Thursday, December 8, 2016

Days of Infamy!

Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, Evening, DuskYesterday, was December 7th.  The day Pearl Harbor was bombed 75 years ago.  Referred to as a Day of Infamy by Franklin Roosevelt, the president at the time.

There is one member of my family who was in Honolulu that Sunday morning when it happened.  He was only 17 and a senior in high school but he and so many others heard the bombings occur as Japanese planes flew over.

On Christmas day, he and the rest of his family left the Islands by ship to move to Washington  or Oregon where it was considered much safer.  Right after he graduated, he joined the navy and spent the rest of the war as a hospital corpsman.  His mother did her patriotic duty by working at Boeing, helping to build bombers.  She was one of those advertised as "Rosie the Riveter."

Fast forward to a day in September when the world was riveted to their televisions watching rerun after rerun of planes crashing into the World Trade Towers.  Anyone who was old enough remembers where they were when it happened.  We didn't have to wait for the news to flash across the radio.  We saw it right after the event.

I signed onto my computer to chat with a friend or two who asked me if I'd heard?  Of course I said "heard what?". At that point, they insisted I turn the television on and I was stunned with the news.  I taught at a community college so when I went in, everyone was trying to listen to the news.  The IT department provided regular updates but people were in disarray.

I had a friend who had flown to Boston for training and it was several days before I heard anything from here.  One of my students had family who were out touring New York at the time of the bombing.  It was several weeks before they were found in the hospital because other family members had to fly there and actually visit the hospitals one by one  until they found the unconscious person.  They were standing near the towers when the whole thing went down.

A co-workers husband was working in a building near the tower.  He could not leave the place until they got everything under control and as a journalist, he needed to stay so he could report on it.  In addition, I lost several students who disappeared without notice due to being called up.  The community college refunded their tuition for that semester due to having to serve for several months.

In a sense, this second event, 9/11 is my generation's day of Infamy due to the damage it did and due to the rallying effect it had.  The military had no trouble meeting quotas because eligible men rushed out to enlist just like after Pearl Harbor.  The two have so much in common including the loss of life.  I try to remember those who died in both attacks because most were innocent and did nothing to deserve having a life cut short.

Have a nice day.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Yogurt

Yogurt, Fruit, Vanilla, Strawberries  I love yogurt but sometimes shopping for it can be hard because there are so many different types to choose from.  Due to where I live, I look for the types I can use out as starter or I buy starter from a couple of different companies.

Recently, I've seen yogurts made from non-dairy milk, in addition to the regular ones so what is the difference among all of them.  Are they all healthy?

First you have to look at fat content for regular yogurt.  There are three classifications of yogurt in this group.  First is regular yogurt which is made from whole milk and must have at least 3.25 percent milk fat.  Next is low fat yogurt made from low-fat or part skim milk and has a milk fact content of between .5 and 2 percent.  Last is the non-fat yogurt made from skim milk with a content of less than .5 percent milk fat.

Since most of the low fat and non-fat yogurts are unable to thicken on their own, some sort of thickener such as pectin, gelatin, or carrageenan (made from seaweed) is used to make it look like regular yogurt.

In addition there are other ways to classify yogurt and that is by the type.  Recently, there has been an increase in  Greek yogurt so you can find it in most stores.  They say Greek yogurt is thicker due to it being strained before use, or because it has a higher milk fat content.  I've used some as starter for my yogurt at home and its come out quite thick.

According to one article, you have to be careful when buying the Greek yogurt because some companies are adding a thickener to it.  This type of yogurt is said to be better to cook with because it does not become as thin and runny as regular yogurt.

Another style of yogurt we see is Balkan or set style where the mix is placed in containers and left to incubate so it creates a thick texture while Swiss or stirred style and is stirred while incubation is taking place to give the final product a nice creamy texture. 

In regard to the non-diary yogurt, the liquid requires a thickener to actually set it.  There are vegan starters from places like Cultures for Health which can be used to make yogurt from non-dairy milks but these are one time use packets and cannot be reused like regular yogurt.

I've been told by friends you can use a regular yogurt starter with non-diary milks but you need to add sugar so as to give the bacteria something to eat.  I do not know if it works at all.  I plan to try it sometime with I have a moment.  I have read that its best to use homemade nut milks because the commercial ones may have additives which interfere with the process.

If anyone has experience making their own non-dairy yogurt, I'd love to hear from you.  When I get a chance to experiment, I'll let you know how it goes. 

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Zombies Live!

Game Asset Call, Halloween, MonsterZombies seem to be everywhere you look right now. They appear in books, movies, and even songs.  Everywhere!  There have been books written on zombie brains, zombie gardening, zombie knitting, and other topics.

The idea that zombies exist has been around since the 8th century in the Congo and can be found in several different cultures. As far as humans go, there are a few movies and shows which have people turning into zombies due a disease but in reality zombies do not exist but there are zombies in nature.

 Certain species of ants can turn into zombies!  Imagine that! There exists a fungus whose parasitic nature allows it to manipulate the brains of these species of ants.  The fungus only releases its mind controlling chemicals to the proper host.

The fungus uses the to complete its life cycle. The ants encounter the fungal spores while foraging  for food.  The spores transfer into the ant where they invade the body.   When the infection reaches the brain, chemicals are released and take over the ant's central nervous system forcing the ant to clamp down on a leaf or twig.  At this point the fungus kills the ant and forces a stalk to grow out of the ant's head. When its ready, the stalk releases more spores to infect more ants.

The fungus itself is only attracted to one or two varieties of carpenter ants found in South America.  Research indicates that if an infected ant stays in the nest, the fungus in unable to develop either due to conditions not being right or because they are thrown out by healthy ants.  It appears the fungus also drives the infected ants out so they can get to a place where the fungus is able to reproduce.

 It is possible the idea for a plague spreading through the land and turning people into zombies might have come from these creatures or its possible its extrapolated from the fact that people infected with rabies often appear totally insane due to its effects on the central nervous system.

If this virus mutated so the incubation period was shortened to a day or two and it became airborne rather than transmitted through bites, it could produce zombie like creatures. Don't worry at this point in time it is extremely difficult to genetically engineer such a virus which means it would be even more difficult to take over the world using this.

So the next time you watch the Walking Dead or World War Z, rest assured that there is no plague or virus out there to make these scenarios true.  Enjoy and let me know what you think.


Monday, December 5, 2016

Running AwayTo Join the Circus!

Circus, Marquee, Circus Tent, Show  Do you remember when you were little and you decided to run away from home?  Where did you want to run?  Was it to the next block?  Or grandma's house? Or perhaps even the circus?  I don't think I ever made it past the end of the block.  Its hard to go anywhere when you have a big black Great Dane trailing you when you try to run away from home.

There was a movie years ago that starred Elizabeth Montgomery in which she played a person who ran away to the circus and made it there but times have changed.

The circus has only been around since the mid 18th century but the big top is a bit younger having come into use in the 1830's.  For a very long time, the circus traveled from town to town, stopping to put on a show for a few days before moving on.  It was a time when you could disappear and reinvent yourself as someone else.  It was a time when you did not need social security cards, birth certificates, or any of the Identification we must carry in today's world.

The circus offers the outsider a wonderful illusion of daring, of exposure to the exotic and strange, while making the whole experience safe. How often did anyone see elephants or bearded women in the past?  What about those trapeze artists who could fly through the air and be caught in such a way that you released a held breath before cheering in admiration at their skill.

The illusion was strong and inviting because people would escape their lives by running away with the circus in the hopes of finding a better or different life. It was sheer escapism but I'm sure those who did join the circus discovered it was tarnished and not as glorious as they thought.

I tried to find out where this phrase came from but could not.  I found lots of articles on how to join the circus now but only if you have certain skills and if the circus wants you.  I don't even know if circuses still come to town and pitch the big top or if those have gone but the memories are there for those who grew up with the circus held in a field somewhere and not at the convention center. 

Let me know what you think!



Friday, December 2, 2016

History of Wedding Rings

Ring, Wedding, Wedding Rings, Marriage  We've all attended weddings where one or both participants exchange rings.  Traditionally, the ring is placed on the fourth finger of the left hand (counting the thumb as one) but have you ever wondered where that tradition came from?

Out in this part of Alaska, many people exchange carved ivory rings rather than ones made of diamonds or metal.  Historically, it is believed rings were made of leather, ivory, or bone.

The belief associated with these rings was simply the more expensive the material the more the man loved her and the wealthier he was.  It wasn't until the Romans that the idea of ownership came into being.  When he gave her a ring, it meant he "claimed" her.  At the time, rings were made of iron because it represented strength and permanence. It is also believed they were the first to engrave rings.

Around 860 AD, Christians began using rings in wedding ceremonies but they were extremely decorated and the church didn't like that. So by the 13th century, rings became plainer and more appropriate as a symbol to represent a union of hearts.

Although rings have been worn on different fingers including the thumb there are several theories out on why the ring is worn on the fourth finger of the left hand.
1.  The tradition came from the Romans who placed the ring on the fourth finger because it was thought the finger contained a vein of love directly connected to the heart but this vein idea is false.

2.  In early Christian marriages, the priest started with the thumb saying "In the name of the Father", the first finger "the Son", the second finger "And the Holy Spirit", and slid the ring on the third finger or ring finger with the Amen.

3. Since most modern rings are made of gold which is a soft metal, it is less likely to be damaged because most of the world is right handed.

I don't know which is true, perhaps all of them are but I found it quite interesting to see the various thoughts on why we wear the ring on the ring finger.  Let me know what you think.