One of my small pleasures is to sit by the fire at the end of the night and watch TV. This has been denied now, since the fire - which worked yesterday - didn’t turn on tonight. Let us first marvel at the concept of “the fire turning on.” Press a button; whoomph. Except no whoomph. I thought it might be the batteries in the control unit; it spends the summer eating them until there’s nothing left by October. Replaced them. Nothing. Swapped out the control unit with the one in the basement, or “Room for the Rumpusing.” It works. So it’s something else, and since Gas and Sparks are involved, nooooo thanks. Have to call my guy.

Everything works until it doesn’t, and then you call your guy. Even the guy has a guy to call for the things one guy can’t do. Once I was a “website guy” for a guy who was a pipe-insulation fitting guy. There was no reason I couldn’t have been a pipe-insulation fitting guy, but a guy has to know his limitations.

At least I know I’m capable of fireplace module swapping; there’s that. But I have come up against the limitations of my web design abilities; I know what I want to do, but the last time I did it I used frames, which is like saying “I know how to get across town, but they don’t have watering stations and hitching posts for my horse anymore.” We’re having guests on Thanksgiving, and one is reputed to be a web designer. Perhaps I can arrange some quid pro quo.

I wonder if the Romans had phrases in other languages to stand in for concepts other tongues had expressed with exceptional pith.

Went to pick up daughter today to get the poinsettias to distribute to the people who bought them to fund a school project. The delivery truck was late. You’d think they would have figured it out: parents do not want to stand in the hallway for half an hour. Class gets out at four. Ergo. I did the modern thing, of course: I composed a castigating tweet with the company’s Twitter handle PROMINENTLY MENTIONED, and then looked at it and said “oh, just shut up.” The driver was quite cheerful, a wise move in the face of all that grousing and confusion - who had the Ruby Standard? Who had the Tall Cyclamates, or whatever it was called? Reading a sheet in the dark, trying to figure out who had what, irritation with my daughter for not having the information herself.

“I swear I took a picture of the order form so I could have it on my phone.”

“That is not a sufficient explanation. It’s like saying ‘I swear I gave the order to invade Normandy, it must have got lost.’ And then all the soldiers are just standing around and then Hitler wins.”

“I swear I had it.”

Well, perhaps the Gremlins responsible for eliminating mission-critical photographs on one’s phone did their usual devious work. I know I spent some time tonight doing something no one ever had to do in the Olden Tymes: you can’t just throw away a photo. You have to to go the CLOUD and eliminate it. Then to the machines that have captured it and think you want it. There’s no “Oh for God’s sake just nuke this blurry picture of my foot everywhere it exists, and shut up about asking if I’m sure.” It’s like the fussy concern of Photoshop: I create a file. It’s Untitled-1. I save it as 1.jpg. I close Untitled-1 and it asks if I want to save it. I. JUST. DID. I understand the logic; saving it under one identity does not affect the state of Untitled-1, but please just let me live with the consequences. Then there’s Pixelmator, another image program I use; its default is saving in its own special format, which I never want. Never in my life has anyone said “what is this jpg crap? Send it to me in .pxl like someone who lives in this century.” You have to export it, and then when you close the original, well, AHH-OOH-GAH. Doesn’t help that the “close this thing and let me move on with my life” button is called DELETE, which suggests that the original and all iterations are about to be erased from this mortal plane.

Anyway, we got the flowers home, and I made a dinner that for once satisfied wife AND daughter and disappointed me, and set about on evening work. Now I have to finish a short piece about Thanksgiving traditions and watch some TV by the cold blank glass sheet where once a cozening flame flickered and beckoned. O the deprivations.



Shall we?


The cows who stand erect are having a discussion about family nomenclature:

This is one where I have to side with Elmer: For heaven’s sake, you silly cow, stop taunting the bird. He’s going to be dead in a day. I don’t know what sort of sick thrill you get making remarks like that.

Beulah seems dismayed as well; she almost seems ready to cry, thinking about what awaits the bird.

As it happens, the bird is quite aware of what she’s saying.

Some selections are provided on the left. It's a cbilling side of Elsie we've never seen before.














Never liked coconut. It was 87% of what I did like and 104% of what I didn’t. Couldn’t explain it any better than that. But who knew how far back that brand on the shelf went? It’s pre-Revolution.

. But who knew how far back that brand on the shelf went? It’s pre-Revolution.

In 1764, John Hannon and the American physician Dr. James Baker started importing beans and producing chocolate in the Lower Mills section of Dorchester, Massachusetts. After Hannon's death, his widow sold the company to Dr. Baker in 1780, and the company was renamed to the Baker Chocolate Company. His first product was a cake of chocolate for making a sweetened chocolate drink. Distribution was mainly in the Northeastern United States until 1804, when Dr. Baker's son, Edmund Baker, inherited the family business and increased production with a state-of-the-art mill.

The brand followed the 49ers to California, giving it national reach - again, before the Civil War, a national chocolate brand. Around this time they invented a new type of chocolate renowned for its sweetness (secret ingredient: more sugar) and called it “German’s Sweet Chocolate.” A hundred years later, a Texas newspaper, says the wikipedia story, printed a popular recipe using the stuff, and called it “German Chocolate Cake.

Here’s the twist. The “German” had nothing to do with Deutschland. It referred to the chocolate’s inventor: Sam German. And it used . . . coconut.

This all sounds too good, too pat - a recipe is printed, the name sticks! Sure. Snopes? Well, the wikipedia entry on the recipe not only names the lady who sent in the recipe - Mrs. George Clay - but gives her address. (3831 Academy Drive, Dallas, Texas.)

Given this tale and 18th century American origins of the brand, I will now call it Hessian Chocolate Cake.


The hues of 1948:

Founded in Paris in 1904 by Francois Coty. Well, that’s what he was calling himself at the time. Wikipedia:

François Coty (born Joseph Marie François Spoturno; 3 May 1874, France – 25 July 1934) was a French perfumer and businessman. He is a founder of the fascist league Solidarité Française.

He changed his name to Coty, after his mother’s name - Coti - and set about trying to sell perfume. In one of those too-good-to-be-true stories that always appear in corporate hagiography:

On his return to Paris in 1904, Coty set off to sell his scents to department stores, boutiques, and barbershops, but initially met with little success. His luck changed when he dropped a bottle of La Rose Jacqueminot on a countertop at the Grands Magasins du Louvre, the Parisian department store. Attracted by the scent, customers swarmed the area, demanding to buy the perfume. Coty's entire stock was gone in a few minutes and the store offered him a place on the selling floor for his products. The success of La Rose made Coty a millionaire and established him as a major player in the perfume world.

That last part’s true; within a few years he had a plant employing thousands and turning out 100,000 bottles a day. He becomes extremely wealthy, bought newspapers, pushed for the return of Bonapartism, admired Mussolini, hated the Jews, and slept around so much the courts awarded his wife a spectacular divorce settlement that ended up taking away most of his fortune. He died in 1934. The company has been sold many times, of course, but it still bears the name of a man who sounded like an absolute ogre - and possessed the skill of perfumery unmatched in his time. None of which is surprising, given human nature. Especially because of human nature.


An ad for trains - the best Christmas gift! it says, and who could argue? - has this tucked away at the bottom.

One site says:

A.C. Gilbert—the inventor of the Erector Set and other educational toys—was born on February 13, 1884, in Salem, Oregon. As a young boy, he was very athletic and once ran away with a minstrel show to become the "Champion Boy Bag Puncher of the World.”


Frustrated that invention was an important part of American society but not taught in schools, in 1941 Gilbert opened the Gilbert Hall of Science in New York City, an early science and technology museum. It served the dual purpose of promoting interest in science and selling Gilbert's products.

He was also the co-founder of the Toy Manufacturers of America, which had its HQ for years in the Fifth Avenue Building . . . just a few blocks from the Hall of Science. All the time I traipsed around that area and never knew.

A wonderful collection of Gilbert ads and products can be found here. Oh, the building?


Another ad from the days of nationwide Singer retail downtown stores:

Shall we see what's left:

That's it for today, although I may remember to post on Tumblr. Been forgetting. Yet the planet spins.








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