November 25, 2011

Turkey Day 2011

This Thanksgiving I spent the holiday with Hil's parents. They have a nice suburban house, and were hosting quite a few of the extended family– total attendance was twenty-two people and three dogs.

With that many people, Hil's mother cooked two turkeys. She did one the day before and carved it into large chunks to be refrigerated. The other one was cooked on the day itself. For both, she used a specialized turkey cooker. It looked like a slow-cooker, except the food-containment vessel was made of lightweight metal instead of high-thermal-mass ceramic. It cooked that turkey to what I thought was perfection, although Hil's mom tossed it under the broiler for a few minutes to crisp up the skin. Being the strong young man about the house, I got tasked with lugging the heavy and hot turkey around between cooking devices.

The major excitement was when Hil's mother put a Pyrex casserole full of yams on the stovetop. It did not like the heat and broke with a startlingly loud sound. I cleaned up all the broken glass and splattered yams from the stovetop while Hil's dad manned the vacuum cleaner to get the glass bits off the floor. Apparently Hil's mom had been using that set of Pyrex dishes on her old stove for years, but now she's got a new induction stove that puts out much more heat.

Dinner itself didn't start until 6 PM, we had to wait for one of Hil's aunts to get to the party with her son. There were three tables, but the two great-grandkids are too small to actually sit at a kid's table and feed themselves, so seating was mostly random. The mood was convivial, although people's thoughts were with Hil's grandmother, in an intensive care ward just a few miles away. (People had gone to see her earlier in the day.)

After dinner entertainment was gaming. I played Scrabble with Hil and her sister, which ended the way I had expected, in an utter and humiliating defeat. Hil takes her Scrabble very seriously. In another room, a bunch of the cousins were playing "Once Upon a Time", a game I very much enjoy. The point of that game is to tell a fairy tale collaboratively/competitively. I've got a copy of that game, and one of these years I'll get my family to try it out.

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November 21, 2011

If I Had a Dog...

… I want it to be a dog like Lily:

or a dog like Toby:

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November 13, 2011

Bang Bang

That video's just there because I like the song. The band (Clutch) started as a heavy metal group, but put out a CD of blues covers, just because they could.

This morning I went to a local shooting range with my buddy Iggy, his wife Courtney, and a friend of Iggy's whose name I confess I can't recall. Iggy brought a 22LR plinking rifle and a shotgun that he owned; I rented an M4 carbine, it being the closest thing they had to an M-16. Iggy then rented a classic M1 Garand, after he and I drooled over it a bit. I'd say "They don't make them like that anymore!" except the M1 was far from being WWII surplus; it was manufactured in the late '80s, with a synthetic stock and a modern-style magazine. (I suspect it was technically an Beretta BM-62 from Italy.)

We were at an indoor range, just 150 feet long, standing only, which means I gave up much of the advantage I had over Iggy. He's a prior soldier, and the Army only practices shooting in the prone. We Marines do standing, sitting, kneeling, and prone, so I guess I supposedly do have a standing advantage, but that was always my worst posture. Anyway, to compensate for the short range, we aimed at 25' pistol targets from 50' out, meaning our targets were relatively quite small.

I had a surprising level of difficulty with the M4, because it had a fancy red dot sight attached. I just couldn't get proper sight picture with that funny dot. The M1, on the other hand, had very traditional peep sights and was huge fun to shoot. We also popped off quite a few rounds with the .22LR.

The only problem was bullet expense. The .22LR rounds were about 4¢ each. The M4's .223 rounds were 50¢, and the M1's .30-06 were 75¢ each. After a couple of magazines, that starts to hurt.

When I got home, my roommate saw my targets and asked to come along next time. He's more than welcome! He learned to shoot while a draftee in the Korean Army. Also invited for next time is my friend Bucky's wife Lara. (I suppose Bucky is invited too.) Lara was a competitive shooter back in high school, and word is she'll crush every one of us on the range. With her AR-15. Which, rumor has it, she had repainted in bright pink.

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November 08, 2011


There's one particular student this semester whose class schedule lines up very well with mine– we're in all the same seminars this semester. So we decided to start going to the gym together too, as we sure had similar availability. He suggested we start meeting at the gym at six. Not the good six, but the morning six.

Now, I'm not saying I decided not to reenlist in the Marine Corps because of early-morning workouts… but that did fall under the "quality of life" rubric. I countered his six AM proposal with seven, and that's what we've started doing.

He claimed to be a night owl, which I found frankly unbelievable– what kind of a night owl voluntarily gets up for an early morning workout? But today I discovered the truth, he wanted the earlier session because he stays up that late. In fact, after our workout he stays up for our 10 AM class. He goes to bed after that class lets out, then gets up again in the evening.

I used to think I was a night owl myself. With him as a comparison, I'm no such thing!

Our workout sessions have been interesting so far. He's introducing me to racquetball. I'd knocked the ball around a few times in my life, but we're actually following the rules and whatnot. (That was Friday.) Today, we went for a run. We also discovered that we're both sort of politely hyper-competitive, so that while running together neither of us was willing to suggest an end to the run. Finally, I couldn't take it anymore, declared a final lap for myself, and sprinted it out to the end. He couldn't hang with me in the sprint, but made it up by taking one more lap on his own.

For both these workouts, I was wearing my Vibram Fivefinger "barefoot running shoes", while he had similar shoes of a competing brand. I did get those shoes last year, but over the summer almost all my aerobic work was biking. I've lost the barefoot calluses, and my feet are not so good right now. Being politely hyper-competitive, I refuse to show weakness. But I'm going to suggest we swim laps in the pool for our next session, "because cross-training is a good thing".

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November 01, 2011

Halloween Party

I did get to one Halloween party, on the night itself. The hosts were my friends Court and Iggy, and they had gone all-out decorating their house, in a dense neighborhood. They had fog machines, spooky lighting, a mannequin in a noose at the attic window, and more. They had 150 visitors, but the stat they were most proud of was that they saw 14 different children approach the house, take in the decorations, then pass it by. There was even a pair of teenagers that crossed the street to avoid the creepy people.

Iggy is a hospital nurse, so they trade shifts back and forth to get off holidays. His boss thinks he's crazy, because he volunteered to work Thanksgiving in order to get Halloween off. But he thinks Halloween is the better holiday– on Thanksgiving, he doesn't get to dress up as Baron Samedi. Plus Halloween doesn't get holiday pay while Thanksgiving does, and finally he's not a big fan of dinner with the in-laws anyway.

The party itself was pretty tame, because we are no longer young bucks. They built a fire in the fireplace, and everyone sat around chatting and watching movies. ("Addams Family" and "Lost Boys" while I was there.) I had to leave early, to get some work done Tuesday morning, which is too bad, because in the wee hours of the morning, the remaining party decided to go geocaching in the nearby town cemetery. The local police apparently put a stop to that, assuming that they were out causing trouble. I think Iggy was flattered that the cops assumed he was young enough to be a troublemaker.

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