The Faygo Book – by Joe Grimm (2018)

Faygo

It all started in 1907 with two brothers, Ben and Perry Feigenson, Russian immigrants who had settled in Detroit, Michigan. Although they began as bakers, they decided to try their hand at making flavored soda. Using cake frosting recipes for ideas, they created their first three flavors – strawberry, fruit punch, and grape – and sold them to local drugstores and saloons. Customers loved the soda, which the brothers preferred to call “pop”.

A myriad of other flavors were created over the years. Many were discontinued, but there was always plenty of choice when it came to Faygo pop. Some of their unique flavors were: blueberry cream, golden ginger ale, honeydew mist, lime rickey, sassafras, and chocolate treat. This book is full of trivia about the business, which remains in Detroit to the present day. The Feigenson brothers showed no racial bias in their hiring. Here’s an excerpt from page 67:

In the neighborhood, Faygo was known for treating people fairly. Bill Camp, a black employee hired in March 1937 after being laid off from a foundry job because of a strike at Chrysler, recalled hearing about an early union-organizing campaign. Camp told the in-house Faygogazette in the summer of 1983, “a union was trying to organize Faygo. Mr. Perry Feigenson was agreeable. But then he found out that the union contract would require Faygo to get rid of black workers.” Camp said Perry told the union, “Go to hell! Faygo hires from the neighborhood around us. And that’s how we’re going to continue to hire whenever we can.”

What I enjoyed the most about this book were all the colorful pictures. They covered the span of a century, and made me feel quite nostalgic. While I rarely drink soda, it made me want to run to the grocery story and buy a Faygo pop!

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Cheaper By The Dozen – by Frank B. Gilbreth Jr. and Ernestine Gilbreth Carey (1948)

Cheaper By The Dozen

For being written so long ago, this book certainly holds up well. It was written by a brother and sister team from a family of twelve children. Their father, Frank Sr., was an efficiency scientist who often used his own family as the subject of his time and motion studies. He made a living advising companies and factories in how to make the end product in as little time and movements as possible. Their mother was a psychologist, and assisted her husband in his surveys. “Cheaper By The Dozen” recalls the wild and crazy years of growing up in this unusual household. The book was made into a movie in 1950, a radio drama at some point, a stage play in 1992, a musical after that, and most recently into a movie again in 2003. It was translated into ten languages, and has been re-printed many times. It won a French International Humor Award. And humorous it is!

Is it a biography or a novel? After checking online catalogs of three different library systems, I found that some of them catalogued it as biography, and a few put it in fiction. When I read the book, it did seem like it was somewhat embellished at times, but it seems to be mostly biographical. It’s a humorous read that can still be enjoyed more than 70 years after being written. I’d call that a winning read!

The Death Of DVD Burners

CD DVD player

Where have all the DVD burners in computers and laptops gone? Over the past few years, they have all but disappeared from the scene, leaving people to either a) buy an external burning device, or b) custom-order a desktop computer with a DVD drive. People are being told they no longer need an optical drive (CD/DVD burner). For movies or tv shows, they can watch Netflix or Hulu on their televisions, laptops, or smart phones. If they want to save a document that they’ve typed up, instead of saving it on their computer or saving it to a disc or flash drive, they can just store it in Google Docs or some other online storage system. To listen to music, they can sign in online to Pandora or their iTunes account and stream their favorite music. And as for saving those digital files of their family pictures, why, just send them to Drop-box or another cloud storage service. The internet will take care of everything for you!

But there are some people who prefer to remain in control of their own music, audiobooks, movies, documents, and family pictures. Some of us want to be able to play music, watch a movie, or look at family photos without connecting to the internet. Granted, optical drives can malfunction or break down. But people need to consider that internet services also go out. Nothing is a sure thing. We have had a record number of days this winter when the internet went down for hours at a time, once for twelve hours. If you happen to need access to a document or your photos, and the internet is down, you are out of luck. In addition, you are giving up your privacy to a website that could have a security breach. My take-away is this:

Never be dependent on the internet and some online company to hold onto something that you own! Make your own back-ups, and be responsible for the precious things you own, especially things having to do with your family and all your important paperwork.

The Reckoning – by John Grisham (2018)

 

The Reckonoing

It is no secret that author John Grisham opposes the death penalty. The subject of the government being able to legally put some of its criminals to death through either hanging, electrocution, or lethal injection runs through many of his writings. The main storylines of his books “The Confession” and “The Chamber” deal with the subject. Mr. Grisham does a masterful job of showing the flaws with our judicial system, and why we may want to end the death penalty in our country.

In “The Reckoning”, we meet the character of Pete Banning, a farmer from Clanton, Mississippi. He has a wife and two children that he adores, and a staff of servants that he considers part of the family. When he is drafted during World War II, he is sent off to the Philippines. While there, he is captured by the Japanese army and almost dies on the Bataan Death March. Much historic background is included, and an extremely detailed description of the torturous existence of prisoners of war. Pete’s family back home in Mississippi is notified that he is missing in action and presumed dead. His wife has a nervous breakdown and ends up in an insane asylum. Miraculously, Pete’s life is spared and he comes home to his family. It seems like a happy ending.

But one day, Pete calmly walks into the office of their well-respected minister, and shoots him dead on the spot. Why would he do such a thing? Pete has nothing to say. Because it is a cold-blooded murder, the state seeks the death penalty for him. You spend most of the book wondering why Pete did it, and thinking there had to be more to the story than the obvious reason implied at the beginning of the book.

If you are really into history, especially World War II, this book will appeal to you.  The descriptions of war and imprisonment are quite vivid, and create a picture in the mind about how truly terrible it was. But the following part of the story concerning whether Pete should get the death penalty or not, is just as terrible. Capital punishment is never a subject that we should take lightly, and the author does an excellent job of asking us to continue to examine the issue.

Monkey Town – by Ronald Kidd (2006)

Monkey Town

The year was 1925, and a local teacher in Dayton, Tennessee was accused of teaching his students about evolution. At that time, most folks held to the belief that the world was created by God in six 24-hour days, and did not want their children to be taught evolution. It was also technically illegal in the state of Tennessee to teach evolution, so the teacher was charged with a crime, and a court date was set.

The town grew crowded with visitors wanting to see the trial in person, and to see what punishment the teacher would receive. The town turned into something resembling a circus, and was dubbed “Monkey Town”. The trial was the main event of the summer; nothing else mattered. Emotions ran high, and the “mob mentality” of some caused them to talk of hurting the teacher, and giving him what he deserved. Frances Robinson, the drug-store owner’s 16-year-old daughter, was more than a little infatuated with the teacher, and dreamed of marrying him some day. She also began to consider what she believed about the origin of the world.

The trial and the main people involved in the trial are real, although exact conversation and scenes around town were added to make it more story-like. The character of Frances is fictional, although she was based loosely on the recollections of an elderly woman who told the author what it was like to live in the town of Dayton while the trial was going on.

Frances is like everyone who reaches the age when they cross from childhood into adulthood. She is very loyal to her family and community, and wants to stand in unity with them. But she is also beginning to listen to opposing viewpoints, and has to form her own beliefs about the existence of God and the beginning of the world. She also has to decide whether it’s more important to agree with everyone around her, or think for herself. This book can be enjoyed by almost any age, from middle-school students to seniors.

Noah’s Compass – by Anne Tyler (2009)

Noah's Compass

Liam Pennywell is a quiet, pleasant man who passively accepts whatever life shovels out. And indeed he has been dealt a bad hand. His first wife dies of an overdose, leaving him to care for an infant daughter while trying to keep up with his teaching job. He remarries and has two more daughters, only to have the second wife ask for a divorce while the children are still young. He loses his good-paying teaching job, takes a lesser job teaching 5th graders for a few years, then loses that job to down-sizing. Liam gives up and moves into a tiny apartment in a not-so-great neighborhood, resigned to living in poverty.

On the first night in his apartment, someone breaks in and beats him up, leaving him in the hospital with a concussion and no memory of the incident. Liam becomes obsessed with regaining his memory and the details of his assault. When he meets Eunice, who cares for an Altzheimer patient, he thinks she may be able to help. As he struggles to regain his memory, his estranged family members – the ex-wife, his daughters, and his preschool grandson Noah – slowly rebuild their relationships with him.

The book starts out well, then seems to loose steam and drift into inertia toward the end. It’s almost as if the author didn’t quite know how to finish the story. The matter of Liam’s memory is never resolved, and we don’t find out if his assailant is punished for his crime. But maybe that was the author’s point – even if you can’t remember everything and every injustice is not addressed, you have to continue on with life.

Take-Aways From The Winter Storm

2019-01-31carstuckinsnow

It’s day four of the winter storm that’s affected most of the country. In our neck of the woods, most places are still closed – schools, doctors’ offices, city offices, some courts, the unemployment office, and many businesses. The utility company that services most of our state declared an emergency yesterday and asked everyone to voluntarily turn down our thermostats to 65, despite temperatures of below zero.

By tomorrow, things should start getting back to normal, although some schools are just going to stay closed tomorrow as well. Thinking about the past few days, I have some take-away from the experience:

Preparation before the storm is everything!

1 – Get those groceries (at least a week’s worth) before the bad weather starts. You don’t want to have to chose between the risk of getting into an accident running to the store, or surviving on things like macaroni and cheese.

2 – Fill up your gas tank before the bad weather starts. If you’re one of those unfortunate people who still have to go to work, and you get stuck in a snowdrift or ditch, you can at least keep the car running and stay warm.

3 – Find those wool sweaters in the back of your closet. They’ll keep you warm if your furnace can’t keep up with the cold.

4 – Make sure your cell-phone is charged up. If the electricity goes out, you won’t have a way to re-charge and keep up with the weather situation.

5 – Download some e-books, e-audiobooks, or movies from your local library’s website to your computer/electronic reader. If your internet goes out, you’ll still have something to entertain yourself with. If you don’t have internet, look around the house for DVD’s you haven’t watched in awhile, or an unread book.

6 – Keep up with your laundry and dishes. If the power goes out, at least you’ll have clean things to wear and eat off. (Okay, this one isn’t actually necessary, but I like it.)

If you’re ready for a storm, you can ride it out in relative comfort and contemplation.