Monday, January 30, 2012

A Tale of Two Kitchens

 If I were to be a building contractor, I'd have to specialize in glaciers. Because that's the pace my construction projects generally go at.

Here's the current state of my kitchen:

 The paprika? It's right over there behind the Shop Vac.

Yes, new counters sounded great and all, but now my house has sawdust topsoil on every surface and my hurry-up renovation has stalled out as more important matters crop up. Like fishing. I've got to go fishing today, which is way more important than having a kitchen. 

So Justin Bohannan stops by and mentions he did a kitchen project recently. It looks like this –

 And it's going in this –

A playhouse for his daughter. I'm happy for her. Really, I am. Quinn, you have a nicer kitchen than I do and if you don't mind I'd like to come over and visit and, I don't know, make something to eat besides microwave burritos and peanut butter toast, which is what I've been subsisting on.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Dragged on your face by sled dogs

The Eagle Cap Extreme sled dog race launched their doggies yesterday from Ferguson Ridge Ski Area outside of Joseph.

 On Donner, Freckles, Sparky and Shep . . . hyah, hyah. . .

I used to report on these races for KWVR Radio and here's what the coverage would sound like:

"We're here with sled dog musher So-and-So, who ran the Idita–BARK-BARK-YIPE-YIPE-HOWL-BARK-DOG NOISE-BARK (two minutes of this) . . . now, back to the studio."

Sounds a lot like a Rush Limbaugh interview.
"Long-time listener, first-time barker...." 

Pretty cool to see schoolkids up there rooting for mushers with hand-made signs. It was kind of like being at a football game, except in the snow with teams of sled dogs instead of football teams.

My trusty pooch Bula is part husky, part collie, part sheperd and would have made a fine sled dog back in her younger days, judging by how she would pull my arms from their sockets when I tried taking her on walks connected to a leash.

The worst phase was when she kind of got the hang of not pulling with a thousand pounds of force, so I'd be lulled into just walking along until she exploded after a chipmunk or the whispering wind or whatever she was always chasing and – boop – there would go my arm and blood would be spraying everywhere, my detached hand and arm dragging after her, still clutching the leash.

I'd catch up with her down the trail and she'd either be chewing on the chipmunk or my hand and I'd have to sew my scratched-up appendage back on, which is a trick when you're missing an appendage. It was a real hassle.

You get one of these when you join the Jack London Book Club.

The guy in this next photo probably understands the downside of having dogs that just want to pull when it's not convenient.

His sled caught an edge on a tight corner, tipped over and he got drug on his face for a while. Once he got it righted, the dogs took off and jerked the sled away before he could get settled in, so he slowed them down by dragging his kneecaps in the snow. His technique is pictured here:

Whoah . . . whoah . . . sit . . . lay down . . . stop . . . alto . . . cease . . . desist . . .

He'd get them slowed down enough and try and get up. Almost get to his feet, then – boop – the dogs would shoot off, yank the sled away and he'd go back to the kneecap technique for a while. This got repeated for about a hundred yards or so, and it sure looked like a fun game. Hard on the ski pants, though. It looked just like me trying to learn how to waterski, including shouting at whoever was dragging me.

Then he finally got upright and mushed off around the corner, straightening his hat, presumably enjoying the nice chilly breeze on all the new abrasions he just collected on his face.

This was half-a-mile into a 30-something mile course, so he had plenty of time to reflect on his joy of  owning a team of real go-getters.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Yeah, yeah, you're real pretty, Mother Nature

I'm sick of these goddamn mountains being all pretty and stuff when I'm just trying to go about my business.

Look at you, mountain, all painted up like a tart with your morning sun. You make me sick.

Here's them the other morning, when I got up and just wanted to be cross with the world and make some cinnamon toast. But instead I had to be all, "ooooh, look at the mountains, isn't that spectacular? I better go get my camera...."

Spindrift or whatever it's called, blowing off the cornice. Snow and ice, lit by the warm glint of the first precious rays of -- No. Stop. I have shit to do today. No time for this.

Tired of it.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Too old for fencing at a young age

Went out to work recently – the commute is a real bitch, I have to walk all the way across my yard to the writing shack – and there was a guy out there in the cold on the edge of my property, doing something but it wasn't clear what.

Fixing the fallen-down fence, turns out. Planned on putting a couple horses on the 4 acres to the south of me. He had a roll of used barbwire and some staples. He's in his 80s. Still rides horses. Was just in the hospital the week before. Tougher than me, no doubt, but thankfully I'm immune to being bothered by such things.

I've never cared for fencing. It bothers me. I had to repair a stretch of fence after putting my '65 Mustang through it when I sailed off Parkway Road thanks to some black ice back in high school. Replacing the busted tie rod on the car was more fun than stretching wire. And that's the last time I fixed fence because a mustang broke through.

You can't leave a guy in his 80s out there in the freezing cold, stringing fence all by himself. So I offered to help and did, a little bit. But just a little. I kept offering, but he kept at it and I think he could sense I was useless in the fencing realm. I exude that kind of thing.

He says to me, he says, "I'm starting to get too old for this."

I says back, "I've always been too old for fencing."

He takes a look at me and says, "I did lots of fencing when I was your age."

I didn't doubt that or have much else to say on the matter, so I watched him finish up and he said "I think that'll hold, what do you think?" and I thought so too.

Then he brought the horses over. They're good neighbors. Probably because of the fence, I guess.

Friday, January 20, 2012

What's another word for thesaurus?

I thought for sure my thought for the day would stump the universe but it turns out the thesaurus does have other words for itself.

Probably because it's a 'Super Thesaurus' with special word-suggesting powers. Unless you look up 'kryponite,' which case it starts throwing up and curls into a fetal position.

Here's what Roget's Super Thesaurus suggests for alternatives to its own bad self:

lexicon, word treasury, synonym finder, word book.

OK, Super Thesaurus, I'll give you 'lexicon.'

But 'word treasury'? Little uppity, don't you think?

'Synonym finder' sounds like something a well-spoken caveman would say, with a firm grasp on fancy parts of the lexicon and very cavemannish understanding otherwise. Pretty sure if you know the word synonym you can do better than 'finder.' Howzabout 'synonymizer'?

'Word book' just . . . no. That's what a caveman says when you ask what he got at the library.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Oh, the fresh-squeezed horror

(Writing a newspaper column is great because you get to take up whatever topic you want. Occasionally  friends will approach you, suggesting you might write about the upcoming Winterfest activities. Or the dogsled race. And you think, hmmm . . . no, I think I'm going to go with the orange juice. Yep, definitely the orange juice. Because that's what was on my mind. And it worked. I got it out of my system, no longer dwelling on OJ. Good for me, but the reaction to this column was pretty much crickets. There was some positive feedback, but for the most part I got kind of a "what the hell?" response. Which is exactly what I think about the OJ process, specifically the labeling: What the hell?  

Check out the book Squeezed: what you don't know about orange juice, by Alissa Hamilton for more.)

'And Furthermore', Wallowa County Chieftain January 4, 2012

I go into 2012 concerned about how we complicate things in this world. Specifically orange juice and pasta. Not the usual canaries in the coal mine, but hear me out.
The worst Christmas gift I know of was given to my mother. By me. My sisters got on board too, but to their credit they were skeptical. Mom took a vacation to Italy with friends. They attended a cooking class and the homemade pasta, Mom said, was amazing. She’d make us some when we were home for Christmas. 

So when it came to choosing a gift, I figured a pasta maker was ideal. I was proud of myself for having such a swell idea. Mom unwrapped it and did a good job pretending to like it. Later we assembled the thing, plugged it in, fought with it, unclogged it, called it names, abandoned it and then Mom rolled out the dough with a wooden rolling pin and sliced it with a knife like the Italian guy showed her and it was fantastic. No attachments, no electricity. The fancy pasta maker was idiotic and unnecessary, but at least it was expensive so she knew the intention was good.

This long way around to something straightforward brings me to orange juice. I like it. I think OJ is good. I gladly buy the premium stuff. Not-from-concentrate, pure, fresh-squeezed 100% all-natural juice. I know something’s going on since it’s available year-round and doesn’t spoil. But there’s an awful lot of somethings going on. 

I wish I’d never laid eyes on the articles that made me think about orange juice. I’ve got much better things to be bothered by. I’m mainly appalled at how the words used to sell juice have been put on the rack and tortured until Webster wouldn’t recognize them.

Here are two recipes for 100% fresh-squeezed all-natural pure juice:

Squeeze oranges. Recipe #1 stops here. Just drink it.  

Recipe #2 is a tad more involved. Heat the juice to pasteurize it, remove oxygen, store deaerated (that’s a word) juice aseptically (also a real word) in a tank for up to one year. One OJ processing plant boasts of their one-million-gallon indoor storage tanks. They have 56 of them. That’s a lot of deaerated, aseptic pure and natural. Not exactly straight from the grove, but technically it was fresh-squeezed at one point. Good enough for marketing departments and the FDA.

The taste disappears when the oxygen is removed, so the next step is to hire yourself a fragrance and flavor engineering firm to mix up a custom, proprietary “flavor pack” – basically perfume for the tongue – to revive the blah liquid back to what you would recognize as something that came out of oranges. Throw in some ethyl butyrate and other things that don’t sound right. Check with the FDA about mentioning your flavor pack, they say don’t worry about it. Charge a lot because storage tanks are expensive. Pour and enjoy. Mmmm. Delicious. 

I’m not opposed to pasteurization, additives, preservatives or chemistry projects. They have their place. But terms like 100%, pure, all-natural and fresh also have their place and it’s not on the label for something that’s been sucked of its being, suspended for a year and then artificially resuscitated. That sounds more like a zombie movie and I don’t condone those either.

To review: the people in charge of breakfast have kidnapped familiar words and used them for a process that is the reverse. What next, breakfast industry? Peanut margarine? I don’t know what to believe anymore.

So my resolutions for 2012 include not reading things on the internet anymore ever again. I also plan to find an old-fashioned juice squeezer with a handle you lean into. I will now and then press fresh fruit and drink the results. I will also, on special occasions, make pasta from Mom’s recipe: a few cups of flour, a couple eggs, dash of olive oil, pinch of salt, dribble of water, roll out, cut into little strips, make al dente, eat.

Simple. Honest.
Happy New Year. And thanks for reading these pure, natural, 100% freshly-typed words which have never been stored in a tank. Though I did add a flavor pack to bring out the citrus undertones.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

January in Hells Canyon

Went down to Hells last weekend on a volunteer cleaning detail to pick up some trash and whatnot at campsites. And by whatnot, I mean gross things people shouldn't be leaving where they know other people are going to be visiting.

View out the back of the Forest Service jetboat.

I kept samples of the gross things or soiled toilet tissue in question, stored in hermetically sealed vials after being recovered with kitty litter spatulas. These samples will be tested for DNA at the lab and I will then track down each offender and they shall know it is I and vengeance shall be mine when they look out their living room window to see a guy squatting on their lawn taking . . . great care, um, to rake their leaves, because I want to set a good example and counter bad deeds with good. Either that or I'll take a crap on their lawn to teach them a lesson. I'm divided on that. But vengeance shall be mine, either way.

Here's a pithy observation from Ace Barton, tacked on the wall of the museum at Kirkwood Ranch:

And here's a solar panel below the airstrip at the Forest Service admin building, across from Pittsburgh Landing.

Looks lonely. So ronery.

Mike Baird and I went along with the Forest Service folks and had a fine time, even though the mission was to clean up after folks with bad manners.

 Pack string.


Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Driveway Rage

Battery-powered Jeeps rank very high in the awesomest-ever Christmas gift index. Very high. Nieces Claire and Anna must have done something right this past year because Santa kicked down for one of these prized plastic chariots.

I'm envious and considered stealing it, but Claire somehow sensed my plan and ran me off with this look:


I believe Claire could run a grizzly bear off with that expression. Or an army. Or star in a movie, co-starring a priest.

Anna looks like she just wants it all to be better.

To be fair, I brought this on by teasing the girls. Lifting up the back of the Jeep so it wouldn't drive and so forth and then asking them to make a scary face. Uncle stuff.

But asking for a scary face is one thing – downloading your Christmas photos a week or so later and finding results like this made me reach for heart pills I don't even have a prescription for.

I'm guessing Claire will score high on nonverbal communication if her school tests for such things.

Here's a smiley one, after I asked them for a non-heart-stopping scary face:

 So cute.

And I like this shot a lot, of Mom pedaling her bike while we were having our driveway fun run.

About that sawdust in my eye

So it goes a little something like this – I'm kerfing out some endgrain on a 2-inch thick slab of wood. I don't really know whether kerfing is the right woodworking term here and in my old age frankly I don't care.  Making channels on two slabs of wood to join them, inserting a glued piece in their respective slots.

So. An operation like that sends up tremendous poofs of sawdust and 24% of it bounced off my face, 1.6% of it deciding to homestead in my eye.

Safety glasses would have been good. A ham and cheese sandwich also would have been nice, if I'd had any ham. Or cheese. Or bread. I did not.

Entonces, the next day my eyes were a little red. To be expected. Day after that, one eye was really really red. I shot some old contact lens solution in there. Held my head under the faucet to flush it. Borrowed a fire truck and shot myself in the face to flush it out and relieve me of this speck.

Yeah, well, I had pink eye. Conjunctivitis, if you're in polite company.

Features of this condition include looking like a horror show, waking up to your eyelids welded shut by caked boogers. It's, uh, not great.

Talked to a teacher friend while this was going on and she related how a student of hers had a bout of the pinkeye and the word around the classroom was that she had got it because someone had farted on her pillow.


I was reminded of Frank McCourt's description of his eye troubles as a youth, a condition he says made his eyes resemble "two piss holes in the snow," I believe is how he phrased it.

My new best friend is a little bottle of fancy eye drops that made it go away. Thanks, little bottle of eye drops.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Eyeball dustbin

That's kind of creepy, actually.

This week on Handyman's Corner I want to talk about eye protection. Specifically when you don't use it. When you're leaning over your Skilsaw, reeaaally getting your face down in there because it's a delicate cut and you don't want any wavering.

It occurs to you this may be a good time – nay, the perfect time – to put on safety glasses. Then you think, Nah, I'm almost done.

Two things: I didn't lose an eye or anything. Instead, I gained about four pounds of sawdust, added to my eyeball cavity and I think it migrated up into my brain. Really need to sweep that up.

It would have taken two minutes to find and put on some glasses, but thanks to my time-saving decision to not bother, my eye has been on fire for the last two days, geysering out tears and fluids and causing children to scream and run because it looks like half my face is glowing red.

In conclusion: sawdust in the eye is a pain in the eye.