Thursday, September 16, 2010

Blog is back!

Wow, this year got very busy, very quickly.

I suppose in hindsight I could have made time to 'blog' about all of my outdoor adventures, as well as my indoor adventures...but I did not. :(

My work has kept me very busy and quite 'run down' by the time I get home. I'm looking to press the master reset button as I do from time to time, and that usually comes with the holiday rush.

So what outdoor adventures have I gone on this year? Sadly, not many. Although I am still quite capable of hiking through the 100 degree weather that seemed to plague us this year, I do not find it as enjoyable as I once did. When one gets home from work at 3 or 4 o'clock, one does not want to drive another 45 minutes to go for a hike. Then there is the drive home, and diving right into the home life. Ugh.

Therefore I have stuck mainly to the Mt. Tom range. I absolutely love the views, the history, and the solitude (if you know where to find it). After a while, however, the same thing over and over does get a little boring. I had made plans to go up to Monadnock a few weeks ago, mainly for the views, but due to the heat those plans fell through. I stuck closer to home and it was probably a good thing; The air was smoggy and the views from Monadnock would not have been as rewarding as I would have liked.

In other news, my work on the Hampshire/Hampden canal mapping is going to resume soon. Summer is not a good time to perform the surveys due to the overgrowth, bugs, etc. I plan to continue this fall when some of the leaves are down and there is some standing water on the ground. The canal is much more visible during these times.

Closer to home, as we move into autumn I will resume my search for the Eyrie house Dam and William Street's home up on the Mt. Tom range. I searched once or twice last year but failed, mainly because I only had about an hour before the park closed. As with the canal mentioned above, searching for ruins is greatly aided by the lack of leaves on the trees. Man-made structures stand pop out much better when the leaves are down, as one would expect. The Dam and location of William Street's house are not on the maps.

There were a few things on my checklist that I didn't get to this summer due to scheduling circumstances. Another trip up Mt. Washington, Monadnock, Greylock, and Katahdin. As you can see, I like the tall things. No, no aspiration for K2 yet.

Looking forward I have decided that perhaps I will tackle Monadnock in the winter this year. I had managed to pick up a set of nice Mtn boots at a sale last year, so this year I will snatch up some crampons. Monadnock is the closest mountain around here that sees anything significant in terms of weather, so as long as a storm is not moving in I think it would be good practice. The problem is, as in summer I have nobody that wants to or is avaiable to go with me. Grr. Solo it is, then.

So for now I am going to retire to the couch for I have been sick the last two days. Yes, two days in a row is very rare for me but it happens, I guess.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Nonotuck hike

So today I got a bit stir crazy. The superbowl was on a bit later in the day and Bernard hadn't called yet to split firewood. So, I grabbed a bottle of water, my jacket, hat, gloves, and headed out.

I parked at the first parking lot past the pavilion at the Mt Tom park. In winter the pavilion area is not plowed, and the cul de sac parking was full. I walked across the field and took the Dynamite trail as a cut through back to the closed portion of Christopher Clark road. (Information: Christopher Clark road has been, and will remain, closed to all vehicular traffic indefinitely starting at the pavilion and going to the Eyrie House. You are still welcome to walk the road)

Dynamite trail still has a small amount of snow on it right now. Gaiters are not needed, and even yak-trax/microspikes would be a bit overkill.

After reaching Christopher Clark Road I crossed to the other side and followed the McCool trail, heading northward towards the Eyrie House. McCool is still covered with snow in most spots, and there is a bit of ice under the snow. Yaktrax would come in handy here but I was able to navigate with my summer Merrils (of which most of the tread is worn off) without much slippage.

McCool give you a choice to dive down the mountain toward the power lines, join up with the M&M, or hop back onto Christopher Clark Road. I took the latter choice and headed straight up the road to the Eyrie House.

At this time the road up to the Eyrie house is mostly fine, with no ice and hard packed snow. The final push to the top, however, is somewhat difficult right now due to sheer and thick ice under a thin cover of loose snow. Yaktrax would help but microspikes would be a much better choice, especially for your descent. Most likely the heating of the day combined with wind blowing the snow off has caused minor melting and refreezing cycles. This would almost certainly be the same reason that they cannot repair the road anymore and it has fallen into complete disrepair.

The woods path up to the Eyrie house is also difficult. Again we have smooth sheer ice on top of rock, with a deceptively safe looking layer of snow on the top of it. A slip here could mean a quick trip over the edge; A nasty fall and slide until a tree stops you. This is not high on my list of fun things!

I then explored the woods for a bit, looking for an artifact that I believe to be located somewhere in generally unexplored area. Said artifact is related to the Eyrie house. Unfortunately the clock was running against me. With the park closing at 4PM I made it back with about 20 minutes to spare.

Stats from today:
Temp: 30
Wind: 5-10 MPH

Jeans, EMS jacket, wool hat, gloves. Tshirt and light sweatshirt. Comfortably warm. Slightly overheated/sweat when I had to walk doubletime back to the car.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

The New Year

We rung in the new year by going to see Avatar in 3d. This was the first time I was able to actually see a 3d movie without getting sick. They do not use those red-blue glasses any more. This is good for me as they really messed around with my balance.

The movie, which was awesome, was followed up by dinner with friends at Ginzu in Bloomfield, CT.

Right now I am starting the new year with an annoying head cold. Just enough to make me sneeze every other minute and have a constant runny nose. Argh! Does not make for good hiking when you have a runny nose and go outside in the cold air.

So today I sit here, 10:30 in the morning, and wonder what I should do. What I'd like to do is go walk around outside. What I should do is go get a tarp so I can tune my skis and also go grocery shopping. The wife would like some cereal. Ugh, breakfast? Eww.

Speaking of skiing, I have not been yet. I haven't updated At all. I should probably get on both of those, eh? I should also brush up on my French for the trip to Canada. The phrase "Brush up" means "re learn all over again," lol.

I'd also like to take advantage of the winter landscape and work on a bit of winter photography...but that involves going outside. Perhaps I can find a book or a website with tips.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Food related TV shows

The latest phenomena: TV Chef shows, wanna-be-a-cook TV shows, and "Whom is the best chef show." Ok, I get it. People want the reality TV cooking shows so that is what they are producing.

However, I must seriously ask... What. The. Hell?? I just tuned in to a new TV show called "Chef Academy." Apparently there is some dude with a French accent trying to whip up some students into chefs. I have no doubt that these people are talented. Yes, the "head chef" dude has a French accent too. But could we seriously feed the cooking-chef-teacher stereotype anymore? There is more to cooking than some dude you can barely understand preaching how to make meringue.

Some of these "contestants" do seem to have talent. Certainly, I admit that. Some even went to "chef school." I do use the term "school" loosely. There seems to be a school of culinary arts in every major metropolis center now. Can you really learn how to be a true chef from some no-name "academy of culinary arts?" I mean, a serious chef?

I doubt it. I really, really doubt it. One certainly can learn the basics and perhaps even step up to mid-level techniques. For the most part, however, I think you are learning how to "cook." Being a cook and a chef are not the same in my book. A cook certainly can wow the crowd, follow a recipe, and even be in the know creating his own dishes. But a "Chef?" No. Jim Bobs school of cooking is more like a Home-Ec class in the chef world.

A chef, to me, is a person who is an artist. They understand the food. They know the reasons behind why a+b=c in the recipe. Cooks can do that too, yes. The chef, however, goes beyond this. The chef understands what is in season. He understands what the local fare is. He knows how to manage people, manage the line, manage his customers, control the flow of product. He doesn't hold back and lets you know when you screwed up. He also will sit down with you and talk about your future.

Chef has scars up his arms from the hot oven doors and callouses on his index finger from the knives. He doesn't care if he has his own TV show (not to take away from those who do, however). Eager to further his knowledge, chef travels the world from time to time to see how it's done over there. Never a master, always learning, a chef is.

He has two jackets. His favorite has beet juice splashed all over it. Paprika smears across the arms. Singe marks from the grill up the sleeves. A pen and a thermometer in the sleeve. The thermo probably doesn't get used often because he presses on the meat or just listens to the pan sizzle...that's how he knows it is done. The second jacket is for when he walks the restaurant because he can't button over the double breast on his other one any more, it's just too dirty.

All this being said...none of these people on this show are going to be a "chef" at the end because Mr. French dude says they are. Educated beyond the average layperson, definitely. A chef? No. Go travel to France and study. Study hard. Become sleep deprived. Boot camp for chefs; There will be yelling and belittling. You will screw up...alot. Chef will try and make you cry. You will have to shoulder everything.

Do all of that for a long, long time. A Soux-Chef you will be! I mean, heck, you probably could even open your own restaurant on the block and do pretty well for yourself. Are you a master chef? Probably not until you can gain the trust, respect, and half the knowledge as some of the greats like Eric Ripert, Robuchon, or Gagnaire.

I don't want to take away from people who certainly are excellent chefs that you see on the television. Ramsay, Bourdain, Lagasse, Jean-Christope Novelli...yes, they all have their own TV shows and have achieved "celebrity chef" status. They have put their dues in. And yes, they are awesome. They know their stuff inside and out; They have lived the life right side up and upside down. I certainly hold nothing against them for wanting to teach out what they have learned. I'm just annoyed with the fact that anyone who spends two months on the set of one of those shows gives the public the impression that this is all there is to becoming a "chef."

Some of you might be asking "well don't you like to cook?" Duh, yes. No, I have not gone to culinary school. Yes, I have read almost all of Child's books and watched all her shows since I was about 4 years old. Yes, my mom taught me all the home-cooking techniques she knows. Yes, I have greatly expanded my knowledge of not just how, but why the food is doing what it is doing. I'm probably almost reached "expert home-cook" status. True "chef?" Nope.

I certainly could work any line of any chain-restaurant out there, at any station, or as a manager (and be quite bored because that isn't cooking, imo) and have no issue. I could hold my own as an entry-level student in school. Saucier? Sure, I'm actually somewhat of a specialist in that area. Demi-chef or chef du partie? Not even close. Plongeur? If it gets my foot in the door, certainly. That's how some of the greats got to where they are. It puts you in a spot where you can observe everything. Absolutely everything. I've got no problem being the lower than low man on the totem pole with respect to leaning the food.

But please...just because you learned how to make salmon tartare because of the TV please don't forget all the work that it takes to be able to call yourself a true chef. Those people you are seeing on the TV didn't get to where they were after only 4 years of school.

Sunday, October 18, 2009


Wet snow two days ago whilst I was traveling home from Trumbull, CT. Yesterday there was a bit of snow flaky goodness on the wife's car in the AM.

Today, I just tuned into the Patriots game on the tele and's snowing hard enough that you can't tell where the yard-lines are on the field.

I hope this is a sign of things to come. I don't care how hard the snow makes my life. I'll pay the electric heat bill. Just give me feet upon feet of the white stuff. Makes me happy!

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Maine Primitive Gathering

I have just returned from the Maine Primitive Gathering. Leah and I spent the weekend up there learning all sorts of new things; Birdcalling, plant identification, trading blankets, etc... all cool stuff.

I got to meet a lot of interesting people who share the same interest of relearning some of the lost arts from 'primitive' times. Personally I partook in learning some flintnapping, blacksmithing, knife making, plant identification, bird calling, an archery tournament (borrowed a bow), potluck dinner, and of course camping.

The gentleman teaching the flintnapping is actually known as one of the top flint-nappers in the world, an experience I was not about to pass by. I also got to meet Mr. Arthur Haines, one of the top plant experts in the world as well.

The experience in itself was totally awesome and I look forward to hopefully spending more time with these people learning new skills. I just wish it was a bit closer than Maine.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Clash of the Gods

An excellent show on The History Channel, "Clash of the Gods," examines those myths and legends we are all familiar with. The Greek & Roman gods, legends of Grendel and Beowulf, Odysseus, and a Gorgon are the latest topics that have been covered.

Not only does this show examine the legends as they were told, but it also brings to light present day archeological examination of how these legends may have come to be. They do a good job of summarizing how it may have been possible for these places, peoples, and journeys to have actually taken place. With a little embellishment of course.

It would be awesome if we could go back in time to these periods in history with the knowledge we have now and see how correct we actually are...

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Tis the season of change!

I went for my usual hike up the side of Mt Tom today. You know, up the telephone line trail to the top. It is my preferred method of ascent as it is the steepest and shortest way to get all the way up.

On the way down I got whiffs of that "fall" smell. The dead-dry leaf smell coupled with pine pitch. An all to familiar smell up atop Mt. Tom. I am looking forward to the leaves falling completely so I can scope out the sights and check out a few odd...or old...trails I have come across in the middle of the woods.

The wildlife study atop Mt. Tom also seems to be continuing. Oxbow Associates is performing a pretty thorough examination of the local flora and fauna at the request of Holyoke Gas and Electric. Although I do not know of too many details, what I do know is that they are interested in installing wind and/or solar energy equipment atop the mountain. I'm still not sure where I stand on this. They need to release more details before I come to a conclusion.

On a different note of 'change', the wife and I have become addicted to a new show on TV, "Weeds." The show follows the life of a windowed mom of two who turns to selling marijuana to provide support for her family in an affluent fictional development in CA. Her world starts spinning round and round when things spiral out of control without warning. Sounds odd, yes, but's a funny show!

Mary-Louise Parker plays the naive mom of two breaking into the Mary-Jane dealing world. She hooks up with a few street-smart growers and dealers, and the result is most entertaining. Just picture a rich, innocent-looking white mom deposited into the back-street drug-using subculture. Seem a little out of place?

Throughout the show they do use pretty good taste and the actual use of drugs is not shown heavily on screen. The producers also do an excellent job of reeling in the comedy once in a while to remind viewers that the world of drug dealing can be quite serious despite the light-hearted on-screen scenes.

Check it out on Netflix on-demand, Netflix DVD rentals, or the latest episodes on the Showtime channel.

Sunday, July 19, 2009


In MN for a little corporate visit. Should be fun...

Saturday, June 13, 2009


I have decided that should the weather be good in August when I go to New Hampshire, I will clamber up the side of Mt. Washington.

Currently my diet of slim jims and watching TV is probably note the best way to attain conditioning for the long haul...