Mimsy Were the Borogoves

If you learn only one lesson of history, make it this one: history repeats itself until it doesn’t. — Mark Steyn (The Face of the Tiger)

Let mortal tongues awake—Wednesday, June 29th, 2022

Samuel Francis Smith’s America is a staple patriotic song at religious gatherings around Independence Day and other patriotic holidays. It’s more commonly known as “My Country, ’Tis of Thee” because “America” appears only obliquely in the lyrics as “Thy name I love” in the second verse. It is short, otherwise direct, and a wonderful combination of looking forward to liberty and looking backward to what that liberty cost.

Smith wrote America in 1831, when some people could still remember the events of the revolution and some were beginning to recognize the likelihood of further bloodshed in the name of liberty. He lived past our Civil War, and wrote hymns to the freedom secured through that great sacrifice, too.

The first four lyrics rise from the birth of liberty, through the physical country, to hope for the spread of liberty, and end on a plea to God as the author of liberty to preserve and protect our country as a free country.

The several verses added later going into more detail about the beauties of our land seem excessively inventorical. The original second verse handles our country’s physical beauty just fine. I see no need to belabor the point. This is a hymn, after all, but not only that, one of the beauties of the hymn is it’s simplicity. Making it really long kills part of what makes it a great and memorable hymn.

The lyrics in my 1925 Hymns of Praise Number Two are:

    • My country, ’tis of thee,
    • Sweet land of liberty,
    • Of thee I sing;
    • Land where my fathers died,
    • Land of the pilgrims’ pride,
    • From every mountain side
    • Let freedom ring!
    • My native country, thee,
    • Land of the noble free,
    • Thy name I love;
    • I love thy rocks and rills,
    • Thy woods and templed hills;
    • My heart with rapture thrills
    • Like that above.
    • Let music swell the breeze,
    • And ring from all the trees
    • Sweet freedom’s song;
    • Let mortal tongues awake;
    • Let all that breathe partake;
    • Let rocks their silence break,
    • The sound prolong.
    • Our fathers’ God to Thee,
    • Author of liberty,
    • To Thee we sing;
    • Long may our land be bright
    • With freedom’s holy light;
    • Protect us by Thy might,
    • Great God our King.
Ice cream from your home freezer—Wednesday, June 22nd, 2022

One of the amazing things about reading old cookbooks is learning completely different recipes for making common foods. I used to think ice cream either required going to the store, or buying yet another single-purpose appliance to do the churning. I grew up in the seventies, and when we made ice cream it was with a time-consuming hand-churned ice cream maker, filled with salty ice. We had to crank it outside, because the salty ice turned to water and was released through a drain hole about, as I recall, halfway up the side.

But as I wrote in Revolutionary Refrigeration, recipes immediately after the introduction of the home freezer make ice cream by just sticking it in the freezer and letting it freeze. Maybe taking it out once to whip it. A lot of these recipes show up under different names in other cookbooks. Many a mousse or parfait is indistinguishable from ice cream once it’s been frozen.

I’ve divided these recipes up into those that use whole eggs, those that use egg yolks, those that use egg whites, and those that use gelatin. The basic idea is the same in each case: make a syrup-like mixture, either a custard or a meringue or a gelatin, and fold in whipped cream. Add flavoring to either the sugar mixture or fold the flavoring in with the cream. And freeze it.

These are all very good ice creams. If you’re looking for something quick, look at the toasted ice cream made with egg whites. If you’re looking for something rich, look at the egg yolk recipes.

A full three of these recipes come from the Southern Living Desserts Cookbook. The entire Southern Living Library is a great collection, and the Desserts book is one of the best. That may be partially because I have a sweet tooth, but I definitely recommend this book, and, in fact, all of the books I stole these ice creams from.

Whole eggs

This maple ice cream from the 1942 Montgomery Ward Cold Cooking cookbook is one of the easiest of the egg-based recipes. There’s no separating the eggs or even folding the cream into the syrup or eggs.

UFO contact imminent… any day now—Wednesday, June 8th, 2022
Steiger: UFOs and the Nature of Man (Passaic UFO photo)

I ran across a stack of UFO magazines from 1975-81 during Thanksgiving travel and couldn’t resist picking them up. I’ve written before about Omni’s flirtation with UFOs and the paranormal. That did not spring out of nowhere. There were a lot of UFO and paranormal magazines on grocery store shelves before Omni’s 1978 debut. I’m not saying it was big money—the two I’ve read so far, Official UFO and UFO Report, obviously had no money to spare for nonessentials such as editing—but there was certainly enough interest among the public to justify multiple magazines. Even the tiny magazine racks of the tiny groceries of my very tiny hometown had UFO magazines. I’m pretty sure I wasn’t the only person buying them.

But I’d forgotten how mainstream UFO and full-on paranormal interest was in the seventies. It wasn’t just President Carter who acknowledged seeing a UFO. There was a real sense that we’d be contacting alien intelligence soon. This extended far beyond the UFO community: NASA had been taking part in Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence (SETI) projects since the late sixties. They began funding SETI design projects in 1975 and set up a SETI branch in 1976.

Expectations were, we’d see results within a decade or two. The UFO community was more optimistic, expecting results in a year, maybe two. There would be a great revelation, and the ufonauts would come to guide us. It’s very strange reading these magazines from the era now, with their hints of insider information that an official government announcement would be made in a few months or a year. It makes me feel like I’ve missed the UFO equivalent of the rapture.

The various paranormal fields completely overlapped, too. The December 1976 issue of UFO Report contains a roundtable with Brad Steiger (the article’s author), Dr. Andrija Puharich, Melanie Toyofuko (“an associate of Dr. Andrija Puharich”), Phyllis Schlemmer (“the well-known psychic-sensitive”), and Gene Roddenberry (“the producer-creator of Star Trek). “Andrija and Melanie had worked closely with Uri Geller”.

The topic: “space intelligences and earth’s new species of super-kids”. In the transcript, Roddenberry talks about the Star Trek episodes that featured “individuals who had such unique talents”: Gary Mitchell and Charlie X. His main disagreement with the other participants is over the idea that this new super-species will be more moral, and less evil, than normal humans. The others are typical new agers, but if you’ve seen those Star Trek episodes, you won’t be surprised that Roddenberry has a more realistic view of human nature,

A Decade of Jell-O Joys: 1963-1973—Wednesday, May 18th, 2022
Cranberry Squares

These gelatin—whipped cream squares are a better-than-cheesecake cheesecake.

One of the joys of old cookbooks is watching food change over the years. At the October New Braunfels Library Book Sale, I found a copy of the 1973 New Joys of Jell-O; on a quick browse it did not appear to be merely a copy of the old, circa 1963, Joys of Jell-O so I bought it.

As it turns out, I was wrong. There are many duplicate recipes; what changed were how they were presented and even their names. The Peach and Banana Mold has become the Peach-Banana Dessert. Everything is the same except it uses twice as much peach and it’s not a mold: it’s put in dessert cups.

Molds are still used in some recipes, but they’re not as universal in 1973 as they were in 1963.

The Under-the-Sea Pear Salad is displayed as a simple loaf instead of an ornate 1-quart mold. The recipe itself hasn’t changed, only the shape, and even that not much: while the first shape suggested is an 8x4 loaf pan, the second is a 4-cup mold. I chose to split the difference and make it in a less towering ring mold.

There’s more of an emphasis on convenience in the new book. If I had made it as a loaf, it would have tasted the same but would have been styled differently. It would also have been easier to unfold. The new Peach-Banana Dessert doesn’t even need to be unmolded—it’s eaten from the dessert cup it’s made in. You can take servings from the refrigerator as needed.

Revolution: Home Refrigeration—Wednesday, May 11th, 2022
Properly-arranged refrigerator

A well-ordered refrigerator is a boon to any home.

I write a lot on this blog about living through the home computer revolution. It was an amazing time and what happened during the late seventies and early eighties changed our lives in ways we can’t even imagine. It certainly changed my life when I chose to buy a computer at sixteen instead of a car. Even things that would have happened anyway happened far differently because of the personal computer. The Internet was already murkily envisioned before the personal computer, but it was a centralized resource that people would have to buy time on or even travel to in order to use.

A huge amount of what we use daily on the Internet today came from people working on personal computers in their offices and homes. It’s hard to imagine a web-based Internet like we have today without people like Tim Berners-Lee having a computer on their desktop that they could use to develop things like the first web browser and server. It’s hard to imagine an Internet like we have today without, first, computers on our desktops in our homes to access that Internet, and, now, computers in our pockets to access that Internet on a momentary whim.

But the personal computer is not the first or only amazing revolution we’ve lived through in the last hundred years. I also collect interesting old cookbooks. Not as many as a real collector but a lot more than the average weekend chef. Two of the books I’ve picked up recently are old refrigerator/freezer manuals. Judging from these manuals the home refrigerator was just as much of a revolution as the home computer.

In the oldest cookbook I own, the 1893 Charlotte Cook Book, there’s a (very good) mustard-flavored salad dressing that ends with a note about how well it keeps in hot weather:

Beat yolks of eight eggs, add to them a cup of sugar, one teaspoon each of salt, mustard and black pepper, and half a cup of cream; mix thoroughly. Bring to a boil a pint and a half of vinegar, add one cup of butter, let come to a boil, pour upon the mixture, stir well and when cold put into bottles, or put in a cold place. It will keep for weeks in the hottest weather and is excellent for cabbage or lettuce.

That it will keep for weeks in hot weather is important when you have no means of refrigeration—except a hole in the ground, or an icebox that is literally a box filled with slowly-melting ice!

If the 1942 Montgomery Ward Cold Cooking manual is to be believed, people initially treated the home refrigerator as a summer or warm weather appliance. They had an entire section for convincing people to “Use Summer and Winter”:

Though the Darkness Hide Thee—Wednesday, April 27th, 2022
Rainbow in darkness

There are some glories that God does allow us to see, such as the symbol of his saving grace.

Just before Easter I posted a piano file for the hymn Holy, Holy! Lord God Almighty!. The song came to my attention at a recent mass with more modern lyrics that reminded me of the annoying tendency of modernizers to dehumanize and bowdlerize once-insightful songs. References to man’s sinful nature may offend some, but they are necessary to accept God’s grace.

When hymnal publishers update lyrics that refer to humanity, removing the references to “men” or “man” and replacing them with “us” or “all” or reworking the line to excise the reference to humanity entirely, most of the time the changes end up just looking silly, as when they replace all of mankind with the self-centered “us”. Or when “And if wicked men insult and hate you” becomes “And if wicked tongues insult and hate you”.

Really? It’s the tongue that’s doing the hating, and not the people? It seems that if these modern bowdlerists were sincere in wanting to improve the texts and thought that providing body parts with agency would do so, they’d at least choose the brains or the mind rather than the tongue, but of course that would be too close to acknowledging that wicked people exist.

In many cases, the changes seem explicitly designed to exclude everyone except the congregation. When hymnals replace “Let men their songs employ” in “Joy to the World” with “Let us our songs employ”, we’re no longer speaking of humanity when we sing the songs. It’s supposed to be joy to the world, not joy to us. One of the great messages of Christ is that he was Christ for the world.

But there’s a deeper and more dangerous reason for those kinds of changes. The dehumanization of the lyrics externalizes the sin both from humanity and from the singer. I’m not a sinner. It’s my tongue that does the sinning, it’s my eye that’s sinful. Of course, if the bowdlerizers making those changes actually believed that, they’d be both mute and blind, because they would follow Jesus’s command to tear out the sinful flesh.

But they don’t believe that. They just want to dehumanize sinfulness.

Among the worst of these are the changes made to “Holy, Holy! Lord God Almighty!”. Originally, it very clearly put the sin on man and not on man’s body parts—when it mentioned sin at all.

Critical (fantasy) race theory—Wednesday, April 20th, 2022
Talk about Critical Race Theory

I created this blog specifically to segregate my political and other (currently, vintage food and vintage computer) blogging from my game blogging. Sadly, some very egregious politics has been blundering around in gaming over the last several years and it’s starting to come to a head. I’m crossposting this on my main blog because it’s as much about the resurgence of virulent racism as it is about gaming.

One of the things that has always interested me and seems never to be explored in games is how having real, definite races of people would affect the imaginary differences we’ve made up in the real world. It seems as though having truly different fantasy races ought to make it obvious how ridiculous man’s tribal hatreds are today. The same ought to be true of the discovery of truly alien races.1

I haven’t seen it yet, but apparently Shadowrun 2E handles inter-human racism the same way I do in Highland: the new creatures are so obviously different that humans in these worlds no longer view each other as different. Inter-human racism is gone. In Highland, there’s the added change that the cataclysm jumbled up cultures so drastically that cultures are no longer associated with skin color.

In reality, I suspect that this is wishful thinking. It is easy to be disappointed by the resilience of such racism in the real world, and it’s hard to say that it would not remain resilient even in worlds like that of D&D or Shadowrun. When self-described anti-racists make claims that are right at home among slavers, it’s difficult to be optimistic about any impending end of racism.

This is especially true when people complain about it being “racist” to name a player character’s fantasy race. There has long been a weirdly racist attempt to analogize human races to fantasy races. But in games such as Dungeons and Dragons where the rules of the game make it abundantly clear that fantasy races really are superior and inferior in various ways, this conflation of real-world and fantasy is blatantly racist. Players and pundits who make this equivalence are accepting the racist belief that some human races are superior and some are inferior.

Traffic calming blocks emergency response—Monday, April 18th, 2022

“OHCA survivability is greatly influenced by how quickly emergency medical services (EMS) are administered… the patient’s odds of survival dropped to less than half when the response time increased from within six minutes to ten minutes or more. Obviously, ‘precious seconds’ is not an exaggeration when it comes to EMS response time.

“Yet robbing those seconds from OHCA victims is precisely what traffic calming accomplishes. Lane reductions, speed bumps, chicanes, and other devices used to inhibit traffic have been popularized today as the prescription for slowing travel speeds in the name of public safety.”

“The effect is the same when car lanes are eliminated. Traffic is constricted, which can critically impede EMS response at all hours of the day.”

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