Sunday, June 18, 2006

Livin' in Utah


Can I just tell you... I live in the coolest place in the world. My town (really a suburb of Salt Lake City) is a twenty minute drive from any kind of nature I want to find. Twenty minutes east, and I am in rugged mountains. Twenty minutes south or west and I'm in the driest sage desert you’ve ever seen. Twenty minutes north and I can be in a canyon where I can find prehistoric seashells.
The cool thing about Utah is that, if you don’t like the scenery, drive for twenty minutes, it’ll change.
Back a dozen years ago or so, a friend of mine and I decided that we were gonna hike to Lake Desolation up the Beartrap Fork trail. So one Saturday morning we got up at something like 4 am, and drove up Big Cottonwood Canyon to the trailhead of Beartrap Fork. It was so dark, but we had been there before, so we hiked with flashlights, only when we needed them. Well, we get up the trail and enter into this large field. Suddenly, we hear all these hoof beats. We had spooked a herd of mule deer, and they cut out of there pretty fast, but the cool thing is... we couldn’t see ‘em. We could only hear their departure. That was almost magical to me.
Nothing happens in the mountains that isn’t magical, at least to me. It’s like a drama that keeps on going, whether I’m there of not, it’s just that, when I am there, it’s happening just for me. That can be the herd of deer I come upon in the early hours, or the squirrels chasing each other up some lodge-pole pine, or a badger coming out of a critter hole with his face covered in blood.
It’s amazing.
There are also places that I've been to that feel like they've never had another person there for a hundred years.
One time, my Father-in-law, one of my friend, and I decided that we were gonna check out this ghost town we’d heard about. So, we drove 5 hours south to a place called Puria. There, we find this ghost town. Turns out it wasn’t a ghost town at all. It was a movie set. Used for Outlaw Josey Wales. Yep, walked into the very same building as Clint Eastwood. Now that’s cool!
I’ll tell you what... say what you will about Utah... I’ll take it over someplace else in an instant.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Hoot-n-Nanny GORP

I was just getting ready for the first of my Scout Camps this summer (Silver Moccasin) by making myself some of my Famous (in my own mind) Hoot-n-Nanny GORP. If you’re not familiar with GORP you don’t live in the mountain west. GORP stands for "Good Old Raisins and Peanuts"... Trail Mix ...to you folks who have never actually seen a trail. The best part about my famous Hoot-n-Nanny GORP is that there is no actual GORP in it. But it’s calk full of Hoot... with just a little bit of Nanny.

So... here’s how you make it.

Start with 3 cups of rolled oats (Hoot). I’ll usually get this stuff called “Cream of the West” out of Montana, because it’s made of oats and 6 other grains (Double Hoot). Good for the heart and cholesterol.
Then get about a cup of slivered or sliced Almonds (Hoot), and another cup of some other nut (Hoot). I like peanuts that have been chopped up a bit. Oops. I guess that there is come GORP in my GORP. Protein, protein, protein.
Now get about ¾ cup of sweet shredded coconut. (Nanny).
Then about ¼ cup of dark brown sugar (Nanny). I usually give it about 2 tablespoons over a ¼ cup (eyeball it, this isn't rocket science for cryin' out loud) for just a bit more Nanny. Now get about ¾ of a teaspoon of salt. (don’t use table salt ‘cause it tastes weird. Use kosher salt or sea salt. Trust me, not all salt tastes… salty.) By the way. I think that this is a Hoot, because you need to replace your sodium when on the trail. Drinking water, especially filtered water is not going to replace that sodium.
Now that’s all the dry stuff, so toss it all in a big mixing bowl, and stir it up. Break up any of the brown sugar or coconut that has stuck together.
Now for the wet stuff.
Get about ¼ cup of vegetable oil. I use Canola oil because it’s pretty low in saturated fats and has no trans fats. Plus it has a really light taste. I guess that’s a Hoot.
Now you need something sticky. Maple syrup works nicely. Don’t get maple “flavored” syrup, go for the real Vermont maple. I’ve also used honey. The regular mass produced Clover honey works well, but for an extra kick of Nanny, get a nice dark Buckwheat honey... oooh... or an orange blossom honey (Double Nanny). You can turn Honey into a bit of a Hoot by tracking down local honey. The reason being, if you have hay fever, like I do, you can lessen those allergies by eating locally produced wildflower honey, which builds up your resistance to the local pollins. Check with your doctor and make sure that doing this isn’t going to make you swell up and die. I don’t want that on my hands. Geez.
Molasses works well as a sticky as well. But I find that the taste is a bit too strong.
Use a little over ¼ cup of the sticky stuff. I take it just short of ½ a cup.
So... dump the oil and sticky stuff into the bowl with all of the dry stuff and stir to combine. It will seem like there isn’t enough wet to cover all of the dry, but trust me, there is. Just keep stirring until everything is lightly coated with the sticky oily mixture.
Now oil a sheet pan (save yourself some time and use Pam) and pour the GORP onto it. Spread it evenly and pop it into a 250 F oven. Let it bake for about 30 minutes. Then pull it out and sir it up and respread it evenly onto the sheet pan, and then back to the oven. Repeat this every 15 minutes, until the GORP is nicely toasted. Get it as dark as you like. I like it about the same color as buckskin.
Then take it out and give it a good press with your spatula (this will get the oat clusters working for you) and let it cool completely.
Once cool, the real Nanny begins. Take the GORP off of the sheet pan and put it in a bowl (big mixing bowl works). Getting it off of the sheet pan may take some spatula work.
Now add Dried fruits. I like Pineapple, Cranberry Raisins (craisins), and that kind of thing. No... I don’t add real raisins... yuck. This here is Mega Nanny. I’ll also throw in a handful of M&Ms and a small box of Good & Plenty, just for color and useless carbs. But then, when you’re on the trail at 9000 feet, is any carb useless?
So there you go. My Hoot-n-Nanny GORP. Looking back over it, I can see, there’s quite a bit of Nanny to go around.
I’ve given you the building blocks, now, build on it and see what kind of flavors you can come up with.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Lovely Sushi


Went for Sushi today. Yep, my once every other month treat. I’m poor, so I don’t get to have it very often. But today is extra special cause I ain’t paying.
I have a friend at work who is a commander in the Pacific Submarine Fleet and he’s presently attending the Army War College. So, he’s asked if, since I have an English Degree, I can proof read his papers. Last night I proof read a paper on… well… I know that it had something to do with tactical vs. conceptual leadership strategies… but that’s about all I could get out of it. It had a lot of words like SECDEF and SUBCOMPAC in it. Heck, I never served in the military and my English degree is in literature. I can barely find the subject phrase in a sentence. So, I checked it for punctuation and made sure that all of the sentences had a good flow to them. But that’s about it. And for that… he’s takin’ me to Sushi!
I got a taste for it when I was living in Las Angeles. I used to go to this place called “Tokyo House” where the waitresses barely spoke English, but they thought that my friend was cute so they would give us free steamed rice. Doesn’t sound like much, but back then I was even more poor than I am now.
I’m not one for the California Roll. Never did like avocado. But, I’m a huge fan of what’s called “Nigiri” sushi. Especially when it’s made of salmon or tuna.
What it is, is a ball of vinegared rice, with a small blob of wasabi in the middle. Then they lay the sashimi (raw fish) over the top. Sometimes they’ll tie it up with a strip of nori (sea weed), but not very often.
Tasty! Sweet with this little kick of short-lived spice to the nose.
I’ll tell you, those Japanese folk really know how to eat.
No, I have no Asian blood in me, but I sure wouldn’t mind if I did.
My ancestry? Well let’s just say that I’m red headed and pasty white with no genetic ability to tan in any way. Fine dining to my ancestors was to get all dressed up in their finest coarse wool and animal skins, and smear their faces with blue mud, before sitting down to a nice plate of oats and sheep’s innards cooked in its own stomach. Mmmm-Mmm. Yummy!

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Scout Nerd

Those of you who know me or have read many of my posts will know that I’m a member of the Boy Scouts. I’m the Scout Master of our local troop and I’m one of the assistant course directors for our council’s NYLT program. So, yes, you could say that I believe in the program. I love watching boys change, going from shy little guys to strong leaders. I love seeing boys that are, maybe, a little out of control to young men who know how to lead themselves.
Sometimes, the program can get a little... nerdy.
Skits, songs, cheers... all part of that program. I can’t tell you why. It just is, and it works. And to my way of thinkin’, don’t screw with what works.
So, here’s what’s been weighing on my mind.
There's a training course for Scout Masters called Wood Badge. It's a program with a lot of tradition, and a lot of prestige for those who go and put forth the effort to finish. What I mean is: Wood Badge is not one of those things that you go and do, and at the end of the week, they hand you your certificate and you go home. In Wood Badge, you attend a week-long course, then you write several goals onto what's called a “Ticket” and then you work that ticket. It can take 6 months to 2 years to work (took me 16 months) at the end of which you are awarded a couple of wooden beads on a leather boot lace. Seems like a lot of work for something so small.
My experiences at Wood Badge are some of the best I’ve ever had and I look back on those 7 days with alot of fondness. I learned a lot about myself and a lot about the men in my patrol. Most importantly I learned how Scouting is supposed to work.
My boss, who is also a Scout Master and a man I have great respect for, is at Wood Badge at this very moment, and hating every minute of it. You see, I went to Wood Badge because after I became a Scout Master, I didn’t know what the hell I was doing, and wanted to be trained. My Boss… not so much. He’s being forced to go by his charter organization. He believes that he knows what he’s doing and doesn’t need any training, which may or may not be true. Finally, he feels that all of the “Rah-Rah” in scouting is just stupid. The weeks leading up to his going to Wood Badge have been a constant dump on scouting... dump on me... parade. I work with a lot of younger people who follow the example of our boss pretty blindly. (It's funny how many Utah Boys have picked up a New Jersey accent.)
I know that the people here at work have respect for me. I’ve been here since the company formed and have attained to high of a position not to know that. But, I know that they all see me as a Scout Nerd.
Maybe I am.
Then again… is it so bad?
I just hope that my boss catches the vision of Scouting before his time at Wood Badge ends, because if he doesn’t, it will have been a wasted week for him... and I know that he hates waste.

I used to be an Antelope, and a good old Antelope too.
And now I’m finished Anteloping, I don’t know what to do.
I’m growing old and feeble, and I can Antelope no more,
So I’m going to work my ticket if I can.

Back to Gilwell, happy land,
I’m going to work my ticket if I can.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

6-6-06

Happy Birthday to you,
Happy Birthday to you
Happy Birthday, dear Devil-Spawn
Happy Birthday to You!

Oh yes, 6-6-06, the beginning of the end times.
You know, I believe in the Bible, when it’s not taken literally. And that whole “Mark of the Beast” being tattooed to or implanted in your right hand or forehead… nice story, but not literal. I’m looking forward to having a chip implanted in my hand. Think about it, no wallet, thus no wear marks on my back pockets and no credit cards to loose or have stollen, ‘cause all my cards and licenses will be stored on the chip. Cool eh?
If we could make that baby GPS compatible... Oh ya! I’d have on in every one of my kids.
Think about this. We put anti-theft tracking devices in our cars, boats, and motorcycles. We chip out dogs and cats, but we neglect our kids. Every day we hear about some kid being kidnapped or lost and we can’t find them. How easy it would be to have a small transmitter attached (or implanted in) to them so that we can zero in on their location seconds after they disappear. Now were talkin’!

But to my point. I have had a visitation. Yep, actual and whole. You know how the Virgin Mary appears to people in grilled cheese sandwiches and potato chips and such. Well, a while back when I was putting in a sprinkler system for my sister, I had a visitation in a splash of purple primer. The Primer splashed onto a pipe, and the visage of Jim Morrison appeared. It was... a powerful experience. He appeared in the primer and told me to break on through to the other side. The other side of what, he didn’t say.

And so...
Eat, Drink, and be Merry for tomorrow... well, tomorrow will work itself out, won’t it.

Monday, June 05, 2006

My Heart Will Go...


Have you ever had something go through your head that made you go... “Freak, where did that come from?”
I had one of those moments the other day.
So... there we were, the whole family packed into the mini van. Driving here and there. Listening to some easy listening station (my wife and I have done the battle of music types. As long as it isn’t country, I won’t slash my wrists). So on comes the theme to Titanic. My mind, takes a little vacation.

So, I’m thinking about the movie. I hate (I’m using the word, Hate, here) hate Leo DeCrappio. So naturally, I’m thinking of the part of the movie where Jack dies. Yep, my favorite part, mainly, because Jack FINALLY dies, and because the movie is almost over by this point.
So, in my mind, here’s Rose... looking wet and cold, floating on her scrap of wood, and there’s Jack... dead in the north Atlantic. I’m smiling.
So then she says to his corpse, “Jack, I’ll never let go.” And then before breaking his hand away from hers, she kisses him hard on the face (Anywhere really, doesn’t matter) and, somehow, her tongue freezes to his face (you know like that Christmas story kid and the flagpole).
Hey, this is my board mind at work, not your’s...
She can’t get it un-frozen (lack of warm water) and so as he sinks, she trails behind by her tongue.

At this point I have a wicked grin on my face, and my wife, just, doesn’t want to know.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Out of Gas


I rode my bike to work today. Yep, all a part of that "no heart attack" phase I’ve been going through. It’s just 10 miles (but feels like 50) with the last mile going up hill on a heavy traffic highway. No big.
Hey... if I get hit by some big SUV... Stay with me here... Maybe I can sue ‘em and put my kids through college. No, strike that. I had to put myself through college; my kids can do the same. I’ll sue ‘em and take my wife on a cruse to Alaska.
Ya... now were talkin’!
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