July 18th, 2010 - Signs, Signs, Everywhere Are Signs, Part #432

I'm back from an extended mid-season, intrastate agricultural inspection extravaganza for my work, the bugs and plant diseases are all cooking up to formidable levels with the summer heat and humidity.
Our 'growing days' so far are about 20% ahead of last year and multiple storms have brought quite a lot of localized rain. At least after these multiple storms, everyone got some, though not necessarily consistently. 

In talking to the farmers to the north of us, the last big storm brought some 0.2" of rain, while those only 3 - 5 miles away got over 8" in one night. Well, that's farmin'...


Sweet car for sale on a drive-by. It was still there the other day...


At least 20 to 30% of my time is spent driving the state minivan, down the country roads, through the unincorporated towns, mucking around questionable field access roads (no 4-wheel drive for me), and over the highways and by-ways of the Great State of Wisconsin. 
I finally got myself a navigational car GPS, which has saved me a lot of time, while causing me a lot of grief as well. Depending on how it's set, it usually does a pretty good job, however it was interesting the other day... 
I was navigating overland across a bounty of county roads, Co.X, Co. Z, Co. ZZ, (my favorite) and "Ghost Road," (another favorite). Finally I'm trundling along from my previous stop with my next stop programmed in, when the GPS lady comes on and says, in her polite but Steven Hawkingesque voice, "In oint eee iles, urn efft on ounty ine oad." 
Up to this point, things seemed right, we were headed in the general direction of my next stop, and at least I'm wasn't trying to read four county maps while flying down the road with all the windows open. But turning left or east on County Line Road out here in the middle of Manureville when I needed to go west didn't seem like a logical move. So as I was turning left onto this Dead End road she says, "Prepare to go off-road..."
Whoa there. Ya, right! The mini-van doesn't speak that language. I check her settings and "Off-Road" was not checked, but "Shortest Distance" is. 
Okay, let's try "Fastest Time" and hope for the best, because I haven't been following along on the map and it's going to take me 20 minutes just to FIND this road, if it's even ON the map. "Recalculating...." 
Off we go.
Needless to say, we made it, but my future confidence in her went down a couple notches. 
On the other hand I DID get to see this awesome piece of property for sale (No not the "Not a Door", although that would be awesome), it was a farm with a dilapidated ancient foundation of some mill and huge stone fireplace on one side of the property, with no wood left on the structure at all, just the foundation, a really old windmill and lots of trees. The other side was a moderately old farmhouse and field. I tried to find it again online but it's lost in the "Wisconsin Triangle". I probably won't see it again until I'm lost down there again next time. If it even existed in the first place. Maybe it was on "Ghost Road". Cool though.
But I digress. The story here is about all the signs that one sees while driving around the state. Some are truly amazing. Profound. Profane. And everything in between.
Some I have yet to document, as they sometimes take a while to sink in as I drive by. "Important While Flashing" being one. This is a garishly yellow sign with big lights on it, often seen along the interstate, that I have never ever seen flashing. 
It's not like you are going to miss a huge, garishly yellow sign, even if it's NOT flashing, which makes it hard to think it's not important unless it's flashing. I'm sure some government agency spent a lot of money researching the psychology behind huge garishly yellow signs, and they know what's best for me. However, they are not inspiring a lot of confidence on my part either. 
I think they are in cahoots with the GPS lady.
Another symbol I haven't quite figured out is the NASCAR air-freshener. I saw one hanging from a car's rear-view mirror the other day, and it got me thinking. Those little tree air-fresheners attempt to smell like pines ('attempt' being the operative word), the gelatinous cherry air-fresheners smell approximately like cherries, so what does a NASCAR air-freshener smell like? Exhaust fumes? Anything to override Dale Ernhardt's body stench after five hours in the same Kevlar suit, I guess.
Okay! Here are of the some signs I've seen in my travels lately: 


think this was a bar.
One of my inspections was at the more than surreal "Jellystone Park". 
Yogi welcomes you in, with a stake up his butt, looking more like he is trying to hitch-hike out. Bar-none, this place has the highest amount of speed bumps per cubic foot than ANY place in the United States. 
It is basically a year-round trailer-park, and everyone gets around on their fleet of golden golf carts (mostly to pick up ice at the main office).
It's rather... spooky.
If you don't like putt-putt golf and/or have a largemouth bass mailbox, it might not be for you.
Come to think of it, that tie is rather surreal too.


If you happen to be at Jellystone, realize it's not for you and that you would rather not be recognized, you may purchase "many styles' of FUZZY FACE moustaches (or mustaches, depending upon your personal dictionary) from the vending machine in the office lobby. 
Somehow seeing everyone there wearing a fuzzy mustache, driving around in their gold golf carts and picking up their mail from their largemouth bass mailboxes, doesn't even begin to make it any more surreal than it already is.


Some people call the police, we call McGruff, the Crimedog. Who will then look suave and point his finger at you.
Why does he have fingers again...?




If you haven't already stopped, you should now be noticing that you are in the middle of a dangerous intersection.


Um, pretty self-explanatory.


Okay board members, what should we call our new church...?
"Well, there is already a cross made out of plumbing on a rock in the front yard, maybe we could incorporate that somehow..."
"Great idea, Billy Joe Bob Cletus Ernie!"
Hook me up.
And from permanently soiling your underwear.


Some cities may settle for a mere water tower, but here in southern Wisconsin we much prefer the Horton Waterspheroid ®


Serve yourself - use the sign if you need to.






From the Shameless Marketing Department, if you're too dumb and impatient to grow plants, we have a solution.




It's all about the all-important 'branding placement'. I think there is a plant in there somewhere. Of course the pot was a giant logo as well, why even question that.
One reason it's "Weather Tough" is that it's considered hardy in at least zones 5 through 11 and can be a creeping invasive species if not kept in check. 
Kind of like a frontal system.


It's even more specially priced after it starts looking like it's going to die.






If we deliver it in less than 30 minutes, YOU GET IT FREE!


Somehow I knew after it was all said and done, I'd end up in the Big House...

May 30th, 2010 - The Voice of a Lake


Hey, I wrote this back in November of 2009 for the "1000 Friends of Minnesota's - Voices of a Lake" essay contest, and had completely forgotten about it. Well, I'll be dipped if they didn't pick it for the finals and post it today!

"The Voice of a Lake" by Tim Boyle




I seen lotsa changes in my coupla thousand years as a lake, you betcha I have.
I might be a little thick ‘round the edges, but don’t let that fool ya. Parts a me are from the Laurentian Divide, parts from the Mississippi. I can’t tell ya how this whole ‘vaperation cycle thing works, but I swear parts a me cooled them reactors at Monticello, and parts been driven on by ice fishers at Mille Lacs. I keep my blue eye on the sky and I see lots. It rains and my thoughts come in, from all over. Thoughts from rivers, farm fields, clouds looking down from them big hills out past the prairie, don’t even know what they call them places. I been here all my life.

Guess it’s like most things, I don’t member my early years. Somethin’ ‘bout some big mother lake up north that was all over the place, ‘sposta come from some big chunk a ice, sounds about right for northern Minnesota, lemme tell ya! This thing melted and flowed all over, inta all the kettles and pots and into the swampy bowl that was my crib. After that things jus’ kept happenin’. I felt big old fish swimmin’ around in my belly and beavers bigger’n Paul Bunyan chompin’ up trees ‘round my edges, making me even bigger. Perty soon there was people spearin’ stuff and fishin’, lemme tell ya it was somethin’ ta see, an I seen it all. There’s trappers and rafts and boats and jetskis.

I never really noticed zactly when, but my thoughts comin’ in seemed like theyz changin’ ever so slightly, I started noticin’ some thoughts I ain’t never thunk before, stuff ‘bout fertlizers and some weird kinda tastes, – not nice tastes like rottin’ algae in the sun, but kinda bitter slippery stuff thaz all differt colors. Seemed like the plants in my belly started ta grow differnt, I doan know, it’s been so long and I seen so much, it’s hard fer me ta tell. I jus’ take it all in. Maybe one a them scientists sittin’ ‘hind a desk downstate could tell me somethin’ bout it, but I doan know nothin’ cept my own thoughts that trickle in.
I figger iz jus another part o’ me, jus a drop in my bucket, quite litterly as them good speakers say.
I jus leave it all up ta them.

Your friend,

The Lake


May 28th, 2010 - I'm a Freak of Nature

Yo ho...! Sorry for the lapse. Holy frijoles, the world is spinning like, um, the world spins.
Since starting my new job with the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture as a Plant & Pest Disease Specialist - Nursery Inspector, LTE, (Nursery Inspector "Lite") (No, it actually means "Limited Term Employee", what the Naturalist world calls "a Seasonal") I have been on a non-stop merry-go-round of plant inspections in my four SE Wisconsin Counties (Dodge, Jefferson, Washington, and Osaukee) (Wow, I spelled it right the first time) as well as trips criss-crossing the state in a random ant path and just haven't had time to crank out blog posts.
In lieu of that, I have put together a collection of freakish and surreal plant things I have come across in my travels, and that will have to do for now.
Till next time, when you smell manure, think of me.
Visit the weirdness:



- T.

April 23rd, 2010 - Random Pics From The Old Bag of Tricks

I found a few quick pics that I had set aside over the last few months whilst looking for something else along the way.
The quality of some might not be on my "A" list, but I felt that there was enough redeeming value to justify a post.
Ansel Adams would have probably told you otherwise, but I feel pictures are not always about technical quality. Sometimes a concept shines through, and even though you didn't 'nail it', it still presents something interesting.
I feel that maybe too much emphasis is placed on taking a laboratory grade image every frame these days, and that trying to live up to that sort of takes the fun out of it. Sometimes pictures should just plain be impulsive enjoyment of the moment, or express the mood or the scene, and you get what you get when you get it. I think that's what makes camera phones so great. I wonder if Ansel would have a camera phone. I think not.
These images have come out of everything from a scanned 35mm print, to my first 1.3 Megapixel Pentax digital Point and Shoot, to my current Nikon DSLR...

I don't know about you, but something in this photo tells me this a female Milkweed.
Just a guess. Plants have their own special way of looking good to other plants, and to their pollinators.
It's not something that is well understood by humans.
Alas, as their season moves on, gravity has it's way, things dry out, and wrinkles begin to occur.
The next thing you know, your pods are exploding.
And so it goes.


I been framed, framed I tells ya!
Don't I even get a phone call mister Ranger man?
You got nothin' on me.
Any psychoactive substances found on my person are occurring there naturally, man.
Aww, I can't believe this. Stupid salamanders are probably eatin' all my flies while I'm rottin' away in this bubble on a bad rap.
Dang. I gots rights!










Speaking of crime scenes, I'm not exactly sure what went on here.
Looks like the pigeon or crow came in a little too hot for the normal approach and skidded on its butt for a spell, like an F-16 missing the carrier wire.
Then comes the part I don't get. It looks to me like it gets up, walks in a 180 to it's right and ends up near the dark area at the upper-left of the photo (actually a rock or a dead-head frozen into the creek.)
Note then the other set of bird feet walking the same direction towards the rock. Where did it go? Did it moonwalk backwards off camera-right? In the full size image it doesn't look like there are any more tracks than are shown here. Unh?

Here's an old (early 1980's) scan of a B & W print I took looking west down the railroad tracks near sunset from the Hennipen Avenue overpass by Lagoon Avenue in Minneapolis, MN.
This rail-route is now home to the Minneapolis Midtown Greenway bicycle corridor, the tracks are long gone, paved over, and the bridge is a bus stop.
Seemed like it was always a nice sunset looking down the rail while I was headed over to my friend Mike's to play records, guitars, and ping-pong, no doubt.







Our old cat Harry the Cat. He was a good cat, when he wasn't trying to rip your face off.
Sweet boy.











Frosted Ritz cracker...?
No just a manhole cover venting through the fresh snow.












One more for the road. I made this from a 'failed shot', actually one of those pictures that results from your camera going off as you are putting it back in your pocket.
I thought the initial shot was pretty cool, it was from my cheapy little camera, and was a full-frame smear with this surreal focused area on one side that was caused by the flash firing while the camera was being swung.
I won't tell you how I did the rest, unless you really want to know...
I call it Gas Ball.


Take care now...
Take those pictures, even if you don't think they are good enough to win the Pulitzer.
Just have fun.

April 21st, 2010 - Pickled Ginger & Other Delights

I will be the first to admit that I am easily waysided by little details that I notice in, on, or around things, and the crux of today's entry is no exception.
Today's entry originates from, well, our entryway.
Immediately upon entering our building, there is a large plastic bucket still containing a fair stock of 'ice melt' - the stuff you throw on the sidewalk to chemically melt the ice and make it safer to walk on. Although it is April 21st, this means nothing in Wisconsin, even in southern Wisconsin, as we could have an ice storm at any minute. Don't let the 60 degree temperatures fool you. That bucket of Ice Melt could stay out there all year for all I know, we haven't lived here long enough to find out. We'll keep you posted, and hope it stays at the ready.
The thing is, one day I saw this pastel pink label on the bucket and stooped down to see what it said. Expecting something locally-related like 'frozen tater-tots' or a gross of sauerkraut, (how else could you describe a large quantity of sauerkraut...?) I was much taken aback when the said label proclaimed it was 20 LBS of:
"SUSHI SHOGA (PINK) (PICKLED GINGER)"

My first thought was, "Wow, that's a lot of pickled ginger."
It wasn't until I later looked closely at the photograph the label that I became increasingly shocked at the chemical make-up of something so seemingly innocuous as a sushi component.

Thus began a merry web-chase of research, which brought with it a story steeped in mystery, absurdity, cultural history, and bio-chemical design.


First off, the first ingredient is actually ginger, so that's good, with the first labeled ingredient being the most plentiful by volume as defined by US labeling laws. Ginger's name is thought to be ultimately derived from a Sanskrit phrase meaning "body of a horn."
Interestingly enough, "ginger is also a minor chemical irritant, and because of this was used as a horse suppository by pre-World War I mounted regiments for feaguing*.

*Feaguing or Gingering: "An 1811 dictionary states: "to feague a horse is to put ginger up a horse’s fundament, or formerly, as it is said, a live eel, to make him lively and carry his tail well. It is said, a forfeit is incurred by any horse-dealer’s servant, who shall show a horse without first feaguing him."
"Ginger is an irritant, and when inserted into a horse's anus, the horse will carry its tail high and generally act somewhat restless and more lively." No doubt. At some point we came to our senses and outlawed this sort of behavior, but I guess it still happens at shows, and they have tests for it. I'm wondering if that's where the phrase "walking gingerly" came about.
I'm not sure which is nuttier, that, or breeding dogs to look like monstrosities of nature just because we can. But I digress...

Ginger also has a sialagogue action, which stimulates the production of saliva, making swallowing easier. If you can get over the feaguing. Some say this makes ginger a proper palette-cleanser.

Next comes the water and salt; no surprise there, common stuff you find in pickled food, or in nearly all food nowadays.
After that it gets a little sketchy.
To understand more about somethings chemical composition, it helps to know a little about it's purpose or 'application':

'Sushi Shoga' is pickled ginger that is used during the sushi meal as a 'palette cleanser' or as a side dish.
It is sliced very thin and looks convincingly like a pile of Carl Buddig sliced turkey cold cuts.

Some of it is 'traditionally pink', and sometimes it is a pale yellow. Please keep this fact in mind as the story unfolds.

In Japanese, it is known as 'gari' or 'amazu shoga' and resides in the food family of 'tsukemono' (pickled vegetables).

Tsukemono are used as 'hashi-yasume', literally meaning, “chopstick resters”, side dishes that have a totally different texture and flavor.
Say for instance you had some grilled meat with a sweet-savory sauce as the main course, you might have some simple, crunchy pickled cucumber slices to go with it, as hashi-yasume.

Gari is often served and eaten after sushi, and is sometimes called sushi ginger, mostly by unknowing western dorks.
It's served with sushi or sashimi and eaten between different kinds or courses of sushi. It helps to clean your taste buds and enhance the flavors.
"Gari is usually eaten between dishes of sushi. Gari is not meant to be eaten or consumed in any type of sushi or hand roll." So DON'T DO IT, or bad things will happen to you. If you find it stuffed inside a sushi roll, put your chopsticks down and slowly back away, then report the so-called sushi parlor to your local sushi control board.

Here's the deal. This whole palette-cleansing side-dish thing is based on getting your senses ready for a new sensation. Before the days of designer food, food-lovers thought well of doing this, then the 'food scientists' and 'flavorists' got a hold of the idea and went nuts with it. Well, it has nothing to do with nuts in this case, let's just say they went crazy with it. Which leads us to our next ingredient. Actually our next chain of ingredients...

Lactic acid, acetic acid, citric acid, and aspartame.

Lactic acid is a food additive used as an acidity regulator, or pH control agent. It changes or maintains the pH balance (the acidity or basicity), assisting in, for one thing, controlling the perceived 'sourness' of of the food. When you consider that the next two ingredients are acids as well, including citric acid which gives fruit such as limes their sour taste, mmm, I could see a need for that.
The amount of lactic acid in our pickled ginger is not specified, but it does also pop up in a number of other interesting places, in varying amounts.

In the food 'industry', lactic acid is primarily found in sour milk products, such as: koumiss, leban, yogurt, kefir, and some cottage cheeses.
The lactic acid coagulates (curdles) the casein in what then becomes fermented milk.
Lactic acid has also gained importance in the detergent industry over the last decade. Being a good descaler, soap-scum remover and registered anti-bacterial agent, "an economically beneficial as well as environmentally beneficial trend toward safer and natural ingredients has also contributed to it's popularity."
In recent times it has made many infomercial-like appearances used as a facial mask, as it handily, it is said, descales and removes your facial scum and bacteria, especially your wrinkles.

Industrially, preparatory lactic acid fermentation is performed by Lactobacillus bacteria, among others. These bacteria can also 'operate' in the mouth; the acid they produce is responsible for some rather nasty tooth decay known as caries.
Caries is a progressive destruction of any kind of bone structure. Dental caries affects different parts of the teeth (enamel, dentin, or cementum) both in the crown and/or the root of the tooth. Nearly all cases contain bacteria such as streptococcus mutans, lactobacillus and Candida albicans, which produce the lactic acid responsible for the caries. (Photos withheld due to public outcry)

Lactic acid is also used as a monomer for producing polylactic acid (PLA) which eventually becomes a type of biodegradable plastic. This kind of plastic is thought of as a good substitute for conventional plastic produced from petroleum oil because of it's low emission of carbon dioxide. Handy stuff!

The acetic acid comes in the form of vinegar to help with the pickling process. Whether the acetic acid on the label is an additive, or it is from what the ginger is still saturated with when it is added to the other ingredients is not known. Table vinegar tends to be more diluted (4% to 8% acetic acid), while commercial food pickling generally employs more concentrated (18% +) solutions. The amount of acetic acid used as vinegar on a worldwide scale is not large, but historically pickling is by far the oldest and best known application.
Tapatío hot sauce is an example of a product that combines acetic acid and water to create vinegar in the production of the final food product.
Vinegar was known early in civilizations as the natural result of exposing beer and wine to open air, as acetic acid-producing bacteria are present globally.
The use of acetic acid in alchemy extends back to the third century BC, when the Greek philosopher Theophrastus described how vinegar acted on metals to produce pigments useful in art, including white lead (lead carbonate) and verdigris, a green mixture of copper salts including copper acetate.
The ancient Romans boiled soured wine in lead pots to produce a highly sweet syrup called sapa. Sapa was rich in lead acetate, a sweet substance also called 'Sugar of Lead' or 'Sugar of Saturn', which contributed to lead poisoning among the Roman aristocracy. An early food additive that didn't quite work out. Ah well, live and learn. Or not.
So after all that sourness, you wouldn't want your flavor sensing to get overstimulated in any one particular direction, so let's sweeten you back up with a dose of aspartame.

Aspartame is an artificial sweetener first synthesized from naturally occurring amino acids in 1965. It is 200 times sweeter than sugar in typical concentrations, but without the higher caloric energy value of sugar. The quantity of aspartame needed to produce a sweet taste is so small that its caloric contribution is negligible.
However, aspartame and sugar do not taste the same; the sweetness of aspartame has a slower onset and longer duration than that of sugar. Some people feel that aspartame leaves an odd after-taste, others say it as a 'non-flavor' or 'watery' after-taste.
Under high temperatures or high pH, aspartame may hydrolyze (break down) into the amino acids that make it up. This makes it undesirable as a baking sweetener, and prone to degradation in products hosting a high-pH. Hmmm, high-pH... see the purpose of lactic acid, above...
In products that may require a longer shelf life, aspartame is sometimes blended with a more stable artificial sweetener, such as saccharin. Hey, that's on our list of ingredients too. Double-bonus! It sweetens and acts as a preservative for your other sweetener! Can it get any better than this...?
Because its breakdown products include 'phenylalanine', aspartame is among the many substances that must be avoided by people with phenylketonuria (PKU), a rare genetic condition. Hence the warning label on foods containing aspartame: "Phenylketonurics: Contains Phenylalanine." In people with PKU it can reach toxic levels because their systems can't metabolize it.
One other interesting note: "In certain markets aspartame is manufactured using a genetically modified variation of E. coli." Nom.

The more I looked into this ingredients list, the more I realized it was becoming a veritable House of Cards. You need this to do that, and this to stabilize that, and this to make up for that, leading us back to this, which doesn't play well with that, so we need to tweak that, if we want the desired effect.

Somewhere along the way it stopped being pickled ginger and became Bunsen burners and Erlenmeyer flasks, and forklifts moving huge bags of white power...

Join me as we follow the tracks of the forklift to what I feel is the true philosophy behind this sensory House of Cards.
Consider the next ingredient, everyones favorite: MSG. Or in this case, Monosodium L-glutamate.
It has been fingered as the cause of the "Chinese restaurant syndrome" (That sure could mean a lot of things) and has been suspected of precipitating migraine headaches. In appropriate doses it causes burning sensations, facial pressure, and chest pain. But it tastes so damn good, we'll put up with it! Pass the soy sauce!

Here, the forklift tracks stop at the edge of a large chasm known as "Umami."
This is what our pickled ginger, industrially known as Sushi Shoga, Amazu shoga, or Gari is all about.
"The English language doesn't have a word for umami, that is why we use the Japanese one," explains Gary Beauchamp, director of Monell Chemical Senses Center, in Philadelphia, PA, an independent nonprofit research center focused on the senses of taste and smell.
Loosely translated from Japanese, umami means "delicious taste."
Despite its somewhat dubious past, umami is now officially recognized as the fifth basic taste. In 2000, researchers at the University of Miami School of Medicine discovered taste receptors for umami, giving it scientific credibility.
Umami refers to the perceived taste of glutamate, the most common of all amino acids. It can be found in tomatoes, aged cheeses, mushrooms and other savory foods. The Japanese researcher who first isolated glutamate gave it the name "umami."
"Monosodium glutamate is the most common example of umami, but there are other substances that have the same unique, intrinsic taste," explains Mariano Gascon, the flavor lab director at Wixon Inc., St. Francis, Wis.
"An important sensory contribution of ingredients like MSG and nucleotides is their flavor enhancing property," says Gascon.
Research is ongoing as scientists try to unravel the mystery of umami and its taste receptors. At Monell, says Beauchamp, scientists are studying umami in three basic areas.
First they identify receptors involved in detecting umami taste. Next, they take a look at how early experiences with umami affect food choices later in life. For example, human breast milk is very high in glutamates.
Finally, they try to determine whether there are differences in sensitivity to umami, and if so, how they influence food choices.
How thoughtful of them.
Beauchamp explains that learning how receptor molecules work can lead to the development of less-expensive ingredients and flavor enhancers. He says the food industry is very concerned with understanding why people consume what they consume.
Ya think?
Interestingly enough, glutamate is flavorless when it's isolated however.
Monosodium glutamate may be the most common example of umami, having been marketed since the early 1900s, but there is no one standard umami flavor. "It is very difficult to develop a standard because MSG, at low concentrations, has a salty taste," says Koetke. "But at higher concentrations, the taste is thought to be unique, almost lingering, and is described as umami." It's awesome right before the headache, he added. No he didn't say that. Sounds more like Xanadu to me.

Well-prepared foods delivering a flavor experience that goes beyond the five basic tastes of sweet, salty, sour, bitter and umami, create a taste sensation is called "kokumi," a Japanese word used to express the concept of "deliciousness," a blend of initial flavor, impact, continuity and roundness. Mmmm, roundness.

"The kokumi seasoning benefits a wide variety of applications. Meat and poultry products acquire a fuller, longer-lasting taste, while seafood enjoys heightened cooked seafood flavor without the fishy smell during storage. Vegetables, especially tomato, exhibit the sweetness and distinct flavor of cooked vegetables, as well as improved mouthfulness." (mouthfulness?)
He concludes by adding, (and performing accenting arm and hand gestures, I'm sure) "Umami's synergistic effect unites protein and other flavor components, resulting in a more flavorful whole.
As consumers become more familiar with, and educated about umami, they'll no doubt want it." No, doubt.

This is what you want out of your chopstick rester. A humanitarian intervention of your taste buds that lays the groundwork for an all-out, wide-spectrum incursion of your long-term food-related senses. Target sighted and recognized: your mouth.

From what's left on the label, you could probably guess the rest.
Potassium sorbate is the potassium salt of sorbic acid, and it's primary use is as a food preservative. It is prepared by the reaction of sorbic acid with potassium hydroxide.
Potassium sorbate is used to inhibit molds and yeasts in many foods, such as cheese, wine, yogurt, dried meats, apple cider and
baked goods. It can also be found in the ingredients list of many herbal dietary supplement products to prevent mold and microbes and to increase their shelf life.
Also, it is used in many personal care products to inhibit the development of microorganisms for 'shelf stability'.

As we mentioned previously, this is 'pink' ginger. The natural ginger is normally a yellowish color. The pink comes from a red dye called, "Allura red AC (FD&C Red #40) - Orange / red food dye. Allura Red AC is an azo dye (a synthesized compand that has fewer health risks associated with it in comparison to other azo dyes, and with the old way of getting red dyes: grinding up beetles). However, some studies have found some adverse health effects that may be associated with the dye.

In Europe, Allura Red AC is not recommended for consumption by children. It is banned in Denmark, Belgium, France, Switzerland, and Sweden.
In the United States, Allura Red AC is approved by the Food and Drug Administration for use in cosmetics, drugs, and food. It is used in some tattoo inks and is used in many products, such as soft drinks, children's medications, and cotton candy.
Well, it's all food for thought. I wonder if you could melt the ice off of a driveway with it...

April 17th, 2010 - Leftover Goulash

Looking back over some photos from the days and weeks before we left Minneapolis, made me realize things happen so quickly, and photos don't wait. It's hard to comprehend as I look back at the snow, and remember loading up the moving truck on 19 F degree mornings, then the spring coming in and us driving through alternating rain, snow, sleet, and sun. Then having to find my shorts in all the packed stuff for an 83 F day a week later. All in such a short time. What is time?
Here are some leftovers that brought me right back to our old haunts.
I miss the place, but it's good to shake up your life now and again. I can't believe I've come full circle and that it used to be the exception for me and not the rule that I would be in one place for more than a few months.
Time like a river...


Here are couple sunsets over Lake Nokomis that I took as we were leaving our "going-away dinner' at our friends' Solveig and Craig's house. Nokomis is always good for spectacular sunsets, I swear. They have a house on a hill overlooking the lake. It's quite a spot.



Sure signs of spring in our old neighborhood.
When the male cardinals are all froofed up and belting out their courting songs at 5 AM, and when the yard ornament burro sticks it's head out of the snowbank, spring can't be far behind.
Then when you can see more than the hat of the gnome that is riding on the burro's back, all indications are quite positive.
If the Gnome sees his shadow, no big deal, he always looks so glazed over and stone-staring straight-ahead I don't think he would even notice.
They're both probably covered in moss and Trumpet Vines by now.
Carry-on you neighborhood icons, it's a tough job, but someone has got to do it.

On the days when I had to return the rental truck to the moving company's place down the road, I always ended up taking the Light Rail home. (Well, not always, once I took Happy and we hoofed it back, and found out it was a bit farther than it seemed in the research.)
At any rate, there was a lot of waiting for the train.
And here one comes now. "Lake Street Station... Please stay well back from the Yellow Line as the train is approaching the station."
Then there's the old Airport Dog Park, or Pog Dark as it as dyslexically known to us.
I've got to say I miss the place, so far we haven't come across a decent equivalent here in Wisconsin.
We'll keep trying though, I'm sure there are better ones that have actually trees and things, and some decent dog walking trails instead of an open marshy farm field.



Here's our boy Happy loving his day and coming full-bore across the tundra. Here's Happy shaking off the cold, (looks like he's flexing for a muscle dog competition) and also an unidentified jet-powered Doberman leaving all pursuers in a cloud of dust.

Rock on Minneapple. \m/.

April 16th, 2010 - Transition

Holy smokes, it's been a while. We finally got replanted here in the Suburban Wonderland of New Berlin, Wisconsin, giving up our stake along the Mississippi River for the rolling drumlins and moors of southern 'Sconny.
It's been a transition all around.
For the most part, the people are friendly and like to engage you in casual conversation at the hardware store, gas station, or while they are installing kitschy sculptures on their well-manicured lawns.

Where Minnesota is known for 'Minnesota nice', here we're apologetic to the nth degree, even being sorry for any convenience.
Whatever it is, we're sorry. Have a smoke and a beer and go work on your yard.
Myself being originally from northern Wisconsin, for me to move anywhere south of Wausau, is, I'm sure for many of my northern brethren, the equivalent of selling my soul to the Devil.
When I was growing up in Ashland, WI, almost about as far north as you can go in the state, to us the southern half of the state was thought of as "where all the Fat Cats with all the tax money live" and was not acknowledged by Northerners as even being physically connected to our streets paved with wooden beams and iron ore (you think I'm kidding).
Once you crossed the 'Cranberry Curtain' across the middle of the state, you had better be; 1. Going to the State Fair, 2. Going to a doctor's appointment, or 3. Going to another state. You just didn't mix with 'them people.'
There was even talk and a fair amount of backing to secede and become 'The 51st State' by combining northern Wisconsin and Upper Michigan into the State of 'Superior', or 'Ontonagon', due to the cultural and financial differences from North to South in the two states. (Sound like any Civil Wars you may have heard of...?)
So here we are. Trying to bring a little northern naiveté to the untouchables. We're missionaries of culture, people. We come in peace, eh?

Happy the Dog seems to like it, mainly because he has more indoor lounging opportunities, and can stare out the patio door at the squirrels.
He is on a learning curve with all of his new sensory information, such as the neighbor noises and squeaky floors of a multi-unit apartment building, as are we all.
But, he gets his own little stake and rope and lawn space to gel in the sun and greet the neighbor's dogs; 'Rocco' and 'Speedbump'.
There are a lot of city parks and open spaces. Unfortunately to everyone's dismay, especially Happy's, the free-range dog park we discovered close by is downwind of 'The Gun Club', and the shooting noises scared poor Hap into a foaming-at-the-mouth bolt for the car. Anyone's car.
We are all still making our adjustments here.

Our sanctuary though, (quite literally) is the deer sanctuary that our building borders on the north side.
It has tons of red-bellied, downy, and hairy woodpeckers, phoebes, chickadees, robins, ducks, geese, black-morph squirrels, and of course, deer.
We have also recently seen a few kestrels, flying and perched, some brown-creepers, and a couple different types of hawks.
I apologize for the non-photo documentation, all of the pics here are from 'the little camera' which doesn't play nice with the telephoto, unless you're about five feet away.
More to come when I get time to go through my camera cards. Barely have all the cardboard moving boxes open at this point, and we're still buying all the things we need but can't find, so I expect we'll find everything soon.

The deer park has a ton of spring ephemerals coming up, such as these Bloodroot in various stages of bloom.
So called for their blood-red roots, they spend most of their time working underground for a short push for daylight in the spring, then 'go back underground' for the rest of the year again.
Once on a hike near the Minnesota river, they were in bloom at the start of the hike and gone three hours later on our way back to the car.
An interesting thing about how their seed gets planted is, ants do the work for them!
"Bloodroot is one of many plants whose seeds are spread by ants, a process called myrmecochory. (Glad I'm writing and don't have to pronounce that)
The seeds have a fleshy organ called an elaiosome that attracts ants. The ants take the seeds to their nest, where they eat the elaiosomes, and put the seeds in their nest debris, where they are protected until they germinate. They also get the added bonus of growing in a medium made richer by the ant nest debris."

Bonus! Hey, ants, thanks for the poop, and the ride.
Anyway they are pretty cool flowers, very delicate and with these unfurling ice-cream cone leaves.

There are also a crap-ton of daffodils and jonquils everywhere, in the woods, in peoples yards, taking over the local movie theater, out-witting the National Guard. Well, maybe not that last part so much.
Along with those we have many pockets of purple Wood Violets or 'Viola papilionacea':

which just happen to be the Wisconsin State Flower (whatever that means).
When the official tally for State Flowers was taken on Arbor Day 1909, Wisconsin school children selected the wood violet over the wild rose, trailing arbutus, and the white water lily.
The wood violet is a small flower commonly seen in wet woodland and meadow areas (that's us). Not only is it the state flower for Wisconsin, but it also holds this title in Illinois, New Jersey, and Rhode Island. Copy cats. Go get your own flower.
Believe it or not, the leaves are very tasty and can be used in salads, candies, and jellies. Mmm. And they make your lips purple.

Alongside those, we seem to have an inordinate (at least to what I'm used to seeing) amount of Blue Crocuses (Crocii...? Crocus'...?)
They were some of the first flowers up, and looked a lot like a flowering grass they were so tiny.

Now they are a little past their prime in most places, but still popping through the leaf duff in others.
Happy seems to single them out to pee on, so I don't know if there is some deep symbiosis going on there or if it's just something personal for him.
I'm not sure how I did it actually, but I also found some poison ivy in taking these pictures, as I got a spot on my elbow. I'm not usually even sensitive to it, or haven't been in the past, but they say you can touch it and get a reaction the first time, or touch it a hundred times and not react until the hundred and first.
"Initial treatment for Poison Ivy includes thorough washing with lots of water to remove any trace of the irritant that may remain on the skin. You should avoid further exposure to known irritants or allergens." (Ya think...?)

"In some cases, the best treatment is to do nothing to the area."
Hmmm. Do you do nothing before you do something? Or do you find out you should have done nothing by doing something first...?

Another vivid plant we came across during one of our dog walks through the 'hood, was this blooming tree.
I'm going to have to get some more pictures of it now that it has blossomed out because it is something spectacular, and the wind is going to play reek havoc with the huge blooms.
I'm not sure what it is, yet, most probably a non-native, it looks like something out of oceanside California:

This is ironic, because all the streets in this neighborhood have California names, 'San Mateo', 'Vista Granada', 'Vera Cruz', and 'El Sirroco' to name a few. It's kind of spooky.
Then you cross the street and you're on 'Acredale'.
Of course you know you're in the right place if you see a 'wau' in your name: 'Waukesha', 'Wauwatosa', 'Milwaukee', 'Pewaukee', 'Wausaukee'... you get the idea.
I've wondered what 'wau' means, jumping to what I thought the obvious conclusion was: 'Water'.
But no.
It seems that "The Algonquin Indian languages that gave names to these and many other places in the Midwest were oral, like all North American Indian languages. Place names like Milwaukee and Waukegan weren't written down by Indians but by white dudes who had no familiarity with the subtleties of the Indian tongue (some of them had a pretty shaky grip on their own languages, for that matter). The spellings have changed God knows how many times--Milwaukee, for example, first appears as "Melleoiki," which may or may not have meant "good land" in Chippewa.

Thus we have the 'wau' syllable popping up in a slew of names that seem to have nothing in common: Waubonsee, from the name of a Potawatomi chief who attacked his enemies at dawn (wapin, "daybreak"); Waukegan, from waukeegance, a translation into Indian of the original name, "Little Fort" (the -ce, which meant "little," was dropped out of civic pride); Waupaca, where wau seems to come from waub, the Potawatomi word for "white" (the same goes for Waupecan Creek, "white sand bottom"); Waukesha, "little fox"; Wausau, from wassa, "far away place"...

In Internet slang 'wau' means "What About You...?"

Until next time, I wish you wau.