Jim’s Diner, Bethany, OK

12 February 2016

Jim's Diner Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

I’m trying to catch up at least a little on a huge backlog of places I have eaten at in the past 1.5 years (ack).

Two weeks ago, on 24 January, Raegan and the kids and I were finished with some activities at St. John’s, so I suggested trying Jim’s. I ate at Jim’s predecessor restaurant numerous times back in the early 90’s since Raegan and I lived about three miles north of the place. I always liked it.

This meal, Ian had CFS and Rrin CFC. They did not seem to be hand breaded nor fresh. Both of them ate all of the meal, but reported the meal as “meh”. Raegan had a seafood dinner, but they were out of shrimp, so they gave her extra catfish. She said the catfish was very good. I had the “Famous Roast Beef Dinner”. It was pieces of roast beef in a brown gravy. It was OK, nothing special.

We had some other stuff. Erin got some mozzarella sticks that were OK. Ian had a slice of pretty decent chocolate cake that he took home.

Service was occasionally slow but very friendly. If I was in that part of town again, I would probably try Jim’s again. Our check was $51.33.

Southern Recipes Cafe, Plano, TX

11 February 2016

Southern Recipes Grill Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

I’m at a business meeting in Richardson, and at lunch suggested hitting Southern Recipes. It used to be just west of here. On the way there, we headed that way until one of the guys remembered that SR was now in Plano. We turned around and headed back north to the new location. Unfortunately in one way, the new SR location is in a space that had been occupied by a very good Italian restaurant. Oh well.

The six of us ordered various things. I started out with some very good chicken noodle soup. I had chopped steak with gravy, mushrooms, and onions. It was very good, to include the gravy and mushrooms. I was not entirely happy with the onions, only about 10% of them were cooked to any extent, mostly they were large and raw.

The iced tea was very good. Service was OK, although a bit on the slow side. Te food was very good, I will continue to go back to SR.

La Salsa Grille, Oklahoma City, OK

11 February 2016

La Salsa Grille Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Raegan and I were headed to a Girl Scout event last evening, and needed some chow in a timely manner. We were headed down Meridian and saw La Salsa, and decided to check it out.

She had a chicken chimi and thought it was OK. I had pork guiso verde and thought it was excellent, just the right amount of space, great flavor, and tender pork. The meal came with some very good smoky queso and good, low-temp salsa that were served with nice, thin chips.

Service was very friendly and fast, we made it in and our in 40 min and made our event early (if you know us, that’s very unusual :) ). Our check was $22.47. We don’t get into that area often, but I would have no issue eating at La Salsa again.

Ten 50 BBQ, Richardson, TX

11 February 2016

Ten50 BBQ Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

This place is pretty good! It is based on the same concept as Black’s in Lockhart. You go through the line, select your meat(s) by the pound(s), thengo through and get other stuff.

I had a half pound each of ribs and brisket (wet). Damn fine brisket, tender and juicy, great smoky flavor. The ribs were pretty good (7.5 on a scale of 1 to JTs), they seemed to come apart in odd ways when pulling it off the bone. The flavor was decent.

I was not a huge fan of the BBQ sauce, but the ribs and brisket were so good I used the sauce sparingly. I had some OK mac (mostly) and cheese (less). The tea was pretty good, and all serve yourself. My check was $28.08. Pretty expensive given the lack of sides.

I would go back, though, with a group. I lament the closure of Soulman’s, but this is pretty good.

Gear Review, S2S UL Sleeping Pad

11 February 2016

I have used a closed-cell sleeping pad from Ridgerest for camping and backpacking since around 1985.  It is comfortable, and fairly light.  The only issue I have had with it is that is bulky.  I usually have it tied to the outside of my pack somewhere.

So I have been upgrading parts of my backpacking gear for the past year, and a couple months ago looked at sleeping pads.  After some research, I found a sorta tradeoff curve of weight, bulk, and price that essentially drove how comfortable the pad was.

Last December, I tried several at REI, including a Sea to Summit pad.  There were four or five other S2S pads, and I asked if I could try a couple out.  The REI guy said that I could only try the several that were out.  I laid down on Thermarests and REI and other pads, and one S2S, with varying levels of comfort.  I thought most of the pads were pretty heavy compared to my 14oz Ridgerest.  The S2S Ultralight felt pretty light, and it was very small.

The next day, we went to Mountain Sports in Arlington, TX.  We found they had the S2S Ultralight, and the guy there said sure, take it out and lay on it a while.  I did, and I was amazed.  I’m 6’2″ and weigh about 205 lbs, and when I stretched out on that pad, and rolled over on to my side, my usual sleeping position, and stayed there for about 15 min, I was amazingly comfortable.  Ian is taller and slightly heavier, but he had the same experience.  We bought a pair of them.  A little expensive, but in the end, so comfortable.

The pads have a pretty darn cool stuff sack that has a fitting that connects to the S2S inflation valve.  You can blow into it, but the better way is to connect the stuff sack to it, roll the sack to close the top, and push down and pump that air into the pad.  Three pushes and that pad is full, and I’m not staggering about dizzy from blowing it up.

I’ve had the pad on a camp and a backpacking trip.  The inflation bag is a largish waterproof stuff sack, so it does double duty.  I put my cold weather after-hike stuff in it, and I have to get that stuff out anyway once we get into camp, so the inflation bag is available.  I slept very comfortably on the backpacking trip in particular.  One thing I liked was that as I rolled side to side, in my sleeping bag, on the S2S pad.  I didn’t slide off the pad, which was very nice.  Even better, the bag didn’t have a friction grip on the pad, so it stayed with me as I rolled in it.  Ian reports similarly.

The S2S pad weighs the same as my closed cell pad.  The S2S packs down to about 15% of the volume of the Ridgerest.  The S2S is compartmented in the event of a leak.  The only downside is a $100 price difference.  But the bottom line is, the S2S is awfully comfortable.

Backpacking Grand Canyon National Park, 31 Jan -05 Feb 2016

8 February 2016

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Hike Summary: 48.4 miles over five days, with 8900 ft of altitude gain. Stunning scenery. Main question asked: “How *can* it keep getting better, backpacking Grand Canyon?”

The photos from this trip are on my Google+ here.

This is our third trip to GCNP. The blog post for the second one is here.

Getting There

Very straightforward. Four of us flew OKC-PHX, picked up a rental car, and headed north. We stopped at REI Flagstaff for stove fuel, then into the Park. Two others drove from San Diego to Flagstaff, then to the park where we all met up. We spent the first night in Maswik Lodge. The next morning, we loaded up, and checked in at the Backcountry Information Center (BIC) for an itinerary check (and change).

Weather Forecast

Our past two years in the Canyon were bedeviled by weather as we traveled there, but it was beautiful and warm while we hiked. This year, it was weather at the Canyon that was the issue. Forecasts were for highs in the 30s, with lows in the -0s for the South Rim, and up to a foot of snow. We were not enthusiastic about finding the Tanner Trail and Escalante Route when covered with snow, with our way out of the Canyon blocked in all three of our potential exits, and even the road closed along the Rim. We worked with the Backcountry Information Center (BIC), and they changed our route and permit, which turned out to be amazing regardless.

Day 1

We started at 0715 with breakfast in the Maswik food court, then got to the BIC right after it opened at 0800.

We headed out from the BIC after changing our route and walked directly to the Bright Angel trailhead.  Not much to say except it’s a long way down.  We started out around 0900, had lunch in Indian Garden, and then got into camp around 1530.  I was very happy that I didn’t have any knee problems this time.  I had practiced by walking a lot of stairs in the month prior to the trip.  The Bright Angel trail (sloped) is also a lot easier on the knees than the South Kaibab trail (large stair-steps).

We all walked around, Corey fished, and I looked for my missing SPOT in the group camp we were in last year (no luck).

Water was weird.  Apparently the NPS was working on the Transcanyon Water System, and there was only one place (right in front of the Phantom Ranch Canteen) to get potable water.  The heads had no water, and to flush, you emptied a big bucket of nasty-looking water into the head after you did your business.  We sent a patrol out to fill water bottles at PR (it’s a half mile there) and dipped water from the creek for boiling for food rehydration.

We decided not to go to the Canteen at 2000 as we were tired, so we all crashed at 1945.

10.5 miles and loss of 4380 ft.

Day 2

We all slept in a bit here, and didn’t hit the trail until 1030.  We walked up through Phantom Ranch to the Clear Creek turnoff, where it was new trail for all of us.  We walked through The Box, where the canyon sort of slots a bit.  The GPS lost lock several times.  We always had water very near us.  There were numerous places where rockfall had happened.

When you come out of The Box, the canyon opens up a bit to several hundred yards wide.  It’s quite the transition, and now you have tall walls in the distance.  It snizzled on us pretty much all day.  The trail doesn’t get a significant slope until just before Cottonwood Camp, then it bumps up and back down about 300 ft in a short distance.  Shortly before you get to the first bump you can see Ribbon Falls to the northwest, and it’s impressive even from a distance.

Going through The Box (and later tomorrow, as well), there are a lot of pour-offs and streambeds that would probably be very pretty waterfalls after a heavy rain.

We got to Cottonwood Camp, and we were the only people there.  We spread out to three of the small campsites.  They have tables and pack hangers there, and composting toilets.  There was no Ranger.  It’s a little hike to get water from the creek, but only about five minutes.

The stars up there were stunning!  So dark, so clear, so…  freaking… cold.  We saw a pair of ISS passes, very bright and pretty.  We all sat up and talked a while, all the way to almost 2000!  Party animals, we were.  :)

7.2 miles and gain of 1600 ft.

Day 3

We woke up around 0745.  I thought it was cold the night before…  no way.  Our water bottles were liquid when on the ground under the tent fly, but in less than 20 minutes of being out on the table, ice crystals were growing.  I think the temps were between 10F-15F (both mornings).  We fired up Coreys Whisperlite for breakfast.  Ian and I made cheese rice that we had planned to eat with the Chili Mac the night before, but it was better that cold morning.

We headed out with daypacks continuing up the North Kaibab trail.  Our plan was to walk as far as we could until the snow got too deep, or until it was 1330, then head back.  We left around 1000.

We first hit the Pumphouse Ranger residence after about 30 minutes.  A bonus here was seeing a fresh cougar print in the snow, and several more later in the mud.  At this point the trail starts up quite a steeper slope, we started seeing more snow next to and on the trail, and it was getting colder.

After about another hour, we came into view of Roaring Springs, the source of water for the National Park.  It was amazing!  We kept going up, coming to several enormous layer-cake pouroffs.  Eventually, at the 5900 ft level, we ran into a foot+ of snow, and turned back.  Most of this hike was in shade, and it was very cold.

When we got back to Cottonwood, Dave, Neal, and Corey walked down to the trailhead for Ribbon Falls.  Ian and I tried to get across the creek to explore a side canyon, but we couldn’t find a safe place to cross, so instead we explored the area around camp.

We had company in camp when we got back, a couple from NYC.

We eventually had dinner under another cloudless, sharp night, and racked out.

8.2 miles and gain, then loss, of 1820 ft.

Day 4

Very straightforward hiking day after a cold, cold morning.  We got out of camp around 1000 and walked over the first hill to the trail junction for Ribbon Falls.

That Falls is impressive.  The Falls are probably 100 ft high, and you can walk around in back of them for some very pretty views.  We met several other day hikers from Bright Angel/Phantom Ranch there and had nice conversation.

We continued back down trail and through The Box.  When we got to camp, we “upgraded” to the group site we stayed in last year.  Corey and Neal hit the fishing holes again, and Dave, Chuck, Ian, and I headed up to the Phantom Ranch overlook, a 3 mile round trip with 700 ft of elevation gain.  There is cell service there, so I called Raegan and let her know we were OK.

After dinner, we talked for a bit, then headed up to the Canteen for a beer.  We stayed up all the way to 2045, then walked back, and crashed.

12 miles and net loss of 1600 ft.

Day 5

Not much to say about this again.  Chuck, Ian, and I left camp at 0800 and came over the South Rim at 1515.  It’s a bloody long walk.  10.5 miles (to the BIC) and gain of more than 4380 ft.

We went directly to Maswik and had cheeseburgers, then I walked to the nearby BIC, weighed my pack, and we went to our Maswik rooms and essentially ran out the hot water :).  Hot tea was consumed in significant quantities.  We tried to catch up on news as well.

Dinner and beer was had in the Bright Angel Lodge.  I had an undistinguished Salisbury Steak.

10.5 miles and GAIN of 4380 ft.  Whoa.  This single activity is harder than all of the walking of the past four days.

Getting Back

Very straightforward again.  Dave rode with Neal and Corey to PHX, while Ian, Chuck, and I went to the Geology Museum, the Visitor Center, and then the Planes of Fame airplane museum between Williams and the Park.  We all rendezvoused at PHX and flew back to OKC.

Equipment Notes

My pack weighed 36 lbs when we hit the trail, and 32 lbs coming off the trail.  Not bad, considering that I had just short of *7* lbs of clothing.  I used every bit of it, it was cold!  For a warmer weather camp, that would put my hit the trail weight near 31 lbs, which is pretty darn good.

My REI Quarter Dome 2 tent fit Ian and I with no problem, in spite of me being 6ft 2in and him being 6ft 4 in.

I love the Sea to Summit sleeping pad!  One thing that was nice:.  I used to have to put my closed cell sleeping pad in the bottom of a big duffle bag, then put my partially disassembled pack on top of it.  With the new inflatable pad, everything is stowed in the pack.  It’s nice to be able to pick it up at bag claim, sling it on my shoulders, and head out.

Food Notes

I carried a bit too much food. I started with roughly 6 lbs, and when I came back I had 1.7 lbs still. Most of the food was lunch and breakfast stuff. There was also a lot of trash I carried for other people, maybe a full pound. I maybe ought to not be so nice :).

Lunch was PB&J on tortillas, or tuna salad, or for the first day, a sammich I bought at the Maswik food court. One thing I did here was to buy a packet of Newman’s Own Caesar dressing that I liberally used on the sammich, very good.

One lunch item neither Ian or I liked was Underwood Deviled Ham on crackers. The crackers were crumbly but good. The UDH, not so much. We ate it, but quickly, and then started in on some snacks to get the taste out of our mouth.

Breakfast was oatmeal or Pop Tarts, pretty standard, and the day we had the cheese rice :).

We both ate a lot of snacks on the trail. My favorite is M&Ms. I ate more than usual on this trip, given how cold it was.

Dinners. I’ve written before about the quantity of Mountain House/Backpackers Pantry meals. They are “2-person”, but I used to eat an entire meal myself. This time, Ian and I shared them, and we carried supplemental rice or noodle packets. In the end, we didn’t use any of the supplemental stuff for dinner, but we ate a cheesy rice for breakfast. It was hot and gooey and delicious.

We tried a new Mountain House entree on this trip: Chicken Fried Rice. It was very good, but we added two cubes of S&B Golden Curry medium to the meal as it sat, it melted and we stirred it around, and it was one of the best meals I’ve had backpacking. Ian agreed. Great stuff!

Mountain House Chili Mac. Lordy, it was good. So was the Mountain House Spaghetti.

What Went Wrong

Stove fuel.  I have consistently carried (me personally and/or our group) too much stove fuel.  In this case, we went on the trail with exactly 2 8oz and 1 4oz canister of isopro stove fuel.  We had to cook enough water for four breakfast meals and four dinner meals.  Given what we know about that, for our six guys, it’s 2 pots (10 cups) of water for breakfast, or about 8 overall, and another 3 pots (15 cups) of water for dinner, or 12 overall, with a total of 20 pots of water for the entire crew for the trip.  From my testing, that is well within the capacity of the two canisters Ian and I carried (8 oz and 4 oz).  Chuck had an 8 oz canister as well, so we should have been fine.

BUT, we weren’t.  I broke out my 8 oz canister in camp for the first night, and we boiled 4 pots of water.  It emptied my canister completely, very annoying.  We used the canisters Chuck and Ian carried as well, and both of those ran out as well.  I thought maybe we had bought canisters that were sold to us short (maybe partially used), but after thinking about it, I wonder if the air temperature affected the fuel delivery.  I need to research that, and/or test it.  Regardless, I think the lesson learned is that I should have had one other guy carry another 4 oz.  Maybe we should have tucked the fuel canisters into our sleeping bags to keep them warm.

Speaking of cold fuel canisters, the isopro stoves failed miserably for breakfast both Tuesday and Wednesday morning.  I think the temps were in the mid-teens.  Fortunately, Corey had an MSR Whisperlite (kerosene based) that fired up just fine.  Lesson learned, carry a Whisperlite when the temps get low.  Again, I wonder if they needed to be tucked into our sleeping bags.

What Went Right

Pretty much everything!  It was cold, but we coped and no one got too cold.  Ian was a little cold in his 15F bag, but we piled all our outerwear on him and that jacked the R-value up.  The route we took was stunning!  We got out of camp when we needed to, and got into camp in good time.  In particular, we all got up the Great Big Wall before it got dark.  No one got hurt.  Gear worked

Closing Thoughts

I’ve now hiked more than 150 miles in Grand Canyon, between the three backpacking trips and a number of day hikes on both Rims.

It was super cold this trip. All of our trips to Grand Canyon have been the first week in February, and while the first two were shorts and short sleeves once we were over the Rim, we made up for it with the low temps this time. I do not think that it was over 32F the entire time we were out.  The lows were probably in the 10F-15F range the two nights we were in Cottonwood.

I could not have asked for a better group to hike with.  Everyone was cheerful (and astounded!), and there wasn’t a cross word spoken (except about the cold, not to/at each other).

The change in plan from the Escalante Route to the almost-to-the-North-Rim was not a loss at all.  It showed us an amazing part of the canyon few get to see.

We’ll have to go back next year and try the Escalante Route again.  :)

Maswik Lodge Food Court, GCNP, AZ

8 February 2016

Maswik Cafeteria Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

We have usually eaten in Bright Angel Lodge dining room (and did again for dinner both nights we were on the South Rim), but we decided to try the Maswik food court to be able to hit the trail earlier.

We had a couple breakfasts in there.  Both Ian and I had a basic eggs and meat breakfast.  Mine was an eggs and meat (ham) and biscuits and gravy, with a side of bacon.  The breakfasts were excellent.  The bacon in particular was perfectly crispy and had great flavor.  I liked the ham also, it had been fried in real time and was very good.  The cook did the over-easy eggs perfectly, and the biscuits and gravy was pretty darn good as well.

Our breakfast for two was something like $35, which included two cartons of milk and a large Coke, each.

Chuck, Ian, and I also hit the same line for cheeseburgers mid-afternoon Thursday after coming back up the big wall.  We had snacked but not stopped for lunch, and were very hungry.  We all got cheeseburgers, mine had bacon (and again, the bacon was perfect!).  The burgers were cooked well enough, but they had little flavor.  At best, they were good stomach filler until dinner later.  I also had onion rings, and those were pretty good.  I don’t remember how much our meal for three cost, but it was kinda expensive.

I can recommend Maswik for a quick, delicious breakfast before a hard day of hiking.  I would try something else before getting burgers again, but I wouldn’t let that stop you from getting one if you were so inclined; just don’t expect a lot of flavor.

Gear Review: REI Quarter Dome 2

8 February 2016

This is the first of a couple reviews of new backpacking gear I have acquired in the past year or so.

Last April, I researched new backpacking tents for both me and for my Scout Troop 15.  The objective for the Troop was the best tent to get the Troop started with self-supported backpacking, while my objective was size and weight reduction.

A bit of history.  The tent I have been backpacking with for the past seven years is a No Limits Sunlight Peak 2-person tent.  It served me well, but has experienced three pole failures in the past two years.  That tent is also 5.5 lbs.  I gave $50 for it on sale, so it’s done well.

After looking at more than 30 tents in the 2- to 3-person range, I settled on the REI Quarter Dome 2 (QD2) for my tent.  The QD2 was $300, and I had a 20% off coupon for being an REI member, so that dropped the price to $240.  Since we had no REI store in the state at the time, and it was over $50, I got free shipping and no sales tax, both good things.

 

 

I have had the tent out on something like seven camps since I bought it, including a pair of weekend backpacking trips, and two week-long backpacking trips (Grand Canyon and Weminuche Wilderness, CO).  I’ve also had the tent on a 10-day trip to Colorado where we camped a number of places.  To summarize, only one minor issue.

That issue first.  When I was on that the Colorado backpacking trip, we had several instances of significant rain (rain in Colorado in the summer, who would have thought?  :) ).  When it started pouring, I hid in the tent to work a Sudoko or take a nap, or both.  After the rain, I noticed a little bit of water that had worked through the bathtub part of the tent near the head.  It didn’t hardly trickle.  I took a photo of it, and when I got back home I spot sprayed Scotchguard on it, and haven’t noticed any issues.

There was a lesson learned from this:  There is a guyline on the part of the fly that pulls the fly out from the tent maybe 10 inches.  If I had staked that out, I probably would not have noticed the issue to begin with, since the water that worked its way in was water that splashed up off the ground and under that part of the fly (it was heavy rain and small hail).

Some positive details.  This tent shaved (no, cut!) 2.5 lbs off my pack weight.  That’s great in itself.  I’ve seen no wear on it.

One thing I find a little unclear:  this tent can be used as an ultralight shelter (fly, poles, an stakes only), if you don’t worry about bugs or snakes crawling on you.  That saves you probably another pound and some bulk.  I have been laying the tent body out and putting the poles through grommets at the corners of the tent, then laying the fly out on the tent, and placing the similar grommets on the fly underneath the tent corner grommets.  It’s a little hard to do (or undo) with gloves.  Then I would stake the tent down.

This last trip, Ian and I put the tent up, then staked it down using the fabric anchors “downstream” of the grommets, then hooked the fly grommets to the stakes.  The fly grommet anchor has an adjustable length.  One advantage of this is that before, small parts of the tent bathtub were exposed.  With the modified setup (which may be the actual way to set it up; I can’t find clear instructions online), the fly extends out another couple inches and completely covers the corners and front (foot) of the tent.  I didn’t have any stress issues with the fly zippers, either.  If you have to go completely freestanding, you probably have to do with both fly and tent grommets on the poles.

Speaking of Ian, he is 6 ft 4 in, and I am 6 ft 2 in.  We shared this tent on the recent Grand Canyon five day, and both of us fit in it just fine.  You could get your outer layers off and piled down by your feet, and still have about 8 in of room for your head.  Now, it’s not palatial, but we only had a couple instances of elbow-to-back on the trip  I think that if we had chosen to, we could have easily left the tent behind and gone ultralight, which would have provided another foot or more of space for each of us to the side, and another 8 in head to toe.  I would want to use a Tyvek footprint if I did that to keep our gear off the ground.

This tent has plenty of ventilation; it’s unusual for me to find condensation.  The vestibules have plenty of space.

My assessment of this tent is that it is wonderful.  I can get either of my sleeping bags (20F or 5F) into the bottom compartment of my pack, and still get every bit of the fly, stakes, and tent in there (the poles go inside the main compartment of the pack as they are slightly too long for the bottom compartment), and still have some room for other stuff.

Good job, REI.

The Black Raven, Choctaw, OK

7 February 2016

Black Raven Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

One of our friends is a musician, and he plays a couple times a month at the Raven. I do not think we have ever eaten in Choctaw, and we decided to go hear him sing and have a meal. It was pretty darn good on both counts.

The Raven is Irish themed. We started with Celtic Rings (onion rings) that were pretty standard, nothing special. Ian, to my surprise, got Bangers and Mash, demolished it, and pronounced it excellent. Erin and Raegan got classic fish and chips, and both liked them, even though in both cases, it was too much food for them to finish. I got Shepherds Pie, which I very much enjoy. This was excellent, I didn’t leave a scrap.

Overall, an outstanding meal. Service was friendly, but there was only one server for the whole place, so occasionally tea (which was good) ran out. Our check was $67.89, which I think was pretty decent value. This is a good place to eat if you are in the mood for British/Irish/Scottish food and/or beer.

And the music was very good as well. http://www.jandjmusicokc.com/jonathan-marshall/

Whiskey Cake, Oklahoma City, OK

7 February 2016

Whiskey Cake Kitchen & Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

I had lunch here back on 01 December. Raegan and Erin had eaten here several months earlier, and reported it to be expensive and not that good.

I got thee right at noon. The place was pretty full, and I got seated at one of a number of high tables near the door and the bar instead of a proper table.

The menu seems kind of limited to me, and just a little snooty. I settled on the roast chicken with sides of mac and cheese and green beans. The sides were pretty standard, but the chicken was very good, roasted with a nice skin and moist all the way through. I ate all of the meal. The server was very friendly and service was fast.

My check was $19.00. That’s a lot of bread for a roast chicken. So I think that while the meal was pretty good, the value could be better. That puts this place into the category of “if someone I was with was just dying to go, I would as well, but I wouldn’t volunteer”.

Lucy’s Diner, Fort Smith, AR

7 February 2016

Lucy's Diner Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Back on 20 December, Raegan, the kids, and her Mom were in Fort Smith to visit the National Cemetery. We had lunch afterwards at Lucy’s.

I started with a cup of very good beef stew. For the pretty raw day, it was a good warm-up. Erin had a basket of chicken chunks that she said were very good. Ian had an Ultimate Breakfast, that included eggs, hash browns, bacon, and biscuits and gravy. I liked the gravy a lot. Ian had to work pretty hard to finish all that chow, but he did and he said it was very good. The other three of us had the Sunday special, which was a huge couple slices of excellent roast turkey, with mashers, gravy, and dressing. It was too much for Raegan and her Mom to finish; I finished mine with an effort. It was great stuff, tender and juicy turkey and perfect poultry gravy.

We had tea (sweet and straight) and water; the tea was excellent. Service was fast and very friendly. Our check was $78.32, not bad for such good food for five. I would eat at Lucy’s any time.

Backpack Weight, Again

6 February 2016

I spent most of last week on our third backpacking trip to Grand Canyon. This was the first chance for me to check out some of the new gear I bought.

This started after my realization that my pack was a hefty 46 lbs before a trip in 2014, and getting it down to 36 last year.

This year, I was very happy that my “wet load”, i.e. all food and water, was 36 lbs again, for five days on the trail. Ian had a pack weight of 28 lbs, and so I went about finding the difference after this trip.

After getting off the trail, I went directly to the backcountry office and weighed my pack – 32 lbs. In our room at Maswik Lodge, I pulled almost a full 1.5 pound of trash out of the pack, which was trash both Ian and I generated, and some I picked up from the other guys. That took the pack weight down to about 31.5 lbs.

Here is what I weighed at the house:

Leftover food: 1.7 lb left, out of about 6 lbs taken. I need to eat all of my applesauce, that was the heaviest single item left over.

Clothing: 6.8 lbs. This was the single biggest amount of stuff in my pack. It was darned cold on this trip, I don’t think we got above freezing the entire five days. I also wore everything I carried in the mornings and evenings. I was warm, but the clothing was heavy. I will research to see if I can buy stuff that is just as warm, but lighter. I had these layers: bottoms were base layer, hiking pants, fleece sweatpants, and the bottoms of my Frog Togg rain suit; tops were base layer, a thin hiking shirt, a long-sleeve mock turtleneck, a thick hoodie, and a fleece lined rain jacket with a hood.

Lows on the trip were about 15F, highs near 32F.

I think I could have left the fleece lined rain jacket behind in favor of the Frog Togg top; that was have saved 1.2 lbs.

Tent:  2 lb.  Ian and I split my tent, my part was 2 lbs (maybe a bit less, the fly was still wet from the last day condensation when I weighed it).

Pad:  14 oz.  My new Sea to Summit inflatable pad was 14 oz, about what the far more bulky closed-cell pad weighs.

Bag:  4.1 lb.  I carried my new 5F Teton Sports bag, 4.1 lb (as opposed to my far more bulky Cabelas 0F bag at 4.8 lbs, or my 20F Teton bag at 2.5 lbs).

The lesson here is that the keep-you-warm stuff (clothing and sleeping bag) was really the weight driver for this trip. Ian carried less clothing and his 20F Teton bag (and was a bit colder). I think we could have even left the body of the tent behind, and just used the fly and poles method (no bugs or snakes to worry about), which would have had negligible impact from the thermal insulating standpoint, and would actually have given us more room.

We hike, we learn.

Norma’s Cafe, Addison, TX

29 January 2016

Norma's Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Back in early December, I was in the north Dallas area for meetings.  On Friday around noon, I headed back towards OKC, and remembered there was a Norma’s around there somewhere.  A quick Google Maps search brought me there.  I got there at 1245, and was seated immediately.

I had a bacon double cheeseburger and fries, just about as straightforward as you can get.  The fries were pretty good.  The cheeseburger was EXCELLENT.  Great beef, grilled with a nice crust on it, the thing even looked good!  The way a burger should be.

Service was very friendly and fast, even though the place was fairly crowded.  My check was somewhere around $12.  The iced tea was very good, and kept refilled.

I will be happy to go back to Norma’s.

Italia Express, Oklahoma City, OK

29 January 2016

Italia Express Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

There was an Italia Express on May Avenue just south of school, and we ate there a lot.  It was excellent, close, and inexpensive.  A second location opened in NW OKC, and the May location just shut down suddenly, which was very disappointing.  We went out to the other location, and it was also very good, but there was one thing different:  the marinara was made with bell peppers (just ruined the flavor).  Since the NW OKC location was far from out usual areas, we never went back.

A couple weeks ago, I was driving along Classen, and there was a brand new Italia Express.  Raegan and I went there a couple days later.

After we were seated, I asked if they made the marinara with bell peppers, and got a yes.

NOTE:  if you run Italia Express, please consider not making your marinara with bell peppers.  The stuff is very, very good without the darn peppers.  Save some money, and my taste buds, and get rid of the darn peppers.

Regardless, I got a most excellent fettuccine al fredo.  It was perfect.  ‘Nuff said.  Raegan got manicotti, and asked for it to be served with one manicotti covered with marinara, and the other with al fredo (note:  she asks for this routinely, and occasionally gets the most scandalized responses that the two sauces will… gasp… touch!  That does not bother her, but we’ve had servers and chefs just get all bent out of shape at the request).  Regardless, she said it was very good, even if the sauces touched, and she also wished the marinara didn’t have bell pepper in it.  We had a starter of garlic bread that was very good, and the iced tea was also.

Our check was around $20.00, and service was very friendly.  We will be back.  I will try the marsala next time, and the al fredo will still be there.

Broadway Cafe, Geary, OK

29 January 2016

Broadway Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Back in November, I was driving from a Scout training session in Norman to our Troop 15 camp at Roman Nose State Park.  I had not had lunch, and was passing through Geary, and noted the Broadway Cafe.

It was a bit disappointing.  The Cafe is in a small grocery store.  I got a chicken fried steak, but was kind of disappointed in it.  I think that the CFS was a pre-made item.  It was tender enough, but it was almost flavorless.  The gravy, green beans, and tea were OK.  I think my check was somewhere around $8.  Service was by the owner, I think, and friendly enough.

Would I stop here again?  Probably not.  I like my CFS to have a lot of beef flavor and be fresh and hand breaded, and as I said above, I don’t think this was.

Cooper’s BBQ, Fort Worth, TX

29 January 2016

Cooper's Old Time Pit Bar B Que Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

A couple weeks ago we were doing a lot of stuff in the Dallas and Fort Worth areas.  Ian and I had driven by what was claimed in Google to be an El Pollo Loco (but wasn’t).  We found ourselves in the Stockyards area, and drove past Cooper’s, and had to stop in.

Cooper’s has a lot of potential.  You order your meat first, then some sides, then sit down at long tables family style.  Your Q is on butcher paper.

Ian got ribs, I got brisket and BBQ chicken.  The brisket (wet) had decent flavor and was very tender, but it was almost too salty to eat.  The chicken was very good on the first eating, but got quite dry on the inside, so it had been smoked a little too long.  The ribs were very good.  They had decent bark, and were very tender.  I think they were the best part of the meal.  The sauce was pretty thin but was a good addition.

The beans were OK but bland, and the mac and cheese was pretty good.  The iced tea was killer good.

It was a HECK of a lot of food.  The check for the two of us was something like $40.  It was pretty expensive for non-perfect BBQ.  I think that brisket could be excellent, but it was just too salty.  So I would try it again if we were in the area, but I would get about half of the food that we got.  We didn’t finish the sides, and darn near had to be hauled out of there on a two-wheeler.

Jim’s Fried Chicken, Nicoma Park, OK

26 January 2016

Jim's Famous Chicken Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

First of all, an apology to my readers.  I got off track with my restaurant reviews a year and a half ago.  Since then, Urbanspoon was eaten by Zomato, and I think I have been to over 100 new restaurants in that time, some of them very good and worthy of a review.  I will try to get to those over the next couple months.  Regardless, I will do a better job of keeping up with new places in the meantime.  This is the start of that effort.

I went to Jim’s the first time back in 2010.  I’ve been back numerous times since.  I just looked at that first review, and the thing I didn’t mention was that the building was a cinder block dump with limited seating.  It was really meant for more takeaway than dine in.  There is also a little history, we were in McCloud a couple years ago, and found a new, purpose-built Jim’s there, but when we went back just a couple weeks later, it was closed.  The location on 23rd was also closed.

My friend Harold was driving along 23rd recently, and found that Jim’s was not only open again, but extensively rebuilt.  Some of the old original building is still there, but the interior is nicely upgraded with a much larger kitchen and a lot more seating, and apparently, HVAC that was missing previously (that place was cold in the winter and hot in the summer).

Regardless, we visited Jim’s again last Fall, and we have been back three or four times since.  The most recent time was last Thursday evening.  We got there about 1800 and it was about half full.  Three of us got chicken meals, and the other got chicken fingers.  It was all very, very good.  The chickens are decent sized, plump, and meaty.  They are fried golden and fresh, and HOT.  The sides are also very good.  We have had green beans, mashers, slaw, okra, and corn (which reminds me, I need to get a photo of the new menu).  The iced tea is brewed and self serve, both sweet and straight.  They have a very good poultry gravy that is a good dip for the chicken.  Our check was $52.10.  The servers, particularly in the dining area, were super friendly.

One of the managers told us that the Jim’s had been bought by the local Swadley’s folks.  I think they have done a great job with the food and the location.  Fried chicken, good fried chicken in particular, is increasingly hard to get, and I hope that Jim’s is around a long, long time.

PCness and Offense as a Political Meme

25 January 2016

I have noticed a lot of references to how bad “political correctness” is by various candidates, and all of them have been by Republicans.

I looked up this definition of PC on Wikipedia:

Political correctness (adjectivally, politically correct, commonly abbreviated to PC) is a term primarily used as a pejorative to describe language, policies, or measures which are intended not to offend or disadvantage any particular group of people in society.

In a related area, I’ve seen a large number of memes posted, again, if not 100% by conservatives, then very close, that reference some variation of “Let’s keep this going since it offends some people”.  What is being kept going is a positive reference to Christianity, or some reference to America, or one of the political hot buttons.

There have been a lot of references in this campaign season to how bad “being PC” is.  I believe that the anti-PC “movement” is really just a way for conservative leaders to let out the inherent racism that is a core part of their belief system.  It’s a way for conservative candidates to ask their base to express their deepseated fear of people of color, people of other religious traditions, and in general those who are not white and Christian.

To me, the human, compassionate thing to do is work with people under the assumption that they are human also.  That means not calling them names like a petulant child, or trying to blame those who are not the same color, or who talk differently, or who hold different faith traditions on all of the ills of my society.

All of this anti-PC rhetoric is yet another variation on encouraging symbols above substance for conservatives.  The old reduce-it-to-a-bumper-sticker way of dealing with huge groups is stupidly closed minded.

PC – it is really a way to be respectful of others, even if they are not a clone of you.

Scouting and Wood Badge

22 January 2016

A couple years ago, I decided I should complete the Scouting Wood Badge (WB) program.  This was kind of driven by two things, both my thought that I needed to “up my game” as far as Scouting goes, and also due to numerous recommendations by Scouting friends.  It’s quite the time commitment, six days of “classroom” training, and then five projects you do to benefit your Troop or other Scouting organization; these typically take about a year of effort to complete.

My five ticket items were a mix.  The easiest one to complete was the BSA Trainers Edge course, which is one day on site.  I figured it would not be useful, but it turned out to be very useful, even to a guy who has done a lot of presenting in his career.  I had one ticket item getting our Troop to be able to put on a backpacking program.  Another item was to enhance availability of Merit Badges to our Scouts by the Troop, and one more item to enhance recruiting of new Scouts from the geographical area around our Chartering Organization.  Finally, I had a ticket item to give service to the District organization our Troop is part of.  I completed the five items and am waiting to be awarded the Wood Badge in the next month or so.

Naturally, I have been reflecting on the WB program during this process.

First, I have to say that the impetus given by the ticket items really helped with getting some things done for the Troop that needed doing.  One I actually consider a failure; the recruiting effort had little success.  However, I did come up with some new ideas for next year, so I will consider it an item to be built on.   The other two Troop related items were completely successful, and the backpacking item I am particularly proud of.  The District service is a continuing effort.

26 January 2016 update:  A note on the ticket item I refer to as a failure in the previous paragraph.  I was trying a direct mail effort to 35 churches and schools in the area of our Troop meeting place, asking to let us come by and recruit for our Troop.  I got one response back out of 35, which I was very disappointed by.  I was bothered enough by it that I ginned up a second letter, with a postcard enclosed asking for feedback on why they didn’t want us to recruit.  This one got six responses asking us to come recruit.  So maybe not so much of a failure, but I still wonder why there were so many non-responses the first time.  Back to the blog post:

As I said, WB starts with a six-day commitment, and for me, that was the hardest part of the program, as I am fairly booked up by family and work.  I bit the bullet and signed up for the course as presented in two three-day chunks, over a pair of Thursday-Saturdays about three weeks apart (there are WB courses that happen in a single six-day block alsob).  In both cases, I ended up on business travel the first part of each week, which meant arriving in camp very late Wednesday the first week, and getting in to OKC at 2200 Wednesday the second week, and then getting up at 0430 to get down to camp by 0700 Thursday morning.  The first session was essentially booked with stuff 0700 – 2100 all three days except the last, which was depart at 1700.  The second session had some blocks of time for doing stuff in camp and relaxing.

Wood Badge has a number of objectives, and the primary objective is team building.  There are a number of activities like games, videos, and briefers on these topics.  Some of it was useful to me, some not so much, but overall a positive.  I’ve read about the theory of WB, and the designers are very certain that in order to form a team, it must be forged in the heat of – something.  Battle, or intense work, stress, or conflict.  I think that’s why the days are so full, it’s meant to stress people.  There was also a lot of ritual involved for everything, which is meant to enhance a sense of belonging and binding to the other people you are with.

The staff for our WB had obviously put in a heck of a lot of work to make the sessions work.  They were up before we were and went to be after we did, and in talking to them they had been meeting and camping and working together for almost a year before the actual WB course.  That’s a level of commitment that is very impressive.  The meals and infrastructure were well done.

There is some improvement in the Wood Badge program I think could be made. The biggest (this could sound elitist, but I don’t mean it to), I think that the basic orientation to Scouting parts of WB should be eliminated, to include the camping practicum, the model campsite, and the like.  There were a lot of people in my WB class that were new to Scouting.  Of the five guys in my patrol, I was the only one that had been through BALOO, IOLS, and Scoutmaster Fundamentals (for those who don’t know, BALOO is training to take Cub Scouts camping, and IOLS and SMF are basic training for Boy Scout Scoutmasters and Assistant Scoutmasters); on top of that I’ve been involved in Scouting since I was a kid.  I’m a fan of training, and I think that making SMF/IOLS a prerequisite for WB would help BSA with getting leaders fully trained (and I think that you should be able to “test out” of IOLS with experience, which all of our guys had).

I guess what I’m saying here is that you shouldn’t be at the premier, advanced training for Scouting if you don’t have the basic training completed, and at least some practical experience.  I would rather the time I am volunteering (and the associated dollars I am paying) be used for enhancing the direct objective of the course, instead of rehashing stuff I already know.  The structure of the course (patrols/troop) is good, appreciated, and 100% relevant to the course objective, but it shouldn’t have to be explained at length.

The accommodation concept was for the participants to sleep in wall tents the first session, then set up a patrol-based campsite for the second session.  I would rather be in a patrol camp both sessions, and perhaps have more time to spend with my patrol members in the camp in the evenings, rather than go with courses until late.  The mix of dining hall meals and cooked in camp meals was a good mix.

Wood Badge ended up costing me about $750, aside from the annual leave I used to attend the four days during the two workweeks.  That breaks down to $200 for the course, about $100 in transportation to the course and back (I rented a SUV for the second half to carry equipment for the service project we performed), about $250 for the Trainers Edge (I took it in Dallas, and so I had a couple hotel nights plus the course fee), and then about $200 in costs for copying pertaining to the recruiting ticket item (which was higher than I thought it would be).  I could have avoided the cost for Trainers Edge had I taken it in OKC (I had schedule conflicts for various offered TE courses through the end of 2015, almost all for Scouting activities).

The service project our course built in camp was a lot of fun, although it was also very sweaty.  Everyone worked and got it done very quickly.

So overall, I enjoyed the Wood Badge experience.  I think the bottom line on it is that completing the ticket items and the awarding of the beads is, for me, a milestone on a path ahead in service to youth.  I think that the lessons learned will help me continue to support my Troop, my District (and perhaps Council at some point), and my other service interests, in particular the Girl Scouts and St. John’s.

Star Wars: The Force Is Sleepy

22 January 2016

The best part about the new Star Wars movie is that the popcorn and Dr. Pepper was very good.  In fact, they had unlimited butteroid to put on the popcorn, and you could salt it yourself.

Seriously.  I saw A New Hope (although it wasn’t called that) in the drive-in theater on the north side of Muskogee, OK the week the movie was released, and was blown away.  To the point my buddies and I saw it the next evening, and the next.  When the Empire Struck Back, we yelled “NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO keep going!!!!!!” from the darkness of the theater in Stillwater, OK, and then we went back several times.  And when the Jedi Returned, it was awesome, and we went back several times.

There is nothing to say about the “prequels”.  Except they are crap.

My Facebook review of TFA was, drum roll, please:  “Meh”.  After reflection, less then meh, even.  The movie was a single continuous take of one almost-didn’t-escape-that-[whatever certain death] after another almost-didn’t-escape-that-[whatever certain death], along with one-dimensional characters I don’t give a rip about.

OK, so they have FTL travel and blasters and light sabres and the Force; that’s all neat.  And it’s fantasy, I get that.  But having none other than Solo and the Wookie find the Falcon 16 and a half seconds after it was stolen from the planet, and then having bad guys find Solo three minutes later, and people being chased and eaten by monsters 18 seconds after that, and then having Lea find everyone after a battle, and all the other coincidences, it was beyond fantasy and into the realm of no frickin’ way.

I would have understood if Republic Mark II was in place, and fighting against the First Order, which objected to having their Emperor blown up.  But I do not understand how the First Order is still in charge, and why the ragtag, fugitive fleet (wait, strike that) Rebel Alliance Rev 1.1 is still on secret bases.

Related to that, why didn’t the Republic Mark II freeze the bank accounts of the Empire, preventing the First Order from building an Even Bigger Death Star.  Never mind that the EBDS sucks energy from a star to power it’s weapon to destroy every planet in a solar system at once?  W…T…F…?  If you know how to suck all the life Force from a star (yes, pun intended) then you really don’t have to be mucking around with the same TIE fighters you used 30 years earlier.  Do not get me started on the giant star map to Luke.  Ludicrous.

If I sound disappointed, well, check yourself out a new degree in Empathy.  I will not see the movie again, even when it gets replayed on the Disney Channel six times a day.  And I don’t even now if I will see the next installment.

I am afraid that I am going to end up relegating these Star Wars movies, like the prequels, into the same basket I place the film adaptations of my beloved The Hobbit, which is to say I skip right over them when I see them on TV, and I will not own them on DVD.  Sad to say, but TFA is really no better then the prequels, and which does a grave misservice to the grand saga of the original, and really only, Star Wars trilogy.

Donald Trump May Very Well Make America Great Again…

22 January 2016

I was reading some commentary about Trump getting Sarah Palin to endorse him.  They are a lot alike, in that they have huge generalities they like to beat the drum on, but little valid substance or policy.

Regardless, the thought that crossed my mind is that since there is no way that Trump can be elected, yet he may be the nominee, then he would be enabling Democrats to take at least the White House for the next eight years, and very likely also at least the Senate.

That would help to get stuff moving to make America even greater.

I would send him a thank-you note for that.

Troop 15 Backpacking Shores Lake to White Rock Mountain Loop, 04-06 Dec 2015

29 December 2015

Summary, a beautiful 15-mile look through stunning Ozarks winter terrain.  Five Troop 15 Scouts and three leaders, a good group that included two new backpackers.

My photos are on Google+ here.

We left OKC right at dark and didn’t get to the trailhead until around 2200.  It was cold and a very clear night.  Everyone got tents up quickly and we racked out.  The trailhead was Shores Lake, which is about 15 miles NE of I-40 and Mulberry, AR.  Note that all water to the area is shut off at the first sign of a freeze; that’s not on the Forest Service website.  We found out when I called White Rock Mountain to ask about water, and the nice lady told me they had it year round, but the water at Shores was shut off the week before.  So we were able to bring a jerrycan full of water from OKC.  We could have pumped water from the stream there as well.

The next morning, we woke up at 0830.  Yes, that’s the whole crew sleeping in a bit.  Breakfast was meant to be fast and filling:  two pounds of pre-cooked bacon and Little Smokies cooked in a dutch oven, followed by 18 eggs.  Not a scrap was left.

In the meantime, the crew made pita pocket sandwiches from ham, turkey, and the like.  I like pita pockets, but mine fell apart.  I think I either need to get larger ones next time, or stick with tortillas.  Everyone packed up.  We hit the trail very late, at 1155.

There is a $10 fee per night to camp at Shores, which is reduced to $6 when the water is turned off.  I only had a $10 bill, so that’s what it cost us.  For that we got a campsite next to a pit toilet, and a couple nice picnic tables and a fire ring.  We used all of them.  Being that it is a National Forest, you can also camp along one of the two streams running into the campground, as long as you are out of sight of any trail or other campgrounds (that’s USFS policy, not me trying to get people to do something sketchy).  If you were to get to the trailhead by around 1600, you could hike up the trail a mile or so, there are a LOT of nice places to camp that are near water.  There is also a $6 per vehicle fee to park at the trailhead.

The trail is beautiful.  We were in the post-leaf-drop period, which means the forest floor was covered in orange and red leaves.  You could also see a long distance through the forest.

The first five+ miles of trail are a mix of gentle rise and contouring.  There was plenty of water (at least two large creeks and several smaller) that the trail crossed, and in many cases, the trail is very near Salt Fork Creek (you would have to hike downhill a hundred yards or so, but there are also a multitude of nice campsites down there).

Once past the five mile point, you’ve done about 500ft+ of altitude gain, then you intersect the Ozark Highlands Trail (OHT).  At this point, you have a serious climb in front of you:  1200ft over less than two miles.  It is tough.  I was a little worried about our two new guys, but in the end, we were ALL worn out by the climb.

Once you get to the top of White Rock Mountain, you pass some cabins that look very nice, and find the campsites on the west side of the ridge.  There is water, and pit toilets.  Again, $10 per night to camp, and you get a picnic table and fire ring, both of which we put to use.  Dinner was Mountain House spaghetti, chicken noodle soup, and hot chocolate.  Pretty darn good.

A note on the campsite, there are two rows of them that run north-south.  We picked the first one we came to, which was the first site (south end) of the western row.  The site had some slope to it, and my tent site straddled a sort of run off; if it had rained I might have been partially in a river!  The two sites to the north were flatter.  That’s the risk you take when you get into camp late.

We were told at the office another Scout Troop was in one of the other camps, and the next day I went over and said hello; they were from West Fork, AR, which is the gateway to Devil’s Den State Park, another lovely area that I recently backpacked with our Girl Scout High Adventure Team (HAT).

It was cold up there that morning, but it warmed up quickly.  Breakfast was Pop Tarts, oatmeal, hot chocolate, and snacks.  We got out of camp around 1045 (an hour-ten better than yesterday) and headed to the overlook for some beautiful views of the Ozarks, including the mountain we hiked around the day before.

The hike back to Shores Lake was pretty straightforward.  If you look at the hike path on the Google+ photos, there is a marker “Falls”.  This was a beautiful grotto and 70ft+ waterfall (with several stairstep waterfalls above that) above White Rock Creek.  After a rainfall, I would imagine that waterfall to be spectacular.  This was about three miles from the Shores Lake trailhead, and there was a SPECTACULAR campsite below the fall.  I think it would be a perfect location for a beginning backpacking trip, or a base camp location.

A little farther towards Shores Lake is another gorgeous waterfall that spans the entire creek, and has a six+ foot drop.

We got back to trailhead around 1530.  The Scouts ran down to look at Shores Lake (in the daylight :) ), then we loaded up and headed back towards Oklahoma City.

We had two beginners on this trip, but both those Scouts did just fine.  I’m proud of the entire group.  We only had one incident, when I let the Scouts get ahead a little bit, and they blew through a trail junction, which led us to a discussion about what to do in that situation (which is stop and wait for the group to close up).  Food was good.  The trail was the right length, and as I said before, just beautiful!

I hiked this area as an Explorer Scout in 1979, and the memory stuck with me.   I don’t think the Shores Trail was there back then, and we bushwacked and followed roads.  But the memories now will be a lot fresher.

OKC Trails

13 December 2015

Yesterday a group of Scouts and leaders from Troop 15 did 20 miles along part of the Oklahoma City trails system.  This is the third time we’ve used the trail system as part of our Hiking Merit Badge program; in the past we’ve used the Katy Trail (along I-35 from near 63rd down to near the I-35/I-40 junction, then back), and a couple months ago along the Oklahoma River (from the Boathouse area to I-44 and back).

Yesterday we walked the Overholser East and most of the West River trails, for a total yo-yo of 20 miles.  The photos from our expedition are here.  Weather for the hike was perfect, just a touch on the cool and breezy side.  We got a couple rain showers.  The hike crew blazed on the trail, covering the 20 miles in just over nine hours.

Since this is our third city trail adventure, I think we have some data to make comments on the trails.  I think, first of all, that it’s GREAT that the city finally got around to working on some outdoor recreation, including trails.

My two biggest beefs about the trail system is a lack of water and restrooms along the trails.

There is no place I found to get water anywhere along the three trails we have hiked.  There is a water hose for non-potable water at Crystal Lake (and I wonder at this, why would you need a non-potable water spigot next to a really nice picnic area?).  We had our Scouts carrying two water bottles each, which is fine for a five-miler.  What we ended up doing is stopping for lunch at Crystal Lake; two of the adults hiking from the trail south on Rockwell to a 7-11, and buying a couple gallons of water to refill the guys water bottles.  There isn’t a good way to do that along the Katy, or the River trail on the north side (there is a playground/park on the south side, but I don’t know if there is water there).  Regardless, if you hike these trails, particularly during the summer, carry a lot of water.

Yesterday we found a restroom at the Overholser dam, in the form of a porta-potty that was on its side.  The next facility we found was a porta-potty at Crystal Lake, which is a long ways to go, if you need to go.  There were actual restrooms as Crystal Lake, but they were locked.  It is worse on the Katy Trail, no restrooms on the trail at all (although you could hit the Zoo, OK Railway Museum, or the golf course, but those are all clustered together on the north side).  For the River trail, you can use the Boathouse, but that’s pretty much it.

A note about Crystal Lake.  That place is a diamond in the rough.  I had ZERO idea it even existed before yesterday.  A nice lake (although “Crystal” clear is a bit of a reach :) ), really nice picnic grounds, and a second area on the west side of the lake that looks like it could be a second pavilion area.  For some reason, that area is fenced off from the trail.  There ought to be a trail from the West River trail around the SW and S side of Crystal Lake through those beautiful trees; that would make a nice roughly 1.5 mile loop around the lake.

One more note.  If you look at aerial photography of the area south of 10th Street and west of the West River trail, there are medium density woods all the way to the North Canadian/Oklahoma River.  Those woods would be a PERFECT location for some mountain biking/hiking trails like those at Draper Lake.  You could probably get 10 miles of looping trails in there.

My plan is to hike or bike all of the OKC trails eventually.  It’s a great system, and a couple minor tweaks would make it great.

Ignorant Fearmongering

20 November 2015

This is related to my previous post.

The amount of ignorant, xenophopic, myopic fearmongering that has currently infected so many conservatives is astounding.  I’ve seen people posting every conceivable insulting takeoff on things President Obama has said (all taken out of context), justifications for making immigrants pass a religious test, deflections based on how much both sides are to blame, etc. etc. etc.

And the gun nuts are on a cordite high, ready to defend ‘Murica against the vast horde of INCOMING SYRIANS OHGODOHGODOHGODOHGODOHGODOHGOD!!!!!!

So in the House, which cannot seem to pass anything useful, they came up with a hastily-written bill demanding a bunch of new stuff to keep the dreaded Syrians out.  Most Republicans (who are pre-programmed to support stuff like this) voted for it, and quite a few Democrats.  The supposed law has no change of passing (and I suspect every supporter knows this, but why pass up a chance for another symbolic vote to avoid any real issues).  The media this morning proclaimed it a defeat for President Obama (how, I don’t know, he wasn’t voting on it, but the media likes conflict).

All of this is perfect for conservatives.  Something to rail against that can deflect any need for them to show any policies.

It’s sickening and un-American.

Republicans and Immigration and Leadership and Not Having Balls

16 November 2015

In the wake of the attacks in Paris, a group of 13 Republican governors got all craven and knock-kneed about the possibility that refugees from Syria might come to their state and cause terror problems.

This is part of two problems with many national Republicans: First, they don’t want any immigration, I think because they fear the loss of white majority privilege mainly; and second, they don’t want anyone coming in unless they are Christian. Ted Cruz was explicit.

This is reflected in several other things, like craven Republicans demanded that the Bush Gulag at Gitmo be left open, because “having the bad guys here and having trials might cause us to be attacked”. That’s so wrong logically that it’s pathetic.

Conservative, unthinking, no-balls Republicans can’t be off the national stage fast enough.

18 November 2015 update:

Most of the other Republican governors, and most of the Presidential candidates, have dutifully fallen into line with this craven whining.  The media went after it.  Here in OKC, they reached all the way down to the chair of the local GOP, who woodenly repeated the same bullcrap.  The GOP:  unthinking, un-American craven pansies.  Except that’s insulting to pansies.

Starbucks Cups and Christmas. Seriously?

9 November 2015

If you think that Starbucks is participating in some fantasy war on Christmas, please:

SUCK IT UP

AND

DEAL WITH IT.

 
 
 
When Christians are kept from going to church, or the Government closes Christian churches but none of the others, or any of the billion references to the Christmas holiday are censored over the next two months, or the Government shuts down any of the radio stations that play Christmas music, etc. etc. etc., then come back and complain. Otherwise, why don’t you adopt a homeless family, or donate presents or money to help abandoned children, or something similar.

Cheesh.

Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts and Boys and Girls

31 October 2015

Raegan pointed me at an article posted Thursday about a group of girls that were a den in a Cub Scout pack. The situation is one that we have had in our family, there are plenty of girls that want to do Scouting, but they want to do Scouting that is based on the Boy Scout program, the kind of Scouting that used to be practiced by Girl Scouts.

First of all, I think there is value in having some youth activities gender-segregated. Girls doing some (not all) stuff with girls, and boys doing some (not all) stuff with guys. You may or may not agree with this, but that’s fine. There are plenty of combined stuff, to include most schools, churches, and the like.

Second, I wear two Scouting hats, as I’m a leader in both Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts. I tend to augment Girl Scout activities I do with activities that we do as Boy Scouts. You might correctly assume from this that I think that Girl Scouting does not place enough emphasis on outdoors activities. I know that girls can do all of the things that boys do in Scouting, to include camping, backpacking, shooting, etc.

Raegan has told me many stories of her growing up in Girl Scouts, and that back then the emphasis on outdoors activities was declining.

So back to the article. The girls in question were set up as a den in a Cub Scout Pack, with the agreement of Pack leadership. Good for them (all of them). The Boy Scout Council leadership eventually found out and objected. The girls want to bridge to Boy Scouts this upcoming Spring. I doubt they will be allowed to.

The girls could become Girl Scouts. While the Girl Scouting program does not prohibit the sorts of activities that the girls want to do, I can tell you that it does not encourage these programs either. We have a High Adventure Team (HAT) here in the local Girl Scout Council, which is good. But HAT is not a unit, or Troop, but is considered sort of an ongoing program, and the participation age starts at 11. We have not had good support in the past, but at least it’s getting better (see my blog post about our Durango adventure). The policies of the Girl Scouts with regard to the relationship between Troops and Councils makes it difficult to get and keep equipment, and raise funds to buy that equipment. We are always told to buy extra insurance, so our activities are apparently thought of as too risky.

Speaking of which, Girl Scouting is far too risk-averse. Policy requires the Council to be in control of all unit funds. The safety rules put a serious damper on having fun (one rule is that a certified lifeguard has to be present at any swimming; there are not that many certified lifeguards around). There are also silly rules in Boy Scouting, but having a certified lifeguard to go swimming is not one of them. Girl Scouts require a bunch of training before taking a group camping, with no ability to test out (for example, if you’ve been camping for 40 years). Boy Scouting is starting to ramp up training requirements some as well. I would hope that the organizations would accept the others training in this respect.

One other problem with becoming Girl Scouts is a fundamental problem of recognition. The Boy Scout recognition structure of ranks and badges is a darn good motivator. Girl Scouting is age-based. They do have the Bronze, Silver, and Gold Awards, but those are for older scouts (I understand that in order to earn the Gold Award, a Scout does not have to earn Bronze or Silver, which seems to me to be a bad idea). I think that having a rank to strive for is highly motivating for kids of all ages, even if you keep it age-based for the younger Scouts.

Boy Scouting does allow coed Scouting at 14+, in the form of Venture Crews and Teams.

I think I would like to see one of the following:

  • Boy Scouts allow female Dens in Cubs and Patrols in Boy Scouting.
  • Girls Scouts re-emphasize outdoor activities.
  • Neither of these will happen any time soon. I don’t know that Girl Scouts will ever go back to an outdoor-centric program.

    As to the girl Cub Scouts, the best thing to do is probably to join Girl Scouts and run their own program based on Boy Scouts, to include awarding ranks, Merit Badges, and the like. They won’t be officially recognized by either organization (one due to DNA, the other due to Journeys), but the girls will have done the work to earn the badge regardless.

    GPS Comparison Testing

    29 October 2015

    This past weekend, I took a group of Scouts from Troop 15 on a 10-mile hike for the Hiking Merit Badge. We went out to Lake Thunderbird State Park, where there are a number of hiking/biking trails that total just under 20 miles.

    One of the things I wanted to do was check out the GPS capabilities of several of the units. When we go on these hikes, we typically start a GPS, and hike until it shows 10 miles.

    I also had a secondary objective, which was to check out my Garmin GPSMap 62s battery usage. We had taken that unit to our backpacking trip in Colorado, and it seemed to use an entire set of batteries in less than a day. My GPSMap 60 usually gets about five days of use out of a battery pair. In this case, I completely reset the 62s, put in fresh batteries, and at the end of the day, the battery indicator showed full. So that was probably the issue.

    Anyway, I tested the following units: Garmin GPSMap 60 and 62s, a Samsung Galaxy S6, and a Google Nexus 5. Both of the phones ran Runkeeper.

    Our hike was over a trail network that has a significant amount of weaving in and out, in order to maximize the mileage in the limited surface area.

    At the end of the hike, these were the mileages displayed:


    Unit       Displayed   GPX   Points Captured
    GPSMap 60:     10.02     9.7   1148
    GPSMap 62s:   9.97   9.5   1748
    S6:           9.90   9.9   1604
    Nexus:         8.20   8.2

    These results are pretty annoying to me. I’ve noticed the GPX track shortage (by way of example, displaying 10.02 while the downloaded GPX is 9.7) numerous times over the years, but I do not understand why it should be.

    The difference is particularly pronounced in the GPX for the 62s. It’s a newer unit, and it has a setting to control the granularity of the data taken. For this hike, it was set to the most granular setting, and generated the largest number of data points, but the reported GPX is a half mile less, which is 5% and significant. I suspect that the better granularity of the 62s is the “real” mileage, as it would capture the numerous sharp bends in the trail network. But that is contradicted by the significantly shorter length of the GPX.

    Note the very short mileage for the Nexus. We noticed the mileage displayed being less and less of the other units. Ian checked out GPS settings, and found a power-saving mode that was set that limited GPS update.

    Have a look at the ground tracks. Here is an overlay of the tracks of the two phones:

    S6 and Nexus 5 Tracks

    S6 and Nexus 5 Tracks

    You can see that the S6 (green track) and the Nexus (red track), are close together for a bit, then they diverge (the series of straight red lines), then come back together again. It’s easy to see where the longer green tracks near the straight lines are the source of the mileage difference. The question is, why did the first mile+ match up very well, then diverge?

    Here are the overlays of the tracks of the 60 (green), 62s (dark), and the S6 (red) (I did not include the Nexus track due to the divergence):

    Hiker and phone GPS overlaid

    As I look at the tracks, I see about six areas where the green track diverges (in some places, significantly) from the other two tracks, adding mileage to the total. The 62s and S6 tracks (and most of the Nexus tracks) are very, very close.

    My conclusion is that the newer GPS units are closer to showing true mileage.

    I also looked at the altitude displays. These trails were fairly flat (relatively! :) ). I used Mapsource to generate altitude plots and captured them as identically-sized jpegs, but there wasn’t an easy way I could see to merge them together (I tried GIMP). So instead, I exported the altitude data to an Excel spreadsheet. The number of data points didn’t match, so I wrote a q&d program to read in the data points, and insert an identical value every x lines. That got the dataset lengths pretty close. Then I imported them back into Excel and ran an XY plot:

    Altitude_Comparison

    I noted previously that the altitude recorded by the GPSMap 60 is way spiky. The 62s are as well, but less so. The altitude differences between the two Garmin units is significant. Three notes: the 60 tends to show altitude significantly less than the 62s for the most part (there are only two places where the altitudes match, and the altitude is 40 or so feet less than the 62s); the altitude shown by the 60 lags the 62s by some amount, and the altitude for the last couple miles is really, really off.

    The altitude recorded by the S6 is closer to the 62s altitude, and also lags the 62s, but in both cases not as much as the 60. The S6 is almost smooth, not spiky.

    I am going to take the units out in a car and drive about 10 miles and check the odometer reading against the GPS display and GPX. I will report on that after I do it.

    I think I need to take all four units in a straight-line test to see how those mileages compare.

    Backpacking Butterfield Trail, Devil’s Den State Park, AR

    23 October 2015

    Summary: 17.3 miles over three days, decent altitude gain of about 1300 feet, beautiful but dry terrain.

    The photos for this trip are on my Google+ site here.

    I’ve been wanting to hike the Butterfield Trail for many years. The Girl Scouts of Western Oklahoma (GS-WEST) High Adventure Team (HAT) decided to backpack Butterfield for a long weekend, and so how could I resist? While most of the crew headed over toward Arkansas last Thursday morning, work and personal commitments kept me in OKC until Friday morning. I got to the park around 1445, had my permit by 1500, and was on the trail by 1515.

    A word on the permits. They are no cost, but those folks are apparently serious about getting them back. When you sign in, you put an expected return time, and a time to start SAR. No kidding. I said I didn’t want that, but got a nope for that. I appreciate folks wanting to look out for me, but it makes me wonder if there is a problem around there that isn’t generally known. I kept an eye out for skeletons and such regardless.

    I parked by the trailhead, fired up and zeroed my GPS (more on this later), and loaded my two Nalgenes with Red Diamond Sweet Tea I had bought at a gas stop in Springdale (I like water, but that tea is amazing on the trail).

    I started off in grand fashion by going the wrong way. I booked it up the trail, and then realized that I was headed the counterclockwise way around the loop, turned around, and backtracked to the trailhead, then kept going, hoping no one had noticed :). The (correct direction) trail takes a bridge over Lee Creek, then goes along the creek almost a mile before crossing over near the walk-in camp. Lee Creek, BTW, had pools of water, but OTOH, the campsites on the west bank have potable water.

    I had a minor screwup here. I assumed the Butterfield crossed Lee Creek a couple hundred yards before it actually did. The trail I was seeing across the creek actually heads up to Twin Falls. I had hiked up to Twin Falls with some of my Troop 15 Scouts a couple years ago, it’s quite pretty. It’s a little more difficult with 30+ lbs of backpack. I looked at my GPS to see where I screwed up. At this point, the GPX of the Butterfield Trail I had loaded the previous evening was not in evidence. I quickly realized that when I zeroed the GPS, I did a Select All, which naturally includes downloaded tracks… Oh well.

    I pretty much knew where I was, and instead of hiking back the 1/4 mile or so to the trailhead, I bushwacked NNW and found the Butterfield right after the point it crosses Lee Creek. I continued north. Pretty soon I passed the walk in camp. I was making good time, I was loose and fresh and booking. At the point the trail turns sharply to the east, you start climbing. Not so much using switchbacks, just UP. It’s about 800 ft of climb over about a half mile, so it’s decent. It was in the 70s, so a good temp for a bit of a workout. I stopped twice on the way up to rest a minute.

    At the top, you turn sharply south, and over the next four miles you lose all that altitude through some stunning Ozarks terrain. There is some cell service up there, but it is intermittent. I called Raegan and let her know I was on the trail.

    While I saw a couple watercourses on this part, they were bone dry. After crossing another trailhead at AR 170, the next major place is Quail Valley. You should plan on spending some time in this area. There are a number of overlooks, and amazing rocks and bluffs. This would be a good campsite. There is water on the east side (but not much), and decent water on the west side.

    I continued on and met the crew at Rock Hole camp. The trail parallels a creek that is maybe a hundred yards to the east after making a jog from WNW to SSW; the water was in large pools. Near Rock Hole camp, the trail comes down to the shore. This is a nice set of campsites.

    The trail follows that creek (again, with water in largish pools) all the way to Junction Camp, but you would need to bushwhack down a couple hundred yards in places. We headed down the trail to Junction Camp maybe a hundred yards, then had lunch, and left our packs to walk down (pretty steep) to the creek to pump water.

    From there, you pop up about 200 ft and contour for the most part. You get above some bluffs and a nice overlook at one point, and you hike through Butterfield Falls (dry for us). It was all very pretty.

    Our plan was to find a horse trail that looked like it switchbacked down to Lee Creek for camp for the night. I was watching the terrain for a bluff that was on the other side of the reputed trail; we never saw it. Eventually, we crossed a road a half mile farther on, and followed it 3/4 mile to a nice campsite on Lee Creek. Again, water was in big pools.

    The next morning we all crossed the creek, and followed a series of trails and roads back to the trailhead. The maps we had were not a good match to the actual trails.

    After reflection, I would almost have rather just followed the bed of Lee Creek back to the main part of the Park.

    We had a latish lunch in the Park, turned in our permits to ensure SAR was called off, loaded up, and headed back.

    The Park was *packed*. If I were management there, I would have had the cafe and store open.

    Free Advice

    There was little water on the trail in the Fall. It’s probably better in the Spring.

    The “easy” way to hike this trail is clockwise. You have the gradual climb to the ridge along MM 2. Going the other way, you have steep climbs in two place (MM 12 and Quail Valley), and a gradual to steep climb along Blackburn Creek.

    The maps of the area that are given out by the Visitor Center have little detail on them. If I had a couple weekends on my hands, I would consider hiking the entire park with a GPS, and giving the map to the Park. The trail signs that show mileage are not right in at least several cases.

    Camping in the State Park is in designated sites only. Once you enter the National Forest that envelopes the Park to the east and south, you can camp pretty much anywhere that is 100 ft off trails and water.

    Summary

    I loved this trip. For a 14 or so mile loop, you could spend a couple days in the middle of it. I would not mind leaving my car at the AR 170 junction and hiking down to Quail Canyon, and basecamping there a couple days.

    We saw little wildlife, doubtless due to the dry conditions.

    The leaves were just starting to turn colors, I would bet they are stunning in a week or so.

    The Benghazi Hearings, Lots of Smoke But Nothing New

    23 October 2015

    I didn’t watch all eleven hours of the Benghazi hearings yesterday, but I managed to catch about two hours.

    I think that the smoke from the committee Republicans just covered up a lot of bulls#$t.

    There was a lot of smoke, all from Republicans, but nothing new was raised. Republican questions were mostly poised as accusations against Hillary Clinton. I’m guessing the emails from Clintons email server were expected (hoped) to yield contradictory information from what had already been testified about, but I don’t think there was anything there.

    I have long thought that the drawn-out Benghazi hearings was just a way for the Republicans to damage Clinton and her presidential bid. Hopefully the ridiculously artificially drawn out process will wrap up know. Republicans should be embarrassed by their chosen representatives.

    If Trump or Carson is the Republican nominee, Republicans having nothing to attack Clinton on, Republicans not able to run on a platform that is positive for the country, and Biden not running, Hillary probably ought to schedule a time to get her interior decorator to the White House to start planning.

    A New Server For St. John’s

    14 October 2015

    As I noted in a recent post, the server for St. John’s developed an odd problem resulting in the essential loss of outside network connectivity. Since it wasn’t the cable modem, the network cable, the NIC, the PCI slot, or the mobo, it pretty much left the disk. Since that would have been a complete rebuild, I thought I would go ahead and make the leap from Fedora 2 to the latest version, Fedora 22.

    By luck, the previous week a church member (thanks, Bob!) had donated a Dell XPS 400. Now, that’s not the newest computer around, but it was the newest one *I* had around. I pulled the Windows Media Center 160GB disk out (it was SATA at least), bought a new 1TB SATA drive, and while doing that download Fedora Server 22. I used the Fedora USB tool to build a bootable USB, and started the install.

    I had a bug here, and it was repeatable. Fedora got to the point of asking where the packages would come from. Choices were from the boot media, or from the network. I had just downloaded 2GB of Fedora, so I selected the boot media USB boot media. Then I answered a couple others questions, and at that point the boot media selection had disappeared. This odd, but when I selected next or whatever, it started the install, and then proceeded to download all of the install packages over the network. This was a bit annoying, as it took over an hour, and wasted my time.

    The rest of the process was pretty smooth, although it did take a while due to the installer downloading all of the packages a second time. After it was complete, the system ejected the USB flash drive and rebooted. So far, so good. Then the reboot, and… there was a system crash, “unable to handle kernel paging request”, followed by a second crash report of something like “watchdog detected CPU stop”. This error repeated through about five restarts. Off to research. I looked for fixes to these, starting with the paging problem. There were dozens of potential solutions, mostly relating to hardware memory problems. I ran the Fedora memtest, and the memtest from System Rescue CD and Trinity Rescue Kit, not a single problem. The disk was OK. I spent about four continuous hours working on this problem, and never got a solution. After about three hours of looking, I started downloading Ubuntu Server. I ran the computer with the Live CD version of Fedora 22, and the live CD for System Rescue CD, and had no issues.

    So the installation of Fedora 22 server was a failure, and wasted about six hours of my time. I was highly disappointed by this, I’ve been using various flavors of Fedora since Core 2 with no issues. I expected the installation to be smooth, and I had two major issues.

    I mentioned I started downloading Ubuntu Server in the midst of this troubleshooting. After I reached my frustration point, I took a break to get dinner, then started installing Ubuntu. First, I moved it to my USB device. It booted, and got all the way to the second boot screen, and then it failed – Ubuntu was looking for the install packages on a DVD – only. By this time, I was not really confident. I burned the image to a DVD and started again. This time, it loaded and started up just fine after installation. I immediately downloaded a lot of tools that I regularly use using apt-get.

    Now, the server has a couple of major functions:

  • NAT routing for the building computers to the Internet.
  • Content filter (Dansguardian) to keep our students out of unsavory sites.
  • Inbound IMAP/POP3 email and outbound SMTP email.
  • Webserver for both external and internal use.
  • Shared drive using SMB.
  • I was doing this work in the computer lab, since it was a lot more comfortable than the computer closet. I had snaked a couple long Ethernet cables from the closet for this. The system was in the process of downloading the tools I mentioned when the student computer next to me popped up a note saying a Java update was available. Just for the heck of it, I clicked OK, and it downloaded! The NAT routing had been automagically set up by the computer. Very cool. I ran a speed test, and got 16Mbps from the server, and 16Mbps from the student computer. So the building Internet service was up and running. I noticed a lot of activity from faculty machines downloading eamil from our .com email service provider.

    Next I got the internal email set up. I had put in a lot of work with our Fedora 2 server to keep our computer from being used as a spam relay or a proxy. The anti-relay adjustments for Fedora 2 involved a lot of whitelisting and conf file tweaks. The new Postfix implements anti-relay out of the box, and further enhances anti-relay and spoofing by requiring authentication for transmits as well as receives; I like that. Postfix also integrates anti-virus/malware and anti-spam as well.

    The rest of the configuration was pretty straightforward. I have not installed the new OwnCloud capability yet, and I have one issue with how the Squid proxy server is configured, but it should be fixed in the next day or so.

    I had been planning on replacing our Fedora 2 server for a long time, but having to do it under the pressure of a failure was not how I wanted to get it done :). And the Fedora 22 problem was very disappointing. Regardless, it’s working now, and that’s the bottom line.

    Republicans Reaping What They Have Sown

    11 October 2015

    The disruptions in the Republican party this week are sort of just desserts for them, but unfortunately, it only continues to hurt the country.

    Since Obama was elected and the Republicans made the decision to not work with him and the Democrats, they also made the decision to hurt the country to try and advance their petty political agenda. That’s not treason, but it also completely unethical.

    Republicans also made every argument they could to scare the easily led who are their base. One of the things they did was to encourage the mouth-breathing part of the population to be so-called Tea Partiers. Some of them got elected to form the supposed “Freedom Caucus”.

    A side note. Republicans are intoxicated with symbols (substance not so much), and so they try to use “freedom” or some similar symbol in every way.

    Now those fanatics have come back with a vengeance and caused John Boehner (the worst Speaker ever, maybe, even worse than Gingrich) to resign, and have torpedoed the current second in command from assuming the Speakership.

    One related thing is that the Republicans don’t want to get any support from Democrats in electing the Speaker. Their own party members can’t come to an agreement because the Tea Party types are even more “my way or the highway” than the establishment Republicans.

    This would all be very amusing, except that it does nothing except hurt the country. Not that it matters to Republicans.

    A Weird Server Problem

    11 October 2015

    At St. John’s, we’ve been limping along with a creaky set of infrastructure, workstations, and server for a long time. Long enough that the server was still running Fedora 2 (!), which is very old. But it worked, and I understood it, and could maintain it with little problem. Every once in a while a component would fail, and be replaced, and the software would get updated.

    Recently, there were a spate of problems that had to be addressed. I was in Muskogee a couple weeks ago, and Internet access for St. John’s was very bad. I worked with the server and Cox (our ISP) and we determined that the cable modem was having problems. We bought a new one (see related post) and Ian and I got it replaced, and all seemed well. We ran about 10,000 pings in flood mode and the link from the server to the modem was stable with no packet loss, so we went home. Until the next day…

    I was on the way to SLC, and the school called, and there was still a problem with Internet access. From Dallas, I pinged the modem gateway and the server, and all seemed fine. When I got to SLC, I remoted in and noted a LOT of lost packets, 30-40%. Ian went up there that evening and found another network card and installed it, ran a ping test, had no lost packets, and he went home. All was OK for a week or so.

    We started having a spate of problems; server reboots would cure them for a couple hours or more. Finally, last Thursday, it got to the point where we were suffering 80-90% packet loss. I started some serious troubleshooting that evening. First I connected my laptop directly to the cable modem and pinged the hell out of it, then started downloading huge files, no problems found, so it was certainly on the St. John’s server side. The network cable was OK as well I figured I had another bad/failing network card, so I replaced it with a donor card. Still lost packets after about 10 minutes of good operation. So I bought a new card (these are PCI). Same behavior. Now I figured I had a bad PCI slot, moved it to another, same behavior. WTH? So now I figured I had a failing motherboard. I had another machine that is a twin to the server, so I pulled the Fedora hard drive out and moved it to the other machine. It booted just fine, worked for network access, I thought we were in good shape, and then, after about 10 minutes, I started seeing lost packets again!

    The only thing in common with all these problems was the hard drive with Fedora.

    I still don’t know what the problem was. I wonder if there is some overflow related to the long time the server has been in service, or an intermittent disk error. That would have to be in the logging system, since packet movement is entirely in memory. I will look at that later, maybe.

    I’m in the process of rebuilding a new server, most of it is working, and I will finish the rest of it today. But that’s the subject of another post…

    An Odd Linux Install Problem

    9 October 2015

    I have been trying a couple Linux distros recently in anticipation of building a dual-boot disk for a new laptop computer I will be using a lot. I’ve been using a Fedora-developed tool to put the bootable ISO files on a 16GB USB drive.

    But three (so far) of the installs have made it past the BIOS phase, but stopped cold at the point of loading the Linux OS. In each case, the GRUB bootloader can’t find the default menu to load. In each case, the menu is there.

    The workaround is simple, but you have to have been using GRUB for a while to know what it is. Press the Tab key, and the loadable images will be listed. In most cases, the one you want is the default, which for Fedora is “linux”. The others I’ve seen are some variation, for example, “korora-2.xx-linux”. Type the name, and you are off to the races, er, installation.

    But I think that GRUB should tell the user that, or even better, look around a bit harder for the menu, which would allow pointing at the images that were available.

    FWIW, if you search for the error message using Google, you will find a lot of advice as to how you can use editors and other tools to fix the problem. You’ll also find some outlandish “solutions”. Just hit Tab.

    Carly, Where’s The Video?

    27 September 2015

    Related to the conservative frenzy over Planned Parenthood, Carly Fiorina made claims that she had seen a video where Planned Parenthood people took a living baby, and are heard on video saying they were waiting for the baby to die so they could harvest its brain. Reputable people have said the video does not exist. On Meet The Press this morning, she repeated the claim over and over, and further said that our country sucks because baby brains are being harvested. A panelist on MTP mentioned that there is a video that shows a miscarriage, but no mention on harvesting. If that’s the case, it may be another example of someone trying to fake an issue, as was done with Planned Parenthood earlier.

    So, where’s the video, Carly?

    Related to this, why did Chuck Todd not continue to press for an answer to that question. If her claim were true, it would be blockbuster. The video would be significant evidence, and would seem to be a huge booster for her campaign. But she would not answer the question, except to make further claims as to the act of baby brain harvesting in the country.

    I wonder. After the interview was over, did she say to herself “Man, I escaped having to admit I fracked up, again”, or does she really believe she saw the video?

    Republican (And Media) Stupidity Regarding Planned Parenthood

    24 September 2015

    National Republicans are in a froth to defund Planned Parenthood. Here is a representative passage from a CNN article:

    “Republican leaders are performing the delicate dance largely because of conservative outrage to edited Planned Parenthood videos secretly taped by an anti-abortion group, allegedly showing officials from the organization discussing the sale of fetal tissue.” – cnn.com, today.

    Couple things here. I’ve written before about the stuff that drives the Republicans in these matters: extremist all-or-nothing policies, putting symbolism before country, and the need to do almost anything except govern.

    But the passage quoted from CNN is representative of the myopia in the media regarding these sorts of “controversies”. CNN uses the media bail-out of “allegedly” to give background on something that is not reality. It’s been debunked over and over, and yet Republicans (remember, Romney’s campaign said they would not be affected by fact checkers) repeat the lie over and over, and they are using that lie as justification to drive the budget process.

    A far better report would have been “Republican leaders are willing to risk government shutdown to appease conservatives that are outraged by something that Planned Parenthood does not, and has never, done”.

    That’s the fact of the matter here. Conservatives are willing to put their own petty gripes before the good of the country, even if their petty little gripes are based on a lie.

    Stuff like birtherism, and bullshit, howling claims about Obamacare, are bad enough. But every time conservatives do stupid stuff to shut down the Government, it costs real money, and has real effects on people, and they do it based on fantasy and lie.

    Trump Is Not The Problem, In This Case

    18 September 2015

    During a Q&A session yesterday, Republican Donald Trump took a question from an audience member, and the less-than-intelligent person stated that Muslims are the biggest problem in the country, and it was known that President Obama is a Muslim. Trump, in typical fashion, didn’t respond to that in the slightest. Trump is taking a ration of crap today from various organizations, and the media.

    Trump is really not the problem, he’s the symptom of a larger disease.

    I’ve written before about general Republican tactics and strategy since the age of Gingrich. In this form of political extremism, nothing a political opponent has done can be approved of in any way, and anything that can potentially hurt a political opponent is a good thing.

    Since Obama was elected, McConnell and Boehner (and every other Republican so-called leader) have not only obstructed every effort put forth by Obama, but they have tacitly encouraged the mouth-breathing segment of their base that is deeply, deeply afraid of anything that upsets deepset white privilege when it comes to matters of race and religion. When Boehner and his ilk repeatedly failed to denounce birthers, or those who claim Obama is a Muslim, they are part of the problem.

    While Trump is policy-light, Republicans don’t really have any policy that they are willing to run on. They would rather play to the base emotions of the easily led and easily snowed, who scare easily, especially where loss of white domination is involved. Economic warfare against the poor and middle class, and religious-based control of women and people of color are their actual policy, and they can’t stand on that.

    But one thing I would like to see asked of Trump. I saw an interview with him back during the last election cycle, when he was flirting with running, and he claimed to have sent investigators to Hawaii to check on the Obama birth situation. I distinctly remember him claiming at the time that he was find out all kinds of lurid stuff that was apparently Really Bad. I do not recall him ever publicizing any results. Where are the results, Donald?

    Advice For Those With Religious Liberty Issues

    10 September 2015

    If you have a deeply held religious belief, please by all means don’t do something that would directly violate that belief.  For example, if you do not think that gays should be married, then by all means, do not marry someone of your sex.

    For all the other stuff, please:

    SUCK IT UP

    AND

    DEAL WITH IT.

     
     
     
    I mean this in the most respectful way I can.  I’m assuming you are a citizen of the United States, but this would apply to many other people as well.

    YOU HAVE TO INTERACT WITH THOSE AROUND YOU.

    If you work at the Gap, you cannot refuse service to a black person, or a gay person, or a Catholic, or an Episcopalian, or whoever else comes in.  You have your beliefs, but there are many others around you that may or may not share those beliefs, and you do not live in a place where only those who believe as you are allowed.

    THOSE AROUND YOU HAVE TO INTERACT WITH YOU. 

    If you go to shop at the Gap, you may be served by a person of deeply held religious belief, or a gay person, or a black person, or a Catholic, or an Episcopalian, or whoever works there.  If you have a friend who works there, by all means give him/her your business.  But otherwise, there are those around you who may or may not share your beliefs, and you do not live in a place where only those who believe as you are allowed.

    I posted a short while ago about conservatism and extremism.  Only wanting to deal with those who believe just as you do is one form of non-compromise that is extremism.  In this secular, non-homogeneous society of the United States, people of every stripe have worked on the roads we all travel on, in the stores we all shop in, and in the places we gather, including sports, church, youth groups, and the like.  You, and those who are also in that gathering area, have to interact.  You do not get to live in a world, or even a state, or a county, or a town, or a neighborhood composed only of people who think like you.

    If it’s really that important to you, gather your like-minded friends and buy an island.  Otherwise, suck it up.

    The best advice for people to take is Live and Let Live.  If what another person is doing does not affect you in some material and negative way, then suck it up and deal with it.

    The Case Of The Non-Missing Files

    7 September 2015

    My phone was stolen by some scumbag a couple weeks ago.  She walked into St. John’s, and in the course of wandering around for 20+ minutes, she went into the computer lab and took my phone, then rummaged in my backpack and also stole my Nexus tablet and a mifi device.

    So I had to get a new phone, a Samsung S6.  It’s very nice.  I’ve been reconstituting stuff since I depend on my phone so much.  So thanks, “lady”.

    One thing I had not really messed with was the music I had on the phone.  I had 450+ tunes on the stolen phone.  Most of the songs were from CD rips I had done over the years.  I also had 107 songs I had captured from the Sirius feed on Dish Network.  Those I captured with Audacity, and were stored on my laptop.  So yesterday I connected my phone to my laptop via USB, and copied the files over.  Being curious as to how much memory they took up, I fired up Windows Explorer and browsed to the phone, did a Properties,   But, there were 163 files, not 107.  I started drilling down, and there was stuff I had before the theft, but I had not transferred over just then.  WTH?

    I had Apple iTunes on a previous desktop, and I had downloaded a number of songs.  I wasn’t happy with the results, as a significant number of the downloads were covers, even though the iTunes listing claimed to be the actual group.  So I didn’t keep that up.  I thought maybe the extra files were from there.  But I looked, and I had downloaded a total of 19 songs from iTunes, and that’s wasn’t enough to get to 163.  Also, the iTunes songs were in a protected DRM format, and wouldn’t play anyway.

    I did some searching for a a couple of the mystery files.  They were not on the hard drive of my laptop.  I fired up our big backup drive, and searched there.  A couple of the files were there, maybe 20, but that’s it.

    So I went ahead and ripped a bunch of the same CDs, and some others, and I know have 439 files taking up 1.5GB on the phone.

    I would imagine that the “extra” files were stored in a cloud somewhere and got restored.  But I don’t know that I have ever backed that music up.  That raises the question of why some music was backed up, and not all of it?  The S6 is pretty darn smart.

    07 September 2015, 1115 Update:

    Today we were all driving to Tulsa.  I remembered I had ordered a song on Google Play, for something like $1.49.  I had looked for the song on the S4 several times, and was surprised it wasn’t in the music library.  I looked on Google Play today, and after a little bit of rooting around, I found a reference to the song in the “purchased and free” section.  I also noticed that if you want the song on your local device, you have to click a “download to device” link.  After not finding the link, I found a further reference that said you have to be connected to wifi for that to work.  So that was interesting.

    But the really interesting thing was a list of songs that were most of (but not all) of the mysteriously non-missing songs I wonder about.  Apparently those were synced to the library on Google Play, and then when my new phone connected, they were synced down.  Useful, but inconsistent, a little unsettling, and kind of cool, all at the same time.

    Buying A Car The Easy Way, From Home Mostly

    6 September 2015

    Had an example of being hyper-connected today. We are very close to buying a new car for Raegan, and she has settled on the model and key performance, having visited several dealers to test drive a number of cars, and then downselecting. We are USAA members, and so she hopped on their website to check out their car buying service. In less than five minutes, she had a loan approval (for about twice as much as needed, my comment “Here’s enough rope to hang yourselves”). USAA sends a certificate via email that you hand to the dealer, and you drive off the lot. We did the same for Ian’s car, it was pretty simple.

    She had not even logged off the site, and in less than 15 minutes, we had a combination of *eight* texts, emails, and phone calls from dealers ranging from Ardmore to the metro area to Tulsa.

    All this without her ever talking to a human at USAA. Now, USAA had some good cars for her to evaluate, but she found the best match at a dealer in Tulsa via that dealers website, and she talked to them about the car, so we are headed there Monday.

    It was slightly annoying to get the flood of callers and texters (most of which repeated their contact attempts, some several times), but the response times were amazing, and I will tell you that this way to buy a car beats the heck out of the way we used to do it.

    Couple Examples Of Why I Don’t Like Conservatism

    4 September 2015

    The past couple weeks have given me several examples of two of the main reasons why I dislike “conservative” politics.

    First, they can’t see any shading or compromise in what they see as core values.  The perfect example of this is the frothing of certain conservatives to defund and put out of business Planned Parenthood.  First, in the conservative orthodoxy, any reproductive cells are essentially a living, breathing baby who has an SSN.  So use of  contraceptives is the equivalent of abortion.  The day-after pill, even worse.  That is used to justify all sorts of onerous restrictions on the right of women to control their own reproductive destiny.  Planned Parenthood performs abortions, by their published records, those are about 3% of their total services provided.  But, conservatives (who also don’t at all mind spreading lies that the number of abortions are most of PP services), and ignoring the fact that no public funds go to performing abortions (per public law), want to cut off all funding for PP to keep them from doing those abortions.  Cancer screenings?  Not as important, to conservatives at least.  It’s the all-or-nothing, 100% with us or you are a mortal enemy attitude.  People who think that way are impossible to engage in decent discourse, and it leads them to think that those not like them are not human.  It’s far too easy to be a racist, misogynistic elitist when you believe those who disagree with you are less than human.

    Second, and somewhat related, is the tendency to go over the top at the drop of a hat.  Mike Huckabee gave us a couple examples of this.  First, with respect to the agreement between the United States, several other nations, and Iran, Huckabee took the Extreme Stupidity Prize when he could not just disagree with the agreement, but stated that President Obama would “take the Israelis and march them to the door of the oven”.  I always wonder if he really believes this, or is he just trying to get press.  He followed up with a comment related to the situation with the anti-gay marriage court clerk in Kentucky that soon, Christianity would be criminalized.  Again, he can’t just take the situation as it is, he has to generalize it into a made-up, apocalyptic vision to scare those easily-led who support and follow him.  I would like him to tell me how many people were kept from going to church the past couple Sundays?

    These conservatives just work at keeping their base supporters constantly whipped up and in a froth to keep them scared and (I think) to keep them from thinking about what their leadership actually believes.  The sad thing is that those followers are not thinking enough about what is being done to lead them along.

    Getting Upgraded to Windows 10

    4 September 2015

    I, like a lot of others, got an invitation to upgrade my W7Pro to W10 a couple months ago.  A week or so ago, I decided to let it start.

    My first surprise was that the Windows system check process.  It said it would take about 10 seconds, but it was still running 30 minutes, then an hour, later.  I killed the process, and restarted it, and this time it ran in a couple seconds, informed me that it had already downloaded the file (which I confirmed, an almost 3GB file hidden in the system32 folder).

    I let it start upgrading, and went off to do other things.  After a couple questions being answered, the computer went off to think for a while and flash the hard drive light.  It took about 30 minutes, and after a reboot, the machine…. came back up with a new login screen.

    I was able to log in, and the wifi connection worked.  Sound did not.  All of the apps seemed to work, except two I use for capturing audio and video.  Likely, related to the lack of sound.  All of the big apps (Office) did.

    I did some customization and liked what I saw.  I use a second monitor for most work, and I liked that the task bar was at the bottom of both monitors.

    I went without sound until about an hour ago.  Sound issues with W10 seem to be quite common.  One “fix” promoted by MS was to remove the Speakers object, but it didn’t work.  I ended up removing the sound subsystem using Control Panel, and when I restarted the machine, sound came right up.  I will see if my TV/audio capture device works when I get home.

    There were remarkably few oddities.  The Edge browser retained all of my IE bookmarks, but it did not import the certificates I use for accessing webmail.  After a couple uses where I could not open signed or encrypted emails, I noted an option to open the page with IE, and it came up and worked fine.  I had assumed that IE would be zorched as MS was replacing it with Edge, but not so much.  So I’m good there.

    So far, I’ve only seem one app crash.  That was Explorer, and it crashed when connected my Galaxy S6 to transfer photos.  That was more than a week ago, no problems since.

    I loaded a DOS app (well, “app” is a strong word :) ), and it ran fine.  Windows automagically downloaded a helper (probably a VM) to run the DOS app in, and it has been solid.  The program crashed when I asked it to run a system configuration report, but that’s not unexpected.  I would imagine the app, written in 1997 or 1998, probably does not interface with Windows HAL…

    So far, so good.  My laptop has dual 2.5GHz processors with 4GB of RAM, and it seems to run just fine in that space.

    Later On Friday Update:

    I got the sound working on the machine.  I went into Device Manager and uninstalled the sound card, restarted the machine, and now good to go.

    I also got my TV/audio capture device working.  It’s a Pinnacle PCTV 100e.  I usually use it to capture audio from my Dish Network for later replay, and occasionally recording TV programs for time shifting.  Under Win7, I couldn’t view it at all unless I fired up the Pinnacle TV Center app, let it display whatever the TV was showing, then I could close the TV Center app and fire up Audacity for audio capture.  The TV Center software crashed several times, but an updated VLC player would open the PCTV device and show video and audio just fine under W10.  Audacity works as well.

    So I think I’m in good shape Win 10 wise.  We got Raegans Dell laptop upgraded as well.  I had issues with it doing the upgrade automagically from Microsoft, but I manually downloaded the update last night, and ran it this evening, with no apparent issues.

    The Sad Case Of The Kentucky Court Clerk

    1 September 2015

    So the lady in Kentucky who is supposed to issue marriage licenses does not want to issue any to gay people, and she has also denied licenses to straight couples as well.  She apparently does not want to discriminate.

    So quit.  You were hired to do a job, and if your religious beliefs are not in line with the law and the Constitution, you have an obligation to quit.  It’s no different than not wanting to issue marriage licenses to mixed-race couples.  You do NOT get to stand there and tell everyone no.

    You keep using that phrase “does not want to discriminate”.  I do not think that means what you think that means.  You are discriminating, period.  Denying licenses to straight couples does not relieve you of your discrimination.

    It’s just silly.  If her objection is Bible-based, she should have stopped issuing licenses to divorced people long ago.

    02 September 2015 Update:

    A huge irony occurred to me regarding this clerk.  She claims to be following “God’s law” in denying marriage licenses to gay couples.  She has four marriages, and reportedly has had a child with another man while married.  I wonder if anyone has pointed out to her that God’s law, while quite ambiguous with respect to gays, is quite explicit in requiring both people in an adulterous relationship to be put to death.  This goes back to her practice of Cafeteria Christianity, picking and choosing what she wants to be important.  Sad, and pathetic, and quite unthinking.

    Fallout From The Ashley Madison Breach

    20 August 2015

    This hack compromised a bunch of people.  It’s a little different from previous compromises/breaches.  The impact to people for most of those previous efforts was largely in the PITA category; sometimes people needed to lock their credit, or work with banks to recover stolen money.

    This is a bit different in that the results of the breach could affect marriages and relationships in a very direct manner that undermines what trust those relationships have.

    Supposedly the reason for the breach was disapproval of the site by the breachers.  That would be, I think, the first large-scale breach done in the name of morality, as opposed to ideology or financial gain.

    It has not taken long for sites to be set up to search the purloined data.  The media, ever a sucker for a quick sex-related story, has breathlessly reported a surge in calls to attorneys.  Who knows if that is true, but I suspect the potential is there.

    I heard a panelist on a program state that if people wanted to visit sites like Ashley Madison, they should buy a throwaway phone, get a throwaway email, and the like.  I don’t know how many types of site like A-M are out there, but there are thousands of porn sites at least.  I would suspect they are targets of attacks like this as well.

    Donald Trump And His Presidential Bid

    20 August 2015

    The guy is obviously hitting a note with quite a few people.  I listened to a news conference he gave Thursday, and then to the excerpts of the interview he game Chuck Todd for Meet the Press Sunday. Finally, I listened to most of a news conference he gave this evening, in New Hampshire.

    First of all, there was a certain trend in his responses to questions.  He gave no policy statements in the news conference, and very few in the MTP interview.  The one that stands out his his policy to build a wall between the US and Mexico.  I don’t think that’s a real solution, but it is a policy statement.

    Overall, the guy is in love with his own voice.  He constantly interrupts the questioners.  He uses the on-offense “look…” phrase constantly.  He also repeats “points”, well, repeatedly. I think he does this for filler. The vast majority of his response to a question is to start talking before the question is done, and then his response is a combination of:  whoever is responsible for the problem/item is incompetent/not doing their job; I will do better.  There is no indication of how he would fix the issue.

    He places a lot of faith in his ability to negotiate. His plan to negotiate with Iran, for example, is to find loopholes in the current agreement, and then go an browbeat the Iranians into a “better” deal.

    I think his constant talking is a stream of consciousness kind of thing. I don’t know that he thinks ahead or plans very much.

    I also don’t think he would make a good President, even with decent policy. He seems to think that he can control everything just because He Is Trump.

    So, if he manages to not implode over the next year, and becomes the Republican nominee, I think that any of the Democrats would be able to beat him.

    Late note:  Rachel Maddow, one of the smartest people on TV or radio, noted on her program this evening that Trump claimed a very specific number of supporters were at his rally; the number was 2,571 (I think that’s what she said; the 2,500 is certain, I think that 71 was the rest of it).  Rachel further mentioned that an NBC reporter when to the representative of the local fire marshal, who reported that the number of people counted was much closer to 1,200.  Still a lot of people, but someone made up a number along the line that was more than twice what the actual number was.  That should make you wonder about Trump.

    26 August 2015 Update

    There was a dustup between a journalist and Trump today, and Trump ended up having his security remove the journalist, while Trump refused to answer any of the questions.

    Two things:  Trump got insulting to the guy.  He also repeatedly said the journalist was “screaming”.  Both are disturbing examples of Trumps lack of a stable personality.  He had to make the extreme claim of “screaming” when the journalist was clearly not screaming.  He also got personally insulting.  He is not stable and is a poor example of a Presidential candidate.

    Thoughts On New York

    11 August 2015

    Lower Manhattan from Liberty State Park in NJ:

    NYC From Liberty SP, NJ

    We just got back from a second visit to the New York area.  We also spent several days in Boston. First off, the energy in the city was something that I found very inspiring.  We walked quite a bit through several parts of Manhattan, and the “city that never sleeps” was so evident.  People were moving everywhere, constantly.  The pace was pretty fast.  This was in the touristy areas, the business areas, and the residential areas.  People were moving constantly.  Even the conversations by people standing on the sidewalk seemed to be in motion.

    We visited Central Park twice.  It was amazing to find such a lovely green space in the middle of the bustling city.  There were places there where the everpresent honk of horns and zoom of motors wasn’t in earshot.  Plenty of trees that blocked out the view of the tall buildings.  Except, that frenetic energy was still there in the park.  Ian and I spent a couple hours walking around the parks various locations.  We have a pretty darn fast pace, yet more often than I would have expected, we would find ourselves being passed by individuals and groups.  Lots of walking talking going on.  Now, this is not to say that everyone was booking along; there were plenty of people that were out on the lawns, in the shade or the sunshine.  The big lawns had various games going on, soccer, catch, ultimate frisbee (we stopped and watch that for a while), volleyball, and the like.

    We walked Times Square and marveled at the people, the venue, the street performers, the smells (mainly the street food vendors), and again, that energy!

    There were a lot of very well put together people there.  Which is to say, it was the rare overweight person.  I called Bozeman, MT, the City of Great Legs, and that would apply to Manhattan as well.  Ian and I talked it over, and it is clear that the low number of car drivers, with the typical walking that engenders, results directly in better exercise rates.  I saw a lot of people, both genders, in the parks eating yogurts, small sandwiches, and the like for lunch.  This is probably a cost issue as well.

    Speaking of food…  the cost to eat in NYC is roughly twice what it costs to eat in OKC, or for that matter, most other parts of the country.  The costs for the outlying areas of NJ and CT were not twice the OKC cost, but probably a third higher.  The food we had there was pretty good, but not twice as good.

    And then there is the traffic.  One word overview:  INSANE.  I’ve never been in such a high stress driving environment, and I’ve driven extensively in London, Paris, and Milan.  In each of those cases, the traffic was dense and fast paced, but it was linear and fairly orderly.  Not so in NYC – those people just ignore the lane markers, and there is a significant amount of random-looking lane changes as people jockey for position.  I saw my first true gridlock this trip.  People from cross streets would just pull into the intersection as long as they had the light (and for some, that wasn’t even an issue!), and then sit there blocking the main road.  When that happened, the main road drivers would pull right out, to withing a foot of the cars in front of them, and the automatic system that connects to the horns would start  up.  Nobody lets anyone in, and when it’s time to change lanes (that random thing), I observed at one point that NYC must have a law that turn signals be disconnected lest they be inadvertently used.

    Parking is expensive.  In business districts, all road parking is reserved for commercial vehicles.  In residential districts, parking is typically limited to one hour (we saw a couple three-hour zones), but for the most part, you have to park in garages, which costs between $40-$60 per day.

    Couple fun facts:  the workday population of Manhattan goes from 1.6M to 2.2M people.  There are about 161K cars on the island, and another 144K cars come in each day with SINGLE drivers!  Fortunately, that is only about 24% of the extra daily workers.  The rest use public transportation.  The number of commercial trucks are equally amazing.

    I will say this about Manhattan:  my time visiting there is at an end.  I’ve seen the things I wanted to see there.  It was an amazing experience.  I love the energy in the place.  Most of the people we interacted with were not the hard-boiled types, but just as nice as elsewhere.  The architecture of the buildings was varied and ranged from plain brick to carved to modern.  The museums were amazing.  I think everyone should have the opportunity to visit.

    Backpacking Stove Fuel Use, Part 2

    31 July 2015

    After my Grand Canyon trip, I took a somewhat-controlled look at how much fuel is used for a typical alcohol stove. The post is here.

    After Troop 15 got back from our trip to Colorado, I collected all of the leftover fuel canisters except for one, and weighed them.

    For scale, I am talking about these size alcohol/propane fuel canisters:

    primus_8oz

    First, I had one truly empty can. I had thought an empty canister would be around 130 grams, turns out the actual functional weight is around 160.

    When I tested these in my kitchen, I found that taking a pot (five cups) of water from tap to boiling consumed about 10 grams of fuel.  I derated this for altitude and slightly colder stream water to 15 grams on the trail.  Of course, I couldn’t control for the amount of water boiled up there.  We were on the trail for six days, which means that we had 10 opportunities to boil water for breakfast and/or dinner, for a total of 17 people.  One confounding factor is that some people (I think about five) brought their own stoves and fuel.  Regardless, here are the results.

    For seven brand new canisters (using 15 grams of fuel per pot), three of the canisters showed a total of 10 meals were cooked, which is right on what was predicted; each of those still had five meals left.  The other four showed a total of five meals cooked, which looks a lot like just dinner or just breakfast, so that’s pretty good as well.

    I had also brought four partially used canisters.  My thought had been that just in case all eight of the brand new canisters were used up, we could use the partials to complete the trip.  Two of the canisters had 300 and 260 grams of fuel, and were completely empty, so they had prepared 20 and 17 or so meals each, which seems a little high.  The other two were… completely unused for this trip.

    I mentioned about that several of the crew had brought their own stove and fuel, mainly JetBoils.  That lessened the impact on the larger canisters somewhat.

    What does all this mean?  Well, the first thing is that I brought too much fuel, again, but it’s getting better.  Four of the canisters (out of 12) were essentially unused.  Even accounting for personal stoves and fuel, that’s a lot of extra weight to carry.

    Another Step Forward For The BSA

    29 July 2015

    I applaud the BSA for getting rid of the national-level ban on gay Scout leaders.  There is NOTHING in being gay that makes any adult less capable of being a good Scout leader.  There is also nothing in being gay that makes a Scout any less capable of getting the most out of Scouting.

    I do wish that BSA had followed through with full removal of the ban, instead of dropping back to the “local option”.  One of the arguments made in the Dale case was that Scouting could have their consistent membership standards, and now they have Balkanized the process to appease some church groups.

    The whole anti-gay issue is still so silly. The focus by so-called conservatives on gays, to the exclusion of all the other sins, is just ridiculous.

    So good for BSA President Gates for having the vision and wisdom to make this needed change. Those who want to quit will miss out on a fine program that should be available to ALL, not just some.

    Replacing My Phone Email App

    28 July 2015

    I used the stock email app for my phone email use since I got my first Android phone, the Galaxy S3. The icon looked like this:

    Stock Email App Icon

    The app worked with using POP3 with my mail personal email, which is on Earthlink.  But a couple major updates ago, it started acting very sluggish.  Virtually any activity would result in a long (anywhere from 15-30 seconds) of ZERO responsiveness from the phone.  An example, a notification of new mail would show up.  I would tap on the notification, the screen would go completely black for up to 30 seconds, and then the inbox would show up.  Opening up a message, closing or deleting a message, or similar activities would result in the same delay effect.  This just compounded the other, lesser issues I had with the email app.

    These were adding up to more frustration.  There was a very small limit on what the app would download for the message (it seemed to be around 10KB).  So if I got a longish email (and those with embedded HTML can go long), I would get a flash of a “LOAD MORE” button at the bottom; if I didn’t push it in about five seconds, it would go away, and no amount of upswiping would bring it back.  I would have to close the message and open it again, with the long delays, and then hit LOAD MORE as soon as it appeared.  Attachments were frustrating in that you had to go from the attachment page back to the main page, go through the LOAD MORE sequence, and then be able to view the attachment (it seems to make a lot more sense to just download the darn attachment when the user taps it).

    The app also had a hard time with anything other than small inboxes.

    So I talked to people and researched online, and a couple weeks ago installed Typemail, which is an IMap-based app.  It scarfed the several thousand messages in my inbox quite happily, very quickly, and without problemsl  So far, it seems to be working well.  The only gripe I have is that when I delete an email, it stays in the deleted items folder on the server.  I’ve looked for a fix online, but none yet.  So I log into my Earthlink via webmail every once in a while and zorch the deleted items folder.

    I will report back again at some point, but so far Typemail looks pretty good.

    Girl Scout HAT Durango Camp Adventure, 18-25 July 2015

    27 July 2015

    This last week, the Girl Scouts of Western Oklahoma (GS-WEST) High Adventure Team (HAT) took an amazing trip to Colorado, and had several adventures on the way there and back.

    My photos from the trip are on my Google+ site here.

    We headed out bright and early from OKC on Saturday. We drove steadily to the Wild Rivers Recreation Area in NM and made camp. One cool thing, we drove through Philmont Scout Ranch on the way. Wild Rivers was pretty cool, I had no idea it existed. Two canyons, one for Rio Bravo, and the other for Rio Grande, both hundreds of feet deep, meet into one river, the Grande. An amazing area.

    Sunday we left the Wild Rivers area and drove all the way to Mesa Verde, touring the cliff dwellings there. We camped at Morefield, and were near enough to the store there to get WiFi. We saw a bear and cub on the road. The campsite was a little bit of a pain, you had to sleep on gravel filled areas that were pretty small, and with a two-tent limit.

    Monday we drove to Durango and rafted the Animas River. The girls (and staff!) had a blast. Afterward we visited the Durango Community Center for the pool, climbing wall, gym, and SHOWERS! Camp for the evening was at Junction Creek campground (same place I camped with our Troop 15 guys a couple weeks ago). We were in the group camp, and it was a great campsite. For dinner, we went to the Bar D Ranch for their chuckwagon dinner and cowboy/western music show.

    Tuesday we drove up to Silverton to tour the Old One Hundred gold mine, then back to Silverton to wander the town. Camp for the next two nights was Molas Lake, a private campground near Molas Pass.

    Comments about Molas Lake camp. It was a very pretty area; both the lake and the mountains around the lake. They needed more toilets (there was one two-hole for pretty much the entire north side). The nearest water was all the way back to the main building, quite a walk. We had a cart, which helped. Most of our people were forced to sleep on gravel again, while two of the sites were dirt. Another two-tent per site limit.

    Wednesday we took a hike. Our group walked around the lake, found the Colorado Trail, and headed up and over and above Molas Pass to Little Molas Lake, a NFS campground. The lake and surrounding area was beautiful. We had lunch on an unused campsite. There aren’t any picnic tables on the sites, nor is there any water unless you filter it from the lake. The usual vault toilets.

    After lunch, most of our group headed back down to camp, for a 7.5 mile hike and roughly 600 ft of altitude gain. A smaller group kept going on the trail, and got up to 11,500 ft on a ridge for a stunning view of the mountains on both sides of us. One thing really special to me was seeing the Elk Creek drainage to the east, where I backpacked with our boys a couple weeks ago. Eventually, we headed back, for an 11.2 mile day with 1,100 ft of altitude gain.

    Thursday we packed up and headed back into Durango, for ziplining, a new experience for most of us. Afterward, I texted Raegan “Slightly terrifying”. It was enjoyable, and I think I would do it again. After another run to the Community Center, we got to Junction Creek (the group camp again), and had our last camp night.

    Friday was a travel day, to a motel in Clayton, NM, and Saturday we came back into OKC.

    It was a very enjoyable trip, with many exciting activities. No one got hurt, the girls and adults got along well with no fussies, and no one was bored. The food was very good and varied. Our schedule was full, and there were a number of things I think we all would have liked to do, but annual leave is a limiting factor.

    We also had a number of great ideas for things to do next time!

    Cool Things From The Air, OKC-SAT-SLC-OKC, 13, 15, and 17 April 2015

    16 July 2015

    This is a little late, but I was trying to find some features using Google Maps.

    This was a trip from OKC to SAT, then SAT to SLC, then SLC back to OKC, back in mid-April.

    The pictures are on my Google+ site here.

    Enjoy!

    R&R BBQ, Salt Lake City, UT

    16 July 2015

    Click to add a blog post for R&R Barbeque on Zomato

    This was pretty good! I picked the place for dinner based on Zomato reviews, and as a bonus, it was only three blocks from my hotel. We had a group of eight meet at 1920. The place was packed! We ended up snagging one of the outside tables and dining al fresco, which was nice as the temperature was perfect. One of our guys reported that the brisket had run out.

    I got a three-meat, with brisket, ribs (2), and a smoked chicken breast. I have to say, that was some darn good BBQ. The brisket (I got it sorta wet) was tender, moist, and tasty. The ribs didn’t have a lot of bark, but they did have a good, smoky flavor, and there was a decent about of pig on the bone. The chicken was very good, only a touch dry way down deep. It was a decent amount of food. The hush puppies were loaded with jalapenos, which was too bad.

    They only had Gold Peak tea (a depressingly common thing in SLC), but the DP was pretty good. Service was counter but friendly and fast. My check was $19.67, not too bad.

    This was very good BBQ in SLC. Recommended.

    Backpacking Weminuche Wilderness, 26 June – 05 July 2015

    16 July 2015

    The photos from this expedition are on my Google+ site here.

    We headed out Friday afternoon and drove to Springer, NM, spending the night in the National Guard Armory. Saturday morning we were up and out in good time, drove to nearby Philmont Scout Ranch for breakfast in the dining hall there, and visited the Philmont Museum and Trading Post.

    We had planning on driving to Durango via US 64, which cuts through the Ranch, but severe storms there had caused flash flooding, including sweeping away several Scouts camping in Ponil Canyon, and closing US 64. After consulting maps, we headed for Raton, had lunch in Walsenberg, and took US 160 over Wolf Creek Pass to Durango.

    In the town of Bayfield outside of Durango, a deer ran out in front of the car in front of us, got hit, and looked to me like the car was totaled. Very sad for all concerned.

    That evening we camped at the Forest Service Junction Creek campground. Very nice camp. No showers, but toilets and good water, lots of trees, just beautiful. No cell service for most of us, but there was some Verizon voice.

    Sunday morning we got up in a very leisurely fashion, had breakfast, and then took the guys back into Durango for a half day of whitewater rafting, which they loved! While they rafted, I did a grocery run to buy the lunches for the backpacking part of the trip.

    Once back in camp, while dinner was being cooked, I laid out the troop gear and food for everyone. It was a heck of a lot of stuff as a pile, but much more manageable for each person. We packed up as much of camp as possible for departure the next morning.

    We were taking the Durango and Silverton Railroad up to our trailhead Monday morning. The train departs at 0800, and we got there about 0715. Packs were loaded, the van was parked, and eventually the train headed out. We had bought a bunch of breakfast biscuits at the McD next door to speed the process.

    We got to the trailhead in Elk Park a couple minutes late at 1115. Lunch was premade ham and turkey sandwiches next to the tracks, then we headed up Elk Creek Trail.

    We had some intel from the train folks that our intended route, up to the Continental Divide Trail, then south over Hunchback Pass, was impassable due to snow. This was annoying, and I started looking at the map on the train ride to come up with an alternative.

    We headed up the Elk Creek/Colorado Trail about noon, in beautiful weather. It was pretty steep headed up. We had one boots-off creek crossing in less than a mile. We hiked steadily up until we got to about 10,200 ft, where we found a very nice camp. We had a planning meeting and decided that due to the impassable trail, we would dayhike using our camp as a basecamp.

    While we were breakfasting the next morning, Seana talked to a guy who had come down from the pass, who reported the snow up to his armpits, and barely passable with great effort for him.

    The next morning, we got up and headed towards the Continental Divide with daypacks. We had decided to go up as far was we could. It was a stunning hike. Several water crossings, both boots on and off. Steadily up.

    While we hiked, we passed a guy and his very happy Golden who reported having hiked through the “impassible” area. He said the snow was knee-deep in places, but pre-postholed, so we could make it. This was VERY annoying.

    When we got to the top, I walked almost all the way to the Pass, and I think it was quite passable. I talked it over with the rest of the team, and we decided to stick with our basecamping plan. We got back into camp near dark.

    The next day we took as the scheduled layover day. Most of the boys dayhiked, and all of us explored the area around camp. We were right between two fields of HUGE boulders.

    Thursday we took a hike up to the Vestal Basin area. There wasn’t any trail on the map, but there was a trail up into the basin. This was a steep hike, occasionally 45deg+, and probably the most dangerous hike we had done. As we got to the top of the hike, storms were going on, and lightning, and we walked down in occasional showerlets. The area up there was just stunning.

    By the time we were at the bottom again, we had a steady rain and frequent lightning. Since we were rather exposed, we went to 50 ft separation each time we got out into the open.

    Friday we packed up and headed back down. We camped in a campground that was about 0.8 miles north of the train pickup. While we were there, we saw several of the D&S trains roll by. One thing that was interesting, we got word that the train tracks were covered with a mudslide from the rain. Apparently several trainload of people were stuck in Silverton and had to be bussed back to Durango. We watched several pieces of heavy equipment, including a train-truck-mounted backhoe, pass by to clean the mud from the tracks. We also had a heavy downpour for over an hour, including a bunch of pea-sided hail, which was probably the same storm that caused the mudslide. I had a first here, I saw a significant rockfall just NE of the camp; a rock half the size of a VW came down, taking a bunch of other stuff with it. It made me look at the bluff to our west somewhat nervously.

    Saturday morning we got up and dried everything up, and headed to the 1400 pickup around 1215. The train ride was beautiful but otherwise uneventful. We got into Durango with storm clouds and grey skies around 1715.

    Dinner for the evening was pizza. Seven large pizzas, gone in about 10 min flat. Whoa.

    While we were eating, a couple of us were watching the weather approach. It was a large, heavy rain shield that extended all the back into Utah. After some discussion of taking our dry tents, putting them up in heavy rain in the dark, and then taking them down tomorrow morning in heavy rain in the dark, we decided to just drive back.

    We left Durango in heavy rain at 2000, and showed up in OKC around 0930 the next morning, with no problem.

    Things That Worked

    Food was pretty good, and fuel was also (we were short on food but recovered, and long on fuel, see below).

    I love my tent. The REI Quarter Dome 2 was great from the weight standpoint, stood up to wind, water, and hail, and was plenty roomy.

    I was happy with my loading. My dry pack weight was 32 lbs, and food and water kicked it to probably 37. It was easy to handle. My food was nearly empty at the end of the trip, I probably had enough for one more dinner.

    The crew worked together well on this trip.

    My new hiking clothing was great! I used two mid-sleeve shirts, one pair of convertible Columbia pants, a floppy hat (no sunburned neck or ears), and two pair Wigwam socks. I need to replace the cotton underwear next, and that’ll be that. The shirts and socks got rinsed but dried out very quickly. I was amazed in that I sweated mightily while hiking, but never got a soaked shirt (damp, yes).

    Things That Could’ve Worked Better

    This was a large group, the largest I’ve had out, at 17 total. There were several areas of better coordination that could have been worked, to include personal gear vs. troop gear. We provided four stoves intending for three teams of four and one team of five, but we ended up with a total of eight or nine stoves (with the attending extra fuel canisters). Same with pots, we provided four, we had nine, I think.

    We had one instance where a Scout had neglected to pack his food/troop gear, leaving us with a pretty good hole to fill (his stomach :) ) on the trail. Fortunately, significant overpacking by other Scouts helped alleviate this.

    Several of the crew didn’t have basic stuff (a day pack, for example). Several of the guys confused a day pack to be taken on the trail with a bag of non-backpacking stuff to be left in the van.

    My 2.5 year old Merrell boots failed. I noticed on Day 3 the sole of my right boot had separated from the upper about a one inch on the left, and about two inches on the right. These had increased to two inches and five by the time we were off the trail. I have a new pair of boots now.

    I am of a couple minds about the intel we got on the impassibility of the pass. I think we would have been just fine if we had pressed on in blissful ignorance.

    As usual, we could have been a bit more in shape overall. I’m including me in this, I needed to run more before the trip. Remember, Bill.

    Summary

    We ended up with over 31.2 miles of hiking and backpacking for this trip, with in excess of 4000 ft of altitude gain. The weather was perfect, probably in the 70s for highs and high 40s for lows.

    We had a couple teachable moments that went well, and little interpersonal crappiness to deal with.

    All in all, this was a wonderful trip. I think that this area is even more beautiful than Pecos or Lost Creek Wildernesses. It is certainly steeper.

    I do want to go back and do the loop we had originally planned. One of more week of leave to figure out… :)

    Cool Things From The Air, DFW-SLC, 13 July 2015

    16 July 2015

    I had some great photo ops on this flight.

    I saved the pictures and captions on my Google+ site here.

    Enjoy!

    Scouting Moving Ahead Slowly

    16 July 2015

    When I was made aware of the BSA Executive Committee vote recommending elimination of the ban on gay Scouters, I was happy. There is nothing in being gay that makes a person less qualified to serve youth as a leader in Scouting. I hope that the full Board will vote in a like manner next week.

    I understand, sort of, why they took the two steps of ending the ban on gay youth first (there are lots more youth), but even with the lifting of the ban on gay adults, it’s more of a squishy decision that I wish was more concrete.

    In previous cases, in particular with the ban on atheist Scouts, BSA claimed that as a national organization, they could set their membership standards and they would apply across the board. But with this (assuming it is approved), they left a caveat in place that would allow local charting organizations to continue to enforce a ban. I know that is being done as a sop to churches that want to discriminate, but that does not make it right.

    Banning membership in an organization based on a perceived sin is shortsighted. Calling out one particular perceived sin while other equally bad sins do not trigger a ban is stupid.

    Nico’s, Salt Lake City, UT

    15 July 2015

    Click to add a blog post for Nico's Restaurant & Lounge on Zomato

    This place was GREAT! It’s close to where I was in meetings, fast, and great food.

    I had lunch at Nico’s yesterday with a work friend. We got there just before noon and left about 45 min later. When we walked in, I saw a freshly served #3, the pork chili verde burrito. EXCELLENT! Flavorful and tender pork, the chili verde was the perfect heat, and the burrito was the right size for lunch.

    The only slight downer was a lack of iced tea. Our server suggested “agua de Jamaica”, which was brewed hibiscus flower. It was super sweet. I also got a half liter Mexican Coke, strong and cold.

    Service was super friendly and fast. My check was $12.91. This place was very good. Be warned, it’s small, only eight or so tables. Recommended.

    Alamexo, Salt Lake City, OK

    15 July 2015

    Click to add a blog post for Alamexo on Zomato

    I had dinner here last night with several long-time friends. Alamexo is, first, noisy. It’s hard to have a good conversation due to the echos. It’s also not really mexican, and certainly not tex-mex. It’s more of a mexican fusion theme.

    We started off with guacamole (built right at the table) and some queso fundido (a Spanish word meaning melted or molten). Both were really good, but the queso hardened quite quickly as it cooled.

    I had a carne daxaquena (which is the feminine singular of oaxaqueño, which is the word pertaining to the Mexican state of Oaxaca). Basically, this was a ribeye that was sectioned, then grilled with lettuce and other veg which was then draped over the steak for serving. Our server said the chef liked it to go out no more then medium rare; I asked for medium, and it actually came out between medium and medium well (I guess I should have listened…). Regardless, it was very, very tasty, although a bit expensive at $22.

    The iced tea was some sort of fruity stuff that was OK at best. Our server was very good, kept stuff refilled and came around numerous times to make sure we were OK.

    My check was $36.12. We were in there a couple hours for an enjoyable evening.

    A related comment about the area in general. This place was about six blocks from my hotel in SLC. I walked there to arrive around 1900, and left and walked back near 2100. The entire downtown area was alive the entire time, with shops and restaurants doing a good business, and lots of people walking and biking. It felt vibrant and safe. I think that SLC has it together.

    So The Confederate Flag Was Taken Down in Alabama…

    24 June 2015

    The Governor of that state ordered the Confederate Battle Flag to be removed from the grounds of the statehouse there.

    So what? As with many things, in particular with conservatives, the symbology involved is to cover up the real problem. And that problem is that so many people in the United States, while perhaps claiming otherwise, do not actually support these core principles for black or brown people:

    We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.

    Needless to say, this also applies to the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments to the Constitution, and the overall tone of the Constitution.

    Slavery is just part of the problem that still exists today. Jim Crow laws, laws to keep blacks from voting, white control over black majority, and even law and policy to divert wealth to the upper classes, is essentially legislated racism.

    Even the language is biased. Think about how often “thug” is used a code word. With the advent of the Civil Rights movement, several states responded by incorporating the Confederate flag into their state flags; that’s just shooting the finger at a large proportion of their population. In the past several years, several states have enacted voting suppression laws aimed largely at less affluent populations, including black and brown people, which of course is inherently incompatible with freedom and equality.

    The people who fought for the Confederacy were traitors, plain and simple. They wanted to build their economy on the backs of slaves. No rationalizations now can change that.

    25 June Addendum:

    There has a been an explosion of memes over the past day or so, with conservatives trying to tie support for the Confederacy back to various liberals (or those perceived as such :) ). One in particular that I’ve seen at least a dozen postings of is a Confederate flag campaign button or sticker with “Clinton-Gore 1992” on it. If you Google something like “Clinton Gore Confederate Flag” you will get a whole raft of hits, that are mostly conservative web sites like theblaze.com. On Facebook today I saw a post from a person just claimed “Do you know who else supported the rebel flag? Clintons” (it was missing the ending period). It would be easy to claim the poster as yet another easily led unthinking conservative or something like that, but the intent is to justify support for the Confederate flag, and therefore the Confederacy, by trying to paint others as supporters. This is logically flawed, but it also shows the weakness of the position in that it can’t stand on it’s own. The plethora of conservative sites trying to get traction by echoing the meme is just trying to deflect attention from the inherent racism (and basic antipathy to American ideals as expressed in the Declaration, Constitution, and history) of conservatives of the past several years.

    Parkers Smokehouse, Ashland, NE

    21 May 2015

    Click to add a blog post for Parker's Smokehouse on Zomato

    I had lunch here Tuesday.  It was pretty darn good.  I had a brisket dinner.  The brisket was sliced and piled on a piece of Texas Toast.  There was a goodly amount.  The brisket was tender and well smoked, very good.  I got the “add two ribs” option.  I got the question, do you want the ribs with or without sauce?  Having not had the question before, I said yes, and sure enough, the ribs came out with BBQ sauce on them.  The ribs were kind of different.  I expect ribs to be cooked or smoked or grilled in a rack, which leaves each rib somewhat uniform.  These were not, each of the two ribs was bubbled and rippled all around in a non-uniform manner.  Odd.  But… the ribs were pretty good.  They had a bit of bark, and were tender, and had decent taste.  I rate them as an 8 on a scale of 1 to JTs.  The meal came with a couple sides.  The beans and potato salad were both very good.  The meal also came with cornbread.  It was a heck of a lot of food.

    Service was very fast and friendly.  The iced tea was great!  My check was $19.71.  Worth the drive.

    A Death Penalty Surprise in Nebraska

    21 May 2015

    I happen to be in the Omaha area on business.

    One surprising happening in the state capitol of Lincoln was a vote in the Unicameral to abolish the death penalty in the state.  The vote was enough to override a promised veto by the Governor of the state.  But still, the vote was taken and it passed.

    I don’t know what the effect would be on pending cases.  The last execution in Nebraska was reported as in 2007.

    I think this is not a bad thing.  My thinking on the death penalty has evolved over the years, from full support to more limited support.  I think that, at a minimum, that since the death penalty is so final, that it should only be imposed when the offender is found guilty beyond a doubt, instead of a reasonable doubt.  Reasonable doubt can should still be used for non death penalty cases.

    But this vote, in very conservative Nebraska, is encouraging on several levels, including informed debate at the state level.

    Barley’s, Council Bluffs, IA

    21 May 2015

    To my readers, I apologize for being sooooo far behind in restaurant posts.  I will try to catch up.

    Click to add a blog post for Barley's on Zomato

    I had lunch at Barley’s today.  It was very good!  I started with iced tea (very good) and some excellent BBQ chicken wings.  The wings were good because (1) the BBQ sauce wasn’t overwhelming, and (2) the wings were meaty and tender.

    My entree was a patty melt, 7 oz of excellent beef on rye.  There were a few more sauteed onions than I usually get, but the onions were cooked perfected (too many places either char the onions or leave them fairly raw).  But the beef was the star here, it was excellent, cooked a perfect medium well and with a nice crust and internal texture.  Great stuff.  I wasn’t a huge fan of the fries, I think they were old.

    Don’t forget a dollar of change for the parking meter out front.

    Service was fast and very friendly.  My check was $13.91.  A nice place in the Bluffs.

    Free Speech and Anti-Islam Nuts

    20 May 2015

    The incident in Garland, TX a couple weeks ago has bugged me a lot.  One thing I noted in news about the incident was the references to the event that was attacked as an exhibition of cartoons of Mohammad.  It wasn’t until four or five days later that I saw a reference to the actual title of the event, “Muhammad Art Exhibit and Contest”.  It didn’t take much to find that the so-called free-speech event was really just an excuse for some rabid anti-Islam nuts to take some pokes at Islam.

    Their “free-speech” exercise was really just an excuse to provoke followers of Islam to get mad.  In that a couple guys got pissed enough to try to attack the event, the organizers got their wish.

    Was their actions legal?  Without a doubt.  Were the ethical?  No way.

    This is another case where the followers of one religion should have just followed their religion, without trying to denigrate another religion.  I think the organizers of the so-called contest are cowards.  They provoked a response, and then hid behind a lot of police, one of whom was injured in the exchange of gunfire.  The organizers are directly responsible for the deaths of the two attackers and the injuries to the wounded officer.  Will there be accountability?  Probably not.

    Islam has been used to stir up a lot of unthinking people over the past couple years.  After Bush II made up reasons to invade Iraq and then killed thousands of Muslims as a direct result, which directly led to the formation of ISIS/ISIL, it should come as no surprise that many Muslims are unhappy with the US.  When you toss in sporadic efforts to supposedly keep Sharia law from being enacted, continuing adventures in the Middle East, and general (mainly) conservative xenophobia, it’s clear that Islam is one of the scary things that conservatives are using to distract people from the overall game plan of conservatives to loot the lower and middle classes.

    So, to the organizers of that event in Garland, you are cowards.  You are also misguided at best.

    Adventures In Photo Printing

    29 April 2015

    My Wood Badge Patrol wanted to give our Troop Guide something to commemorate her great guidance during our course.  We decided to give her a signed print of the six of us.  So, I needed to have a good print of a picture taken as a selfie using a Galaxy S4.

    I learned a couple new GIMP skills here, by figuring out how to turn the background on an image transparent.  I used three of them to decorate the photos.

    I’m in the Boston, MA area.  I looked up FedEx Kinkos, since I know they do prints, the nearest is 10+ miles away.  At dinner, I remembered that Walgreens and CVS also do prints, and happily enough there is one of each about two blocks from my hotel.

    I started off at the Walgreens.  It had two kiosks that had a variety of slots for various memory cards.  I had brought a USB cable that would let me plug my S4 in.  One of the two kiosks wouldn’t read the phone even after multiple tries.  The other side, and the kiosk went off and read every photo on the drive.  Note to kiosk developers:  add some logic to let the user select, say, photos from a certain day.

    Regardless, I selected the appropriate picture.  Now this photo was a JPEG that was 1920×1080, so it is a 4:3 aspect ratio.  I wanted it printed at 5×7, but the kiosk auto-cropped the picture, cutting out two of the guys.  I tried a number of sizes, but auto-crop always kicked in.  I couldn’t turn the auto-crop off.  I even tried printing it on an 8×10 piece of paper, but again, it cropped.  So I left Walgreens and headed across the street to CVS.

    CVS had two kiosks of a different brand (Kodak).  I never could get either kiosk to read from the USB cable connection.  These kiosks also had the ability to transfer files via WiFi, *if* you installed a smartphone app.  The left-side kiosk wouldn’t connect via WiFi, but the right-side device connected right up.

    This was pretty cool.  The device changes the WiFi SSID for each transfer, and encodes the SSID and a password in a QSR code.  You select the picture(s) on the phone, then use the QSR reader in the app to grab the WiFi settings, then the file is transferred in less than a second.

    The options for printing were far greater on this kiosk.  You could size the photo to 4×6 or 5×7, but they also had an option for 6×9 that worked well.  I selected it, they tried to sell me some extra stuff I didn’t need, and then it printed the picture on an attached printer automagically.  It looks pretty good, and cost me $2.

    It dd take some futzing to get a working kiosk.  I was disappointed in the lack of options for the Walgreens unit.  The CVS units were pretty cool.  I’m a little concerned with the reliability, only one of four units worked.

    The OKC Bombing, and Recent Politics

    19 April 2015

    Today is the 20th anniversary of the bombing, and there has been the expected coverage.

    I was just looking at Facebook, and also as one might expect, there are posts about the event, and many sincere comments about how wrong the bombing was.

    But I also am struck by a dichotomy about this.  In the past couple election cycles, how many people I know personally are conservative, and also national leaders, were talking about rebelling against the government.  “Second Amendment” solutions, the possibility of secession, the rancher in Nevada, and the like.

    That’s what Timothy McVie was trying to incite.

    I wonder if that ever crosses the minds of those conservatives?  “Never forget”, they post.  But they apparently forget that the evil of the OKC bombing was an attempt to topple the government, which many conservatives still apparently think about.

    So I Got A Ticket Yesterday

    5 April 2015

    When we were driving to and from the hike to Bell Cow yesterday, I used one of the vans that is shared by the Troop and the First Presbyterian Church, our chartering organization.  I took the hikers to Braum’s and bought them ice cream for doing so well on the hike.

    We were coming down I-35 and an Oklahoma Highway Patrol (OHP) state trooper came up in the fast line behind me.  She (I found out later) matched speeds with me and then scooted over two lanes to get behind me.  I knew something was up.  She pulled me over by Frontier City.

    Turns out the tag on the van was out of date.  Way out of date, 2013.

    Nothing bad happened here.  I think the state trooper was very professional about the whole thing.  She had authority to have the van towed and impounded, but she didn’t.  I had a van load of tired Scouts, and it would have been very inconvenient, but she realized that an expired tag isn’t then greatest threat to public safety.  I told her I would let the church know immediately, which I did.  She also said that when the tags were updated, let her know and she would cancel the ticket, which I certainly appreciate.

    I got a huge ration of crap from the Scouts, of course.  :)

    I’ve driven that van all over the state (and out of state) over the past couple years, and I have never once thought to check the tag, even when I was back there hooking up the trailer.  I checked the other vans FPC uses and three of them were also out of date, so I let our COR know.  You can bet that checking the tag is on my list of things to look at in the future.

    This was the first interaction I’ve had with OHP since probably 2002, when my brother and I were driving back to Newcastle around 0200 after being in Muskogee all day.  The trooper basically pulled us over at I-240 and Penn, checked our IDs, and sent us on our way.  I don’t know exactly why we got pulled over, I wasn’t speeding, and I don’t think I simulated a drunk, but that’s probably why.  So that turned out OK as well.

    Hiking Bell Cow Lake Flat Rock Trail

    5 April 2015

    A group of Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts hiked Bell Cow Lake near Chandler, OK today.  The group did 10.3 or 10.5 miles depending on which GPS you believe (the Garmin GPSMap 60 or Runkeeper on the Galaxy S4).  Regardless, it was a great hike.

    Photos are at:  https://plus.google.com/photos/105156699699052376728/albums/6134014484762042529.

    We got to the lake a little later than we wanted at 0910 and hit the trail about 15 minutes later.  We hit the Flat Rock trail on the south side of the lake, which is advertised as 12.4 miles, or 6.2 out and back.  We kept up a good pace all the way to what I think was the next to the last loop, where we had lunch.  We walked just under five miles in about 2.5 hours.

    There was an amazing variety of tracks in the muddy trail, including turkey.  The only actual wildlife we saw was birds, but there was a pair of Bald Eagles!  We also saw one turkey crossing the road as we drove into the lake.

    I was slightly surprised we saw only one stream flowing.  Water was available at the trailhead.  Even though the trails are mixed hiking and equestrian, we didn’t see any horses on the trail.

    We made slightly less speed on the way back, leaving lunch at 1230, and getting back into Area C camp at 1440.  Since we had less mileage coming back due to taking the direct trail instead of the looplets (or “thumbs”), we walked down to the lake front and back, and that got us to 10+.

    Weird stuff:  I used Runkeeper with my S4 to record the track (it’s in the photos), and both Runkeeper and the Garmin MapSource program reported 4,000+ ft of altitude gain for the hike.  I didn’t feel like I had done a Grand Canyon sorta walk, so I don’t think I believe that data point!

    “Religious Liberty” Laws

    3 April 2015

    The actions by (mostly) Republicans to enact so-called religious liberty protection laws is misguided at best, and potentially disastrous at worst.

    First, the country is clearly a group of people who may or may not have religion, bound together by a government that is secular.  Anyone claiming otherwise is deluded.

    Second, while everyone is pretty much able to strive to do their own thing, that right is limited by the individuals interaction with the government, and where the rights of others are concerned.  No one in the country is generally protected from being offended.

    Third, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights guarantees individual religious liberty.  It also guarantees equal protection for all.

    I saw this related meme on the Internet:  “A black man should not be forced to make a cake for the KKK and a Christian shouldn’t be forced to make one for a gay wedding” (this is attributed to someone named John Hawkins).

    This is wrong on any number of levels.  The basic concept is wrong to begin with.  First, the assumption is that the cake bakers are businesses, since that’s what the recent “controversy” is about.  The concept of the common burden/common good comes into play, where a business is taking advantage of the infrastructure we all paid for (roads, police, fire protection), and has the obligation to serve all.  The meme also fails to address one difference:  the supposed KKK cake buyers are actively hating on the supposed black cake baker, where the opposite isn’t true.  In fact, it could be argued that the supposedly Christian cake baker is hating/despising the supposed gay cake buyers.

    Of course, for an individual, there is no obligation to make cakes for anyone else.

    I go back to the cherry-picking aspect as well.  Conservatives love to get all bent out of shape about gays.  “It’s sin, I don’t agree with sin, so I shouldn’t have to have anything to do with *them sinners*”.  But the supposedly put-upon cake bakers don’t seem to mind baking cakes for divorcees, or for that matter, everyone else (since we are all sinners).

    These laws do nothing but enable dividing people, balkanizing the country.  Jewish people could refuse service to Gentiles, or the other way around.  Muslims could refuse service to Christians, or the other way around.  There are so many potential absurdities.

    What about a sincerely anti-war religious belief?  Can that person specify that their taxes don’t go to the DoD?

    I think it’s pretty clear that most of this comes from the mostly white, mostly Christian legislators lashing out as their market share falls, pandering to those like them, and trying to force the rest of us to acknowledge and adopt their beliefs.

    But what it really comes down to is no business has the right to be offended and refuse service to a customer because of the religious belief of the proprietor (and that includes Hobby Lobby).  Suck it up, people.

    Visiting the OKC Bombing Memorial

    2 April 2015

    Today I was having my car worked on in downtown OKC, so I walked over to the OKC National Memorial.  I have been there just once before, on the south upper level, back in 2006.  It was so powerful then, I didn’t want to walk down to the main level.

    But today I did.  It’s difficult to be there and not be overwhelmed with emotion.  I didn’t personally know any of the victims well.  A boy at St. John’s in Pre-K lost his grandparents in the bombing, and another student came in a bit later who had lost her mother.  The janitor in our building at the time was forced out of his apartment for quite some time due to damage from the blast, and we gathered a lot of stuff and money to help him get going again.

    But what horrifies me above all else was that the terrorist who performed the bombing did it knowing that most of the victims were not part of his main targets in the Government, and even knowing that many victims would be children.  He and the other scumbag(s) that perpetrated this apparently actually believed that he would be able to start some sort of revolution against the Government.  Deluded, at best.

    I sat for a while on one of the terraces below the Survivor Tree and reflected on why the Memorial had to be there at all.  In terms of consequences, no revolution happened.  I know that the Government started looking harder at various so-called militia groups.  I think that if things were as bad as McVey thought, the Government would have swooped in an hammered every one of the groups that it could find, but that didn’t happen.

    So in the end, it wasn’t nearly as bad Government-wise as McVey thought, and a lot of those groups are still operating, playing their little dress-up games.

    But there are 168 people still gone, and many others who were wounded, and all for a fantasy by a guy who really didn’t have a clear vision of reality.

    And all that life and potential, that’s more than enough reason to sit on the terrace and shed more than a few tears of sorrow for people I didn’t know.

    The Confederate Flag and License Plates

    24 March 2015

    The Confederate Flag is such a horrible symbol.  The nation had to go to war against the CSA, at the cost of thousands of lives.  All because the CSA wanted slavery.

    Well, to those who want to have that symbol of hatred on your car, well, get a damn paintbrush and really show your stripes.  Whining because the State of Texas won’t let you put it on your license plate is craven.  Paint it on the hood of your car like some latter-day hick.  And get a robe and hood while you are at it.

    We shouldn’t have a Nazi symbol on license plates either.  The CSA flag is just as bad.

    Voting Should Be Mandatory

    19 March 2015

    I read an article just now in USA Today.  In a speech in Cleveland, President Obama opined that perhaps the United States should have mandatory voting.

    I think that’s a great idea.  I checked a page on Wikipedia, and since 1972 voter turnout has hovered within a couple points of 50%.  The election of 2008 was the high point at 57%.  Turnout in the 2012 election was 37%.  Those are national numbers, of course.

    My local voting precinct has about 25,000 eligible voters, and about 10,000 voted in the last election (2014).  That’s pretty crappy.

    I would like to think that we have few obligations in order to live in this country.  We ought to all have a voice in how it it run, and mandatory voting would help get to that goal.  Maybe we could look to Oregon as an example, with voting by mail and a decent time to accomplishing voting.

    More Zero Tolerance Stupidity

    16 March 2015

    This article was published on another example of school administrators turning off what higher order functions they might have had.

    First of all, I would ask how the “leaf” came to be found.  Second of all, even under zero brain, er, tolerance, some due process would seem to be in order to prove that the contraband was indeed pot.  Given that, the 1-year suspension should never have been ordered, and even given that, the kid in question should have been back in school the next day.  Even given the reference to so-called “imitation drugs”, I find it hard to imagine that there was any offense here in the slightest.

    There is a larger question here as to the severity of punishment.  Oklahoma and Texas have what are characterized as two of the strongest penalties for pot possession – 1 year and 180 days in prison (respectively) no matter the amount.  It is reported that most offenders in Oklahoma get probation or little jail time.

    So why does the Bedford Country Schools give the equivalent punishment – a year out of school, for kids?  It’s just worse that the supposed contraband was a random leaf.  Geez, a science class leaf collection might get a kid there the death penalty.

    It’s even worse that the kid is reported to be on “probation”.  Given that no crime/offense actually occurred, it’s stupid to declare probation.

    I wonder if they administrators moonlight as guards at Gitmo, where we famously hold people for years without charge or trial.

    Google Maps Coolness

    11 March 2015

    One very nice integration that Google Maps provides (and Google provides in general). I was looking for a restaurant using Google Maps using my desktop computer.

    When I pulled out my phone and fired up Google Maps, that restaurant was the first list. Click on directions, and I’m on my way. Very fast and useful. Latency was less than 10 seconds.

    Nutjob Senators Are Just A Symptom Of A Larger Problem

    10 March 2015

    The Republican Senators who sent the letter to the government of Iran are just a symptom of a larger problem.

    But first, let me say, Senators Inhofe and Lankford, you are both a disgrace. You are not true Oklahomans, or Americans. You do not have the slightest bit of respect for the Constitution. You have no common sense either, “Snowball” Inhofe. You put your petty, hateful, spiteful politics above the good of the people of Oklahoma and the United States. Lankford, you like to say you are a man of God, but I see zero evidence of that. You cannot be out of office fast enough, you small, petty creatures.

    That being said, this lack of respect to the Constitution is just part of the Republican view that Democrats are not a legitimate governing body for the country. Only Republicans have repeatedly bypassed the customs of this country. From Newt wanting to address the country when he was elected Speaker, to the House working directly with a foreign government to spite the President, to this bit of disgrace, Republicans just want power, and they assume they are the only ones that can have power, and they act like they deserve power, and in doing so ignore elections and insert themselves into situations constantly. The entire scheme of calculated opposition to anything Obama proposes is another example. The complete lack of failure to work with Democrats in compromise to get things done is yet another. Equally damning, the efforts of Republicans to overturn, impede, and degrade protections for citizens using Obamacare, military veterans, women, and voters who are poor and/or of color show how little they care for citizens. And finally, their complete lack of support for anyone but big business and the top 1% means they, not Obama, are imperial in their actions and thinking.

    I don’t think the word “treasonous” applies here, just as it does not apply to Obama. But at what point is a complete failure to perform the peoples work become as bad as giving aid and comfort to an enemy? Congress, specifically Republicans in Congress, abetted by state legislators (also Republican), have worked since the Reagan years to funnel money from ordinary people to the top 1%. That’s theft of one kind. When will the weak-willed and easily scared wake up and realize they are being screwed? I hope it’s soon.

    The OU SAE Frat Incident Is Just A Symptom Of A Larger Problem

    9 March 2015

    So this story broke as news like a thunderclap this weekend. I will not get worked up about it.

    This is just another incident of the inherent racism that is still present in this country in significant measure. It will be here until the people who look down on others due to skin color die off, and it will take some time.

    One thing that has not been reported: this was a mass dating event with a group of women. I would imagine (but don’t know) that the women were from a sorority at OU (these mass dating activities happened every Tuesday (I think) when I was at OSU). In the video, while the guys are shouting the racist cadence and clapping, a couple of the women were at least clapping as well; I couldn’t tell from the video if they were singing along. There very well be consequences for that house as well.

    I’ve said before, racism is the largest stain on the USA. It is still here, and even worse, looks to be largely hidden, except in secondary effects like voter suppression. The Voting Rights Act and Civil Rights Acts were passed about 100 years after Emancipation. That took way too long, but even 50 years after those days of hope, we are still left with the putrid, foul stench of unthinking racists.

    Troop 15 Backpacking Shakedown Camp

    9 March 2015

    Troop15 had a great combined camp this past weekend. The older guys had a backpacking shakedown that included 16 miles of hiking over the weekend, and our new Scouts got to work on skills for their Tenderfoot rank.

    Pictures are on my Google+ site here.

    Enjoy!

    Backpacking Stove Fuel Use

    5 March 2015

    I used an MSR Whisperlite for boiling water on both backpacking and camping trips forever. Before we went to RMNP last summer, I pulled the stove out to test it, and there was a serious pump leak. No repair kits were available except via mail order, and they wouldn’t get here in time.

    So I decided to take a Primus stove I had bought at WalMart for $20. It uses canister fuel that is a mix of butane and propane, and works to well below freezing (which I didn’t expect to get near). The stove worked fine, and I have taken it on several other trips since, most recently to the Grand Canyon.

    Since you can’t take the canisters on an airplane (it’s understandable, the FAA wouldn’t be too crazy about compressed flammable gas in the cargo area), I bought an 8 oz canister when I got to Phoenix. When we got off the trail, I donated it to the Backcountry Center at Grand Canyon since I couldn’t take it back. At the time, I though that the canister seemed quite full still.

    Before I bought it, I had a lot of thought about getting an 8 oz vs a 4 oz. I did some research and came to the realization that those canisters use quite a bit less fuel that I thought.

    So I have four of the things at the house, with various amounts of gas. Last night and this morning, I did an experiment to see just how much fuel was used. I boiled five pots of water, each with five cups of water each. The canister with the burner weighed 420 grams. After the five runs, the rig weighed 370 grams.

    So… each run used about 10 grams of fuel to go from tap temp to full boil. Very impressive.

    The metal canister weight is reported online as around 130 grams. The burner is 200 grams. The 8-oz canisters have 220-230 grams of fuel. Less-than-impressive arithmetic yields about 20 full pots of water able to be boiled from one of those canisters.

    I typically make a couple cups of tea or hot chocolate in the morning, and might use a bit more for oatmeal, so if I am with a partner who wants the same, that’s two runs in the morning. Two cups are typically needed for a two-person rehydrated meal in the evening, and maybe some more tea or coffee, so that’s another two or even three runs in the evening. So, four to five runs per day for two people means five or maybe six days per canister, or 10 to 12 days for a single person. That’s very impressive, especially given that the canister is $5.

    A couple other interesting facts: The Whisperlite and empty fuel bottle is 350 grams. The Primus and empty canister is 330 grams.

    Shut Ferguson MO Down

    5 March 2015

    I’ve been reading about the US Department of Justice (DoJ) report on Ferguson, MO and how the police there interact with the town citizens. The press briefing on the report is at http://www.justice.gov/opa/speech/attorney-general-holder-delivers-update-investigations-ferguson-missouri.

    One particularly egregious incident involved a guy sitting in his car. Doing nothing. A cop demanded his SSN and ID, was directed to exit his car, had a gun pointed at his head, and was arrested after pointing out his civil rights were being violated. Another guy was charged with lying after his said his name was Mike, when his legal name was Michael. In these cases, the victims were black, the officers white.

    I’m going to read the full report. From the reporting today, the killing of Michael Brown by Ferguson cop Darrin Wilson is part of a pattern of behavior that is suppressive of the black population of Ferguson by the white majority in power.

    The thing that really bothers me about this: there are probably hundreds of Fergusons around the country.

    I’ve noted before that election turnout in Ferguson was very poor, which meant that many black citizens were not voting.

    I hope that the next election there results in the Council being turned out, and a general cleanout of the police department takes place.

    In several states, there are laws that allow a governor to essentially remove the elected officials of a town and have an overseer installed when there are serious and persistent financial issues (not just illegal activities, even if a economic downturn as taken place). I think that the DoJ should have some sort of power to essentially fire or dissolve the “leadership” of a city, town, or county that shows malfeasance, including violations of the civil rights of people in the jurisdiction.

    11 March 2015 update:

    Several people in Ferguson have been fired or force to resign, including the police chief and city manager. This is good. It was also reported on NPR that a similar situation in Oakland, CA, several years ago had the potential for a receiver and judge to be appointed to oversee the city in the event they didn’t clean up their police problem. This is good.

    Popeye’s Chicken, OKC, OK

    3 March 2015

    Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen on Urbanspoon

    Last night, Raegan and I decided to try Popeye’s, since we needed to have dinner, we didn’t have a surfeit of time, and there is one about two blocks from school.

    My first experience at a Popeye’s was not good at all. There is an earlier blog post about that one, at DFW.

    This one, was, well, OK. At best. We got a 12 piece family meal, mild (which I think is just un-cajun). Our two sides were mashers (OK) with cajun gravy (meh) and slaw (also meh). The chicken was OK at best. It had little flavor. In fact, I would say no flavor.

    We got a gallon of iced tea with the meal, that was OK. Service was very friendly.

    I think our check was around $36, which seems quite high. I will update this when I run across the receipt.

    I don’t think that Popeye’s will be a destination in the future for us. It’s just not flavor.

    FCC Decision on Net Neutrality The Right Decision

    27 February 2015

    The FCC requested comments from the public on the concept of network neutrality. I was interested enough in this that I submitted two sets of comments (I was one of reportedly several million commenters). I am in favor of network neutrality.

    Since the FCC decision yesterday that supports the concept of network neutrality (NN), there has been two basic classes of reaction. Pro-NN people were saying it was a victory for ordinary people and most business, and anti-NN people we thundering that it was government control of the Internet and would cost business millions, and stifle innovation.

    You can separate “the Internet” into a couple segments. One segment is the backbones of the net, which consists essentially of a set of very high capacity network connections that run between major hubs, and typically radiate out from major hubs to smaller hubs with a set of high capacity network connections, and from the small hubs to even smaller hubs, eventually terminating at houses and businesses. I say “backbones”, because each of the Internet service providers (ISPs) have their own backbone. There are interconnect points between the backbones so that each house or business doesn’t have to contract with every ISP to be able to reach every other house or business.

    ISPs sell access to houses and businesses, and they have every right to charge different amounts depending on how much data you want to pay for. A customer who wants to fire up their computer each night, read some news, and check email, clearly uses less bandwidth than Google, and so pays less. That is not the issue with NN.

    Say Google contracts for an OC-3 connection via AT&T. They pay money to AT&T for that bandwidth. But while some of that traffic goes to and from AT&T to other AT&T customers, some of it also goes to Cox Cable customers, and it is a lot of traffic. Under NN, Cox has to carry that traffic regardless, and without impeding it.

    But what the ISPs wanted was to eliminate the concept of NN. In this example, Cox wanted to charge Google for that traffic that originated on the AT&T network, or be able to throttle Google traffic down to a smaller amount of bandwidth. The claim is that it is for cost recovery. But in reality, Cox has to keep its backbone large enough to satisfy all of it’s customers, and they surely have their own high-traffic customer (say, Bing), and some of that Bing traffic goes over to AT&T, who wanted to charge Bing a premium. It’s really a scheme to charge twice for some traffic while paying once for the infrastructure.

    This doesn’t cost ISPs any more. And it sure does not stifle innovation. Think on this: Google came up with a nifty search scheme, and millions use it. To keep those users happy, Google pays AT&T for more and more bandwidth, and so pays for that extra traffic. Any other company that comes up with a good idea can do the same, and the ISPs will be paid to give the extra access.

    And the argument of “government regulation” of the Internet is just bogus. The FCC issuing rules that guarantee NN has NOTHING to do with government regulation of the Internet. As a side note, it’s ridiculous for any Member of Congress to complain that an the FCC NN ruling is regulation of the Internet, and at the same time support NSA or the police capturing and storing Internet traffic from people who are not suspects in any crime (warrantless wiretaps, data vacuuming).

    So the FCC is actually putting a stop to ISPs being able to double-bill some big bandwidth users. It’s a good decision.

    Three Republican Quotes, Several Problems

    24 February 2015

    In the past week, statements by conservatives on President Obama:

    Rudy Giuliani, “I do not believe, and I know this is a horrible thing to say, but I do not believe that the president loves America.”

    Bobby Jindal, “I hate to say this, but we have a President right now who is not qualified to be our Commander-in-Chief. It gives me no joy to say that. This is not a partisan statement. This is not an ideological statement. This is a recognition of the facts. We’ve got a President who can’t seem to utter the words radical Islamic terrorism. How can he defeat the enemy if he’s not even willing to recognize the enemy that we face.”

    Mitch McConnell, on the rapidly growing economy, “You know, it’s getting better because we just got elected. People are feeling more optimistic.”

    All three of these comments reflect a common theme: Republicans have not a fricking clue.

    The Giuliani quote is an example of Republican feeling on Democrats leading the country; that Republicans do not believe that Democrats are even eligible to be in politics. The Republicans practice total-destruction politics in that they just can’t disagree and compromise, but have to destroy Democrats (think back to the Clinton Administration and the drive that led to the impeachment attempt, and all the talk about impeaching Obama).

    The Jindal quote is related, but is mainly driven by pure fantasy. He says it is not partisan, but that just means he is an accomplished liar. He sets up a strawman to support his assertion.

    Jindal and the rest of the Republican Robots like to make up a fake issue and try to beat a Democrat to death with it. His basic issue is that not saying the words “radical Islamic terror*” means that Obama is not smart enough to be CINC. Of course, Obama is taking a nuanced approach that a radical conservative would not or could not understand. If conservatives want to conflate all Muslims with the very few who are criminals, then you have to do the same with Christians (and there are any number of examples, worldwide).

    McConnell, after trying and failing to make Obama a one-term President, fought every initiative by Obama to fix the REPUBLICAN trashed economy. I think that Republicans who took this tact are as bad as common criminals. For a (failed!) try at political gain, they suppressed economic growth. The Republicans took money out of the hands of ordinary people just surely as a burglar does, but on a much larger scale. They are criminal. And that does not even address all the other anti-American things done in legislatures all across the country that include state-sponsored rape by instrumentation of women, vote suppression, et cetera ad nauseum.

    I am mystified at why Democrats don’t fight back. They certainly have enough ammunition.

    Backpacking Grand Canyon, 02 – 06 February 2015

    13 February 2015

    A group of seven friends had a great backpacking trip to Grand Canyon last week. The weather was perfect!

    I took a bunch of photos again. Those are on my Google+ site here.

    Hike summary: 5 days, 46.6 trail miles, and huge altitude loss and gain. Sore calves and knees. Staggering and sublime views everywhere!

    This is our second trip to Grand Canyon National Park. My blog post for the first one is here.

    Getting There

    I left Oklahoma City Saturday morning and arrived late morning in Phoenix. Car and baggage were no problem, and I spent my day first with a wonderful brunch with longtime friend Keith and his husband Ben. We followed an excellent meal and talk up with coffee at a nearby Starbucks. We split for a bit for errand running (and me driving all around Phoenix), before meeting back at their house for brownies, ice cream, more talk, and playing with their kitties. A wonderful way to spend a day!

    Sunday, the rest of the team was arriving around 0930. They actually arrived around 1300. Fog in the area of PHX caused a ground stop for the flights arriving from DEN and SAN. Dammit. Once everyone arrived, we had a quick lunch (El Pollo Loco, yum), and we booked out of town to avoid any traffic due to the Super Bowl that was being played a couple miles to the west.

    We stopped in Flagstaff for the guys to get food and last-minute supplies, and then drove to the Canyon, checking into the Maswik Lodge, having dinner in the Bright Angel Lodge dining room, before returning to the Maswik to get our packs stuffed and a last night in a real bed.

    Day 1 (Monday, 02 Feb)

    So… this was our short day. Yow.

    We got up, checked out of Maswik, had breakfast at Bright Angel Lodge, and drove our cars to the Backcountry Info Center (BIC). Caught the Park shuttle to the Visitor Center, then took another shuttle to the Kaibab trailhead near Yaki Point. We weighed our packs before checking out, mine came in at 38 lbs, about nine less than last year (yea!).

    At the BIC I had an electronics fault. The evening before, I had tested my Garmin GPS in the Maswik, and it worked fine. At the BIC, I fired the thing up, and it would beep and shut right off. This happened about 10 times in a row. It had new batteries. I was annoyed by this no end. I didn’t want to carry a nonfunctional GPS, so I left it in the car (another 5oz down). So the end result is I don’t have any GPS track data for the trip. The most annoying thing: when we got back, I picked the darn thing up and it fired right up. Well, crap.

    Regardless, we got the Kaibab trailhead, those that needed filled up water bottles, everyone hit the head one last time, we shouldered our packs, and headed down. We hit the trail right at 1030.

    This day was down, down, down, down, down hill. There were some level-ish places along the trail, but I do not recall any up. Much of the trail is big stairsteps. It is jarring after a while. There are a couple places to stop on the way down, and at least two toilets (one at the first tip-off point, and the other on the Tonto Plateau). There is an emergency phone at the Tonto location. There are also a couple places that have staggering views down and over the river. But the dominate memory of this day is the relentless down.

    That day was the hardest day of hiking I have had. At the end of it, I had a very sore spot behind my left knee, in a place I’ve not been sore before. It reduced me to a very slow pace for the last hour or so of the hike. The trail is so steep it is hard to believe.

    I had two full water bottles at the top of the trail, and had the last of my water at the Bright Angel side of the bridge.

    The Kaibab ends up at the eastern suspension bridge over the Colorado. Once across the bridge, you are about a third of a mile from camp. We got into camp right around 1730. We stayed at the Bright Angel Camp for backpackers, in one of the two group camps at the south end. The campsite had a nice shelter that was built into the rock face. Two of the guys rolled out their pads and bags right under the shelter. The rest of us put up tents. My tent is not freestanding, and this made me wish it was. The ground was uniformly dirt, but there were a plethora of rocks about two inches under. I found a nice fist-sized rounded rock and took several attempts per tent stake to get them in. Several of them only went in about halfway; for each of those I took a largish rock and used it to hold the stake down.

    We all got dinner going. I had Backpackers Pantry Santa Fe Chicken and Rice, and it was pretty good. I could not finish it, and only finished about half of it.

    After dinner, I changed into my cool weather clothes, and took a couple Advil. My knee was really bothering me. Fortunately, after a good night sleep, the knee had no pain. I had been worried about it enough that I was going over abort-and-walk-out scenarios. So I didn’t have to carry one of those out. The rest of the guys headed up to the Phantom Ranch canteen for a couple brews. I stretched out in my tent to work a Suduko, and passed out around 1945.

    Bright Angel Camp is very nice. The group site we were in had a shelter, and the bathrooms have actual flushing toilets. Very plush.

    For the first day, we had 7.1 miles of hiking, brutally down, a total of 4,780 ft of loss.

    Day 2

    We got up at 0830 (really!), and were packed up and out of camp by 1030.

    It’s about a half mile from Bright Angel camp to the junction with the Clear Creek trail. Right off the bat, you climb at a good pace. The trail is a bit on the rocky side. It climbs to an overlook for Phantom Ranch. There is a pretty cool bench made of stone there. Right past the bench a short trail goes to a small area with a great view of the Colorado River. After that, you spend a lot of time contouring and climbing and contouring and climbing to get up to the Tonto Plateau, but this time on the north side of the Colorado.

    Once up at the bench and overlook, and for maybe another half mile or so, you actually have cell service. Not much, but I was able to call Raegan and tell her we were OK.

    There is no shade up there, except a couple places along the trail where the wash is deep enough to provide some shade, and one great big boulder that provides enough shade (see the photos, it’s enormous).

    There was one place on the trail to get water, it was just past our lunch place outbound. There were a couple tepid pools below the trail, and one nice looking pool, albeit small, very close to the trail. When we came back Thursday, the same area had a slight, very slight, trickle that had formed another small pool. If that’s what you get in February, I’m thinking there isn’t any most of the time.

    Shade is another thing, as noted above, there’s basically none.

    The views were another thing altogether. Constant, and staggering, and head turning, and majestic, and all around. The view of the south side changed as we walked along, and of course the north side has those magnificent walls with the grand names like Zoroaster.

    The last part of the trail down into camp was tough (but not as bad as coming down Kaibab). A lot of the trail is a sort-of worn area in red dirt, and it slopes down, so if you slip you get to roll 400 ft into camp. The parts that were not like that were rocky and steep.

    We got into camp around 1730, with pretty much empty water bottles, and being on the trail eight hours. Camp is small and set in among some cottonwoods. There are a couple areas to camp in, and I think I like the southern one best. Clear Creek was burbling along happily with a good flow.

    There is a dehydrating toilet north of the camps. I thought it was a little odd that the toilet was upstream of the camps, but on the other hand it was quite a ways back from the creek, but on the other other hand it was surrounded by washes. Hmmm….

    Dinner was very pleasant. We talked a bit after dinner, watching the amazing dark sky and tons of stars until the Moon rose and the extra light wiped a bunch, and then crashed.

    This (and Thursday, clearly) were our long days. We had 10.8 miles of trail. We had a 1,680 ft gain from Bright Angel Camp to the Tonto Plateau, and we lost 560 ft of that down into Clear Creek camp, for a net increase of 1,120 ft. The true “up” for the day is something like 1,900 ft, as we had numerous examples of walking up a hill, then back down the other side, and back up the hill on the other side of the side canyon.

    Day 3

    This was a side hike day for us. You have three basic choices: stay in camp and chill, go down Clear Creek through a slot canyon to the Colorado, or go up canyon. We decided to head up canyon. There are some ruins up there, and the largest waterfall in the Canyon, Cheyava Falls.

    You can’t just follow Clear Creek. The creek disappears, and reappears, and there are side canyons. It’s full of brush and low limbs and occasional scrambles up what would be waterfalls if there was water. There are three streams of reliable water: from the Clear Creek camps to about a half mile upstream, then about five miles upstream, and then below Cheyava Falls.

    The Falls were not running when we were there. Rangers told us there had been fairly little snow on the North Rim, so there was little to flow down Cheyava.

    There are some super pretty sights up those canyons. They collapse down to slot canyons in a couple places (the NPS warns that there is a flash flood risk if there is a storm up-canyon, so obviously you need to watch the weather). There is a huge variety of rock types, shapes, and sizes in the canyon.

    One thing to watch: there are an amazing number of cacti of various types in the canyon. Some of them are clustered close together. Now, there are cacti on the Tonto as well, but not nearly as close together as they are in the Clear Creek drainage. I counted 32 (yes, thirty-two) punctures and scratches on my legs. Dave caught one in the shin that we thing punctured a vein just a bit, as he had a huge amount of blood on his leg and boot. Very impressive.

    After dinner, we stayed up all the way to 2040 ( :) ) to watch a short pass of the ISS, and then crashed.

    This day was 8 miles round trip, and a 1,378 ft climb, then return to camp with the same altitude loss.

    Day 4

    Not much to say about today, except the views were just as massive and sublime coming from the opposite angle.

    As I mentioned above, there was one more trickle of water at one point. I wouldn’t count on it being there now.

    We got up and left camp around 0830. It took us 35 minutes to walk from camp up the first big climb and level out some. After that, we motored right along. This walk took us about 7.6 hours coming back instead of the 8 hours going out. We went faster, and took shorter breaks.

    We got back into camp in time to stop at the Phantom Ranch Canteen for a beer.

    We had dinner in camp, watched an excellent pass of the ISS starting about 1830, and then hung in camp and talked. While we were there, a ring-tailed cat raided the camp! It was hanging out in the roof area of the shelter next to the rock wall the shelter was built into. S/he was not terribly afraid of us, and we took some pictures while getting peered back at.

    Around 1955, we headed back to the canteen for some beer, iced tea, and talk. We stayed about an hour, headed back to camp, and crashed. Four of the guys didn’t bother with a tent, and crashed on the floor of the shelter.

    Another 10.8 miles, and a net loss, but the uphill out of camp and the back sides of the hills we walked down made for some decent altitude for the day.

    Day 5

    We got up at 0530 for what we figured would be a long day. Turned out, not so much!

    During breakfast and packing up, I noticed my SPOT was missing. We searched all around the camp, and saw the remains of some plastic Ziplocs around, especially in the roof above the shelter. I figure that the darn ringtail was rooting around, and took the Ziploc with the SPOT in it. Damn cat. Rather, damn raccoon family member. I figure the SPOT is in the roof somewhere, or around the camp area. Hard lesson to learn, but put the $150 SPOT in the bear canister with the rest of the food and trash. I let the Rangers know after returning home; who knows, it might turn up.

    We got out of camp around 0730 and went directly to the west bridge over the Colorado. James spotted a bighorn sheep above us, which was cool.

    On the way, I stopped where I lost my Nalgene last year and looked for it, even venturing down the cliff face a bit. No luck.

    Shortly after this we hit the Devil’s Corkscrew. It’s a tough walk with a big pack, even on the last day, but we all made it in good time with minimal stops. We showed up at Indian Garden around 0930 and took a water and snack break. It was 42F there, and since we were sweating and then stopped, it was darn cold! We didn’t stay long, it was better to be walking and warm.

    So started the Big Slog. Walking out of Indian Garden, you are walking up. After a mile or so, the trail tilts upward and you begin four miles of trail going up several thousand feet. The view gets better as you go, but that’s about it. It’s just keep the feet going one after another. Around 1430, I came over the South Rim to complete the trip.

    The last day is 9.9 miles, and 4,380 ft of altitude gain. I think the only level is walking from Bright Angel Camp and crossing the bridge, and the only down is a couple short segments along the river, but every bit of the rest is unrelenting up. Still, we all did it without any pain. Rest along the trail every once in a while, and keep a good attitude, and you make it.

    We went immediately to Bright Angel Lodge for late lunch and beer and iced tea. From there, it was a walk to Maswik, getting checked in, getting the cars parked at the BIC, showers, and all that.

    We drove out to Hermit’s Rest right before sunset to watch the sun set. Then it was back to Bright Angel Lodge for dinner, and a long sleep.

    Heading Home

    Saturday was pretty straightforward. Up and pack, check out, breakfast, and a visit to the Visitors Center and Mather Point for a last look into the Canyon. It’s a long drive back to Phoenix, but we left the Park around 1030 and got to the rental car return by 1400, and on our flights on time.

    Things That Didn’t Work

    Losing my SPOT is in this category for sure. Lesson learned is put the thing into the bear canister.

    I had a tent pole break Thursday morning. I was sitting by the tent, no stress or strain on it (I had pulled the fly off sometime earlier, and the pole broke next to an insertion point, pop! The same thing happened to the front pole earlier. So, that pole will go off to Tent Pole Technologies for replacement. I had the backup sleeve, and took the pole apart by having two of the guys hold it apart by the shock cord, then cutting the shock cord, threading the backup sleeve through the shock cord, and tying the shock cord back together. I used a couple pieces of duct tape to hold the backup sleeve over the break area.

    I had something new on this trip, pain in back of my left knee, mainly toward the extreme down of the end of Day 1. A good rest and a pair of Advil, and no more issues. The same muscle I hurt at Rocky Mountain NP last July re-pulled on this trip; it made it difficult to bend at the waist, which made a couple areas on the day hike a bit problematic. Dave is a professional purveyor of PT, and he identified the muscle, and some exercises to heal it. I’ve been doing those.

    Maps

    Since my GPS got all weird on me right before we hit the trail, I have put these together using some of the tracks from our trip last year, and manually drawing the rest of the tracks in my Garmin Mapsource tool. The waypoints are from my SPOT reports, except the last day.

    First, an overview. Our Day 1 hike on South Kaibab is in purple, Days 2 and 5 on the Clear Creek Trail in green, Day 4 to Cheyava Falls in blue, and our last day on Bright Angel Trail in red.

    The entire trek in one JPEG.

    The entire trek in one JPEG.

    Next, a series of zooms on each segment, Days 1, 2, 4, and 5.

    Days 1 and 5

    Days 2 and 4

    Day 3 Day Hike

    Things That Worked

    I was happy with my clothing choices here. I would typically wake up in my base layer, and immediately put my long sleeve mock turtleneck and Scout pants on over them, with a hoodie over the mock if I still felt the need. Then, either right before leaving, or shortly after hitting the trail, I would strip down to get the base layer and stuff off, and put on a t-shirt. That would be my hiking shirt. Immediately after hitting camp, the (usually damp) t-shirt would come off and the dry base layer go on. I would continue layering as it cooled. The t-shirt was always dry be morning.

    I am going to investigate newer fabrics. Most of the crew had these, and they dried amazingly quickly, and I think the stuff was lighter and compacted better.

    I went 100% Isopro/pro stove and fuel for this trip. Worked great, flawless, and heated water darn fast. I carried an 8 oz fuel canister, and ended up with about 3/4 of the fuel left. So, I could have carried a four oz canister and saved the extra weight.

    Pack Weight

    WOW! After my pack weight investigation last year, my loaded pack weight was NINE pounds less than last year! So I went from 47 lbs to 38 lbs. I also am about seven pounds less body weight. Was the pack light? Heck no. But it was also very manageable.

    I am going to look into a new tent. At REI, I saw two tents that are two-person models (as mine), and one was in sort of the same form factor as mine. But, they were in the 2.5 lb range, which is about half my the weight of my tent.

    Food

    Couple things here. For dinner, I’ve always carried one backpackers meal per day. Those things are marked as two servings (read, two people), but I’ve always been able to put a full package away. I didn’t have nearly the appetite on this trip, and on the first day, only managed half the meal. So for the remaining dinners, I emptied the package into a Ziploc, then put half back into the the cooking pouch and used half the water. Worked out well, and I didn’t have to carry a number of half finished but rehydrated dinners.

    My usual breakfast is a package of Pop Tarts and a package or do of applesauce. It was even so on this trip.

    But I did something a little different for lunch. I took one tuna salad kit, ate that on day one, and went with Pop Tarts and applesauce for lunch.

    I’m thoroughly sick of Pop Tarts at the moment. I had nine packages of them on this trip. It’ll be a while before I have any more. They kept me from getting hungry, but just got a bit monotonous. Maybe half Pop Tarts and half tuna next time? I need to think that over.

    Summary

    So this trip is in the books. I almost wish we had done a side hike (maybe Thursday afternoon up North Kaibab) to get in a 50 miler, as we needed 3.5 more miles.

    Everything pretty much worked on this trip! The company was fantastic, and the views were the reason I go to National Parks.

    Take 2, Bright Angel Lodge, Grand Canyon Village, AZ

    11 February 2015

    This is a followup to my first post about the restaurant at the Lodge.

    We had five meals at the Lodge on the backpacking trip this past week. This is just a quick summary post.

    We had dinner Sunday night after arriving in the Park. We had fried mushrooms and zucchini to start; it was all excellent, especially the chipotle ranch dressing. My main course was spaghetti. The meat sauce was very good, but I think there were about two tablespoons on the pasta. I asked for more, and got a largish soup cup of the stuff, much better. That was a very good meal at that point.

    We had breakfast there Monday morning. I got eggs over easy (that turned out over hard) and biscuits and sausage gravy. It was turkey sausage, so the gravy had an odd but not unpleasant flavor. Oh, and a side of most excellent bacon. Frankly, the eggs and odd gravy didn’t bother me, as I wanted to hit the trail! But I was carbed and proteined up for the adventure. However, I think the meal could have been much better.

    We had late lunch there after getting off the trail Friday. I had a third pound cheeseburger and fries. And iced tea. LOTS of iced tea. Good beef, cooked medium well. Nothing left. I think I was tired of trail food.

    We had dinner there later that evening. I had the 8 oz steak, it was perfectly cooked. I also had a baked tater. I asked for cheese, butter, and bacon. I got a huge soup cup of shredded cheese, some pats of real butter, and… three strips of (excellent) bacon. It took a while to get the tater ready, as I had to chop the bacon. The steak was perfect, though.

    The last meal we had was breakfast on Saturday morning. I got the chili verde and shredded pork hash. I don’t know that I’ve had hash. I think I thought it would all be mixed up and grilled/tossed together. But the pulled pork was on one side, the eggs (hard over, again) in the middle, hash browns on the other side, a couple small bits of green chilis on the eggs. I mixed it up myself, but there was little to no flavor blending. Hmmmm.

    Service, I have to say, was always very good.

    It was a mixed bag. I don’t think the breakfast crew was on their A game, but the dinners were very good.

    When we go back, I think I will try some other places, like the food court at the Maswik.

    Matt’s Big Breakfast, PHX

    11 February 2015

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    This place was right down the terminal from my gate Saturday. I’d eat here any time.

    I got through security and scored high tables for the seven of us. It took a while for the rest of the guys to get there, but the host and server were super friendly and not impatient.

    The rest of the guys got beer of one kind or another and apparently liked them. I started off with a bowl of chili. It was pretty good, about half and half beans and beef, with decent flavor and no heat at all. I’ve had better chili, and I’ve had far worse.

    The highlight was a “scattered and smothered”, ground chuck grilled and served with mashers and gravy and grilled onions. WONDERFUL! That was an excellent piece of ground beef, with huge flavor and great texture. I ate every scrap of it. It came with a goodly amount of steamed young asparagus, tender without being mushy, and very tasty.

    Service was so very friendly. My check was around $20. This place is recommended.

    Richardson’s, Phoenix, AZ

    11 February 2015

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    This place was GREAT! My friends Keith and Ben in Phoenix recommended Richardson’s, and we met there for brunch a week ago Saturday.

    We all got the same thing: Huevos Rancheros, I think all three over easy. We also split an order of carne adovada. Just excellent. So good. The chili verde was a perfect spice level to complement the eggs and potatoes. The adovada was frankly the best I have had. The pork was perfectly tender and fell apart at the slightest prod, and again the heat of the roja was spot on.

    This was one of the best New Mexican meals I have had, if not the best.

    The iced tea was good, and service was fast and extremely friendly. One other thing: the restaurant smelled wonderful all the time we were there. That’s not something that’s common, but the cooking odors and the wood smoke drifted through the dining area, and it was a great olfactory sensation. Our check was around $50, great value.

    The company was priceless.

    Some Cool Things From the Air, PHX-DFW, 07 Feb 2015

    8 February 2015

    I haven’t done a Cool Things From the Air in a while, but I got a chance to see some yesterday returning from Phoenix to Dallas, on the way home from backpacking Grand Canyon.

    As we left PHX, I was trying to take a picture of the area where my friends Keith and Ben live. I was shooting to the SE of their house location, but I saw a number of what look like quarries on the southwestern part of Phoenix.

    Quarry SW of Phoenix

    As we flew on, I noticed one area below that had snow, the rest of the terrain was typical desert, dry and brown.

    Mt. Baldy, AZ

    The snaky ridge is Mt. Baldy (11,400 ft), about 150 miles east of Phoenix. Just a little farther on…

    Basin Lake and Crescent Lake

    DSC05055

    This is a high meadow or basin a couple miles east of Mt. Baldy. The first shot is Basin Lake and Crescent Lake. While the basin is full of snow, I was really surprised that the higher points were snow free. The basin is around 9000ft, and the points are about 9300ft. Odd. There is a rails-to-trails conversion on the west side of the basin, the Apache Railroad Multi-Use Trail. Something to do when in eastern Arizona!

    For some reason, the flight had turned significantly north after taking off. How far north was shown when we flew north of the VLA!

    VLA, NM

    Super cool!

    The last interesting item was the snow cover that again stood out above the desert, the Sacramento Mountains above Alamagordo, NM. This is where Cloudcroft and Ski Apache are located. The elevations are again around 9,000 ft.

    Sacramento Mountains, NM

    That’s it!

    Brian Williams Gets Abused By Conservatives

    8 February 2015

    I was pretty much out of news range this past week due to backpacking.

    I don’t know what Brian Williams reported about his experiences in Iraq. But Facebook has erupted with memes (mainly from conservatives) making fun of him.

    What I find ironic is that conservatives don’t care that their party and the Bush Administration, egged on by Fox, lied some much to get us into Iraq in the first place. Those lies cost trillions of dollars, and thousands of American soldiers dead, and hundreds of thousands wounded, and millions of lives disrupted, all of which are still impacting us now. And there is zero outcry over that. Never has been, never well be. Their channel, Fox “News”, is the worst offender. No memes from the right about that…

    The “outrage” is just ridiculous.

    Boehner Invitation to Netanyahu

    30 January 2015

    House Speaker John Boehner invited Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to come to the United States and give a speech before Congress. He did this on his own, without coordinating the action with the Executive Branch.

    On the face of it, it is not remarkable. But the way it was done shows the fundamental issue that lies between Republicans and Democrats. It’s not really economic policy or anything like that. It’s much more simple. Republicans want power, all power. They also believe that Democrats (or anyone else) have no legitimate place in the political system.

    There are numerous examples of this, going back to the Clinton Administration. Clinton won fair and square, and remember that it was a basic choice between economic policy on the Democrat side, and a campaign run on American symbology on the Republican side. Once Clinton won, Republicans began a series of efforts to manufacture or find scandal. It went on for most of the eight years of the Clinton Administration, and culminated in the impeachment attempt (which was so over-wrought as to be ridiculous).

    It was even so when Obama was elected. Republicans went on a mission to find or manufacture scandal. Slightly worse than during the Clinton years, they pledged no compromise or cooperation at all. They did this while putting the country at risk. Supposedly America-loving, country-first Republicans actively impeded economic growth. They cheered at things that didn’t go Americas way (remember the cheers at the so-call Club for Growth when Chicago was not chosen for the Olympics?).

    The action by Boehner is just another example. He shows contempt for a legitimately elected (twice) President by acting like he is a head of state. After Republicans took the House back in 1994, Gingrich did something very similar when he demanded prime-time air time for him to give a speech to the nation, as if he was the head of state.

    Most of the actions of Republicans are in line with these examples, but at a personal level. Take away or restrict Social Security. Restrict or eliminate minimum wage, education, and voting rights.

    Republicans are contemptuous of Democrats. In reality, they are contemptuous of the principles of democracy. They need to go, and the sooner the better.

    Hungry Frog, Oklahoma City, OK

    30 January 2015

    Hungry Frog on Urbanspoon

    I had the opportunity to have breakfast at the Hungry Frog this morning. It was very good.

    I had the standard breakfast: scrambled eggs with ham, hash browns, biscuit and gravy. I also had a side of bacon.

    All of this was perfect. The biscuit in particular stands out, large and just the right texture. I had half of it with strawberry jam, the other half with gravy. I also put gravy on those hash browns, making them just a little more perfect. The bacon… yum.

    Service was fast and friendly, and the iced tea was good. My check was $11.75. I will be back.

    Super Bowl Ads

    30 January 2015

    Just for the record, I don’t give a damn about Super Bowl ads.

    If you are a marketeer, one of the companies, associated with the game, or anything like that, well, sorry.

    “News” programs that clearly don’t have news to cover blather on about these ads, all the while talking with awe about the cost per second or whatever. It’s not news, folks.

    Super Bowl ads will lose what little relevancy they might have about 24 hours after the game is over.

    The people making, broadcasting, and talking about these ads are mainly overly rich people trying to get people with less money to give up that money. That’s it.

    Taste of Soul Chicken and Waffles, Oklahoma City, OK, Food Truck

    21 January 2015

    Taste of Soul Chicken and Waffles on Urbanspoon

    This food truck showed up outside my company today, so I checked it out. Nothing fancy, just a couple chicken tenders wrapped in a waffle, but very good.

    The tenders were deep fried and had a slight flavor I could could not identify (but liked). The waffle was perfectly cooked and golden brown. The whole thing was wrapped up in foil and had a drizzle of honey.

    I had some iced tea left over from Hideaway pizza with lunch. Service was fast (less than two minutes) and very friendly. My check was $6.16 (I think, might be off a couple pennies). Just the right amount of food for lunch. Good stuff.

    The Hobbit Movie, Part 3

    12 January 2015

    If such things bother you, there are spoilers here!

    We went to see the final Hobbit movie last evening. I was unimpressed with the second part, and less than impressed with the first part.

    As a movie, it was OK. As canon for The Lord of the Rings, I just didn’t like it.

    As a note, as I write this, HBO is playing the first installment right now. I am not watching it, due to indifference. If one of the LOTR movies was playing, I would likely be watching it, as those movies were well made and keep my interest.

    There were a couple things I liked. The battle between Saruman, Elrond, and Galadriel was pretty cool, even though it’s not canon. Or at least, it’s very liberally interpreted canon. Of course, the reason for the battle was to rescue Gandalf, which was bogus and not canon. And with another appearance by the Bunny Sleigh. *sigh*

    I liked the ending as Bilbo returned home, and the Elven Kings caribou/elk/moose.

    I did not like the sandworms of Arrikis coming to Middle Earth.

    Major Plot Question: Why didn’t the orcs use the sandworms to come up inside the Mountain, send about 10,000 orcs to kill the dwarves, and loot all the treasure, without the need for a big battle?

    The orcs were all wrong. The subplot with the Elf Babes (both male and female) added nothing to the movie except some cool CGI.

    Dain and the BattlePig; really?. The Elven King saying “frack it” in the middle of the battle was not cool. In fact, the Elven King banishing the female Elf Babe was not cool either. I wish there had been some closure to that; did she get to come home? And why exactly did Legolas leave? Did the dwarves help the people of Lake Town and Dale get rebuilt?

    It all comes down to the fact that there should have been two movies, not three, and that some of the plot and backstory that is canon, and so enriched the books (both TH and LOTR), should have replaced the bogus battle scenes and other filler. This movie was watchable, but it didn’t hold my interest hardly.

    I will likely never look at any of these three again. I’m sticking with the book.

    Old South Restaurant, Russellville, AR

    10 January 2015

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    Wednesday evening we were exploring the area of Russellville, and needed dinner. Old South was a good choice.

    Raegan, her Mom, and I all got fried chicken. It was great stuff. Each meal was four large pieces of chicken, perfected fried up, and filling a platter. The chicken came with mashers and decent gravy. That was a heck of a lot of chicken. It was, however, just juicy enough, not dry anywhere, and while there was a bit more breading than I usually like, I ate all four pieces.

    Our relatives also got hamburger steaks and liked them.

    The iced tea was great and kept refilled, and service was right on and very friendly; the only issue we had was getting a couple sides of okra mid-meal. The check for all six of us was $59.78, which I think is great value for six people. I’d be happy to go back.

    Ted’s, Del City, OK

    6 January 2015

    Ted's Cafe Escondido on Urbanspoon spped

    This place opened back during the summer. It’s Ted’s, what could go wrong?

    I’ve had several meals here, including one with a largish group. In each case, I had the pork chili verde, and it was very good at least. You have that great salsa and queso to start.

    It’s always been busy. Service was excellent in spite of that. The iced tea is great. My check for my last meal there was $17.80. You can find better Mexican in OKC, but you can’t go wrong for the Tex-Mex and speed of service.

    The Pantry Restaurant, Santa Fe, NM

    6 January 2015

    Pantry Restaurant on Urbanspoon

    This was a wonderful find, thanks to Urbanspoon!

    We needed dinner Saturday evening as we drove through Santa Fe on the way to OKC. This place was perfect.

    I started out with a cup of green chili stew – pork chili verde with cubed potatoes and other stuff. Not spicy, just an excellent tang, and wonderful flavor.

    Raegan and Erin got excellent chicken enchiladas. Ian got excellent beef enchiladas. I know they were excellent because I had a couple bites of each. I had carne adovada, perfect flavor and spice level. All of this was perfectly edible, wonderful stuff!

    We finished the meal off with a couple pieces of tres leches cake that was sweet goodness.

    The iced tea was excellent, and service was perfect. Our check was $64.32.

    Altogether a superior eating experience. As much as I like to try new places to eat, I may have just locked into The Pantry when I’m in Santa Fe.

    La Catrina, Oklahoma City, OK

    6 January 2015

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    I had dinner at La Catrina this evening, as it was near my Scout meeting location. It was OK.

    I had hoped to find a guiso here, and there isn’t one on the menu. I asked my server, and she said the nearest thing was gorditos verde. She also asked if spicy hot was OK, I said yes.

    The gorditos verde turned out to be three sopapillas, each about 3″ square, with some pork, cheese, lettuce, chili verde, and more bright red tomato dices than you could shake a stick at. The meal had a hint of flavor, and the pork was tender. The spice level of the meal was not hot in the slightest (yes, YMMV). There was a dollop of sour cream on the side, but it wasn’t needed.

    The meal came with some decent queso and a very tomato-based salsa (no heat). The iced tea was pretty good. I was pretty much ignored except for seating, ordering, being served, and getting my check. I was the only customer for most of the time. My check for this was $12.99.

    The food was OK. I will not be rushing back.

    Peak Deli, Pagosa Springs, CO

    1 January 2015

    Peak Deli on Urbanspoon

    We had lunch here today after we arrived at Pagosa Springs.

    I had the “Wolf Creek”, ham, turkey, and bacon on wheat. They toasted it for me, and it was a perfect sandwich. Erin and Ian had roast beef sandwiches (his toasted, hers not), and Raegan had turkey, bacon, and avocado sandwich. They all enjoyed the sandwiches. Erin and I also had their chicken verde soup. First, it was hotter than heck. I thought the spice level was right on, but Erin and Reagan though it was a bit much. We had some chips and cookies. Drinks are all bottled from cooler.

    Service was fast and friendly. Our check was $57.00. Might seem a bit high, but we got all the extra stuff, and after all, it’s a ski town. I would eat there again.

    The Old Firehouse, South Fork, CO

    1 January 2015

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    We had settled into our nice cabin in South Fork this evening, and needed dinner. Our host recommended The Old Firehouse, and it was a good call.

    Ian and Erin both got cheeseburgers with different dressings. They were asked how they liked their burgers cooked, which was nice. I had a taste of Erin’s burger; it was excellent, with great texture and flavor. Both of them reported the burgers were great, and ate all of them. Raegan and I both had the roast quarter-chicken, which came with mashers, gravy, and green beans. We both enjoyed the birds, they were plump and tender and HOT. The veg was very good also.

    We finished the meal with a hot brownie covered in hot fudge and with a scoop of ice cream, wonderful.

    Service was just right and super friendly. The iced tea was pretty good, and kept filled. Our check was $62.30. Good meal.

    More Craven BS From Republicans on Torture

    14 December 2014

    Call it what it is, torture. Not “enhanced interrogation techniques”.

    Every person in the Bush Administration (and that’s where it was, folks, not Obama, BUSH) who supported or implemented the torture in the name of freedom (how’s that for an oxymoron?) ought to be identified, censured, and maybe even locked up.

    President Obama made a decision, it seems, to not pursue these anti-American criminals. I understand the reasoning (“healing”) but don’t really agree with it. I am of the opinion that the people involved should be charged (and maybe pardoned?), at the least, to make a point.

    The news programs this week, and the Sunday shows, had all sorts of Bush torture apologists spouting off. These are the same guys that shot holes all through the Constitution (including torture, surveillance, and the like) in the name of protecting us. Right.

    So many of the torture apologists take the line that Valuable Information Was Obtained. But that can’t name that information. I heard several of them say that it was classified. How convenient.

    The head of the CIA had a press conference to defend the agency. A guy with a sense of the Constitution and a pair of balls would have said, yes, people at the Agency committed torture, but it was wrong and we’ve cleaned it up.

    So many Republicans whined that release of the torture report Would Cause Lives To Be Lost. Well, guys, it’s not the report, it’s the actions the report documented, and those actions were 100% Bush Administration. So many of those people are cowards; they see terrorists under ever rock (remember the prayer rugs in Texas!!!!!). More likely, they just want to keep the weak-minded (their base) in a constant state of agitated fear.

    They are sad and pathetic, and dangerous. If Obama were the emperor/king/monarch that many of them claim, they would have already been put in jail for their anti-Administration beliefs. They ought to be in jail for their anti-American actions.

    Alfredo’s Mexican Cafe, Edmond, OK

    12 December 2014

    Alfredo's Mexican Cafe on Urbanspoon

    Raegan and I were looking for dinner last evening, sans kids, and we decided to try Alfredo’s. It was very good.

    Raegan got a pair of enchiladas, one chicken and one cheese. She could not finish the meal, so I had the remainder of the chicken enchilada, and we both agreed it was very good. I got the pork chili verde: excellent. The pork chunks were tender, and the verde was perfect, hot temperature and medium spice. I liked it a lot.

    Service was fast and friendly. Our check was $27.57. I would be glad to eat here again.

    Phill Me Up Cheesesteaks, Food Truck, Oklahoma City, OK

    5 December 2014

    Phill Me Up Cheesesteaks on Urbanspoon

    This truck came by our workplace yesterday afternoon; they make a pretty good cheesesteak.

    So I learned about one downside to food trucks. When they cook everything up right in front of you, it’s great. Except when it’s below 30F, and the wind is blowing out of the north, then it’s not quite a great. From the time I got there, to ordering, to getting my cheesesteak, it was 25 minutes. There were at least 15 people in front of me either waiting for their food, or to order. None of that is the fault of the food truck folks, of course; it’s just what it is.

    Regardless, I got a cheesesteak. It was kind of short, about six inches. The steak part was tender and juicy and quite tasty. The sammich included onions sauteed with the steak, and no-kidding Cheese Whiz over it all (I first tried ordering “wit wiz” and the guy looked at me like I was speaking Cherokee :) ). My only comment is that the onions should be chopped up much smaller (on the order of smaller than 1/4″) to get them fully cooked and integrated flavor-wise with the steak.

    The have chips and drinks as well. I got chips, but had iced tea at my desk already. My check was $8.50. Service was friendly and as fast as they could crank sandwiches out. I would not mind eating another.


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