Sunday, July 14, 2013

The end of things.

  In a year that's seen each and every one of my interests dry up and blow away, so to it is with this blog. This will be the last post, though I'll leave the blog here as an archive.

It's been fun, ya'll. See you on the other side of someday.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Toffee or not to...ffee?

  Yep, I caught the cooking bug again today, and I blame Pinterest. I blame Pinterest for a lot of things lately: lost time, gained weight, and a newfound desire to cook ten metric tons of sweet delights.
  Today's delight is none other than English Toffee, one of my favorites. It was a super easy recipe, with the only tedious part being the "waiting for things to cool down so I can proceed to the next step." This very minute, I'm waiting for the final product to cool down so I can break it into pieces and then shove some of those pieces in the old face-hole.
  Here's the basic process. I'll include a link to the recipe at the end if you're feeling saucy.




Pour and cool

Toasted in the oven a few minutes

Melting the chocco

Coat the cooled toffee

Sprinkle with nuts and cool

  Obviously, it makes more than what is pictured here, but I wanted to show the end product. Also, I've shoved several handfuls of this in mouth, and it is killer. Here's a link to the recipe. Enjoy!

Monday, April 15, 2013


  For hours now, the world has known of the shocking attack on the Boston Marathon. We've watched as the casualty count climbed, as it often does in these awful circumstances. We've waited for an explanation- who did this? Why? Often, these questions are not easily answered.
  As human beings, we're designed to be empathetic. We hurt when others hurt. We also feel shock and, later, rage. We want- we DEMAND- reprisal. In a word, we want revenge on those who've hurt us.
  As a person of faith, I'm not blind to this. One of the biggest personal struggles I've dealt with is to not seek revenge. I'm telling you this only to illustrate that I understand how people are feeling right now; especially those who were personally affected by today's events. But revenge is not the answer. Hurt for hurt doesn't do anything except cause more hurt. I'm not saying we shouldn't find those responsible and bring them to justice- we absolutely should. I'm simply calling for a hush to the bloodlust that usually erupts around these acts of violence. I know that our intel community is working hard this very minute to to find the responsible party, and I wish them nothing but success.
  Of course, I will continue to pray for those who were wounded today, and for the families and friends who lost loved ones. I'm deeply grieved that our nation is becoming such an unsafe place to live. It seems these days like you can't go anywhere without risking your life. Schools, movie theatres, shopping malls, restaurants, public transit, offices, marathons- all of them have been targets of unimaginable horror. What we can't do, though, is give in. We can't stay at home and let those who would visit these acts on us scare us into not living our lives. It doesn't really matter in the end whether today's bombing turns out to be the work of a foreign terrorist or a domestic one. The result is the same.
  I'll also be including those responsible in my prayers tonight. One of the greatest revelations that's come out of my walk with God is that we often forget, as we pray for victims, that it is the ugliest and most evil who often need our prayers the most.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Creeped Out at Greystone

  This past weekend, I had the opportunity to not only see the grounds of the famous “Greystone Manor,” but also to enjoy the privilege of a tour of the interior of the mansion itself. The grounds are open to the public, but tours are by appointment only.
  Completed in 1938, the elaborate mansion was a gift to Edward "Ned" Doheny, Jr., and his family from Ned’s oil tycoon father, Edward L. Doheney.

Construction underway in 1927
Nearly complete
Greystone Manor

  Tragically, under mysterious circumstances, Ned and his secretary, Hugh Plunket (with whom he was rumoured to be having an affair), were the victims of an apparent murder-suicide. Our tour guide filled us in on the whole sordid story, and it all sounded pretty fishy. Both Ned and Hugh were due to testify in the trial of Ned’s father in the Teapot-Dome scandal, for starters. Also of interest was the fact that Ned’s family held police at the outer gates to the grounds for an hour and a half after the shooting, telling authorities they “needed to compose themselves” before allowing them entry.

The main staircase
The main staircase

  There are also numerous discrepancies involving the murder weapon, a .45 revolver. No prints were found anywhere on the weapon, and it was found underneath Plunket’s body, reportedly too hot to touch nearly two hours after the shooting. There were also discrepancies with trajectories, powder burns, and Ned’s wife. She was in the next room over, yet testified that she didn’t hear the fatal shots. When local newspapers printed a diagram of the house, the room Mrs. Doheny was in at the time of the shootings had conveniently been moved to the other end of the house.

Tudor style ceiling

  But that wasn’t the end of the tragic history of Greystone. Two of the house’s female staff later committed suicide in separate incidents, and a child playmate of the Doheny children fell to her death from an upper window. It was also believed that a man was beaten to death in the basement.

Upper floor hallway

  There’s a lot more to the history of the place that I won’t go into here. Nobody ever lived in the house after the Dohenys, even though the property has changed hands a couple of times. Thankfully, it was eventually taken over by the park service and preserved.
  What was immediately noticeable was an odd, creepy vibe to the place- a weight, if you will. Being in the room where the murders took place was eerie enough, but there were other odd sounds and sights throughout.

The turret staircase

  The house has been, and continues to be, used in many film and television productions, and the ranger giving us the tour had a little fun with this at our expense. In one of the house’s original kitchens, he opened a large morgue-like freezer drawer which revealed the bare feet of a fake dead body. One unfortunate woman on the tour screamed at the top of her lungs and jumped. He explained to us that many productions had used the kitchen as a morgue set for its appearance. There were a few other surprises like that, but honestly, they didn’t need them. The real stories were scary enough.

The bowling alley

  Besides the creepy, heavy vibe, I also personally witnessed a very large, very heavy chandelier swing by itself and heard a large crash at the other end of the house when nobody was there. Along with the rest of the group, I heard an audio recording that I found most blood-curdling.

  A film production person had left their audio equipment recording during the night one time, to capture the creakings and groanings that typically happen at night when a house settles. Mostly, what they got was silence. Then, on one section of the recording, it sounds like increasingly louder bumps and bangs, as if a body is falling to the floor over and over. It sounds… angry.

A sitting area

  Another more faintly heard recording sounds like tortured screaming coming from the basement. The ranger told us of a time he had to go down to the basement by himself at night to turn the power on. He heard the same screaming, and left in an awful hurry. At least two other rangers have refused to work in the house.

  Could these things have been set up? Sure. Do I believe there’s evil in that house? Without a doubt.

  Visit. Judge for yourself.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Comet Sense

(Click any picture to enlarge)

  You know, they say it's about the journey, not the destination. Well, I had both on Tuesday night when I drove up to Saddleback Butte State Park to go comet hunting. Specifically, I was looking for comet Pan-STARRS, which was supposed to be out in full force.
  The conditions could not have been better. Under clear skies and wonderfully warm temperatures, I roared across the open desert in my Jeep- windows down, tunes cranked up. It's always fun getting to go somewhere you've never been before, even if it's as close as 40 minutes away.
  A lot of the high desert terrain out here is almost a duplicate of landscapes I am used to from my home state of New Mexico, with the exception of the many Joshua Trees. That made things no less beautiful, though, as the sun began to set and bathe everything in gold and orange tones.
  I arrived at my destination just before 7:00, pulling off 170th street into the soft sand (any excuse to go off-road, right?). There's nothing out in that area but an occasional house and a lot of dirt. A short, wavy road took me up the hill to the ruins of an old church, where I took this photo.

  For the next few minutes, I wandered around the ruin, shooting the effects of the glorious sunset. It felt great to just be out in nature.

  Shortly after, my friend Alan showed up, and we started picking our spots to set up for the big event. Then, we waited. And waited. And waited some more. According to charts we had looked at earlier in the day, there was supposed to be a thin crescent moon out, and Pan-STARRS would be visible to the immediate left.

  There was no moon, no comet. Only colorfully darkening skies.

  About ten minutes later, I spotted the very faint sliver of the moon, and pointed it out to Alan. We both manned our lenses, but there was still no sign of the comet. "It is still pretty light out," Alan remarked. I began to wonder exactly how visible this comet was going to be. Several minutes later, with nothing visible, I decided to shoot a long exposure of the area around the moon in hopes that it would reveal something the human eye wasn't able to yet detect. My gamble paid off. A little further to the left than expected, I spied the first hint of a smudgy ball in the sky, and its tiny tail.
  "I found it!" I cried. "There it is!" Alan came over, and I showed him the replay on my camera's LCD screen. Neither of us expected the comet to be that far left. So, as the skies darkened, and visibility improved, we shot picture after picture.
  Having little experience with night-shooting, I shot with a variety of settings, trying my best to cut down the amount of noise in my long exposures. Here's one of the best shots I took:

  As I said, I took a lot more, but they are all variations of this shot. Even at full resolution, the comet is really just a smudgy white blob, as it would be with any imaging device, so I didn't include any close-ups. It was still a very interesting and amazing smudgy blob, though, and made for a fantastic evening under the stars.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

24 Hours Post-op

My fancy new footwear

  So, here I am almost exactly twenty-four hours after the operation to put a hemi implant into the joint just behind the big toe of my left foot. It's gone quite well, and I'm more mobile today than I was expecting. The road to get here, though, was pretty... interesting.
  My wonderful co-worker and friend Alan kindly volunteered to drive me to surgery yesterday morning, and picked me up at my apartment at 10:00. I was appointed to be at the Antelope Valley Surgery Center at 10:30, and my procedure was to start at 12:00. We got there with about ten minutes to spare, and I told him a nurse would probably be calling him to come back and pick me up in a few hours. He drove off, and I headed inside.
  When I attempted to sign in, though, I was told that I was in the wrong place, and that I probably wanted one of the other buildings in the complex. I tried to call Alan, but he didn't answer, because his phone was on silent.
  I walked out into the freezing wind and made my way down Avenue J, but saw nothing that looked like a surgical center. I turned around and headed the opposite direction up the street, and saw only the main hospital itself. At this point, I decided I'd just call my surgeon's office and see what I could find out.
  After an eternity on hold (during which precious minutes were ticking by), a man finally answered and we figured out that I was supposed to be at the Antelope Valley Surgical INSTITUTE. Center, Institute. Who the bloody Hell would name two different places so similarly? I asked him if it was within walking distance, and he said "No." Knowing that was my only alternative, I told him, "Well, it's going to have to be. Tell them I'm on my way." I hung up the phone and began to jog- on my broken foot.
  I followed the map on my phone, stopping to catch my breath as often as I needed. The wind was howling in my face, and I felt like complete crap from having to fast for the surgery. My head and ears were pounding, my foot was screaming, and I was sweating like a pig.
  About twenty-five minutes later, I made it into the lobby, breathing heavily. The receptionist immediately knew who I was. "Did you run here?" she asked. "Yep," I gasped, "I just wanted to give this foot one more workout before you sliced it open."
  After signing the requisite paperwork, I was admitted in no time, and taken to my hospital bed. The nurse drew the privacy curtain around me, and I got into my gown and hairnet. I couldn't resist snapping this photo:

  Shortly afterward, the nurse ran an IV into my arm, and I waited to be taken into the operating room. It wasn't very long at all until my surgeon came in and gave me the "Pep Talk" they always give patients. It was unneccessary, but appreciated, nonetheless.
  Next was the anesthesiologist, who I was very interested in talking to. Last time I was put under a general, I explained to him, had a very bad outcome. I was terribly sick, and passed out as I was preparing to leave the hospital. I woke up hooked up to an EKG, and it was all a mess. They said my heart was doing odd things, and I continued to be sick for quite some time afterward. He assured me that he wouldn't let that happen, and that I'd have a much easier time. For one, I wouldn't be swallowing copious amounts of blood, as I did in that previous surgery.
  They started me on oxygen then, and apologized if the sedative stung. I never felt it go in. The last thing I remember was the nurse saying "Goodnight."
  When I woke, in recovery, I was incredibly groggy. The nurse kept trying to talk to me, and I found it very difficult to reply. It was as if somebody else was speaking through me. It took a long time for me to come around, and once I did, as I expected, the nausea and vomiting came.
  About twenty minutes later, I was ready to go, and feeling a bit better. Alan was there, instructed by the nurse where the correct location was. I was pushed out in a wheelchair to his car, and stood on my bandaged foot for the first time. It was incredibly painful.
  I was going to bypass the post-op painkillers, but seeing as how I could already feel pain in the recovery room, I decided to try them out. I made sure they didn't give me any opiates, as I didn't want to spend the next couple of days puking. Speaking of which, I puked two more times in Alan's car (and kept apologizing for it) and then a further three more times while he was in CVS picking up my meds and a set of crutches.
  We eventually made it back to my apartment, and I got to put the shiney new crutches to use- that is, until I got to the stairs leading up to my apartment. Fortunately, if I only used the heel of my left foot, the pain wasn't too bad. Alan got me inside, I thanked him, and then, mercifully, I laid down on the couch and took a nap.
  All in all, the nausea was the worst part. The pain today (and in fact in the latter half of the evening last night) is pretty minimal. The drugs aren't having any adverse effects, and I already don't need the crutches to get around. I'd probably still take them if I had to cover a lot of ground somewhere. Here's an x-ray of what my implant would look like: (not my actual foot)

  Twenty-four hours in and I'm already so bored here at home. They want me to stay off this for five to six days, but I'm going back to work after four. Don't know how I'm going to keep myself from going stir crazy in the next three days. You can only watch so many movies and read so much. I need a good project. Model building. I dunno. Something I can do sitting down to occupy my brain. Ideas?

Thursday, January 3, 2013

New Year, New...Cartilage?

  I'll be ringing in the new year by having my foot sliced open next Friday, and having a brand-spanking new cartilage implant jammed in behind my toe.
  As I recently discovered, that pain in my foot I had been ignoring for the past two years was, in fact, broken bone and collapsed cartilage. Whoopsie! It pays to go to the doctor, folks- if you have insurance that is. Thank the Lord, I DO have insurance, so I can now have this problem properly remedied.
  On the downside, I'll be off my feet for five to six days (says the doc- I'm betting on more like four), so cabin fever is going to kill me. On the plus side, though, it means I'll have my birthday off! I'll just have to remember to stock up on food and things before my shut-in days begin. I see movie marathons, sleep, and video gaming in my future. Maybe I'll even post some horribly graphic photos of stitches and such on Facebook.
  Anything to keep from boredom. One reason I hate being sick or incapacitated is the boredom. Damn you, boredom. Damn you.