Category Archives: History

On Chocolate Sodas and Springtime

This post is an introduction to a project  I have wanted to do for over five years.  I’ve talked about it quite a bit and finally, this year, it’s happening.  I hope you enjoy the ride.

Here in the Midwest we are just a few days away from Springtime.  I have a ritual I perform every year about this time in which I summon the warm breeze and sunlight of Spring. I do not sacrifice a calf or make odd, occult markings and chant.  No, no, no, my ritual is simple yet powerful.

I get a chocolate soda.

“A what?  What is this? You put chocolate syrup in a Sprite or something?  That’s gross.”

No, I’m talking about a treat that throws back to old-time soda fountains and ice cream shoppes.  A place where soda jerks mixed up delicious springtime and summertime drinks. It goes by many names and from my research (yes, I’ve done actual research) in soda jerk lingo, this favorite ice cream treat could be called an egg cream float or a black and white soda.  And in Springtime they are particularly delicious as it reminds me that the cold winds are receding and warmer, sun-filled days lie ahead!

However, this ritual has become more and more difficult to do over the years as knowledge of what a chocolate soda is and how to make it has slipped away due to time and the convenience of bottled and canned soda.  I find this all very odd considering the simple ingredients involved and how delicious the final outcome to be.  And no, in case you are still making a weird face, it does not involve an egg.

Read the rest of this entry

Advertisements

Oak Gall Ink Update

A Quick Oak Gall Ink update

We are coming up on the end of the two week period of the oak galls soaking in their mixture.  Unfortunately, on day 14, I will be gone all day performing on the Firefhouse Follies Radio Show which I’m going to link here because you KNOW you want to give it a listen!  (Sunday, 3/5, 4 PM EST, Live on the air and the internet!)  The plan is to take an evening after work to finally get the ink together and to see how it all goes.

My newest addition to the experiment has been deciding to extract my own iron mixture.  The plan is to use a little of it for part of the mixture and then ferrous sulfate for the other half.  This way, I can see if the homemade iron mixture works at all while still (hopefully) getting some working ink from the basic recipe.

Again, this is all experimentation on my part, my idea of having fun.  I really don’t know what I’m doing.  As long as I don’t explode something in my kitchen I should be ok and can continue to live with the ever-patient Otter Wife!  If nothing else, the folks out there reading this that do know what you are doing can get a chuckle.  I’m not proud.  For some light chemistry reading, check out this link.

I created the iron mixture this way.  On my latest walk to my nearby creek, I kept my eyes open for rusty bits of metal.  I found a nail and some other unidentifiable bits and deemed my quest a success! (The glob of “stuff” on the left is a chunk of pine tar I foraged to add to my fire pouch.)

rusty

initialrust

 

After some pounding and bending, I placed these in a baby food jar with a solution of white vinegar and water.  I used one tblspn vinegar to about 4 tblspn of water.  Then, I let it sit.  the vinegar goes to work on the metal and wah-lah you have, uh, something that should work!  A similar thing works with vinegar and steel wool to create a wood stain.

 

 

rusty2The jars have been sitting now for several days in a window that gets sunlight every day for about 6 – 8 hours.  Things are starting to look… funky.

My current prediction is that the ink that is created with the ferrous sulfate will probably turn out much better.  The ink created by my goofy homebrew will be a bit more gray and possibly just crap.  Both inky potions will still not be able to hold a candle to something I could go to the store to buy.  See?  Science!!!

inkypotions

Also, as a late addition, I stumbled upon this incredible link entitled Making Ink.  It makes for some great information.

You’re Still Here

When I find myself worn at the end of the day and still looking an hour long workout in the face, a blank word processing screen or maybe just frustrated with the job and or ignorance and hatred around me, I like to watch short motivational interviews.  While watching one a week or so ago, I heard a quote from motivational speaker, Les Brown.

“Oh no, there is no guarantee you will show up tomorrow. There are a lot of people who were here yesterday, but they’re not here today. There are a lot of opportunities that were around yesterday; they’re not here today.”

When I heard those words they stuck with me.  Maybe it was because of my own recent experience.  My mind rolled it around and around and then I came up with a slight variation.  It’s my mantra.  I try to carry it with me into and through every workout, every day going into work, every time I sit down to write, every night as I go to sleep.  Sometimes I forget but, lately, it seems to have a memory of it’s own, popping into my head like a helpful genie.  It goes like this.

“There were people around yesterday that wanted to be here today.  They’re not here.  You might be the one that doesn’t show up tomorrow.  You have today.  You have right now. “

I’ve said it to myself so much it’s not really the words anymore.  It’s the essence behind them.  The key is taking the time to really sink into the concept that, really, you may not be here tomorrow.  What does that look like?  How does it feel?  What immaterial things disappear?  What dreams for the day come to the fore?

I’m no stranger to history and philosophy and I was struck with the similarity it carried with all manner of ancient thought regarding the concept of Death and “Not being here tomorrow.”  There is a massive amount of literature and internet links out there on the concept of carrying Death with you.  It’s not my intent to go deeply into all of them.  However, I did want to present some of what I found.

First, I thought it was very similar to the Hagakure, the 18th century  treatise on the Samurai code.  That simple idea that by acknowledging Death daily you fully experience Life.  I did a bit of digging and found this little gem written by Daidoji Yuzan, an Edo samurai.

“One who is a samurai must before all things keep constantly in mind…the fact that he has to die. If he is always mindful of this, he will be able to live in accordance with the paths of loyalty and filial duty, will avoid myriads of evils and adversities, keep himself free of disease and calamity and moreover enjoy a long life.”

And the unstated, “If things don’t go well and you accidentally step in front of a bus, at least you were at peace with your impermanence!”

I also found a reference that I was unable to validate to an original source.  I have no idea which “masters of old” he is referring.  Regardless, I thought it was pretty good.  It came from Philip Kapleau and “The Zen of Living and Dying

“Masters of old advise, ‘Stick the word Death on your forehead and keep it there.”

Finally, while bouncing around the web, I found a great piece by the Dali Lama.  If you want a more in-depth read I highly recommend it.  I’ll leave you with this part of it.

“Our present lives, however, are not forever. But to think: “Death is the enemy” is totally wrong. Death is part of our lives. Of course, from the Buddhist viewpoint, this body is in some sense an enemy. In order to develop genuine desire for moksha – liberation – then we do need that kind of attitude: that this very birth, this body, its very nature is suffering and so we want to cease that. But this attitude can create a lot of problems. If you consider death is the enemy, then this body is also the enemy, and life as a whole is the enemy. That’s going a little bit too far.”

Dalai Lama’s Reflections on the Realistic Approach of Buddhism… Part One: Advice on Death and Dying

I’m far from any kind of guru or samurai and I think sticking Death on your forehead would make for a very weird tattoo.  It would probably, depending on the job, cut down on job interviews.  Would maybe a post-it note work? It would probably fall off a lot.  I think it might also get you a visit from your office Human Resources.

Joking aside, I’ve simply found a nugget of old wisdom, a phrase that works for me and which, oddly enough,  brings me peace with a daily thought process and routine.   I feel blessed to have stumbled upon it.  It’s a helpful reminder and it brings me focus about what is important.  I share it in hopes it helps someone else down the road.