A Flying Egg

At about 11:15 pm on Saturday, I was driving Ann home from a friend’s house, headed south on a four-lane street here in the northwest suburbs, in the lane closest to the curb on the passenger side. Traffic was light. Suddenly, we heard a loud THUMP from direction of the passenger side.

Immediately the driver’s thoughts — my thoughts, that is — turned to, what did I hit? But only a few seconds later Ann told me she saw egg on the window. Later, I determined that an egg had hit the door, probably just below the window. No damage, but some eggish goo was left behind, with a few bits of shell.

Eggs aren’t know to fly. Must have been a random act by some young wankers, wasting their parents’ eggs. Better than getting hit by a rock, I suppose, or something much worse. That hasn’t happened to me, luckily, but years ago someone unseen bombarded my car with a water balloon.

My Own kWh

More wind today. Enough so that the blue recycle bin, which usually rests inert on the deck, took a new position against the back yard fence in the morning.

ComEd sent me another of its non-bill mailings recently, to tell me how I stand vis-à-vis “efficient neighbors” and “average neighbors,” for the period December 22 to January 25. Efficient and average in terms of electricity usage, that is, not (say) snow removal or vacuum cleaning of interior carpets.

We used 560 kWh over that period, and thus 1 percent for more electricity than efficient neighbors. Guess that’s good. A smidgen less coal burned somewhere, a few fewer atoms split. “Efficient neighbors are the 20% who use the least amount of electricity” among 100 houses in a one-mile radius or so, according to the utility.

In the fine print, the letter says, “This program is funded by ComEd customers in compliance with Illinois law.” Hm. Not an unfunded mandate as far as ComEd is concerned, then. The company gets to charge its customers to tell them how efficient they are. That would be OK if I got a discount for efficiency, a few tenths of a cent per kWh, say, but I don’t think that’s in the offing unless I’m an industrial user.

Billy Beer Now Counts as an Antique?

First things first. Remember the Alamo.

Not long ago we visited an antique mall in another northwest suburb that we go to occasionally, though this was the first time in a few years. On the whole it’s a likable place stuffed to the gills with debris from across the decades. I like looking around, just to remind myself how much stuff there is in the manmade world. The establishment frowns on photographing its wares, so I have no images.

The mall’s postcards, unfortunately, tend to be $1 or more each. It has to be a special card for me to pay that much. Got enough of them anyway. Several drawers full of old photographs of random strangers were also available, at a lower cost per item. Many were easily taken 100 years ago. That only goes to prove that for most people, any images older than their grandparents might as well be cave paintings.

The most amusing find: a six pack of Billy Beer, apparently unopened. I don’t ever remember actually seeing any, only hearing about it, as everyone did in 1977. A short history of the risible brand, posted in 2010, is at Mental Floss, whose key line is: “That’s about the best summary of Billy Beer that we can find; it was so noxious that not even Billy Carter would drink it.”

As for later: “Billy Beer perfectly fit the mold for a worthless collectible. It was made in giant quantities. Hordes of people had speculatively saved some. It had no intrinsic value.”

I think the price on the cans was $30. Who knows, maybe Billy Beer’s time as a collectible will come someday, as those giant quantities waste away across the decades. But I’m not going to buy any in hopes of finding out.

Mail From the Patel Brothers

Something new in the mail the other day: a circular from Patel Brothers. The grocery stores of theirs that I’ve seen have the appearance of being local — tucked away in strip centers — but in fact Patel Brothers is a national chain, with about 50 stores. The brand did start in Chicago, however, with its first store on Devon Ave., hub of the city’s East Indian population, in the 1970s.

Patel BrothersThe four-page circular has one of our names on it, so it’s more than a blind mass mailing. Chinese New Year is mentioned on the front page. Guess the Patels are looking to expand their market a bit.

On the back page, various East Asian items are offered, such as Ichiban Tofu, Sriracha sauce, TYJ spring roll pastry and Chaokoh coconut water. Looking up that last one further, I learned that the Thai product is the “Official Coconut Water Partner of Liverpool Football Club.”

Inside the circular, the products are more South Asian. From it I learn that Swad brand is popular. Apparently that’s an Indian food distributor headquartered in Kerala, but its web site is less than helpful when it comes to offering much information about the company.

The About Us page says, all sic: “Catering to gods own people is no mean task. We embraced this challenge with great enthusiasm and with Swad Food Products, a well known house hold brand name in India. We make available premium Wheat & Rice Products all over the world. Our products are available all over the world through more than hundred strong distributors. Our Product Quality agreed internationally by getting orders from Middle East, Europe and USA.”

Anyway, at Patel Brothers, you can buy Swad peanuts, cashews, salt, moong dal, whole moong, kidney beans, kabuli chana, turmeric powder, ghee, rice flour and canola oil.

Cricket in the Northwest ’Burbs

On Saturday as I walked the dog through the park and school grounds behind my house, I saw a group of about 15 men on the elementary school blacktop. From a distance, I thought they were playing baseball, which would be a little odd. Then again, the recent rains froze in the ground and then melted enough during the last few days to make the ground squishy, which would render the ball fields in the park a little difficult for a game.

Then I noticed they were playing cricket. A pick-up game of cricket, you could say, since the pitch was clearly improvised, and I don’t think there were enough of them to field 11 players on each team (one of the few facts that I know about cricket). (And that Don Bradman was the greatest cricket player, according to an Australian I knew who insisted on that point.)

I’d never seen anyone playing cricket in that park. Cricket pitches were common enough in places like England and Australia, built into the urban parks in those countries, and I remember wandering by such places and seeing cricket players do whatever it is they do. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen anyone play cricket in North America, though I know that people do.

For instance, Vanderbilt had a cricket team whose picture was always in the yearbook, and every jack man of them was of East Indian heritage. As were the men playing in the park on Saturday.

50 Oz Cents

I have a few more colorful banknotes from the third world, but today’s Australia Day. I don’t have any notes from that country — being real money, I exchanged them when I got back — but I do have coins. Such as a dodecagonal 50-cent piece dated 1984, one of the 26.3 million minted that year.

It features a fairly ordinary observe.

Australian 50 cents 1984The Royal Australian Mint says: “Since her coronation in 1953, five effigies of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II have appeared on the obverse of Australian coins. Previous effigies were designed by Mary Gillick (1953), Arnold Machin (1966), and Raphael Maklouf (1985). Since 1998, Australian coins have used the current effigy by Ian Rank-Broadley.” So I’ve got the last year of Arnold Machin.

The 12-sided coin replaced a round 50-center in 1969, apparently to help avoid confusion with the round 20-cent piece. The reverse sports the Oz coat-of-arms by Stuart Devlin.
Australian 50 cents 1984I like the distinctive kangaroo and emu. Squeezed on the shield are the symbols of the six Australian states, united as a nation.

I also enjoyed reading that for a while, Stuart Devlin, who was Australian-born but is a resident of the UK, was Prime Warden of the Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths.

One Nakfa Note

Among the autocratic nations of world, Eritrea has managed an astonishing achievement. According to Reporters With Borders, which ranks which countries abuse their journalists most and least, Eritrea comes in dead last — 180 out of 180, even worse than North Korea.

That’s just the tip of the iceberg. Human Rights Watch reports that “the United Nations High Commission for Refugees reported at the end of 2014 that 416,857 Eritreans have lodged asylum claims or are registered as refugees, over 9 percent of the country’s population. UNHCR released no comprehensive figures for 2015, but reported about 39,000 Eritreans had applied for asylum by October in 44 industrialized countries alone. In October, 10 members of Eritrea’s national soccer team sought asylum in Botswana.

“The commission of inquiry concluded that grave human rights violations ‘incite an ever-increasing number of Eritreans to leave their country.’ Based on over 500 interviews, the UN commission found that the Eritrean government engages in ‘systemic, widespread and gross human rights violations,’ and that the abuses occur in the ‘context of a total lack of rule of law’ with the result that it ‘is not the law that rules Eritreans, but fear.’ ”

But at least the faces are happy on its money, the nakfa. Interestingly, the currency is named after the city of Nakfa, which was an important nexus of resistance during the Eritrean War of Independence.
One NakfaWere anyone interested in exchanging a 1 nakfa note, in theory it’s worth about 6.5 U.S. cents, but only because it’s pegged to the dollar. And in fact, the note I have isn’t even money in Eritrea any more, having been replaced by newer notes.
1 Nakfa Note reverseI also wonder why the despots of Eritrea kept that name for the country. I understand it’s derived from the ancient Greek name for the Red Sea, and it’s something the Italians dreamed up as part of their jerry-built imperial ventures during the Scramble for Africa. Why not something harking back even further (as woeful Zimbabwe did)? Such as Axum.

One Ngultrum Note

This colorful banknote is a 1 ngultrum note issued by the Royal Monetary Authority of Bhutan, Series 2013.

1 ngultrum note

If I ever knew it, and maybe I did, I’d forgotten that the ngultrum — དངུལ་ཀྲམ — is the basic currency of that insular Himalayan state. It divides into 100 chhertum. The ngultrum is pegged at par to the Indian rupee, so these days my note is theoretically worth about 1.5 U.S. cents.

1 ngultrum note

That’s Simtokha Dzong. Wiki tells us that “Simtokha Dzong (‘dzong’ means ‘castle-monastery’), also known as Sangak Zabdhon Phodrang (‘Palace of the Profound Meaning of Secret Mantras’) is a small dzong. It was built in 1629 by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, who unified Bhutan… An important historical monument and former Buddhist monastery, today it houses one of the premier Dzongkha language learning institutes.”

I didn’t pick up the note in Bhutan. Mostly what I remember hearing about visiting Bhutan in the 1990s was that visas were inordinately expensive. These days, I’ve read, the approach is to require foreigners to spend a certain per diem in country — high for the developing world — and hew pretty closely to their organized tours. Nepal, it ain’t.

RBS One Pound Note

What to do here in the pit of winter, with its cold — though not quite as cold this year as usual — and daylight that passes so quickly? Take a close look at your collection of colorful but essentially worthless banknotes from far-flung nations. Or in one case, a subnational banknote. This one, dated 1978:
Royal Bank of Scotland One Pound Note 1978Not too many subnational territories get their own banknotes, but Scotland does. I might have gotten this in change during my ’83 visit to the UK, which took me close to Scotland compared to where I am most of the time, but not really that close. Or maybe I picked it up in ’88. I suspect that by ’94, most cashiers in England weren’t bothering with £1 notes of any kind.

Royal Bank of Scotland One Pound Note 1983

Scottish notes circulate in the rest of the UK, and will until that day when the Scots, peeved about Brexit, pull the trigger on independence. At which point they might go ahead and use the euro, and wind up like Greece. But that’s all mere conjecture.

For now, three Scottish banks are authorized to issue banknotes: the Bank of Scotland, the Royal Bank of Scotland, and Clydesdale Bank. According to the RBS, it’s been issuing banknotes since 1727 and has an average of £1.5 billion worth of notes in circulation on any given day. It’s also the only one of the three to keep issuing £1 notes.

In October, the RBS issued its first polymer banknote, which was a £5 note. Next will be a £10 note. The one pound probably isn’t worth the trouble.

Divers Content on a Freezing Cold Thursday

Inspired by yesterday’s natterings, I stopped at the library and checked out River of Doubt (2006) by Candice Millard. Subtitled “Theodore Roosevelt’s Darkest Journey,” it’s about TR’s expedition into darkest Amazonia in 1913-14. As the book makes clear from the get-go, the journey nearly killed him. Even he-man action presidents have their limits, after all.

I didn’t know until today that Andrew Sachs died not long ago. There are many clips available of him in fine form as Manuel, such as this one or this one or this one.

I’ve had these glasses for a few years now. Bought them at a garage sale for (I think) a quarter each.

Coke Cans Make of Glass

They were clearly some kind of promotional item from Coca-cola but also McDonald’s, because three of them have McDonald’s arches on the bottom. The interesting thing to me is that they’re precisely the same size and shape as a 12 oz. soft drink can.

While writing about a hotel today, I encountered something in the hotel biz known as a “spiritual menu.” The concept isn’t exactly new, but I’d never heard of it. The following is from the Christian Post in 2008.

“A hotel in Nashville will be the first known in the nation to remove the standard Holy Bible from its rooms and replace it with a ‘spiritual menu’ that includes other religious books… Hotel Preston, a boutique owned by Oregon-based Provenance Hotels, will require guests to call room service to order their religious book of choice…

“The religious book list includes the Book of Mormon, the Qur’an, the Torah, the Tao Te Ching, The Four Noble Truths of Buddhism, Bhagavad Gita (a Hindu text), books on Scientology, as well as the King James and New American Bible versions.” @#$%&! Scientology?

Hm. The Gideons can’t be too happy about being replaced. And the following lyric just doesn’t have the same ring: Rocky Raccoon/Checked into his room/Only to find a spiritual menu.