Peep (#atozchallenge)

peeps
Marshmallow Peeps (Photobucket/zuzumcgee)

I can’t remember which Easter it was, but it might have been 1968 or 1969, that I demonstrated a useless talent.

Picture this: the Holton boys are sitting in the living room on Easter morning. It’s maybe 9 AM. We’ve sought out and found our Easter baskets, and are going through the candy buried in the fake grass lining the bottom of them. One of my brothers (I can’t remember if it was Jim or Kip) found several Marshmallow Peeps in his basket, ate one, and decided he didn’t like them. “Toss it over here, then,” I said. So, he sent the Peep flying over to me, sitting on the couch. The throw went a little high, but I managed to catch the flying confection and, in the same motion, stuff it in my mouth.

By the time our mother got up that morning, I had eaten all of the Peeps in the house, all of which were tossed at me by my brothers, and didn’t feel sick.

We don’t get together for Easter that much anymore, but you can bet that the day wouldn’t be complete without one of them tossing a marshmallow Peep at me, and me catching it and stuffing it completely in my mouth in one motion.

I was going to list ten interesting things about Peeps, but it seems there have already been a plethora of people who already have been. In fact, there is at least one Pinterest board dedicated to things you can do with Peeps. Google “ten things about peeps” and you find a lot of articles about these little creatures.

There is one thing I’d like to share, though: the Crazy Russian Hacker shows you what happens whn you put Peeps in the microwave.

They now make Peeps for other holidays as well, including Valentine’s Day, St. Parick’s Day, and Hallowe’en. Try ’em, you’ll like them!

Oreo (#atozchallenge)

Yesterday, we talked about noon, and lunch. Well, no self-respecting kid would consider lunch finished until they had at least a cookie, or two, or maybe a whole package. And, for most kids, that’s the Oreo. Not just in the US, but worldwide.

800px-Oreo-Two-Cookies
Two Oreo sandwich cookies (public domain, by Evan-Amos)

The Oreo sandwich cookie was created by the National Biscuit Company (i.e. Nabisco) in 1912 to compete against the Hydrox cookie, manufactured by Sunshine Biscuit. Like the Hydrox, it consisted of two chocolate cookies held together by a creme filling (until recently, the creme filling was made from sugar and lard; now it’s made with sugar and vegetable shortening). No doubt thanks to better marketing (“Hydrox” conjures up images of sodium hydroxide, i.e. lye), the Oreo soon became the more popular cookie, while Hydrox gradually lost shelf space in grocery stores. Eventually Sunshine Bakeries was split up and sold off, and the Hydrox disappeared entirely, although Leaf, who ended up with the brand, is trying to revive it.

After many years where the only Oreo available was the original, there is now a veritable plethora of Oreo sandwich cookies out there, including Golden Oreos (with a vanilla cookie instead of chocolate), Oreo Minis (a much smaller version of the cookie), Double Stuf Oreos (with twice as much creme filling as the original), chocolate Oreos (two vanilla cookies wrapped around a chocolate filling)… in all, 101 varieties of the Oreo, as seen here.

You also find Oreos crushed up and blended with ice cream, baked into cheesecake, and, I swear, I’ve had deep-fried Oreos, where the cookie is encased in dough, deep fried, and served with ice cream.

This commercial demonstrates the proper way to eat an Oreo.

Noon (#atozchallenge)

clock

Noon is 12:00 PM, the exact midpoint of the day as determined by the local time. This begs the question, “how is local time determined?” Good question! There are three components:

  1. World time, also called Coordinated Universal Time (UTC), Zulu Time (Z), or Greenwich Mean Time (GMT). I talked about this during my first A to Z Challenge, and Sisyphus47 has a great discussion about it over at Of Glass and Paper, his blog. The atomic clocks in the world are synchronized so that it’s 1200 UTC (12 noon world time) at solar noon along the Prime Meridian, which passes through Greenwich, England, just outside London. Your computer synchronizes with an atomic clock automatically, provided you’re connected to the Internet and you’ve told the operating system you want to.
  2. Your time zone. There are 25 time zones in the world, roughly 15° longitude apart, except for the two around the International Date Line (they’re 7.5° apart). That’s just a guideline, though; the boundaries of the time zones are shifted to suit borders (state, county, provincial, etc.) within a country, so there are more than 25 time zones. In fact, there are close to 100 time zones worldwide.
  3. Daylight Saving Time (DST), or summer time. This is allegedly a way to make better use of the available daylight. In truth, it’s two times a year when everyone’s circadian rhythms are disrupted. In the US, we set our clocks ahead one hour on the second Sunday of March and set them back one hour on the first Sunday in November.

So, today, where I live, when it’s noon Eastern Daylight Time, it’s 4 PM (1600) world time. My time zone is Eastern US, five hours behind world time (UTC minus 5 hours), and we are on Daylight Saving Time, meaning we have jumped ahead one hour, so that we’re only four hours behind it. Got all that? Good!

Anyway…

Noon, in most of the places I’ve been, is lunchtime. Work stops and you have anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour or more to eat lunch, go shopping, have a date, etc. They’re more apt to call it “dinnertime” in rural areas, because that’s when they eat the main meal of the day.

When we were kids, most of us went home for lunch. Most kids had moms that didn’t work outside the home, so they would make lunch for the kids. Both my parents worked, so they had a woman come in to clean the house and make our lunch. When we got old enough, we would come home and make our own lunch. We were forbidden from lighting the stove, so we’d have a roast of some kind on Sunday and Mom would cut it up so we could make sandwiches during the week without wielding sharp kitchen knives. Some days we’d make peanut butter sandwiches (with or without jelly), sometimes we’d have breakfast cereal, sometimes we would polish off a full package of cookies and a gallon of milk. We had an hour and fifteen minutes for lunch, which gave us enough time to have lunch and maybe do some homework we “forgot” to do the night before. And we’d watch “Bozo’s Circus,” which every kid in Chicago did at noon time.

Nowadays, kids stay at school all day and eat lunch there. They usually only get 45 minutes for lunch, maybe less. And there’s no Bozo. Kids today are deprived.

Minimum and Maximum (#atozchallenge)

Minimum and maximum, or “min-max,” is the most popular inventory stocking strategy. It’s simple: you choose the maximum quantity on-hand of a stock item and its reorder point (the minimum), and when the quantity on-hand falls below the reorder point, you order enough to bring the stock level up to the maximum.

Here’s an example. Say a company uses 4 hard drives a day, and it takes 7-10 days to get the hard drives from the vendor. They would probably set the minimum (the reorder point) at 40 hard drives, the longest delivery time you could have. In fact, the company might want to keep 3 days’ worth of hard drives in stock in case delivery takes longer than 10 days, so your reorder point would be 52. And, say the company has enough space for 40 cases of 24; their maximum would be 960. Now, say the company drops to two cases of 24 on-hand, or 48. They would order 38 cases (912 hard drives), which would bring them up to the maximum. Got it?

I was a software trainer for two companies for about 20 years, specializing in inventory systems. I bet you never would have guessed.

One day, I came home after a day spent going over problems like this one, and found Mary sitting there with two kittens. “What should we name them?” she asked. Guess what the first words were out of my mouth? Here’s a picture of the little darlings; they’re about ten years old now and much bigger than this. Mary wanted you to know that Minnie is bigger than Max…

My inventory cats, Max (sitting up) and Minnie

BATTLE OF THE BANDS: “Here Comes The Night”

BATTLE OF THE BANDS! (BOTB Top Photo)

I think just about everyone is busy doing the A to Z Challenge, but it is the 15th, and the 15th is always a Battle of the Bands day. Far be it from me to miss something so important.

Today’s song is “Here Comes The Night,” Them’s third single in the US and the UK, It peaked at #2 in the UK and #24 in the US, where it spent ten weeks on the Hot 100. Jimmy Page plays guitar on this version, which was released in March 1965. This is not part of the challenge, but provided for those who’ve never heard the song.

It’s been covered a number of times before. Here are your choices for this round.

Contestant #1: Lulu

Lulu’s single with her version of the song preceded Them’s by about five months; Decca Records decided to rush-release it, a decision that didn’t sit well with the members of Them. Much to their delight, Lulu’s version only reached #50.

Contestant #2: Streetheart

The Canadian band Streetheart recorded their version for their second album, Under Heaven Over Hell. Their version charted at #60 in Canada.

Time to vote…

Which cover of “Here Comes The Night” do you think is better, Lulu’s or Streetheart’s? Give me your thoughts in the comment section. Then, one or more of the blogs below have battles today; how about giving them a visit?

Tossing It Out
Far Away Series
StMcC Presents Battle of the Bands
Your Daily Dose
Mike’s Ramblings
Curious as a Cathy
DC Relief – Battle of the Bands
This Belle Rocks
Book Lover
Alex J. Cavanaugh

And… I apologize for not getting to visit all of you last round. Coming as it did on the first day of the A to Z Challenge, I found myself busier than a one-armed paper hanger (which is closer to reality than you can imagine in my case) and let it slide. So, I’d like to ask you a favor: when you leave a comment on today’s battle, would you leave me a link to yours? I’m trying to do that, since I post every day and, after a few days, battles get shoved down the page. It would really help me get to you and vote in your battle. I appreciate it!

LiveJournal (#atozchallenge)

I had a hell of a time coming up with a topic for the letter “L.” I had originally written a post about Lysol, but didn’t like it, nor did I like the one I used to replace it. Then, this morning, I received an email from an old friend: LiveJournal.

20130429130855!Livejournal-logo

LiveJournal was my introduction to blogging. I was really active when I started in 2002, but as time has moved on, I have less and less to do with it. It was mostly Facebook that killed it, because they’re very similar in the types of things each does, and as people became more active on Facebook, they left LiveJournal behind. But at a time when there wasn’t much social media, it filled a need and filled it well.

WordPress allows me to crosspost my entries to Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and Tumblr, although I no longer post to Tumblr. I also crosspost entries here to The Sound of One Hand Typing FM, a simulcast blog on Blogger, using IFTTT. There doesn’t seem to be a way to do the same with LiveJournal, though…

If any of you have a LiveJournal account, look me up! I go by the name john_holton over there. I’m friends-only there, because I’m avoiding some people, but send me a request.

Two for Tuesday: The Hollies

I’m just going to hop right into this… The Hollies appeared on a TV show on NBC in the 1960’s, and their performance started with “Look Through Any Window.” The song starts with a guitar figure that’s unmistakable, played on 12-string guitar by Tony Hicks, and the figure is repeated later in the song, before the key change and the final verse. As with this performance (the person who posted it says it comes from the TV show Sunday Night at the London Palladium on March 10, 1965) I didn’t see him play it the first time through, but the camera zoomed in on him the second time through, then NBC, who had just obtained slow-motion technology, showed him play it in slo-mo. I was nine or ten at the time and had just started pestering my folks for guitar lessons, so I thought it was the coolest thing I had seen. The song peaked at #32 on the Hot 100 in 1965, the first Hollies song to break the Top 40 in the US.

The Hollies were one of the last British Invasion groups to find success in the US, but have been around the longest. Unlike many other bands, which have broken up and reformed later, they have been in continuous operation since the early 1960’s. The original lineup included Graham Nash and Allan Clarke, and the Hollies’ sound was marked by remarkable three-part harmony. Only one of their hit songs, “Long Cool Woman In A Black Dress,” relied on a single singer. They were from Lancashire, not far from Liverpool, and were discovered when they were playing a gig at the Cavern Club in 1962.

Our second song today is their late 1969 hit, “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother.” The record reached #1 and Silver record status in the UK and reached #7 on the Hot 100 in the US.

Naturally, the band has a website, and there’s a good amount of their music from all eras on YouTube. And, as I said, they’re still touring and making records, so we haven’t heard the last of them.

The Hollies, your Two for Tuesday, April 14, 2015.

Kapok (#atozchallenge)

360px-Kapok_tree_Honolulu
“Kapok tree Honolulu”. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Kapok_tree_Honolulu.jpg#/media/File:Kapok_tree_Honolulu.jpg

Ceiba pentandra is more commonly called the kapok tree. It’s native to Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean, northern South America, and west Africa. It’s also cultivated in southeast Asia for the cotton-like fiber that grows in its seed pods.

The fiber is light, resilient, waterproof, and floats easily, making it the ideal filling for life jackets. It’s also used as filling for pillows, cushions, and stuffed animals. Its main drawback is that it’s highly flammable. Natives in South America use it to wrap blowgun darts, because it creates a seal around the dart to help force it through the blowgun. Most of the commercially used kapok is grown in Java (“Java cotton” is another name for the fiber), the Philippines, and Malaysia. If you find the fiber content of a life jacket, it’ll normally tell you where the kapok comes from.

The seeds also produce oil similar to cottonseed oil. It’s edible and light, but gets rancid quickly. It does have some potential as a biofuel, so we might be seeing it used in that capacity before long.

The kapok tree is a sacred symbol in Mayan mythology. In Trinidad and Tobago, it’s said that Bazil, the demon of death, lives in the kapok tree, having been trapped there by a carpenter.

An interesting fact (well, to me, anyway): “Kapok” was the word that got me started on looking for words that began and ended with the same letter.

The Week That Was, #2 (#atozchallenge)

Well, we’re through the first full week of this year’s challenge, and up through the letter J. This week, we’ll be passing the midpoint of the alphabet, and the Challenge, on Wednesday, the midpoint of the coming week. Interesting how that happens, isn’t it?

I want to thank everyone who stopped by last week and left a comment or who “liked” my posts. I think we had some pretty good conversations here.

Easter came a week too early this year, as far as my post on INRI on Friday was concerned. It would have been a perfect post for Good Friday, because that’s when Pilate wrote it to be hung on the cross with Jesus. That’s what a couple of you said, and I agree. A couple of commenters recommended the book Killing Jesus and the subsequent TV special that aired on the National Geographic channel not long ago based on the book. Understanding the politics of the time and some of the forces at play at that time enhances one’s understanding of the events that led up to the Crucifixion. The Kindle version of the book is on its way to my Fire as we speak.

Yesterday’s article about the initials “JMJ” that many Catholics (including Bishop Sheen on his TV show in the 1950’s) write at the top of their papers (or blackboards, as the case may be) indicated to me that it’s a practice peculiar to Catholics in the United States. I can only speculate why that’s so, but there you go. Arlee Bird remembered watching some of His Excellency’s shows back then, although it might have been the reruns that ran on the Eternal World Television Network (EWTN) some time ago. (If you ever find yourself in Irondale, Alabama (outside of Birmingham), take a ride out to the Our Lady of the Angels Monastery, the convent headed by Mother Angelica, who also put the station on the air, and ask for a tour of the station. It’s quite an experience to see a traditional Catholic cloister with an enormous satellite dish outside.) The original show ran on the Dumont Network, which folded in 1956, and the show ran elsewhere until 1957. Many of the shows are available on YouTube, including one especially famous one, where he denounces the regime of Joseph Stalin, in case you’re interested. I know, he’s a little bombastic and imposing with the clerical robes, but that was the time.

“JMJ” also reminded several people that “Jesus, Mary, and Joseph!” is sometimes used as a mild curse, particularly when it would be inappropriate to curse in front of children. So, next time you hit yourself in the thumb with a hammer, remember that.

My post on Edvard Grieg seemed to make a lot of people happy, especially those who thanked me for supplying them with music for their Wednesday morning. I just found it on YouTube and presented it for your entertainment. Maybe someone can answer this for me: Grieg is Norway’s famous composer, Jean Sibelius is Finland’s, but I don’t know the most famous composers of Sweden or Denmark. If you know, leave me a comment. One other thing: ever since litening to “The Hall of the Mountain King” from Peer Gynt, I haven’t been able to get it out of my head. Anyone else have that problem?

Then, there were the food posts, when I talked about Marshmallow Fluff and the Fluffernutter sandwich, and about the Heath bar and the difficulty I have finding them in this part of the country. We had some pretty good discussions about childhood obesity, and how food like the Fluffernutter, Heath bars, and other candy were less of a concern when we were younger, because we spent much of our time out of the house, playing and getting fresh air. Things are different today than when I was a kid, when we were told to get the hell out of the house and not to come back until mealtimes, after which we were ordered out of the house again. It’s also good to remember that, while candy was much more available than it is today and was much less expensive, we normally didn’t have the money for it.

Last Monday, which was an eternity ago, I expounded on the fine art of exaggeration. You all came up with some great examples.

All right, so what do we have in store for this coming week? Well, there are a couple of food posts, naturally, and one about a special mealtime. Also discussions of inventory control theory (which features an adorable picture of two of my cats), a rapidly-declining form of social media, and we kick it all off tomorrow with some information about a special tree and the fiber you get from it. If you can’t guess, I guess you’ll just have to come back tomorrow.

Thank you again for your visits and comments. See you tomorrow!

John Holton's blog

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