Blog Archive

Wednesday, February 20, 2019


 Jan and I were having dinner with my friends, Mark Smith and his fiance' Sarah Quiggly a few weeks ago.They spend a good bit of time figuring out new and exciting dishes to try out and they like to share what they've discovered. Because they experiment with new recipes, our conversations often revolve around food. During the course of our discussion,the subject of Cream of Wheat came up. I'm not sure why, but it did. Well, one thing led to another, and I think I commented on the old fellow on the box. We discovered that his name was Frank L. White. He was a chef who was originally from Barbados. He has a very pleasant appearance and I guess whoever was in charge of marketing at the company thought he would be a good representative. I did a little research and discovered that he lived in Michigan and passed on in I believe, 1938. For a number of years he didn't have a proper grave marker, but a few years back his story was told on one of the major news networks and he was given a granite stone with his name and I believe his affiliation with Cream of Wheat. Then the conversation turned to Uncle Ben's rice. The guy on that box looks like a friendly sort as well. As it turns out, his name was Frank also. Frank Brown. He was a Maitre d' at a Chicago restaurant. I asked about Aunt Jemima also, but she was just a figment of someones imagination apparently. While we were on the subject of food and drink, I happened to mention one of my favorite soft drinks, Vernor's Ginger Ale.  I guess it's called ginger soda now. In any event, we can't seem to get it up here. For awhile the Northern Sales Company in Juneau distributed it, but I haven't seen it for years. However, that didn't hamper Mark. He discovered that he could get a case sent up from Target, with free shipping, and ordered a case before the end of dinner. Well, it arrived the other day, and Mark and Sarah made a special trip to the house to deliver me a few cans. I know that Sarah had never had it, and I don't believe Mark had either, so to celebrate, we took out some frosted wine glasses from the freezer and poured ourselves a few drafts. It's really bubbly, and both Mark and Sarah, as well as Jan  all started coughing when they first brought the glasses up to drink. I knew what to expect and was spared. It was funny to watch though. Vernor's is described as  deliciously different, and the taste is declared both bold and bracing. When I was a kid I was attracted to the bottle originally because it had a green and gold label that was eye- catching. However, once I tasted it, I was sold on the flavor. It was very hard to get, even in my home town in Ohio, though it was manufactured in Michigan. However, whenever I could find it, I made sure to stock up. Vernor's  was created by James Vernor, a pharmacist in Detroit. He sold it in his soda fountain. If I recall correctly, he was called up during World War I and stored the ingredients in oak barrels for four years. When he returned, he tried some and found the aging in the barrels enhanced the flavor. For a number of years it was advertised as being aged in oak barrels, now I believe is may say it's aged in wood, but there isn't a specific time mentioned as I recall. Apparently the drink was so popular that he sold the pharmacy and just opened a soda fountain. He eventually sold the formula to other soda fountains with strict orders that the formula had to be followed carefully. In time it was sold to a bottling company and now I think it's owned by the folks at Dr. Pepper.  It's said that it can be used for cooking, and according to an article I read, the late, great Aretha Franklin used to make a glaze for her Christmas ham with it. So there you have it. Personally, I highly recommend you give it a try. It's caffine free, and as they say, it's deliciously different. Enjoy.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Mechanical Hell

 Have you ever noticed that some guys are just naturally gifted handymen.  I'm not one of those guys. I rely on the integrity of the gifted ones to help me out.You take your car in because it's not running right and they can look at it and know right away what the problem is. "Well Mr. Botts, it's obvious that the bungflogger here has become disengaged with the hornwiller, so the flipstopper isn't going around." That's all very entertaining, but I haven't got a clue what they're talking about.  I can only hope I don't have to take out a second mortgage on the house to pay to fix it. A few weeks ago our Samsung TV crapped the bed. It started off with not wanting to turn on with the remote control. I'd always heard that you do the simplest thing first, so I replaced the batteries with a fresh pair. It didn't help.I was standing in front of the TV pushing the on button like my life depended on it, but to no avail. I felt like I was a contestant on Jeopardy trying desparitely to answer the question, but the button doesn't work.So then I got online and read that sometimes if you unplug the TV from the back, it will fix it. So I tried that and, miracle of miracles, it did work. At least for a few days. After that was no longer effective,  I tried unplugging the TV from the wall outlet, and that worked for a few days as well, but eventually that also failed, so we sat like a couple of  monkeys staring at the blank screen willing it to come on until we finally acknowledged that it was dead.  I spoke to a friend who said it was probably the mother board, and to contact a place called Shop Jimmy. They claim to have hundreds of thousands of parts for televisions in stock. I looked them up and It certainly appeared that they had tons of parts- just not the one I needed. Not only did they not have it, but there isn't even a remote chance that they'll get it. Go figure. They did have a little black chip with metal tabs on the ends that they emphasize MAY fix the problem, so for twenty bucks I bought it. On line it looked like the size of a bread box, but when I received it in the mail, I thought the package was empty. The part was so small I needed a magnifying glass to see the little metal tips. I ended up taking the back off the TV but I couldn't even find a part that looked anything like the one they sent me, and if I'd had, soldering it would have required the skills of a robot in a factory. Of course because it's electrical, there's no sending it back for a refund, which is just as well, because by the time you've paid for shipping both ways, even though it weighs less than a gnat, it ends up costing more than the part itself. Lovely. I procrastinated for awhile and finally decided to order a TV from Best Buy up in Anchorage. I thought they would send it to me from there, but nooooooooo... its coming from Oklahoma somewhere. It flew UPS and made every stop from Oklahoma City to Pacific Washington where they finally pawned it off to the U.S. Postal Service in Federal Way Washington, where I can only assume it's on it's way on the barge. I'm not a big fan of the Federal Way distribution center. We've had more than a few problems with getting stuff that comes through there.The local postmaster assures me that it should be here in another nine days. By the time I get it, assuming it's in working condition after being manhandled like a hooker at a longshoreman convention, it will probably be a relic. But that's not all! Oh no, no, no, there's more. I was making a CD on my  computer for a friend the other day when the machine started making a squirelly noise and all of a sudden there was loud POP. I managed to kind of get the CD drawer open and I could see dozens of pieces of CD hanging out inside. Thinking it was a minor fix I grabbed my little shop vac and tried to vacuum them all out.  Well, that worked about as well as anything else I attempt, so I ended up turning the computer upside down trying to shake out the little shards. There was quite a pile of them on the desk, but the drawer still won't close. All the shaking apparently shook something loose and I ended up having to go to the hardware store and buy a new ether cable. That didn't fix the CD, that just made the Internet work again.  My son-in-law, up in Wasilla said I probably need to get a new CD drive. Right now I'm waiting on another person to come and take apart the drive so I can see what I need to get to replace it. I wish I could say that that's all the mechanical issues I'm having, but it's not. Last spring I had a local mechanic rebuild the parts in my 1992 Chevy Silvarado truck transmission. It ran fine until he left for Missouri, now it's giving me problems again. The reverse doesn't want to engage and it revs up in low gear before finally finding second. Of course he won't be back until April, so I have to keep babying it, pouring five dollar a quart tranny fluid into it, hoping I don't get stuck somewhere. I know that in the grand scale of life, these problems are pretty minor, but there are times when I wish I had been born handy instead of so darn handsome.

Friday, February 1, 2019

Happy Birthday to Me!

  I was rummaging around in one of my dresser drawers the other day looking for a small screwdriver or some such thing for the crew who was working on the bathroom. I don't usually keep tools in my dresser, but this screwdriver was made for eyeglasses, and I didn't want to lose it in the mess that I call my tool room. Anyway, I came across a card that I got for my birthday last year. When I opened it, there was money inside! Woo Hoo! I'd forgotten all about it, which was fine, because otherwise it would have been spent already. Well, it just so happens that my favorite store, Tideland Tackle, started carrying a line of Ray Troll t-shirts. For those of you who may not know Ray Troll, he's a famous Alaskan artist who made fish art really cool. He does some other things too. I've seen t-shirts with dinosaurs on them and I can't recall what else. My interest is mainly in fish, so I don't pay attention to anything else. He came up with a design for the under appreciated and often times cursed pink salmon or humpy. It's the smallest of the salmon and unless you're fishing for them specifically, they're a nuisance, They aren't worth much, and they are voracious feeders, so you can load up your fishing lines with them and the money fish can't bite because all the hooks are full. Anyway, Ray came up with a design with a bunch of angry looking humpies with huge teeth and the slogan, Humpies From Hell. It was pretty popular. There was also a shirt that mentioned Creek Street down in Ketchikan where he has his studio. Apparently Creek Street was the red light district some time back. The slogan on the shirt was-Creek Street, where both men and salmon go to spawn. I haven't seen that one in awhile either. I can't begin to remember what all he carries. There are a number of really interesting slogans with corresponding drawings. If you get on the Ray Troll web site, you can see for yourself what's available. I happened to love the one I'm wearing. The colors are so vibrant and the message is spot on. Commercial fishermen, especially Alaska fishermen, are feeding the world.  Now a note about my picture. Jan has a habit of cutting my head off when she takes my pictures, although in her defense, I guess if the whole t-shirt was going to be shown, something had to go, why not the top of my head? I always look like I'm angry in all my photos.I'm not sure why that is. I think it's those blasted bushy eyebrows. I trim them almost daily, and overnight they grow like dandelions. I don't understand it. It looks like I'm getting a mug shot taken. Actually, that wouldn't be so bad if I could wear my Ray Troll. That gives me an idea. States could get sponsors from various companies, you know, Coca Cola, Frito Lay, Budweiser. Then when a person gets a mug shot, the corrections officers could give them a shirt for the photo shoot thus advertising for the company.Of course the down side would be if people looked at the sponsors shirts and equated them with criminals. The upside would be that It would give the tax payers a break, and maybe provide some money for the prison recreational fund. A new ping-pong table or Foos ball might be appreciated. I suspect that a dart board wouldn't be considered, unless it was covered in felt and the darts were those flat faced Velcro things. Anyway, something to think about. So, if you're at a loss for what to buy a friend or family member, consider a Ray Troll t-shirt. They're colorful, fun and neat to look at; or just give them some money and they can go buy their own.