31 October 2013

Turkeys in Mud...Or...

 ...how to feed 50 cavers turkey with all the fixin's in the most complicated way possible!

I had a great "birthday" weekend. I took Friday off from work. (Thursday was my birthday, but you shall see why I took the next day off.) I slept late. Whew. Nothing like sleeping from 11PM until 10AM to make sure your batteries are recharged. I got up, fixed a leisurely breakfast of bacon, eggs and toast, then caught up on blogs and Facebook, then decided it was time to get it in gear since I was headed to RASSFest for the weekend!

RASSFest is the 3x/year gathering of my caving grotto, the Richmond Area Speleological Society. I've been a member since 1986, and was made an Honorary Life Member in about 1997 or so. I used to go caving (exploring caves - NOT spelunking since cavers rescue spelunkers) just about every weekend I wasn't scouting. So a LOT. Now, not so much with a dead shoulder and a near dead knee. But I still love getting together with my friends. Here's the pics from the weekend, and a sort-of "travelogue" video from Saturday night's campfire, and the trip home today. OH! And I officially combined this with some selfies! HAHAHA

Friday night we had a HUGE party in the bunk house! I had SOOO
much FUN!!! And SOOO much BEER!!!
My "ditch diggers"...you'll see why I needed these shortly.
One of our newer cavers...a rocket scientist, literally!
Another new friend. Nice thing about cavers, we almost all get along!
This is the "coal" fire. Note the bright orange center. This provided the
hot coals to cook the turkeys on.

Making the mud. It is an carefully guarded secret as to the ingredients in the mud.
Here we are preparing the table to mud up the turkeys.
Alas, no one was available to take pictures of the mudding,
and my hands were too cruddy to touch my camera!

But there they are! Four 12 pound turkeys, wrapped in mud,
happily (or maybe not so) cooking away in the pit that is now filled
with HOT coals from the fire. They get turned over onto fresh, hot coals
every 45-60 minutes. Every turn is a fresh basting for the birds!

One of our old timers, Bill B., cooked one of the turkeys on a spit over an open fire.
This was SOO much simpler. I think we'll do all 5 this way next time!!!

There was a whole stack of fixin's to be made...
Stuffing, gravy, mashed potatoes, green beans, rolls, and NINE PIES!!!
Here we are, 6 hours later, stripping the meat off the bones!
Note the guys in the rear are wearing welding gloves to lift those babies off
the fire and get the chicken wire and outer layers of foil and mud off the birds.
This is kind of  an "after" picture of the dinner! You can see some
turkey, green beans, there is stuffing and mashed potatoes, with gravy and
cranberry sauce, with rolls and butter and spices!
There was a crowd! We counted 55 people! Awesome!!!
That night, we had a bonfire! Imagine 50 friends, all sitting around
a conflagration like this! TOO COOL!
And, the first of the promised selfies. This is me, by the campfire.
Wasted by tireness! No "fun" for me tonight! Too tired to indulge!!!
Selfie #2: Today, I headed home. Margot, my bff (seen below),
slept all day Saturday, but was bright eyed on Sunday morning!

It was a great weekend for me. I had so much fun, and worked so hard. But the result was worth it. Total recreation, in every meaning of the word. And now, if you've stuck with me this far, you can now spend 6 minutes watching a video of last Saturday night's campfire, and Sunday's trip home. I suggest turning your computer sound down a bit, as the audio on the video is a bit LOUD!

16 August 2013

The Cupcake Incident

I had to visit a fellow amateur radio operator this morning to pick up some materials to teach a class with this fall. So I was up and at 'em bright and oily this morning - no, wait a minute, I took a shower, but didn't shave, so maybe bright and fuzzy is more apt!

I got in the truck, and saw something sitting on the hood of the truck. This not in and of itself unusual as sticks, leaves, bird crap, occasional rocks, and other natural debris seem to be drawn to my truck's bonnet. I got out and found this, which was definitely not natural debris.
Yes, that's right. A cupcake in a Zip-Loc® bag. With a popsicle stick and sticky note on it. Upon closer inspection, I saw this on the note:
If you're having trouble reading it, it says "Kindness is never a mistake...Please be kind to someone today!"

Nice sentiment. I try to be kind to the people I encounter every day. And generally, they are kind to me back. It's not tough to smile at clerks and waitresses and attendants and secretaries and bosses. I smile at people I pass on the street, and hold doors open for people - male or female. I don't much care about that parking place one slot from the door, I can walk a bit if you want it. It's not hard at all, and quite frankly, elicits more than a few smiles back, some mumbled thanks, and hopefully, I've cheered at least one person up. At the very least, I've treated the people I come into contact with the way I want to be treated. Isn't that the Golden Rule? The one so many "mouthpieces" for so many groups out there have forgotten? So I try.

Here's the next question...Who left the cupcake on my truck? There's no acknowledgement of the baker or the person who left it there. It wasn't there when I went to bed last night about 11PM. And if it had been, I'm quite sure a raccoon or possum or squirrel or dog or bird would have been the one trying to absorb the sentiment attached - as well as the sugar and fat content - rather than me. It was a cool night and morning, so it didn't melt into a mass of chocolate oblivion, but I am guessing that someone left it early this morning. Normally, I'm out of the house by 6:30AM during the summer, so who knows if this would have been left for me if today was a work day. But who was it? I'll be perfectly honest, I don't know my neighbors at all. Steve (I think his name is) is on the right side of my house, I think Frank and his wife are two to the left. The crazy woman is three houses up beside Clarence. But other than guessing at some names, that's about it for neighborhood friendliness around here. I guess it was a roving band of do-gooders, which is not necessarily a bad thing, but seems a bit out of place. There was no religious tract with it, and the cupcake appears homemade.

Which brings up the final question...To eat it or not? There are, of course, two trains of thought on that. One: OH MY GOD NO!!!! YOU CAN'T EAT THAT!!!! You have no idea who made it! What if their kitchen isn't clean?! You don't know what's in it! What if there's a razor in it?! Or cocaine?!? Or poison?!?!?! You'd be stupid to eat something that you had no idea where it came from!!! How dumb can you be? Someone could be trying to kill you, or get you addicted to drugs, or (fill in the blank here with some doomsday scenario). There are people who think this way, who tether their children on Halloween, and after trick or treating at the church gathering or the mall, take the treats to the hospital to be x-rayed (even though in the history of x-raying children's Halloween candy, there has never, that's right, never been an incident of a foreign object in a piece of candy or fruit. There's never been a case of drugs or poison in candy or other treats except one incident in Texas, and that was traced to a head case trying to screw with his girlfriend by messing with her kids, and she figured it out pretty quick. The idiot was arrested. There's the other question of why someone would do such a thing as contaminate cupcakes they leave throughout the neighborhood (I'm assuming I'm not the only recipient, though the way our neighborhood is configured, it can be tough to see other car hoods if you're not looking carefully from the right angles).

The other side of that is...Why would anyone leave a tainted cupcake with a happy message on it? I'm still not sure who has the money (and guts) to bake a bunch of cupcakes and leave them all over the neighborhood, but I'm pretty sure there wouldn't be any nefarious intent to it. I did discover this disclaimer on the back of the sticky note: "This cupcake contains eggs and flour". So there. Covered for bad intentions. It's a quiet neighborhood, we all tend to keep to ourselves a bit, but I think if anyone had actually eaten one, gotten sick and gone to the doc-in-a-box or the ER, they might have figured out what was happening and let us know. "Don't eat the free cupcakes!" There are a lot of people who believe the world is out to get them. And their kids. You know the stick figures you see in the back windows of (usually) minivans? There are people who write to Dear Abby to ask her to warn everyone to take them out of the windows, lest a kidnapper see them, follow them home, stalk them, and kidnap the kids! How many kinds of bad luck would have to come together for THAT to happen?! Yeesh! Walking to school is now too dangerous (it isn't, just look at crime statistics), but parents won't let their kids (and schools won't let the children walk either). Oddly enough, you'd have to walk to school something like 750,000 times before you'd get stranger abducted. At 180 days per school year, that's 4167 YEARS worth of walking. You'd be plenty fit, but most likely, still around to talk about it. You are more likely to be hit by lightning, and definitely more likely to die in a car accident while being driven to school! Yet we don't stop driving our kids everywhere instead of letting them walk to the park two blocks away. Lenore Skenazy, the World's Worst Mom, has a whole blog, a book, and now makes a living stressing that the world is not as dangerous as many make it out to be. You should visit her blog sometime.

Anyway, I'm of the "HEY! FREE CUPCAKE!!!" school! And sure, I'll be nice to someone today, why not? (But I'm not buying the $180 fuel system cleaning and brake system flush that Goodyear tried to sell me while I was getting the oil changed, the tires rotated, and the alignment checked on the Xterra. I'm not that nice!)

09 May 2013

The Rivah

That would be the James River, Richmond's crowning glory.  Richmond is located at the "falls of the James", the end of the (easily) navigable water, though the Kanawha Canal bypassed the rapids until the railroad came through and made it obsolete. Some of it has been restored along the downtown waterfront. Much of the waterfront is parkland, some of it pretty wild and undeveloped, and some of it easily accessible. It's a pretty nice mix, and a wonderful place to spend time.

 I love the James River. Early in my days in Virginia, I canoed and swam in the Upper James, way west of Richmond, where the river is wide and slow, the fishing is good, and you can make a day or two of leisure travel and camp alongside. I've rafted the 6 or 7 miles of fall line rapids that run through the Richmond region. While it's not the Gauley River at dam release time, it's a lot of fun for a half day trip with kids.

Later, in about 1996, I bought a kayak. Now the rapids took on new meaning. You could play at the Upper or Lower Rapids, showing off to all the lookie-loos sunning themselves on the rocks, or head to the "downtown" stretch and run the Class 3-4 (and in higher water, 4+ to 5) rapids that include the famous "Hollywood Rapid" and the "Pipeline". SOOO much fun (about as much fun as you can have in a river with your clothes on).

Yesterday afternoon, I wandered down to Pony Pasture after work to look at the results of the recent rains out in the western part of Virginia. Rainfall in the east doesn't really affect river levels too much, but let it rain for a week or more in the west, and look out! Here is what the Westham gauge looked like today:
About 5 feet is considered normal, and the kayaking is good up to about 7 feet, maybe 8 if you are really good. Here's the warning you see when you walk up to the riverbank at the Pony Pasture parking lot (don't ask how Pony Pasture got its name, no one really seems to know though there is lots of speculation).
Here was the sign that more closely matches what the gauge levels showed.
Believe me, you do NOT want to be on the river when it is near 15 feet.
I went on a little hike. I'll take you along. Let's go left.
Along the trail, I spotted deer fur. Remember, this is in a very urbanized area.
Here's what the river looked like...that huge tree wasn't there the last time I visited, but it's sure a testament to the power of the river!
Back down at the Lower Rapids, this guy was sitting on a large rock that is normally about 8 feet above the water level, and 6 feet away from the splishy-splashy edge (and the normal take-out for kayaks). Under his feet are steps that lead down to the water's edge.
Here's a panorama of the Lower Rapids area. At normal water levels, there are huge rocks you can clamber over and use for sunning. At low water you can pretty much walk out to the islands in the middle, though they're pretty wet islands. Now, the rocks are under 8 feet of rushing water that will flat drown your butt if you try to play in it.
To give you a bit of perspective, here's a couple of 20 second videos to show you how fast and strongly this wonderful resource if moving.

06 January 2013

Political Rant

I am staying out of the Facebook "gun control riot" as I call it. I discovered last year that even people I call friends go absolutely batshit crazy about their politics and will insult others personally, post stuff that is so far out of the realm of reality (and when called on it, get defensive beyond words to the point of unfriending you - no loss in my book), and in general just have a stroke when it's pointed out that whatever mishmash they "shared" this time is untrue or insulting to their alleged friends. So I'm not getting into it over there. But I can have my say here, so all six of you can read it. Here goes:

My political rant du jour

Everyone in the world is aware of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre. It breaks my heart to even think about it. Well, of course the liberals now want to ban all "assault weapons" and the 2nd Amendment wonks want to prove that guns don't kill people, people kill people. What kills me is the latter's STUPID STUPID comparisons and statistics that they post. I honestly thought that most of my friends on Facebook (whom, with very few exceptions have been or are friends in real life) had more brains than this. I'm not going to argue either point here, but I am going to rant about the chosen statistics.

Fine statistics (and you can bet one of these original posters copied off the other, I can't find that damn "323" number anywhere). Probably at least true by proportion if the actual numbers are a bit off. Here's my problem with them. FIND ME ONE FUCKING INSTANCE OF A MANIAC WITH A HAMMER KILLING 20 SCHOOL CHILDREN and SIX STAFF MEMBERS IN MINUTES, THEN BLUDGEONING HIMSELF TO DEATH WITH IT. Ditto baseball bats, rolling pins and crowbars. The same applies to knives. Drunk Drivers? Here we're back to apples and oranges. And the 195,000 dead by medical malpractice? How the hell is that relevant at ALL??? (Not to mention that in 2011, most of "Obamacare" had not even kicked in yet - still hasn't as a matter of fact, at least not most of what the conservatives are constantly frothing and foaming at the mouth about.)

I thought most of my friends would be smart enough to realize that the majority of murders are "crimes of passion" - a husband catches the wife cheating or vice-versa, or some a drunk playing poker catches another drunk cheating. An awful lot of murders are committed under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or rage. They grab the first thing handy (which is seldom an assault weapon since they are in such a small percentage of peoples' homes versus baseball bats, knives and rolling pins which are probably found in 90% of peoples' homes. Most of these murderers are "one timers", they're not hit men, they're not mad men (well, they're mad in the sense of incensed as opposed to mentally ill), they've killed, they've gotten it out of their system, they are usually remorseful as hell, and they wind up in prison even though there's a good chance they'd never kill again even given the same set of circumstances. Now I know there are drug-related deaths, and gang-related murders, but again, they are a small subset of the murders, and they are almost always carried out with small handguns (they used to be called Saturday night specials).

So, am I arguing that it won't do any good to ban assault weapons? No, I'm arguing that smart people ought to use smart arguments to try to influence others to come over to their side, or at least see their side of an issue like gun control. Stop posting disingenuous crap that means nothing, doesn't contribute a damn thing to the "conversation" and for Pete's sake (whoever poor old Pete is), you better be ready to have a conversation because it's coming, and trying to dig in your heels and not be willing to compromise usually means you won't get what you want, or even a small portion of it.

Here's one final comment:
Perhaps fewer Secret Service Agents with guns would be necessary if there weren't so many irresponsible owners of guns out there now that allow others to gain access to said guns, and/or are mentally ill themselves and therefore liable to act in a dangerous manner no matter what guns you might or might not ban. Also, name one president that has been assassinated with an assault weapon as opposed to a small handgun. OOOO, that ought to get the arguments and stupid statistics started up again!