Space Sugar!

Yes, another blog post that is sugar-centric!

On the heels of Beth-Ann’s Ice Cream conquest at the Minnesota State Fair, scientists now say they have found sugar in space. Another cold and sweet curiosity, just out of reach. Or to be more exact, 400 light years out of reach, in the gas surrounding a young star called IRAS 16293-2422. I’ll admit it didn’t top my list of potential destinations before today, but now humans have a good reason to go there.

Yes, of course we already have sugar here. Plenty of it.

But sugar from space! That’s special.

And anything that’s desirable AND special will draw a crowd with ready money – funds set aside by the wealthy for the purpose of distinguishing themselves from ordinary folks. That’s how we got Audis and Rolexes.

And being able to say you top your cereal with Space Sugar – that’s the sort of thing James J. Hill could build an empire on!

The one mystery that remains – where did the galactic sugar come from?

When have you gone out of your way for something sweet?

Swing Voters

Today’s guest post comes from Beth-Ann.

In case you missed the blog yesterday, or the local newscasts, Mini-sota Donut Ice Cream was named the winner of the Kemps Hometown Flavor contest in a very close decision.

Folks who sampled the 2 flavors at the Fair voted for the Rah Rah Rhuberry. On-line voters picked donuts so it came down to the celebrity judging. After the announcement I learned that while last year’s contest was a landslide, this year’s was a dead heat and even the online/Facebook voting was close.

It is obvious to me that the swing voters were baboons! How appropriate is that? I am glad that I did not pander to the demographic with a banana flavor or a goat’s milk base to the ice cream.

Seriously, I am very grateful for all the votes, your enthusiasm, and your indulgence while I prattled on. The experience was a little outside my comfort zone but it was made easier by the presence of family and friends. It was so fun to look up and see Linda and BIR representing the trail and smiling with encouragement.

When have you been involved in a very close contest?

Roadside Attraction

Today’s post comes from Wally, of Wally’s Intimida, home of the Sherpa Sport Utility Vehicle.

I give up!

As a salesman, I’ve tried to stay neutral about government so as not to drive away potential customers, but with this latest gas mileage move from the anti-SUV Obama administration, I’m declaring my political allegiance to anybody who is not a socialist dictator bent on destroying everything that is truly American about the American Car Industry.

And by “truly American”, I mean cars that are huge, stylish, luxurious, indulgent and wasteful. In other words, the Sherpa from Intimida. A landscape-altering vehicle designed to be the ultimate in extravagant travel, the Sherpa’s only understatement is its catch phrase – “It’s a mighty big car!”

That doesn’t even begin to describe it.

But the new decree that auto fleets will get 54.5 mpg by 2025 is out of reach for the Sherpa, which gets 5.45 mpg right now. Maybe we could get a decimal point variance? I don’t think so! Big Government is on a mission to ruin Big Vehicle by forcing everyone to drive a Chevy Volt.

So be it. But I don’t believe Americans will ever want to give up the thrill of sitting high in the driver’s seat of a car so massive, it towers over the very road it drives on. That’s why I’m now taking ground-floor partners in an ambitious new investment scheme to retrofit and re-purpose my incredibly backed-up inventory of Sherpas as mobile hotels.

I’m calling them SherpINNS.

Imagine it – SherpINNs lining the highway in every town along the interstate. For a modest fee you’ll be able to spend a night in the outrageous car you once might have driven from here to Poughkeepsie. We’ll put the king size bed where the driver’s position was and install a hot tub in the back seat. And all the usual Sherpa amenities will stay in place – the exercise room, observatory, the bowling alley, etc.

An America ruled by those who want its people to travel like the French will need lots of luxurious waysides to help it remember its greatness. Join me, won’t you? The initials S.U.V. will soon stand for Sorta Upscale Vacation. Coming to an access road near you!

Still Devoted to the Sherpa,
Your friend,

Actually, Wally might have a good idea here. Spending the night in a quirky motel sounds like the sort of thing we Americans would enjoy – especially if there’s as much MO in the motel as you’ll get when the building itself is on four wheels. By re-classifying them from “vehicles” to “lodgings”, Wally might stand a chance of dodging the 2025 mileage requirements. But is he ready to install egress windows and smoke detectors?

Describe your stay in a memorable roadside inn.

A Riveting Romp Of A Read!

Todays post comes from Trail Baboon’s living and loving correspondent, a man who is a bottomless well of wellness, B. Marty Barry.

I was scandalized … SCANDALIZED! … to read this NY Times article about the for-pay book review business. It turns out there are people who will say nice things about books in online reviews without really reading those books!

They do this as part of a financial arrangement to “legitimize” the writer in the eyes of potential readers. This is one of the few places left in the world where journalists can make a little money – inventing the kind of promotional blurbs they used to disdain! Oh how far we have fallen!

Each One is a Shattering Work Of Genius!

Normally I’m all in favor of praise, but I think this is a very dangerous trend for everyone who might venture into the unregulated internet looking for a little validation. And we are all seeking some of that – the sweet nectar of positive comments! As one of the “experts” in the Times article said, “Nearly all human beings have unrealistically positive self-regard.” But it is fragile and needs constant support.

Before long, it won’t be just book reviews. It will be personal remarks of all kinds that are for sale. Such as:

“Clyde is a perceptive man – a genius and a scholar who is under-appreciated by those who could most benefit from his wisdom – the indifferent mob that cannot see greatness when it is in their midst.”

And …

“Barbara may physically be in Robbinsdale, but her intellect knows no bounds and her influence ought to be valued by the famous and the mighty. There is nothing beyond her understanding, and no problem that would not yield to her commonsense analysis.”

I say these things from the heart, but a person with very little writing talent could invent such compliments in minutes, and you the reader would be none the wiser.

I feel personally and professionally threatened by this. As a therapist, I have to help my clients see themselves clearly by guiding them through a discussion of their good qualities and some of their habits that are, quite frankly, rotten. But why would anyone seeking self-knowledge come to me for the brutal truth when they could just as easily go to a professional flatterer for a comfortable lie?

Of course the truth is much more useful than empty praise in the long run, just as brussel sprouts are better for you than potato chips, but guess which has the most shelf space at your local supermarket? And for that matter, how can I even believe the positive things I hear about brussel sprouts? Maybe someone is building them up for a financial reward.

I’m afraid this all may lead to a global outbreak of Midwesterner’s Syndrome – an infectious condition where the brain cannot accept a compliment, but must always, ALWAYS give credence to the most negative available assessment because it feels true.

Imagine it. Lutheran farmers, everywhere.

I’m not feeling very optimistic at the moment. But please don’t try to cheer me. I want to believe you, though I’m pretty sure I can’t.

Can you give us a few kind words for the dust jacket?

Lost In Space

It’s a shame that we lost Neil Armstrong over the weekend, but I’m grateful that he was the one chosen to be the first to set foot on the moon. Imagine if, instead of the quiet, private Armstrong, a shameless braggart like Donald Trump had been first off the LEM. There’d have been no tranquility at Tranquility Base. Or should I say Trump Crater?

But Trump wouldn’t have had the patience to do the necessary training, nor the calm judgement to properly command that mission – “Aldrin, you’re fired! I mean, help us blast off here and get back to Earth, but then … you’re fired!” And of course the famous first quote would have been quite different.

“That’s one small step for man, but one giant leap for me, Donald Trump! No one else can ever be the first man on the moon. I Win! I’ll buy and sell hotels and casinos and make and lose fortunes, but this, I will own forever, and you’ll never stop hearing me talk about it!”

Neil Armstrong’s self portrait on the Moon, 1969.
Image courtesy of NASA

But then the statement we heard from Neil Armstrong was not exactly what he meant to say. Of all the gloves, nuts and bolts and bits of debris and flotsam that Americans have left in space in the course of our efforts to reach the moon, the particular item that interests me most is Neil Armstrong’s dropped “a”. When he stepped off the LEM an on to the moon’s dusty surface, people all around the world heard him say “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”

Later, Armstrong would insist that he actually said “That’s one small step for A man, one giant leap for mankind.” He acknowledged when listening to recordings made of his first moments on the moon that he didn’t hear the “a”, but confirmed that he said it. Or at least that he intended to say it.

I believe him, because adding an “a” before “man” is the only way his historic statement can make sense. Without it, he and mankind are essentially the same. And it suits this humble fellow that he would want to make a point of it – he is simply A man taking a step. The lasting achievement belongs to everyone.

Analysts have suggested the technology of the time may not have been good enough to capture a sound (35 milliseconds!) as brief as that singular “a”, but I prefer to believe that Armstrong’s indefinite article bounced off Earth’s invisible humility filter, and it is still drifting in space.

On a clear night you can still see it up there, tumbling.

Vowel fly, vowel high,
first vowel stuck in the sky.

Armstrongs ‘A’- his noble try
to let us know he’s just a guy

When have you had a crucial part of an important message lost in transmission?

Vegetarian S’Mores

Today’s guest post comes from Sherrilee

I became a vegetarian when I was 16. Way back then, there weren’t any vegetarian restaurants, whole food grocery stores or edible meat alternatives. I didn’t meet another vegetarian until I went away to college two years later and I ate a lot of cheese sandwiches during those two years. But it wasn’t a hard road to travel; I was sure of my reasons and happy to make sacrifices for what I considered my cause.

Over the years I’ve only missed a few things. On hot summer days when my dad was traveling, my mom would make tuna fish salad and served it in scooped out tomatoes. My dad didn’t like tuna, so it was a special “girls only” meal. The smell of tuna salad takes me back to those days. I miss BLTs… lettuce and tomatoes just aren’t the same without that crisp bacon.

But what I miss the most are S’mores – the melty chocolate with the marshmallows burnt to a nice dark brown crisp, surrounded by graham crackers. Of course it doesn’t hurt that S’mores are almost always eaten around a campfire, with friends and family in attendance. As Rachael Ray would say “Yum-O”. Since marshmallows are not vegetarian (they contain gelatin) – I’ve missed them tremendously for decades – so when I discovered a company that was making vegetarian marshmallows I was thrilled.

In July we took all the S’more makings, including the vegetarian marshmallows with us on our camping trip to Colorado. The marshmallows aren’t as large as what you usually find at the store, but you can put 4 or 6 of them on your stick and get going. Due to the wildfires out west this summer we couldn’t have a campfire, so we did the next best thing – we grilled over a propane cookstove. The marshmallows smoked, then bubbled and then broiled; a perfect hot accompaniment to the chocolate and grahams. It was heavenly and we ate S’mores every night of our trip. I think S’mores are my new favorite dessert!

What’s for dessert?

George of the Bungle

The story of Cecilia Gimenez and her amateur attempt to restore a flaking fresco in her church in Borja, Spain, is familiar to anyone who has tried to fix something when it was beyond their ability to make the repair.

I mean way beyond their ability.

You start by sprucing up Christ’s tunic and then you think you’ll add a touch of color to his face, and when that doesn’t look quite right you try to compensate by deepening the intensity of his eyes, and then the thorns seem a bit too stark …

Things can get out of hand rather quickly.

Credit: Centro de Estudios Borjanos

I did something like this once when I was trying to build a cabinet into wall of a bedroom.

I had a picture in my mind of how it was going to work out perfectly, even though I lacked the necessary tools, hadn’t thought through many of the critical details and dove into it without knowledge of the required techniques. But clumsy carpentry and crumbling plaster didn’t deter me. Each mess was inconsequential – a bit of “creative destruction” that would soon be reversed because my next brilliant step would erase all previous mistakes.

It is possible to convince yourself that there is a simple way to undo the damage if you stay optimistic and persevere, even though everyone else is begging you to walk away.

Minnesota lawmaker Kerry Gauthier and Missouri Senate candidate Todd Akin have been going through this painful process of late. Akin is still at it, busily transforming his potential electoral masterpiece into a child’s portrait of monkey without a face. Although once Akin truly sees the horror he has crafted, it will be harder for him to use the Gimenez defense – that nobody said “stop!”

When have you tried to fix something, and thereby made it worse?