Monday, August 19, 2019

Least Surprising Sign Ever

A Family Video outlet that somehow lingered on until 2019 recently closed.  I guess the surprising thing in an era of infinite video streaming is that it took so long.

It's down the street from assorted 19th century relics.  A big barn formerly used by brewery wagon horses.  Store fronts that once held small groceries.  A brick building - now condo'd up - that was once a biscuit factory.

Progress marches on.  Sometimes towards the better, sometimes not, but always marching.

Friday, August 16, 2019

Brew from Scratch Project - Early Update

Well, right around August 1st the barley crop, such as is was, suddenly matured.  You can tell this is so when the stalks get brown and start to tip drunkenly.

I had some concerns....these grains seemed smaller than the seeds I had planted, and I was wondering if I would in fact get less than I had put in.  Some sort of lesson on the economics of agriculture lurk beneath the surface...

Seed version on the left, harvested crop on the right.  Sigh.
But the hops are coming along nicely.  That new fence that played hob with last year's crop is also looking good.

The short growing season of the barley has encouraged me to plant a second crop.  If I get a decent stretch of weather I'll have more grain to malt later.  If not, I'll turn it under and have a better garden plot next spring.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Time Capsule - Such Complicated Treason

My "Time Capsule" posts are random by design.  They describe odd historic artifacts that I find, mostly in neglected cupboards and closets.  Often they are whimsical family mementos.  But once in a while something darker shows up.

At first glance this appears innocuous.  It is a little coin, made of aluminum.  Obviously it is French.  The axe and sheaves of wheat are a little peculiar, the former being disturbingly close to the symbol of Fascist Italy, which resembled an axe in a bundle of sticks.

And here's the flip side.  The date is ominous.  1944.  The inscription reads "Work, Family, Fatherland".

These days the study of history is not what it once was, but most people know that France was conquered by Germany in 1940, and was only liberated by the Allies in the latter half of 1944.

This coin was issued by the Vichy government....collaborators with the Nazis.

But the issue is as advertised a complicated one.  Although France was a deeply divided nation that had factions across the board from communists to  extreme right wing types, there was never any love for Germany.  What there was in the summer of 1940 was -arguably - simply no choice.  France had been defeated so quickly and so completely that accepting whatever terms were available was perceived as the only alternative to a nation destroyed entirely.  And of course England - also never popular - was felt to have skedaddled at Dunkirk, leaving the French behind.  They then went on to attack and destroy French naval assets abroad with much loss of life.  A resigned Gallic shrug and getting along with the government they had did not seem so bad in this light.  They'd had bad governments many times before.

But it would not have worked without one man.  Philippe Petain, Marshal of France and the most respected public figure of the day.  He'd been called in at the 11th hour to form a government as the panzers approached Paris.  It was his gravitas that made the deal with Hitler seem like a regrettable necessity.  Because he had saved France before.  More than once actually.

Petain was already near retirement when he began the war commanding a single brigade.  He fought with distinction when France was saved by the Miracle on the Marne in 1914.  Promoted, he commanded the army that held fast at Verdun in 1916, defeating the great German assault at such a high cost.  He later commanded the entire French Army in 1917 when half the divisions on the Western Front mutinied and refused to go over the top for yet another round of futile slaughter.  Always a soldier's commander he was fair, compassionate and able to correct many injustices while holding the ring leaders accountable.  Of the 600 plus death sentences handed down, all but 26 were commuted.

Only Petain could have brokered the deal that kept half of France unoccupied and nominally free.  But of course it ended badly.  At first the French and Germans had an uncomfortable coexistance.  The movie Casablanca set in Vichy controlled North Africa gave a fair sense of this.  But as the war turned against Germany all semblance of independence was stamped out.  Southern France was occupied, Nazi laws were brutally enforced, and neighbor turned against neighbor on matters of real or imagined collaboration.

Petain was In Switzerland at the end of the war, but come to France voluntarily....but what to do with him?  Imagine some alternate history America where George Washington lived long enough to see England triumphant in the War of 1812.  Imagine further that he was given a choice.  "Be your King's Viceroy in our reclaimed American colonies.  If you refuse we shall burn all your cities to ash and execute the traitorous American soldiers in our custody".

It was necessary to put Petain on trial and to find him guilty.  He was sentenced to death but in an echo of his stern but humane actions of 1917 the sentence was commuted.  He died in prison in 1951, aged 95.

His sometime protege Charles de Gaulle said of him that his life was: "successively banal, then glorious, then deplorable, but never mediocre"

Monday, August 12, 2019

The Baby Mush Song

It's helpful when dealing with grandchildren to just recycle tricks that worked a generation earlier.  The classics never grow old.

Youngest grand is now sitting in the high chair being fed spoonfuls of "stuff".  Time to dust off "The Baby Mush Song" which I'll commit to the Internet so it will be available to future generations.  Heck, one more generation in our family and I might be off somewhere being spoon fed something very similar.  I'll probably be singing this song to the bewilderment of the staff.

The Baby Mush Song
(more or less to the tune of Shortnin' Bread)

"Daddy's little babe, ba, ba, ba baby,
Daddy's little baby loves Baby Mush".
"Mommie's little babe, ba, ba, ba, baby, 
Mommie's little baby loves Baby Mush".

"Peas and carrots, smash and crush,
Turn 'em into Baby Mush.
Great big bowls of sticky goo,
So Tasty and so Good for You"


"Baby Mush is green and brown,
Stir it up and wolf it down.
There's no need at all to rush,
We got lotsa Baby Mush"


"If you throw it on the floor,
We'll just bring you lots lots more.
Moms and Dads and Grammas say
Its Baby Mush for lunch today".


Repeat as a continuous loop, altering verses as you wish.

Generic Internet baby but pretty accurate.

Friday, August 9, 2019

Back Yard Biology

Our grandson goes through phases of interest.  Oh, mostly they are the usual ones, although the timing and duration of them may be a bit different from the last generation.  Work machines were only a mild interest.  Dinosaurs ruled for a while but now are deader than, well, dinosaurs.

Of late it has been all about nature, specifically small critters.

Mowing the lawn today I spotted and rescued a small toad.  A similar one he caught and released 100 miles north was dubbed "Toad-O" so we'll call him that.  I suppose it is possible that he might be a hatch from the ill starred tadpole project.  Sure, he looks smart enough to evade raccoons, we'll go with that.

I'm delighted that his parents have followed on in the tradition of bedtime stories. Start 'em early and always keep pushing the level of complexity.  Of late they've been reading Charlotte's Web.  Here, scuttling away while avoiding some yard weeding, was undoubtedly Charlotte.

I think she is giving me multiple beady little skunk eyes for disturbing her.

We also have an ongoing interaction with chipmunks.  Ravenous, vandals they are, and present in large numbers.  Another day with them, and under another category....Rodent Peril.

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Twins Time Capsule

Because baseball, like writing, is fundamentally a 19th century pursuit there is not a shortage of commentators on the subject.  Most of them take it quite seriously and I cede the topic to them.

But mention must be made of the excellent season to date of my beloved Minnesota Twins.  Yes, my Twins.  Your baseball team affiliation is determined early in life and moving to another state does not alter it.  

They've been doing well enough this year that my son, grandson and I took in a game at their home park, Target Field, in downtown Minneapolis.

It was blazing hot, so this criminally overpriced beer was a good idea.  But I'm actually taking a picture of the big sign over the Target Field lettering.  This highlights another family artifact.

Here's a closer look at it.

These big galoots shaking hands across the Mississippi River are called "Minnie" and "Paul", representing the personifications of the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul.  I like how old the concept is.  Here's a coin of the Emperor Hadrian with a personification of the River Nile.  Note the hippo and crocodile!

Of course the Twins logo is not 2000 years old.  But it does go back a ways.  Here's a poster that has kicked around in our family for many years.  

Clearly this is an earlier version of what now towers over center field, but it has some interesting differences and a history of its own.

Here's the very first version, created by a man named Ray Barton in 1960 when it was announced that the then Washington Senators would be moving to Minnesota and getting a new name.  Barton was told that it would only be used on paper cups and such.  The legendarily cheap Twins management paid him the princely sum of $15 for his work.  He is said to have never really been satisfied with the image. Or the paycheck.

The version on our poster premiered at the start of the inaugural 1961 season.  But take a closer look.  The "Win Twins" wording quotes a bouncy tune that the team used back then.  I remember it at the beginning of each radio broadcast....

Of course what put this image back into my mind of late has been the Twins pennant drive, one that gives us hope for another World Series appearance.  Note that the poster references the World Series and so is unlikely to have been made before they won the American League championship on September 26th.  And since the Twins ultimately did not win the Series it was probably not made afterwards as a commemorative.  So that gives us roughly a ten day window between the end of the League championship and the start of the Series.  We have a theory that the poster might have been made on the very day the Twins clinched, perhaps as part of a Welcome Home celebration, the team having won the pennant while on the road.

Perhaps haste lead to error...notice how the back sleeve of "Minnie" has been left blank!  This does not appear on any of the other versions I have seen on pennants and posters. 

As of this writing the Twins have a 4 game lead on the Cleveland Indians and look like odds on favorites to win the American League Central Division.  After that its nail biting post season play.

We hope!

Monday, August 5, 2019

Cheesy Robotics

We've finished up with the summer "Robot Tuesday" sessions.  Lots of energy and enthusiasm, lots of good prospects for the high school team.

As usual I was scampering around too frenetically to get decent pictures and video.  The team facebook site has a bit more....Team 5826

At least I got a picture or two of the evenings "snack challenge".  This was in the spirit of last weeks "No Math, No Ice Cream". Three groups each with a Lego robot had to build and program to deliver either Cheezits, Chocolate Chip Cookies, or Oreos.  Programming and junk food, a natural synergy.

And one of the delivery vehicles.  It climbed a ramp, took a left turn, went to the edge and tipped the salty snacks into a bowl.