Saturday, June 30, 2007

Do You Want Fries On Top Of That?

It's always easy to pick on Fast food establishments- the food, the employees, or the commercials- but it is a reality that very few of us avoid partaking, at least at sometime, the offerings put forth by these eateries.

A burger, fries and soda in minutes is pretty hard to pass up when in a hurry or when you just do not want to cook for whatever reason. The food is generally tasty and generally satisfying. I have no "beef" with that part of fast food. My problem comes at the drive-thru.

As many as have had fast food before, have also used the services of the drive-thru. I would guess, however, that the employees that work on the other side of the little glass window have not. I make this assumption by the way they pack the bags.

When packing a sack with our food, the Drive-thru "technicians" go through great pains to fit our lunch or dinner in the smallest bag possible. The burgers go on bottom, usually the bigger ones on top. By packing the larger burgers on top, they have a way of, well compressing the smaller burgers and conserving more space. Then comes the fries- laid on their side. The fries on top, laid on their side allows the fries to escape their box and fill in the gaps in and around the burgers. This also makes it possible to partially fold in the fries containers for even more space saving. It all eventually turns out to be some kind of cheeseburger casserole in a sack.

In addition to the barely recognizable burgers and fries, cooled due to the bag being too small to close, the drinks are another matter. "Do you want a drink holder with that?" is the question. I usually buy for me, my wife, and five children. Exactly what am I to do with seven drinks otherwise? They will then place the larger drinks on one side of the carrier and the smaller ones on the other. This causes a carrier that just cannot wait to go top heavy head over hells at the first stop on the way home.

And yes, there IS a difference between regular Coke and Diet Coke! And yes, it is a big deal!

Don't even get me started on wrong orders! Since the bag is so tight, it is impossible to check the order while in the drive thru. If you want to check, you must pull into a stall, unload the bag- careful not to rip it- and audit your purchase. Any problems must be addressed by actually entering the restaurant and waiting at the counter for someone to help you. All the while, the people standing in line are wondering why you are so special that you get to just walk up to the counter past them and they give you the "drop dead" glare.

Condiments, such as Bar-B-Que sauce or ketchup must be ordered twice. Once when ordering the food and another time, just before pulling away. This usually works fine, except for the times that the "technician" decides to calculate the odds of you actually returning to get the items after arriving home and realizing he lied and just didn't want to get them for you.

All in all drive-thrus are horrible. It is an example of what we have become. We know that they are bad and we know we are going to get screwed. We know it, we expect it, and we accept it. Yet we will all continue to use them. Why? Because they make our lives more simple.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Cast Iron Castes

About a year ago, I started to use cast ion cookware. I got a set from Wal-mart before we went camping and I started to use my pans whenever I could. I learned about the benefits, experienced the hardships and tasted the deliciousness of cast iron cooking. I am hooked and enjoy cooking with my Dutch oven and skillet either camping, in the back yard or in the kitchen. I find it fun but I have found others are much more serious than I am. I have learned that there is an entire world devoted to cast iron cooking and like other cults; they have their belief system, their feeling of superiority and their caste system.

Here is the caste system as I see and understand it:

1) The Newcomers: this caste has just gone through “the awakening”. They have just become aware that there is such a thing as cast iron and that it is different from the cookware they received as a wedding gift or bought at Traget. Cast iron, for this group, is primarily for camping. With the advance of non-stick coatings why would you want to use anything but Teflon when at home? Cast Iron is cool, but it ranks with the coolness of sleeping in a sleeping bag, in a tent, with rocks in the middle of your back, smelling like a campfire and licking s’more remnants from your mustache. Its “roughin’ it”, but not anything practical.

2) The Health Conscience: This caste has learned of the potential health hazards of non-stick coatings and has decided on a “healthier” way. The feeling of superiority has begun to take hold. They are now trying to use cast iron beyond the campsite and becoming possessive of the cookware. They have now started calling dish soap evil and rejecting any meal cooked with the poisons of modern culinary development. The majority of the food is still prepared in the traditional use of the stovetop and oven, but now with cast iron. Of course, in order to make food not stick to cast iron, generous, and I mean generous, amounts, of grease, oils or cooking spray is required. It’s still considered healthier, because it’s “natural” and “that’s how our grandparents did it, and look how long and healthy they lived!”

3) The Quality Conscience: Name brand of cookware, type of lid, with or with out legs, depth, diameter, and personalization all become important and discussed. To paraphrase a skit by Emo Phillips, a conversation within this caste would follow as such:

Cook #1: I just got new cookware.

Cook #2: Really? Me too! What kind?

Cook #1: Cast Iron.

Cook #2: Really? Me too! Pan or Dutch oven?!

Cook#1: Dutch oven.

Cook #2: Really? Me too! What kind is it?

Cook #1: Lodge.

Cook #2: Really? Me too! What size?

Cook #1: 12”

Cook #2: Really? Me too! How deep?

Cook #1: 5 1/4”

Cook #2: Really? Me too! Flat bottomed or legs?

Cook #1: Legs.

Cook #2: Really? Me too! Flat topped or rounded lid?

Cook #1: Flat top.

Cook #2: Really? Me too! With a lip or no?

Cook #1: With a Lip.

Cook #2: Really? Me too! Pre-seasoned or non-seasoned?

Cook #1: Pre-seasoned.

Cook #2: (Hitting cook #1 over the head with a skillet) Die heretic! Die!

4) The Fire Cookers: There are arguably different stages of this caste, but they all espouse open flames. Some use the flames of the campfire, some the flames of propane, some the indirect use of the flames of the gas grill. This group usually develops either a taste or immunity to the taste of burnt food as many dishes are burnt on the bottom due to inconsistent high cooking temperatures. The unburned half of the dish, however, is proclaimed delicious and is “how food is supposed to taste like” by the chef. To understand the correct order of things, open flame users look down upon propane users as a culinary equivalent of an urban cowboy, close but not fully evolved.

5) The Charcoal group: This cast is separated into two sub groups: Commercially prepared briquettes and hot coal users. Briquette users have learned how to control the heat, not by unnatural knobs and dials, but with counting the number of briquettes that can be arranged on or over the cookware. High heat, low heat, fry, or bake. All cooking requirements are possible and burning becomes rarer. Cooking times, however, extend and sometimes even double but that’s part of the “experience”. Hot coal users take the coals of the open fire and use the same process of the briquette users by counting coals, but with less predictability. This uncertain heat causes the skill of the user to be honed more carefully.

In general, at this point most stop their evolution and some even regress back to a reasonable stance as to what works, what is required, and what is really needed and desired. A conclusion of the fact that there is no “right or wrong”, just different ways to do the same thing is usually grasped by the fully evolved cast iron expert.

There are some, I am sure, that will continue down an evolutionary path. Continuing the logic of the previous path without coming to the final reasonable conclusion, I speculate that the path would resemble the following as the “natural way to do things”.

6) Eat no food prepared and placed in a box.

7) Eat no food not raised and harvested by your own hands.

8) Eat no animal you have not killed with your own hands.

9) Reject the use of industrial cookware altogether and cook on fireplace hearth and eventually stones and rocks.

10) Use only fire started by lighting.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Work With What You Got

“What a mess!” I thought as I approached the beaver pond. The place was a mess. There were sticks and logs everywhere! They may be industrious, these beavers, but they are not neat about it!

There’s a certain beauty to nature and its irregularity, and I appreciate it. But on my early morning walk, I just found the place to be pushing my limits.

As I sat there contemplating the order-challenged, dam-building, lodge-building, fat, furry, flat tailed, swimming rats, I saw several trout rising in the cool waters of the pond. They were leisurely partaking of the early morning fly population that was equally enjoying the environment provided. Obviously the fish and flies didn’t have the disconnection like I was experiencing and just used the pond as it was.

Several hummingbirds were also buzzing about the pond. Along with several other aviary creatures, life was bristling forward towards the new day. I was the only one with the problem.

I inspected the dam more closely. It was a typical construction as I have seen elsewhere. The beavers had actually done a good job. It must be tough competing for good wood with all the campers that share the neighborhood.

This pond shares its location with hundreds of sets of campers every week. The traffic makes it hard, I imagine, to keep up the pond maintenance. The working hours must be restrictive. We all know how hard it is to work when everyone is just standing around watching, like you know the campers would do.

I would venture to guess that the beavers don’t have a lot of say where they get to build and keep a dam. They don’t’ get to cruise to Home Depot for supplies. They don’t even have “How-to” books, clinics, or TV shows, yet despite all the difficulties, the pond exists and it does the job for all the “important” users.

I guess it’s all the same; the beavers probably wouldn’t be impressed with my keep of my desk either.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

New Site, New Sight

Our family completed an excellent camping trip. We didn’t, however, get the camp site that we wanted. #84 had been our site for the last two years. Apparently, not all parties had been informed. As we arrived, we found that “our site” had been taken shanghaied, commandeered b another group. Incorrigibles, no doubt!

We were traveling in two cars: the mini van for maximum passengers as required by our maximum passengers and the truck for maximum equipment again as required by our maximum passengers. The cell phone communication came to life immediately.

“What are we going to do?”

“Now what?”

“How could they?!”

These questions were the first part of the conversation, but we ultimately settled on site #86.

Personally, I found #86 better than #84. It was bigger, near the river, and had a better lay-out…and a haunted cabin! We had found a new site and had found a new place to call home in the mountains. We had such a great time, we decided to repeat our camping adventures the next week.

The next Wednesday rolled around and we rolled past sight #84, which was occupied. No problem we thought, we were on our way to option A anyway!

When what to our wandering eyes should appear,

But campers in site 86 with all of their gear!

“What are we going o do?”

“Now what?”

“How could they?!”

We rolled past site after site checking them out. Not enough privacy. Tent site too small. No grill on fire place. On and on we went. Our 15 minute car pass to find a site was extended to 30, then to 40 minutes. Finally after starting at site #87, continuing to #97 and then circling back through starting at #1, we “settled” on site #76.

Upon first inspection it wasn’t #84 or #86. But the set-up was nice. The tent site was lumpy and a bit sloped, but a quick work with the shovel to remove some mounds and rocks and a little leveling; it was quite good.

The site was an edge site so we had an entire mountain to our south to explore, the bathrooms were just two sites away, as well as the water supply. #76 actually wasn’t half bad!

I find it funny that the only thing that was really wrong with site #76 was that we had never been there yet. We hadn’t tried it yet. Obviously the lesson that should be learned is this:

Sometimes we jus need a minor set-back to make us look at new options or make us look at things differently.

As for us, we now have three options for the next time!

And next time we’ll be there earlier.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

New Day Rising

As I rode across the valley this morning, the sun was up and rising. It occurred to me that it was a brand new day. Like a painter approaches a blank canvas, we too can decide the fate of the day. There may be things we have to do, but it is up to us to interpret the events, create the feelings, and attach the emotions.

It is to us to give the day color. Nothing is set in stone and each day is new and in our hands to do with what we will.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Perfect Sunday Afternoon

As I wrote last night:

This evening is one of those evenings where everything just seems too perfect. I have a pineapple upside down cake baking in the Dutch oven, the sky is blue, the grass is green, the pool is full, and the only real sound around is the rat-tat-tat of the sprinkler and the birds chirping in the trees.

The air is cool in the shade, recovering form another 100° assault, but the soft breezes bring cool refreshment as it blows through the shaded trees, across the misting sprinkler and onto the shaded and cooling porch. The aroma of the yellow cake wafting from the Dutch oven is welcomed, as well as tantalizing. It won’t be long before the time comes to pop it out and eat it.

There are no meetings to attend, no goals to achieve, no assignments to fulfill. It is a splendid, beautiful, most welcomed and thoroughly enjoyed afternoon.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Sunday Scripture Choice

Mike 8:2- And they ate the cake and they tasted that it was good.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

SUCCESS: S*U*C- Challenge

When setting a goal, or determining a successful endeavor, if there is no challenge, there is no success. You might accomplish the task, but was there any value to it? Is it something that you can really hang your hat on?

I saw on the news that a married couple were the only winners of a $200 million plus jackpot. Although I won't say they won't enjoy the money, no one, including themselves, will consider the couple a financial success story. They got lucky. Their true success and happiness now will be determined by how they use the money they have been given. There are many stories of people who were given many things, but found them of very little value when self-worth was questioned.

Make the goal of your success worth pursuing. Aim for the stars. If it doesn't mean anything to you- what worth does it have?

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Sunday Scripture Choice

Hebrews 8:12

For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

SUCCESS: S*U- Understanding (Repeat)

“Furious activity is no substitute for understanding.”- H.H. Williams

Although knowing where you want to go is a key element of success, knowing how to get there is another.

What does it take? Has anybody else blazed the trail? What resources are available to help you? What will it be when you accomplish the goal? Are you willing to learn and re-learn as you go?

Friday, June 15, 2007

Summer First

First trip to the lake of the season, first moose of the season!

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Back In The Day

Have you ever forgot or lost you cell phone? I have to admit, it feels like losing an appendage to your own body!

I went for years without a cell phone, made fun of people who did have one and generally felt my life was still complete without instant access. Then the day came, after acquiring all the habits, all the addictions, and always being available, the day came that I did not have my phone. The horror!

I had to concentrate on my reading and writing. I had to watch out the window of the bus. I had to listen to the conversations around me that did not necessarily include me, and I had to not check baseball scores- pitch by pitch, every ten seconds. It was like... way back in 2006!

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Mark Twain Said...

He had discovered a great law of human action, without knowing it - namely, that in order to make a man or a boy covet a thing, it is only necessary to make the thing difficult to obtain.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Isaac Asimov Said...

Never let your sense of morals get in the way of doing what's right.

Monday, June 11, 2007

New Home, Old Story

Planting trees is one thing, saving trees is another! We are hoping these two tress make the transition, but we saved these trees from their original plantings that are now enveloped by giant Chinese Elms. Two things learned:

1) I can now easily see and appreciate and enjoy my aspens. Both are the same age, but one is 8 feet tall the other is 20 feet. Hopefully they enjoy their new home back in the sun yet protected from the afternoon heat. Lesson: Sometimes a change of scenery is good, no matter what the reasoning was for your original plan. Things change, so must we.

2) Old age caught me and I found myself in the desperate need for my wife and two oldest boys to bail me out. I hurt my arm and was unable to continue digging. I helped as much as I could, but it was the three of them that had to save the old man from himself. Lesson: Getting old sucks!

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Sunday Scripture Choice

Isaiah 45:22

Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

SUCCESS: S (Repeat)

If success is accomplishing that which you set out to do, wouldn't it follow that it is important to know "that which you set out to do"?

Where do you struggle? Myself it is the daily things that get the best of me. You see I have a clear picture of my long term goals, and tackling the things that are the big ticket items is no big deal. But those daily things, those short term goals eat me alive!

I rarely establish my daily goals. Weekends OK. But all those days during the week I am so willing to let the day's events dictate my actions.

The day's events fill all the time and I rarely take the time to get my stuff done on a timely basis. When I come to a dead line that effects my long term goals- I then have to push everything and "last minute" my stuff. This operation always steals the sense of accomplishment, makes it hard to fit in the important or fun events that come around all the time.

Start making daily priorities for your yourself. Identify three things YOU need to get done. Write them down and get them done no matter what. At the end of a week, I guarantee you that you will see your accomplishments and feel successful. If these are the things truly important to you, they most likely will be moving towards your long term goals, and after a month, three months, you will see your success path opening up before you.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Close Call or Near Miss

Another day, another fire. This time the fire was to our north, across the street and at night. It’s always odd to see fire trucks so close to your house and then to have them twice in two days seems really odd.

We had just settled in to watch an episode of Star Trek: The New Generation, when I heard the boom. This time it was not thunder, but actually something blowing up. I peeked through the blinds and I could see people gathering in the church parking lot across the street from our home. My wife and I ran out to see flames rising into the air behind the house immediately next to the church and kitty-corner from our home.

A storage shed was on fire and there were gas cans, junk, and old cars in and around the flames. Soon four fire trucks showed up and started hooking up their hoses and raising their boom ladders. The newsmen claimed the flames went 50-100’ high. We didn’t know if we agreed with tat, but it sounds good in the story. It wasn’t long, however, and the army of firemen had the flames doused and the big excitement was over.

People had poured out of their homes from all over. We saw neighbors that we haven’t seen in years! Some we spoke to, others we will wait for the next neighborhood catastrophe. I had thought everyone was asleep at that hour as the excitement lasted right up to about midnight, apparently people are still awake. We learn that the previous' emergency was also a fire. A fixture had fallen in the kitchen and the sparks had ignited the flames.

Two fires in two days, one on each side of the house. Ummm. Makes one stop and think. I decided to stop for a minute and say a short prayer this evening. Not that I think that the other people were being punished for similar sins. My prayer was how thankful that the fires had missed, the lightening had missed and the opportunity to acknowledge my good fortunes had not been missed.

Tragedy can hit so suddenly, as fast as a strike of lightening or electrical spark, yet we take so much for granted. Take some time and be thankful for what you got, and take an audit of what around you is really important and what is not. You may have to make a quick decision on what is and what is not worth saving. It’s best to already know.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

A Clear Message

It has been said that it is a frightful thing to be in the hands of an angry God. I have even quoted that saying a number of times but this morning, however, I think I understand it a little bit better.

I awoke early, as I like to do, and did my normal morning rituals: shower, breakfast, read, and I was preparing to sit down and start writing. I then heard the sound of a siren. We all hear sirens from time to time, but this siren, I could tell, was coming our way. Sure enough, in about half a minute, the Paramedics and an ambulance were crawling up the street and stopped just out of my view out my living room window. They were shortly joined by two large fire trucks and a police patrol car.

There cannot be anything more curiosity-generating than the flashing lights of emergency vehicles just out of eye shot. The tops of the trees, the houses along the street, and even the whole sky seem to dance with lights but yet just out of sight! A man can only stand this for so long. So I was determined to go find out exactly what was going on.

I finished getting dressed and went out the front door, braving the wind and rain that had been building throughout the night. I could see the fire trucks in the street, but I wasn’t sure at which house they were parked so I proceeded across my lawn with the intention to get to the sidewalk and like a moth, get closer to the lights. “I’m not being nosy,” I told myself, “it’s about being current on the events of the neighborhood.”

All of a sudden, I was enveloped with light. I was sure that the police from the scene just a few houses away had spotted me and had captured me in their spotlight. It was blinding and I wasn’t sure what to do. Fortunately there was not a lot of time to think about it as the light went back off. It was enough that it had frozen me in stride and I stood like a statue.

BOOOOOOOOOOOM! A clap of thunder exploded and ripped through the dark silent air. It was a large, shocking, bone-rattling boom, followed by at least 20 seconds of rumbling. I had to listen to the last 19.5 seconds from inside the house, because no sooner then the first boom started, I was back across the lawn, up the steps and on the safe side of the closing door. It was the first lighting strike of the passing storm and it was the only one that I was aware of, although I would say it had my most utmost attention!

The boom had shaken our house quite well and had apparently rattled my wife out of her sleep. She met me in the living room as I leaned into and held the door shut.

“Did you hear that?” She asked?

“Loud and clear”, I responded. “God don’t like nosy!”

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Morning Induced Thoughts

My screen was blank just a few keystrokes ago and now there are characters on it. Each movement of my fingers plugs the cursor across and down the page. What stared out as a field of white is now becoming a field of write.

I can write about anything, and sometimes that’s a daunting task. What is the subject, what is worth messing up a perfectly good clear screen, what is worth writing about and believing someone will read about or care about? What do I care about? It’s a sobering thought.

As I sat at the bus stop this morning looking at the beautiful sunrise and listening to the early morning sounds and smelling the scent of the new day on the incoming breeze. My thoughts were about what this day was to bring.

The weatherman last night said that it would be 92 degrees today and 58 tomorrow. Apparently there is cool weather coming that no one can see as of yet with the naked eye, but it must be just past the horizon. How many people, I wonder, will be surprised tomorrow morning when they walk out their door and feel we have stepped back into March?

I thought about last night’s game, of the player who struck out with bases loaded in the ninth and missed the chance to win the game, but got the redemption at bat when he hit the game winning walk-off home run in the 11th? I thought, “How many times do people get that second chance?” How many times do I get that second chance? Enough I suppose.

I watched the cars go by and counted the number of cars that had only one passenger. What a waste. I have been guilty of such a crime myself many times, but once one gets on the bus and feels a part of the solution, it’s easy to understand that convenience has a price and hard not to get self-righteous about it. I look at the prices posted at the gas stations and wonder how much of each dollar is ultimately used to kill my ideas, my way of life, my dreams, my neighbor, my friends or maybe one day, my sons and daughter.

How many people heard the State of the Union address and heard the President call for the nation to reduce their oil consumption by 20%? How many thought that meant them? How many remembered it the next day? How many people did something about it? I wonder if the President has done anything about it since that day. If he has, I haven’t heard about it. In fact, I have heard the contrary, that he hasn’t said a word about his call to action; not even a suggestion of how he thinks someone else should do it.

Our county is too big to not have someone smart enough to figure out something better than burning old dinosaurs for fuel. Something that doesn’t make the cost of corn go through the roof, or some other industry to learn how to gut the public of its money. We think of ourselves as so technologically advanced, but take away our oil and our electricity and we are just as idiotic as anybody else. In fact, we wouldn’t have a clue on how to survive, third world country people would…and do.

Ultimately the new day is beautiful and I am thankful that I am free enough, alive enough, and enabled enough to be able to think my thoughts, express my thoughts and share my thoughts. My once blank screen is now full and it is time to go and earn more gas money.

Monday, June 04, 2007

The Kids' Why

As hard as I try, it’s hard to remember what it was like to be a kid. I remember things such as he trouble I got into, the things that scared me, and the things that were just fun and many times foolish. I have noticed that many stories begin with, “I don’t remember why, but I was…” The “how” and “what” are there, but the “why” seems to escape memory. The reason is the “why” is the kid part.

The bigger reason is because there usually wasn’t a “why”. Kids just do things. Let me give you an example I recently witnessed. I was at a student awards assembly. The kids were sitting through the many awards that were being given out. After some time the group was becoming restless and needed a break. To the credit of the supervising teacher, an announcement was made that all students could stand up and stretch for a minute. All kids jumped up at the chance.

After a minute or so, the order to go ahead and sit down was given and here was the manifestation of the difference between kid and adult. All adults when asked to sit; sit. We just aim our butts in the right direction, bend our legs and drop to our seat. Some of us with less control and grace than others but the motion is all the same and done without fanfare. This is not the case with the kids.

Once the order was given to sit down, every variation of sitting down was being exercised throughout the group. There were some that dropped straight down, some twisted like a cyclone, some bounce down and back up with a diminishing bounce back up with each bounce. There were some that crossed their legs as they dropped like a scissor lift. There were others that stuck their arms out and flapped like a bird landing on a wire. One kid even made the motion as if he was diving into a pool of water. Some ignored the order until it was given again; some waited until the third time and others again waited until they were personally asked.

In short, the kids enjoyed the moment and whatever came to their mind is how they proceeded. There was no correct way, no incorrect one either. Ultimately they all ended up sitting again and the assembly continued.

How many things do we do, not because there is not another way to do it, it’s just that we have accepted one way and we stick to it. It is because it’s better or just safer?

Next time someone asks for you to take a sit, stretch out your arms and come in like a plane landing. Or whatever else comes to your mind! If you find that exhilarating, what else can you do beyond what is expected or accepted? See what happens when you let the kid in you take over the “why”.

Friday, June 01, 2007

A Month Off

The month of May was a busy one for me. There were a number of things going on and I therefore took some time off for myself. The biggest thing that was new for me this month is that I finally got serious on writing a book. I have been spending all my time that I would normally take to write in this blog, to write in my book.

What's it about? I'll give little sneak peeks as circumstance will allow, but for now, suffice to say, I am enjoying my writing experience and I am sorry that the blog took the fall for my focus dedication elsewhere.

Welcome to June!