Adventures of a Modern Day, Middle-Aged Hero, on the Glory Road(to family security)


You got chocolate in my peanut butter!

I still remember the classic Reece's Peanut Butter Cup commercials from when I was a kid...and ever since I was a kid, the combination of peanut butter and chocolate has been one of my favorite tastes.

As always...a woman caused the problem to start with.

So, with this buried deep in my subconscious, there was no way a recipe for Peanut Butter Cheesecake Brownies wasn't going to catch my eye as I was floating around foodgawker. 

My only warning is to make sure you have milk in your house before producing a pan of these.  They are more than a little rich...but oh so good. 

Fact Check.

Earlier today, a friend sent me a request....would I read this cracked article '6 Things Movies Don't Show You About Life on a Submarine', and fact check it...since, you know...been there, done that.  I figure, why just do it for him, when I can do it for everyone!

In short(if you want to save half an hour of your life)it's pretty darn accurate, without a lot of hyperbole.

The Training Will Drive You Crazy

Yup...I saw it happen...and as a machinist mate, I had it good...my 'A' School was only 13 weeks(grunt...wrench.  grunt...monkey wrench vs. pipe wrench.  grunt...centrifugal lube oil purifier.)  Electricians had 18 weeks, and then Wire Biters(electronics tech's) had a god awful 26 weeks.  Of course, I made up that 13 week difference by going to ELT(engineering laboratory technician)   at the end of the pipeline.

And that's what we call it...The Nuclear Training Pipeline.  40 hours of classroom training a week, with anywhere between 15-35 hours of MANDATED study/homework time a week on top of that, depending on your grades.  Yes...people stood for hours at the back of the room to avoid the dreaded head bob. When the classroom part is done, you still have 6 months of 12-hour shifts to put in learning the hands on part at one of the Prototypes the Navy has in Ballston Spa, New York or Charleston, South Carolina. 

It did drive people crazy.  My 'A' School class had 25(I think) in it...8 of us made it to the end as qualified nuclear operators.  I remember one guy took a who bottle of Tylenol, he wanted out so bad.  He was fine, but it got him the attention to get him out of the program.

Even non-nukes usually had a full year of training before getting to their boat.

What this guy doesn't mention is that the training never ends.  On your ship, in port or underway, you have between 3-5 hour of continual training a week, depending on your qualifications(more qualified, more continual training), with a quarterly exam for each of those.  Oh...if that training was scheduled while you were supposed to be sleeping?  So sad.

They Fuck With the Oxygen

True That.  I saw oxygen levels so low you couldn't light a match...but then folks are magically energized for drills and field day.

It's Incredibly Cramped

Yes, and then some. I also was junior enough to start out with a torpedo room rack.  It's basically a skid layed out with the little mats kindergarteners use for naps on it. Not a lot of privacy.  However...I never saw anyone get stuffed in a tube.  That would be a major issue...I have a lenient opinion on hazing...but, going in a tube is a safety issue. As bad as hot racking sucks, the torpedo room love shack was worse(although it feels like the author of this article disagrees with me).   Hot racking...I had my own pillow, and I slept on top of the sheets, while the other guys slept between the sheets. 

It helps if you can rationalize. 

We also had more exercise equipment on our boat...one rowing machine, one stationary bike, and a bowflex machine. 

Everything Stinks

Boy Howdy.  When I brought my then betrothed down for a tour,  it was the smell that chased her off.  As stated...lots of men, lots of diesel, lot's of amine, possible sanitary tank line up issues(we put 700 gallons of sewage in board once....bad day...glad I was senior enough to stay on watch in the engineroom).  I had friends, who, upon arriving home, were told to undress in the garage, and then clothes were put in a trash bag, straight to the washing machine.  If you had civilian clothes on board for possible port calls, you kept them in a plastic bag with a few dryer sheets, to prevent them from smelling like submarine. 

Boredom Leads to Pranking

Hold on...let me look at the statute of limitations. 

Okay...bad pranking, and good pranking...and just general stupidity.  I once ate a bowl of mayonnaise over a 50 cent bet, and the followed it with a bowl of mustard, double or nothing.  Never had to wear lingerie though...trust me...no one wanted that.

A few year ago, one of my buddies ended up in town, and my wife and I took him out for dinner.  After listening to an hour of 'usedtoboat' stories, my wife looked at me with a shocked expression and said 'I really don't know you...do I?'

Nope...you will never know another person the way you know someone you have shared two years worth of 6-hour watches with.

Even the Surface Sucks

No keel means sub's don't like being on the surface.  Heading out and heading back in was a bad time for a lot of folks...just kind of a slow, side to side roll.  And, the water moving in the bilge never matched the rolling of the boat.  I never got sea sick, but I'd say about a 3rd of the crew did.

Hey...there were good times, mostly revolving around the guys.  I've never associated with a higher caliber group of individuals than I was on my time on the Seawolf. 

Reason # 7,298

I'm sure by now, most of you may have already seen the story about how the Salt Lake City School district totally screwed the pooch, taking lunches away from kids, and throwing them out, because the kids lunch accounts were dry.

Now.  I understand, and support, the idea that you can't just give away school lunches(without going through all the paperwork so that kids can get the reduced/free lunches).  This also isn't about kids 'going hungry' because the kids were still given an appropriate amount of food monitored by a nutritionist. 

This is about a the totally asinine way the little empire we have allowed schools to turn into carried out their plan.  IF the school district had proof that notice had been sent to parents(preferably more than once, via more than one method)...then I believe they were within their rights to not serve the kids the 'normal' hot lunches.  But...they should have been squared away enough to pull the kids aside before hand, rather than allowing them to go through line, so you could then take the food away from them, and throw it in the trash.(because you can't serve it to someone else).

THAT is where they screwed up...and that is reason #7,298 why, despite some initial reservations, I feel increasingly blessed that we are able to homeschool our kids.  This wasn't about looking out for the taxpayers money(or you wouldn't have given them the lunches and then thrown them out). This was about some empire builder, cozily content in an out of control bureaucracy who was pissed because parents weren't 'respecting their authority', who decided they could take it out on the kids in order to flex their power. 

The only thing I would like to know(and it's always tough to get any kind of follow up once the initial outrage is past in a story like this), is...did this unnamed 'child nutrition manager' get to make this call on their own, or did they get the blessing of the school administration?  Any more, being a school principle is an increasingly political position, and I would be surprised to find out if the principle actually agreed to this plan. 


Candle Power.

I was at Safeway today, and saw that once again, they were offering up one of my favorite stock up opportunities. 

Shabbos Candles!

I know that I have talked about these around here before...more than once.  At the risk of sounding like a broken record...if you can find these on clearance at one of your local grocery stores, I recommend you pick them up. 

I think that the Hebrew writing and Yiddish sounding name scares people away.  These are NOT Hanukah candles.  These are a plain white candle, 3.5 inches by 5/7's of an inch.  With a burn time of roughly 3 hours, they are very comparable to the generic 'survival candles', that cost A LOT more than the 6 cents a candle I paid for these. 

They aren't just candles though(well...they are, but)...they are 100% pure unscented, un-dyed paraffin...and with each box weighing 8 ounces, it's half the price Wal-Mart is asking for a pound of paraffin.  If you are into arts and crafts, you can melt them down and make your own pretty candles.  If you aren't into art and crafts, you can melt them down, and use the paraffin as a water proofing, or sealing material.

I don't have a problem...I don't!


Want, want, want.

I'm not a big 'car' guy.  Probably because I'm not the biggest do-it-yourself mechanic.  To me, cars are mostly about getting there, and getting back again. 

That doesn't mean there aren't cars that don't hold a special place in my heart.  One of them would be a Buick GNX, and this beauty, I saw today, would be another. 

I like the older Bronco's...and for something that is relatively collectible, they aren't that expensive.

I just know it wouldn't look like that for me long.  I'm not going to  own something that off-road capable without wanting to take it off-road at some point.  


Soup's on!

I really can't complain too much about the weather around here, compared to what the rest of the country is dealing with...but it has been much greyer and damper than it usually is in this area...so, it kind of felt like a soup day today. 

My go-to soup is a copy cat of the Zuppa Toscana you can get at Olive Garden while I know I have talked about making it before, I can't find that I have ever shared the recipe.

Brown and crumble up one pound of sausage.  Italian works, but I actually prefer one of the spicy country sausages. 

Crisp up 1/2 pound of diced bacon.  I sometimes prep the meat the next day.  You want to drain these well, so you don't end up with too much fat floating in your soup.

In a big pan, throw in half a diced onion, and garlic...say three cloves worth.  Then add some potatoes...quarter-inch spoon sized slices, and top the whole thing with a quart of chicken stock.  Bring it to a boil, and add in your meats and a half-teaspoon of pepper flakes.  When your potatoes have softened, turn the heat down to low, and add in a bundle of chopped kale(pull the tasty stuff off the center stalk...and give that untasty part to your chickens.)

It should only take about 10 minutes to heat the kale, and then add in a pint of heavy cream(I use half-and-half).  If you are trying to cut calories, you could skip this step, but it does improve the mouth feel.

Of course, fresh soup needs some nice bread to go with it.  After watching Chef's Country Kitchen do potato rolls, I thought I would tackle some of them today...but I'll admit I looked for an easier recipe than they showed.  I can't imagine their fancy recipe tasting any better.
As it almost always seemed to do, my dough came out a bit sticky, which was a bummer, because it felt fine when I took it out of the mixer, but it got sticky while it raised.  As a result, instead of 16 rolls, I had a smaller number of mini-loaves...but the flavor was not adversely effected in the least, although my wife recommend adding some rosemary next time.


Trying to legislate an aswer to the wrong problem.

With the Washington Legislature in session, it's time to see what our lawfully elected politicians are doing with their time. 

Currently, it is shaping up like the current short legislative session is shaping up to be a major stalemate between the Democrat controlled House, and the Republican controlled Senate.  Since the biannual budget was set last year, a stalemate is about the best case.

One of the issues that looks like it is going to die this time around is what the Democrats are presenting as the Washington Voting Rights Act, which is going to 'Make Every Vote Count'.  Of course, trying to get to the bottom of what that means is tough.  Going to their own website in search of ammunition, I found that their 'fact sheet' link pops up dead.  Since the bill hasn't really been introduced yet, I'm forced to rely on the media.

According to The Olympian, this bill would force some localities(counties, cities, school districts) to split into districts, so that the minorities in those areas(usually grouped into geographic areas) can get representation that they might lose out on in 'at large' elections.

They point towards Yakima as an example.   With a population of over 90,000, it is estimated that over 40% of Yakima's population is Latino, but there has never been a Latino member of the City Council.  Most recently, a woman with a Latino last name lost a school board position to a lady who had dropped out of the race 60% to 40%.

So...obviously, combining those two statistics, the Democrats would like us to think that 100% of Caucasian voters voted against this Latino lady. 

What I can't find anywhere, is what percentage of that 40%+ Latino population is registered to vote...or did vote. 

How's about we tackle the low voter turnout problem, instead of changing how we do elections? Oh...because that would force the community leaders to get people involved, instead of using the government to split things up and give the minorities districts of their own.  Of course, when we do split into districts, we'll be accused of gerrymandering. 


Nothing is ideal in every circumstance.

Yesterday, my wife was running around with the kids when the girls spotted something she couldn't resist buying for them.

You can't really tell, but the long flaps hanging off the sides end in mittens. 

Those hats are cute as the dickens, but I don't think I will let the girls wear them when we go out hiking in the woods.  I do not trust everyone in the woods with a gun to act as responsibly as I do. 


Too rich for my blood.

Today on the way home, I stopped to pick up some beer, and I saw a sign that caught my eye: 

'It's here!  Limited Release Dogfish Head World Wide Stout!  Limit 1 per customer!  Ask staff for details!'

Well...how can I, a sucker for marketing, ignore a pitch like that?  Dutifully, I headed off in search of a staff member, to find out the details.

World Wide Stout is a limited release beer from Dogfish Head Brewing, known for being brewed with a 'remarkable amount of barley', that comes in at around 18% ABV.  If you are willing to buy some and let it age, it will eventually mellow in flavor, and climb to around 25% ABV.  With Dogfish Head originating in Delaware, it already has a long trip to make it to Washington.  Add in the 'limited release' part of the equation, and you end up with something that is not cheap.

How not cheap? 

$14.95 for a 12 ounce bottle. 

Not a 6-pack.  Not a 4-pack.  Not a 40 ounce, and not a 22 ounce bottle.  $15 for a single 12 ounce bottle.

Folks...I blinked.  And then I wilted.  I feel like a guilty member of the 1% when I pay $5 for a 22 ounce bottle of Mocha Death....there was not way I could pay $15 for a single 12 ounce beer. 

The fact is, I'm not sure I can imagine what a beer would have to taste like to be worth $15.  It would help if it was served by Kate Upton...but even then...

Instead, I bought a 6-pack of White Out, by Rocky Coulee Brewing, a smaller place up in Odessa.

Pretty dark for a beer called White Out.  What I like about Rocky Coulee is that unlike a lot of eastern Washington breweries, which play up the hops, since they are brewed where the hops is grown, they play up the wheat and barley...more malt than bitter. 


Join the party!

Congratulations to a lot of my friends over in the town of Kennewick, the southern most of the Tri-Cities.  After some hard campaigning, the Kennewick city council unanimously voted to allow the raising of chickens(I wish the picture in the article didn't show them running around someone's front yard!) on all 'residential low density' lots...which appears to be any place where you have less than 7 houses per acre, so a roughly .15 acre lot, which covers most lots with a 'normal' house, but not mobile home parks.

Previously, you had to have at least half-an-acre to own chickens in Kennwick, so this is a pretty good change, even if the revised law itself is still more limiting than what we have in Richland.

In Richland, chickens fall under the heading of 'pet', and you can have up to 5 'pets'.  If you choose to use all those spots on chickens, like we do outside, than you can have 5 chickens(and be FLOODED with eggs).  Kennewick let's you have a total of 6 'pets', but no more than THREE of them can be the same type. 

Nice to see more and more places allowing people to expand at least a little bit on their self reliance.


Meets my definition.

I heard about this on the radio this morning, but didn't a chance to read the actual story until later. The fire department is calling the young man a hero...and based on the evidence, I'm not going to disagree with them.

N.Y. boy killed in fire hailed as hero for saving 6

When he woke up to find the fire already burning, he kept his head, and woke up 6 other people, helping them outside before going back in for his wheelchair bound grandfather.  I'm willing to bet that if his grandfather could have, he would have counseled him otherwise...but he died thinking of others. I'm 100% certain that is not going to make his mother feel any better, but she needs to feel proud. 


Think those are ready to go.

Last week I started sprouting a batch of lentils for our chickens, and due to menu planning and grocery shopping, we had plenty of other leftovers for the birds to eat all weekend.  As such, I've just kept watering and draining the lentils to keep them from drying out.

As a result, I think I've got something that is closer to being fodder than it is to being 'sprouts'.

Oh, I'm sure the chickens will hate that.

And if they do hate it, well, I've got a crock-pot with their names on it.



Yeah...you can't escape the football on TV, and you aren't going to be able to escape it here.

My Patriots just lost. 

I'm not happy. 

I know, in my mind, that given all the injuries, and the whole 'Tight End Being Brought up on Murder Charges' before the season even started, that the Patriots over achieved by making it further than 28 other teams, but...it still sucks when your teams season is over.

Especially, when they have been good for so long.  I was born in New England, and so I cheered for the Patriots when they used to go back and forth between Tony Eason and Steve Grogan as quarterback.  I can't remember how that used to feel though.  For most of my adult life, the Patriots have been competitive.  We have gone into each of the last 13 years KNOWING they will make the post season, and have at least a chance of competing for the Championship. 

That window is closing.  Tom Terrific missed a few throws today, and he has missed a few long throws the last year or two.  The whole 'Danny Amendola can replace Wes Welker' thing was a disaster.  Amendola had ZERO catches in the AFC Championship game today.  I think the Patriots go into the off season NEEDING to go make a move for a Big Time wide receiver.  Gronkowski is now an injury risk.  You need to think of the time he is a playing as a bonus...but you almost can't count on him anymore.  I just looked at the names in Free Agency...and there isn't much GREAT out there, so they might even need to look into making a trade.

I think the defense, with Mayo and Wilfork back, will be fine.  Yeah...they just got lit up by Peyton Manning, but so did everyone.  A couple of good young players got a lot of playing time, and got to learn a things or two.

Well, at least now I can avoid arguments with my co-workers by cheering for the Seahawks. 


Guess I'm committed now.

With a little bit of false spring in the air(temps have been around 50ish most of the last week) and gardening merchandise starting to show up in the stores, I have been doing some serious thinking about my garden plans this year.  I have even gone as far to doodle on a piece of paper, dividing up beds, and trying to count up the number of each plant I will need. 

The biggest decision of all, is, do I try to start stuff from seed, or do I just buy starts at the store, and transplant them.

After more than a little back and forth, I decided to break down and buy some seeds.  I think it was the pretty pictures in the Territorial Seed Companies catalogue that really helped make my decision for me. 

I have historically(we are really only talking 3 years here), not had very good luck with starting things from seeds.  Oh...I get a good success rate of seeds germinating...but I have had a horrible success rate of plants surviving the transplant process.  And that is why I am going to try again, even if it is a waste of resources and money. 

It's my totally uninformed opinion that any old monkey can drive to Home Depot and pick up a cart full of 4" starts to put into the ground...and that is fine, as long as Home Depot is there.  In the interest of self-reliance, I have a huge interest in proving to myself that I can start from seeds, and actually create food.  The last two years have me doubting that, and it's a skill I would rather learn now, where I can run out and hit Home Depot in May, after everything I transplant into the garden dies.

That's also another reason I ordered the seeds from Territorial.  I figure, if I am going to put the effort into this, I might as well start with a good product, and Territorial comes fairly well regarded in these parts.  I'm interested to see the difference between these seeds/plants, and the ones I get from the 99 cent bins at my local hardware store. 

More to follow...especially if I am successful. 


Gotta get 'em married sometime...

Over the last few weeks, my wife and I have made a conscious effort to get the girls in the kitchen to help out more. I joke it's because I am trying to train them up so I can get them married, but really...it's just to get them more aware of what it takes to get dinner on the table(besides, when the first one of them moves out, I'm going to be a bawling mess).

This week, we took it to a new step, by looking at my older daughter and asking her 'what are you making for dinner Friday night?'

After a few days to think about it, and look for a recipe, she told me this morning she wanted to make this easy meatloaf recipe.  I kind of stumped her when I asked what she wanted to make with it...she hadn't really been thinking in terms of side dishes, but I bailed her out by pointing to the bag of potatoes that had to be used, and the half-bag of frozen broccoli in the freezer.

We didn't just through her in the kitchen...I supervised, and inspected the bowl for egg shell pieces after we had some slight aggression problems cracking the egg.  I also did the final mixing of the meatloaf, after several attempts to urge the girls to 'get their hands in there and mix.

Mmmm...more hands, more flavor. 
The meatloaf actually came out pretty good.  I was a little worried...I have never really followed a recipe for my meatloaf, just adding things until it felt right, so I was highly suspicious of adding a full cup of milk and a full cup of bread crumbs...but it worked.  Next time, I will have her cut back the milk a bit and add a splash or two of Worcestershire Sauce...give it a bit more zing.

Accidents Happen.

I'm sure by now, some folks have already seen this story, but I have been wanting to rant about it since I saw it on the news yesterday morning, and this is the first chance I have gotten. 

Coach suing 14-year-old over Little League Baseball celebration

As the Human Torch would say...Flame On!

First of all, if I was a judge, I throw this out for lack of evidence.  I know...a civil trial doesn't have the same proof standards as a criminal trial, but, by the coaches own statement, he felt something in his heel, and then turned around and saw the helmet on the ground.  NO ONE seems to have seen the helmet hit his ankle and cause this injury...and also by his own paperwork, he had a pre-existing Achilles condition.  These things go without helmet's hitting them...ask Dan Marino and Vince Wilfork, who both suffered non-contact Achilles injuries.

So, that's one.  Two is the fact that we seem to have lost the grip on the fact that sometimes, accidents just happen!  Bad things sometimes happen to good people. 

I have heard that where some people work, safety is a huge priority.  It's not just priority #1, it's #1A, and #1B.  If you want to know my opinion on this, I recommend you watch this Ted Talks video with Mike Rowe(it's long...for the point in question, jump to 13:09....but the whole video is worth watching). 

The increasingly prevailing opinion is that ALL accidents are preventable...which I just have a hard time always getting behind.  Can you make it tougher to have accidents?  Yes.  But...unless you bubble wrap the world(can't bubble wrap the person, than you have a suffocation hazard), there is ALWAYS going to be something you haven't thought of, whenever people try to walk, talk and chew gum at the same time.  There is some measure of risk in doing anything. 

You get out of bed, you might stub your toe on the dresser.  Stay in bed, you might get bed sores. 

You coach little league, and a helmet thrown in a moment of celebration(an act taken THOUSANDS of times a year), is eventually going to take that one goofy bounce, and potentially hit your Achilles Tendon. 


Sometimes, it's about mindset...and luck.

Would-be robber picks wrong victim in Tacoma

Now, it might not always be advisable to slug a guy in the jaw when he is sticking a gun into your chest, but this does just go to prove that sometimes it's all about mindset.  In this case, the would-be robber didn't have the right mindset, while the would-be victim decided he wasn't going to be a victim. 

I'd still like to have something more than a stiff right hook to fight back with. 



Better not be over...

Out here in the Northwest, we were spared the 'polar vortex' which hit the eastern two-thirds of the nation.  It's been pretty average for the last week, with in the mid-20's overnight, and approaching 40 during the day.  However, a storm front passed through this weekend, changing things up a bit...we had temperatures creeping into the upper 50's, but with sustained winds in the 30mph range, and gusts approaching 60mph, it felt chillier.

All of this lead one of the guys I work with to say 'Man, it does get windy here in the spring-time.' 

Gosh darn it...it's only the 2nd week in January...winter better not be over yet.  I haven't lived here long enough to totally understand when the seasons are going to change yet...but to my way of thinking, we should have at least one more single-digits type cold snap left before it really starts warming up. 

The last things I want is a week of temperatures in the mid-50's to convince my plum trees to start popping blossoms, which I then need to take extreme measures to try and save. 

Challenge Accepted.

  Back at the end of December, my wife voiced an opinion that we should participate in some 'challenge' floating around in one of her online groups to not eat out at restaurants in January, and instead put that money towards paying down a bill. 

I said sure...because it would be irresponsible to have argued otherwise.  'No...let's go drop $50-60 a pop to eat out once a week instead of finishing paying off the F-150 in the next 6 months'. 

Fast forward now to NFL Divisional Play Off Saturday, with my Patriots playing the evening game.  Seems like the perfect time to order pizza and kick back watching the game.  But...does ordering pizza for pick-up count as eating out?  I decided that while it might not violate the letter of the agreement, it would bend the spirit.  Instead, I felt it was time to attempt something I had never done before...home made pizza.

Oh, we have done home made French bread/English Muffin/Boboli crust pizza, but I have never tackled making home made pizza crust before.  I think I've said it on here more than 6 times, but, while I have always felt I was a decent cook...baking has always been outside my comfort zone.  It requires much more precision than cooking a tasty burger.

After doing some sorting, I settled on this basic looking dough recipe.  I started early, because I wanted all the hard work done before the Patriots came on, and I'm glad I did, because the first batch of dough went in the garbage disposal.  It just wouldn't tighten up, no matter how much extra flour I added.   I finally just put in the warmed oven to rise, hoping some magic would happen, but no luck, other than the luck I made for myself by starting at noon. 

The 2nd batch, I made entirely by hand, ditching the dough hook, and hand mixing and kneading.  It came out sooooooo much better.  I don't know if I was using the dough hook at too high of a speed, or what...but the old fashioned way got the job done.

Now I just need to work on the whole 'round' thing.  The one of the left for the girls is half cheese/olive, and the other half is salami/bacon/chicken.  The larger, more irregularly shaped one is chicken/bacon/artichoke/spinach and olives. 
With my crust issues being worked through, I expect more home made pizza will pop up on the menu, especially since the combo of pizza and Iron Horse Mocha Death helped the Patriots win. 


A milestone.

Big day for my older daughter today...we shipped her off to an all-day baby-sitting course. 

A few weeks ago, my wife and I made a trial run, and left her home with her sister for half-an-hour while we ran down to the local Starbucks.  That went well, so we decided that the baby-sitter/first aid class was a good next step. Not sure how much we will be leaving her alone with her sister yet...but now that she is getting older, it might not be necessary for her to have to pack up and head out just because her younger sister has an appointment.

While she was at the baby-sitting class, I ran to the store to complete another big step for her...buying a cell phone.  We don't have a land line, so the first time we went out, we left her mom's cell phone, which isn't going to always be convenient.

It's not a smart phone.  It's pretty darn dumb...in fact, my wife called it the type of phone you would only buy for a really old person, or a young one.  It already has my number, my wife's, and all three grand parents in it, which is really all she needs. 

Still...she is growing up.  I guess this is the 21st Century version of getting your first pair of long pants. 

I'm sure Valhalla will make an exception.

While doing my daily tour through the channels this morning(Weather Channel, ESPN, Fox, and HLN), the first thing that really caught my eye was the news that Ariel Sharon, the 11th Prime Minister of Israel, passed away today.  This is not terribly surprising...I have known he had been in a 'vegetative' state since suffering a stroke back at the beginning of 2006.  If asked yesterday, I probably would have told you that he had already passed away.

My bad.

I also know that there is some perception involved here, and that not all people(especially those of Egyptian, Syrian, Iraqi, Lebanese, or Palestinian decent)would consider him a hero...but since I'm from a Jewish family...I do.

I remember doing a biography on Mr. Sharon back in....oh, maybe 7th or 8th grade.  At the time, I was quite the little warmonger, and Ariel Sharon seemed quite the ideal to measure up to, having fought in all 4 of Israel's major wars. It would be hard to recognize anyone other than perhaps Moshe Dayan(who had that  distinctive eye patch) as being representative of Israel's military history.  He wasn't just a leader either, being heavily involved in actual combat back during the 'all hands on deck' early years(and heck, even during the later wars....things were more than a little desperate at times in 1973.)

However, like Israel in general, he ran into a little trouble in the early 80's.  While not directly responsible, he was blamed, through inaction, for the massacre of roughly 3000 PLO affiliated civilians at the hands of Lebanese Christian Militia.  Essentially, he ordered the Israeli Defense Force to encircle the  refuge camp, while allowing the Lebanese Militia to go in and clear things out, and then acting surprised once the slaughter started. 

Not good.  He resigned as Minister of Defense after this, and spent most of the next decade kicking around the Israeli Cabinet, serving variously as Minster-without-a-portfolio, Minister of Housing, and Minster of Trade and Industry, before serving as Foreign Minister for the decade of the 90's.

Upon his election as Prime Minister in the early 2000's, Sharon surprised a number of people by backing the Road Map for Peace, and beginning the withdrawal from the Gaza Strip. This put him at odds with his own party, but was a popular move by the general Israeli population.  Sharon came out ahead in the internal party battling that followed, but still eventually left his party, to form a new 'centrist' party.  He was a proponent of withdrawing from the West Bank, and was expected to be re-elected as Prime Minister, when he suffered his stroke that left him in the hospital.

While not a Scandinavian, he was a hero in 4 wars, something those Asgardian's would approve of, as well as a reputed lover of food and drink, another check mark in his favor.  There is no question he also had his flaws.  His success during the Yom Kippur War came against advise from above, and after Moshe Dayan had already once blocked an attempt o remove him from command....but since it worked, he is a hero. 

And he will be remembered. 


Bad to worse

Sometimes, you are just better off taking your lumps...like a parking ticket.

Man trying to avoid a ticket runs over parking cop’s foot, is arrested

What ever happened to trying to sweet talk your way out of trouble?


Valuable lessons.

It is said that a smart man learns from his own mistakes, while a wise man learns from the mistakes of others.

If that is true, than I work with several truly wise people, as no fewer than 4 of them have approached me in the last week and a half, and told me that seeing the problems I was going through with my two unscheduled root canals convinced them to make appointments to see their dentists. 

Glad I could out.


Going to be busy

Well, we had our first set of rehearsals tonight for the production of Les Miserables that I am going to be in.  I'm not sure what kind of stereotype of musical theater made it so that we had to our first night on the same night as the National Championship game, but...oh well.  The fact is that really, really wanted to do this show, and over 100 people were told there wasn't room in the show for them, so complaining should not be allowed. 


For the three of you who hang on every word I say, things might be light during the week for the next two months.  We have rehearsals 4 nights a week, with the shows in mid-March, and my smart phone is not smart enough to do blog posts from it.

Too much Great Escape.

I knew that chickens liked to scratch, and I knew that they liked 'dust baths'...but I didn't know they liked just flat out digging holes.

It's tough to tell from this picture(because I am the suck photographer), but there are parts of this pit that are 4-5 inches below grade...and it's not the only one.  There are another three or four places along the fence of their 'run' where they are close to digging out, and I have had to add supplemental fencing(my folded up tomato cages, which drive down into the ground) to keep the chickens where they belong.

The real thing to keep an eye on is the part of their run where it borders my neighbors yard...it's an adventure when they end of up loose in my yard...I just don't look forward to the day I need to go retrieve them from someone else's yard.


Giving credit where it is due.

While I was running around the house with a note pad, tracking what food had been squirrelled away in what holes, my wife decided she would tackle the 'consumables' closet...and she was smart enough to take a 'before' picture, to prove she accomplished something.

There is a little bit of everything stuck in this space...medical stuff, dental stuff, candles, towels, bug out bags, and a little bit of extra bedding.  My wife stepped up to make order from chaos.

Just her, and her Dymo LetraTag label maker.

At least I will know where to put things away. 


These potatoes taste like potatoes!

I know...imagine that, potatoes tasting like potatoes.  But in this case, a year or so ago, I boiled up some potatoes, which I then shredded, and stuck on the dehydrator. 

Today, we made breakfast for dinner, and so I decided to give them a try...put them in a bowl, and dumped a kettle full of boiling water over them, and voila, 15 minutes later...I had shredded potatoes, and shortly after, tasty hash browns! 

I know, I know...you can buy cartons of dehydrated shredded potatoes at the grocery store...but it's always rewarding to see that something I did a year ago was worth the time it took to do it.

Bad Prepper...bad, bad, prepper.

I hate calling myself a 'prepper'.  Due to certain T.V. shows, and media stories, the term 'prepper' has become almost as perverted as 'Tea Partier'.

But, I am someone who tries to be ready for whatever might be ahead...and that includes stocking up on things when they are on sale.  Then they come into the house and get stuck...somewhere, because I am occasionally lacking in organization.

Now...fast forward to about two weeks ago.  The girls come in from playing in the thick frost on our yard(pretending it's snow), and they want some hot chocolate, but there is only one envelope of it left in the drawer.  No problem...I know there is some in the pantry.  Or maybe the bottom of the hutch in our living room.  Or if not there, then out in the garage.

But no...there is no hot cocoa in any of those places...so, the next day, while my wife is at the store, she buys two new cans.  Problem solved.

Fast forward again to today.  It's a day for cleaning and reorganizing.  While working in the laundry room, I find an unmarked cardboard box next to the spare laundry soap, and another box containing our broken Wii.

Oh yeah...that's where I put it. 

This is kind of the 2nd time this has happened recently.  A week or two ago, I found two 24-packs of AA batteries while cleaning the garage.  I blame it on laziness on my part when we moved in.  'Look, this will fit here!'  And there some things sat. 

Not anymore!  I have spent most of my afternoon going through different closets, and cabinets, and hutch's, making notes as I go, with a goal of spending my time watching the NFL playoffs creating an actual spread sheet on the computer to track where things are hidden, and how much there is of it.

Technology is our friend!


Ground Out.

I never thought I would complain about actually harvesting two deer this past hunting season...but it did leave us with a fairly high percentage of ground meat in our freezer.  The only problem with that is that there is a somewhat limited menu that can be covered with ground meat...burgers, and meat loaf, and...Mexican and Italian.  Yes, there is an almost infinite variety of things that fall under the 'Mexican/tex-mex' umbrella, but in the end, it's a spicy, and cheesy, and saucy...just like all of the variety of Italian is saucy, and cheesy, and pasta(y). 

So...off to the internet I went, and spent a LOT of time surfing though different variations of taco, taco bakes, manicotti, baked ziti, shepherd's pie etc. before finding something that looked...different. 

Thai-Style Ground Beef

It was pretty okay.  I got the official wife/kid stamp of approval, with all three asking that we add it to the rotation.  That's nice, because I had to go buy fish sauce and red curry paste to make this recipe today, so I'm glad I'm not stuck with nothing to do with the rest of the containers. 

My only complaint is that it's not quite 'thai' enough.  Partly because I've never played with red curry paste before, and partly because I am the father of girls who don't always have the world's highest tolerance for 'heat', I used 50% more meat than the recipe called for, but didn't increase any of the spice quantities.  Next time, I'm going to kick it up a notch or two...maybe even toss in a few red pepper flakes. 

It was a fairly healthy dinner too...ground venison, some rice, and then instead of serving it with lettuce wedges, we actually used romaine leaves to make little 'thai lettuce wraps'. 


Bad apple in every barrel.

I know not all police officers are bad...but if you are a law enforcement officer, and you decide not to follow the law, you need to be ready to be called out on it.

King County deputy arrested after passing out in patrol car

Police arrested an on-duty King County Sheriff’s deputy Tuesday night after a citizen called to report the deputy passed out in his parked patrol car in Newcastle.
The incident occurred about 9:30 p.m. in the parking lot of a Starbucks near Newcastle Way and Coal Creek Parkway.  The citizen called 911 to report finding the deputy hunched over the steering wheel of his marked police car. The citizen couldn’t wake him.
Three King County deputies arrived and eventually roused the deputy, noticing ”signs of impairment,” King County Sheriff’s Sgt. Cindi West said in a news release.
Alcohol wasn’t suspected, but a Bellevue police drug-recognition expert called to the scene believed the deputy was “under the influence of some sort of drug, possibly a narcotic,” West said.
Police arrested the deputy for physical control of a vehicle — the equivalent of driving under the influence when no driving is observed, West said. After a search warrant was obtained to draw his blood, the deputy was booked and released by Bellevue police. His patrol car was towed, West said.
The 46-old deputy, a 15-year veteran of the sheriff’s office, is assigned to southeast King County.  The Sheriff’s Office will conduct an administrative investigation while Bellevue police will handle the criminal investigation, West said. The deputy has been placed on administrative leave pending the investigation.
Well...that's probably a 15-year career down the drain. 

Made it!

This picture, taken 10 minutes before midnight, is proof that we made to the New Year(although my older daughter took a 2 hour nap, and I dozed from 9:30-10:30).  It also shows everything that matters.

They are why I do what I do. I don't like my job(saying I hate it would be too strong...the fact is, it's not hard enough to hate).  It lacks a reward other than the financial remuneration every two weeks and benefits. But, unlike my previous position(where I convinced myself the B.S. was worth it, because every so often a submarine came in broke,  and went back to sea on-time...and at least part of that was due to me being good at my job)...I get a lot more family time.  On average, the three years I have been at Hanford vs. my 8 years at PSNS, I have had....say, 650 hours more with my family.  And that is just OT I didn't work...what is that...11-12 hours more a week?  And that is just OT...it doesn't count the times I had to go off-station and didn't see them for weeks(or months) at a time.

So...I'm not saying this to guilt trip my wife(although, to my shame, I have done it more than once after a Bad Day, at which point I go to my room and get some emotions out)...but rather, to focus on them....and how much they mean to me year after year.  They are worth it...

Alright...a quick review, and then peak forward for those who haven't been paying attention for the last year. 

Back in January, we closed on, and moved into our new house.  That has been nice, and I don't know that there are more than 3 or 4 boxes we haven't gone through yet.  In March, we continued our spending spree(or debt spree) by picking up a new Mazda CX-5 to replace our 2004 Subaru Impreza(well, if not replace, demote down to my daily driver, instead of my F-150).

The big news for the spring and summer were making the new house and yard OURS.  We put in a few fruit trees(2 plums, 1 apple, 1 mystery!).  I put in a few raised garden beds, but got fairly sad production this first year...but the big change to the outdoors for the year were our chickens!

They might not be smart, but they DO know what it means when I come out with the table scraps container.  We have eggs, they have left-over spaghetti and meatballs...it seems to workout okay. 

No huge 'family' things to speak of...we didn't go on any big family adventures or vacations this year...just a nice number of day trips, that we try to shoe-horn in as 'Home Schooling Field Trips'. 

It's been good...but there are also times as I nudge closer to 40 that I feel the time slipping.  My wife made the mistake of pointing out to me on Christmas that we might only have 7 more years of all being together for Christmas...fewer years remaining of both girls in the house than we have already experienced.  We have always had a fairly standard bed-time ritual, my wife and I taking turns reading the girls goodnight...and our older daughter now asks if she can just go to bed alone about 1/3rd of the time. 

As for the future...and 'resolutions'?  I don't know yet.  I kind of need to save something for later...

Happy New Years.