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

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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 roughly 22 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 crappyness to deal with.

All in all, this was a wonderful trip. I think that this area is even more beautiful than Peco 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

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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

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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

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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.

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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

Richardson's Cuisine of New Mexico on Urbanspoon

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

Old South Restaurant on Urbanspoon

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

La Catrina on Urbanspoon

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

Old Firehouse on Urbanspoon

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.

Conservatives Are Happy About The Michael Brown Situation

28 November 2014

The inherently racist part of Conservatives blossomed again after the decision by the local DA to not prosecute the cop who killed the unarmed man.

There are lots of posts about how you should just do what a cop says every time without question, they are trashing the guys hired by the family to do the autopsy, and of course the mans family is criticized.

This is a reflection of the core part of conservatism that is inherently white supremacy. They crow when a single black woman is elected to the national Congress, never mind that she is one of a few blacks at the national level, and the vast majority is still white.

The saddest part of the whole situation is that blacks have been getting the active shaft in this country since we condoned slavery, and the policies by Republicans to suck wealth and opportunity from the 98% to the 2% disproportionally continue to screw blacks.

All the while, conservatives tut-tut that blacks (and women, and the poor, and Hispanics) should Just Pull Themselves Up or Get Educated or Just Work Harder. Business interests (overwhelmingly conservative) were the reason for slavery in the first place, and one look at the benefits and overall job security and stability over the past 20+ years show that opportunity is steadily being removed.

And supposedly opportunity-first Republicans not only don’t do anything to fix the situation, they actively try to make it worse. Shameful.

Bible Class In Mustang Public Schools – Rejected

26 November 2014

KOCO Channel 5 here in OKC reported today that Mustang Public Schools has dropped a plan to teach a class on the Bible.

The class was developed in some way by the founder of Hobby Lobby, and apparently they want to spread that class far and wide.

This rightly annoyed the ACLU and the Freedom From Religion Foundation; both organizations urged Mustang Schools to not accept the curriculum.

Apparently Mustang ultimately rejected the concept because the Hobby Lobby people would not agree to two terms, which were to allow the school system to review the curriculum before the class, and to indemnify the school from legal challenges.

I think that the fact that the Hobby Lobby people would not let the school review the curriculum prior to the class to be the most interesting thing here. I’m pretty sure that the scope and sequence of all classes are reviewed by a school before students see the material. I am very surprised that the Hobby Lobby people were not OK with a review; it leaves the distinct impression of something fishy.

On a media-related note, KOCO interviewed a number of supposed parents of Mustang students. Those people were universally less-than-happy about the decision. Every one of the people had some variation on “they should have the class, where else could the kids learn about the Bible?”. I guess that it’s just Too Obvious to ask these people in return what they think the kids are getting in Sunday School. Or do they not take their kids to Sunday School to learn about the Bible? Surely not!

Blimpie’s, Omaha, NE (Eppley)

21 November 2014

Blimpie on Urbanspoon

Yesterday, I got to Eppley for my 1100 flight about 0930, to discover the flight had been pushed back and back to 1450 (a maintenance issue with the flight from DFW had caused AA to switch airplanes; we eventually left at 1430). So I needed lunch. I decided to try the Blimpie’s in terminal, outside the security area.

I had a small wheat ham, bacon, turkey and cheddar, with provolone substituted for the cheddar. In a nice touch, the meat and cheese was welder together (er, heated up) in a toaster over, then put on the bread and lettuce, mayo, and ranch dressing added. I declined having the whole thing toasted.

It was very good! I liked the warmed-up guys of the sammich. I enjoyed the lunch a lot. Service was pretty fast, and very friendly. My check was $9.14, and included a bag of chips and a medium drink.

While I had never tried a Blimpie’s prior to this, it was a good experience, and I would be happy to have another.

T&J Donuts, Del City, OK

21 November 2014

T & J Donuts on Urbanspoon

Most of the reviews here are donuts or Korean food, but this will be a bit different. I was cruising to work last Thursday, and had skipped breakfast, and I was hungry. I drove past T&J and noted the “Breakfast and Lunch”, so thought I would check it out. It was great!

There are a couple breakfast items; I chose two eggs with ham, bacon, and sausage, with a jug of milk. The eggs came over easy (my favorite, I didn’t specify), and were perfect, with nice runny yolks. The ham was a 1/4″+ thick piece that was about 2×3″, so pretty substantial, and on the grill long enough to get some good caramelization, and still tender. The sausage was a largish patty that was juicy and just spicy enough. The bacon was two pieces that were cooked to crispy perfection.

For me, the breakfast we perfect. All four items were cooked like I would cook them at home, and the amount of food was right on the money, and not so much as to stuff myself. Service was fast and friendly. My check was something like $9.50 (I can’t find the receipt). I will go back.

And I might even go for lunch and try some of the the other stuff as well.

Obama And Immigration And Conservatives, And BS

21 November 2014

So this evening the President gave a speech where he announced he is going to do some reforms via executive action. I didn’t watch the speech, and it’s being covered.

But the reactions on Facebook are telling. There have been dozens of memes that were tossed out immediately, meaning they had already been prepared, of course.

The themes are mainly about how Obama is lawless, or that he is acting as an emperor or a king. An example is the laughable Ted Cruz, who claimed on Fox that Obama was “changing the law”, and acting like a monarch. All of this coordinated response is a smokescreen for Republicans Not Doing A Damn Thing.

One from an Oklahoma Congressman quoted a 2011 speech by Obama where Obama talks about immigration reform, and then selectively pulls parts of the speech out to imply that Obama lied about use of executive authority. Such behavior should be beneath a Congressman. It’s contemptible.

Congress, in particular the Republicans, have utterly failed to do anything on immigration reform, or for that matter much of anything else. Not doing anything about immigration is just another failure to govern.

Apple Barrel, Council Bluffs, IA

20 November 2014

Apple Barrel on Urbanspoon

This place is in the Sapp Brothers Travel Center, which was remodeled a couple months ago. Not spectacular, but not bad.

My friend Ron and I hit Apple Barrel for dinner last night as it is very near the hotel we were staying at. They bread their own CFS there, and so that’s what I got. It was pretty good, about an 8 out of 10. It was a thin piece of meat and tenderized, and was fork-tender all the way. It was a touch on the over-cooked side, and had been pan-fried instead of deep-fried. It came with a decent sausage gravy and very good mashers. They have a small salad bar that comes with the meal as well; it has cottage cheese and peaches, which I really liked.

We finished off with dessert; Ron got a HUGE slice of cocoanut cream pie, and I got a HUGE slice of pumpkin, both very good.

Ron got a chicken tenders salad and liked it.

The iced tea was excellent, and service was fast and very friendly. My check was $18.48. It was fast, pleasant, and a decent amount of food. I would not at all mind going back.

Rooster’s Roadhouse, Denton, TX

17 November 2014

Rooster's Roadhouse on Urbanspoon

Coming back from our weekend trip to Dallas, we did kind of a lazy explore up past Frisco and on to 380, then to Denton. Ian found Roosters and steered us there. It was very good!

We started with some bacon and cheese fries. I’ve seen this dish with more bacon and more cheese. Regardless, it was OK.

Ian and I got chopped brisket; his was a sandwich and mine the dinner. We both had fries. That was some very good brisket; tender and fatty and tasty. Raegan got a pulled pork sandwich, it was also very good, again tender and smoky. She got okra that was very good. Finally, Erin got a bacon cheeseburger. That was some outstanding burger; the beef was wonderful, and it didn’t need the bacon. Great burger!

The iced tea was strong and kept refilled. Service was fast. The only thing about this place is that is LOUD. It was also packed at 1230 on a Sunday afternoon. Our check was $52.01, decent value.

Norma’s Cafe, Dallas, TX

16 November 2014

Norma's Cafe on Urbanspoon

This place was great! We are in Dallas for a visit to the Dallas Museum of Art, and Norma’s is just a couple miles to the SW. We got there about 1215, and it was packed. We got a table right away (the table was small, and the four of us were a tight fit).

We started with some perfect onion rings. We also got a pile of amazing dinner rolls and cornbread. We ordered a pair of CFS for Ian and I, Erin got a Frito chili pie, and a chicken fried chicken for Raegan. Here was the only issue with the meal, we got three CFS. Raegan decided to go ahead an have it for lunch. Those CFS were great, a 9.5 out of 10. They were kind of gnarled up, but very tasty and clearly breaded there. We had pintos, mac and cheese, corn, carrots, green beans, and mashers and gravy for sides. Every bit of that was eaten and was great! Erin enjoyed her chili pie.

We got slices of chocolate pie, chocolate cake, and custard pie for dessert, and they were all wonderful. The iced tea was excellent.

A note on service. It was bloody crowded in there, but I thought service was just outstanding. The drinks never ran out, everything was delivered quickly, and the two things we asked for extra (some jam for those wonderful rolls, and some extra gravy for the CFS) came in less than a minute. Our server was also super friendly and not rushed at all.

Our check was $71.30. At first I thought it was too high, but fully $20 was the appetizer and the desserts. All of the food was great. I think we got pretty good value. I’d go back any time.

Potbelly, Addison, TX

16 November 2014

Potbelly Sandwich Shop on Urbanspoon

This is the third Potbelly I’ve been to. The first, in the Chicago area several years ago, I wasn’t particularly impressed by. The location at Campbell and US75 in Richardson is pretty good. And so is this one.

I got a Farmhouse salad; it was pretty darn good. Raegan got a grilled chicken sandwich, Erin just got just a cup of broccoli cheese soup, and Ian just got a cup of chili. All of this was very good. Service was fast and friendly. Our check was $33.02. The iced tea was excellent. Not a bad sandwich place at all.

An Election-Related Ancedote

10 November 2014

I’ve been thinking about the election a week ago, and the significant Republican gains, and whether the country is moving rightward. I don’t think it is.

This Facebook post is a fair sample of much of the Republican/right-leaning commentary not just from the past week, but over the past couple years:

Open borders, executive orders bypassing Congress, Ebola imported, illegal aliens, “children” who are drug cartel gang bangers, race baiting, can’t attend the funeral of the highest ranking officer killed in the war but he’s there for others, completely ignores a US Marine imprisoned in Mexico for more than 100 days, abandons Israel. Just a few of the awful things that have taken place on his watch. Someone should have stood trial for Benghazi. We need representatives who care about America instead of their party.

The question that prompted this was “So what has Obama done that is so bad?”.

Every claim in this can be refuted with facts and reality. The last line in particular – there isn’t a Republican in Congress that can honestly be said to be working for America instead of the advancement of the Republican party. As I’ve said many times before: Conservative first, Republican second, American not even third.

It would be easy to dismiss this person as deluded, or stupid, or something similar. But to me it’s a good example of the unthinking acceptance of the successful strategy of the right, in first actively impeding the recovery of the economy that the right trashed, then a complete failure to campaign on any issues or policies except to oppose Obama. It is related to the constant drumbeat of criticism of anything Obama does, even when that criticism conflicts with previous actions or criticisms, in particular with respect to health insurance reform.

It’s a combination of fears, and it’s expertly stoked by the Republicans. I’m concerned that it might be used by Democrats, but at least I have little worry that an America in the hands of Democrats is going to be sucked dry.

Overuse Of “Breaking News” By Today Show

3 November 2014

On Saturday, Brittany Maynard, a 29 year old brain cancer victim, took her life via Oregon’s death with dignity law. She faced her life, and situation, with remarkable courage. Her death was widely reported Saturday.

This morning (Monday), we had the TV on NBC as The Today Show started. Matt Lauer did an intro that included “Breaking overnight: Brittany Maynard takes her own life”. I may have the second part slightly off, but the “Breaking overnight” part is exactly what he said.

So… the question is, did the Today person who wrote the intro just wake up this morning at 0200 and note the death of Ms. Maynard? Everyone else knew about it Saturday, so it clearly is not “breaking” news.

I suspect it is the routine overuse of superlative-type language. There are so many things that news people find “incredible”, for example. I think Today just threw the story out as breaking in a routine way to try to entice the sleepy to watch. It’s actually sort of pathetic.

One More Ebola-Related Thing

1 November 2014

On the morning news on Channels 4 (KFOR) and 5 (KOCO), I heard almost identical news items, pertaining to the patient in Tulsa taken to the OSU hospital there. The patient, it was reported yesterday morning (almost 24 hours ago), had malaria.

The stories this morning, in outline form:

  • A patient that had been in West Africa came to the hospital running a fever, and is suspected of having Ebola.
  • Several other Ebola themes are mentioned, including the Nurse Who Was Quarantined.
  • Ebola is BAD.
  • The patient was found to have malaria.
  • This is an example of extremely crappy reporting. I would argue that it’s not even news, and should not have been reported this morning at all. It also clearly is meant to keep stoking the fear that people have of Ebola.

    How about this, KOCO and KFOR? “The patient taken to the OSU hospital in Tulsa after having been in West Africa, was tested and found to have malaria. Malaria is an extremely common disease in West Africa, and is not related to Ebola.”.

    Anything other than this is fear-mongering.

    A Tale of Two Burgers

    31 October 2014

    This is another in my series of laments on the state of chain burgers.

    Wednesday, I had a short time before a meeting that was happening over lunch, and I was quite hungry. There is a Sonic two miles away. I have limited myself to popcorn chicken and dogs at Sonic, but in this case, I really wanted a cheeseburger, so I got the SuperSonic cheeseburger with tots.

    Overall, it was a huge waste. I should have had the hot dog. I really liked the tots. The burger was tasteless and had zero texture. I mean, I had bulk in my stomach, but it wasn’t a meal.

    That evening, we went to Chili’s. I got a cheeseburger there, and it was a world of difference. The beef had, amazingly enough, great beef flavor. The burger had a nice crust and good texture on the inside; the bun was tasty. It was a very good burger.

    Braum’s and Sonic, both Oklahoma-based, used to make the most kick-ass burgers. Now, they ought to just get out of the business of cheeseburgers. They Are No Good. Most other chains, Oklahoma-based or not, are not any better. Burger King used to be very good, now it’s Burger Serf. Jack In The Box? Bury it in a box.

    To the people who run these places: crack open the green eyeshades just a bit and let a few more pennies out, get some decent beef, and get it cooked right. Don’t kid yourself you are making a good food product just because you are making it cheap. Because that’s what it is, cheap. Not inexpensive, cheap.

    Way Too Ebola-Paranoid, Again

    31 October 2014

    There is a lot of stupid paranoia going on right now about Ebola. A nurse that returned from working with Ebola patients in West Africa was tossed into an improvised gulag in New Jersey, while the bully and idiot Governor of the state foamed at the mouth and ranted about how He Would Take Every Legal Step to keep the nurse locked up for three weeks. To her credit, she retained council and was on the path to a lawsuit she would have won.

    In her home state of Maine, the idiot Governor there issued threats of prosecution, and has a cop following the nurse around. In a classic case of true doublespeak, Mr. No-Brain Governor says that the trooper is to protect her. Right.

    Various news outlets posted tweets and other social media from people who apparently have no concept of science trashing the nurse, along the lines of “she only thinks of herself and not US”. Whiners. The media does not help by focusing on and giving a platform to people whining for NO REASON. It’s not a controversy, it’s just keeping people who are easily led scared.

    On Facebook, I’ve seen posts from (mainly conservatives) who denigrate her for going about her business when She Might Have Ebola.

    It was reported on the Rachel Maddow show that some people in Maine have been calling to cancel medical appointments due to fear of being in the same state as the nurse.

    C’mon people. Grow a pair. Every competent medical advice as to whether the nurse is contagious in any way is negative. The Governors want to lock her up out of an abundance of caution, science be damned.

    This isn’t far off from the people locked up in Guantanamo Bay.

    31 October 2014, 1525 CDST Update:

    I just read that a judge in Maine has rejected the states attempt to quarantine the nurse in question, saying that statements by the Maine version of the CDC completely undermine the reason the Governor was trying to imprison her. I also found out just now that the Governor of the state is a Republican. Somehow, that figures. That nurse is as much of a patriot as any of the founders of this country.

    Mid-Del Taco, Del City, OK

    29 October 2014

    Mid Del Taco on Urbanspoon

    I had lunch here back on 11 September. It was very crowded, and I shared a table with another man and had a great conversation.

    This place was good! It took a bit to figure out the menu, there is a mix of a few dinners with ala cart stuff. I got a beef and bean burrito, a side of refried beans, and a drink. The burrito was great! Hot and steaming, with a perfect amount of beef seasoning. I made a mess with the burrito and beans, and enjoyed it.

    Service was fast and very friendly. Lunch was only $6.31! Great value. I will be back.

    ETs BBQ, Edmond, OK

    29 October 2014

    ET's Bar B Q on Urbanspoon

    Back on 26 September, I was up at the Oklahoma Wildlife Expo with the St. John’s crew. I left right around noon. I remembered two very positive referrals to ETs, and since I was just east of the place on I-35, over I went. It’s actually in Logan County, I think, but still has an Edmond address.

    I ordered a two-meat combo of smoked chicken and ribs. Except, they were out of chicken. I went with chopped brisket and ribs. That was some darn fine BBQ. The ribs had great smoke flavor, were tender, and had the smoke ring and bark that I like. Very tasty and tender. The brisket was tender and not as smoky, but tasted great. I got fries and green beans. Both, excellent; in fact, perfect.

    The iced tea was great, and service was pretty good (one server, lots of customers). The iced tea came in a quart Mason jar (I like that a lot). My check was $14.85. I would gladly go back; I want to try the smoked chicken.

    Lalo’s Tacos, Oklahoma City, OK, Food Truck

    28 October 2014

    Lalo's I Love My Taco Chop and Grill on Urbanspoon

    Lalo’s parked outside my office 19 August. I scored a beef taco and a chicken taco, along with a drink. Both tacos were really good! Hot to start with, and just the right amount of spice, with excellent flavor. I had to be care not to let the juice run on my desk!

    It took two minutes to make my order. Service was very friendly. My check was $10. I would gladly get another pair of tacos from Lalo’s.

    Dairy Queen, Del City, OK

    28 October 2014

    Dairy Queen on Urbanspoon

    I had lunch here today in the newly-opened restaurant, in my quest to find Great Cheeseburgers. I found OK Cheeseburgers.

    First of all, if you are a manager at this place, it was cold enough to hang meat in there to age! When it’s 60F outside, how about not running the a/c on arctic maximum? I mentioned to one of the servers, and she agreed it was pretty cold.

    So… I got a 1/2 cheeseburger with bacon, mayo, and pickles. Not bad, not bad at all. The beef had flavor and texture, not huge amounts of flavor, but it was decent. I liked the fries. The iced tea was OK, and seemed to be brewed on-site (please keep that up!). The burger was far better than the offerings from Sonic, McD, and Braum’s (take note, owners of those. Please.).

    It was busy, but service was fast and friendly. My check was $8.19. I will certainly give them another try.

    Chelio’s Diner, Oklahoma City, OK

    27 October 2014

    Chelio's Diner on Urbanspoon

    I’ve driven by this place a million times over the years. I’ll say right up front, the exterior looks a little sketchy. I think the place is one of the old Sambo’s, or something similar. But the food was decent.

    I had lunch here today. I asked my server if the chicken fried steak was made there, and she said it was. I got the CFS with mashers and gravy, and pinto beans. The pintos were OK, but the potatoes and gravy were very good. The CFS wasn’t the most flavorful I’ve ever had, but it had good flavor, and it was fairly thick and 100% tender all the way through. The breading was the right consistency and flavor. The CFS had one issue in that the breading on the bottom was in the process of melting off the steak for some reason. Still tasted good.

    Service was friendly and spot on. The iced tea was great! My check was… $7.00. This for a meal that was tasty, pretty fast, and just the right amount for lunch. There are a number of other menu items I will be back to try.

    If you are looking for an immaculate restaurant experience, you will not find it here. There is exposed wiring in the ceiling, and the place hasn’t been updated in a long time. But the tables and floors were clean, the salad bar looked good, and the staff was well turned out. This is a diner, and a pretty good one.

    Saucee Sicilian, Oklahoma City, Food Truck

    27 October 2014

    Saucee Sicilian on Urbanspoon

    The Saucee Sicilian food truck was at the Girl Scout GirlFest yesterday, so I decided to give them a try.

    A word of advice: when the wind is blowing 25mph+, perhaps carrying a flat 1ft**2 plate of pizza is perhaps not the optimum thing to do. That pizza had two near-misses of flying out of my hand, and of course, odds are it would have landed upside down. When I got back to our exhibit in the trees, it was a lot less windy, but I still had two falling leaves land on lunch. :)

    So being a food truck, you shouldn’t expect to have a full menu. They had four pizzas yesterday, and I got pepperoni, or rather “The Courage” (it isn’t on the published menu). That was a darn fine pizza. Thin and crunchy crust, excellent cheese flavor, and clearly fresh pepperonis. Erin and Raegan tried some and liked it. I ate all of it. It was built and baked right there, nothing premade except perhaps the crust. It took about 10 minutes, not bad at all.

    Service was fast and friendly. My check was $7.00, not bad value.

    I would like to find them around here again and try the meatballs. They look good.

    Primo’s d’Italia, Yukon, OK

    27 October 2014

    Primo's d'Italia on Urbanspoon

    We had dinner here last evening after a very successful Girl Scout event at the nearby Kirkpatrick Family Farm.

    Erin got the chicken parm and ate every bit of it (so it was darn good). Raegan got the chicken picatta and enjoyed it; I had a bite and it was pretty good. Our friend Christi had seafood al fredo and reported it as very good. I had chicken fettuccine al fredo; it was pretty much perfect. The bread that came with the meal was really good, small loaves that was just a bit on the rough side, great stuff, especially when dipped in the included balsamic and olive oil.

    Service was fast and friendly, and the iced tea was great (especially after having been out in the sun and wind for six hours). Our check was $58.64, very reasonable for the four of us. The quality of the food was worth it.

    Casey’s Cajun Fried Catfish, Midwest City, OK

    24 October 2014

    Casey's Cajun Fried Catfish & Seafood on Urbanspoon

    I’m not a big fan of cajun food. The spices are just not to my taste, and I don’t eat a lot of seafood. So when the office crew decided to eat lunch at this place, I asked if they had other food, and went.

    I got the fried catfish and chicken fingers dinner. It wasn’t bad at all. There was zero spice of any kind in either the catfish or the chicken. Both were lightly breaded, and fried nice and crispy and juicy. The catfish was in nice flakes and had no “fishy” flavor at all. I liked both the catfish and chicken. I got fries and pintos. The fries were very good, and the pintos excellent. The meal came with a couple hush puppies that had a little pepper stuff in them, but not too much.

    Service was very friendly. The iced tea was strong and slightly coffee flavored. My check was $10.80. I wouldn’t object to going back another time.

    Choice Cafe, Oklahoma City, OK

    21 October 2014

    Choice Cafe on Urbanspoon

    This place has potential. I ran across it reading another blog that has a section on “shady restaurants”, and that doesn’t mean shade trees. Except I didn’t think that Choice was in a particularly sketchy part of town. Regardless, I’m glad I tried it.

    I had lunch at Choice Cafe today, got there around 1145 and was back in the office at 1230. I asked my server about the chicken fried steak, she said it was made and breaded there and was really good. So that’s what I got.

    I rated that CFS as a 9 out of 10. It had great beef flavor, and was just the right size. I counted it down a bit as it was a little tough in places; I used a butter knife there. There was also a bit of an odd flavor to the breading; not a bad flavor, just a little odd. The meal came with mashers and gravy, and green beans. The mashers were very good, as was the gravy. The beans were OK. Once nice thing was a warm dinner roll with real butter, great stuff.

    Service was very friendly and my check was $10.73, which is decent value. A guy a table over got a burger, and the burger smelled darn fine, so it’s on the list for another visit. This place has potential.

    Way Too Ebola-Paranoid

    21 October 2014

    Raegan needed to visit the ER late Sunday as a result of Aerosinusitis. She was coming back to OKC from the Girl Scout national convention, and as the plane descended rapidly to landing, the pressure differential messed up her sinuses, in an extremely painful episode. We went straight from Will Rogers to the Integris ER.

    At the ER, the desk clerk asked about her symptoms. Not unexpected. But as soon as she said “I just flew in from Denver…” the young lady got wide-eyed, leaned back, and told Raegan to put on that mask now. Then there was a form to fill out that was Ebola-specific. Then there were repeated questions from the form, and clearly related to the form, for Ebola.

    Really. In OKC. No, really in EDMOND.

    I think the Ebola reaction in this country is way over the top, and it seems to me it is just the latest in a series of Public Oh My Gods that have been going on, whether it is ISIS/ISIL, terrorists in general, some bug going around, the hunt for a public enemy, etc.

    There are the usual idiots trying to take political advantage. Supposedly Obama lied when he told the country on several national news items that Ebola wasn’t transmittable unless it was via bodily fluids. Of course, Obama is also not showing leadership by keeping us informed. Whatever.

    I saw this on Facebook: More people have been married to Rush Limbaugh than have contracted Ebola in the United States. And I suspect those women are in worse shape…

    Do we really need to be this paranoid? I sort of think that the United States needs to re-grow a pair of balls.

    Urbanspoon Searches Get Better, Yea!

    19 October 2014

    I’ve been using Urbanspoon forever to find beta on restaurants, and I’ve been doing it enough that I’m a Prime member.

    The biggest problem with Urbanspoon has been the search function. I want to be able to find a restaurant in a town or neighborhood, by cuisine.

    I noticed a couple days ago the search bar at the top of each page was different. It works pretty well! I put the name of a restaurant in the appropriate text field, and got suggestions by name. I put the city in the other side, clicked search, and boom there was what I was looking for.

    Much better! I would like to suggest a map-based search next. Show me a map of a specified area (e.g. 39th and Tulsa, Oklahoma City), and then show me restaurants in the surrounding couple miles.

    It’s getting there!

    Woodbridge Restaurant, Oklahoma City, OK

    19 October 2014

    Woodbridge on Urbanspoon

    Last Sunday, I was working up at St. John’s, and needed lunch. I thought to try the El Pollo Chulo, but they were closed for some reason. I remembered passing Woodbridge and wanting to try it, so I did.

    I had a chicken fried steak after having been told it was breaded there. I don’t think it was. The CFS wasn’t too bad regardless, fork tender, and it didn’t fall apart. The mashers and gravy, and green beans, were OK. The entire meal was OK. Bland.

    Service was decent, and the iced tea was very good. My check was $8.87. Inexpensive for sure.

    Would I go back? I think places like Woodbridge are best for breakfast. A CFS should be a made-there item, and if it’s not, the other entrees likely are not. But eggies and bacon have to be cooked right there, and are usually pretty reliable.

    El Charro, Muskogee, OK

    18 October 2014

    El Charro on Urbanspoon

    I have been eating at this place for a long time, and I can’t believe I haven’t written about it! Long overdue.

    I was in Muskogee last evening late after being out at Greenleaf Lake State Park, and needed dinner. El Charro, happily enough, is open until 2200, so I stopped in.

    I have usually had fajitas here, as they are always excellent. That’s what I had last night, and they were still excellent. Mixed beef and chicken. The problem I see with fajitas too often is the meat is dry and tough. Not so here, the meat and onions were tender and juicy and flavorful. I dumped the rice and beans and salsa right on top of the hot plate and mixed it all up, and ate every scrap. Wonderful.

    Service was prompt and very friendly, as it always it. The place was not too busy, but it was latish. The iced tea was excellent as well, in a big glass.

    So… as I checked out the menu, I saw that El Charro had both beef colorado roja and pork and beef chili verde (as any true Mexican place should have). I got pork chili verde to go and brought it back to OKC with me. It was in an aluminum bowl, so I popped it in the oven at 300F for about 20 minutes. It was wonderful! Some of the best I have had. The flavor was the flavor I have come to expect, but the key thing was that the meal wasn’t so spicy that it destroyed my sense of taste. It had just the right amount of spice, and that didn’t mask the flavor a bit. Gosh, that stuff was good. I rank it right there with the same dish as El Vaquero in Stillwater. Outstanding meal.

    My check for both meals was $22.20. Great value. Recommended.

    Evelyn’s, Tulsa, OK

    18 October 2014

    Evelyn's on Urbanspoon

    As my friend Clark would say, this place is legit.  My friend Gary in Tulsa recommended Evelyn’s, and yesterday I was able to check it out.  I wish they were in OKC!

    Evelyn’s is right next to the Tulsa airport, and that is cool in itself.

    They close at 1500 and are not open weekends.  I got there at 1415 and the place was moderately busy.  I ordered a two-piece chicken, all light.  My server said it would take a bit to cook.  I liked that, it meant fresh chicken.  It took about 15 minutes, but out came a breast (HUGE) and wing (also huge).  These were clearly pan-fried, with some darker patches (no problem).  The chicken had a wonderful flavor, and was moist all the way through without being greasy-drippy.  In particular, it’s hard to get that right with a big breast piece, but they did.  The crust was was perfect, crispy and great flavor.

    The sides were also great.  Mine were pinto beans that tasted like they had been slow cooked for hours, great stuff.  The mashers and gravy were very good.

    The iced tea came in a huge glass (the Way It Should Be) and was great.  Service was friendly and prompt.  My check was $13.39, which is great value.

    Fried chicken is very hard to get these days.  I’m not talking about KFC or Churches.  Most places (think Eishen’s or Jim’s) use little pieces of chicken that are often overcooked and tough and stringy.  I think that Evelyn’s and Lucille’s are two places that do it right.

    The lady who checked me out told me they did their chicken fried steaks the same way.  Now, I really have to go back.

    Highly recommended.

    One Reason Computers Are So Inexpensive…

    17 October 2014

    One of our St. John’s faculty computers was having a hard time accessing Web pages.  It was intermittent.  I fired up a command prompt and pinged the server, and the result was a loss of one of the four packets.   I set up 1,000 pings,  and had 31% packet loss.  Just to be sure, I moved the network cable to an open port on the switch and repeated the kiloping; this time it was 43% packet loss. My final test was to connect my laptop to the cable, no packet loss.  It was pretty clear I had the NIC in the machine going bad.  This machine is a less – than – a – year – old HP.

    I decided to open the machine up and see if it had a PCI or PCI Express slot that I could put a replacement NIC in. I had a minor surprise: the computer had no slots at all for cards.  The case has knockouts, but nothing on the (very small) mobo.

    So this machine has numerous USB ports open, and I have my choice of USB Wifi or USB-to-RJ45 connections,  so I will be able to fix the problem. 

    It lead me to wonder about another machine I have here, an inexpensive Dell.  I pulled the cover off, and sure enough, no card slots.  I’m sure it’s a trend.

    For a NIC, it’s not an issue,  but the 2nd highest failure item I have is video cards.  Those are not really available and reliable in USB, so I may not have a good replacement option there.

    A Huge Step For Marriage Equality!

    6 October 2014

    I think that the decision by the SCOTUS to not hear the appeals of the discriminatory and hurtful anti-equality marriage statutes in Oklahoma and a number of other states is a recognition of something that is plain to see in the Constitution:  equality for all people is not subject to a popularity contest, or more specifically, subject to veto by people based on their reading of their holy book.

    I got a news alert that the first marriage license for a gay couple has been issued in Tulsa.  Right on!  Justice by equality has been delayed and denied far too long.

    Why Can’t Windows Just Get Along?

    6 October 2014

    Subtitled:  Windows 8 Cost Me Five Hours of Time For A Simple Task

    I spent a largish part of this weekend at St. John’s taking care of a lot of stuff that has built up a backlog.  Most of it was straightforward:  I got all of the lab computers up to snuff (except one that has a video card slowly failing, and another with a balky network card, which I managed to leave at home so I couldn’t install it), and ran a stress test on the lab network.  Ian got the computers in Raegans room connecting and working, and I re-crimped a new network connection for them.

    I also worked to get the (previously four) five computers in the 2nd/3rd grade room back on the school network.  This was a significant untangling job, but straightforward.  Those four computers have shared a laser printer (an HP 2100TN) using XP printer sharing for a long time.  Due to where the computers are now physically located, I changed the printer server computer from one to another, printed a test page, and then went to the other three XP machines to connect them to the new printer server, and delete the old one.  I also replaced the five-port 100Mbps switch (four computers and the building network connection) with an eight-port, since I had two additional computers (the W8 box and one other).

    I’ve said in the past that shared printing is one of the things Microsoft got 100% right, and pretty darn easy, since the days of Windows 1995.  All of the computers are in the same subnet, and in the same workground, and all can ping each other, so no problem.

    Next I went over to the new computer, a Windows 8 box.  So it’s a new UI.  Whoever came up with it, and deletion of the Start button and menus, ought to be tossed out of the profession of software development.

    Here’s an example.  I get the move-the-mouse-to-the-upper-right-and-swipe-down to get a menu (well, I know to do it, I do not see the utility).  So I want to change printer settings as in add a printer.  On XP, click Start, Printers, and you get a dialog that includes a button Add A New Printer.  Windows 8?  Do the odd swipe thing, then click Settings (this makes sense).  You get Devices, including Print.  Sounds reasonable.  Click that Print, and you get this:

    WTF?Just what in the hell does this mean?  You can’t right-click or click anything except the left arrow back button.  FOUR USELESS CLICKS.

    I finally found the add a printer dialog by clicking the faux-Start button on the lower left, and then typing on the odd tile screen P-R-I-N-T, and eventually Windows 8 showed a link to Printers.  I clicked it and got a fairly standard Printers and Devices that included an Add Printers dialog.

    OK, now we are getting somewhere.  I got to the shared printer box, but Windows could not see the XP box.  I found a place to set the Workgroup on the System menu, and rebooted the machine.  It refused to see the computer that was sharing the printer.  Couldn’t see any of the other four computers in the workgroup either.  Wouldn’t take a direct entry in the form \\server\printername either.  I mucked around with all this for more than an hour.  Did some reading about W8 and sharing, and found that Microsoft was really interested in having people set up Homegroups.  Well, Microsoft, bite me.  I ended up giving up for the evening.

    The next day, I brought everything up from scratch and tried again.  Still no luck.  I was pretty frustrated at this point.  I could sort of understand having issues connecting XP boxes to a W8 printers (understand, but not agree).  But the allegedly more advanced W8 should talk to XP flawlessly.

    So after a lot of reading, I came to the conclusion that the W8 connectivity problem was not solvable.  The printer had a JetDirect card, so I decided to connect everything up that way.

    I connected an RJ-45 cable from the printer to the switch, and had the printer dump a status page.  The printer had a static IP address set up in the 10. range.  I changed one of the XP boxes to a static IP in the 10. range.  I could ping the JetDirect.  I tried to hit the JetDirect via a web browser; no luck.  I did a telnet to it, and got asked for a password.  A null password didn’t work, nor did admin, or a couple others.

    Off I went to the web to find out how to reset the password on a JetDirect card in a LaserJet 2100TN.  I had to look through dozens of pages that had some variety of powering the printer on or off, while pressing the GO and CANCEL buttons.  To save anyone else from having to do this, here is what to do:

    1.  Do not trust anything related to the 2100TN on the HP website.

    2.  To clear the password on the JetDirect card in a 2100TN, power the printer OFF.

    3.  Hold down the Cancel Jobs button.  It’s the smaller one.  Power the printer ON.

    4.  Wait 30 seconds.  Release the Cancel Jobs button.  Wait about 3 minutes.  The JetDirect should be cleared, and the default is to get an address via DHCP.  You can verify this by holding down the GO button and then pressing the Cancel Jobs button to get a printer status page printed.

    Now, if you have a DHCP server, the JetDirect should have received an address in the same range as your computer.  If not, you will need to change your computer IP address to be in the same subnet as the JetDirect.

    The web server still didn’t work.  I did a telnet to the JetDirect.  It does NOT support the ECHO ON command, so you will be typing in the dark.  I used the DHCP-CONFIG: 0 to disable DHCP, and IP: address to set a static IP address so my DHCP computers could find the printer.  Now I was able to ping the printer from all the workstations.

    Next I set all four XP machines to print to the newly IP-enabled printer, and deleted the shared printers.  That was easy.

    I went to the W8 machine.  It could ping the printer, so that was a good sign.  I started the Add Printer dialog, and almost immediately got this:

    20141005_151551

    Yay, looking good so far.  So, I thought, this will be easy.  I clicked next, and got a dialog that didn’t have that particular printer, but it offered to go off to Windows Update and find it.  I clicked OK, and W8 went off and thought a bit.  It came back with this:

    20141005_151610

    So, W8 went off and downloaded drivers for approximately 10,000 printers.  Well, maybe not that many.  But, I would have expected W8 to at least download the driver for the printer that it had already identified.  Or at least pointed at the printer in the selection lists.

    Regardless, I pointed at HP and then found the printer in the list of printers, and the driver installed and the printer was printed to.

    But this was way hard.  I’m good at this stuff, but while it’s been pretty easy to share printers since W95, and nearly trivial since W98, turned into a heck of a lot of wasted time for me due to W8 being way too difficult in talking to ANOTHER Microsoft operating system.

    I’ve not blogged about it, but two weeks ago I had a non-trivial time getting a W7 box to reach out to another W7 box.  This leads me to believe that MS wants to junk workgroups in favor of homegroups.  If that’s the case, it’s quite user antagonistic.

    Mary Fallin Doesn’t Stand For Much

    5 October 2014

    She is running for a second term as Governor of the State of Oklahoma.  She has a serious challenger in Joe Dorman.

    There are two ads running pretty heavily in Oklahoma.  One is from some outside group (can’t remember the name).  That ad attacks Dorman and then praises Fallin.

    The thing the two ads have in common is that both are stridently anti-Obama.  Both talk about how Obama’s Common Core tries to take over Oklahoma education.  Both talk about how bad Obamacare is.  Those two points, of course, are bogus (but few Republicans let a couple facts stand in the way of an ad).  And both ads focus on how Fallin is “fighting against” Obama or Washington or whatever.

    But neither really talks about what Fallin has actually done.  She has pretty much signed everything the Republican-controlled Legsislature has sent here.  She has never been a leader, just a rubber stamp.  I don’t think she has much in the way of policy over just what the national Party decides, which, of course, is quite different from exhibiting leadership.

    I hope she loses.

    Update:  just saw the outside ad again.  It’s from the Republican Governors Association.  I counted three straight-up lies right off the bat.  Oh, and (horrors!) it called Dorman a Liberal.  Republicans just don’t have much of anything to run on.

    College Football Coaches and Security

    22 September 2014

    I’ve written before about college football coaches and security.

    I was just watching the news, and of course they were still going on about the OU game on Saturday. They showed Coach Stoops heading off the field at the end of the game.

    He had SIX cops escorting him. Yes, SIX. It looked to me like three were Oklahoma Highway Patrol troops, and three were probably local.

    REALLY? What’s the threat? Are they afraid a professional team will send in a snatch squad and triple the guys multi-million dollar salary?

    I think that is ridiculous.

    Big Smokey Bar-B-Q, Oklahoma City, OK

    18 September 2014

    Big Smokey Bar-B-Q on Urbanspoon

    I’ve driven by Big Smokey a hundred times over the years, and yesterday I was in the area, and was able to have lunch there. It’s a minimalist sort of place, looks like run by one guy. It’s also very good.

    The menu is simple. Ribs or beef, sandwich, plate (meat only), or dinner (meat with beans and potato salad). You can also get a slab or half slab of ribs.

    I got the rib dinner. The sides first. The beans were pretty standard, and good. The potato salad was skin-on white potatoes, mayo-based, and excellent, great stuff. There were six ribs in the dinner of varying sizes. They didn’t have the bark that I like to see, but they had the smoke ring, and they had great smoke flavor! There was a lot of meat on those ribs, and they were plenty tender.

    There was something there I’ve not seen before, a strip of meat that was cut from between two ribs. The only thing that wasn’t meat was a couple pieces of cartilage in the meat. That was pull-apart tender goodness.

    So the cost for this was $10. Water is the only option for drink, which is fine. There were two takeaway meals while I was there. It was super friendly. Next time I’m getting the beef just so I can have done the entire menu ( :) ). But those ribs were pretty darn good, I rated them a 9.8 on a scale of 1 to JTs. I will have to have them again, maybe a slab.

    ISIS/ISIL and “War”

    18 September 2014

    I’ve been listening to the discussion/debate about what we should do about ISIS/ISIL, in both Iraq and in Syria.

    I’m of the opinion we shouldn’t do much of anything, at least from a military standpoint.

    There is no doubt these people are bad.  They do not share our values, and in fact they are probably the worst of religious bigots.  Murdering those that do not share their faith is not honorable.  I think most of the Christian based faiths have largely got far away from similar activities long ago.

    But if this group is operating in Iraq, why should we care?  These bad people have killed Americans, in horrible and emotion-pushing ways.  They have killed captured prisoner soldiers.  Those are clearly illegal acts.  But they are not operating in the United States (in spite of some hysterical Republicans claiming otherwise).

    But is it justification for war?  For sending hundreds or thousands of our soldiers over to the middle east, again, to fight in Muslim countries.

    I don’t think so.  The worldwide reputation of the United States took a massive hit due to the lies that got us into Iraq, and the directionless action in Afghanistan cost us thousands of American lives and billions altogether.  President Obama did the right thing to get us out of that gigantic Bush/Cheney mess.

    So what about ISIS/ISIL?  We’ve shown that we can help drive them away from large targets in open areas by bombing the hell out of them.  And if that’s done via drone or manned aircraft, that’s fairly low risk (although getting an F-18 down by SAM or a mechanical failure of the aircraft would be a major blow to us).

    Regardless of the huge amount of money we spent uselessly in Iraq, we are out of there now, except for our Embassy and some advisers.  A major argument is that the country of Iraq should take care of itself.  If they can’t, tough.  We can’t look at Iraq as some investment where we expect to get our money back; we might as well think of that almost $2T as piled on the ground and burned to ashes.

    So if Iraq can’t take care of itself?  They have had years to get their Army built up, and they supposedly have around 300,000 soldiers.  A CIA estimate a couple days ago indicated around 32,000 ISIS/ISIL fighters, across both Iraq and Syria.  So why can’t the Iraqi Army fight and win in their own country?  They’ve a 10-to-1 positive correlation, and surely they have more tanks and stuff.

    So let them fight for themselves.

    Scotland and the Independence Vote

    18 September 2014

    Wow, it’s been three weeks since my last post; it’s been pretty busy.  I’ve some catch-up to do.

    I have been following the vote for independence in Scotland with some interest.  I don’t really have an opinion on the impact of Scottish independence (except I think it might have an overall negative economic impact to both countries).

    The thing I find especially interesting is that it is a simple majority vote.  I like the way we do it in the United States.  Things that are fairly routine are pretty we do by simple majorities, but things that are of more import are done by larger majorities.

    Here in Oklahoma, bond issues require a 60% yes vote.  Constitutional amendments require all sorts of supermajorities.  Impeachments do also, for conviction.

    But splitting a country from it’s union is only a simple majority?  That’s kind of radical, to my way of thinking.

    Notes on Using A TRENDNet IP Camera

    22 August 2014

    I bought a TRENDNet TV-IP551W camera back in January from Newegg.  I was looking for something else, and the camera came up as a special for (IIRC) $14, with free shipping.  I have wanted to play with one for a while, so I bought it.  When it got here, configuring it was trivial.  I had a picture coming out of it in about three minutes flat.  I attached the camera to the outside of the house near an outlet that is tied to the outside lights; I use it to power holiday lights.  The camera only came on after dark, but it wasn’t being used operationally, so I didn’t sweat it.  Every once in a while I would connect to it remotely and see what was going on with the driveway.

    The only issue here has to do with motion.  Any device (including my Android tablet and phone) could see a still picture grab, and refresh it manually.  BUT, you need either ActiveX support or Java to see motion video.  ActiveX means Windows.  I think I tried to get Java on my tablet, but gave up after a try because it didn’t matter at the time.

    The camera has been hanging outside since, and worked.

    Last weekend I decided to put it to operational use.  I moved it to a better location, and set it up to perform motion capture.

    The first thing was the motion capture.  I tried using my Windows 7 laptop to define exactly where on the screen the motion capture areas were.  I pointed my W7 IE browser at the camera, selected Administration, then Configuration, and finally Motion Detection.  The camera wanted to download an ActiveX control.  No problem, but every time I tried, Windows would block installation of the control.  I set security essentially to off, still wouldn’t.  For the heck of it, I used Raegans computer (which is XP), it worked fine with the camera.  Hmph.  I left the motion sensitivity at the default of 90 (scale 1 to 100).

    With motion capture set up, I went after email.  The camera will send you an email when it detects motion.The camera wants to know an SMTP server, so I pointed it at our upstream Cox SMTP server.  A test message went out just fine.   So far so good.

    When the camera detects motion, it will capture the motion and upload the imagery.  Sounds cool.  It wants to upload the data to an FTP server.  Most people don’t have one of those, but I have several!  So I fired up Filezilla on Raegans computer, created a user name and password for the camera, and a folder to store the video.  Then I went back to the camera and plugged the information in, and send Ian out to trigger the camera.  I almost immediately saw activity on the ftp server, but no files uploaded.  Hmmm….

    Much experimentation ensued.  I should have installed Ethereal (Wireshark) to her computer, but I played with settings fruitlessly for a while.  Finally, I did the user creation on the St. John’s server, then pointed the camera there.  Then I did a remote desktop to St. J, fired up Wireshark, and watched the packets flow in.

    I had set the camera up to dump stuff to /home/drivewaycam.  On Wireshark, I could see the username and password (FTP sends in the clear), and then a CWD drivewaycam.   OK, now we were OK.  I stopped the camera, then created a subdirectory called drivewaycam (making tree /home/drivewaycam/drivewaycam), did a chown on the directory (chown drivewaycam:drivewaycam drivewaycam; type that fast!), and restarted the camera.

    Wireshark now showed file transfer, and a check of the new directory showed jpgs.  So it was working.  I went off and did some other stuff for a while.

    Right before I went to bed, I got my phone, and… there were well over 1,000 NEW messages from the camera!  To make the story short, it turns out the camera doesn’t send an email every time it decides to do a motion capture.  It also doesn’t upload a video.  It uploads 1-second images to the server, and sends an email message every time it does it!

    I quickly went in a turned off the email feature.  I also turned the sensitivity down to 50%, which should reduce false triggers.

    But… the camera has captured the mail and package delivery people, and Erin coming home from school.  So it is working.

    I would like to get an email when motion is detected, and have sent off a feature request to TRENDNet.  I use the Unix/Linux standard ImageMagick convert tool to batchconvert each set of jpgs to an mpeg video; I will likely set that to be done in a cron job at some point.

    I wonder if the camera could output IP video in H.264 or as an mpeg stream.  That could be read directly from Windows Media, VLC, or most any other open source tool.

    Regardless, the IP camera is pretty darn cool.  I am going to get another one at some point, and I will likely make it a “see in the dark” camera.

    Update:

    As I have reviewed the captured images, I was seeing something amusing:  people or cars on my driveway would appear as if by magic!  The cars would be about halfway down the drive, and people about a quarter of the way down.  This was with the camera set to 50% sensitivity.  I changed that to 75%, and now I see things moving a lot farther away.  The obvious downside:  about twice as many images.  Glad I turned off the email notification.

    I’ve had this camera uploading to the server I run for St. John’s for over a month.  I downloaded some image tools to check out, and settled on using the open source mplayer package, which has Linux and Windows versions.  So the process was to fire up my SSL and Secure FTP clients, point them at the St. John’s server, and do an mget -r to pull the individual image files to my laptop (this means pulling in roughly 500MB of stuff every day, so I’ve glad I’ve got a bitchin’ good network connection at home).  The camera stores the files by date, and hour.  So I would have a directory named 20140908 for 08 September, and then subdirectories like 0400 for the 4:00AM captures.

    I wrote a batch file that works from the DOS prompt.  I manually CD into the day directory (20140908), then run the batch file.  It checks to see if there is directory for a particular hour, and if there is, it dives down there, and runs the mplayer mencoder tool against any JPEG files in that directory.  The mencoder combines those JPEGs to make an MPEG movie, which is a lot easier to review.  I have VLC on all my machines, and it plays the MPEG just fine.  Note, the Microsoft Media Player SHOULD also play these, but it can’t, and whines about it.  Curiously, the Microsoft Media Encoder plays the MPEGs just fine.  Mplayer, unsurprisingly, does fine as well.

    An hour of captures typically produces a movie that runs from between 15 sec to 45 sec.  On a windy day, the number of files are higher as the trees in my yard move around a lot, which triggers the motion detection.  I can review the entire day in about five minutes, which isn’t too bad.  It’s kind of cool to occasionally see what are effectively are time lapses as shadows of trees above the driveway move as the sun moves.

    The last thing I’ve done is to move the image capture to a local computer.  The images were being uploaded from the camera to St. John’s, then I was downloading them to my laptop.  That’s a long ways to go, and a lot of bandwidth.  I have an extra computer at the house that we don’t use; it has a wifi connection and it’s a Windows 7 box.  I cleaned all the stuff off that wasn’t needed anymore, and installed the free FileZilla ftp server on it.  I created the same user and password that the camera uses for the St. John’s server, and the same c:\drivewaycam\drivewaycam directories.  I got the computer on the house network, and set the router to always provide the same IP address to the computer.  So far, so good.  Next, I changed the ftp upload address from St. John’s to the computer in the house, sent Ian out to walk in front of the camera, and watched the images start rolling in.

    I uploaded mplayer to the computer, and the enccoder.bat file, and ran them manually, worked fine.  The last thing to do was put RealVNC on the computer.  Then I shut it down, moved the computer to an out of the way location where it still had good wifi access, and powered it up again.  Now, it sits there and does nothing except capture images.  When I get home in the evening, at some point, I use my laptop to remote access the computer, and run the encoder.bat against the directory of the day, and then scan the images from my laptop.  It works really well.

    I will likely upgrade the batch file  at some point and combine it with the Windows version of cron to have it scan for new files a couple times a day, and then automagically convert them to MPEGs, and maybe even email the MPEG to me after creation (each hourly MPEG is typically only a couple hundred K, not bad for emailing).

    So this is working fine so far.  I am going to get a night vision version of the camera next.

    I will say that while all of this ftp stuff was easy, it was easy for me, who has been doing this sort of IT work for literally decades.  I think it is too difficult for the average user.  The camera is a cool piece of technology, and seems to be essentially a Linux device with a camera input.  There is NO reason the camera should not be able to directly capture video from the camera.  Even if TrendNet wants to continue doing the JPEG capture, there is no reason to not do something like I do and run mencoder to convert the capture to an MPEG, and then upload that file (it would sure be faster to upload a single 200KB file instead of several hundred 200KB files), or even just email it.  I doubt that anyone who buys these cameras is sitting there watching it all the time, and the motion capture function is the best feature for determining when something happens, but generally after the fact.  I hope that the TrendNet people read the email I sent to them and thing about how their users need to use the camera.

    Too Much of America is Still Racist, as in Anti-Black

    22 August 2014

    The entire situation stemming from the killing of the black man in Ferguson, MO, is another in a long line of incidents that illustrate that we are still far from full equality for people of color.

    There is much in the reactions to this incident that follow a common pattern.

    First, outrage in part of the community, in particular the black community.  Understandable in every way. 

    Next, the overwhelming police response.  Largely peaceful protests met with automatic rifles and snipers.  This is disproportionate response, and is un-American.

    Conservatives immediately started counter-memes.  I find this pathetic.  It is an attempt to justify that the killing is not relevant.  I’m sure it’s not, to them.

    A typical meme is to post a reference to some white person who was killed by a black, and why doesn’t that have the media attention.  Or perhaps they reference killings in Chicago, typically because in some way the Chicago situation is Obamas fault.  Or they post… jokes related to the killing. 

    One thing I noted on Facebook related to Ferguson was a reference to the “Black Panthers” leading a protest.  I started looking for information related to this, and found that references were generally in two groups.  Sites like Huffington Post, CBS News, the NY Daily News, and several other news outlets typically referred to one guy affiliated with (sometimes to “members of”) the New Black Panther Party being at the protests, and trying to calm things.  Sites like Right Wing News, Gateway Pundit, and the like claimed that the New Black Panthers (and some referred to “Communists”) were leading the protests.  The conservative sites, frankly, don’t have much credibility.

    While a number of liberals and news people have suggested that President Obama should go to Ferguson personally (whether this is a good idea or not is up for debate), conservatives have found reasons to bitch brainlessly about the President.  I’ve personally seen comments about how much Obama is on vacation (in spite of this stupid canard of Obama taking huge amounts of vacation being debunked by thinking people).

    Some observations:

    At my dental appointment this week, the hygienist had Fox News on.  She made numerous comments that she stated as fact:  “He was stealing, he got what he deserved”.  “He was a thug”.  “Those people riot and steal for any reason”.  I asked her who reported he was stealing, and she replied “the news”, gesturing towards Fox News. 

    Conservatives, in general, don’t give a shit about blacks.  The long history of slavery, legalized discrimination, suppression of voting, and limited opportunities for blacks in education and work has resulted in everything from ghettos and blighted neighborhoods, to the persistent poverty that drives higher crime.  Conservatives like to sniff that the shooting of a black person by the cops is somehow made less horrifying if protestors loot.  We get that looting is wrong, guys.  Why don’t you try not hiding behind that sort of crap, and help fix the situation caused by the white majority over DECADES?

    It has been reported that the governance of the city of Ferguson is overwhelmingly white, while the population is largely black.  It has also been reported (but I’ve not verified) that the voter turnout in the past election was 15%.  If you don’t vote, the other side does not need to worry about voter suppression.  The people of Ferguson got the government that was elected by those that bothered to vote.  If they want it to change, get to the polling places.

    A major point that is missed by conservatives (whether deliberately, or through cluelessness), is that the shooting of a black, unarmed man by a white officer is different from civilians shooting each other in Chicago (mandatory statement:  it’s still not acceptable).  The defining difference is that the killing was done by a police officer.  In most cases in this country, the police are the ones with the weapons.  100% of cops have guns, and probably less than 1% of citizens.  How this supposed street encounter between an unarmed man and a cop in a car escalated to the unarmed man being killed certainly bears some investigation.

    A Bit Farther On The Dehumanization Path

    17 August 2014

    I read a post on The New York Times this past week that I found deeply disturbing. The subject was the difficult time that a woman was having juggling child care, commuting, work, and personal time.

    Aside from her personal situation, a major issue for her was her job at Starbucks. The company (and I don’t know if it was just her location, or region, or the whole company) was using software that kept track of rush times, and would schedule workers around those times, sometimes for only a couple hours, instead of people working a defined shift from say, 0800 to 1700, the software might have a person come in at 1000 and leave at 1300. This was in the name of maximizing profits. WalMart apparently also uses this software.

    This, to me, is another step on the road of people being just work objects for companies. I think that ethical behavior requires supervisors/owners to recognize that without the workers, there would be no company. That means, among other things, treating those people with respect. Scheduling with a 100% eye to profit is not treating people with respect.

    Since some ignorant people would misread the above, I will state it plainly. I’ve never been against companies making money. There is little reason to be in business otherwise. I do not believe it is ethical to subordinate people and their well being to maximum profit.

    I think that in a perverse way, this is about government working. But, working for business (via lobbyists and paid-for Congresspeople) instead of people.

    Why aren’t people (mainly, conservatives) worried about the tyranny of business?

    Another Fake Media “Issue”

    17 August 2014

    There has been a lot of discussion (in fact, it’s a topic on “Meet The Press” right now) on the “controversy” about statements made by Hilary Clinton that supposedly undercut President Obama.

    I think it’s really healthy instead of some flip-flop. There is almost always a variety of opinions on how to implement a particular piece of policy. If she had her input when she was SecState, and her boss the President did something different, that’s OK because he is in charge. Now she is a private citizen, and she has her opinions, and that’s OK also.

    With all the real problems that need solving, focusing on a person expressing her personal opinion is a waste of bandwidth.

    A Tent Pole Win

    13 August 2014

    I camp and backpack in a No Limits Kings Peak two-person tent. I think it is a very good design; it has enough room to easily sit upright in. The tent is wider at the shoulders and narrower at the feet (less fabric, less weight), and while I have had two people in it quite comfortably many times, it’s exceptionally roomy as a one-Bill tent. It weighs 5.1 lbs and packs down very nicely, has never leaked, and I’ve only had condensation issues a couple times.

    So I was unhappy when one of the tent pole segments broke during our HAT Cossatot backpacking trip. I think hail hit the pole and literally shattered the aluminum section right at the end.I tried a couple Q&D patches (duct tape is our friend), but knew I needed it fixed.

    My first stop was to customer service at Academy, where I bought the tent. I called and told them the name and part number of the tent. The bright-voiced young lady on the other end of the phone said yes, they had replacement poles; the first one was 8 FEET LONG, 1 INCH in DIAMETER. No, I said, that’s not right. They also had a fiberglass tent pole repair kit, which was the wrong length and diameter for the aluminum pole. I pressed a bit to find out who made the tent for Academy, hoping to go to the actual manufacturer, but supposedly they didn’t know. Right.

    I went looking online for tubes and parts. What I found was the pole had a fairly standard outside diameter, but the inside diameter was significantly less than available tubes. For those who do not know, tent poles are sectioned and hollow, with a stretchy cord running through them. The cord holds the whole thing together (both broken down and assembled), and the end of each section has a hollow insert that fits into the next section. The inserts that were available that I could easily find didn’t match the inside diameter of the pole sections.

    While I was doing all this research, I went on several camps with the kludged fixes to the pole. I wasn’t happy with any of them.

    I read that REIs did tent pole repairs. I visited several, and at one, they let me root around through all the tent pole pieces they had collected over several years. No luck on one the correct size.

    Then I ran across Tent Pole Technologies (http://tentpoletechnologies.com/). I had a couple email exchanges with them, and then measured the existing pole and essentially sent them an engineering drawing of the pole, with a couple stitched-together photos of the whole thing, and got back a quote of $35 for a complete replacement. I paid them electronically, and in a week, got the replacement pole in the mail.

    For one thing, it’s 1 oz less than the previous pole. When backpacking, every ounce counts!

    The important thing, that pole was a perfect copy of the existing pole, except the broken piece. I took it camping this past weekend and it was perfect.

    So this was a pretty cool experience. There is a lot of life left in that tent, and the new pole will help me get that life out of the tent.

    This is a good example of the power of online. A company I would have been unlikely to find easily, communications that were fast and high confidence, a secure payment, yielded a super fast turnaround and a quality product.

    A couple words about Academy: I expected better support. I know they don’t make their own stuff, but I would expect them to at least have a line on who makes it for them, and to have customer service people who would know that a tent pole for a backpacking tent is not the same thing as the center pole for a beach tarp.

    An Edubuntu Installation for St. John’s

    6 August 2014

    This was really way too easy…

    The school computer lab (and also the rest of the student computers in the classrooms, and to a lesser extent our faculty machines) is being impacted by the end of life for Windows XP. Most of the machines are XP Pro, some XP Home. There are a couple of W7 machines as well. The machines are all pretty old (most are 2004 vintage), and are increasingly having issues of one kind or the other. I installed W7 on one of them, and it craaaaaaawwwwled, even after I dumped an extra couple GB of memory in it. I’ve been spending an increasing amount of time keeping the things updated, and even with the remote access tools I have been deploying the past couple years, I’d still have to go around to 30 or 40 machines for some things.

    The machines also got “lab rash” from kids playing with settings they were able to, and would occasionally jack a machine up by inverting the display or whatever, so I would end up going by to fix it. And that’s even with Raegan being very swift on fixing stuff.

    So I started looking at alternatives, and decided that Edubuntu was the best candidate. It had all of the existing software that we currently use, and a lot more. It has thin-client capability, so that would end kids jacking with the machines.

    Edubuntu needs a fairly beefy server. I had a donated machine from an oil company that sported a 3.8 GHz Xeon and no less than four 146GB SCSIs moving along at 320MB/s (with space in there for a second processor if I can find one cheap). It has dual power supplies and enough fans to build a drone, and *two* GB Ethernets. It is, BTW, also fairly old, having been introduced in 2004. That explains why it has two USBs, *and* PS/2 connectors. The machine came with the six memory slots filled with 1GB DDR2 ECC memory sticks. I happily filled the six slots with 2GB DDR-2 memory, and the poor machine squawked at me until I turned it off. Turns out it ONLY wants ECC memory, and the memory I had was non-ECC. Oh well.

    For 20 machines, Edubuntu recommended 20GB of disk (not a problem there) and 4GB of memory for every 20 clients. So 6GB is comfortable (especially since I am planning on running the browsers locally). I will probably haunt eBay and get at least a couple more sticks of ECC memory also.

    I drew up a couple iterations of how I would deploy the thing on the school network, decided it would work, and started the process. I have a couple weeks until school starts. I knew the good news was, since I was deploying thin client network-boot clients, that I wouldn’t have to change the lab workstations at all, except to enable net booting, and so I could fall back to the XP workstations at any time.

    So I download the latest Edubuntu, popped the DVD into the machine, and started the installation process. All was smooth until I got to the part where you identify the disk to install Edubuntu on.

    Now, when the server was donated, I had wiped it for the company that donated it, and then dropped Fedora 16 on to it to play with. That all worked fine.

    So when Edubuntu got to the Installation Type page, it asked if I wanted to use /dev/sda, and that there was Fedora on it, and if I used the whole disk then the Fedora would be wiped. That didn’t bother me, so I selected it, and the Use LVM option, and told it to Continue. I got the Erase Disk and Install Edubuntu page, verified that /dev/sda would be used, and clicked Install Now. The Install button greyed out (only one shade of grey), the page title changed to Installation Type after about 10 seconds, and the Install Now came active again. Hmmm… Clicking Install Now again takes you back to the actual Installation Type page (with use entire disk and use LVM). This cycle repeated (eight times I tried it).

    So off I went to research. The existing Fedora would still boot. I installed Edubuntu on another computer to show the media was OK. I posted a query to the Ubuntu Forums. I kept coming back to the existing Fedora installation. I’ve done a lot of installs of a lot of OSs, and most of them would happily overwrite an existing OS, so I was skeptical that was the problem. In fact, Edubuntu happily overwrote a Linux installation that was on the workstation I used to show the media was OK. But the existing Fedora on the server was LVM, which is a technology not fully supported by some Linux tools (like gparted). I hadn’t any suggestions from the Ubuntu Forum (which surprised me).

    So I decided to zorch the Fedora LVM installation. It wasn’t entirely straightforward; LVM is not as well documented as it could be, there is a wealth of similar-looking beta, with some slightly contradictory. Here is what I ended up doing:

    • I booted the server using a Fedora Live CD (it was the Security Spin for Fedora 15).
    • Used lvdiskscan to identify the LVM. It had four PVs, and three what I would have called mount points: root, home, and swap.
    • Used lvremove for the root and home partitions. When I tried to remove swap, it complained that swap was active (!). This is probably what confused the Edubuntu installer. I used swap off -v to turn off the swap mount point, then was able to use lvremove to remove it.
    • Used vgremove to take out the volume group.
    • Used pvremove for the four PVs.

    I rebooted the machine and replaced the Fedora CD with the Edubuntu DVD. Installed without a hitch.

    The key to the LVM removal was to take out the mount points first.

    So clearly there is a buglet in the Edubuntu installer that does not like existing LVMs, or perhaps does not like swap partitions in particular.

    Once the server rebooted, I connected a switch to the LTSP port, and then a Dell workstation to the switch, started it, and switched it to network boot in the BIOS. It still booted from the disk. I restarted it, went back into BIOS to disable the disk, and on reboot it came up over the network, and I had my thin client running.

    One more glitch: the Fedora I installed to play with automagically added all four disks (PVs) to the LV with no prompting from me, so instead of installing to a 146GB disk, I had a 550GB+ logical disk. The Edubuntu install put LVM on, but only with the single disk. I will manually add those using pvcreate and then lvextend this evening or tomorrow, but it is one more thing to do.

    I’ve a long list of stuff to do. I need to add a student user, add some software, enable local access to USBs, add access to our St. John’s shared disk, and get the remote management tools working. I will get a graduate level course in rebuilding the client image as this goes along.

    I’m also interested in hauling the server to school and plugging it into the lab network, and watching all those machines boot up simultaneously.

    But the really amazing this is how slick it was with the Edubuntu DVD. There is a heck of a lot of capability there.

    06 August 2014, 2200 Update:

    I added two of the three other disks to the LVM installation, using a set of excellent instructions at http://www.rootusers.com/how-to-increase-the-size-of-a-linux-lvm-by-adding-a-new-disk/. So now I have a 410GB space to play in. I didn’t put the fourth disk in as the SMART disk function was reporting a future failure.

    17 August 2014, 1239 Update:

    I’m building a second server for the school to host a student management system, a local storage cloud, and WordPress for the teachers.  It’s also Ubuntu based, also 14.04, and had a disk in it with a Fedora 10 LVM instantiation.  This installation went right over the Fedora 10 with no comment. 

    BTW, Unity on this one is sloooooooow.  I installed FXCE, which I am used to from a number of Live CDs I use, and it runs darn fast.

    Good Riddance to Eric Cantor

    1 August 2014

    He gave his farewell address to the House today. I find it absolutely delicious that he got zapped by a Tea Partier, when he and the Republicans stoked Tea Party nutjobs for so long, taking advantage of their anger, while at the same time not doing a damn thing except obstruct.

    When you feed an unintelligent monster, don’t be surprised when it turns on you. I hope the Tea Party rocks on, feeding on more Republicans, and splitting the field three ways soon.

    That’s the only way Tea Partiers can doing anything useful for the United States.

    Marco’s Pizza, Edmond, OK (East)

    26 July 2014

    Marco's Pizza on Urbanspoon

    In the inevitable comparison to Hideaway, Marco’s holds their own. It’s good!

    We wanted pizza last evening, and decided to hit Marco’s. I checked the website for the location, and it said dine-in, so off we went.

    Dine-in, BTW, means *one* four-top table.

    We got two pizzas. Raegan had a small with ham, mushrooms, and green olives. Erin and I split a medium; hers was chicken, mine pepperoni, hamburger, and sausage. Both were thin crust. These pizzas were VERY good. Erin and I finished our pizzas, and Raegan brought part of hers home for lunch today.

    We also got 10 BBQ wings. Also very good, and completely consumed.

    They don’t have a traditional soda fountain, so we scored two bottles of water, and a 2-liter DP, from the cooler.

    Service was super friendly. The pies took about 20 minutes to cook (not unreasonable). Our check was $39.23. Very good pizza at a decent price. Marco’s is legit.

    An Interesting Galaxy S4 Feature

    24 July 2014

    Hmmm, something kind of cool and frightening at the same time. I just dialed into a telecon that was in the calendar of my Galaxy S4. The calendar detected the phone number of the teleconference, and I only had to tap it to dial it. That’s pretty standard, my Blackberry would do that five year ago. But the message had this text:

    Telecom: 888-283-xxxx
    Password: 7958649

    After the dialing was in progress, the S4 popped up a dialog with “Do you want to send 7958649 as tones?”. It startled me enough that I pressed No, then after a couple seconds, went back to the message, and it repeated, at which point I pressed Yes, and it sent the tones and got me into the telecon. The only thing it didn’t do was send the trailing “#” that is the end-of-numbers token. I did that manually.

    That’s pretty darn smart of the software to realize that most meet-me numbers require an access code, find those in the message, and offer to send them. As I do with many of these, I had jumped back to the message to get the access code, and I spoke the code to help me remember it when I jumped back to the phone page. Maybe the spoken numbers were the key. Regardless, I’m going to play with that (when I get some time). It’s a very cool feature; I wonder what else the darn thing does. Raegan already thinks the phones are smarter than us.

    Gary Glenns BBQ, Oklahoma City, OK

    24 July 2014

    Gary Glenn's BBQ on Urbanspoon

    I had lunch here with a couple friends after a meeting at a nearby Large Defense Contractor facility. It was a pretty darn good lunch. I had the brisket plate with baked beans and mac and cheese. The brisket was tender and had good smoke flavor. The mac and cheese was pretty good also.

    Service was very friendly and the iced tea was great! My check was $10.56. I would go back.

    China House, Edmond, OK (2nd St)

    24 July 2014

    China House on Urbanspoon

    OK, so occasionally we take a while to learn. We had dinner at Great Wall in OKC back in April, and ended up with waaaaay too much rice. It was even so last night. We decided to get some sweet and sour chicken from China House in Edmond, as I had liked the China House in MWC.

    We got three orders of sweet and sour chicken and a chicken fried rice. The S&S came with a plate of white rice, so we ended up with FOUR plates of rice. On top of that, since our order was over $35, we got a free chicken fried rice, so we had one more plate of rice, which I asked for to go.

    Reality check: we could easily have split two of the S&S chicken plates between the three of us, and I should have asked if we could sub the fried rice for the plain rice.

    Now, all of this was pretty darn good. We couldn’t eat half of it, so a hell of a lot of food came home with us. Service was fast. The check was $35.13. That included two bottles of water and a can of Dr. Pepper; that’s pretty much it for drinks.

    At H&R House this evening, we popped the S&S chicken in the oven to heat it up, and Erin chopped up some of the chicken and some napa cabbage, combined the white and fried rice, and fried it up some more. It was pretty darn good.

    And we still have a LOT of rice and chicken left. Lunch for me tomorrow. So that’s three meals for three people for $35. Not bad value, and the food was pretty good also.

    The Burger, Dumas, TX

    24 July 2014

    The Burger on Urbanspoon

    We were cruising through Dumas latish last Sunday on the way home. I wanted some KFC, but their dining room closed at 2100. The Burger was right next door, and their dining room was open until 2200, so there we went.

    This place was popular; there were five parties (including us) while we were there. Erin and Raegan got a grilled cheese, and Raegan got a corn dog as well. I got a double cheeseburger. We got some fries, and I got chili cheese tater tots. All of this was great! My burger was perfect, with great flavor and texture.

    The iced tea was wonderful and service was very friendly. Our check was $21.69, a great value. I’d eat here again anytime.

    Subway, Colorado Springs, CO (S. Academy)

    24 July 2014

    Subway on Urbanspoon

    In the second part of our two-part lunch last Sunday, we jetted the half mile up Academy from George’s to this Subway. Raegan got a 6″ Turkey and Ham sub meal. The only glitch happened when she asked for some oil and vinegar, but got vinagrette. The rest of the sandwich was done right and was completely consumed.

    The check was $9.47; service was fast and friendly. Good stuff.


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