September Pause

Back to posting again around September 17. Constitution Day. Maybe I’ll have finished the Federalist Papers by then.

It might also be warm again. A distinct October-like coolness has settled on northern Illinois since Labor Day.

Saw a cherry picker in the neighborhood recently. The man atop the equipment was repairing a street lamp that had gone a little funny. Not out, just flickering from time to time.

cherry picker

Why a cherry picker? Why not apples or lemons? And why do careless or unscrupulous researchers cherry pick their data? Why not grape harvest it?

Speaking of fruit, completely by chance down an Internet rabbit hole recently I came across the Citronaut — the first mascot of Florida Technical University, which eventually became the University of Central Florida. He’s an anthropomorphic orange wearing a space helmet, dating from 1968.

Florida produces citrus and shoots men into space, so it must have seemed like a bright idea. For a very short time. Says Wiki: “After one year, students petitioned the Student Government to establish a new mascot for the university.” Poor old goofy Citronaut was ignominiously dumped. You’d think he could have gone on to shill Tang or something.

The thought of Tang led me to another Internet rabbit hole. Eventually I came across the Tang Pakistan page. Is Tang popular in Pakistan? Could be. At least it seems more advertised there than its country of origin.

The About Tang page is in English, and includes such sentences as: “Being the king of flavours, its fruity and refreshing taste wins millions of hearts every day. Be it family gatherings, group studies, play days or summer struck – Tang is the Neverland for everyone to indulge, lift their moods and bond together to share good times.”

Not a peep about astronauts.

Over the Labor Day weekend, I watched The General on DVD. I’d only ever seen clips of it. It’s one of the most kinetic movies I’ve ever seen. Fittingly, with locomotives chasing each other and Buster Keaton all over the place, doing his own stunts. Funny stuff. I’m glad a movie more than 90 years old can still be so amusing.

Some scenes were flat-out amazing. Best known, probably, is when a locomotive causes a trestle to collapse, precipitating the engine into the river below. As I looked at that, I thought, that looks awfully real, not like a model. Turns out it was a real locomotive shot falling into a river (like the train fall in Bridge On the River Kwai).

Sean Axmaker writes in Silentfilm.org: “For the scene in which Johnnie sets fire to a bridge to prevent the North’s engine from crossing the river, Keaton had [set designer Fred] Gabourie construct a stunt trestle designed to collapse under the train’s weight. It was the only sequence that did not use existing track and it has been called the most expensive single shot in silent film history (Keaton biographies put the cost at $42,000).

“It is certainly the most expensive that Keaton ever executed. He had only one shot at the scene and ran six cameras to capture the spectacle. The engine that plunged into the river was one of the doubles used to stand in for the working engines and it rested there in the water, rusting away for 15 years until it was hauled out for salvage in the scrap drives of World War II.”

Later I looked up the female lead in the movie, Marion Mack, a one-time Sennett Bathing Beauty. She got tired of being in movies around the time talkies started, and lived a long time after, until 1989, including a career as an Orange County real estate broker. As for Glen Cavender, an original Keystone Cop who played antagonist Capt. Anderson, he lived until 1962. He seems to be an example of one of those actors that didn’t transition well to talkies, though he kept working.

The actual leader of the 1862 Great Locomotive Chase was James J. Andrews, a civilian scout for the Union Army. Things didn’t turn out well for him, since the Confederates hanged him. He lost out posthumously, too. This from Wiki: “Some of the raiders were the first to be awarded the Medal of Honor by the US Congress for their actions. As a civilian, Andrews was not eligible.”

You’d think Andrews should get something, even now, such as the Presidential Medal of Freedom or the Congressional Gold Medal, which go to civilians.

One more thing about a movie. Recently I happened across this video on You Tube.

It’s a remarkable bit of editing to go along with Elmer Berstein’s justly famous, magnificent Magnificent Seven main theme, right down to Steve McQueen’s smile in the last frame. The video featuring the theme from The Good, The Bad and The Ugly is also worth a watch.

Fish Heads, Fish Heads

The main course of this evening’s dinner, still in its packaging, before it became dinner.

Snapper Supper

We didn’t eat the fish head. I was told long ago — I think by an elementary school teacher — that fish heads were eaten in Japan. I later discovered that wasn’t universally true, just more likely than in this country.

At least one writer argues that stubborn Westerners ought to eat ’em up, yum. I’m not persuaded.

Thursday Whatnots

Yesterday I picked up my copy of the Federalist Papers and read No. 1 (Hamilton). It’s a beat-up paperback, a somewhat yellowing Mentor Book, published in 1961. Somehow fitting in its republican simplicity. Seems like I got it used in the summer of ’81 at the University Coop in Austin, probably for the Government class I took that summer at UT.

I read some of them at the time, and a scattering more later in the ’80s, but little since. Time to take it up again. Its 18th-century educated dialect — call it Enlightenmentese — was a little hard to unpack as a callow lad. Not as much now, though now and then I need to re-read a sentence to make sure I understand it.

Each paper is conveniently short: pamphlet sized, you might say. So I’m reading one a day. I ought to have time enough for that. Today was No. 2 (Jay).

Hamilton’s wisdom shines through from the get-go. From Federalist No. 1: “So numerous indeed and so powerful are the causes which serve to give a false bias to the judgment, that we, upon many occasions, see wise and good men on the wrong as well as on the right side of questions of the first magnitude to society.”

And a notion that foretold Internet comment sections, among many other things: “To judge from the conduct of the opposite parties, we shall be led to conclude that they will mutually hope to evince the justness of their opinions, and to increase the number of their converts, by the loudness of their declamations and the bitterness of their invectives.”

I also recently acquired The Shipping News and The Dharma Bums, and plan to read them soon. Reading should involve variety.

Besides this vanity map of the states, a while ago I made a map color coded according to my visits to the state and provincial capitols. It’s a minor hobby of mine.

CapitolsGreen represents the state capitols and provincial parliament buildings that I’ve seen inside and out. The orange-pink means that I’ve seen the capitol, but for one reason or another I didn’t go inside. White is for capitols I’ve never seen at all.

As for the two gold-orange states, Hawaii and Utah, I can’t remember whether I’ve seen or been in the capitols. You’d think I’d remember something like that, but the visits in question were in 1979 and ’80, respectively, years that are otherwise known as a long damn time ago. I was in Honolulu and Salt Lake City. I could have gone. A few years later, I would have made a point of going. But I’m not sure I did then.

Ice Cream Truck, August 2017

How did “Turkey in the Straw” become the universal song for American ice cream trucks? This article suggests a lineage for the association. This YouTube video plays another song to the same tune, one I wasn’t familiar with.

8/8/88 &c.

August 8, 1988

On this particular confluence of numbers for a date, I went to work. After all, it was also a Monday. VW started today as editorial assistant. At last we get one. After introductions and a basic editorial meeting, I spent a fair amount of the morning showing her how to use the VDT.

At 11 or so, I met a writer named SB. Seems like he could do good work for us. Works part-time now for another local mag that I’ve never heard of.

Lunch: KD, JD, VW, MS and me at Dick’s Last Resort, which opened not long ago at North Pier. I think there are others in Dallas and Houston. The place has its staff pretend to be rude. Restaurant motto: “Can’t Kill a Man Born to Hang.” Had a bucket o’ beef ribs & fries & slaw & bread. Was good.

[I checked just now, and the Dick’s Chicago location at some point moved to Marina Towers. It’s still a relatively small chain, with 13 locations, according to its web site. I went a few other times during the late ’80s, and maybe once again when I moved back to Chicago.

Dick’s used to serve — maybe still does — Mamba, pride of the Ivory Coast brewing industry. Actually a malt liquor, not a beer. Came in pint bottles with a croc and a map of Africa on the label. I bought one once just to drink something made in République de Côte d’Ivoire.

Not bad. Had the empty bottle for some years, but it disappeared at some point.]

In the afternoon, got a surprising amount done. Queried participants in the Mortgage Roundtable, interviewed an industry cockalorum, and more.  After work, had a hard time getting home. The El was jammed with Cubs fans going to the big-deal, first-ever night game at Wrigley.

Got home, a postcard was in the mail from Bill K. He says he’s in love and that “Elvis lives.” At 7:30 or so, I headed north on the El, away from all the hubbub, to go swimming. As I was walking to the pool from Davis station, it started raining hard. Got to the pool, swam. Less crowded than usual. Still raining some as I walked back to the station. Down to a drizzle by the time I got home, but I understand the big night game was called because of it.

[Sure enough, it was called. I seem to remember that Royko was there, and the next day in his column said he was tired of people telling him that God didn’t want night games at Wrigley. One was played to a conclusion the very next evening in better weather.]

Thursday Odd Lots

“What’s so funny, Dad?”

“That sign across the street.”

We were in Wisconsin during our recent trip, and had stopped at a place where I could access wifi. The sign was visible from there.

“That’s not funny.”

“Maybe it will be for you someday.”

What would happen if you used this granite for landscaping? Would your back yard suddenly cause you dread? Kafkaesque landscaping, now there’s a concept.

Looks like Kafka does some good work, though.

Here’s a sign you don’t see much any more, though I’m pretty sure that they were common once upon a time. I think even my high school cafeteria, which was in a basement, had one in the late ’70s. They’re so rare now that when you do see one in situ, you take note. Something like a working public pay phone.

Fallout Shelter Sign, Calumet, Michigan

This one is on Sixth St. in Calumet, Michigan. It even has a capacity number. What was once an unnerving reminder of the nuclear Sword of Damocles can now “add a cool tone to a man cave or retro game room,” according to Amazon, where you can pick a reproduction up from the Vintage Sign Co. for (currently) $18.99. The note also calls the item a “vintage style WWII metal sign.” What is it about basic chronology that flummoxes so many people?

Something else I saw, a little more recently, in Bucktown.

Bucktown, Chicago Shiva Shack

Shiva Shack? C’mon in for a bit of destruction and then transformation.

Also in Bucktown: a game of beanbag on the sidewalk.

Bucktown 2017

Maybe there to remind us what politics ain’t.

Recently I picked up The Happy Isles of Oceania (1992) by Paul Theroux. It’s been sitting on my shelf for a number of years. So far it’s a good read. I understand that he has a reputation as a snob, and some of that comes through in his writing, but I don’t know the man personally, so I wouldn’t have to put up with him anyway.

He writes well, at least about the places he’s been, and that’s all that counts. His description, early in the book, of hiking on the South Island of New Zealand, is a fine bit of work, and had the unfortunate side effect of making me want to drop everything and go do that. The mood passed.

Theroux’s work did influence me to go one place. In the early ’90s, I read his Sunrise With Seamonsters, a collection of essays and travel bits, and one piece included a mention of the Cameron Highlands on the Malay Peninsula. It’s a former British hill station, more recently a getaway place for Malaysians and the trickle of tourists who’ve heard of it. His mention of it was probably where I first heard of the place.

When I went to Malaysia for the first time, I made a point of going there, and did not regret it. Besides cool temps, you can enjoy jungle walks (unless you’re Jim Thompson), a butterfly garden, a nighttime view that can include the Southern Cross, and eating Chettinad cuisine on a banana leaf, with your hands.

This is what life is, according to the song.

Life's a Bowl of Cherries

Rainier cherries, which are in season now. Very popular around the house, and we buy them in large quantities while we can. I’m glad that there are still some foods, some fruits, that have a season.

I’m not all that keen on Rudy Vallee, but his version of the song is good. And the lip sync from Pennies From Heaven (1981) is amusing. I saw that movie when it was new, probably because Steve Martin was in it, but I don’t remember very much about it. Maybe I should watch it again. I know I was too young then to appreciate its songs.

Roadside Wisconsin, Part 3: Ella’s Deli, Madison

It’s Space Exploration Day. Always a good thing to think about.

Ella’s Deli in Madison, Wisconsin, is on E. Washington Ave. If you’re driving on that street, it’s hard to miss.

Ella's Deli, Madison, WisconsinElla's Deli, Madison, WisconsinWashington Ave. happens to be a good way to get from I-90/I-39, which runs east of Madison, into the city. Right into downtown, in fact: straight to the capitol, the university, the lakes, and so on. Over the years I’ve noticed Ella’s as I passed by, but never stopped. This time, I drove on Washington Ave. specifically to get there.

A bit from Ella’s web site: “In the early 1960s Ella Hirschfeld owned and operated Ella’s on State Street as a small kosher style deli/grocery/restaurant. At that time Ella’s provided an outlet for the Jewish community and others to buy kosher products over the counter, as well as offering restaurant service for about a dozen tables.

“In 1976, Ella’s opened another location, thanks to the support of Madison’s community… In recent years, Ella’s Deli on East Washington Avenue became the only Ella’s Deli.

“Under the same ownership for over 45 years, Ella’s operates with in-house bakers, full-time cooks that prepare our foods from scratch, and animations designed and built on the premises.”

It was a good choice, both as a place to eat, and a place to see odd things. For instance, a robot-like entity meets you inside the door.

Ella's Deli, Madison, Wisconsin

The restaurant doesn’t exactly have a theme, though I’ve seen it referred to elsewhere as “a place to take your children.” Certainly, but like some things supposedly for children, it isn’t just for them.

Mostly, it’s whimsical. Most of the decoration, which is near the ceiling, seems to have been picked to add to the place’s overall whimsy. You can appreciate whimsy at any age. More when you’re older, if you’ve a certain cast of mind.
Ella's Deli, Madison, WisconsinA number of figures attached to small motors whirred back and forth on wires stretched across the ceiling. Such as the Man of Steel.
Ella's Deli, Madison, WisconsinPopeye riding a rocket.
Ella's Deli, Madison, WisconsinNot sure who this sort-of astronaut is supposed to be, but he and the Aladdin Genie were just over our table. Or aquanaut? Note the golden seahorses.

Ella's Deli, Madison, WisconsinElsewhere were tableaux, such as Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.
Ella's Deli, Madison, WisconsinHere’s a Chicago Coin’s Band-Box.

Ella's Deli, Madison, Wisconsin

When I looked at it, I didn’t realize that it’s part of a little world of its own. According to the Chicago Coin’s Band-Box site, these manikins, made only from 1950 to ’52 in Chicago, were really part of a remote wall-mounted speaker for a jukebox. Drop and coin for a song and you get a little show, too.

“The jukebox closes a switch which causes the band box lights to go on and the curtains to open, revealing a seven-piece band with their instruments. They move as if they are playing the music. The figures were made of sponge rubber which decays over time.”

Apparently the company made them and other mechanical contrivances, but went bust by the 1980s. At that time, a fellow named Brad Frank in California bought all the rights and trademarks of the former company, and he still makes the Band-Boxes, along with replacement parts.

Just goes to show you the things you can learn by looking at the stuff on the walls. Followed by short Internet searches.

There’s more. Most of Ella’s tables were glass-topped, with various items displayed inside. Such as yo-yos.

Ella's Deli

Or assorted gewgaws and gimcracks.
Ella's Deli, Madison, WisconsinSo Ella’s was a very interesting place, visually speaking, to sit down for a meal. But all would have been for naught, and I probably wouldn’t write about it, if the food weren’t worth eating. Fortunately, it was.

In fact, “deli” in the name is no idle affectation. I opted for a Reuben sandwich, and it was the best Reuben I’ve had anywhere outside of New York. Everyone else reported satisfaction with their choices. Next time, I’ll try the ice cream.

Roadside Wisconsin, Part 2: Just About 45°N, 90°W

Wausau, Wisconsin, has a pleasant town square, a park surrounded by an assortment of shops and restaurants. No one but me remembered visiting there before, but we did in 2003, taking lunch at the Mint Cafe on the square. This year we went back to the cafe on the way up to the UP, on the last day of June. I think we even sat in the same booth.

The top card is from our ’03 visit. The bottom, from the recent visit. I like the ’03 card better. Less busy.
The Mint Cafe, WausauLunch was just as good this time around. Hamburgers, fish, that kind of thing, in a uncontrived diner atmosphere. No one at the Mint was wearing a tux, as far as I could see.

Afterward we strolled around the square and a nearby street or two. We happened on the office of the Wausau/Central Wisconsin Convention & Visitors Bureau. Mostly we went in to use the restroom, but I also picked up a four-color glossy promo magazine suitably called Wausau, subtitled “Central Wisconsin.” On the off chance that it offered useful information. It did.

The magazine reminded me that not far from Wausau is a sign marking 45°N latitude, 90°W longitude. Or, as the magazine puts it, “Center of the North Half of the Western Hemisphere.” Also included: a nicely detailed map to help you get to that place (and other points of interest).

I learned about the location years ago. I think in high school, or even in junior high, I wondered where those four points on the Earth might be. So I got out the atlas and looked. Two were in remote southern oceans. One was in the absolute middle of nowhere in central Asia. And one was… in Wisconsin.

Years later, a coworker of mine originally from Wisconsin told me about the site — he’d grown up not too far away. And then I read about it, probably on Roadside America. Even so, I would have forgotten to visit on this trip had the magazine not reminded me. I was inspired. If we can stand on the Prime Meridian and Lilly can stand on the Equator, then by gar, we can stand at 45°N, 90°W.

So on July 2, after lunch again in Wausau on the way home — this time at a sandwich shop, part of a small local chain — we headed west on I-29 out of Wausau. The map’s directions are clear. I-29 west to Exit 150, then take Wisconsin H north to Wisconsin U, turn west. Follow U as it curves north and then curves west again. A sign marking 45°N, 90°W will be just past the second curve.

So we followed the directions. Got to the second curve. And then: nothing. No easily visible sign anyway. I’d had a somewhat hard time explaining to the rest of my family what we were doing out in the farm fields of central Wisconsin, when we could have been heading home, so things got a little testy in the car.

We turned around and went for another look, noticing a fellow mowing the grass around his house on a large riding mower (the rest of the nearby area was farmland). We stopped and rolled down our passenger side window, and looked his direction.

At once he took his earphones off, hopped off the mower, and came toward us. He looked the part of a modern farmer: a large man about my age in overalls and a short-sleeved shirt, with a pink face and gray in his hair. He also looked genuinely glad to see us.

“I’ll bet you know what we’re looking for,” I said.

He did. He explained that Marathon County had removed the existing sign just the week before, as part of putting a sign in the correct place. I had read that the sign wasn’t exactly at 45°N, 90°W. It was about 1,000+ feet off. Back whenever the county had first installed the sign, no one had GPS, so that wasn’t an issue. Now it is. (This is an issue for the tourist Equator and Prime Meridian, too.)

“They didn’t seem to think anyone would miss the sign,” he said. “I told them people come looking for it every day.”

The sign might be gone, but the original survey marker was still in embedded in concrete at the site, he said. He told us where to look. Remarkable how the mood in the car changed for the better after our short chat with a friendly farmer.

Before long we were there. This is what we found.

45°N, 90°W Marathon County, Wisconsin45°N, 90°W Marathon County, WisconsinIt might not be exactly 45°N, 90°W, but I wasn’t about to not stand at the point. Yuriko and Ann did too, in their turn. By now everyone was game.
45°N, 90°W Marathon County, WisconsinThe small temporary sign near the marker, to the right of me in the picture, was erected by Marathon County. It says:

45°N-90°W Geographic Marker
Site currently under
construction/relocation
Reopening September 12, 2017

There’s also a helpful map of the planned new site fixed to the temporary sign. The old site will be a small parking lot, with a path, or maybe a paved path, leading to the new and presumably GPS-correct marker.

On July 2, work had already started on the path.
45°N, 90°W Marathon County, WisconsinWe didn’t walk the 1,000 or so feet to the new site. If we’re ever back this way — and this part of central Wisconsin would make a good long weekend someday — we’ll surely take a look at the new marker.

You could think of it as a ridiculous tourist attraction, considering how arbitrary it is. After all, the Prime Meridian would be running through Paris had the French had their way — 2°20′14.03″ to the east, which would put 45°N, 90°W pretty close to, or even in, Green Bay. The body of water, not the town. I’m not going to figure it out exactly, though.

Somehow, I like the arbitrariness. It also reminds me that I’d like to visit Four Corners, too, which is even more arbitrary.

Summertime Beer

Old friends were over on Saturday for a grilling and gabfest, though it was too windy for an outdoor grilling, so I cooked inside. We did sit outside, however, for eating and drinking, and when it was over, some empty beer bottles were left behind.

beer

That’s five of the seven, with two other duplicates, consumed by six of us. We aren’t much in the way of drinkers, though a bit of wine went down, too. In any case, there was some label and geographic variety.

Leinenkugel’s, of course, is a Wisconsin brew. One of these days I might make it to Chippewa Falls for a tour of the brewery. The bottle is refreshingly clear of marketing blarney, and unapologetic about its Indian maiden mascot.

DAB is German, brewed in Dortmund. That stands for Dortmunder Actien-Brauerei. That’s the one I drank. Found it satisfying. Hard to go wrong with a German brew. The label claims Dortmund is the “brewcity of Germany,” but that’s like all those places that claim to have the world’s best hamburger.

Sierra Nevade Pale Ale is either from California or North Carolina. The bottle claims both locations. According to one online commentator at least, “Over the course of more than three decades, Sierra Nevada Pale Ale (henceforth “SNPA”) has evolved from an industry outlier to trusty dive-bar standby, all the while maintaining fierce allegiance among aficionados.”

Exiled Angel is the local selection, brewed in not-far-away Algonquin, Ill. Exiled Angel is a Belgian Strong Pale Ale-style beer brewed by Scorched Earth Brewing Co. I didn’t get to try it. But Exiled Angel was my favorite label of the evening.

Exiled Angel

Reminded me some of last year’s Stone, with its diablo design. Seems like there should be a whole subset of beer named after evil characters. How about evil Old Testament figures? Cain IPA. Men of Sodom Pale Ale. Ba’al Bitter. Jezebel Stout.

There’s some diabolical revisionism on the label. “Lucifer, Satan and the Devil — names cast upon heaven’s Exiled Angel — marked as deceptive, seductive, and powerful: characteristics closely associated with the Belgian Style Golden Ale.” Sure, whatever you say.

Hop Jockey — I like that name — isn’t from much further away, Milwaukee. The beer columnist (now there’s a gig) for the Wisconsin State Journal seems to like it.

Lou Mitchell’s

On Easter Saturday, which was clear and pleasantly warm, we took our first Chicago Architectural Foundation tour of the year, more about which later. To get there, we took a train to Union Station, timing things so that we could eat before the tour. I figured the place to go was Lou Mitchell’s. It had been a while, though more recently than 2005.

I might be misremembering, but I think my friend Rich took me to Lou Mitchell’s for the first time during my first visit to Chicago in 1981. Or if not then, sometime during a visit in the 1980s. Even then it was an institution of a diner, and Lou Mitchell himself was still around, giving away either doughnut holes or tiny packs of Milk Duds to patrons as they came in.

So much of an institution that the National Park Service devotes a page to the restaurant as part of its Route 66 series. “Built in 1949, Lou Mitchell’s is located at 565 West Jackson Boulevard, a few blocks west of Lake Michigan and the eastern terminus of Route 66,” the page notes.

Lou Mitchell’s itself claims a 1923 founding by Lou Mitchell’s father, but presumably that was a different location. In ’49, the Mitchells probably thought nothing of the fact that W. Jackson happened to be US 66 at that point, just that it was a good city street to be on. These days, there’s a bit of Route 66 decor on the walls, but not too much.

“Visitors immediately focus on the original aluminum and glass storefront,” the NPS continues. “Rising up from the upper front façade and extending the entire length of the building is the eye catching, original 1949 neon sign that proudly states ‘Lou Mitchell’s Serving the World’s Best [sic] Coffee.’
Lou Mitchell's facade 2017“Another original sign, this one extolling the restaurant’s handmade bakery goods, is still hanging on the front façade. Aside from timely upgrades of the kitchen and bathrooms, the interior of Lou Mitchell’s has not been significantly altered since 1949. The dining room retains its original black and white terrazzo flooring, and most of the dining and counter areas are unchanged.

“The booths have their original wood tables, coat racks, and seats, although the seats sport new upholstery. The multi-sided counters with individual stools are original but have newer laminated surfaces and upholstery. Much of the wood and Formica wall paneling dates to 1949.”

Add to these things the hum of talking people, the clink of silverware and the distinct pleasant smell of a diner, and that’s the atmosphere you get at Lou Mitchell’s. None of that would matter without the food, which has been uniformly good over the years I’ve eaten there. Mostly breakfast items for me, such as the sapid ham and cheese omelette I had recently, which comes with cubed potatoes and toast. My kind of eats.

New Product Thursday

Trader Joe’s is always good for some novelty or oddity. That’s the way that store does things. Lately I picked up a Trader Joe’s Quasar Bar, a 1.8 oz. candy bar, on impulse. There’s no indication on the packaging who actually makes the bar for the grocery store chain, but no doubt it’s one of the major confectioners, since it’s a high-quality bar.

Naturally it has an astronomical name. After all, there’s Mars and Milky Way and Starbursts and probably others I don’t know about. The verbiage on the package: “With whipped chocolate and rich caramel enrobed in dark chocolate.” Interesting choice of a verb, enrobed. A very Trader Joe’s touch.

The Quasar Bar’s compared to the Milky Way, and there’s something to that, but I thought of it more as the love child of a Milky Way Midnight Dark Chocolate and a 3 Musketeers. The combination works well. Not worth a trip to Trader Joe’s by itself, but a good impulse purchase if you’re there. More about it here, at an entire blog devoted to that grocery store.

Sad to say, Trader Joe’s Low Calorie Lemonade, in the 8 fl. oz. plastic bottle, isn’t nearly as good. It’s neither very sweet nor particularly tart. I prefer my lemonade on the tart side, but not too tart, though I can understand those who like it sweet. This lemonade tastes like lemon juice added to water.

At first I thought I hadn’t shaken it vigorously enough, but after a good shaking, it still tasted like lemon juice added to water. It might be made from organic, fair-traded, non-GMO, gluten-free lemons, but that doesn’t make it any good (actually, it only says organic).

On to Costco, where Yuriko picked up a 30 oz. package of Aussie Bites, a product of Best Express Foods, not of Australia, but Hayward, Calif. A Delicious Health Snack! the package promises.

Some ingredients are in large type on the package: rolled oats, dried apricots, flax seeds, sunflower seeds, honey, coconut, quinoa, chia seeds. In standard ingredient-label smaller type: all those, plus various kinds of sugar, butter, sea salt, baking soda, rice flour, etc. ZERO TRANS FATS is in all caps.

They’re essentially cookies, though not disk shaped, but more like small, densely packed muffins. Quite tasty, but also very filling. It’s taken us more than a month to eat most of them.