Monday, August 18, 2014

One Cool-Thinking Kid

Hot summer days have often left us wanting something to partake of that would cool us off and slow us down to enjoy the lazy passing of time.  That's not something new to us or our generations.  It's been going on since the beginning of time, I'm sure.

Wealthy Romans would have ice carted from the mountains down to the villages, and the ice would be mixed with fruit bits and fruit juice to give them a form of snow cone.  History tells us they weren't alone.  Similar practices were showing up in China, India, and the Arabian peninsula.  And as we can all attest, these shaved ice confections can sure hit the spot.

But it wasn't until 1905 in San Francisco, California, that an accidental discovery lead to a treat still popular today with kids of all ages.  Eleven year old Frank Epperson had some powdered soda mixed up, using a wooden stick to stir the concoction.  He left some of the stuff out on the porch overnight.  When he arose the next morning, there was his treat, still there, but now frozen onto the stick. 

Now Frank wasn't a dense lad.  The next summer he was selling his treat to the neighborhood kids.  But it wasn't until 1923 at the Neptune Beach amusement park in Alameda, California, that he had a good commercial business going.  The next year he applied for and got a patent for his Episicle, which soon were a big hit.  He soon changed the name of the treat to "Popsicle," and it is still widely eaten by folks everywhere.

Frank didn't enjoy the profits from his "invention" long, however.  In 1925 he sold his patent to another company to pay off creditors.  The Popsicle today is still the Popsicle, although the varieties have grown in number and taste.  But it still hits the spot on a hot summer day when you need something light and refreshing to consume while relaxing, indoors or out.  I don't know that Frank invented anything else,, but he did leave us all a cool taste treat we can eat just about any time of year, 

Thanks, Frank.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

A Little Life Music

Sometimes something happens and I have no choice but to put the situation to music.  So there is truth to some of this ditty, but there is also imagination working into the song.  I envisioned the thing set to a light-hearted march.  I do hope you enjoy.

                       PROPOSITION MRS. K

          I was walking down the street, enjoying the sun
          Having a good time, looking for fun
          When a man walked up, stopped me on the street
          Called me by my name and he looked so sweet

              Cho:  I've got a proposition for you, Mrs. K
                        Would you like to make some money today?
                        It could be fun, it could be swell,
                        Take your time and think it over well.

          Well my blood's not blue and madam's not my name
          But I'm always ready for a new game
          So I listened to what the man had to say
          Cause money talks and I can use some today.
          He put thoughts of jewelry inside my head,
          A life of luxury on a silken bed
          With diamonds and a jacket of mink
          It might be fun, now what do you think?

               Repeat chorus

          He pointed to a shop on the street
          Said I sell shoes to put upon your feet
          You look like you could sell a shoe or two
          I need some help, yes, you might do.
          Well, I dropped my jaw and my ego hit the floor
          And I'm not walking a so tall any more.
          I thought he saw me as a sexy turtle-dove
          But he wanted me to work and not to love.

               Cho:  He had a proposition for this Mrs. K
                         He wanted me to sell some shoes today.
                         Now that's not fun and it's sure not swell
                         I thought it over, and I can tell him -


Monday, August 11, 2014

Putting Shoes on My Barefeet

Some days it's hard to make a choice.  Do I go barefoot, or do I decide which shoes to wear?  It isn't always an easy choice, for I am naturally a barefoot gal.  I like this thought by Michael Franti:
          You learn a lot when you go barefoot.  The first thing is that every step you take
          is different.

There must be others with these thoughts.  K.D. Lang sings "Barefoot."  Harry Chapin recorded "Barefoot Boy."  Jake Owens sings about "Barefoot Blue Jean Night."  I can relate to all of these.

However, shoes and boots have turned up more often in the musical world.  And the songs often skew more to a life with a beat.  Remember when Nancy Sinatra sang about "These Boots Were Made for Walking?"  And Shania Twain had a later hit with her song, "Whose Bed Have Your Boots Been Under?"

An earlier song was Dodie Stevens singing about "Tan Shoes and Pink Shoelaces."  And we can't forget Carl Perkins song (also recorded by Elvis Presley) titled "Blue Suede Shoes."  Of course you can go way back to get a listen to Red Foley singing about "Chattanoogie Shoe Shine Boy."

Another thought I like is one by Amy Adams:  I like Cinderella, I really do.  She has a good work ethic.  I appreciate a good, hard working gal.  And she likes shoes.  The fairy tale is all about the shoes at the end and I'm a big shoe girl.

 But let's not let ourselves get carried away with all this talk about shoes.  Charles Barkley sums it up pretty well  when he said:  These are my new shoes.  They're good shoes.  They won't make you rich like me, they won't make you rebound like me, they definitely won't make you handsome like me.  They'll only make you have shoes like me.  That's it.

And we'll close with the immortal words of Phyllis Diller:  You know you're old when someone compliments you on your alligator shoes, and you're barefoot.

We'll talk again later.  But remember, watch where you put those feet, especially if you are barefoot at the time.

Monday, August 4, 2014

The Freedom of Failure

In yesterday's Arkansas Democrat Gazette I read an article by Stephen Marche:  Failure is the muse of writers.  Over the years I had read a lot of things denoting the downside of being a writer.  He did a good job encapsulating them in an interesting article.

I have also noticed the ascendancy of entrepreneurs in making note of the times they fail over many different enterprises.  I'm sure you've heard the adage:  The only one who don't fail are those who never try.  And I do agree somewhat with the thought.

Marche points out that all those folks are really wannabes in the failure world.  The top of the heap in coping with the knowledge of failure are all the writers in the world.  Failure is built into the job description from the very get-go.  He (and others) have pointed out that there are over 300,000 books  published every year in the United States.  Anyone can figure out that the vast majority will never make it to any best seller list anywhere.  And of those who do achieve some modicum of success, there is always the thought it will not be repeated.

So, why write?  I'm sure there are as many reasons for that as there are writers.  But everybody's got to do something.  Some write and make a decent living at it.  They would most likely include those who have found a way into the world of professional writers in all the various forms - entertainment, journalism (although sometimes there is little difference between some of them), advertisers, editors, promoters.

I can only speak for myself.  I write because I just can't see not writing.  I like to write fiction.  I write to entertain and try to bring a bit of quirky humor to a story line.  I didn't try to write for way too many years, because I really didn't have confidence in myself and worried about the resultant criticism that would surely follow.  But over the years, I would jot down story ideas or produce short stories.

Then came the time life lassoed my freedom and I wound up in an ever more restricting environment due to circumstances well beyond my control with no foreseeable end in sight.  No, I didn't wind up in jail.  But you make choices in life in how you deal with the vagaries of aging and with family members facing horrible challenges.  I found for myself the best way to deal with this was to write.

I can write whenever I need to escape yet stay in place.  I can write as often as I find time or let it go whenever I can't focus on the words or plot or characters.  And I determined to self-publish because I face only the deadlines I impose on myself.  I can't get out and market the work, but I can still get it out there.  If God grants me time, marketing can come later.  If not, oh well.  There are still the occasional books sold and the very welcome odd bits of comments on the work.

I relish these comments, whether from family, friends or complete strangers.  I like them whether they come from reviewers' comments, e-mail, snail mail or phone calls.  And now as I do the finishing work in preparing my third novel, I still enjoy what I'm doing.  How long will I do it?  I have no idea.   

As for all those thoughts of failure, I actually find a real freedom in the knowledge that is lurking out there just around the corner.  Statistically, I have to fail.  So what?  In my mind I have achieved success because I have completed some real stories.  From my viewpoint, any sales put me ahead of the game.  Any positive feedback gives me moments of true joy.  And I can look at the finished product and see real achievement rising from times of sadness and stress.  I know that life has not gotten me down, that I can still have fun and find amusement somewhere in my mind that can relax me and push the devil back down into his dark place, alone.

What more can you ask from life's journey?

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Shady Side of History

It's summer here in the United States of America.  And a strange one it has been.  We've experienced some cool weather for this time of year.  But the really hot weather will still make its presence known.  And when that happens, we will all be searching for some cool, cool shade.

It has been that way everywhere throughout history.  Mankind prefers his climate to suit his own preferences, rather than submitting himself meekly to what the climate delivers to him.  The proof exists all over the world.  Whether it's sculptures on monuments in Egypt, paintings on Ancient Greek vases, or ancient artifacts found in China, man has been bringing his own shade with him wherever he traversed in the form of parasols (protection from the sun) or umbrellas (protection from the rain).

Of course, the devises were available to the nobility of the world, carried by the common man to protect his "betters."  But at least 600 years before Christ, portable shades were popping up all over the world.

People are still looking for ways to improve on this simple design.  In fact, there are so many designs submitted to the U.S. Patent Office, that it is said they have four full-time workers to assess the designs. I read that by the end of 2008, the U.S. Patent Office had registered 3,000 active patents.  Many of these involved making designs to make them more aerodynamic for better wind flow and control.

For all these patents, we rarely see umbrellas in use around the country.  Of, yes, when it is raining they will pop up here and there.  But many dash from car to building using anything at hand to try to keep a bit of the weather off the head.  Maybe it's a newspaper or book, a plastic bag, or a shirt collar pulled up as high on the head as possible.  But you don't see folks just strolling around the area with that bit of material to keep the hot sun at bay.  Or perhaps, I just live in the wrong part of the country to see them on a regular basis.

In fact, we seem to use the umbrella more with our outdoor furniture.  Whether on a patio, a deck, or a porch, we do like to sit out under the shade as we sip our sweet tea.  (This is the south, after all.)

I myself carry an umbrella with me at all times.  It's under the driver's seat of my car.  But that is really where it remains.  I do intend to put it to better use, but then the notion just slides away from the brain and the item stays in place in the car.

Maybe I'll do better.  But then again, maybe not.  What about you?  Do you use the brolly?  That's a term more often associated with our friends in Britain, New Zealand, Ireland, and Australia - among other countries.  How do we bring it to the forefront of the grey matter and put this very handy item to more use?  Let me know if you have any ideas.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Legal Final Ten

Today we look at the final ten of the fifty states and some laws that made it on the books, though one must wonder how and why.  Something must have happened to make the laws seem reasonable at the time, but for the life of me, it is difficult to decipher just what that reasoning could possibly be.  So here we go, one more time.

     South Dakota     -   It is illegal to lie down and fall asleep in a cheese factory.  (Does that
                                    mean it is okay to do so in any other type of factory?)
     Tennessee          -   You can't shoot any game other than whales from a moving
                                     automobile.  (Again, Tennessee is not a coastal state.  I just can't see
                                    where or why one would even see a whale, in or out of a vehicle.)
     Texas                -   It is illegal to take more than three sips of beer at a time while standing. 
                                   ( I don't have any experience in this area, but from all the old westerns
                                   I watched over the years, sipping beer does not seem to be the custom
                                   in the state of Texas.  The participants seemed to be more intent on
                                   guzzling than sipping.)
     Utah                  -   It is illegal not to drink milk.  (Okay, if you have lactose problems,
                                   you might want to inquire about getting a waiver for this law.)
     Vermont           -   Women must obtain written permission from the husband to wear false
                                   teeth.  (Is this an attempt by the men to get the women to keep their
                                   mouths shut?  Just a thought.)
     Virginia            -   In the town of Culpepper, you may not wash a mule on the sidewalk.
                                   (Funny, I've never even considered mule washing, on or off the walk.)
     Washington      -   All lollipops are banned.  (Do you suppose a legislator had just gotten
                                   a large dental bill for kiddos eating too much candy?)
     West Virginia   -   Whistling underwater is prohibited.  (Is it just me, or does the mere idea
                                   of underwater whistling seem way too quirky to make sense?)
     Wisconsin         -   It is illegal to serve apple pie in restaurants without cheese.  (Now I have
                                   to admit, I do see some sense to this one.  Wisconsin is famous for their
                                   cheeses, and apple pie is certainly enhanced by its addition.)
     Wyoming          -   You may not take a picture of a rabbit from January to April without an
                                    official permit.  (I'm totally lost on this.  Why just in the winter time?
                                    (Why rabbits?  Are they the only animals requiring this permit?)

There you have it.  Laws that amuse, and may even make sense to someone in some unknown way.  I heard someone say once, that all lawmakers should spend equal time discarding old or unwanted laws as they do on coming up with new ones.  Because you know that any law written requires large amounts of regulations on just how these laws should be administered.  Lord, deliver us from this never-ending deluge of bureaucracy.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Creative Solar Thinkers

I read an interesting article in the Arkansas Democrat Gazette.  Scott Brusaw, an electrical engineer in Idaho State, has come up with an intriguing idea.  Why not use solar power to do more than provide light and heat?  Why not put them on the ground and use solar energy to make parking lots, driveways, and bike trails?  No, not to make solar covers for these items, but to cover the parking lots, etc. with the solar panels.  Lay them down and drive on them just as you would do with asphalt or other roadway materials.

Brusaw's company, Solar Roadways, uses a knobby, tempered glass to create the road covering.  He has tested the panels by driving heavy equipment on them, and is convinced they can eventually be used for highways as well.  That would be something to see.  They should keep the snow and ice melted away, and, he says, that there could be lighted LED messages in the panels as well.

They have installed a prototype parking lot already for their testing and to demonstrate their durability and use.  Evidently they still must figure out how to store the energy generated.  But at least they are thinking in a creative manner, looking for something that we may all be using at some point in the future. 

Personally, I hope they are successful, and the solar panels are one day taking us from one part of the country to the other.  And when the blizzards come, and the snow is so deep on the road sides, wouldn't it be wonderful to travel a clean, brightly lit, precipitation free highway?  Can you imagine transportation without cars sliding all over the place and winding up in ditches or worse?  I think it would be a treat to see and use. 

So good luck to you, Mr. Brusaw.  May your tribe increase and prove beneficial to all of us.