Friday, November 28, 2008

Thanksgiving Dinner: Turkey; Dressing; and Lefse

I'd always assumed that the "turkey coma" after Thanksgiving dinner was caused by the turkey. Someone told me that it was the tryptophan in the turkey that did it, which sounded very scientific.

Then, I poked around a little on the Web, and read that L-tryptophan has to be taken on an empty stomach to make someone drowsy. Whatever else you can call the typical Loonfoot Falls stomach after Thanksgiving dinner, “empty” isn't even close.

The same place that wrote about L-tryptophan claimed that something other than turkey might explain that relaxed, if bloated, feeling we get. They could be right.

I did some checking around, and this would be a fairly typical main meal on Thanksgiving day:
  • Turkey
    • Cranberry sauce
    • Stuffing
    • Gravy
  • Lefse
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Mashed potatoes
  • Mashed sweet potatoes
  • Yams
  • Baked potatoes
  • Dumplings
  • More Gravy
  • Buttered lefse
  • Corn on the cob
  • Peas and carrots
  • More turkey
    • And stuffing
    • And cranberry sauce
  • Gravy, again
  • Another helping of
    • Mashed potatoes
    • gravy
    • and dumplings
  • Buttered lefse with sugar and cinnamon
  • Another helping of turkey
    • Can't let the dressing go to waste
    • Cranberry sauce: you have to have cranberry sauce with turkey
  • More corn on the cob
  • And apple, pumpkin, or pecan pie
    • More likely, all three
Come to think of it, maybe it is all the food we eat.

Finally: in praise of lefse. It's the Norwegian version of potato flatbread: thin, flexible, pale with brown spots, and delicious by itself. Buttered, even better. Add sugar and cinnamon, it's a desert.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Porta Potty Maintenance: It's a Dirty Job, But Somebody's Gotta Do it

You've seen them at construction sites and outdoor events. You may even have used one. This week, it's time for a tip of the hat to porta potties, and the people who provide them. Particularly Patrick Tucker, the "Pat" in "Porta Potty Pat."

Mr. Tucker has been setting up porta potties in much of Grimm and Reynard Counties for the last ten years. He hadn't planned on going into porta potties when he was in high school. "I sort of fell into it," he told me.

Owning a porta potty service isn't exactly glamorous. "You say ‘hi, I set up porta potties,' and they pull their hand back," Pat recalled.

His product isn't most people's idea of a pleasant spot, either. "You know how it is," Pat told me. "People see a porta potty and think ‘I can wait.'"

"It's the smell, mostly," Pat said. "One of my units can go about a week before needing service. Say I put set it up Monday. By Friday, with about ten guys tramping in and out, it's going to have a real personality."

A lot of what Pat told me was pretty technical: like licensing requirements, having to be sure that 5% of porta potties on a site have to be wheelchair-accessible, and what's involved in that weekly servicing. And, I did some reading at an industry website.

I think I'm developing a sort of respect for the porta potty. And, more to the point, for the people who keep them running.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Moe Skeeto: Four-Foot Mosquito of Loonfoot Falls

Minnesotans sometimes brag about the size of this state's mosquitoes. Some even claim that the mosquito is, or should be, the Minnesota state bird. One town, Effie, has a six-foot metal mosquito on display.

Moe Skeeto isn't the biggest mosquito sculpture in Minnesota, but he's incredibly lifelike. Except for the size. Moe's wingspan is roughly four feet. That's a little big, even for Minnesota mosquitoes.

Moe took up residence last week in the building formerly occupied by Haskell's Corner Drug. He's the creation of Andrea Nelson, who mounted him on the store's ceiling last week. A native of Loonfoot Falls, she now owns an art studio in the metro.

Haskell's Corner Drug closed just over a year ago when Andrew Haskell decided that he'd rather be fishing, and sold the property to one of the Baum cousins, I figured that he'd tear the place down and put up something more contemporary.

Instead, waves of electricians, plumbers, glaziers and building inspectors washed over the place. Elton Baum had plans for that building: and for the store's original ice cream counter and pharmacy desk. They had been collecting dust in the basement since the 1950s.

Mr. Baum plans to open an 'old fashioned drug store' next spring. Complete with the corner drug's original ice cream counter. He thinks that vacationers will enjoy sitting down for a few minutes, having a malt, or ice cream, or coffee and a sandwich.

Some may come in just to see Moe Skeeto. Loonfoot Falls' four-foot mosquito.

The Gremlin in the Machine

One thing that separates Stan Parks from your run-of-the-mill IT expert and computer consultant is that he doesn't know everything.

And, admits it.

I know enough about information technology to strongly suspect that some 'experts' are either clueless, or assume that the rest of us are. Years ago, at one of my first jobs, I overheard a technician tell my boss (this was before I worked at the Chronicle-Gazette) that data had gotten "stuck in the cable."

That sounded like a good explanation for why data sent to the printer would drop out of sight, only to re-emerge later. Often, when special paper had been loaded.

Problem is, the cable was an inert piece of metal wire and plastic insulation, with a plug at each end. How data could get "stuck" in there - and come out undamaged - is beyond me. I think the tech was pulling my bosses leg. Or, covering his own lack of knowledge.

Anyway, Stan still doesn't know what caused the latest problem with our network. It's working now, after Stan did a cold boot, using a backed-up copy of the system from a couple weeks ago. That's not what Stan said: I'm translating it into English.

Why it went nuts, Stan doesn't know: and told us. He's taking data he pulled out when it was a little psycho, and says he'll see what he can learn from it.

At this point, I'm almost ready to believe that there really were gremlins in the building.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Technical Difficulties and the IT Guy

I still like Stan Parks. He's the one who installed the Chronicle-Gazette's network.

I'm beginning to think he should get more sleep, though.

There's a good reason why you haven't seen last Friday's column online. I still can't log in. Even if I could, it probably wouldn't do much good. Candace Kane let me use her computer, after logging in, to get some work done: including that column.

Everything else went fine. In fact, I uploaded the column without any trouble.

Then, it disappeared.

The column, I mean. Candace's computer is fine.

Stan has been working since very early Saturday morning, trying to find out why the Chronicle-Gazette's new Frisco-Shamrock Envirowarp computers, and the Vacnet Local Area Network that connects them, had a psychotic break late Friday. And, fix it.

Someone here in the office suggested a crudely mechanical means of dealing with the issue. I sympathize, but Mr. Johnson's old pedestal fan might have been damaged in the process, so we dissuaded him.

Back to Stan.

I'd say that he hasn't slept since he arrived at the Chronicle-Gazette offices, early Saturday morning: but when I came in, early, Monday, to pick up some equipment, I heard snoring in Mr. Johnson's office.

It was Stan Parks, sitting at the Vacnet console. The monitor was displaying a 'progress' bar.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Technical Difficulties and This Columnist

I like Stan Parks. He's a great guy: smart, diligent, and all that.

I'm beginning to wonder if he ever sleeps.

My telephone rang at about 2:15 Saturday morning. It was Stan. He was in the Chronicle-Gazette offices, getting up close and personal with our network. Seems it had decided to replace the current online version of the paper with articles that had no headlines, were datelined November 17, 2006, and were blank after that.

One more thing: my column was gone. Stan wanted me to know, so that I could re-post it. Good idea, actually.

Only one problem: I couldn't log in. I call Stan, let him know, and try to get back to sleep. About 9:00 Saturday morning, the phone rang again. It was Stan, asking me to try again.

Same result. Or, rather, lack of a result.

That went on all weekend. I've gotten on the network now, obviously, but the system won't let me upload anything.

That's it. I'm done for now. I've got an assignment tomorrow morning, and I have got to get some sleep.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

We are Experiencing Technical Difficulties: Please Stand By

Thank you for your patience, while normal service is restored on the Loonfoot Falls Chronicle-Gazette website.

-Stan Parks, IT Consultant

Saturday, November 8, 2008

The Remarkable Vision of Dillon Johnson, Interior Designer

The internationally-known interior designer, Dillon Johnson (no relation to the Mr. Johnson who signs my paycheck) was born in Eagle Bay, then lived and worked for several years in Loonfoot Falls before starting his colorful career.

He told me that he was about to quite trying to break into interior design, back in 1974. "Krantz Paint and Supply was a good place to work, but they weren't ready for someone with my sort of vision," Dillon Johnson explained. "I'm grateful, though, to old Mr. Krantz. He's the one who introduced me to Leopold."

After touring a house that Dillon Johnson had worked on, Leopold of New York insisted that this "creative genius" join Chez Leopold's Villa de Supercherie in New York's Soho district.

Loonfoot Falls and Eagle Bay didn't see much of Dillon after that, but we saw his name quite a bit in magazines: long articles about his "indescribable juxtaposition of tonalities," and photos of his work in celebrity lifestyle magazines.

For over three decades, Dillon Johnson commanded top dollar for his talents. From New York City, to Europe and the Orient, Dillon Johnson left his mark around the world: including the mauve and mustard Vandermark salon in Long Island; his rose, cyan, and chartreuse makeover of England's Bedford Parva Abbey; and his famous mural in Tokyo's Ginza, with its yellow cherry blossoms.

Dillon Johnson retired last year. He gave the Loonfoot Chronicle-Gazette the honor of revealing to the world the secret of his unforgettable style.

He's color blind.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

A Halloween Story, Conclusion

In the late fifties, in a town near Chicago, five college boys heard about the old Seely place.

One of the college boys was an accomplished amateur actor, and the one they called "Ghost Boy" believed in ghosts. The sensible ones decided to spend Halloween night in the Seely place.

I wrote about Amos Seely last week, and the story that he haunted his old house, looking for someone to release him.

At the last minute, the actor said that he had to go to Chicago for the night. He would drive back before midnight, dress up as Amos Seely, and put on a performance.

An autumn storm roared into town minutes after they arrived. Lightning, thunder and howling wind set a eerie mood. Then the power went out.

Ghost Boy had brought a flashlight, which was almost enough to light the room.

Down the hall, they heard a faint thump-clank-drag coming closer. A pale figure, bound in chains, entered the room. "Release me!" he cried, holding a huge, old iron lock, with a key stuck in it.

"Release me!" he cried again.

Ghost Boy, shaking, walked up to the apparition, and turned the key. The lock snapped open. Chains fell from the figure's arms and legs.

"Thank you!" he intoned, slowly striding back down the hall.

The lights came back on. The telephone rang. It was the young actor. His car had broken down. He was quite apologetic: there was no way that he could make it in time.
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