Saturday, June 29, 2013

Dutch Oven Cooking

Dutch Oven Cooks
Last Friday I did a little Dutch Oven cooking.  With the help of two other guys, we fixed dinner for 62 people.  It was for a nature center which I’m involved with and we cooked for the board of directors (which I’m on) and staff and family.  Dinner included chicken, pork, potatoes and onions (with bacon), sweet potato casserole, root vegetables (beets, parsnip, carrots, onions, etc) and two kinds of cobbler (one apple and two cherry, all served with ice cream).  The sweet potato casserole and root vegetables were new dishes and were made to satisfy the vegetarian crown.  We had 12 ovens going at one time or another.  Topping off the meal were a dozen or so growlers of beer from a local micro-brewery. 

Sweet Potato Casserole 
I need to do some catching up on blogs (and blogging) as I’ve been incredibly busy the last few weeks.  Yesterday I got my boat launched—the mast looks really nice—and the day before I was in Detroit for a ball game and the Tigers lost and I could have probably sailed my boat home with as much water as there was on the highway.  The game went to 10 innings and we got out just in time, soon after getting back to the vehicle, the clouds opened.  Both of the events could become stories, but I am not sure I’ll get around to it.   Have a good week.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Updates and Musings

This truck belongs to a friend of mine.  Hasn’t he done a wonderful job restoring it?   It’s a beauty, but what I am really envious of is the fuel pump.  That’s the one accessory lacking on my truck, and since the last two weeks, Michigan had led the nation with gas pushing $4.30 a gallon, that pump looks mighty nice. 

I am constantly amazed at nature this spring.  Things have been absolutely beautiful, to the eyes and the nose.  This morning I walked downtown to the local greasy spoon for breakfast and caught a whiff of something fragrant and noticed another tree in bloom.  The maples are loaded with their helicopter-equipped seeds.  We’ve had lots of rain and so far no hot weather and it seems that Mother Nature is just continually teasing our senses.  I know some fear a heavy harvest of seeds, thinking it is a predictor of a bad winter, but I’m tired of such pessimistic thoughts.   Instead, I’ll enjoy the beauty and if winter turns out to be tough, I’ll have more opportunities to use my skis.  It was only a couple weeks ago that I finally got around to cleaning all the old wax off and putting them up for the season. 

Of course, there has been some bad weather all around and the other night we had incredible thunderstorms.  I sat out on the back porch watching the lightning approach until the town’s tornado siren blew and we all went down into the basement.  Luckily, there was no damage around here.

Went to my first baseball game of the season last night.  It's a little late, but things have been busy.  West Michigan Whitecaps beat Fort Wayne Tin Caps 2-1.  A well played defensive game for single A minor league teams.  Defensive games may not be the most exciting, but to a true, they allow you to relax and enjoy.  In a couple of weeks, I'll get down to Detroit and hopefully see the Tigers walk away with the Angel's halos.  .  

Hopefully, this week I’ll find the time to get my sailboat back in the water.  I’ve been longing for the feel of wind tightening the canvas as it propels the boat across the water, or just sitting in the boat as it gentle rocks, listening to the chiming sounds of shrouds clanging against the mast and spreaders.

Monday, June 10, 2013

A Crack at the Edge of the World

Simon Winchester, A Crack at the Edge of the World: America and the Great California Earthquake of 1906 (New York: HarperCollins, 2005), 461 pages with illustrations, suggestions for additional readings and an index.

On April 18, 1906, San Francisco was awakened by a massive earthquake.   The shaking of the earth and the fires that followed destroyed much of the city.  Yet, it wasn’t the first nor was it the largest of the earth’s recent tremors.  In the months leading up to the San Francisco quake, there were jitters all along earth’s fault lines as well as a seemingly unusual amount of volcanic activity.  As a trained geologist, Simon Winchester provides a detailed explanation of plate tectonics (he also provides similar explanations in at least two other books, Krakatoa and Atlantic).  In addition to speaking of the movement of plates, he discusses the geology behind earthquakes (not all quakes occur along plates) as well exploring the developing science of earthquakes.  Although we’ve come a long ways since 1906 (plate tectonics is a relatively new theory), by the time of the San Francisco quake, the earth was ringing with instruments allowing scientist at the time to gain a better understanding of what was happening to the earth’s crust.  These records are also benefits for modern geologists who can use them with newer insight.  Thanks to these new insights, the pinpoint of the earthquakes epicenter has changed.   

Winchester ties his book together with a road trip around much of the North American plate (he drives across country for a teaching gig in San Francisco, after which he heads north to Alaska before heading  east).  This allows him to explore other large quakes within the North American plate such as Charleston, South Carolina (1886), New Madrid, Missouri (1811) and Anchorage, AK (1964).   In a way, these travels often seemed to distract from the point of the book, though they did provide a personal link to his stories. 
In addition to geology, Winchester provides a history of San Francisco as well as parts of the city such as Chinatown.  The quake destroyed immigration records of the Chinese which gave those seeking to flee the wars going on in China a way to get around the tough immigration laws of the day. 

Some of the interesting facts of the earthquake include how the insurance companies argued in court over whether the destruction was from the quake or the fire.  After the fire, it was hard in parts of San Francisco to tell which buildings were damaged by the quake (and not covered by insurance) or fire (and covered by insurance).   He also talked about the architecture of San Francisco and how some wanted the city to develop a master plan for development after the quake, but business interest quickly took over and the designs by Daniel Hudson Burnham for a city like Washington were quickly shelved.  Although San Francisco is often seen as an “artsy city,” Winchester notes that this wasn’t until after World War II. 

Winchester also discusses potential religious fallout from the quake.  To the south, in Los Angeles, the Azusa Street revivals were just beginning to gather steam.  These revivals are important in the development of Pentecostalism in America and the preachers quickly pointed to the quake as evidence of God’s judgment.  In Krakatoa, Winchester points to a similar fundamentalist religious rise in radical Islam in Indonesia following that volcano’s massive eruption.   Labeling the disaster as God’s judgment isn’t anything new.  In my own studies of Virginia City, Nevada (which in a way was a sister city to San Francisco), there were general outcry by those affected by a disastrous fire in 1875, which burned much of the city’s business district, at the preachers in San Francisco who pointed to the destruction as God’s judgment.  By 1906, Virginia City was just a shell of itself and no one was paying much attention to what its preachers were saying, but I'll have to go back into my notes and see if there was any mention of the San Francisco fire and earthquake. . Of course, not everyone was ready to point the finger at their neighbor’s misfortune and, as was the case in Virginia City which also received help from San Francisco following the fire, those in Los Angeles responded immediately by sending supplies.   

This is the fourth book I’ve read by Simon Winchester and I have come to appreciate how he weaves together two of my favorite subjects, history and geology.  I recommend this book even though I didn’t think it measures up to Krakatoa (my favorite of the four books I’ve read by Winchester).  However, this book does provide the reader with an understanding of what goes on under our feet, as well as insight into San Francisco’s history, especially the great earthquake.  

Saturday, June 08, 2013

Old shirts and memories...

Photo of the front of the shirt

Yesterday, my plans were to work on my boat in order to get it ready to launch next week.  This spring’s project has been refinishing some of the trim I didn’t get around to last spring as well as refinishing the mast (a post to come on this project).  Knowing I was going to spend a day getting dirty as I worked with stains and varnish, I pulled out a box of older tee-shirts from the closet.  My eyes fell immediately at a tee-shirt from Utah’s Hogle Zoo.  I pulled it out thinking once again about the memories of how I came to own this shirt.  

It was summer, either 2000 or 2001.   I was at a meeting of some kind held in Park City, Utah and the family was with me.   I had the afternoon off, so we decided to drive down to the zoo outside of Salt Lake City.   My daughter would have been somewhere between two and three and was all excited about seeing the animals.  Her favorite were the lions and we spent a long time watching the lions pace about in their containment areas (unfortunately, there were no gazelles for them to stalk).   On our second visit to the lion’s den, not long after we’d eaten, I was holding her up so she could have a better view when she lost her lunch all over me.   She, too, was covered with vomit.  Of course, being responsible parents, we had a change (or three) of clothes for my daughter.  I quickly got her cleaned up and in fresh clothes.  But I had not planned on spoiling my clothes and the hotel was 15 or 20 miles away.  My options were to parade around shirtless, take off my shirt in a rest room and wash it out and wear it soaking wet, or buy an over-price souvenir shirt.  I chose the latter.   

Whenever I wear this shirt, I recall with pleasure the many times I carried my little girl around in my arms.  Last night, this beautiful young woman asked me if we could practice driving today as she’ll be taking driver’s ed in a few weeks.   I am not really happy with the prospect of teaching my daughter to become even more independent, but she just rolls her eyes (a habit she may have inherited from me) whenever I suggest she can get her driver’s license when she’s 21. 

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Post 1001: Accolades, Confessions and Black Locust

My humble blog has recently received a couple of honors.  Sherry, who plays a viola and blogs at Mama Diaries presented me with the Shine On Award.” I like the name of the award as it reminds me of Pink Floyd (“Shine On  You Crazy Diamond” from the “Wish You Were Here” album.)   I’m supposed to tell you seven things about me which is hard when I’d done a 1000 posts, most of which are about me.  So I’ll have to dig deep (and obscure) to come up with some new things about me.  I’m also supposed to nominate seven more folks, something that I don’t particularly like doing unless you’d want to be nominated.  If so, let me know and I’ll nominate your blog.  If not, that’s okay too. 

  And then, on the heels that accolade, Hilary at the Smitten Image honored my post “Redbuds Along the River" as one of her “Posts of the Week” I am always humbled to be a POTW selection.

Here are seven “obscure” things (or confessions) about me:

-I used to have a phobia of poison sumac.  It started when I was five and my father was clearing some brush out behind the garden.  My brother and I were playing with the cut brush, swinging at each other as if it was a sword, hitting each other upside the head. My mother jumped all over us, telling us it was poison sumac.  I never went near that patch of sumac and it wasn’t until much later that I learned poisonous sumac doesn’t grow on well-drain sandhills, but in very wet marshy areas. 

-I also use to be afraid of tornadoes.  I blame this on Judy Garland and the Wizard of Oz.  The monkeys and the witch never bothered me, but that twister was more than I could bear.  After the first time, I’d wait until after Dorothy was in Oz before I began watching.   

-As a child, I also had nightmares of nuclear war.  It probably had something to do with Goldwater’s presidential bid.

-Liver and onions look delicious and is an example of how looks can be deceiving. 

-In the early 80s, I brought a year’s supply of peanut butter based on reading the Wall Street Journal.  It probably saved me the cost of the newspaper because peanut butter skyrocketed due to a shortage in peanuts.

 -When I was a senior in high school, my dad called the school and asked them to release me so I could pick him up at the Wrightsville Beach Police Station.  I ashamed and worried about what my dad had done only to discover that the motor on his boat had knocked out and someone towed him to the city’s dock and the police station was the closest phones (this was long before cell phones).  He had me take him to the marine where he’d his vehicle and the trailer so he could get the boat out of the water.  At least I got lunch out of the deal and missed half a day of school. 

-When I was younger, I heard raw sea urchins were a delicacy in Japan so I tried one, fresh from the sea.  As far as I know, they’ve yet to become a delicacy in North Carolina and for good reason.

Okay, I know this is the eighth thing, but I just learned about this when I looked at my stats...  Last week I had 60 people from the Faroe Islands visit my blog!  I can't believe it, but my last post was picked up by a Faroe Island Facebook page and it created a lot of traffic.  The islands aren't that big; 60 people represents a pretty good sampling of the island's residents (~.1 %).

Black Locust flowers

A final note:  This has been a wonderful spring.  Walking around the fields on the edge of town, I've noticed the fragrance from the Black Locust which has had a bumper crop of flowers this year.  From a distance, the trees appear to be white, although the flowers are slowly falling and will be soon gone.

grove of black locust