Steve Woods

Archive for September, 2009|Monthly archive page

Chewing Gum : A Short History

In What Day is it? on September 30, 2009 at 9:00 pm
Tree sap - Yum?

Tree sap - Yum?

It has always mystified me, the concept that what I am eating, at some point in our past, had never been eaten before.  Each and every little bit of food, every tiny delicacy savored, had to be tried, for the very first time, by someone.  Throughout our gastronomic history, our species has been populated with adventurous men and women who, after coming across a foreign substance stuck to a tree, under a rock, behind a bush or in a cave, thought to themselves, “I’ll put that in my mouth.”

Early history

The Ancient Greeks moved aside the bark of the mastic trees on the island of Chios, and grew fond of the flavor of the resinous sap they found therein, discovering that it kept their breath fresh as it cleaned their teeth.  How often have you seen something dribbling from a bush and thought you’d chew it for awhile?

The Greek physician and botanist Dioscorides decried the “curative” powers of the mastic resin.  Mastic was combined with beeswax to soften it, and the mix moved to the Middle East.  Did you know that the Greek Word mastiche, the root of the word masticate (or chew) comes from the mastic plant?

In the Second Century, the Mayans discovered the joys of chewing the sap of the Sapodilla tree, called chicle. These trees grow to over 100 feet tall, and were typically allowed to grow for 25 years prior to tapping for the resin every few years. Different tree saps appealed to different indigenous peoples. After felling spruce trees, early Native Americans discovered they could safely chew on the resin inside, and passed this little joy to the American colonists.  The practice of chewing spruce resin continued into the early 1800s, until paraffin wax grew in popularity as a chewable.

Introduction to America

After a sore defeat in Texas to the American forces, Mexican General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna was exiled to Staten Island, New York.  He took along with him a great deal of chicle, because he thought he could parlay its use as a rubber substitute for the Americans.

The Blackjack Brand

The Blackjack Brand

Inventor and photographer Thomas Adams met General Santa Anna and began experimenting with the substance as a possible alternative to rubber, which was difficult to come by at the time.   Adams tried over and over to vulcanize the chicle, to no avail.  Remembering that Santa Anna chewed the gum for enjoyment, Adams processed the substance to make it more pliable, formed it and cut it into chunks, selling it as a chew. Business was good, so Adams built and patented a gum-making machine, selling a flavorless chicle-based concoction called New York No. 1.

Compounding on this early success, Adams added licorice flavor to his gum, and called in Black Jack, the very first gum sold in sticks.  The gum was extremely popular, but did not hold its flavor for long.  Of course, this meant that fans of Black Jack had to buy a lot to keep in good supply…

Black Jack chewing gum sold well into the 1970s, and made a comeback in the late 1980s as a novelty gum.  Adam’s original company merged with others, becoming known as the American Chicle Company, where Adams invented the popular Chiclets brand.  The American Chicle Company is now part of the Cadbury Group.

Making something good better

In 1880 William White ordered some chicle, and began experimenting with a variety of flavorings, including peppermint.  He added sugars and corn syrup to the chicle mix, which seemed to greaten the enjoyment and extend the flavor for a greater period of time.  With the advent of good flavorings, chicle-based gums took the market over from both spruce and paraffin.  By 1893, the William Wrigley Company began selling Spearmint and Juicy Fruit.

Dubble Bubble Gum

Dubble Bubble Gum

The ever-popular and fun gumball made its appearance in the early 1900s.  In 1906, Frank Fleer figured out how to make gum more pliable and soft, inventing the very first bubble gum, called Blibber-Blubber.  This product, however, never came to market.  Walter Diemer discovered and retooled Fleer’s formula, enjoying commercial success with his brand Dubble Bubble, in 1928.

Since the 1920’s a variety of tree resins have been used to make chewing gums, including the lechi, caspi, sorva, nispero, tunui and jelutong trees, trees spanning the globe from Central and South America, North America, Indonesia and Borneo.  The last chewing gum brand in America to use chicle was Glee.

How chewing gum is made

The modern manufacturing process has introduced man-made resins and waxes and greatly increased the pleasure of the chewing experience. Sugars, special flavorings and other fillers are added together and mixed in with the melted gum base, and softeners depending on whether or not the gum will be used for bubbling. Sticks are scored and cut, spray-coated with super fine powdered sugar, and let sit for 2 days in a climate-controlled environment. Gum balls are coated with colored sugars mixed with beeswax or man-made waxes.

Other chewing gum facts

So much history behind this bubble...

So much history behind this bubble...

According to Wrigley’s Inc., chewing gum increases your focus, helps you lose weight if used to replace high-calorie dessert foods (only 10-15 calories per stick of average gum,) and relieves stress, among other benefits.

The American Dental Association says chewing a low-cal gum after every meal greatly reduces tooth decay because the increased saliva delivers with it flouride, calcium and phosphate to your teeth.

There are hundreds of brands of chewing gum all over the World, with at least 50 popular brands in the U.S. alone.

In 2004, a popular eBay attraction was ABC (already-been-chewed) gum that was purported to once belong to pop star Britney Spears. Pieces sold for up to $150.00 each.

Swallowing chewing gum is relatively harmless. Your body will not digest it, but as with all indigestibles, it will be passed through your body. That said, if you constantly swallow your gum, you increase the chances of one piece not getting passed, and becoming a Bezoar, or permanent stone in your digestive system.

How to Gain a Following : A Confucius Tale

In What Day is it? on September 29, 2009 at 1:17 pm

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“How would you like to get thousands of followers…..”

Today, like many other days on Twitter, I glanced over my new followers, and saw one telling the World that I could rapidly gain tons of new followers with little or no effort, by simply visiting a website and providing my login information….

Confucian Temple Ceremony

Confucian Temple Ceremony

This year in Taipei, Kung Tsui-Chang returns to Taiwan from college in Australia with an ancient purpose. The 79th lineal descendant of Confucius, Kung will oversee ceremonies as the Sacrificial Official at the Confucian Temple. This temporary title is ancient, held exclusively by male descendants; however, with the passing of the Gender Equality Act in 2004, someday we shall see a woman holding this post and overseeing the celebrations on this momentous day. Although Kung is 24 and has only recently procured a job in Taiwan, he will likely follow in his departed grandfather’s footsteps as Senior Advisor to the Taiwanese President Ma Ying-Jeou.

“With coarse rice to eat, with water to drink, and my bended arm for a pillow – I have still joy in the midst of these things.”

Born on October 18, 551 BCE to a family that had recently fled the turmoil in the Song Province of China to the community of Qufu, Confucius grew up in extreme poverty and hardship. As a young man, he took on menial tasks such as herding livestock, while fervently studying Daoist philosophy and the lute. He learned the value of hard work and perseverance, qualities that would take him far later in life…

“He who speaks without modesty will find it difficult to make his words good.”

Confucius in a traditional painting

Confucius in a traditional painting

In his twenties Confucius began formulating his own personal philosophies, quietly expressing them to those he engaged in conversation. A group of devoted followers, or disciples, began to form around him. Enjoying his wisdom, they encouraged Confucius to go into politics, in order to more greatly help others in need in the community. Confucius was said to be a man of few words, living his life in a relatively unassuming manner, until an injustice pulled him to speak up politically on behalf of those he served. When he felt a need to express his thoughts at the temple or Court, he spoke strongly, albeit choosing his words with great care.

“Virtue is not left to stand alone. He who practices it will have neighbors.”

At the age of fifty, Confucius’ wisdom and political talents were recognized, and he was appointed Minister of Public Works for the Province of Lu. He did well at this position, and was promoted to the position of Minister of Crime. His pursuit of justice in this position offending many in power, and Confucius found himself forced into exile, his faithful disciples by his side on his travels, many of which became the stuff of legend and myth.

“I am not one who was born in the possession of knowledge; I am one who is fond of antiquity, and earnest in seeking it there.”

Classes held by Confucius

Classes held by Confucius

In 484 BCE Confucius was able to return to Lu, founding the Ru School of Chinese thought. Although surrounded by a populace still held apart by an iron-clad ranking system, Confucius never refused a student based on societal status. All that a student needed to take part in learning was a deep desire to do just that. Considering himself to be a transmitter of ideals long-established before him, Master Confucius added to the traditional belief that our lives were predetermined, the additional warning that we are all responsible for our actions and treatment of others. The statement that he was merely passing on ancient and obvious values made his philosophy easy to accept; however, much of what Confucius taught was radical, an extreme departure from previous streams of thought.

“To be able under all circumstances to practice five things constitutes perfect virtue; these five things are gravity, generosity of soul, sincerity, earnestness and kindness.”

Confucius’ philosophy centered around the concept of Ren, or “compassion,” a philosophy lived best through self-deprecation, casting off self-aggrandizement for the mantle of simplicity in thought, action and speech. The society that embraced Confucius’ line of thinking was one wherein the most humble of men and women, the ones whose lives were lived in support of those around them and the greater society, were to be the most respected. Confucius taught that those in power must not oppress those they served, nor take them for granted.

Translated Confucian writing

Translated Confucian writing

Confucius began writing his most famous works: the Book of Songs, Book of Documents, and many others. It was during this latter period of his life that Confucius began to associate himself with an even deeper sense of spiritualism. He collaborated with many authors on a variety of spiritual topics, earning his position as spiritual leader and predecessor to countless Chinese philosophers, religious leaders, historians, scholars and teachers. Despite the largely-held belief of the time that knowledge was imparted to the people by wise ancient Spirits, Confucius held fast to the philosophy that true wisdom was achieved through voluminous study, discussion and experience. It is this ethic that has forevermore fastened the label of Sage under his visage and memory.

Although largely ignored by the masses during his 72-year life, only after death was the value of Confucius’ wisdom truly noted. By the end of the 4th Century BCE, it was agreed that had Confucius’ wisdom been duly recognized during his lifetime, he would’ve been a king. Confucius’ influence on Eastern culture has been compared by scholars as comparable to that of Socrates on Western civilization. Confucianism was China’s state religion until 1912, with the birth of the People’s Republic of China.

“Since you yourself desire standing then help others achieve it, since you yourself desire success then help others attain it.”

There are a variety of methods to gain a following in one’s life, whether at work, at school, at play or here in social media. The one that contains the greatest reward is in supporting those you meet on your journey, helping them to grow and connect with others. Take guidance from Confucius himself, and be modest and supporting in your statements and actions, treating all equally. Make your friends successful; help them get a foothold in life, and they will follow you through any storm or fire….

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Etchings and Sketchings : A Short History of the Comic Book

In What Day is it? on September 25, 2009 at 12:35 pm
Anasazi Cave Drawing

Anasazi Cave Drawing

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Over the barely visible rising steam of sleeping, tangled bodies, rolled into each other as a barrier against the cold morning air, the quiet scrawling was barely perceptible, a long whispering scrutching. Breath held, hoping to not add one more sound over the quiet snores nearby, he moved the stone carefully, as his narrowed eyes flittering left and right, wanting to see how the new figure would fit with the previous ones.  It was so hard to hold his breath, quiet slow gasps escaping his lips, as his heart pumped joyously in the excitement, in the memory of the hunt….

Our earliest known manifestations of comic book-like narrative began in France, some 32,000 years ago, rough prehistoric cave carvings, typically portraying the men and animals involved in massive hunting exhibitions, proud boastings of early organization and success.  Soon thereafter color was introduced to the etchings, bringing them to life even now.

The ancient Egyptians, through the use of hieroglyphics, began the tradition of linear story-telling by placing images alongside each other with a narrative. Military defeats, rises and falls from power and glory, tragedy and triumph were reawakened through the almost-magical working of stone. And color, brilliant color, brought the story to life…

The use of illustration to tell a narrative has never been the fodder of limited intelligence or juvenility; rather, stories told through the magic of a skilled artist have caught the continuing attentions of other artisans, collegians, world leaders as well as the populace in general, learned and unlearned.  The gifts of Michelangelo and Da Vinci have eternally moved our hearts with a single frame….

The Yellow Kid, #1

The Yellow Kid, #1

We can trace the origins of the modern-day comic book to Richard Fenton Outcalt’s work, The Yellow Kid, circa 1896. Using the traditions of his artistic predecessors, Richard added on an extremely important graphic device – the balloon. He reserved areas devoid of background imagery, and wrote in text spoken by the characters. Suddenly, the individual cartoon images of his time became short graphic novels, of sorts. The reader had to then add a voice in his mind to match the character, which was only a synapse or two away from imagining motion, background noise, smells, and what might lie beyond the drawn square. It moved us from the happy stare to the desire to see what would occur next.  In other words, our minds were now set in motion, our imaginations lit on fire…

The first comic books tended to maintain a humorous tone, hence the very early adoption of the word “comic” when describing them.  Light-hearted comic books began to gain popularity in Italy, France, Japan and Portugal, among other countries with largely literate populaces and cheap printing presses.

During the Great Depression, not only a desire for old-fashioned humor but also escapism from the travails of daily life moved the comic book into the realm of adventure.  Flash Gordon and Dick Tracy comics gained prominence, as well as Prince Valiant and the Phantom, as we were brought out of the misery to take part in saving others on the street, forest, and netherworlds. Overseas, the adventurous Tintin took a foothold in Belgium, and soon therafter, the Superhero emerged…

Action Comics #1 - Superman

Action Comics #1 - Superman

The first Superman comic book was introduced through the Action Comics series, on June 30, 1938. Afterward and through 1945, over 400 comic book heroes were introduced trying to capitalize on Superman’s successful formula, but most faded away due to a lack of interest in establishing relationships with so many others. We were a illustratively monogamous bunch. The character Batman was introduced in 1939, developing a slow but steady following.  When Captain America was introduced, the cover featured him fighting Adolf Hitler, an outlet for American children to believe that a patriotic superhero was helping their fathers (and mothers) in the battle against the Axis Powers .

During the somber and defensive era of McCarthyism, comic books also took a blow to the gut, after Psychiatrist Freferic Wertham wrote The Seduction of the Innocent, accusing comics of corrupting our youth, inciting them to mimic the violence therein. From this, a code of conduct for comic book writers called the Comics Code Authority was introduced, decimating a number of popular titles and/or the characters therein, saddening their devoted yet silently brooding fans.

During the 1950 and 1960s, Marvel Comics emerged with a rapidly growing fanbase following the exploits of The Fantastic Four, The Incredible Hulk, The X-Men, and Spiderman. It is interesting to note that the SuperHeroes that emerged during the period held in check by the most stringent period of the Comics Code Authority are dominating the film industry of today…

The sexual revolution of the 1970s began spicing things up in the comic book industry, as Barbarella made her scantily clad appearance in stores, and Conan the Barbarian made us all seem so puny in the mirror. Society’s mores were questioned, authority condemned, violence enacted for the sake of justice, and sex was rampant.  In comic books too!  In the later 70’s as Rock music began its rapid march to take over the buttons in the local jukebox, Heavy Metal made its way into many a teenager’s hand (and under his mattress, safely away from Mom’s glance.)

The comic book took a bit of a dark turn during the 1970s, some say beginning with the murder of Spiderman’s girlfriend, Gwen Stacy, by the villainous Green Goblin. Superheroes began to appear more human, with frailties, despite skin as hard as diamonds.  Superheroes could be challenged, beat, or stamped into utter misery, if the proper lever could be found. After Stan Lee agreed to write a three-part Spiderman series decrying drug use, the Comics Code Authority began to lessen its influence over the industry, allowing drug use to be mentioned, as long as it was in a negative way. The Comics Code was soon loosened further, allowing writers to include otherworldly creatures such as ghosts, vampires and werewolves in their story lines; Swamp Thing and Ghost Rider emerged in response.

The Dark Knight

The Dark Knight

Today’s comic books (and graphic novels) have almost all of the complexity of any major piece of literature, albeit portrayed in richly drawn detail, and obviously with far, far fewer words.  Independent publishers of comic fare such as Pacific, Eclipse and First challenged the powerhouses of comicdom. In response to the challenge, Superman was revamped, Wonder Woman became sexier, and Batman got a complete makeover, cape, car, muscles and all.  The emphasis was on creating an iconic art piece on every page, replete with a storyline that absolutely could not be put down. These are not your father’s comics, as the cynicism of the 1980s and advent of modern Psychology brought with it enhanced character development in the comic world.

Our faithful SuperHeroes no longer battle evil in a quest for simple goodness or for a better America, in response to an almost cellular sense of Patriotism.  The new Men and Women of Steel and Gotham simply have a deep, undeniable psychological desire to crush the criminal, often in reponse to a wrong they suffered or witnessed during their formative years.  And the villains have followed suit, rising to this challenge by transforming from bad guys into psychologically challenged menaces of society, bent on ever-increasing destruction.

Oh, to be able to put a fresh copy of The Dark Knight into the hands of that young man so many thousands of years ago, to see what he would think as his eyes scanned the pages, recognition on his face to the eternal symbols of fear, love, joy and hate, dropping his sharp stone and slowly sitting down next to his sleeping family, comic book in hand…

Social Media and the Age of the Electronic Ape

In What Day is it? on September 24, 2009 at 12:34 pm

nov-el-ty (nŏv’Əl-tē) n., pl. ties. 1. The quality of being novel : newness. 2. Something new or unusual. 3. novelties. Small inexpensively produced items, as souvenirs or toys.           – Websters

novelty – the state of being new or novel; newness; a new product; an innovation; a small mass-produced trinket; in novelty theory, newness, density of complexification, and dynamic change as opposed to static habituation.        – Wikipedia (once considered a novelty)

We still love these...

We still love these...

Andrew Brown, a writer for The Guardian newspaper in the UK, stated in an article just seven months ago that when a friend of his asked what Twitter was useful for, his reply to her was “it was wonderful for people without offices to go to or wives to bore.”

In his defense, Mr. Brown has never stated himself to be a social media seer, so Twitterphiles should not fault him for this somewhat limiting statement. In fact, many would likely agree with him. In the past year, I doubted Twitter’s usefulness a few times, until I took the time to participate fully.  Many of my friends still share the sentiment embodied in Mr. Brown’s statement, simply refusing to even sneak a peek at Twitter’s steady stream of information, emotions, and media.  It’s disheartening to see it, and I look forward to their turn-around. I’ll keep trying…

What is a Novelty?

“Happiness ain’t a thing in itself. It’s only a contrast with something that ain’t pleasant. And so, as soon as the novelty is over and the force of the contrast dulled, it ain’t happiness any longer, and you have to get something fresh.” – Mark Twain

Novelty is best defined through the perception of each and every individual, based on the sum of their experiences, and their evolving personal tastes. What is new (and desirable) to you may be old-news (or even worthy of a trashcan) to another. We are besieged by novelty today. I would gather a guess that on your desk at home or in the office, if you swept your neck to and fro, you would find nestled among the books and crockery a number of novelties. We drive past shops teeming with new-to-us products, each one shouting at us with sexy neon print and indestructible packaging. Purveyors of food, clothing and electronica crawl over inventions and suppliers, always on the prowl for that which we are unaware of, in the hope they’ll catch a novelty that will someday become to us a need.  God bless ‘em.

Why Do We Love Novelties So?

“Novelty has charms that our minds can hardly withstand” – William Makepeace Thackeray

We were once a World of novelistic doubters, shaking our heads at the whimsies shoved before us. In 1878 the chief engineer at the Post Office in London said there would be no need for the telephone.  In 1977 the head of Digital Equipment said nobody would ever need a home computer. In 2005 Sir Alan Sugar declared the iPod dead on arrival. We seem to have turned the tide on our nay-saying, haven’t we?

Today our children (and many an adult) gallivant after one novelty or another, positively delighting in a find before others have stumbled upon it. For some, it is the glory of displaying ourselves as equally unique and brilliant as the find, in that we found it. For others, it is simply the joy of sharing new finds with others. Just how many times have I read an article entitled “What’s next after Twitter,” in the hope that someone might (finally) be right… Would-be young coding billionaires tap away in garages, dorm rooms, and back offices, hoping to come up with the answer to that question, yearning to discover a novel way to bring our steady stream of micro-information to advertisers and their marketing dollars. To us. In the search for the next big thing, have we found ourselves shouting through the gleaming, indestructible plastic too?

Is Social Media the Future of Novelty?

BBC News on Twitter

BBC News on Twitter

In his Guardian article, Mr. Brown goes on to say he further believed at the time that Twitter would not be “the future of news, or even marketing.”  He went on to note what he perceived as a dearth of ability to link one’s photos to Twitter, thereby limiting advertisers in their ability to amass loads of personal data about customers, and hampering the ability to target marketing appropriately to them.

Of course, any good Twitter user who witnessed the events unfolding in Iran many months ago knows that quite often the most current information, rich in still photograph and video media, can be found streaming by on their Twitter feed.   Anyone with a Twitter account anticipating watching the movies The Youngest Candidate or Spread has become familiar with Jason Pollock and Ashton Kutcher’s tweets (and subsequent retweets.) Twitter is rapidly becoming the source for information of all kinds. MediaPost News projects Twitter’s news coverage alone to be worth $48 Million (half of what Microsoft spent on advertising their new search engine Bing.)

The Electronic Ape?

“There is an incessant influx of novelty into the world, and yet we tolerate incredible dullness” – Henry David Thoreau

An even more interesting tidbit is found underneath Mr. Brown’s Guardian article, in the responses section. A replier to Mr. Brown states:

“Human evolved sociability is micro-gossiping….The human ape socially grooms by sharing small but many bits of chit-chat…..most of this grooming is not between close friends–our social group is much bigger and causal than that.

Twitter more than any other internet social tool creates the space for this innate human sociability. Brief social grab of attention. Move on to the next social piece of fruit. A different tree, a different person…Twitter enables us be true electronic apes.”

I spoke earlier about how social media has brought us back in time, as we redevelop the tribes we once lost, albeit social ones. Are we going even further back?  Do we find ourselves hunched over computers and smart phones, huddling for emotional closeness against the coming storm?

How long is the walk, in returning home?

How long is the walk, in returning home?

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A True Friend in Washington

In What Day is it? on September 23, 2009 at 1:45 pm

“The country at large takes a natural interest in the President’s dogs and judges him by the taste and discrimination he shows in his selection…. Any man who does not like dogs or does not want them about does not deserve to be in the White House.”

– AKC Gazette, circa 1924

“If you want a friend in Washington, get a dog.”

– Harry S. Truman

Past Famous Political Dogs

George Washington imported  foxhounds from England, and received a number of them as a gift from the Marquis de Lafayette of France. His 30 hounds became the predecessors of the modern day American Foxhound.

Ulysses Grant’s son Jesse fawned over his Newfoundland, “Faithful,” which unfortunately passed away. Wishing to protect his son’s emotional state during his Presidency, Grant told obtained another Newfoundland and promptly told his staff that if the dog died, “every employee in the White House will be at once discharged.”

Laddie Boy being shown a portrait of himself

Laddie Boy being shown a portrait of himself

Warren Harding, one day after his inauguration, received an Airedale Terrier named “Laddie Boy.” Harding’s first cabinet meeting was interrupted to deliver the puppy, who went on to own his very own hand-carved chair to relax in during future meetings. Laddie Boy was the first White House dog to receive formal press coverage in the media, sending out invites out to all dogs in houses neighboring the White House to celebrate his birthdays. All comers enjoyed a fine dog biscuit cake. Laddie Boy  was so well-known that his statue has been a fixture at the Smithsonian for some time. Smithsonian curators say of Laddie Boy, “There have been famous dogs since, but never anything like this.”

Lyndon Johnson’s Beagles “Him” and “Her” graced the cover of Life Magazine, and we all know Richard Nixon’s faithful Cocker Spaniel “Checker,s” who of course stayed by his side through thick and thin.  George Bush Sr.’s English Springer Spaniel “Millie” authored a dogobiography “Millie’s Book: As Dictated to Barbara Bush.”.

President Obama, in closely-held secrecy alongside, chose a black and white Portuguese Water Dog, as recompense for his daughters Malia and Sasha putting up with the rigors of campaigning.  Bo, a gift from his dearly departed friend Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, who owned several of them, has even graced the White House Blog.  Some have stated concern both with his not having previously owned a dog, and with how long it took for Obama to choose one.  If case you were wondering about the name, Michelle Obama’s father was nicknamed Diddley.

Why the Love Affair with Political Pooches?

Warren Harding previous to his Presidency, while editing The Marion Star newspaper, wrote: “Whether the Creator planned it so, or environment and human companionship have made it so, men may learn richly through the love and fidelity of a brave and devoted dog.”

Why do we care whether or not the leader of the Free World has a dog, and of what breed? Because many of us believe you can judge a man by his companions, and dogs are not excluded from this argument.  Perhaps we fear that a small, scared four-legged animal roaming the halls of Power will be evidence of a leader who consistently barks orders without due consideration to the outcome.

Great Dane or Chihuahua?

Great Dane or Chihuahua?

I for one prefer to see a majestic animal gracing the White House lawn, perhaps a quiet and thoughtful Dane or Doberman, overseeing all operations but restraining himself through proper training and intelligence.  I sincerely prefer this over some little, yappy member of the canine species, peering with fear over the deft, tight grip of our leader as he carries the animal past a shouting press, returning from helicopter jaunts.

Dogs That Have Ran for (and Held) Political Office

Whether as a protest vote or humorous ploy, dogs have indeed made it onto the ballot, and have even held elected office. Perhaps at times the populace has deemed the companion of our leaders more suitable than the men themselves?

In 2008, Molly the Dog, a Daschund from the state of Oklahoma, was named a candidate for the Presidency.  Her official campaign website is still up and running. Rabbit Hash, Kentucky has a mayoral office graced by the presence of a black Labrador named Junior Cochran. The mayoral seat is largely ceremonial in Rabbit Hash.  The Mayor of Sunol, California for a whopping 10 years was a black Labrador-Rotweiller mix named Bosco. It would seem that the majestic, faithful and friendly Labrador has won out in most political elections…

What your Dog Says About You

The President and Bo

The President and Bo

Forbes Magazine ran an interesting article in 2008, decrying the link between certain breeds of dogs and their owners demeanor. According to the American Kennel Club and the ASPCA Beagles (and thusly their owners) are  “inquisitive and willing to learn new things…constantly questioning.”  Cocker Spaniels (and their proud owners) are deemed “family oriented and nurturing…gentle, playful and sweet in demeanor.” Golden Retrievers and their owners are “social butterflies who prefer to be in group settings,” while Poodles and their owners are “detail-oriented and appreciate art and culture.” Hmm, don’t know about that last one, as it would be difficult to ascertain the level of art appreciation of a dog…

How Does this Translate to President Obama?

The AKC considers a Portuguese Water Dog to be “an animal of spirited disposition, self-willed, brave and very resistant to fatigue.”  If the dog one chooses decries much about their own personality, then President Obama, although taking a great deal of time to consider it, may shown us by his choice of Bo that he himself is what this Nation needs in a leader, as we continue to place further demands him to lead us out of emerging problems seemingly cropping up everywhere… Maybe Bo can help him dig us out…

But I still would’ve liked to have seen the image of a majestic Dane, quietly and patiently sauntering up at his own pace, as Air Force 2’s rotor blades chipped down to a slow mutter…

Social Media and the New Public Diary

In What Day is it? on September 22, 2009 at 11:32 am

“In the long history of humankind (and animal-kind too,) those who learned to collaborate and improvise most effectively have prevailed.” – Charles Darwin

Dear diary...

Dear diary...

In 2006 Susan Neri-Friedwalk of the New Behavior Institute declared this day to be Dear Diary Day, in the hopes that individuals would learn the healing value of journaling their thoughts. Susan believes, as many do, that to open yourself up, even in the most private manner of journaling, can help you figure out (and even overcome) the issues you perceive in your day-to-day life.

Why I Failed at Journaling Before…

I tried journaling many times in my life, but stopped for a variety of reasons.  When I was a young boy, I discovered that my diary was not always safe from prying eyes. There are few events more embarrassing than to have Mom questioning me as to the language I used in writing how I felt she was being unfair, or undergoing the sheer agony of my little sister caricaturing at the dinner table my feelings toward one cheerleader or another, for all to hear…

When I was a bit older, I tried once again to put thoughts down on paper, but lacked the perseverance to stick to it, as my fickle desires pulled me one way or another literally on a daily basis. And I am regretting that loss –  Oh, but to have had that wealth of emotion to pour over these days again, to see my soul when it lived just below the surface of the skin… Every love was a storm, every wrong word spoken a deep, endless wound… Would I be disappointed in my life’s accomplishments to date, if I could peruse once again my teenage hopes and dreams?  Would I spend hours rolling in laughter at myself?

Should I Begin a Journal Now?

Why should I consider starting again, to ponder the putting of pen to paper and peeling away the layers, page by page, day by day? According to Susan, “Journaling can help you work through many issues… “  Hey, I’ve been married and divorced twice. One of my daughters has Asperger’s Syndrome.  My lovely fiancée has three kids, one a high-functioning Autistic. We work full time, have busy after-work schedules, and strive to keep our extended families close. On top of this, I rarely pass up an opportunity to help a good cause in furthering their social media presence (think Aquathon… and I do have something even bigger in the works…) Yes, I have issues in my life. We all do.  It would likely help to be able to sort my frustrations, desires, happy moments, in a place where I can revisit, where I can escape…

What to write? How to start? Do I begin with any problems I have, recounting them like sticky pennies pulled from some dark pocket? Would it help to do so, and would it ultimately bring me to a more positive outcome? When Susan created this holiday, she added to the would-be journaler: “Often you discover that, although you begin with negatives, fears and doubts, as you continue writing you work through those thoughts and feelings and finish by feeling positive, strong, and hopeful. You often resolve the issue for yourself and feel better.” Boy, that sounds pretty good… but am I already doing this to some extent.

Social Media as the New Diary

Social media becoming the new diary?

Social media becoming the new diary?

Social media in many ways has replaced the personal journal. When I began using the Internet many years ago, I was warned over and over, to never, NEVER provide personal information. Never tell people who you were, never post a photo. Never tell people about your life, because they could use it against you later, or could steal your identity. All common sense safety measures aside, these tidbits of advice seem to have been thrown on their ear.

Today, we post the very things (albeit 140 – 160 characters at a time, blogging aside,) we would typically place in a written journal. For some of us, the most intimate details of our lives are typed in for all of our “followers” or “friends” to see. No more worrying about our little sister reading that we put on socks that don’t match the outfit, when we tell it to hundreds (or even thousands) of individuals all over the globe.

Collaborative Journaling through Social Media

The wonderful thing about social media is that our micro-blogged journal entries rapidly become collaborative tools for growth. If someone lets their friends know that they are dealing with something, quite often there is someone more than happy to provide support, as best they can, genuine in nature and often from hard life experience.  Got a joy to share? Once again, in that steady stream of information we discover someone more than willing to congratulate us. And the opportunities for reciprocity in this regard remain endless. We can reach out to more people than ever in life, if only for a few minutes… Often, in that minute, we grow a little more…

To be sure, many of us remain relatively guarded in what we say online, but we often enjoy those that are the social exhibitionists, the ones who tell you when they are in love, angry at the boss, worried and confused, crying, feeling fat, or laughing at the neighbor. You know who I am talking about. We watch them journal online in a far, far more personal manner than most ever would…

Are We Returning to the Tribe?

Are we as a society, through social media, learning to move from isolated, painfully slow personal growth to mutualistic group-growth? Are we returning to our primitive small village roots through today’s technology, accelerating ourselves through the tribal synergism of group experience? We all lost our villages long ago when our predecessors moved to the suburbs; are we rediscovering them here, online? Has the diary began speaking back to us?

The quote by Charles Darwin, strange as it might’ve seemed juxtaposed under the topic of Diary Day, was for a reason.  I believe those of us that embrace the ability to link our lives into social media, to collaborate not only in business but also on a personal level, to find our social tribes again, will find ourselves prevailing in our desire to grow, to become what we were meant to be, as persons and as microcosms of society.

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Globalism and Gratitude

In What Day is it? on September 21, 2009 at 12:22 pm
Count your blessings!

Count your blessings!

Today is World Gratitude Day.  This World holiday began in 1965, put in place after a meeting of members of the United Nations Mediation Group who wanted to find a way to show their appreciation to organizations and individuals who have supported the positive theme of Globalism. The textbook World Politics: Trend and Transformation defines Globalism as “…the integration of states, through increasing contact, communication, and trade, to create a common global culture for all humanity.”

To be sure, our ongoing transition to a World increasingly dominated by Globalistic philosophy, wherein nationalistic desires are being scrutinized through the lens of the needs and rights of the citizens in all nations, has rubbed many the wrong way, to say the least.  That said, Globalism is increasingly being embraced, as economists have seen an overall increase in revenues in many economic systems, when international cooperation exists.  Dwindling resources have caused our leaders to cooperate with other user nations.  Pollution entering the atmosphere from our rapidly industrializing neighbors has caused a great deal of concern and consternation.  Globalism is the worldwide application of the Golden Rule, and however you feel about it, it seems to work in our day-to-day lives, so why not between governing bodies?  If we increasingly showed we cared about each other in our actions, I am certain there would be a wave of gratitude from all areas of our planet…

Former World Gratitude Day, Inc. President Edna Fuerth Lemle describes the holiday as one “for all peoples, a meditation for all religions, a day of celebration for all humanity united by a simultaneous shared emotion.”

The annual award provided by the United Nations to “World Citizens,” states the following:

WHEREAS, humanity has come to recognise devotion and allegiance to immediate family, to clan, to city, to state, and to nation, and now must experience the concept of Globalism; and

WHEREAS, words of praise and positive thoughts generate dynamic harmony, and

WHEREAS, decisions made from a grateful heart are endowed with intrinsic wisdom and engender prosperity; and

WHEREAS, gratitude, the opposite of “taking for granted,” is a positive emotion which generates good will, is a basic emotion which is indigenous to all people, is a peace-engendering feeling;

AND WHEREAS, September 21 is a special day. It is an equinox: one of the two times of the year when the sun passes over the equator and night and day are everywhere of equal length and everyone is equal under the sun;

THEREFORE let us proclaim World Gratitude Day, a holiday for all peoples, a day of meditation for all religions, a day of celebration for all humanity, united by knowledge of simultaneously shared emotion, a day when triumph of the spirit can make a world community.

Social media, to be sure, has already embraced a global philosophy:

  • FaceBook has over 60 Million users worldwide, with the top 10 nations being the U.S., Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, Turkey, Sweden, Norway, South Africa, France and Hong Kong. People are finding their long-lost friends, and connecting with strangers from all over, sharing photos and video of their daily lives and celebrations.
  • MySpace has over 110 Million users worldwide, translated for use in 20 International territories.  Our teenagers are saying good morning to people waking up in Europe, goodnight to teenagers in Japan, and listening to music you never would’ve considered (shamisen, anyone?)
  • Twitter has over 28 Million users in the U.S., but America only makes up 40% of total Twitter traffic. We tweet at basically the same rate as Japan. Other large level users of Twitter are seen in Brazil, Germany, Taiwan, Spain, Canada, Italy, the United Kingdom, France and the Netherlands. Language difference aside, you will find a great deal of English speakers tweeting away in other nations…

Want to gain a Global perspective? Reach out to citizens of other nations with your social media accounts!  I love Twitter, so I will provide the example of Twellow, or The Twitter Yellow Pages, a voluntary directory of Twitter users, based on their stated profile information. You can search Twitter profiles by keyword; so if you are looking for individuals living in Rome, Italy, simply type that in and hit the search button.  I highly recommend finding individuals from across the Globe, and enjoying the conversations you have with them. And don’t forget to show your gratitude to them for having found them!

Tiny Print, Inc. has sponsored The Gratitude Challenge a 3-week challenge to take a few moments each day and look at “the brighter side of life.” They are featuring blogs whose writers have dedicated themselves to meeting this challenge. Take a look and give it a try!

Play-Doh : A History

In What Day is it? on September 18, 2009 at 9:25 am
Old-Style 1 1/2 lb Play-Doh Canister

Old-Style 1 1/2 lb Play-Doh Canister

In the toy department of Woodward & Lothrop’s Department Store in Washington, D.C., a new non-toxic, reusable modeling compound was demonstrated to interested children and their parents. The year was 1956.

The unusual concoction was originally designed and marketed as a wallpaper cleaning putty by Noah McVicker of Kutol Products of Cincinnati, a soap and cleaning products manufacturer.  After World War II, Noah’s nephew Joseph joined the company, and noted that children were playing with the putty, shaping animals and people, easily reusing the product until it dried, whereupon the children simply scooped more out of the can. Parents seemed happy with this use, as the product appeared to be non-toxic to their kids, and easy to clean up after.  After mulling it over, Noah McVicker  decided to change the company’s name to Rainbow Crafts, and along with his uncle, Bill Rhodenbaugh, immediately began remarketing the product as a children’s modeling clay.

In 1955, Joe brought his  product, then marketed in 1 ½ lb. cans, to a convention for educators, where Woodward & Lothrop came across it. At the time Play-Doh only came in the color white, but the teachers who came across it not only did not mind this shortfalling; they fell in love with the product and its educational qualities, squishing and shaping it over and over.

Two years later, Play-Doh appeared on shelves in yellow, red and blue, with the infinite ability to mix and match colors. Play-Doh began to be advertised on shows such as Captain Kangaroo, adding to its instant appeal. Macy’s and Marshall Field’s purchased and sold the product as well. Play-doh was an instant hit, and Joe McVicker became an almost instant millionaire.

The Play-Doh Fun Factory

The Play-Doh Fun Factory

In 1960, accoutrements such as extruders and shapers were introduced with the “Fun Factory” set, beginning the time-honored search every child has had in finding something to work, squish, cut, and poke Play-Doh with. Smaller mini-cans began to be introduced, beginning the time-honored let-down we’ve all had when we discover how little of the product we find after opening the package…

In 1991, Play-Doh became part of the Hasbro line of PlaySkool products, and five years later Hasbro released a new educational Play-Doh based CD-ROM game, taking the easy-to-use clay into the world of computer-based technology.


Elf adorning the Play-Doh can (circa 1950s)

The brand logo for Play-Doh first featured the faces of children, followed by an elf in the late 1950s, and eventually the well-known Play-Doh Pete, whose familiar smock and beret was replaced by a baseball cap in 2002.

Over 700,000,000 pounds (2 Billion cans) of Play-Doh have been sold, and 95 million little cans reach the hands of children each and every year since 1995.

How do you make your own Play-Doh? Hasbro has long admitted its product is largely made from water, salt, and wheat flour. The U.S. Patent lists a number of other types of lubricants, degradation inhibitors, and preservatives. You can make a rudimentary Play-Doh at home by following the instructions at

If you want to take the familiar scent of Play-Doh each and every day with you to the office (and on dates,) simply buy a 1-oz bottle of Demeter’s Play-Doh Cologne Spray!

Play-Doh was named in 2003 by the Toy Industry Association as one of the top 100 most memorable and creative toys of the 20th Century.

Apple Dumpling Day

In What Day is it? on September 17, 2009 at 8:54 am

Today’s dopodomani blog entry is our very first guest submission, by the one and only Gary Arbaugh, my good friend and a wonderful man. Please follow him on Twitter.

A very yummy example of a perfect apple dumpling

A very yummy example of a perfect apple dumpling

It is that time of year again, when the days begin to shorten, the nights bring a chill and the leaves start to turn. It’s time for apples!

Harvesting apples was an annual event I eagerly anticipated. There was a “Pick Your Own” Orchard a few miles from my home and each year we would pile large wicker baskets, metal wash tubs, buckets and whatever else we could find into the pick-up, along with the ladder, and drive out to the orchard.

There would always be some type of reunion there. Neighbors who had moved off, returning to pick. Uncles, aunts, and cousins from all over would be there to pick apples. We would fill our baskets and tubs with Red Delicious, Yellow Delicious and especially Granny Smith’s. The Granny Smith’s would keep (stay fresh) longer than any other apple. And they were the best for canning, making pies, apple butter and most of all APPLE DUMPLINGS!

I remember my grandfather sitting on the front porch peeling and coring apples the next day, while my grandmother would be inside making the dough for the dumplings. My grandfather always said that if you could peel an apple from tip to core, and the peeling stayed in one piece, it was a sign of good luck. My grandmother would then tell me that if you dropped the peel behind you, it would fall in the shape of the first letter of your true love’s name.

Wrapping the apples was fun, but Ahhh… the smell of those dumplings cooking! Apple cinnamon spice filled the air. Everyone would be smiling and waiting with expectation of those delicious apple dumplings. Just about the time when you thought your taste buds would desert you, my grandmother would open the oven door, releasing a renewed bouquet of fragrance!

It’s that time of year again, when the fond memories of childhood fill my mind and my mouth waters once again for a taste of those Apple Dumplings!

Gary Arbaugh

You can find Gary’s Grandmother’s Apple Dumpling recipe at his wonderful recipe and good living blog,

The Joys and Needs of Rock Collecting

In What Day is it? on September 16, 2009 at 10:31 am
Pretty rock collection.

Pretty rock collection.

Since our beginnings, interesting rocks discovered in nature have been imbued with special, even spiritual qualities. Beautiful or uniquely shaped stones were often believed to have been placed by divine forces to be found by the lucky recipient for an unidentified purpose or as a prize.  Stones with appealing or desirable qualities such as brilliant crystals and gems were traded far and wide, used in rudimentary jewelry or even worship.  The ability to both correctly identify and manipulate flint was the difference between life and death in many battles. There is a better than average chance that you are here today because some primeval ancestor of yours had this skill, a sharp eye and good throwing arm.

As children, we are drawn to the rock. We picked them up when our parents weren’t looking, holding the incredible textures in rapture on our fingertips, perchance to loll them in our mouths until rebuked. We carried them around all day in little pants pockets, tucked into the side of sneakers, or in sweaty hands. We learned to toss them and enjoyed the fine snick they made when they hit the pavement. We soon discovered the ability to draw lines with softer rocks on the sidewalk or street, or involved ourselves in contests of skill, skipping them across oceanic puddles, reveling in our ability to launch a perfect-sized rock into near-orbit.

A few of us never gave up the idea of saving special rocks, collecting them and storing them away, sharing them with our children and explaining how they came to be.  We tie memories into the finest of our gemstones, mounting them on our fingers in commemoration of first communions, graduations, weddings, births.  To be sure, there remain rocks that seem to maintain their appearance of divine gifts, adding purpose to our lives simply by being a part of it. It is never too late in life to begin collecting anew, and reintroduce yourself to that special relationship you once had with the rock.  Just keep them out of your mouth, okay?

Types of rocks

It is important, when collecting rocks, to know what you are looking for. Here’s an extremely simple breakdown…


As magma cools it undergoes a phase change into a crystalline form. The more rapid the cooling, the smaller the crystal size. Rocks that formed deep below the surface, with its heat insulated, are called intrusive, and typically have large crystals. Rocks from volcanic eruptions, exposed to the surface and cooled rapidly, are called extrusive, and have smaller crystals.

Igneous rock slideshow


The igneous rocks forming the majority of Earth’s crust have a fine layer of sediment on them. Over time, more and more layers of sediment build on, hardening over time due to pressure. When pieces of the hardened sediment break off, they are called secondary, or sedimentary rocks. There are three types of sedimentary rocks: Clastic, formed by little pieces of sedimentary accumulations; Chemical, formed by evaporating water leaving chemicals behind; and Organic, caused by layers of organic processes (deposition of shells, bones, teeth, etc.)

Sedimentary rock slideshow


Getting their name from “meta” (change) and “morph” (form,) all rocks are capable of becoming metamorphic. An igneous or sedimentary rock, moved from its place of origin and introduced to pressure and temperature changes, can change its form. Common examples are slate and marble.

Metamorphic rock slideshow

Rock Collecting Tools

Although simply picking up and keeping rocks is easiest, if you would like to make a lasting habit of it, and want it to take over your life, you’ll need some of the following:

  • A geologist’s hammer, either pick-axe shaped or chisel ended. This implement is used to break off fresh specimens and then trim them down to size (no, you are not stuck with a big rock if that’s what you come across…)


    Geologist's hammer

  • A magnifying lens (6x – 10x work great) of high optical quality (can be found at many jewelers’ stores or optical stores) to observe the rock’s grain close up.
  • A strong knapsack to carry your rocks and equipment.
  • Individual bags and possibly packing materials to carefully separate the rocks if needed. Some specimens can be brittle…
  • A notebook for keeping field notes.
  • A camera for taking photos of the area you found the specimen.
  • A GPS-enabled device to help you re-locate finds and to help get you back safely.
  • A pocket knife.
  • Sledge hammers or cold chisels to break off specimens.
  • First Aid kit.
  • Protective clothing (jeans, sturdy shoes, gloves, eyewear)
  • Diluted hydrochloric acid to clean off stones and to help identify certain stones such as limestone and dolomite.