Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Just checking

I felt like I might want to start writing again. Next post maybe.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Aww, dammit, Castaneda!!

the_dark_legacy_of_carlos_castanedaI’ve loved Carlos Castaneda's books since I discovered them 20+ years ago.  To get more “info” about him and his ideas, I even read books by his female followers. I recently got his last book as a gift, one that I wasn’t aware was published, although apparently it had been out since 1998. So yeah… I guess it had been a while since I really was “into” his books

Well, yesterday, I finished that book… and I just felt a little disturbed.  I guess the fact that the book is prefaced by a note that he died in 1998, coupled with the fact that in his books, his premise was that his ending was going to be very different, kind of bothered me. It’s all kind of fantasy ,“way out there” stuff anyway, although some of his first novels actually do read like an anthropologist’s journal. Somehow, though, in the back of my mind, I guess I hoped some of the stuff about spirituality and energy was true.

So… I Googled him this morning and found this article. The dark legacy of Carlos Castaneda. Much darker than I would have guessed.

Its not so much that I believed everything he wrote was true, but that to be such a favorite author of mine and then read about a truly dark and somewhat insidious past kind of pulled the rug out from under me.

Awww, crap!

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

“What’s new?” you ask

I see some exciting new things on the horizon. 

2012-08-25_06-49-53_6822012-12-25_18-14-28_723A cook book, a catering business and a restaurant.  It’s all in the works, some of it in the near future, some of it a little further out there. At the moment, I daren’t say more, because there are things to take care of yet. I’m sure you all will be the first to know when things take off, so stay tuned.

2012-10-15_21-38-49_29I’ve picked up my pencils, paints, pens and other artsy tools lately, and have begun playing around putting the doodles in my brain on paper.  If I had a natural talent, drawing and sketching would probably be it… I just never practice or think to do it, so my creations aren’t necessarily Art-in-the–Park worthy. Not that I do them for anyone else but me anyway.

GuitarI’ve been playing a bit more guitar, not necessarily a natural talent, but it is something that I love to do. 

cien anosI’ve put a little work into re-learning and studying more Spanish. Here again… not even close to a natural talent, but I love that language! Who knows… maybe someday I’ll even get good enough to speak to someone other than myself in the truck.

DSCN0207It seems like it might be time to brew a couple batches of beer too.  Something hoppy, something delicious.

And finally… I’ve started applying for Licensure as a Land Surveyor in a couple other states, Vermont & Massachusetts. I’ve been licensed in New Hampshire for 14 years. Getting the first license is the tricky part… it takes a 9 hour SIT exam, years of gaining experience and building a portfolio, 6 hours of the National exam and 3 hours of the State exam.  I’m just a number of months and a 1/2 day State exam away from being a licensed Vermont surveyor…hopefully.

So there is is… a bit of what I’m up to. I know what you’re thinking…. not much of a blog post really … but I just felt the need to play with blogger and I’ve got an hour to kill before I pick up my daughter.  

Goof

Monday, January 14, 2013

Winter

SnowflakeI wish it would just show up… at least for a month. I remember snow storms that dropped inches and inches of snow that buried cars. Snow forts, snow shoeing, skiing, winter camp fires, snowball fights, 3 day snow days from school.  I hate to think that winter around here  will be one of those disbelieved stories we tell our grandchildren someday. Its January 14th and 52 deg. F outside right now and what little snow we had is quickly dissipating.  

Remeber when...

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Childhood Influences

1914 Surveyors_thumb[7]

The other day, I was asked by a friend of mine if I could contribute something to The Benchmark or The TBM, which are both publications of the New Hampshire Land Surveyor’s Association. On the drive home from work, I muddled around in my head some different ideas and topics, but nothing really struck me. There are a lot of guys out there who write really great articles, involving important professional topics, or interesting surveying life experiences. What could I contribute?

I began to think about surveying in general, and what I love about it. A lot of what I do in the Surveying profession incorporates so much of what I have always loved to do. I spend a lot of time working and getting paid to play at my interests and hobbies. Then it dawned on me that most of what I do… what I really like about surveying, came from childhood experiences.

clip_image002So first of all, there is being out in the forest. Most of the early childhood memories, that I have any clarity about, involve hiking out in the woods with my Dad. Maybe it's just because that is all I remember, or maybe it’s because of the big impact being outside had on my life.

And it wasn’t all hiking, but more like time spent outdoors. I can recall so many hikes and outdoor adventures with Dad and the family. A lot of the memories are winter-ish, where we had camp fires, hot dogs or venison, cocoa or coffee, and usually my brother and grandfather were involved. clip_image003The smell of tobacco was delicious on the cold winter air. On many of the hikes we had interesting stories about the history of the places we visited.

Huntley Mountain, in Marlow, where my family settled in the 1700’s was a popular hike. There were old family residences, wood frame houses, long abandoned, that were in various states clip_image004of decay. In a few spots, only cellar holes remained. We would hike to these places, explore the ruins and listen to the stories of who lived there. A few hikes were plant gathering missions to dig up heirlooms; lilacs, lilies, iris and rhododendrons to landscape our home with “Huntley” plants.

Other places that stick out in my memory are the channel up in Marlow, where a bridge had once stood, now long gone. The Old Airport, in west Keene, with a hanger and pieces of old planes still scattered in the winterberry and dogwoods at the edge of cornfield. You could always find treasures to bring home. The old Forestry where Dad played and made forts as a kid, and where he worked when he was older. The Forestry is now completely overgrown and “lost”. The cellar holes on Highland Hill, where we mined a few chimney bricks from the ruins to make a small brick walk at home.

clip_image005When I was 10, we moved to Westmoreland, where we had endless woods, fields, marshes, ravines and swamps to explore, right from the back door. We were always outside. We explored countless places in the woods and checked out so many cellar holes and ruins, and wondered, who lived there and what happened to them.

It was about this time that I started reading two of the authors who clip_image006ended up being a big influence in my life.

The first was Eric Sloane. Aunt Chike and Uncle Bill bought me a set of books by Eric Sloane one year for Christmas. He wrote wonderful historic narratives and filled the pages with fantastic pen and ink drawings of early American colonial life. I learned how the stone walls came to be, what farms may have looked like, and why cellar holes and roads were arranged the way they were around our rural town from these books.

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I learned about all the of the tree species in our area, and what their wood was used for historically. The trinkets and treasures that we found in the old cellar holes and stone walls took on new meaning, as I understood their historical context and importance.

Gardening, farming, herbs, building and creating things out of wood, 1830’s life and places like Old Sturbridge Village became a passion, as did something else… drawing, especially with pen and ink. Drawing pictures and plans for farms and gardens in India ink. Ink that was permanent. Plans that I still have today, 30 years later.

 

 

clip_image010clip_image009The other author that I discovered was J.R.R. Tolkien. If you don’t know who HE is, well…Where have you been? He is of course the author of The Hobbit, The Lord of The Rings, The Silmarillion, among other books. He is, in my mind, the founding father of the fantasy novel. His novels are full of dragons, goblins, elves and men, great cities and faraway lands and all kinds of maps and descriptions of these places.

My brother & I spent hours upon hours, days on end, making paths and roads through the woods, with outposts and kingdoms. We built walls and forts. We figured out the boundaries of our lands, and the land of the neighboring kids, and had mock wars. Our arrows were apples from the old clip_image011trees along the borders and our shields were 50 gallon trash can lids.

There were hot disputes over where the borders between our lands actually were, and we spent hours drawing maps in pen and ink, on paper browned with coffee to look like parchment, so it could be ancient, and thus have the weight of truth. We surveyed all our lands, and mapped all the roads, the forts, the wet areas, the gravel pits, the resource areas and danger spots. We hid treasures throughout our kingdoms, treasures which could only be found again with these maps. Our kingdoms were documented for posterity, and again… many of those maps still survive today. My kids like to pull them out of my foot locker and look at the “ancient documents” some of which are written in Runes or Elvish script and that need translating. A few of the clip_image013treasures they mark are still there, waiting.

So here I am, 36 years later, a Land Surveyor and a Wetland Scientist. I get hired to do a survey, and start off on another adventure or quest. It’s rarely the same job twice and there is usually something new and interesting to find out or see. I travel to other towns and walk properties I’ve always wanted to explore. I go to the town halls and registries and spend hours pondering over historical documents and maps, trying to find written evidence about the location of lost boundary corners, old stone walls or trees long since rotted… the hidden treasure.

More can be discovered at historical societies, libraries and the State Archives. I get to visit all these places and dig into ancient tomes and browse antique maps, searching for clues to the location of the hidden treasures.

clip_image015Some days I spend hours walking through forests and swamps, trying to find the treasure that the deeds and plans reference; that hidden stone post or iron marker buried beneath the forest duff marking an ancient property corner. The treasure could be a set of triple blazes on an old beech tree or a stone wall that once marked a border of a pasture and a mowing. Or perhaps a stake and stones on some barren cliff surrounded by hemlocks, inaccessible and maybe not seen in scores of years. It could be the bar way in a stone wall that some ancient deed refers to as the beginning point of the “new” division line. Any these might be the treasure that I seek, the treasure that will solve the mystery of where the property boundaries that I'm looking for lie.

clip_image016Once I’ve found the evidence and markers, I buckle on my machete (sword), put on my surveying vest (armor) and gather my surveying tools and jump in my truck (valiant steed). I may spend days measuring (adventuring), noting all the evidence of human occupation; physical boundaries, lines called for and occupied, and the roads and travelled ways by which these places have access.

clip_image017When I come back to the office, I draw maps and plans of all these places. My plans show where the walls lie, where wetlands are located, where houses are built. They delineate the roads and paths and tree lines and springs.

I print my maps on Mylar, with permanent ink, and record them at the County Registry of Deeds, so that someday, a hundred years from now, someone can look at my ancient documents and know what was on the ground and where the boundaries were at that time. I am happy to say that I discovered an occupation that involves most of the things I have always loved to do and includes many of my hobbies.

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I've talked to a lot of guys that when asked how they got into the profession, tell you they went to surveying school, or got experience in the military or picked up a job with a surveyor when they were young. Me? I blame Tolkien, Eric Sloan and my Dad. Best job ever, thanks guys!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Escape to Key West

The crewI imagine that if you follow me at all on Facebook, you have been inundated with photos and comments about my recent long weekend vacation to Key West, Florida. It was, without a doubt, one of the best vacations I’ve had in a long time, but it really was so much more than just a vacation. For me, it was a series of daily adventures as well as a few personal breakthroughs.

The whole trip started off as just a half serious conversation on Facebook almost two years ago.  You may or may not know this, but I have enjoyed playing a few of the Facebook games over the years. KanbeI‘m not much of a gamer, normally, (Skyrim not being included in this assessment) but occasionally, a game strikes a chord with me, and in this instance, it was Castle Age. I started playing as a solo character, but soon realized that people set up social groups and teams in order to be able to beat the various tougher monsters in the game or to get scads of loot. I began chatting with a few people on line and eventually I was invited to join a group. From there, some great friendships blossomed, although sadly a few others fell by the wayside. A Facebook day, after all, is like 3 months in real time.

CAAfter a few incarnations of various groups and guilds, we found that there was a core of us that always seemed to stick together, who really enjoyed each others company, in or outside of Castle Age. We formed a group jokingly called Socks from one night’s goofy online shenanigans of posting all our feet in socks. The group purpose was still Castle Age oriented, but there was an element of the local pub included, it was also just a place for the lot of us to get together on line. One night, we were chatting about how cool it would be to all get together sometime and meet in person, in some fun, tropical place. Key West came out as a destination, and before we knew it, there were a bunch of us who really wanted to get together… although at this point, we were just planning to make a plan… a something to do “someday.”  If you read a few of my blogs, you know my views on what “someday” really means. As it turns out though, thank god, not everybody in the group shares those views on “some day's” nebulous existence, and a couple people really started making plans. I was willing and excited to go down that road, but it still seemed like a castle in the clouds and though the group started off fairly large, there were already people who felt reality’s bite and decided that probably Key West should stay in the realm of “someday.” By the time we got down to brass tacks and credit cards, the group had dwindled to about 5 core members, spouses and a couple friends. Plans were made, flight tickets purchased and a fantastic pair of cottages reserved.

 

yikesAs it always happens, there were a few changes made as the final days approached. Some group additions and some subtractions from the core. In the end, there were 9 of us descending on the Keys and staying in the cottages; Tracy & I, Charlie, Lisa, Christi, Kimmy, Amy, Amber & Cicely. I can’t tell you everything that happened, I’m sworn to secrecy by a blood oath….and the truth of it it is I may not even remember everything that happened,  but I can tell you, with out a doubt, that we fully enjoyed every minute of our adventures.  

Best. Vacation. Ever. You’ve seen a few pictures. You know I don’t lie.

Crazy boysuh huh

 

There were a few Breakthroughs

There was much more to it for me, though, than just an adult spring break, reliving old college day type shenanigans. One huge thing, as you might guess from reading earlier blogs, is that I get a bit anxious at times… I have been learning to overcome anxiety,and it has been a forward progression. But the crux of it was that this time, we had to FLY to Key West, and more than anything, I have an irrational fear of flying… I’m prepared to die any time I board a plane. For the weeks leading up to the flight, the adrenaline was building more and more every day, so that by 6 am Thursday morning, when we boarded the plane, my whole body felt like it was vibrating on some high frequency super drug with all the little associated peaks and tweaks. We had 3 different plans to catch and I was terrified. Just really slowly walking toward the hangman's noose and waiting for it to be done with.

Well…. I didn’t die.  In fact, after we took off for the first time, I found that I was ok with it…. just saturated with the Hulk’s portion of adrenaline to get rid of. By the monadnocktime we landed in Boston on the return set of flights, I was ready to head off into the wild blue yonder on yet another adventure, completely relaxed and happily drained. I think I burned up all that adrenaline in that 1st 36 hours of the adventure (with only 2 hours sleep on the first day travelling from my house, even after climbing Mount Monadnock), finally calling it a night on the first evening in Key West (around 1 am I think).

 

 

 

airport

Fear Conquered!!

Another breakthrough was meeting everybody. For all we all knew, the others were serial killers, mother stabbers and father rapers. I obviously knew Tracy, and had spent a couple days prior with Charlie, here in New Hampshire before the trip, but even so, you just don’t know. It could have been the worst nightmare of a vacation if we all arrived, were nothing like our personalities on Facebook and all hated each other. As it turned out, nothing could have been further from the truth. It felt like we were all old childhood best friends reunited. It was hugs and laughs from minute number one. I was thinking about it while we we there, and I guess it stands up, because, as I said,  a day in Facebook world is like 3 months in real time, and we had all stuck together through various games and groups, conversations, chats and e-mails for quite a while, some for almost 3 years.

3 amigos

hahah more amigoskissss

There were a couple of brand new faces, but of course, the odds are always pretty good, that if you are tight with someone, you’ll probably at least get along with their friends, that is if they think you will. I think almost everybody had at least some small bonding moment with every other person there…some of us had lots of them. The tactile experience, enjoying food, drink, laughs, hugs, hot tubs, tattoos, sunburns etc, converted the Facebook experience into a friendship reality. And for my money, I’d say we made some life long lasting friendships.

There was one more facet of the experience that I hadn’t expected, but I think affected me more profoundly than even conquering my fear of being air born. Once I came home, I realized how much I really missed these people. I can honestly say that for a about a week, I feel I was starting to succumb to some serious depression. I’m not usually prone to depression, so it really caught me off guard. Part of it was thinking that once again, I had given my heart over to people, making them my real friends, and now chances were, I would never see them ever again. That really kind of sucks. I don’t make friends lightly, but when I do, its from the whole me.

Well, perhaps I just needed a few good nights rest after my vacation to get my head together again. Or maybe the fact that I can still talk and share experiences, stories, photos etc on Facebook with the Key West Gang, and they are still around, made it better. We have all talked about doing it again, and it comes to mind that its no different than friends anywhere that you don’t actually live with and see on a daily basis.

Suffice it to say, I’m not depressed anymore. Maybe it has something to do with the idea of going back again in a year or two…and just how really feasible that is… and how it’s not a once in a life time experience after all… its not a I’ll see you again “someday,” its “ until next time”

Monday, March 19, 2012

Brewing beer

My secret recipeWell Folks, it’s apparently been ages since I last blogged. You’ve probably been worried. Where is Russ?  What has he been up to?  How can I go on without knowing what Russ is doing?  Right? … (Insert the sound of crickets chirping here).  OK… so maybe you aren’t holding your breath.  For all I know, you deleted me long ago, or only keep me bookmarked for a laugh.

So, whether you’ve been waiting with baited breath for my next post so you can go on with things, or with finger poised over the delete key, threatening to remove me from your life if I ever post again, if you’re reading along now, you are in for a treat. You are finally going to find out what I have been up to these last several months. Well… maybe not everything I’ve been doing over the course of the last years absence, but at least something that I’ve done and want to share in yet another witty and thought provoking post. If you’re as clever as I suspect all of my discerning readers are, you will have seen the title and saved yourself a whole lot of reading already.…but for those of you who may be a bit slow on the uptake, I’ll spell it out….this weekend I brewed a batch of beer.

Beer brewing has become a favorite hobby over the last year. It actually all started about 20 years ago, when I decided to try brewing beer after my friend Bill had completed a few successful batches. He got sick of it and gave me his gear. I tried to make beer 3 or 4 times. I had a couple poor batches, one that never fermented and one that fermented real well but tasted like what plastic band-aids smell like. …undrinkable to say the least.

Last June, a new shop, Brewtopia, opened up near Central Square in Keene. I was excited to see what they had for craft beers, so I stopped in. What to my wondering eyes did a appear, but a beautiful beer store AND a home brewing supply store, all in one. I talked about brewing to the guys a little bit and picked up a great book on making homebrew that they recommended. How to Brew

I went home and read the book in one evening. It became quite clear why my original batches 20 years ago were so un-spectacular to downright horrid. The next weekend, I rummaged around in the basement and found my glass carboy and some of the other beer making stuff I still had and decided to give it a go again. I went back and asked AJ at Brewtopia to hook me up with the ingredients for a pale ale recipe, which he did. I didn't even bother to ask what they were or in what amounts. I just wanted to try out the brewing process.

home_free_byo_coverMy first brew came out ok. Very drinkable. Not an award winner, maybe, and not particularly reproducible, since I had no idea what I made it with, but good. I was hooked. I joined some online communities like Hopville and  Homebrewtalk , and got a subscription to Brew your Own magazine and a home brewing website called Beer Tools.(Ya, I know… I get a little obsessive at times)

So one evening, I was enjoying a Shipyard Export, and wondered if I could figure out how to make something that tasted like that. I opened up the Google Machine and Wham!  clone recipes galore.

The next weekend, I hit up Brewtopia, got my supplies and brewed up a batch. As luck would have it, we had a pig roast for the Elm City Derby Damez on the same weekend that the beer was ready, so I brought out a cooler full. It was a hit and disappeared pretty quickly.  I decided to call it “Pig Roast” and to keep tweaking the recipe and brewing it until I had something super delicious and of my own make, and so I have brewed the last 3 times the same recipe with various little additions, changes or subtractions. I’ve also picked up, or been given, better brewing gear, which has enhanced the whole brewing experience, as well as helped things look and taste better.

DSCN0187This weekend past, I brewed it again. This time, I used yeast that I had farmed from a bottle of an earlier batch. I had made a starter earlier in the week and built up a good sized yeast cake.

Once again, I messed around with the hop schedule and the various amounts of malt to try to find just that right combination.

The process is pretty easy and fun. It feels like working at the Alchemy Lab for all my Skyrim addict friends. First, I steeped my Wheat and Crystal-30 grains in a small pot on the stove for about 1/2 hour at 150+/- degrees.

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DSCN0200Since it was a glorious Sunday, with the sun shining and the temps in the 70’s (a very rare occurrence in NH in March), once the steeping was done, I set up my burner and kettle out by the fire pit and played all afternoon at being a brew-miester. I brought my water to a boil, then added my steeped wort, my malt extract and the first addition of hops. I was trying something a little different, so I had to stay close in order to add hops at timed intervals, especially near the end of the hour long boil.

DSCN0204When I first made beer, I would get so wound up and have my books and directions out the whole time, checking to see if I was “doing it right” I have the process down now, so there’s less checking and more enjoying. That’s not to say stuff doesn’t come up that causes a panic now and then. I stepped away yesterday for just a moment and had a boil over that put out my burner. So I lost a little propane and about a quart of wort. That was a bummer. The dogs enjoyed liking the the fire pit patio stones though.

DSCN0206Once I was done boiling, I cooled the wort with my handy little cooling device, and then poured the chilled wort into the carboy. I found that I boiled down more volume that expected in an hour, so my 6 gallons to start with turned into about 4.8 in the carboy.

I expected 5.5 gallons, so the batch is a little denser than I expected. (An O.G. of 1.071 for you brewing types, whereas I was aiming for 1.060) The beer is also going to be a little hop-ier (more bitter) than the recipe goal, but I think it’ll be good anyway. It meets all the style characteristics of an OLD ALE, so I’m sure I’ll like it.

DSCN0207

 

I pitched my home farmed yeast, and it took off…. the airlock started bubbling within a half hour of pitching. I hope that’s a good thing….sure seems so. It has a lot of work to do.

So now the beer is at its primary fermentation in the basement at about 65 degrees. Hopefully, I’ll bottle in two weeks and be sampling deliciousness around the 1st of May.

 

    Pig Roast Old Ale