing to write on the screen – and it was the only way they seemed to be able to schedule anything in their life.

Calendar collection 2

Ready for 2021 and 2022

Me, I was definitely old school. Give me a calendar and a pen – that’s how I did it. And still do. Yes, I have a phone with a calendar app on it. I also have an electronic notepad on that machine. I use both from time to time but for ease of access and speed I have found the following system which works for me.

  1. Print my own custom monthly calendar pages which fit into a small, portable notebook.
  2. Put all known events onto the dates where they are scheduled.
  3. Carry the calendar with me whenever I go out. Write appointments in it.
  4. Transfer appointments to an erasable weekly calendar which lives on fridge.

Fridge Calendar

The erasable by week calendar segments on the family fridge

Occasionally, I forget to take the calendar with me. It’s then I will either put dates in the phone or, more likely, send myself an email reminder. Then when I get to my regular computer I will retrieve the information and write it on my calendar.

While technology is great, the advantage of paper for calendars and lists is simple: they never run out of battery power and quickly writing a few details is easier than the hunt and peck of an electronic keyboard.  Of course, anyone who has ever seen my desk knows that I never run out of pens. Or paper.

In 2021 I am becoming a true  calendar recycler. The past few months I’ve been working my way through boxes of old papers. I have assembled, over the years, quite a number of wall calendars. I wondered if, rather than throwing them out, perhaps there were years coming up which had the same date configurations?

Of course there had to be, but how to easily determine which years matched? There’s a website called TimeandDate.com which, for the geeky among us, is just the best. Put in the year of the calendar you have and it will reveal all.

Calendar collectionWhich I did with my 22 saved wall calendars. I’m all set for 2021, 22, 23, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29 and beyond. This year, however, I had to buy a new paper calendar. Why? Leap year. For 2020, the layout of dates occurs only once every 28 years and there was not a 1992 in my arsenal. But I’m now good for the year 2048 (Note to my children, be sure to put the calendar up on the wall for me in my Senior facility, okay?)

By my calculations the next time I need to buy a calendar is in 4 years with yet another leap year and not having saved a 1996 calendar. 2024 may be the last one I’ll ever have to buy. Being a saver can really pay off.

(Update… a few weeks after I posted this I discovered a couple more paper calendars! Total now stands at 28.)

The links:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Palm_(PDA)

https://www.timeanddate.com/calendar/repeating.html?year=2020

http://www.uvpinc.com/14-x-14-weekly-magnetic-dry-erase-calendar

 

 

 

The Great Planet Debate

February 18, 2020

Pluto’s Plight

If ever you want to start an argument, be sure to bring up this topic. No, I’m not talking about politics. Or whether Tom Brady really cheated during “Deflategate.” The topic which really gets people animated is whether Pluto is or is not a planet.

maxresdefault

Our NOT ninth planet, Pluto

It was on February 18, 1930, when astronomer Clyde Tombaugh announced the confirmation of a planet just beyond Neptune. The solar system got its ninth and school children everywhere were soon making models of the sun surrounded by Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Neptune, and Pluto.

The real story began a number of years earlier. According to the Infallible Wikipedia:

“In 1906, Percival Lowell—a wealthy Bostonian who had founded Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona, in 1894—started an extensive project in search of a possible ninth planet, which he termed ‘Planet X‘. By 1909, Lowell and William H. Pickering had suggested several possible celestial coordinates for such a planet. Lowell and his observatory conducted his search until his death in 1916, but to no avail. Unknown to Lowell, his surveys had captured two faint images of Pluto on March 19 and April 7, 1915, but they were not recognized for what they were. (snip)

Tombaugh’s task was to systematically image the night sky in pairs of photographs, then examine each pair and determine whether any objects had shifted position. Using a blink comparator, he rapidly shifted back and forth between views of each of the plates to create the illusion of movement of any objects that had changed position or appearance between photographs. On February 18, 1930, after nearly a year of searching, Tombaugh discovered a possible moving object on photographic plates taken on January 23 and 29. A lesser-quality photograph taken on January 21 helped confirm the movement. After the observatory obtained further confirmatory photographs, news of the discovery was telegraphed to the Harvard College Observatory on March 13, 1930. Pluto has yet to complete a full orbit of the Sun since its discovery, as one Plutonian year is 247.68 years long.”

For the putative ninth planet, however, controversy was ever present. Despite the initial excitement at the evidence of its existence, the questions soon arose: was it truly a planet, or was it a Neptunium moon gone astray?

For years scientists sought out photographic evidence of the planet, made possible as telescopes were improved.  Then in August 2006, the International Astronomical Union (IAU) decided to officially define what makes a planet in our solar system a planet. Their three criteria are:

  1. The object must be in orbit around the Sun.
  2. The object must be massive enough to be rounded by its own gravity. More specifically, its own gravity should pull it into a shape defined by hydrostatic equilibrium.
  3. It must have cleared the neighborhood around its orbit.

k-belt1It is the third criteria which caused Pluto a problem. The object exists as part of the Kuiper Belt, an astronomical conglomeration of ice fragments which – like planets – is in orbit around the sun. It is here where Pluto exists.

Over the years, scientists have identified other planet like objects which, like Pluto, circle the sun from within the Kuiper Belt. Along with Pluto are other large spheres. Were these also planets?

The answer came back ‘no.’ Also from the Infallible Wikipedia:

“The IAU further decided that bodies that, like Pluto, meet criteria 1 and 2, but do not meet criterion 3 would be called dwarf planets. In September 2006, the IAU included Pluto, and Eris and its moon Dysnomia, in their Minor Planet Catalogue, giving them the official minor planet designations “(134340) Pluto’, ‘(136199) Eris’, and ‘(136199) Eris I Dysnomia’. Had Pluto been included upon its discovery in 1930, it would have likely been designated 1164, following 1163 Saga, which was discovered a month earlier.

kbosThere has been some resistance within the astronomical community toward the reclassification. Alan Stern, principal investigator with NASA’s New Horizons mission to Pluto, derided the IAU resolution, stating that ‘the definition stinks, for technical reasons’. Stern contended that, by the terms of the new definition, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, and Neptune, all of which share their orbits with asteroids, would be excluded. He argued that all big spherical moons, including the Moon, should likewise be considered planets. He also stated that because less than five percent of astronomers voted for it, the decision was not representative of the entire astronomical community. Marc W. Buie, then at the Lowell Observatory petitioned against the definition. Others have supported the IAU. Mike Brown, the astronomer who discovered Eris, said ‘through this whole crazy circus-like procedure, somehow the right answer was stumbled on. It’s been a long time coming. Science is self-correcting eventually, even when strong emotions are involved.”

And so it remains. Pluto is no longer considered the ninth planet in our solar system. But don’t tell that to Pluto lovers.

Of course, anyone who grew up in the 1930’s through to the early 2000’s, may be hard to convince. In the last blissful year of Pluto being a planet, my daughter was in 7th grade. Like the generations before her she was to build a model of the solar system using some unique material to do so. Currently between rounds of braces she opted for the one thing she loved more than anything: chewing gum.

In her mind, I’m positive, what better way to fulfill her chewing gum habit AND have Mom and Dad pay for it than to build a solar model out of gum? Over a number of weeks she chewed gum and saved it. Then chewed more and saved it. Soon massive amounts of gum began to be shaped into sun and planets. A plywood board was acquired, painted black, and marker lines put down showing the planets and their orbit. The Sun, Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars proved simple. Planet by planet the gum was shaped into tiny little spheres and glued to the board.

When it dawned on her the amount of gum it would take to complete the model it was back to the store for more gum. She chewed until her jaw hurt to create Jupiter, Saturn, and Neptune. By the end of the project I believe she would have been relieved had Pluto NOT been a planet.

At last the day arrived and I helped her carry the massive solar masterpiece to class. I can still see the look on her teacher’s face when she realized it was created from chewed gum and declared it the most unique material she (the teacher) had ever seen for a solar system project.

My daughter’s sore jaw and unique gambit paid off as she was awarded an “A”. And although she continued to like gum occasionally, her obsession ended with the creation of her solar system model.

child's 3D solar system

This is NOT my daughter’s solar system project. Try to imagine this made out of gross globs of chewed gum and you would have it… Alas, no photographic evidence exists as we lost all a couple years of photos in a computer hard drive crash in 2006

So be sure to share Pluto’s story and ask the question: Is Pluto our ninth planet? You’re sure to have a lively debate.

A couple of links:

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

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

 

 

 

Close Encounters of the Cervidae Kind

October 8, 2019

Public Service Announcement

20180718_090456 (2)

Soon after we moved to our new home one of the neighbors stopped by to welcome us

This week’s blog is really more of a public service announcement (PSA). Each year when I turn the calendar to October I know it is time once again to think about the very scary…. Cervidae. Or, as most people know the species, deer.

With approximately 21 million deer living in the United States, it should surprise no one that conflicts between people and deer will arise. Back to that in a moment. But first a little information on the Mule deer species, the most common cervidae in the Pacific Northwest, as told by the Infallible Wikipedia:

“Deer are browsers. During the winter and early spring, they feed on Douglas fir, western red cedar, red huckleberry, salal, deer fern, and lichens growing on trees. Late spring to fall, they consume grasses, blackberries, apples, fireweed, pearly everlasting, forbs, salmonberry, salal, and maple. The mating or ‘rutting’ season occurs during November and early December. Bucks can be observed running back and forth across the roads in the pursuit of does. After the rut, the bucks tend to hide and rest, often nursing wounds. They suffer broken antlers, and have lost weight. They drop their antlers between January and March. Antlers on the forest floor provide a source of calcium and other nutrients to other forest inhabitants. Bucks regrow their antlers beginning in April through to August.

The gestation period for does is 6–7 months, with fawns being born in late May and into June. Twins are the rule, although young does often have only single fawns. Triplets can also occur. Fawns weigh 2.7 to 4 kg (6.0 to 8.8 lb) and have no scent for the first week or so. This enables the mother to leave the fawn hidden while she goes off to browse and replenish her body after giving birth. She must also eat enough to produce enough milk to feed her fawns. Although does are excellent mothers, fawn mortality rate is 45 to 70%. Does are very protective of their young and humans are viewed as predators.

Deer communicate with the aid of scent and pheromones from several glands located on the lower legs. The metatarsal (outside of lower leg) produces an alarm scent, the tarsal (inside of hock) serves for mutual recognition and the interdigital (between the toes) leave a scent trail when deer travel. Deer have excellent sight and smell. Their large ears can move independently of each other and pick up any unusual sounds that may signal danger.

At dawn, dusk, and moonlit nights, deer are seen browsing on the roadside. Wooded areas with forests on both sides of the road and open, grassy areas, i.e. golf courses, attract deer. Caution when driving is prudent because often as one deer crosses, another one or two follow.”

DEERThe last line brings me back to the PSA. From October through December you are much more likely to see deer near or on the road and are much more likely to hit one with your car. The reasons are likely due to mating season and to the need for the animals to forage farther and farther for food to sustain them through the winter.

At the ripe old age of 22 I learned the hard way a universal truth about deer. Driving home from Tacoma to Eatonville one early October night in my trusty Ford Pinto, a deer ran out in front of me. I braked and missed the animal… then made a classic mistake. I put my foot on the gas and sped up. Yep. I hit the second deer.

Over the years I’ve encountered many deer on the roads and have been known to freak out a bit when driving, especially at dusk. I’m constantly watching the sides of the highway looking for the critters.

My concern is justified. I hit my second deer one morning in spring while on my way to work. Yes, I’m paranoid.

My most illustrative encounter occurred in late September while driving a group of teenage girls to a weekend camp out on Hood Canal. It was a Friday and by the time we stopped for fast food and then wove our way through the Seattle metro traffic, it was dark.

As we made our way along State Highway 106 and approached Twanoh State Park, the young woman who was riding shotgun asked why I was driving so slow.

“I’m looking for deer,” I replied, then continued, “They are active this time of year and day.”

I then proceeded to tell her about my two deer related accidents and issued the following warning:

deer on road.jpg“So if you are ever driving and a deer jumps out in front of you, STOP, because they always travel in pairs.”

“Always?” she questioned.

“Pretty much always,” I replied.

And then, not three minutes later, it happened.

From my left a deer bounded across the road in front of the van. I hit the brakes and stopped. A moment later the second deer crossed exactly where the car would have been had I not stopped.

“How did you do that?” she asked, a look of awe on her face in the low glow of the dashboard lights.

“It’s my deer karma,” I replied.

Yes, deer karma is a thing. I have another friend who is certain that I attract the critters. On a different road trip a few years earlier I was a passenger going from Moscow, Idaho, to Seattle one night. It was late June and we had been talking about my deer encounters. This poor woman was panicked, worried about ‘when’ (not if!) some random buck or doe would pop up in front of us. For 240 miles everything was fine and I kept saying that I was not capable of conjuring up random deer… that was until the very top of Snoqualmie Pass. As she drove around the last sweeping curve there, right in the middle of Interstate 90, was a deer. Just standing there in the center lane.

“I knew it! I knew it!” she exclaimed. “It’s you. They’re your totem animal.”

As for me I had no explanation. I’d never before seen a deer standing in the middle of Snoqualmie Pass and never have again. Yet, there the deer was, confirming to her that I attracted the animals.

Personally, I think it would be much easier to have a dog, a cat, or a chipmunk, for my totem animal. Or a sloth. A sloth would be nice as it would never jump out in front of me while driving.

The links:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black-tailed_deer

https://www.simplemost.com/10-states-youre-likely-hit-deer-avoid-collision/

Howe It’s Made

The Invention of the Sewing Machine

September 19, 2019

598px-elias-howe-sewing-machineThis invention truly revolutionized American life. The sewing machine was granted a patent on September 10, 1846. While most people associate the name Singer with the sewing machine it was actually an inventor by the name of Elias Howe who conceived of and created the first such machine. From the Infallible Wikipedia:

“He almost beggared himself before he discovered where the eye of the needle of the sewing machine should be located. It is probable that there are very few people who know how it came about. His original idea was to follow the model of the ordinary needle, and have the eye at the heel. It never occurred to him that it should be placed near the point, and he might have failed altogether if he had not dreamed he was building a sewing machine for a savage king in a strange country. Just as in his actual working experience, he was perplexed about the needle’s eye. He thought the king gave him twenty-four hours in which to complete the machine and make it sew. If not finished in that time death was to be the punishment. Howe worked and worked, and puzzled, and finally gave it up. Then he thought he was taken out to be executed. He noticed that the warriors carried spears that were pierced near the head. Instantly came the solution of the difficulty, and while the inventor was begging for time, he awoke. It was 4 o’clock in the morning. He jumped out of bed, ran to his workshop, and by 9, a needle with an eye at the point had been rudely modeled. After that it was easy. That is the true story of an important incident in the invention of the sewing machine.”

Alas, Elias Howe had competition in the development of the sewing machine and another, much better known name, came to dominate the industry. Also from the Infalllible Wikipedia:

Elias-Howe-sewing-machine“Despite his (Howe) efforts to sell his machine, other entrepreneurs began manufacturing sewing machines. Howe was forced to defend his patent in a court case that lasted from 1849 to 1854 because he found that Isaac Singer with cooperation from Walter Hunt had perfected a facsimile of his machine and was selling it with the same lockstitch that Howe had invented and patented. He won the dispute and earned considerable royalties from Singer and others for sales of his invention.”

Howe, like Singer, ended up a multimillionaire.

Before this society altering machine was invented, it took some 14 hours for a person – usually a woman – laboring at home and sewing each seam by hand to make a shirt. Those hours were invested after all other chores were done: cooking, cleaning, washing, and child care. The sewing machine, which at first was used in factories, eventually made its way to the home allowing women to sew stronger, better garments, and saving hundreds of hours of valuable time.

For me, my relationship with the sewing machine is a love/hate affair. When in Junior High I took Home Economics classes which, at Wilson Junior High in Yakima, were split into two segments. One was to learn all the skills needed to cook. The other was to learn how to sew. I was in eighth grade in the sewing segment when I received my first exposure to home economics.

A line dressOur initial project was to sew a basic A-line dress. For those unfamiliar with the term, what that meant was a dress of three pieces: front, and two mirror image back pieces with a zipper down part of the middle. No sleeves, just armholes with armhole facings; darts at the bodice completed the fitting. In all, the pattern consisted of 8 pieces. Five of those pieces were facings around the arms and neck.

Our teacher sent us out on the mission to purchase material for our dresses. I acquired a very loud, very late 1960’s/early 1970’s fabric, with colorful flowers on a white background. Day by day we labored. Pattern pieces had to be carefully laid out and pinned down, paying attention to concepts such as grain lines as we learned how to ‘read’ the pattern. When that was completed, we cut the fabric, making sure to follow the printed lines of the pattern and the little tabs to be matched. Step by step we succeeded in sewing together our creation. We learned the proper way to sew darts (the dress had four of them), install a zipper, finish edges, and to sew (by hand) a hem.

70s floarl.jpg

Material similar to that used in my first dress

When my dress was completed I was excited to wear it… only to discover that due to a similarity to a long legged colt, the length of the dress was such that all anyone noticed were my knock-kneed legs extending a mile from the hem to the floor.

This might have been due to the fact that the mini skirt was the dominant fashion in the late 1960’s. Or it might have been that between my 8th and 9th grade years of school I grew, literally, six inches in height. From the time I started the dress to when it was finished, I had gained most of this height.

But I was not discouraged as I had discovered I possessed ability in creating garments. Soon I had a bit of a cottage industry going. As a member of the Rainbow Girls the need for custom dresses for its members provided customers. The very first dress I made for someone else was for my friend, Wende, who paid me $15 to sew a dress.

Over the years the ability to sew has come in handy. I can mend pretty much anything and can sew clothing. I’ve created costumes for my children, dresses for countless Rainbow girls, and my most recent project of sewing 21 identical aprons for gifts.

The most painful experience occurred, however, in January 2010. Sewing, I discovered, was still a time consuming process despite Mr. Howe’s invention and subsequent improvements to his design.

Enter into my world the serger. Unlike the sewing machine, a serger will completely bind the edge of the material, cutting and simultaneously sewing together two pieces of fabric into a never to be undone seam. The addition of the serger was a miracle for me. Seams which before had taken 20 minutes each now required but a few minutes.

The blue dress

Until. Until I was sewing my first project using the serger. It was to be a rather delicate and beautiful blue dress using a pattern in the same style as the wedding dress worn by Kate Middleton for her marriage to Prince William. There was lace. There was satin. It was going to be stunning. I was happily serging the seams in anticipation of the dress being completed when my foot slipped on the pedal and the serger went one stitch too far. I looked down at the garment and there, in the nearly completed dress, was a perfect cut into the midriff in the shape of a small upside down V.

The dress which was attacked.

I stared in horror at the incision and wondered how to fix the mistake. Could I bind the edge to repair it? Could I tuck in under?

The reality of the situation hit me. There was no way to ‘fix’ the mistake. It would have to be redone.

The memory of that day is forever seared into my brain. I continued to study the ruined bodice for what seemed like several minutes. At last I stood. I turned off the machine. I left the dress right where it was, a testament to the old adage “A stitch in time saves nine.”  I left my sewing room for the rest of day, literally sick over the fact that I would have to recreate the destroyed section, learning in that moment that a serger was but a tool which, if not used correctly, was no more useful than any other tool in the wrong hands.

The next day I returned to the sewing room, cut out the new section and was able to recreate the damaged piece. My mistake had added a couple of hours to the project. The dress? It turned out beautifully, a true masterpiece on the lovely young woman who wore it. Thankfully, I had enough extra material to fix what had been so easily destroyed.

As for me, sewing is something I do because it served an end, but it’s not my life’s passion. My passion is this: writing.

I do find, however, that when my brain is tired from the creative process of writing, sewing can provide a comfort in the sheer rote of its methods. Seams are seams. There are only so many ways to put a garment together and once you master that you can make pretty much anything so long as you respect the machines which make it possible.

But writing… well, that taps into my creative mind as I’m always looking for new and different ways to share ancient truths.

So I leave the sewing to those whose passion it is. Artistry comes in many forms.  Except for an occasional project, my 10 hour sewing days are behind me and I’ve closed the shop.

I also think it’s time to bring back Home Ec. classes like sewing. We’ve now raised a couple generations of people, the majority of whom seem to lack basic life skills. Being able to sew a seam, and put up a hem is just one example of valuable ability. Cooking, carpentry, and mechanical aptitude should be added to that list also.

So I salute Elias Howe and his vision for the modern sewing machine. It truly changed the life of women.

The Infallible Links:

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

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

The First Tuesday in September

September 3, 2019

On Saddle Shoes and Pee Chee Folders

The first Tuesday of September was always a day which struck fear in my heart. In fact, no other day of the year caused more anxiety and distress than this one.

The reason, of course, was due to the fact that when I was growing up school always started on this day.

Unlike in today’s world, where we are inundated with back to school ads for supplies and equipment beginning in late July, in the 1960’s and 70’s, we didn’t much think about going back to school. That is until one day in late August my mother would ominously announce that school started the next week.

Pee CheeSo off we would go to get things. Our back to school supply list included Pee Chee folders, notebook paper, #2 pencils, and BIC pens. That was it.

For clothing, I was lucky to get one new outfit for the first day of school. And the most evil of all footwear ever invented: saddle shoes.

I’ll get back to those in a bit.  First off, however, I imagine you are wondering about the Pee Chee.  What is a Pee Chee? And why do so many people my age wax so nostalgic over a folded in half piece of cardstock? I knew it deserved Tuesday Newsday status. Since I couldn’t find the official day they were introduced, the first Tuesday in September seemed the perfect date to learn about them. From the Infallible Wikipedia:

“The yellow Pee-Chee All Season Portfolio was a common American stationery item in the second half of the 20th century, commonly used by students for storing school papers. It was first produced in 1943 by the Western Tablet and Stationery Company of Kalamazoo, Michigan. Pee-Chees were later produced by the Mead Corporation. (snip) These inexpensive folders are made of card stock with two internal pockets for the storage of loose leaf paper. The pockets are printed with a variety of reference information including factors for converting between Imperial and metric measurement units, and a multiplication table. The folders had fallen out of general use by the 2000s, but are available from Mead as of 2014.”

useful information.jpgNote the words “multiplication table.” This was probably the most valuable thing a Pee Chee provided as we were expected to memorize this table. By the time you got up to the twelves, it got a bit difficult. The handy dandy Pee Chee came to your rescue. Of course our teachers knew this and we had to put our Pee Chee’s away during test time.

When I walked home from elementary school I only carried a Pee Chee and rarely any books unless it was one checked out from the library. By the time I was in Junior High and High School, books were part of the equation. Along with the Pee Chee of course.

That brand new, unmarked, non-dog-eared Pee Chee was the best part of being forced to go back to school. And paper, pencils and BIC pens, of course. Oooh, and Flair pens starting in Junior High!

The worst part? From first grade through sixth I was subjected to torture by being forced to wear saddle shoes. Whoever invented this shoe should have been required to wear a new pair every week for their entire lives just so they would know what pain they subjected multiple generations of girls to endure.

Yakima NordstromMy mother would take me and my sister to Nordstrom’s Shoe store… in the 1960’s in Yakima that’s all it was… a shoe store. We would bypass all the beautiful shiny black patent leather shoes and the cute Mary Janes and go directly to the rack of clunky saddle shoes. There they sat, big, bulky, and ugly. They had brown soles thicker than a slice of French toast. Across their beige bodies was a second strip of stiff brown leather, with laces through the holes, just waiting to cinch your foot into bondage. Heaven forbid that you got shoes which fit… no, they had to be a bit big so you’d grow in to them and not grow out of them before the following June.

We would wear them around the house for several days before school started in a futile effort to ‘break’ them in. It never worked. The first few weeks of school our feet bore witness to the horrors of saddle shoes; oozing red blisters were covered with adhesive tape and we’d limp through the day. Eventually the leather softened and the blisters abated… usually by October. Kids today just don’t realize how lucky they are to have been spared the scourge of saddle shoes.beige and brown saddle shoes

Even now the first week of September is my least favorite time of the year; despite the fact I do not have to go back to school nor do my children.

I am, however, very, very tempted to go hang out in the office supply store and indulge myself in the smell of paper and ink and the plethora of notebooks, papers, pens, and paperclips. Anyone who has seen my office knows that I have stacks of spiral notebooks, hundreds of colored paperclips (many with decorative tops), and a collection of G-2G 2 pens pens of every hue. In fact, just writing about it inspires me to head to my nearest Office Depot Max to see what’s on sale. Unlike saddle shoes, office supplies never go out of fashion!

As always a couple of links:

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

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

Yes, it is true. In 1960 Nordstrom’s only sold shoes. The store in Yakima was one of only 8 stores at the time.

https://shop.nordstrom.com/content/company-history