Monday, December 31, 2012

Christmas with Mr. Bill and the Squirrel

Good times at Christmas this year.  Our human and canine family was all in attendance.

Here Bruce the Dog plays with his plush chew toy:


It's pretty realistic.  It even has a little squeeze activated voice thing that, appropriately, says OHHH, NOOOOOOOO!!!!

An interesting red eye photo that makes Bruce look like a Demon Dog.


As for myself, well I really can't claim "Nice" status this year but I must at least be on the "Provisional" list because I got something rather cool.

My boys hunt, and happened to bag a nice black squirrel.  Knowing me so well they decided I would like it stuffed and on display.


Everyone should have a taxidermy squirrel.  Sadly, not everyone does.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Stop. Turn around. Walk back.

Just strolling down a street in St. Paul, Minnesota.  I walked past a building then told my wife I had to go back.  I had seen something but was not sure just what....


Big deal, just another patched up old building.  But something about it, perhaps the diversity of stone and brick types in evidence, suggested other than ordinary.


This bricked up area looks to have a smaller bricked up area in the middle.  Was this an original door converted to a window then covered when a second building went up alongside?

The front of the building does not give an obvious clue, although I did remember the name of the business.....


The building of course is far older than 1923, and jogged a memory from a newspaper article some years back.

This is actually the oldest commercial building in St. Paul, and was an armory during the Civil War.  Peeking upwards we find the confirmation....


Having dodged the wrecking ball that has redone so much of the city, the Original Coney Island Tavern is looking pretty good for its age.  Alas, no longer in day to day business but evidently available for special functions.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The Real Question

Let me tell you a small secret about life in the ER.  Mind you this is not some bit of hidden lore that all ER doctors are pinky sworn to keep from the patients.  No, it is something that you just figure out over time, at least if you are paying attention to the right things.  Here it is:

THE CENTRAL QUESTION TO BE ANSWERED IN EACH AND EVERY ER VISIT IS THE SAME:  WHY IS THIS PATIENT HERE AT THIS TIME AND FOR THIS PROBLEM.

Sorry if you were looking for something else.  But this is actually a profound concept.  You want to know why that smiling toddler is in at 3AM with a runny nose?  You want to know why the guy with chest pain waited three days to come in?  You wonder what the real question is when a patient hems and haws and can't quite get to the point?

There are no illogical ER visits.  We just sometimes lack the time and energy to ask the right questions.

Let me give you an example.

The ambulance brings in an elderly woman.  The reported complaint is altered mental status.  She is known to be a cancer patient and to have had a cranial surgery.  The place is hopping, so there was no time to grab the EMTs and try to figure out more.  This looks like a difficult problem, because if a patient really is out of it you do lose some helpful history.  Accept as a given that you have no ready access to patient records and that there is no family to be seen anywhere.

A quick duck into the room shows me a quiet woman in no distress.  Vitals are stable.  The problem is not evident.  When you talk to her she says that she is just having a hard time managing.

The standard ER algorithm here is scan the head, call oncology with the results and just keep marching from room to room.  Keep them doggies rollin' as the old song said.

But I regard this as a wrong answer.  Or to be more precise, an answer to the wrong question.

The sun is up and the clinics are open.  I call over and ask them to walk some notes over regards her history.  I also spend enough time with her to realize that she is lucid and well oriented.  Her speech is a little halting, but not remarkably so for a woman who has had a brain tumor removed.  The oncology notes turn up and indicate that she is known to have persisting disease and that a "cure" is not in the cards for her.

At this point I decided that it was reasonable to check a few basic labs.  She had been on decadron which can send your blood sugars crazy and all cancer patients are at risk for elevated calcium levels and so forth.  All tests were unimpressive.

Now you could do a CT or MRI scan at this point, but you should stop and ask yourself...what would it show that is going to change management in the near term?  Oh, and it appears she is scheduled for a scan next week anyway.

This poor lady sat in my ER for far too long.  But there were other folks more in need of help.  When the anxious parents had been reassured and the broken leg teased back into a straight line and the family of three with trivial problems and persisting requests for pain meds had been dealt with I got back to her.

Cup of coffee in hand I sat on the bed next to her.  She was sitting up, having just finished some soup and crackers.

"How's it been going for you?" I asked.

It was the entry point to a 15 minute chat.  About how she got married at 16 and had five children in six years.  How she and her husband struggled in their marriage and finally divorced.  How they had later met again in a random encounter, started dating all over again and remarried.  How they were so happy until he got Alzheimers.  How she cared for him for six long years.  How she felt as if she had not done all that she could for him.

She talked about her cancer diagnosis.  About how she did not really fear dying but wanted so much to be around when her grand daughter, now 16 herself, graduated from high school.

So why was this patient here at this time and with this problem?  Well the superficial answer turned out to be that in a phone call with a family member she got a little choked up and just couldn't speak of some matters.  Said family member assumed the worst and called the ambulance.

But the real reason?  She was afraid.  Afraid of dying before she could pass along her wisdom, which was considerable, to a grand daughter at the very age she was when wisdom was most needed.

So we just chatted.  I think the chicken soup was a little therapeutic.  I decided she could ditch a few of her medications.  After all, when you have metastatic cancer the importance of keeping your cholesterol down to reduce the odds of a heart attack in the distant future seems hard to fathom.

In fact I told her that I saw no reason she could not have some bacon and chocolate if she wanted to.

And I told her to spend the time she had, be it short or long, on the really significant business at hand.  She did after all have more important places to be than in Room 7. And more important people to talk to than me.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Wandering in the Palms

Although she continues to gamely try my wife has long ago realized that it is difficult to take me places and show me things.  I just keep getting distracted by other things, usually off on odd tangents.

We went to the Como Park Conservatory to see the annual poinsettia display.  If you want to see pictures of festive holiday potted plants you should wander over to her site, Next Door Laura, which links from the side bar.  I did not take any.

I was at first more interested in their photography policy which is posted prominently all over the place.    In effect it says, if you are a private party go ahead and snap away.  If you are a professional photographer you need a permit.  Odd, thought I, do they really get that many pro shutterbugs in to admire the greenery?  (And this time of year, the redery?).

Why yes they do.  We saw a number of intense Pros shepherding family groupings and cute couples here and there for Christmas Card/engagement/yearbook type photos in a colorful setting.


I guess a few poinsettias did make it into that picture, but mostly I admired them briefly and wandered off to look at other plants.  There were some odd ones to be seen, and soon I started giving them alternate names.

Here is the Silk Floss Tree, which I have re-named Monkey's Bane:

And the Christmas Palm, or if you like classic Sci-Fi references, the Many Toed Triffid.
And I think you will concur that Miniature Date Palm is an inferior name compared to Snuffleupagus Neck:

Of course there were a few, such as this Bottle Palm from the Mascarene Islands, where the correct name really does not want for improvement:

But that just got me wondering about other tangential issues.  I noticed a number of really peculiar looking plants from the Mascarene Islands.  And stinging yet from my inability on Trivia Night two weeks ago to name the largest city on Sicily, I became a bit agitated that I had no clear notion of where the Mascarene Islands were or why I should know about them.

I am sure that a few of you are having similar difficulties.

Well, they are in the Indian Ocean a ways farther out than Madagascar.  They are, and even more so, were, a refuge for all manner of evolutionary sports and quirks.

And if on some upcoming Trivia Night you are called upon to know this, the Mascarene Islands most famous past inhabitant.....

The Dodo bird.

For any future Trivia points you may garner from this, you are quite welcome.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Detritus of the Robot Age

Snow Day today, robotics class cancelled.  Next update on the Robot Dragster Project will be in January.
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Sometimes, oddly, my interests overlap.  In fact they step on each other's toes.  While cleaning up the workshop recently I realized that I was basically involved in archeology of the days when my son and I built combat robots.  Artifacts sometimes got spared the trash can and the recycling run.  Some for sentimental reasons, others because they still had some inherent use, a few just fell back behind a bench somewhere.


The "armor" shell of our very first robot, Brave Little Toast.  Really just sheet metal covered with electrical tape and various warning labels, but that was about right given that the robot proper was pretty much an RC truck with a cordless drill on the front.  Tipping the scales at about 9 pounds in a weight class up to 60 pounds it did about as expected. But my 5th grade son and his buddy kept patching it back together for the entire event.  I was impressed.


We ran a couple of lawn gnome themed robots.  Here are a few chipped up pilots that survived the wars.  I imagine them sitting around the workshop when I am not there, sipping on oil and telling exaggerated old war stories.


One time we built a 60 pound robot for a public TV kids science show.  Dragonfly was pretty much pure offense, just a starter motor spinning a big honking blade.  The entire defensive armor was this snazzy bit of recycled fire engine bumper that was on the leading edge of the machine.  Surprisingly effective we rebuilt it several times, eventually scaling it up to a 220 pound monster called....

Nurse Nancy.  So called from the creepy ceramic nurse figurine on its prow.


In this picture "Nancy" has been reduced to debris because of a minor miscalculation on our part.  We had two motors spinning a six foot long section of sharpened road grader blade.  Like ferocious Vikings of old we had painted it red to strike terror into our foes. Alas, had we a smidge of metallurgical smarts at that point we would have known that road grader blades are very abrasion resistant but more than a little brittle.  Nancy's combat career lasted roughly 45 seconds.  At the 15 second mark we laid a mighty hit upon our opponent in which our blade shattered into crimson shards. We did leave a foot long section embedded in the enemy robot, but they are dangerous when wounded.  Very shortly thereafter Nancy was in turn chopped into shiny bits.


This was all of Nancy's protective armor, fashioned from an industrial baking pan.  A surviving bit of road grader blade got saved as a cautionary reminder....

Ah, fun times over the years.  It was a sort of deranged father-son Pinewood Derby out of control.  We both learned a lot.

I can't even recall the entire stable of machines we tossed together over roughly six years. But the list is something like this:


BIG ROBOTS

Brave Little Toast
Gnome
TurboGnome
Dragonfly
Nurse Nancy
Arbor Mortae-The Tree of Death
BarbyJeep
Tank Commander Barby
Borg Queen Barby
UH2-the only survivor of the bunch, this was an audience “U-Drive Em” robot that was just too much fun to scrap.
Newton’s Claw

SMALLER ROBOTS

Antimatter
Professor Richard
Swamp Thing
Gilligan
Senor Jorge
Mr. Ouchy
Clyde

Many were more for fun than mayhem, consider for instance, Gilligan:

He never fought a match.  We just kept him on our pit table and would send him over to gently tap people with his impressive looking, but low energy cleaver.   'SKIPPERRRRR....!"

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Phrase of the Day

I may have mentioned that one of my offspring works for the Department of Natural Resources.  They do a lot of things including enforcement of game and fish laws.  I guess they have a special freezer where confiscated things are kept while cases are ongoing. Once they are resolved the materials are disposed of.

They had a going away party recently for an old timer.  I asked what was on the menu.

"Evidence Fish".


probably not the Godfather variety...

Monday, December 17, 2012

Tree Shaped Tombstones-Pull up a Chair

In a post on particularly sad tree shaped memorials I showed a picture of what I have come to think of as "a widow's chair", in the form of a tree shaped seat overlooking the tree shaped tombstone of a man described as "My Husband".  I thought it was a unique, a one off project for some sympathetic stone carver.  So imagine my surprise when I found, in a back corner of a cemetery in Hastings Minnesota, a group of three such chairs!


This is somewhat similar to the previous "widow's chair" but a bit better done stylistically.  And it has the family name emblazoned on it.  Nearby a chair of a type I had never seen before:


It seems a little low to the ground for comfort, but it is nicely realistic.  It actually looks like what you would get by carving up a stump.  And on the front:


Again the family name carved in the front of the chair.  Around the corner it has a twin.


A slightly different style, and the name is on the front of the seat rather than the front of the stump.  But it would seem likely they are the work of the same carver.

"Widow's Chairs" should exist in relationship to a central point, a monument to which the attention of the mourner would be directed.  Interestingly in these cases the monuments were not tree shaped but rather generic.  Here are the Rice and Van Auken "chairs" in context..




Interestingly these units are sometimes called "Mourning Chairs" or if you are of a spooky mindset,  Devil's Chairs.  The Wiki entry at the link has a nice sample of a "Tree Shaped Bench".  These seem to be more common in the Pacific Northwest region.  I have yet to encounter one, but have a lead on an example to look up in the spring.

Friday, December 14, 2012

The Robot Dragster Project-Chapter Three

This is the week that the big stuff gets hauled over.  Tools, materials.  We by now have an actual shop cart to pile stuff on and more importantly a dedicated place to park it away from inquisitive or acquisitive fingers.
Some of the stuff I hauled in


Goals for the day were:

1. Range test the two competing radio systems outdoors.
2. Wire up a solenoid, explaining how it actually works.  Connect it to an RC switch and fire it remotely.  Using the best range radio option, see what happens when signal is lost.
3. Consider wheel options for the "heavy" dragster.  I had a strong suggestion for the "light" unit.
4. Cut 1/2 inch plywood for bases for each dragster.

It may seem a bit early to do this.  After all, real engineers would map out the gear ratio, use CAD to create a virtual prototype and so forth.

But the point of this class is to take kids who don't know a lot about engineering and help them figure out what does and does not work.  We probably have enough class sessions to have each dragster fail once and be revised with whatever is needful.  Different pulley sizes, more powerful motor, lighter battery options and so forth.
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The class session went very quickly.  Outdoor range testing showed, as I suspected, much better results.  Both the Futaba and JR systems held control out to 500 feet.  Beyond that I am pretty sure the kids will not be able to see the dragster well enough to make delicate steering adjustments anyway.  We did not have time to do fail safe testing.

I went over the basics of how radio control switches and solenoids work, then turned some kids loose with the schematics.

It helps that I have a couple of kids who did the advanced class last year, so it only took them about a half hour to have the system all set up.  The threw the switch on the radio transmitter and sure enough, the starter motor fired up.

I asked them: "Does anyone here know how to build a remote starting system, like what you would use to start your car out in the parking lot?"

They said no.

"Well guess what.  You just made one"

In other parts of the work area:

Brainstorming ideas for steering mechanisms.


A mounting bracket for the Magmotor.  When plotting out how long various things should take you really do have to make allowances for these being middle schoolers.  They just do not have the arm strength yet and, for instance, drilling holes in metal is time consuming.

Also, these being middle schoolers, there is always one kid who just has to monkey around with stuff.  Flipping switches on and off, waving tools around.  Tonight we had one who was way too fond of a big rubber mallet we use for tapping components down snug.  After about the fourth warning about monkey behaviour I decided to take a different tack.

"C'mere.  I'm gonna teach you how to use an angle grinder."

After a few minutes of supervised use of this scary tool he saw things differently.  He said his hands were getting numb from the vibrations and that the shower of sparks was landing all over the place.

He also said that when he told people he was using an angle grinder he figured half of them would not believe it and the other half wouldn't know what it was.

We will see if a greater respect for tools is forthcoming.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Forbidden Brewery Caves-Moria on the Mississippi

Saint Paul Minnesota has a lot of caves, brewery and otherwise.  It's not surprising, as it is a city built on porous limestone.

Unfortunately as I have previously mentioned, there have been tragedies in these caves. Three teenagers died of carbon monoxide poisoning in 2004, two others met the same fate in 1992, and there have been a number of other fatalities from falls, drownings and collapses.  Lets face it reckless young people, often intoxicated, need to stay away from places like this.

So the city has been doing some serious engineering in attempts to permanently seal the entrances to caves, and many historic brewery caves now look like this:


Not much left, just a big blob of cement and a tiny corner of the cave still visible upper left. The inside has also been filled with debris and obstacles.  I understand that rolled up chain link fencing mixed with concrete has been especially effective.

For the best of course, but it is always sad when history gets destroyed.

In particular I wish I could have seen the Banholzer caves....

The North Mississippi Brewery was established in 1853 near the intersection of modern day Drake Street and Shepard Road.  It was first run by a fellow named Rowe, then a real hard luck guy named Rausch who went bankrupt after rumors circulated that a worker had fallen into the vats and been scalded to death.

Banholzer took it over in 1871 and made a success of it.  The brewery naturally had ageing caves, roughly a half mile of them laid out in multiple chambers.

The brewery went out of business in 1904, but the caves remained.  They seem to have been much beloved by generations of inquisitive young folks, who came to know them as "Frankenstein's Cave".  Later more boisterous types made Banholzer's the premier "Party Cave" of the Twin Cities.

It is mostly an unwritten history, but you find bits and pieces of it here and there.  Beer being trundled into the caves, fantastic art work done by candle light, police raids where tear gas got launched into one entrance and the open arms of the law awaited at another....

Finding traces of the caves today is not easy.  Oh, the clues are out there to be sure.

It was said that there were several entrances to the complex.  One was up above where the brewery sat.  You could access the cellars from the basement of the brewery and possibly from that of the brew master's house.  There was also an entrance below the hill, in a building now destroyed by enlargement of Shepard Road.  But persisting mention of access from the cliff face beyond the road and overlooking the river proper, got me hunting.

I first looked in all the obvious places, acting on the assumption that an entrance to the cave complex would have a logical purpose.  Meaning a way for wagons to load up kegs for delivery.  Finally after much hunting I found this:



This massive slab of new concrete is well camouflaged overlooking the steep river bank.  It has an almost military look to it, like a hidden fortification.  It is in a location entirely impractical for road access.  Down in the lower left corner is a tiny gap in this modern wall...


Just enough to reach the camera in and snap a few shots.  One day I am going to screw up and drop the darned thing into some inaccessible chasm.


Mysteries out of reach, probably very much out of reach as the tunnel seems to have been sealed with emphasis.

In fact I understand that all of the traditional access points have been closed, and that where ever possible the cave has been pumped full of a sand slurry.

So I will never get to see the most interesting features of Banholzer's cave in person. Here are a couple of images that have turned up.  It is hard to really credit them properly as the people who explore urban spaces like this generally do so illegally and anonymously.  I have some contacts within that, quite literal, "shadowy underworld" but they don't deal in specifics.  (Although I will give a link at bottom of page to an "above ground" cave explorer...


An elaborate carving from the caves.  The slightly stoned look makes one think it was a self portrait.


Pegasus, presumably still standing proud and tall, but in perpetual darkness.

But what I would really, really like to see would be the "Tolkien Tunnel".  Supposedly there is an outlined version of the Doors of Durin, you remember them from the Lord of the Rings?


Oh, I suppose it would not be as magical as I imagine it.  But if you love the works of Tolkien and would leap at the chance to explore the Mines of Moria it would be something to stand there in silence and quietly speak the password  "Mellon" that opens ancient doors to a wonderful and terrible place...

Meanwhile, don't go nosing about.  The large entrance I show above was actually the Sycamore Street storm drain.  Not technically part of the original cave complex but the easiest way in as there was a connecting tunnel to the brewery cave.  The other access points (with the possible exception of one inside a halfway house!) are long sealed.  Those who have waded about in raw sewage trying to find connections from other tunnels into the cave have taken risks, broken laws and have not found anything worth coming home smelly.

Let Moria on the Mississippi sleep in peace.

A book on caves and exploring the Twin Cities here

Monday, December 10, 2012

The Safe of Herman Detloff

A while back I posted on an unexpected find that connected an embossed bottle with a company that made safes.  These sorts of odd linkages are all around us.  Consider how, on a recent visit to a pharmacy that was closing down shop, I saw this:


It is of course a safe, and a massive one at that.  The legend at the top indicates that the first owner was a Herman Detloff.  Hermann was a pharmacist from about 1870 until his death in the 1890s.  The store continued under other management after his death. Indeed, it will be ongoing at a new, modern location inside the major grocery store in town.

Like all pharmacists, Detloff doubtless sold the "Safe Cure" products put out by a certain H.H. Warner.  As it happens I have an embossed bottle from Detloff too.
Taking a closer look at the Detloff safe we can spy, somewhat worn but readable:

The asking price on day one of the sale was $500.  I am pretty sure it will go way down on day two.  Being of the sort that just has to explore I went down into the basement.  Directly underneath the safe there was an upright steel I-beam put into place to keep the darned thing from bending the floorboards and eventually falling through.  I am willing to bet the sellers would throw the girder in for no extra charge, but when I ponder the logistics of hoisting this monster into my modest abode I sadly conclude that cool though it is, this would not be a bargain at any price.....

Friday, December 7, 2012

The Robot Dragster Project-Chapter Two

There is a certain logic to complex robotics projects.  At least this is how most experienced builders approach the challenge:

First, figure out your drive train.
Second, figure out your control system.
Third, work on the various bells and whistles.  Sometimes literally.

So for our first session of Advanced Robotics class I had an actual agenda.  We started out with the usual necessary discussion on safety and workshop etiquette.  I have three classes of tools.  One for general use, one for use after individuals prove to me that they are responsible, and a few that no kid gets to touch on penalty of banishment. You have to operate this way when you don't have access to the actual school shops and are working with less ideal hand tools.

As to motors, I probably had ten different options to put in front of them.  I selected these:


Here we have some starter motors.  These are an appealing choice because they fit the basic need for a dragster-lots of power for a short time.  If you use appropriate cable you can probably put 100 amps across these at 12 volts.  The one on the far left is a standard Bosch automotive starter with the original 3 pole solenoid attached.  The center one is a mystery unit, probably from a smaller car, perhaps Japanese.  It has the original "Bendix gear" to engage a gearing system.  The other two motors have already had the Bendix removed and replaced with a pulley for various past projects.  The unit on the far right is the starter from a 50 horse Mercury outboard motor.  I bought a very beat up boat from a neighbor a number of years back and had nothing but mechanical issues the whole two years I owned it.  When I scrapped it and got a better fishing boat this was all I saved.

As to which to select it will be up to the kids.  All run on 12 volts.  The bigger unit certainly turns out more power but also is heavier.  I anticipate some interest in both "heavy" and "light" dragster designs.

I also am putting forward some motors other than starters.


On the right is a 24 volt "Magmotor".  It's previous use was spinning the 120 pound weapon arm for "Newton's Claw" an alarming machine we used for State Fair demos. Newton was designed to obliterate appliances from microwave size up to washing machines.

On the left is a Chinese made scooter motor.  Also 24 volts but only 350 Watts.  I figure we could use one on each wheel of a dragster and could control each with a Victor speed controller without smoking the electronics.  The other motors would pull far too much current and will need some special arrangements.  (See next week, Mysteries of Solenoids).  I bought a dozen of these cheap a while back and have never used them.  I think the chain drive option would be interesting but pesky.

I told the group to decide.  If they want to mostly goof around and just build one machine, they get to pick one.  If they are a hard working bunch, willing to dig in, they get to build two.  If they promised to be the best bunch of students I have ever had, they get three.  In all instances we should have sufficient opportunities for the two basic types of learning.....plodding diligence rewarded and excessive ambitions that go Icarus on them.

The other major task of session one was figuring out the effective range of my "in hand" radio systems.  I gave them four different radio systems and assigned a group to figure out a way to test the point at which control signal is lost.  This is kind of important, as it will determine how much distance we have to attain max velocity.  Their mission was to design a test system, test it indoors then outdoors where the interference is less.  Then figure out if the range can be extended somehow....

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Addendum.  Kids opted to build two dragsters, one based on the Magmotor the other on the outboard motor starter.  Good choices.  We tested the radio systems and found that the Vex transmitter we use in the basic robotics class has lousy range...just under 100 feet.

Better results with a JR radio system and with a Futaba PCM transmitter/receiver.  Better still when they added a longer antenna to the receiver.  Indoor range testing....

The Futaba system looks like a clear winner at just over 300 feet.  The JR was a respectable second at 235 feet.  But.....we have not done the more practical outdoor test yet.  And very importantly, my past experience indicates that the JR radio system will "fail safe" more reliably.  That is, it will shut down the power to the drive when signal is lost.  This could come in handy if you want your dragster to stop somewhere short of Winnipeg.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Pieces and Parts at Axman Surplus

Getting ready for the upcoming robotics class requires a trip to my favorite store, Axman Surplus.

As it turns out they did not have anything immediately useful for the project, but as always the bizarre assortment of merchandise and the creative signage are worth the trip even if you come home empty handed.

(Or almost empty.  I did pick up a perfectly good computer keyboard for under $5.  So what if it is in a language that appears to be Norwegian!).

The Axman sales force seemed to have a strange theme going this time.....


The sign is a little hard to read, and I have to apologize for the photo quality...the store has some very harsh overhead fluorescents.   The product being sold is the bottom half of a rather masculine manikin.



 Mrs. Claus' half boyfriend.


Given the anorexic build of this thing you could pitch it as a "Half Girlfriend", but elsewhere in the store we find this:


Somebody been watching too many Zombie movies?



Monday, December 3, 2012

Yearbook...Class of 1942

While doing some tidying up for a relative of the mature variety, an interesting artifact came our way.  It is a High School Yearbook from the class of 1942.  It makes an interesting time capsule.  So many things commonplace then would not be seen in a public school of the 21st century.

Here is a single "montage" page of pictures.


Zoom in for a few closer looks...


Shop class with no safety glasses!


Students fighting!


In the current political environment, something probably seen as worse than eye injuries and fisticuffs.

The year book is of course full of the usual stuff, sports teams, school plays and so forth. But it all has such a serious look to it.  You can perhaps attribute a little of it to the times, It seems that the students were lining up to have their photos taken just a few weeks before Pearl Harbor. But there was also probably an ongoing culture of seriousness that has in later generations been extinguished.  I mean, just look at the school secretary:



There were study hall monitors and library monitors...even an elite corps of library assistants called "The Dahlites", special aides to Miss Dahl the Librarian.  The various monitors were "on the alert" for students "sleeping, passing notes, whispering, or chewing gum".  Although I have to say that this bunch of study hall monitors does look a little bribeable.


But the most striking things in the book are the faces of the students, now our parents ancient or passed.  None of the current day nonsense of posing for a tarted up "glam shot", or while wearing a backwards baseball cap.  These "kids" look so much older.  I suppose they were as today, around 18.  They might be a little older or younger; there was less of the current trend to hold kids back before starting school and more of a willingness to make them repeat a grade if they needed to.

But even allowing for the formal hair styles, the pearls, the suits and ties.....they look so mature, like young men and women ready to step up and face the adult world...


It is probably well that this was true.  Because unlike the Class of 2012, these young men were heading for fox holes and submarines, instead of the lesser depths of Mom and Dad's basement.  These young women were soon to be anxiously watching for the delivery of the dreaded Telegram, rather than scanning their hand held devices for Tweets from vapid celebrities.