Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Apple #313: Monsters and Braunschweiger

The topic of Braunschweiger has come up way too many times in the last few days for me to ignore. It came up in an e-mail conversation with a good friend not long ago. Then I overheard some people at work talking about it. Finally, this weekend, a friend and I went to a restaurant that was, shall we say, non-vegan friendly, and a Braunschweiger sandwich was on the menu. So it is clearly time for me to tell you all about Braunschweiger.


Before I do, I first want to tell you about a little something I keep forgetting to mention. Some time back, I gave you all the link to one of my favorite blog sites, Stefan Bucher's Daily Monster page. There's also a permanent link to it over there in the right sidebar. He's now doing a slightly different version, but for a while there, he was drawing monsters and posting sped-up videos of the monsters being drawn, or coming to life as it were. Visitors to his website, without any prompting, started posting their own little stories about the monsters, giving them names, histories, methods of birth, etc. Bucher started making his monsters more colorful, more people posted stories, everybody started having more and more fun.

And after 100 monsters, Stefan made a book out of the whole thing. A tangible, you-can-hold-it-and-turn-the-pages book. The book was released some time in February. I'm bringing this up now because I, your intrepid Apple Lady, was one of the people who submitted stories to the Daily Monster page, and some of my stories were selected for inclusion in Stefan's book. In return for those stories, Mr. Bucher kindly sent me a copy, which arrived at my door just the other day.

The book, as you can see, is called 100 Days Of Monsters, and you can buy it through Amazon for around $12. If you click on the link to the Amazon page, you can see shots of what the pages look like, and if you scroll down the Amazon page, you can get an idea of how Stefan Bucher's drawings and people's subsequent postings worked. Or you can just go to his Daily Monster page and see what he's up to now, which gives you pretty much the same idea.

The good thing about the book is that the stories are sampled down to some of the very best. And you can read the stories side-by-side with their respective monsters. The DVD that comes with the book allows you to see the animation of these particular monsters coming to life, which is really fun because he starts with a blob, and sometimes you think you can see the monster within the blob, but then he takes it in a different and usually delightfully surprising direction.

In the book, Mr. Bucher used everyone's real names, even though most people posted their stories online using screen names. So if you buy a copy and read the stories, perhaps you might be able to figure out the true identity of your Apple Lady (that is, if you don't know me personally already).

But even better than that, the monsters are really creative and slightly goofy, and some people's stories are wonderfully funny. I read several of the stories when the book arrived, and some of them made me laugh so hard and so long, I had to wipe tears from my eyes. And I'm not even talking about my own stories! (har har) I haven't read them all yet because I want to save some of them for the next time I need a really good belly-laugh.

So check out 100 Days Of Monsters (with DVD). I guarantee, you'll be glad you did.


Perhaps you may have noticed the occasional package of Braunschweiger in your grocery store's meat department. You can usually find it somewhere near the hot dogs or the bacon or the packaged lunch meats. I know I've noticed it, in the distinctive yellow and orange Oscar Mayer package, and I wondered what the heck it was.

What Braunschweiger looks like in the package and out of it, sliced. Kraft, which owns the Oscar Mayer brand, makes its own Braunschweiger, but they didn't have any pictures of it, nor did they even have any information about it on their website. The Braunschweiger in this photo is available from Bavaria Sausage, Inc.

  • Turns out, it's liver sausage. Or, to be more German about it, liverwurst. Livers of various animals -- which animals seems to depend on who's making the sausage -- are seasoned and cooked and then smoked.
  • Some people say the word "braun" in Braunschweiger means "smoked." But actually the name comes from the German town, Braunschweig, which gets Anglicized to Brunswick.
  • In making your Braunschweiger, you could use pig livers, chicken livers, goose livers, or some combination thereof, whatever you prefer. Most people seem to use pork liver.
  • You have to make sure you have enough fat so it'll stick together, so people generally recommend using pork liver that's about 50% fat, or else adding bacon fat or lard or whatever fat source you prefer. Cook it all up, then chill it. That will make the grinding easier.
  • Once it's well-chilled, grind the mixture in your processor with salt and pepper and various spices -- many people recommend nutmeg -- until you've got a puree.
  • Then pack that puree into some loaf pans, or get out your sausage casings and stuff. Refrigerate your pans or links for a couple of days, and Bob's your uncle, you've got Braunschweiger!

If you want to know more details about what spices to use when you make your Braunschweiger, or how to get your own pork livers right from the pig, check out some of these sources. I'll warn you ahead of time, some of these pages are not for the faint-of-stomach.

One slice has about 5 grams of fat. One slice of Oscar Mayer beef bologna, by comparison, has 8 grams of fat. One slice of Oscar Mayer Genoa salami has 3 grams of fat. So it seems to be not that much different nutritionally from other sausagey types of meat.

If you want to know what you can make with your Braunschweiger, lots of people seem to like it in dips or spreads:

But you can always slice it and put it on a sandwich:

Here's what it looks like in sandwich form, this one called the Curse of '49, with Muenster Cheese, tomato, onion, and mustard. You can buy this sandwich for $6.25 from the Brown Bag in Columbus, Ohio.

And now you know.

Additional Sources
Fit Watch, Free Online Calorie Counter, Braunschweiger
Merriam-Webster dictionary, braunschweiger

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Apple #312: Speed of Ants

I had to drop off my car at the shop today, so since it was such a nice day, I walked home. I saw many interesting things on my walk -- lots of pretty trees in bloom, Canadian geese walking around like portly matrons in crepe gowns, and a beaver working hard to get itself back into the bushes and hide from me while I passed. But the thing I saw that has piqued my interest the most: an ant.

I happened to look down at one point and I saw a fairly large ant, maybe a carpenter ant, and this thing was zooming. I mean, if this ant had been human-sized, it would have been like a speed boat whipping past (except changing directions a couple of times in apparent confusion). We're talking near-warp speed. I even said, out loud, "Whoa!"

So what I want to know is, how fast do ants go?

  • A large ant's typical speed is 300 meters per hour. But how fast (or slow) is that?
  • One scientist who was asked to describe how fast ants move relative to humans said that the question is quite complex because, first of all, ants would be crushed under the weight of their own exoskeletons if they were human-sized, and humans would also be in mortal peril if they were ant-sized.
  • But supposing such things were possible and you could shrink a human down to ant size, the human would walk at about 18 meters per hour. That's about 1/16 the rate that the ant travels.
  • Put another way, it would take the ant-sized human 100 hours to walk 1 mile. The ant would cover that same mile in about 5 and a half hours.
  • Now let's put the ant's speed in human-sized terms.
  • Assume the ant is 1/4 inch long. That's about the size of a worker carpenter ant, which is considered a "large ant."

Carpenter ant
(Photo by L. Jesse from Iowa State University)

  • If this carpenter ant travels 300 meters per hour, that converts to about 196 inches per minute. Which amounts to 787 times the ant's body length in one minute.
  • Assume a human is 6 feet tall. At the same rate as the ant, the human would cover 787 times its size, or 4,723 feet per minute.
  • Put that in a unit most people (including me) could recognize, and that's 53.6 miles per hour.
  • This is all just a method to arrive at a fairly good guess. But that ant looked to me like it was going even faster than 53.6 miles per hour. I might clock it at 60, at least.


  • A couple of years ago, scientists discovered that the animal with the fastest jaw-bite is the trap jaw ant, which lives in Costa Rica. This ant can snap its jaw at 145 miles per hour.
  • You might not think that is such a big deal, except this is faster than cheetahs, sharks, crocodiles, all those big scary animals that can clamp you in a death grip faster than you can say, "That's my leg."
  • The way it works is they keep their jaws back in a cocked position and then they trigger a little latch which releases the muscles, and zappo!

The Trap Jaw Ant. Its mandibles (jaws) are thick black things projecting straight out from in front of its face. The long skinny things extending toward the camera are its antennae.
(photo from the LiveScience Image Gallery)

  • These trap jaw ants don't just use this super-fast jaw speed to bite their prey, they also use it as an escape mechanism. Turning its head down, the ant snap its jaws into the ground or off the body of its would-be-prey, which launches the ant up into the air anywhere from 3 inches to 16 inches away.
  • Put in a distance relative to our size, if we could do something similar, we would be propelling ourselves over 44 foot-tall buildings.
  • Put another way, these ants are generating, with their jaws, forces 100,000 times that of gravity. As one scientist said, "Not even the space shuttle gets that many Gs [units of gravitational force]."
  • Entomologist Ben Fisher is the one who figured this out, and he did it using super high-speed cameras. And really, check out these videos:


  • Entomologists classify ants as a group of wasps.
  • Depending on the species, an ant can lift 20 to 50 times its own body weight.
  • On the other hand, if they're not the queen, most ants only live about a 1-1/2 to 2 months.

If you liked this entry, you might also be interested in reading about Ant Muscles.

MadSci Network, What is an ant's speed in proportion to a human?
California Academy of Sciences, "Trap-Jaw Ants Set Speed Record," August 15, 2006
Jenny Cutraro, "Ant With Lightning Jaws Makes World's Fastest Strike," National Geographic News, August 21, 2006
John and Sarah's Free Materials for Teachers, Interesting Facts about Ants
Travel Africa, African Army Ants
Brandon B., Makalapa Elementary School, The World of Ants
Online Conversion, length and distance

Friday, April 18, 2008

Apple #311: Maps

Yesterday I woke up thinking about maps. Don't ask me why, I just was.

Here's what I was thinking: maps give you so much information. But they represent the three-dimensional world in a two-dimensional format, so by necessity they have to leave some things out. They can't tell you everything about a particular location because that would just be a reproduction of that place; they have to choose only certain things to tell you. The question then becomes, what certain things does the map-maker think are the most important things for you to know?

Consider the treasure map. On your typical treasure map, you usually get mountains (noted with little upside-down v's), maybe a river or some other body of water, a dashed line showing you where to walk from where you are standing to the place where the treasure is buried, and then a gigantic X. The X, clearly, is the most important thing on the map. Everything else is there to tell you how to find that X. It's thus-and-so far from the mountains, you have to cross this river, find this type of tree and dig under it, etc.

Map drawn of the Lost Dutchman mine, believed to be in Arizona near the Superstition Mountains. Hundreds of people have tried to find the gold which is supposedly somewhere near the Needle, but the gold's exact location remains a mystery. Apparently this map wasn't as good as it could have been.
(Map posted by the Superstition Mountain Museum)

There might be all sorts of other trees, or other rivers than the ones noted on the map but only those on the map are the important ones because they somehow indicate the position of the treasure.

So a map a selective instrument, but an extraordinarily useful instrument precisely because of its selectivity.

Hey, and before you decide maps are boring, consider this: "87 percent of Internet users have done online mapping, leading all other online activities including news, e-commerce and gaming." (Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

  • The science of map-making is called cartography.
  • If you're making a map of anything on the earth, it will inevitably be distorted to some extent. This is because the earth is a sphere, and your map is flat.
  • To this, some people would say, that's why globes rule! And I like globes, too. But you can't fold up a globe and put it in your pocket.
  • The unavoidable distortion inherent in maps has been the subject of great controversy among map makers for several decades.
  • The main method of making maps (that's a lot of M's) since the 1500s was the Mercator projection method. It's based on the grid of latitude and longitude, and it's supposed to have been especially useful for people sailing across the ocean because it gave an accurate indication of how to set your compass to get to a particular location.

Map drawn using the principles of Mercator projection
(Image from Matt Rosenberg's article)

  • However, the distortion created by the Mercator method made places like Greenland and the South Pole look enormous, and it also made Europe look much larger than it actually is. So lots of people called Mercator maps "racist" or "colonialist" or "Eurocentric," etc.
  • An alternative method was proposed in the 1970s by a journalist named Arno Peters. This map was also based on the longitude and latitude grid, but he had a poor understanding of the mathematics of cartography, so his resulting map was even more distorted than Mercator's, just in a different way. But he said that his map was "non-racist" and "fairer" to the third world and so on, and lots of people bit based on that description alone.

Map drawn using the Gall-Peters projection method
(Image from Matt Rosenberg's article)

  • In the 1980s, organizations like the National Geographic Society and others began using maps which balance the latitude-longitude projection with less distortion of places at high latitudes (close to the poles). The shapes are not as accurate, but the sizes are more accurate relative to locales closer to the Equator. These types of projections are more commonly used on maps made today.

Map made according to the Robinson projection method, and probably the way most world maps you see today will look.
(Image from Matt Rosenberg's article)

  • People who really care about how maps are made say that the Mercator and Peters types of maps shouldn't even be sold any longer, and these people are scandalized that some companies are even still selling Mercator and Peters maps.

But all that is really getting into the nitty and the gritty about maps. I'm more interested in the kinds of maps. And there are probably about as many types of maps as there are things in the world that you'd want to tell people about.

  • Political maps -- these indicate boundaries of countries, states, and cities, bodies of water, and maybe other details like major roadways, but generally there's really big blocks of color on these maps.

Political map of Africa, with the colors signifying different countries. Capitals are noted with red dots and named in lower-case letters. Countries are named in upper case.
(Map from Maps of World.com)

This political map is of the State of Texas, so in this case, the unit of measure isn't by country but by county.
(Map from Texas Maps)

  • Road maps -- these are like what you get from AAA or at the gas station, and their primary feature is roads: highways, expressways, two-lane roads, railroads, bridges, overpasses and exit ramps, etc. Road maps will also show the borders of states or counties, but the real reason you want this map is for the roads.

Road map of downtown Chicago. Sorry it's so huge, but when I reduced it, it was too small for you to tell what it was. Road maps are what most people want on a regular basis. They want to know how to get to their friend's house, or to that new restaurant they've never tried, or to their new job, or to the nearest train station, etc. Road maps can help you do all of those things.
(Map from aaccessmaps.com)

  • Physical maps -- these use color and shading to show the physical features and elevation of an area. Mountains are in brown and they look bumpy, water is blue and deeper water is darker blue, lower elevations are in green, and so on. There might also be some indication of boundaries or cities mixed in with the physical depiction, but the main thing going on here is the colors.

Here's a physical map of North America. Country borders are shown, but states and cities are not indicated. Instead, you get mountain ranges, major bodies of water, and land masses like the Great Plains or the Coastal Plain. Colors indicate changes in elevation (brown = higher, green = lower).
(Map from Free World Maps)

  • Climate maps -- these maps are also similar to physical maps, but in this case, the colors are used to indicate temperature and precipitation. Places that get lots of rain are represented in green; places where it's almost always icy are in white; deserts are light brown, etc.

Climate map of Africa. Boundaries are drawn to show countries within Africa and major cities are indicated, but the real focus is on the varying colors, used to indicate different climate regions on the continent. I always thought of Africa as mostly desert, which this map does show. However, it also says that lots of Africa is tropical. In fact, according to World Book, Africa has the largest tropical region of any continent. That's news to me.
(Map from World Book Online)

  • Topographical maps -- these are like physical maps in that they use color but instead of making mountainous areas look bumpy like mountains, they'll use parallel lines drawn close together to indicate areas of higher elevation. Often the lines of latitude and longitude will be included too, as well as principal roads or other major landmarks. The military uses these kinds of maps, and so do people who plan where to build things or dig things, and people who do a lot of camping or hiking. Personally, I find these maps really hard to read.

Topographical map showing the region around Mt. Evans in Colorado. Gad, I have looked through this site's several maps and photos of the mountain and its three smaller peaks nearby, and I cannot figure out where anything is. If you want the Apple Lady to go hiking with you, don't give her the topographical map.
(Map by National Geographic Society and posted by the 14ers)

  • Nautical charts -- these maps are made specifically for people who will be boating or sailing in particular bodies of water. Nautical charts can include tons of information helpful to a boater, such as water depths (often indicated in plain numbers by themselves), distance a boater must keep away from the shoreline, overpasses with clearance heights, location and signaling times of buoys, the position of hazardous objects, rise and fall of the tides, and more. If you're going boating, better get yourself a nautical chart of the area.

Nautical chart of coastal Massachusetts, as generated by NOAA's fancy MassGIS database. The numbers by themselves indicate water depths. Purple and green markers indicate buoys. Lines around the coast indicate areas too close to the shore for cruising. Note the lines onshore, which indicate topographical elevation.
Please do not use this image for navigation purposes, but get an updated chart.

  • Economic or resource maps -- these maps will show you major political boundaries, but the real focus of the map is to show you where certain resources are concentrated. For example, you might see a map of the United States that shows which areas grow lots of corn, where beef and dairy cattle are raised, where people grow lots of soybeans, etc. In elementary school, I used to find maps like these sort of boring -- I wanted to get to the hard facts! Tell me where the capitals are! Don't waste my time with these little pictures! -- but now, I think these kinds of maps are my favorite.

This resource map shows where all the beef cattle were raised in the U.S. in 1997. I had no idea that beef cattle lived pretty much all across the country.
(Map from USDA 1997 Agricultural Atlas)

Judging from the availability of apples in pretty much every grocery store around the country, you might think apples were grown in lots of places around the country, wouldn't you? Not so, says this map. Chances are, a good apple has traveled some distance to get to you.
(Map from USDA 1997 Agricultural Atlas)

See how much there is to learn from resource maps? Here are some more:

The resource highlighted in this map of Oklahoma is wind. The darker red, the better the wind for the purposes of generating power. Right now, there are tons of resource maps on the Internet showing locations ripe for alternative power sources, from wind and solar energy to buried forest material.
(Map posted by the University of North Dakota Energy & Environmental Research Center)

This is just a portion of a resource map that Dr. Steven Huffman made. In this case, the resource is language. Dr. Huffman re-categorized all known human languages into broad groups and then mapped those groups using a couple of different computerized mapping programs. The above is the kind of thing you can see if you download the world map. He has other, more detailed maps as you drill in closer to any given region. Really fascinating stuff. Hey, I wonder if you can make any conclusions by overlaying that climate map I posted above with this language map of Africa...

Want more maps? Maybe topographical maps of Mars? How about historical maps of the Battle of Gettysburg? Or the whereabouts of phytoplankton? New maps and new mapping discoveries are being made all the time, and Map Watch News is ready to keep you posted.

Matt T. Rosenberg, "Peters Projection vs. Mercator Projection," About.com, Geography
Fact Monster, World Geography, Types of Maps
USGS Explorers, Special Topics, Maps and Images
Office of Coast Survey National Ocean Service What is a Nautical Chart
Boat Safe.com, Chart Reading 101

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Tax Reminder

Here's a friendly reminder, from someone who for no good reason has put off filing her taxes until almost the last day:

  • Your income tax return is due to the Department of Revenue on April 15.
  • What that actually means is, if you're mailing it, the stamp must be postmarked April 15. If it's going to take you until the absolute last possible minute, check with your local Post Office to find out their cut-off time to still get the postmark.
  • Even if you're e-filing, by this date, some electronic preparers won't guarantee that they'll get your form submitted in time, and they recommend that you file for an extension. I opted not to go through that hassle. I completed the IRS' PDF version of the 1040, printed it out, and I'm putting it in the mail tomorrow morning.

It's that time again...
(Image from 2anyone)

  • Besides the oh-so-delightful personality of the IRS, here's another reason to file your taxes on time: you know that random "economic stimulus package," a.k.a. the $300-$600 that the government is giving you for no apparent reason except maybe to stop people's grumbling and get them to buy stuff? If you don't file your taxes on time (and if you earned less than $3,000 in 2007), you won't get that $600.

IRS main page, which includes links to forms and information about filing electronically at no cost to you through one of the IRS-sanctioned providers
Adrian Sanchez, "Taxpayers have extra incentive April 15," April 11, 2008
Indiana Department of Revenue, Student Taxes: Simplified
TurboTax, Important Tax Dates
"April 15 is the last day to file tax returns," Fon du Lac Reporter, April 11, 2008

Apple #310: Setback

My parents came to visit me this weekend, and after dinner we played a game of Setback. This is a card game we've played in my family ever since I can remember. My mom's sister's family also plays it, but outside of our family, I've never met anybody who ever heard of it. It's a lot like Euchre, and when I haven't played one or the other in a while, I sometimes get the rules mixed up.

I found some descriptions of this game and how it's played online, but other people's rules vary a little bit (which cards get left out of the deck, whether the Jack of the opposite suit is worth points or not, how much you can bid, etc.) So I'll lay out the rules according to the way we play, in case you're interested.

These Green Bicycle Elephant Tsunami Playing Cards sell for $4.99

  • Apparently, Setback is also called Pitch, and Pitch is the more commonly-known name.
  • Setback is the word used more often in Northeast US, while Pitch is the name used in the Midwest.
  • Setback is a descendant of a British game called All Fours.

The name Setback refers to the fact that if you don't make the number of points you bid, your score is set back by the amount you bid. Since I think that's more descriptive of what happens in the game, and also since that's what I grew up calling it, that's what I'm going to continue to call it.

  • If you have an even number of players, they can team up in groups of two. If an odd number, everyone plays individually. 4 players is probably the best, but we've definitely played with 6 people.
  • Use a standard 52-card deck, but use only the A-K-Q-J-10-3-2. If you're playing with more than 4 people, you can leave in more cards like the 9 or the 4.

The Ace of trump is the highest card in the deck. Note that trump can change with each hand.
(Image from Pokerfiches)

  • Deal 6 cards to each player. Not every card will be dealt. The fact that some cards remain in the deck is a crucial factor.
  • The person to the left of the dealer bids first.
  • The minimum bid is 2, next is 3, then 4, and finally the highest is 11 or "shooting the moon."
  • You're bidding on how many points you think you can take. Points are as follows:
      • High: the highest card in the trump suit. This is usually the Ace, but not necessarily.
      • Low: the lowest card in the trump suit. This is often the Two, but not necessarily.
      • Jack: the Jack of the trump suit. If the Jack is among the cards not dealt, it would be impossible to win this point. So unless you have the Jack of trump in your hand, you can't be certain that it's possible for you to get this point.
      • Game: the total value of the cards you have taken. These values are only taken into consideration when counting towards game. They are true for all cards, regardless of suit.
          • Ace: 4
          • King: 3
          • Queen: 2
          • Jack: 1
          • Tens: 10
          • everything else: zero
      • So after all the cards are played, everybody tallies up the "Game" values of their cards. Whoever has the highest value has won Game and gets one point. If it's a tie, then nobody gets a point for Game.
  • If you have the Ace and Two of one suit, you are guaranteed to have two points because you have in your hand the High and the Low.
      • With respect to the Low card, you can all decide ahead of time whether you want to play Keep Low, which means whoever has the Low card automatically gets the point.
      • Or you can play Win Low, which means that if I have the Two and you take it with a higher card, you get the point for Low.
      • Keep Low is much easier, and that's the rule we play most often. If you play Win Low and you have the Two or Three in your hand, you're pretty much stuck handing it over to somebody else.
  • If you have the Ace and Jack of one suit, that's a pretty risky two-point bid because if an opponent has the King or Queen of trump, they can easily take your Jack. So even if you have the Jack in your hand, you want to make sure you have some other high cards of trump, or that you're short-suited with high cards in an off-suit so you can protect your Jack.
  • If you have the Ace, King, Queen, Ten, and Two of one suit, you'll probably be able to make three points -- but not necessarily. You don't have the Jack in hand, so you can't count on its being in the cards in play. You'll have to try to win Game, which means you need to take lots of tricks with high-value cards like Tens and Aces. This will be easier to do if you have high cards in non-trump suits.
  • If you have the Ace, King, Queen, Jack, Ten of one suit and an Ace of another suit, shoot the moon, man. That hand is gold and nobody can stop you.

You can buy these Pirate Playing Cards through Amazon for $11.50. They're kind of hard to see here, but the faces are pretty cool.

  • Bidding proceeds counter-clockwise from the left of the dealer. Bidding begins at 2. If you're the first one to bid and you think you can make more than 2, you can bid that higher amount. Subsequent bidders must bid at least one point higher than the previous bidder or say "Pass." So for example, if I dealt, my mom would bid 2, my dad 3, and I would pass.
  • You can also choose to play Stick the Dealer, which is what we do. If everyone has passed and the bidding comes to the dealer, the dealer must bid at least 2. The dealer can opt out, but that means the hand is not played at all and the dealer takes -2 points.
  • Whoever has the highest bid begins play. The suit of the first card laid is established as trump for that hand. So for example, if my dad won the bid and he laid down an Ace of clubs, clubs becomes trump for that hand.
  • Play proceeds to the left. So I would play next. If trump is led, I must follow suit with trump if I have it. Otherwise, I would throw off my lower cards that aren't worth many points.

Jumbo Index playing cards, like these, have enormous numbers and letters. You can get 12 packs of these for $28.00.

  • Whoever has the highest card in that round takes that trick and leads the card of the next trick. My dad would have won that first trick with his Ace of clubs since there is no higher card than the Ace of trump.
  • Suppose he next led an Ace of another suit -- hearts, let's say. You do not have to follow suit if you have trump. So even if I had a heart in my hand, I could play my Jack of clubs. Since it's trump, my Jack is more powerful than his Ace of hearts.
  • However, then my mom lays down her King of clubs, and now the trick and the Jack of clubs are hers. Since she has just taken the Jack of trump, she has just won a point (though points don't get tallied until all six cards have been played).
  • My dad would never play like this, by the way. He likes to take the first trick or two, lose the lead, and then when somebody leads an off-suit card, he'll play his Jack to take the trick and keep his Jack.

(Jack of Clubs from some weird half-site)

  • After all six cards are played, everybody reviews who has taken what to determine who has High (Ace of Clubs, which in this case my dad had), Low (the lowest clubs card played; if the Two was not out, it's whatever card is the next lowest), Jack (Jack of clubs, which in this case, my mom took), and Game.
  • In our example, my dad bid 3. We know that he lost the Jack to my mom, so he didn't get that point. He got the High card with his Ace, so he gets one point for that. But let's say he didn't take enough cards to get Game, and that I had Low. That would mean he did not get his 3 points, and he has "been set." Even though he took one point, his score is -3. My mom gets 1 point for her Jack, and I get 1 point for my Two.
  • Play continues until a player reaches 11.

The Dog Playing Cards are only $2.10

  • If a player has "shot the moon" and has taken every trick -- not just High, Low, Jack, Game, but every trick -- the player's score advances to 11. If that player had, let's say 4 points beforehand, the player's score does not advance to 15, but to 11. However, if the player had a negative score beforehand, the player gets only 11 points, which does not end the game.
  • You must bid for the game to end. For example, if you have 9 points, someone else bids, and you take 2 points, even though your score goes up to 11, the game is not over. If someone else bids, takes what they bid, and their score advances to 11 or higher, the game ends and that person is the winner, even if your score is higher.
  • These facts about the score at the end become important if you're playing for money, which we do. Here's how our stakes go:
      • 5 cents (or sometimes 10 cents) per game
      • 5 cents per set (if you've been set at any time in the game, you owe the winner an extra 5 cents)
      • 1 cent per point difference. If the winner has 11 and the loser has 3, the differential is 8, or 8 cents.
      • Double in the hole. If the loser has a negative or zero score, the differential is doubled. So if the winner has 11 and the loser has -3, the differential is 14 x 2, or 28 cents -- big money!

With these stakes, usually some amount around 25 cents changes hands.
(Image from CoinFacts.com)

  • As is the case with Euchre, it's a pretty simple game and much is determined by what cards are dealt to you. If you've got nothing but 3's and Queens in your hand, you can't win very many points.
  • My dad won the first game, the second game he got set 4 times and my mom won, and the third game, my mom won again. My cards sucked.

John McLeod's Pagat pages, Pitch
setback definition, from Joan Houston Hall's Dictionary of American Regional English, page 855
Erik Arneson, Pitch - Card Game Rules
Wikipedia, Setback (game)
Wikipedia, Pitch (card game)
Play Pitch, Rules for Pitch or Setback
Classic Encyclopedia (1911
Encyclopedia Britannica), Auction Pitch
David Galt, How to Play Auction Pitch, Howstuffworks
The House of Cards, Pitch Games for Windows

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Apple #309: Popsicles

How do you follow up an entry on Iggy Pop? What could possibly compete? Anything that tried in any way to be half as hip or edgy or anything else would seem weak as water by comparison. So the only thing to do, thought I, was to go the other way. As Iggy himself has done, go commercial. Go cute. And the first thing in that category that came to mind: Popsicles.

From Iggy Pop to Popsicles, I guess there's something rational there. Right?

(Photo from Indianapolis Soft Water Service)

  • Frozen desserts made with ice and flavoring are actually very old.
    • The Romans are known to have brought ice down from the mountains, crushed it, and flavored it.
    • The Chinese also made various forms of frozen ices, sherbets, and sorbets. Marco Polo wrote home about them when he visited Kublai Khan in the late 1200s.
The Polo brothers writing to Pope Gregory X all about the Popsicles they'd had in China.
(Image from Wikipedia)

  • But the first Popsicle as we know it was made by an 11 year-old boy named Frank.
  • In 1905, Frank left a cup of water with powdered soda and a stick in it outside on his porch. It froze that night, and the next day he found his soda water frozen with a stick in it.
  • He brought it to school, showed his friends, and called it the Epsicle (his last name was Epperson).
  • That might have been the end of it, but 18 years later, when he was 29 and running a lemonade stand at an amusement park in California, he looked at the lemonade he was selling, remembered his Epsicle, and decided to make more Epsicles, but out of lemonade.
  • At the suggestion of a friend, he used six-inch glass test tubes for molds, and he since he couldn't depend on freezing nights, he made a machine that would freeze the lemonade in the tubes and stamp his name on the stick.

These are my favorites. Recently, they've been stamping jokes on the sticks. Here is one example: "What did the dentist give to the marching band? A tuba toothpaste."
(Photo from Matt, Amanda & Jacob)

  • Frank's own children asked him for the frozen treats he had made, but instead of asking for "one of Dad's Epsicles," they asked for "Pop's 'sicle." So he changed the name to Popsicles.
  • The sticks were made of birch wood, and he sold his Popsicles for 5 cents each. He introduced his Popsicles at a fireman's ball, and they were a sensation.
  • He patented his frozen confection in 1924 and a year later, sold the rights to the brand name Popsicle to a New York company called Joe Lowe. He later wished he hadn't, but because he was a struggling inventor, he and his family needed the money at the time. Three years later, Lowe's had sold 60 million Popsicles.

The story goes that Frank also helped conceptualize the Fudgsicle.
(Photo from Serious Eats)

  • Not long after this, the twin Popsicle was invented. This was during the Great Depression, and the idea was that two children could share one Popsicle for the same nickel.
  • With the advent of home refrigeration and freezers, Popsicles only became more popular. Ownership of the Popsicle brand changed hands several times between the 1950s and the 1990s.
  • Today, the Popsicle brand is owned by Unilever, a giant corporation in the UK. Its subsidiary, the Good Humor-Breyers Company, is whose name is on the box.
  • Somewhere on every box of Popsicles is the phrase "quiescently frozen confection." This isn't just a delightful little phrase, it's actually a specific freezing process. Ice cream and other frozen treats are stirred or agitated while being frozen. Not Popsicles. They are poured into a mold and allowed to freeze in a state of rest, or quiescently.
  • So that the flavor doesn't separate from the water, Popsicle-makers add some stabilizers and flavoring that won't separate. It's because of these extras that when Popsicles start to melt they don't just get all runny, they get sort of slushy first.

Apparently, the three types of chocolate Fudgsicles is new and currently available. But why does everybody insist on including the pretender white-chocolate with the far superior dark chocolate? It's like they think you have to suffer for your dark chocolate.

  • Popsicles are now made in over 30 flavors.
  • The most popular flavor, holding its top spot for several years, is orange.

This boy is enjoying his very first orange Popsicle
(Photo from Nylin-Ballard's public gallery)

Oh, and P.S. I also updated my entries on Perdera Wine and Carole King.

Popsicle The Original Brand, Popsicle(R) History
Lemelson-MIT Program, Inventor of the Week, Frank Epperson, Popsicle(TM)
The Kids Hall of Fame, Still More 11-Year-Old Inductees, Frank Epperson
Frank Epperson, 89, Inventor of Popsicle, Dies in California,
The New York Times, October 27, 1983
Food Reference, Trivia, Popsicles
How Products are Made, Popsicle
Howstuffworks, Why is a Popsicle called a quiescently frozen confection?

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Apple #308: Iggy Pop

So another thing I did while on vacation was watch the inductions into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. The way the ceremony works, apparently, is somebody gives you a long and full-of-praise-and-maybe-some-jokes introduction, then you get to speak your long and self-indulgent speech, and then you get to perform a few of your songs.

Madonna was one of the people inducted and her segment pretty much went that way, except she didn't perform her own songs, Iggy Pop did. I gather that she asked him to do it and he agreed. I'm assuming it's because of the whole we're-from-Detroit thing. Because otherwise, I never would have put those two people together. But maybe that's precisely why he agreed to it.

Anyway, seeing him on TV reminded me of my recent personal discovery of Iggy Pop and The Stooges. I had heard people say before that Iggy Pop essentially started punk rock, but I'd also heard he was insane and I had this idea that he just did a lot of screaming onstage. I like a little harmony with my angst, so I never investigated.

But then not too long ago, I bought a copy of Raw Power. And holy crap, why did no one ever tell me just how much they kick ass? It's not senseless noise, it's bad-ass rock & roll with wicked-dirty guitar riffs. And Iggy gives himself so completely to what he's singing it's almost scary. My only wish is that I'd started listening to this decades ago.

Iggy Pop from the cover of Raw Power (1973)

"punk rock is a word used by dilettantes and heartless manipulators, about music that takes up the energies, and the bodies, and the hearts and the souls and the time and the minds of young men who give what they have to it, and give everything they have to it."
  • The name Iggy Pop's parents gave him is James Newell Osterberg, Jr.
  • He grew up in a trailer park in Ypsilanti, Michigan and went to Pioneer High School in Ann Arbor.
"The rent was a dollar a day for the plot [in the trailer park]. I slept over the dinette, on a shelf. We were definitely the only college-educated family in the camp."
  • In 1963, he was the drummer in a cover band in Ann Arbor called The Iguanas. He really liked Jim Morrison a lot, especially the things he did on stage, and I think The Iguanas was probably a lizard-king reference.
  • After a few years his band broke up, and though he joined a blues band next, people kept calling him Iggy in reference to The Iguanas.
"There is something about that name [Iggy Pop] that is just extra-fucking-ordinary, and it used to be like throwing a fucking firebomb into the party. I could walk into a room, and if it was the wrong room, and someone said my name loud enough, you would see sneers of revolution on the faces of the fraternity men of America. It was just really intense. Real interesting."
  • In 1966, he'd met the three other guys who would form the Stooges. Before they had a band or even started writing songs, they did a lot of hanging out at guitarist Ron Asheton's house, dropping acid and watching Three Stooges movies.
  • When MC5 asked them to play at a Halloween show in 1967, they billed themselves as the Psychedelic Stooges. They made a ton of noise using a microphone in a blender, a washboard with a microphone on it, bongos, oil cans, and Iggy playing a Hawaiian guitar.
"It's intrusive music. But only for squares. It's fun, it's for fun."
  • Over the next couple of years, while they became less noisy, they were no less raucous and experimental. They didn't really plan any of their songs much in advance of their shows, fights broke out onstage or between Iggy and people in the audience, it was pretty much chaos put to music.
"I had a maternity dress on and a white face, and I was doing unattractive things like spitting on people."
  • Other things he did included smearing himself with peanut butter and jumping into the audience (now known as stage diving and which many people say he invented), cutting himself with broken glass, exposing himself, vomiting, somehow getting his teeth broken and continuing to sing despite bleeding from his gums, etc.
"Music should never be too good, too tight. It should excite you. The Stooges' music is supposed to make me feel good."
  • In 1968 after a show with MC5, Elektra Records signed both MC5 and the Stooges. MC5 got a $20,000 advance, and the Stooges got $5,000. At that point, they dropped the "Psychedelic" and became The Stooges.
  • Within two years and three albums, the band was already on shaky ground, partly due to poor record sales and the fact that they didn't have a lot of money, but mainly due to their rampant drinking and Iggy's worsening heroin addiction.
  • Then in 1972, he happened to meet David Bowie, and they teamed up to help each other get clean. But I think what actually happened was Bowie helped Iggy to stop using and in return, Iggy was Bowie's musical sounding board. Among other things, Bowie paid to produce another album.
  • The Stooges signed with a new record label, went to London, and recorded another album, Raw Power -- which is exactly that, by the way. But still, not a lot of sales.
"I'd been in an impossible band, living an impossible life"
  • He fell back into the heroin, hung around with Bowie some more and then recorded two records on his own, The Idiot and Lust for Life, both of which enjoyed some commercial success.
      • By the way, the song "Lust for Life" did not become super-popular until it was used in the soundtrack of the "heroin romp" movie Trainspotting in 1996.
  • Pop went back to more of a Stooges-like feel with his next album, sales dropped, problems with the heroin came back, Iggy checked himself into a hospital, and Bowie helped him out again. This time, it was the royalties Bowie earned from his successful album, Let's Dance, that paid for Iggy's rehab from heroin.
      • And actually, Iggy wrote "China Girl" and first recorded it on The Idiot
  • That's pretty much the pattern of his career -- Stooges-land, self-destructive behavior, recovery, commercial success, rebelling against that, self-destructive behavior, etc.
"Well, the stuff that has become more commercial doesn't have any edge."
  • Except over the years, add to that pattern a ton of duets and collaborations with people, appearances in several films, and the fact that he seems, finally and mercifully, to have put the heroin demon down.
"I get a lot of respect now. On airplanes, regular family folk now call me 'Mr. Pop' -- with no irony. I like that."
  • Things he's done that were commercial hits:
      • "China Girl" and "Let's Dance," with David Bowie (1983)
      • "Real Wild Child" (1986)
      • "Lust for Life" (1977 / 1996)
      • "Candy," with Kate Pierson (1990)
      • His songs have been used on 18 movie soundtracks
  • Some of the TV shows and movies he's appeared in:
      • Lil' Bush (Comedy Central), voice of Lil' Rummy
      • The Rugrats move, voice of the newborn baby (1998)
      • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, various episodes
      • Tales from the Crypt, host, various episodes in the 1980s
      • his body movements were the basis for Peter Jackson's version of Gollum in Lord of the Rings movies.
      • The Crow: City of Angels (1996)
      • Tank Girl (1995)
      • The Color of Money (1986)
      • Sid and Nancy (1986)
"I've always used my records as stimulants, all my life . . . It can make me get out of bed and wanna do something and get all huffy and puffy."
  • Apparently he's been hanging out with Madonna for a while now:
      • Opened for her on her Reinvention World Tour in Dublin (2004)
      • TV commercial for a Motorola phone (2005)
  • And rumor has it that she asked them to perform at her induction because she wanted to protest to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame for not inducting The Stooges, even though they've been nominated six times. Aw, Madonna!
  • And hey, his birthday is coming up: April 21. He'll be 61 years old. He looks damn good for a 61 year-old ex-junkie.

Iggy Pop on the cover of A Million in Prizes: The Anthology (2005)
"I'm here because I'm still into it and I probably got a thing or two to prove."

  • One last thing: I had noticed, when I saw him perform Madonna's songs, that one of his legs looked shorter than the other. It occurred to me that that might be why he moves all snake-like with his torso bowing out on one side now and then. Here's the explanation:
    "I have one leg about an inch and a half shorter than the other. When I was thirteen, I was run over by a big guy playing junior high football, and the right leg ended up a quarter-inch shorter. By my mid-twenties, it was a half-inch. Then in the Eighties, I had no money and was taking packed economy flights everywhere, night after night. The combination of that schedule and a fall I took dancing on an amplifier left me with my spine twisted and a slight limp."

"The Rolling Stone Interview: Iggy Pop," [which is excellent] by David Fricke,
Rolling Stone, April 19, 2007
Interview: Iggy Pop by Bret Gladstone, Pitchfork, August 13, 2007
"The Death Trip Supernova Of The Stooges," original source uncertain, partially reposted at The Stooges MySpace page
Iggy Pop interview on the Tom Snyder Show 1980, YouTube posted at NME
NNDB, Iggy Pop
IMDB, Iggy Pop
Wikipedia, Iggy Pop