Comments from my life, family, and projects I enjoy.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Reflections on a Funeral

I went to a funeral today. It was for a young woman that passed away too soon. She was the wife of a friend at work. Her death was sudden and unexpected. I had never met her, but I think funerals are for those left behind and to me it was important that I be there to let her husband know I care. I settled into a pew beside strangers and tried to concentrate on the words of the pastor. The Psalms that we know by heart were recited. A hymn was sang and then the pastor began to cite the relevant passages of the old and new testaments.

Soon my attention began to wander as my gaze became fixed upon the family. My friend, the grieving husband, his world forever turned upside down. The shocked look of their children, still trying to grasp what has happened. I noticed  a little girl of around 7 with the family, perhaps the daughter of the woman's sister. She turned and smiled at me. Such a lovely child with light brown curly locks. She so much reminded me of the photos of my wife as a child. I couldn't help, but think of my own life and how I could be the one in the family pews. Suddenly it became real.

My thoughts were interrupted by the conclusion of the pastors words. Back from my thoughts, to the progression of the service. We sang another hymn. A slow sad hymn that dragged along. It seemed to somehow amplify the sadness. We recited the lords prayer, and the family made their exit.

Back outside in the sunshine, it was a beautiful fall day. Back into my world. Back in the car to head home, to my wife and my son, but the scenes of the funeral continue to play over in my mind.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Now a Food Brand in Decline

Yes, it has happened again. In my humble opinion, I believe there is another once great American brand now in decline. This time it is a food brand. We recently picked up a less than half gallon of what we thought was Breyers Chocolate Chip Ice Cream. Well, a closer examination of the packaging reveals it not ice-cream at all, but is a frozen dairy dessert. Apparently this product does not contain enough dairy cream to qualify for labeling with the FDA as Ice Cream. Here are a couple photos of the packaging.

Notice how the first three ingredients listed are; Milk, Sugar, and Corn Syrup. Also notice the thickeners, Guar Gum and Carob Bean Gum.

In previous versions that were labeled as Ice Cream, the first three ingredients were, Milk, Cream and Sugar.

How does it taste, you may ask? Well, it doesn't taste at all like real Ice Cream. The sweetness of the sugar and corn syrup are overpowering, with a distinct corn syrup flavor and aftertaste that is reminiscent of cheap pancake syrup. Gone is the crisp milky, creamy flavor of fresh sweet dairy cream that was so prominent in the older Breyers products.
The texture of the new product is also different. When scooped out of the container, the new product does not peal away revealing the ruffled texture as shown in the image on the container. Instead it peals away in a smooth rather sticky plastic consistency. As the product melts, it no longer drips away from the spoon as expected from real ice cream, but instead, ropes away in a stringy glob. I can only speculate that the thickeners listed on the package are there in an attempt to make up for the missing cream.

Going forward, I will be purchasing Blue Bell brand ice cream. It is still a full half gallon and is real Ice Cream, not a Frozen Dairy Dessert.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

A New Computer at SoftlyScrambled.

A new to me, hand me down computer has landed here at SoftlyScrambled and I couldn't be more pleased if I tried. I had the good fortune of being gifted this unit by one of my neighbors that needed some assistance with a memory upgrade on his Mac Mini.
 This is a five year old Gateway gaming machine he bought back in 2008. He indicated that it has never performed as well as he expected. He also was leery of the hard drive, since the smart data shows some bad sectors. He has another machine that is working well for him so he asked if I could use the old Gateway. Of course I was glad to take it off his hands. This machine has an Intel quad core processor and six gig of ram, along with a nice Nvidia video card. I know this is no longer a bleeding edge machine, but it is a major upgrade from my old single core 1100Mhz Sempron.  Once it was home, I gave everything a good cleaning and installed Linux mint 12. Now that it has been liberated from it's Windows prison, it performs quite well. Of course I will be keeping a close eye on the hard drive smart data to see if it continues to throw bad segments.

One thing that I could not become accustomed to was the orange trim on the case. I'm sure there are plenty of 12 year old boys that would think it was perfect, but I cannot imagine myself looking at this awful color scheme every morning over my first cup of coffee. My solution was simple. Disassemble the case to remove the offending trim and paint over the awful orange with some silver from a rattle can. I think it turned out rather well. Here is a link to the specs. if you are interested.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The Decline of Some Once Great Brands.

The decline of some once great brands. It's nothing really new. Many of you may have noticed it too, but may not talk about it. Sometimes it outrages me but, mostly it just saddens me. I think some of it is driven by the Wal-Mart mentality, where we have been trained by our culture to value a low price above all other factors when making a purchasing decision. I'm sure some of it is simply driven by corporate greed to show continuous growth and profitability, not that profit and growth are bad. Mostly I think it is just shortsightedness on the part of corporate leadership.

A couple of years ago, I set out to buy a new push mower for our little corner of green, here in the suburbs. A little research with the leading consumer magazine led me to investigate a Cub Cadet mower. I soon learned that Cub Cadet is now owned by MTD and the engine is no longer a Briggs & Stratton, or other quality brand, but is a Chinese import. I promptly went home and repaired my then 23 year old Homelite, another once proud brand that is now owned by a Chinese conglomerate known as TTI. I then wrote a letter to the Quality director and Marketing director of MTD expressing my disappointment with a Chinese engine on their product. As expected, I never received a reply. Clearly profits are more important than any quality concern from a potential customer. By the way, the old Homelite is now in it's 25th year and continues to serve me well.

My latest disappointment is with a Stanley Thermos Bottle I received as a Christmas gift. There was a time, when Stanley Thermos bottles were made in Tennessee. The Stanley bottle was always a bit more expensive than the competition, but they were guaranteed for life and were known to be a quality brand. I think I paid $20.00 for one back in the early '80s. Quite a bit at the time, when a cheap no-name bottle could be had for less than $10.00. I finally tossed it out (big mistake) because it was so beaten up that I was ashamed to be seen carrying it, but it still kept my coffee hot! Of course my new Stanley thermos was made in China. As of last week it no longer keeps my coffee hot. The brand value of Stanley is now much lower in my mind. I may as well just buy a cheap vacuum bottle at Wal-Mart, since the Stanley is simply another cheap Chinese copy of the original. No point anymore in paying extra for the brand.

Now it has come to my attention that a local manufacturer is moving one of it's most important product lines to Malaysia. I'm sure this will result in a short term cost savings, but what will be the damage to the brand? This manufacturer is well know as a producer of innovative products designed and made in the USA. Will this company become another on the list of once great brands? Will consumers begin to associate this brand with other cheap commodity products from that region of the world? I don't know, but I think the answer is as close as the nOSE on your face. As for the laid off workers, I hope something good comes their way so they will be Better Off Somewhere Else.

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Midlands of South Carolina, United States
Husband, Father, Quality Engineer, Electronics Professional, and tinkerer. Facinated by old technology and well made old tools. Old iron is good.