“I can still see a half-dozen girls in baby-doll pajamas, hair in brush rollers under frilly caps, on our knees on the bathroom floor like some demented coven….”


Now & Then (responsorial)
It’s Academic Division

Booklady: “With apologies for threats to contented dining:

Sunday’s photo of the college dissecting kit from John in Highland triggered a long-buried memory.


“College biology was certainly different from what I had enjoyed in high school. At least on our campus, it seemed to be more chemistry than biology, so I felt frustrated until the day we were issued fetal pigs for dissection. I was sure this part of the course would be easier for me, and, with a sigh of relief, I opened first the dissection kit and then the bag containing the pig.

“Phew! As we all soon realized (including the professor), this batch of pigs had been improperly preserved, and the odor was definitely off-putting. During lab times we labored away, trying not to breathe, until we had finished the assignment.

“But wait! It appeared that our efforts were not complete; the pig studies were to be a major feature of the final exam. Horrified, my corridor mates and I decided one of us had to smuggle one of the specimens into the dorm for some late-night study. Glo, braver than the rest of us, sneaked ‘Beverly’ into the building. In my mind’s eye, I can still see a half-dozen girls in baby-doll pajamas, hair in brush rollers under frilly caps, on our knees on the bathroom floor like some demented coven circling ‘Beverly.’ Dissection tools in hand, we spent the wee hours of the night dutifully trying to master the arcane knowledge of the porcine form.

“Somehow we all passed the exam.”

Then & Now
Golden Age of Department Stores Division

Red Boots of Mendota Heights reports: “I read the entry from Sports Driving Grandma [BB, 11/22/2016] and was instantly taken back to my childhood visits to Wanamaker’s department  store in Philadelphia.

“I also grew up in the Philadelphia area and went to Wanamaker’s Christmas displays every year. It was a wonderland.

“They also had a small monorail that children could ride around above the extensive toy department. Wanamaker’s had the biggest and best doll department!

“One year, when my twin sister and I were only 2 or 3, my sister found a teddy bear that growled when turned over, and I liked a curly-haired dog who barked if you squeezed his tail. Both toys had movable jointed legs and heads. We wanted to take them home with us, but couldn’t. On Christmas morning, they were underneath the tree! We are now 71, and we still have our teddy bear and dog from Wanamaker’s.

“When we got a little older, our Aunt Clara took her daughter (our cousin) and my sister and me to spend the day in center-city Philadelphia at Christmastime. We would take the bus or the el/subway. We would always go to Wanamaker’s and go view the holiday window displays at all the big stores. We would have lunch either at Wanamaker’s or at Horn & Hardart Automat. We girls loved the automat — sort of a self-serve cafeteria format with trays you slid along rails. Above the rails, there were walls of little glass boxes with one item of food inside each box. You put in the required number of nickels, and the box door would open so you could take out the item of your choice. Aunt Clara made sure we didn’t buy only desserts.

“Wonderful memories.”

BULLETIN BOARD ADVISES: Don’t miss today’s Websites of the Day!

Life as we know it

Tim Torkildson: “If you can’t pray, sing.
“If you can’t sing, hum.
“If you can’t hum, smile.
“If you can’t smile, you’re dead.”

See world
Photography Division

Mounds View Swede: “Two of my photographer friends and I traveled back to the U.P. in the fall of 2010 a few days later on the calendar than our previous trips. The colors were now deep reds and russets, instead of bright reds and yellows. The water on the Presque Isle and other rivers was higher than we had seen, and some of the waterfalls and rapids were not as interesting to us.

“We arrived at the Presque Isle River late in the day, with the sun behind us and a clear, blue sky. The only thing that looked interesting was the color of the water as it picked up the reflection of the maple trees on the opposite shore. We put our cameras on tripods and took the longest exposures we could get on our cameras — and my favorite result was this first photo below. It is another abstract one, and I liked it enough to have an enlargement made and framed for our family room. As we took them, we joked that these first photos would probably be the best ones of the trip. And they were.


“The U.P. has many waterfalls — more than Minnesota’s North Shore — so we tried photographing one that keeps showing up in camera-club competition: Bond Falls. We figured if the leaf color wasn’t what we hoped for, let’s concentrate on the water and light.


“We could never get the lighting to be the best for the main falls, so we tried photos of just small sections of the river and rapids.


“We do pay attention to the sunrises and sunsets on Lake Superior and try to capture a satisfying water-sunlit cloud photo we would like. It is harder than it seems to get a distinctive one. This was one I liked out of the many I tried.”


Know thyselves!
Or: Older Than Dirt? (responsorial) — leading to: Immutable Laws of the Universe (responsorial) — and to: What this country is still needing!

In the November 20 Bulletin Board, Cee Cee of Mahtomedi wrote: “Tee Cee and I have been chuckling over the commentary  regarding smoke alarms. We, too, have issues with ladders and steadiness, so we empathize with others who have to deal with chirpers.

“My question is: Why is it that the alarms always start their chirping at 3 a.m.? Inquiring minds want to know.”

We have lately heard from D. Ziner: “Subject: Night chirps.

“There is a reason those alarms start chirping during the night. The alarm is triggered by battery voltage which drops to a specific level — and most batteries will be affected by temperature. Typically, room temperatures will drop during the nighttime hours — even more if the thermostat is lowered manually or programmed, so the trigger voltage will most often be reached at those times. The threshold is chosen so the battery will have energy left to do the chirping, but turning up the heat is not likely to reverse things. A really smart alarm would learn the local temperature cycle and know what time of day it is and either chirp earlier or delay until morning. But building in smarts requires cents that turn into dollars that might be more than we have sense to pay.

“From the comments here on BB, those added cents might be even more useful if applied to a redesign of the mounting system so we don’t need to use those ladders or step-stools in the middle of the night. The triggering system might also unlatch the alarm, and it would drop a few feet for a battery change. The premium model would send a message to an app that would remind you where you keep your batteries, then accept a new one and pull itself back up into position.

“Designing is really easy when you don’t have to really do it — and envisioning new products is fun when you don’t have to pay for them.”

So … obviously, I mean, worse than, like, y’know, sort of tons of iconic … whatever! (responsorial)

Semi-Legend writes: “Wayne of St. Paul wondered [BB, 11/27/2016] about the last two words in the question ‘Do you want a bag at all?’

“When I moved to the Midwest from New York, I marveled at the expanded use of ‘anymore.’ Where I came from, it was used only in the negative: ‘We don’t do that anymore.’ But in Ohio, to where I first moved, and Minnesota, it seems to have the meaning of ‘these days.’

Someone on an English Language and Usage website (http://english.stackexchange.com/questions/10206/should-anymore-only-be-used-in-a-negative-statement-or-question) cited a Merriam-Webster entry (http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/anymore): ‘Anymore is regularly used in negative <no one can be natural anymore — May Sarton>, interrogative <do you read much anymore?>, and conditional <if you do that anymore, I’ll leave>contexts and in certain positive constructions <the Washingtonian is too sophisticated to believe anymore in solutions — Russell Baker>. In many regions of the United States the use of anymore in sense 2 [ at the present time] is quite common in positive constructions, especially in speech <everybody’s cool anymore — Bill White> <every time we leave the house anymore, I play a game called “Stump the Housebreaker” — Erma Bombeck>. The positive use appears to have been of Midland origin, but it is now reported to be widespread in all speech areas of the United States except New England.’

“I suppose I can get used to it anymore.”

Our theater of seasons

Papa on Elm Street  (photographer of a strangely shaped apple, still hanging on; BB, 11/25/2016] concluded his report that day, as follows: “Who would have an apple tree in their front yard? Let me explain. Many years ago, we went to a fall closeout sale to purchase a flowering crab tree for our front yard. It was a great price. Several years later, when the first apples appeared, it was obvious that it was not what we had thought.

“This tree has been a challenge for us. It is a large tree that produces hundreds, maybe thousands, of apples every odd-numbered year. On even-numbered years, less than a hundred. This year was the worst; I counted 24 apples.

“I wonder if that is common.”

We presently heard from Barb of Shoreview (returning to our community of strangers, after a long hiatus): “Yes, it’s common for apple trees to alternate between heavy and light fruit production. Some other fruit trees do, also. Of course weather is also a factor. A hailstorm or lots of wind in the spring can knock off blossoms before they set fruit.

“I remember the time I picked some flowers from one of our apple trees when I was a young kid. My mom explained that I shouldn’t do that because now they couldn’t make apples.”

The Permanent Maternal Record (responsorial)
Or: Our pests, ourselves

Inspired by Tim Torkildson‘s Sunday story about his mother’s quiet war against spiders, here is Elvis: “Spiders have become a scary part of everyday living for Elvis since he relocated a couple years ago just east of the Cascades in Central Oregon. It’s a whole different world. He was just fine back in the Midwest, sharing living space with the common harmless light brown house spiders. He always figured they were quietly munching on tiny insects, and they stayed out of the way mostly. Daddy longlegs lived outdoors and, again, didn’t cause any worry or consternation. An occasional orb spider web was a thing of beauty, and again only found outdoors.

“That all has changed. There are no small innocuous spiders, from what he can tell, in Oregon (his girlfriend debates this). Let’s start with the ‘giant house spider,’

which can get 4 inches across and likes to show up in the bathroom sink or bathtub. We remove these a couple times a week. Continuing the big hairy spider trend is the hobo spider, hobo_spiderwhich is still the topic of many debates. Some people claim its bite is toxic and causes necrosis and infection. Others say the spider is incapable of biting a human at all. Elvis just gives this one a wide berth.

“There are several other kinds that hang out in the house, especially around sinks. Elvis is good at dealing with the dead rodents, live birds and even a bat the cat caught this summer. But spiders are not something he wants anything to do with. Maybe it was all those science-fiction movies of radiation-blasted spiders that grew huge and started tipping over Army jeeps. Or maybe it was years in the Caribbean, when he learned to respectfully co-exist with the tarantulas that would come into his room when it rained. His attitude towards them changed when he watched one jump from the ground to a place about four feet up a wall in one quick, sudden leap. He never got closer than five feet to one after that.

“Back in Oregon, his partner, who is a peaceful Buddhist, ‘live and let live’ type, keeps a plastic bug catcher around, and she will come running whenever one of these big guys shows up and Elvis calls out for help. He’s learning to be OK with the fact that she wants to keep them alive and just relocate them, but would be happier if she took them across the street, rather than a few feet off the patio. The online guides say you can identify different types by looking at the way their eyes are stacked up on their head. Gulp.

“The biggest adaptation for Elvis is living with the infamous black widow. A local naturalist has written about the ‘spider war’ that is ongoing between the upstairs ‘house’ spiders and the black widow colonies who live under our houses in crawlspaces or the woodpiles, preferring darkness. They apparently live in some sort of negotiated spider truce; the black widows stay down below as long as the house spiders are around. So we are told to not kill the spiders in the living spaces, as they will keep the black widows from moving upstairs and taking over.

“This doesn’t mean, however, that Elvis never sees one. After a two-week vacation last spring, we came back and had a big black widow with a large web in a corner of the bathroom. It was very adept at ducking out of reach in a crack between the wall and the cabinet, and it took several days for us to kill it. No negotiating about this one: It was dead.”

Band Name of the Day: The Big Black Widows

Websites of the Day: (1) Horn & Hardart. (2) “Meet Me at the Automat”; (3) “Tallulah Bankhead, Trip to the Automat, 1957 TV.”


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