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Use Every Part.

Traditionally people who live close to nature and depend on hunting use every part of the animals they capture, from skin to meat to bones. This isn’t just true of indigenous people. People who live on farms who, say, raise hogs often take pride in saying they “use everything but the oink”. Anything leftover gets turned into scrapple. This is also true of the Sami people who, for thousands of years, subsisted in northern Scandinavia by, among other things, herding reindeer which provided them with meat, clothing, tools, and even milk.

If you’re wondering what any of this has to do with Rudolph’s cereal it’s because I had a whole rant planned about how I couldn’t figure out who the target audience for the cereal was, aside from a few weird Gen-Xers like me who get nostalgic for the old Rankin-Bass holiday specials. And from that I was going to segue into the tired complaint about how streaming services have taken what used to be special, once-a-year events that brought people together and turned them into something you can watch any time.

I’d much rather praise the ingenuity of people who don’t let anything go to waste. And also the designers of the Rudolph cereal. The team behind it really put some thought into it. It only has a mild chocolate taste–not the “hot cocoa” flavor as promised, even if you heat it up–and the “marshmallows” are the standard crunchy sugar bits most commonly found in Lucky Charms, but there was serious effort put into making custom shapes just for this cereal.

My only complaint is what they claim each piece represents. Here’s what it says on the side of the box:

And here’s what each piece really is:

They also put a game section on the back and an “ornament” you can cut out. It’s not bad but I wish they’d found some way to encourage kids to use every part of the box.

Ring In, Ring Out.

Source: SkyView app

Right now I can walk out into the driveway in the evenings and, if the sky is clear, I can see Saturn, even with the holiday lights and street lights. It’s bright and distinctive and, depending on the time, is even above the treetops in the constellation Aquarius. If I take my telescope out I can just see the rings. Maybe that’s why I’ve been getting dire “warnings” that Saturn’s rings will “disappear” in 2025. They’re not disappearing—at least not yet. Saturn tilts from our perspective and sometimes the title means the edge of the very thin rings is toward us. It’s something Galileo noticed: at first he thought the rings were two big planets on either side of Saturn and then when he went back two years later and looked they were gone. Then they came back. And they’ll come back after 2025 too.

Except eventually they won’t. Saturn’s rings, held in place by shepherd moons and gravity, are being absorbed into the planet. Eventually they’ll vanish entirely. It’ll take a few hundred million years so it’s unlikely any of us will be around but still, without its rings, Saturn loses something. It becomes just another gas giant.

Saturn in mythology was also the god of time—the Roman equivalent of Greek Cronos, who had a wild December celebration.

It seemed oddly fitting that I could look down the driveway on a cold night, wondering where the year went, and see Saturn just above the bare, skeletal trees. Nothing is permanent. The only constant is change. Before long it’ll be time to ring in the new year.

Jive Turkey.

I’ve always had a fascination with advertising and the subtle, or not so subtle, ways things are sold to us. Sometimes I’ll see the way something is packaged and start analyzing all the decisions that must have gone into it and I’ll think, that’s very clever. And sometimes I think, wow, whose idea was that? Like when I saw these sugar cookies. That’s it. They’re just plain sugar cookies with a turkey design but what stands out, obviously, is the giant word TURKEY splashed across the package. If you see that you’re not going to think “Sugar cookies.” You’re going to think turkey. And I like turkey. I look forward to Thanksgiving, and also Christmas when we sometimes have turkey again. I think a lot of people have turkey at Christmas because they like turkey but also goose, which is considered more traditional, just isn’t that common in the United States.

My parents cooked a goose for Christmas one year. I’m not sure where they got it. I like to think there was one less Canada goose wandering around the park, but that’s another story. As for the taste, well, I don’t remember it very well but I think it was slightly gamey and closer to chicken than turkey. What I do remember is the globs of gelatinous fat that bubbled around it in the baking pan. Geese are a lot leaner than turkeys so they leave fewer leftovers and what is left is better suited for stews, which makes sense for large Victorian England families looking to stretch their winter food budget. Turkeys, for Victorian England families, would also be an import, unlike geese which could be sourced locally. Just not Canada geese.

The fact that this is all that I thought about after seeing the TURKEY sugar cookies just illustrates how terrible the packaging design is. I did at least think to go back and take a picture of the packaging but it wasn’t until the next day that I thought I should buy them for the sake of this post, and to see just how badly the design comes out once they’re finally baked, and to confirm that they do not, in fact, taste like TURKEY, but they were already gone. Maybe they were a Thanksgiving special—though they were put out after Black Friday. They’d been replaced by “ornament cookies”, which were also plain sugar cookies, but red with frosting.

That was a smart decision.

Hey, Aqualung.

Stages Of A Cold

Day 1, Morning: You wake up with a sore throat. It doesn’t seem bad, but it’s a harbinger of things to come. You gargle with some warm salt water and assume that the gagging that follows must be enough to dislodge any infection.

Day 1, Late Afternoon: The runny nose starts. This also doesn’t seem bad. The fluid is clear and a few good blows into a tissue seem to clear it out. By the time you walk out of the bathroom and down the hall your nose is running again and you decide you’d better just take a couple of tissues with you.

At this point you could take some cold medicine but why would you when you haven’t got a cold?

Day 2, Morning: You’ve got a cold. Your head feels like it’s stuffed with cotton, your voice is an octave lower, and you can’t pronounce glottal stops. You blow your nose into a tissue until it’s completely soaked through and starting to disintegrate. This takes approximately twenty-three seconds.

Day 2, Evening: You can’t remember whether the rule is “Starve a fever, feed a cold” or the other way around. Not that it matters because you’ve lost your appetite. The good news you still have your senses of taste and smell. The bad news is you don’t really want anything you can taste or smell.


Day 987: Actually it’s Day 3, Morning: It just feels like it’s been that long. You can’t tell if it’s the cold or the cold medicine that makes you feel like all you want to do is lie in bed and shiver.

Day 3, Late Morning: A scaly crust has formed on your upper lip. A quick search tells you the divot under your nose is called the “philtrum”. This is mildly interesting but you don’t see how you’ll ever use this information since at the moment you’re hot, sweaty, and leaking fluids and can’t imagine wanting to be near another human being ever again.

Day 3, Afternoon: All you want is just a few minutes of normal breathing, the kind you had in the distant, hazy past that was last week. And now the coughing has started. It’s just small coughs. You’re hopeful this is as bad as it will get. You’re also wrong.

Day 3, Late Afternoon: You remember seeing people put a towel over their heads and lean over a pot of steaming water. You decide to try this to see if it will work. The bad news is it doesn’t. The good news is you now know the fire extinguisher you’ve had in the kitchen for decades works. Next time will you take the pot of water off the hot stove before you hang your towel-draped head over it? Of course not. You’re never going to do this again.

Day 3, Evening: Still shivering uou take your temperature. It’s 68.9. Oh, wait, you have that upside down. It’s 98.6. Is the rule “Feed a cold”? Let’s just say it is. You heat three cans of condensed chicken soup. You’re halfway through slurping it straight out of the pan when you realize you didn’t add any water. While you’re finishing the rest you order a pizza. While you’re picking it up at your front door your six boxes of Chinese food arrive.


Day 4, Morning: The cold medicine you took last night is labeled as “working for up to eight hours”. At exactly seven hours and fifty-nine minutes terrible, hacking coughs cause you to fall out of bed. You stumble into the kitchen and blow your nose into a paper towel which now looks like someone hit it with a spoonful of crème brulee.

Day 4, Lunch: Your nose has become a gelatin factory. The less said about this the better. You’re cycling through hot beverages: cider, tea with honey, tea with lemon, tea with orange juice, tea with maple syrup, tea with yak butter.

Day 4, Evening: You’re tired but not so listless. You crawl into bed and almost immediately slip into a dreamless sleep.


Day 5, Morning: The cough persists but you can breathe deeply through your nose without any trouble. You think you just might recover.


Day 10, Evening: You’re out for Trivia Night with some friends. The host yells out, “What is that divot under your nose called?” You’re about to answer when a guy on the opposing team says, “Philtrum!” You avoid him. You don’t want to catch whatever he’s got.



Order Up.

It’s a little embarrassing that I’ve called in so many to-go orders at the same restaurant there are people on the staff there who recognize me when they hear me. On the other hand it’s good to know that it’s a nice enough place to work that there’s not a lot of turnover. One summer I worked at a now defunct Shoney’s for just under three months and I outlasted at least half a dozen other people, including one manager.

Also I like picking up to-go orders. Every experience is slightly different. A lot of places now have a special section where you can park and even text your spot number to the restaurant and someone will bring it right out to you. I prefer to go in, especially now that we’re into winter and most of the staff wear short sleeves. I’m not going to make someone come out in the cold just to hand me some sushi. Most of the same places that have a special parking section also have a small alcove next to the kitchen. Sometimes someone else will be there and we’ll chat a bit. One night a guy who was also waiting asked me, “Is the food good here?” He worked for a delivery service and was picking up someone else’s order and thought he might get something for himself.

The delivery service mishaps and misses I’ve seen are also why I pick up my own to-go orders. One night while I was waiting for my burritos three different drivers came in and asked for an order that had been picked up by someone else twenty minutes earlier.

The other night I picked up a to-go order as a break from holiday leftovers. There was another guy there when I came in and a woman who worked in the kitchen came out and asked him who he was picking up for.

“Ghengis Khan,” he said, and laughed. She didn’t bat an eye—just said, “Oh, yeah, I think yours is ready.” Then she turned to me and I said, “Oh, yeah, I’m picking up for Spunky The Wonder Squid.”

“You sure?” she said. “Because you look like Chris.”

Source: Power Rangers Wiki

Light ‘Em Up.

A few weeks ago I saw signs around the neighborhood advertising professional holiday light hanging and installation. Before I could get a picture they were replaced by signs for professional gutter cleaning which seems like a bit of a letdown.

Part of me thinks that at least part of the point of having holiday lights on your house, and also part of the fun, is putting them up yourself. Then again that may not be everyone’s idea of fun. When I was a kid I begged my parents to decorate our house with lights because I loved riding around seeing other houses that were brightly lit. Finally my father got a few strings of candy-colored lights he draped around the holly bushes at either end of our house after Thanksgiving and I realized having holiday lights outside your house isn’t that exciting when you’re inside and can’t see them. Also we lived on a cul-de-sac so the only people who’d see our lights were our neighbors and people who’d taken a really wrong turn. Also they were one more thing that had to be put into storage at the end of the holiday season and, unlike the decorations inside the house, required going out in the cold. Strings of holiday lights also get bored during the almost eleven months they’re packed away so they spend the time wrapping themselves around each other which is why they always have to be untangled when it’s time to bring them out again.

That’s one reason I’m not going to criticize people who hire professional holiday light installers. The other reason is, according to their website, their introductory price starts at $699.00, and anyone who’s paying that much just to get holiday lights installed for, at most, two months, can afford not to care what I think.

Also really do I like the idea of giving people who want to put up lights but who, for whatever reason, can’t do it themselves a professional option, and it makes me appreciate those who do it themselves—there’s one house I drive by on my way to work that always has an inflatable Santa and an inflatable Hanukkah Bear. At least one night in December my wife and I will also make a couple of mugs of hot chocolate and drive around looking at different decorations. The professional ones may look a bit more polished—every string perfectly placed around the eaves with nothing dangling or irregularly draped around an untrimmed bush—but every one will still be slightly different.

Thanks For Being A Year, 2023.

This is one of my annual traditions, celebrating a time when turkeys aren’t the only thing that gets stuffed. Happy Thanksgiving to all those who celebrate it, and a very special belated happy Thanksgiving to Canadians who celebrate it before Halloween.

It has been celebrated as a federal holiday every year since 1863, when, during the American Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national day of “Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens,” to be celebrated on the last Thursday in November.

November 25th, 1864

It was even worse than last year. I know every time my family gets together we fall into certain patterns, but that never makes it easier. This time it was even worse because just getting to my parents’ house was such a pain. I thought I’d carriagepool with my younger brother and his wife, but they went up early so that fell through. Then I thought I’d beat the traffic by setting out at dawn, which was such a great idea everybody else in Richmond had it at the same time and the horses were nose to tail, stop and trot, for miles. Finally I got there a little after ten in the morning and my older sister came out already holding a glass of blackberry wine and when she hugged me I could tell it wasn’t her first one. She asked me how things were going and then didn’t wait for an answer and ran back into the house to tell everyone I was there.

I should have known I’d be walking into an argument in the foyer, the way my family is. It’s just what it was about that threw me. My kid brother had this crazy idea for a new way to cook a turkey, leaving the feathers still on and roasting it in the coals of a fire. Well, it sounded pretty stupid to me, and I wasn’t surprised to learn that the neighbors tried the same thing last year and burned down their stable. But I didn’t want to side with my father either. So I said it had been a long trip and I needed to visit the outhouse and slipped out. Well, there was a line at the outhouse: two of my nieces, three cousins, all four of my brothers, and my sister was already in there getting rid of some of that blackberry wine. So I went back inside to see what was going on.

In the parlor my mother was putting together some kind of monstrosity with dead leaves and dried berries that she said she was going to put in the middle of the table.

“Where’s the food going to go?” I asked.

“Well, we’ll move it before we eat.”

I was going to ask why she’d bother to put it in the middle of the table if she was just going to move it again but decided against having that discussion, so instead I sat down and leafed through a broadsheet that was handy.

“The other men are organizing a game,” she said. “It’s some new sport called foot-ball. You should go and join them.”

Well, she knows I’ve never been athletic, but when I protested she got put out with me and said, “It’s your Uncle Wilkes’s idea. You know you’ve always been his favorite. You really should go and do it just to please him.”


Well, when I came back in my sister just cackled and toasted me with another glass of blackberry wine. All my mother could say was “Don’t get any blood on the carpet,” and my older brother kept telling me to stop being a sissy and just put some salve on it. Then Aunt Gerda said pinch the back of my neck and tilt my head forward and Uncle Wilkes said no, put pressure between the eyes and lean back, and then my cousins got into it so there had to be a family brawl about that. A day later and I’m still bleeding. So much for the salve. I’ll have to make an appointment with Dr. Samuel Mudd when I get back.

 Then Uncle Aloysius had to start in Daniel about supporting the Whigs and Elizabeth about Suffragettes, just trying to start an argument. Fortunately they didn’t rise to the bait.

Then I tried to head off another argument about who’d have to chaperone the kids’ table by volunteering, but my father cut that off.

“No, no, I want John seated here on my left. After I sent him to that fancy and very expensive school so he could waste his time studying the dramatic arts and oratory he should be well-equipped to deliver the traditional Booth family prayer of thanks.”

Traditional since last year, he means. Then my kid brother who was sitting over there grinning at me kicked me in the shins which I know was his way of saying “Don’t start anything”. I kicked him twice as hard in the shins which was my way of saying, “I wasn’t going to,” and then kicked him again to say, “Hurts, don’t it?”

All this might have been a little more bearable if my sister had let me have some of the blackberry wine.

I swear I’m going to get that Lincoln for making us do this.


When I got out of the car at the grocery store I had the feeling I was being watched. I looked over and, yes, I was being watched. Very carefully. The dog didn’t bark but kept a close eye on me, especially after I waved and said, “Hello!”

Dogs should never be left alone in parked cars during the day. I shouldn’t have to say that but I will anyway. I was on a college campus one spring and walked by a dog in a car with the windows rolled up. It wasn’t a hot day but that didn’t matter. The temperature inside a closed car can go up and a dog’s temperature with it. This was before cell phones so I ran into the nearest building, grabbed a phone, and called security. Then I went back outside. A guard showed up pretty quickly because it was a small campus and also I think they could tell I was about to start breaking windows. The car turned out to be unlocked and the guard held the dog until the owner got back. The owner got a citation, though I think the dog should have been taken away and given to someone smarter.

Anyway the dog in the grocery car parking lot seemed to be okay. It was night and cool and the car was running. I assume the heat was on, or maybe the air conditioning, and maybe the radio too so the dog had something to listen to. And could also sit up front and watch people come and go. 

When our dogs travel with us they stay in kennels in the back. Some people think that’s sad but two or three full-size Dalmatians loose in a van doesn’t always make it easy to drive. They get excited when they get to go somewhere and bounce around and also get really demanding about what radio station they want to listen to.

I was in the store for only about ten minutes and when I came back out the dog was still there. I figured the car’s owner must not be too far behind and I was just glad the dog was still all right.

Who Made This?

Source: Reddit

A friend sent me this chart of foods and we got into a pretty lengthy discussion about how some of them aren’t that surprising. I’ve heard the origin story of nachos several times: a guy nicknamed “Nacho” working as a cook at a club in Piedras Negras, Coahuila threw together some fried tortillas with shredded cheese and sliced jalapenos. General Tso’s chicken is another one that doesn’t surprise me. It’s so obviously an Americanized version of “Chinese” food I’m surprised it goes back as far as the 1970’s—although there’s a dispute over who actually invented it. The same is true of chicken tikka masala.

Others really do surprise me, though. Sticky toffee pudding only dates from the 1960’s? It seems like such a traditional English recipe I still believe it probably originated as a home-cooked dessert long before it made its way into the restaurant that claims to have “invented” it. That would be the Sharrow Bay Hotel on Ullswater, but, again, there’s a debate, with other parts of England and also Quebec claiming to be the point of origin.

And that gets me into what’s really confusing: how do you invent a food? Sure, you can invent a recipe, but this is the thing that I think must give most law students, and even a lot of lawyers, headaches when they start dealing with copyright issues. You can copyright the form that an idea takes but you can’t copyright an idea. With recipes that means you can copyright the exact wording of a recipe—and I know there have been some plagiarism fights over cookbooks—but you can’t copyright the idea. Nashville’s own hot chicken can trace its origins back to  Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack, but the Prince family that still operates the place can’t copyright the idea of hot chicken which is why there are so many knockoff versions of it.

And that’s just talking about recipes whose origins are known. Nobody knows who invented most dishes. Whoever told me when I was a kid that Spaghetti was the name of a guy who traveled with Marco Polo and brought pasta from China to Italy was either seriously misinformed or outright lying.

All recipes are also just really combinations and recombinations of existing ingredients. With that in mind, and for your holiday entertaining if it sounds like something you’d like, here’s a recipe my mother invented she calls “garbage snacks”. It’s something she threw together for a party, combining stuff she just happened to have around, and, while the idea is hers, the wording here is mine:

Combine shredded cheese, finely chopped turkey or chicken lunch meat (thin-sliced works best), and diced black olives with mayonnaise. Exact amounts can vary as long as the end result is a fairly solid paste.
Spread on Triscuit crackers. Again the exact amount can vary but about a tablespoon is enough.
Bake at 350 degrees for fifteen minutes, or until the cheese melts and all the ingredients come together.

For such a simple recipe they have a very distinctive flavor that people seem to either love or hate. Personally I love ‘em but that’s true of all recipes. Tastes vary.