Sunday, August 28, 2011

Caches, Climbing, and Karaoke

A beautiful and most enjoyable day. Given the ongoing turmoil in the wake of Hurricane Irene, which passed us by with barely a big wind, it does make one thankful for being spared nature's temper, at least this time around. Got going fairly early and headed to Eden, a few miles up the road, to hunt a cache that was published last week but had not as yet been found. It's at the site of an old cotton mill, of which nothing remains but the foundations. To get to the cache site, you enter the old foundation, climb through a window, and voilĂ ...you're at a hidden dam and waterfall back in the woods, which, from street level, you'd never expect to be there. I actually discovered the place a few years ago while hunting an older cache, which has since been archived. To my surprise, I did manage to get first-to-find on "Portal to the Past" (GC32XW0); my thanks to the cache owner for bringing me back to a favorite location.

From there, it was up to Fieldale, VA, just outside of Martinsville, for the August geoclubsouthva event (GC2Y6MB), which, this time, offered not only lots of food treats but karaoke and a new, somewhat terrain-intensive cache courtesy of Christopher "Ranger Fox" Hall. A bunch of us undertook the terrain challenge to get first-to-find...a challenge made a bit more intense when we realized there was a giant wasp nest inches from the cache's hiding place. You don't want to rile wasps while at the height of this particular terrain. It could kill you....

I decided to be a mean, rotten son of a beech and participate in the karaoke activity. I will say it didn't appear to drive anyone away, at least immediately, but those who witnessed it seem to have become babbling, drooling lunatics, some of them homicidal. Perhaps I went too far. At least several of the other participants offered far more soothing sounds. Certainly not due to any advantage other than luck of the draw, I won a nice prize—a well-stocked, ready-to-go geocache container—just for being mean enough to sing.

Many mini tanks for that.

And tonight, Ms. B. is coming round for some Chinese food and a movie. How in hell is it Sunday already, though? Monday is closing in all too quickly, as it always does....

Wonder what's happening over yonder?

Oh. It's Ranger Fox. On the trestle. Placing a cache.

Fox places cache on the trestle. Rodan thus climbs the trestle.

Rodan signs log on the trestle. Rodan getting down is the fun part.



Saturday, August 27, 2011

ET Power!

If you're a geocacher, you know about the ET highway caches out yonder in the high desert. Over a thousand caches, roughly every tenth of a mile for a hundred miles, along Nevada 375—the "Extraterrestrial Highway," near Area 51. There was a geocaching event in Rachel, NV, tonight, which included caching and costuming, but most of us on this side of the country couldn't manage to get out there. So a few local cachers put together a little power trail of caches along Highway 311 (all with some variation of "ET" in their titles), and hosted their own event in High Point. I got together with my friend Bridget "Suntigres" Langley this evening, as we figured it would be fun to undertake that power trail, and went to work along the highway between Liberty and High Point. We didn't make it to the event, alas, which I know would have been enjoyable, but we did pick up 50 caches, including some that aren't actually a part of the ET series, in about three hours' time. I must say, though I certainly don't mind getting a slew of caches in relatively short order, I don't do much in the way of numbers runs like a lot of cachers I know. I generally prefer a more relaxed pace and going after a variety of different types of hides. Getting out on the trail or on the water is certainly my preference, but there's definitely something to be said for the adrenaline rush of finding one quick cache after another—especially when the hider changes it up from time to time and gives you a little something different to hunt. I suppose I could take exception to the big old black widow I found lurking under one of the containers, but that's just one of the inherent hazards of the sport. I extricated the container without mishap, signed the log, and bid the venomous little fucker a bloody happy evening.

One of that bunch tonight made for my 3,600th geocache find. Child's play for a lot of the local high-powered players, but for me, it represents a fair amount of personal history—a goodly number of satisfying, memorable trips into the field. Becoming acquainted with a large number of local cachers, who are by and large some of the finest folks I've ever met, has been one of the many perks of getting involved in this game. It really is the best activity I've involved myself in since I became an adult-type person.

Stopping for Taco Bell at the end of it all wasn't exactly a shabby thing, either.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

That Ol' Dan River

Left work a few minutes early and booked up to Danville to meet up with cachers Homestyle, Homekid, and HD JP for a canoe trip up the Dan River. Spent several hours out on the water, paddling hard, and hunting a couple of caches that can only be accessed by boat. Made a short hop over to a nearby island for the first one, "3-Dan Island" (GC1YMD0), which was a quick find, then set out on a mile-and-a-half paddle upriver to hunt "Catch a Cache" (GC2Y8N1), which was guaranteed to pose a challenge, though we came out with just the tools for the job. Once we got to ground zero, though...disappointment! No sign of the container anywhere. Next thing you know, we're on the phone with the cache's one previous finder, who told us just what to look for, but this only confirmed our idea that the container is just plain gone. What a bummer! Ah, well...at least it was an excellent day to spend out on the river. We got back to the cars just as darkness fell; then it was off to the nearby Ham's restaurant, where I went to town on one of their famous bison burgers. Mercy, them critters are good! And now I'm feeling a little bit of the soreness coming on. Not much, just enough to let me know that my bones are somewhat ancient. So it's off to bed. Good night, Lucy.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Caches, Quakes, and Dead Cows

I suppose that, years from now, folks from all over the east coast may be able to look back and remember exactly where they were and what they were doing during the quake of 8-23-11. Me, I was sitting in my office, pounding keys, when the floor began to shake. Now, at The Education Center, whenever a soul of especial girth or devoted purpose strides down the hall, the floor shakes a bit. (A typical building designed by the Koury Corporation; with tenants of overall slight build and a spot of good weather, you're generally okay.) After the shaking went on for a while, I decided that I didn't care how devoted one's purpose, this was getting ridiculous and it was time to say something. I stepped out into the hall and...nothing. Nary a stomper to be seen. But folks from all over the third floor began to materialize, and it soon dawned on us that either a fault had shifted or Godzilla was on the rise.

At least we may all be thankful it didn't prove to be a major destructive event, unlike some in recent memory.

A bunch of new caches were published today, so after work, I headed out to the Glencoe area to go hiking along the Haw River, which is always very scenic, and today, the weather was cooperative—clear and warm but not oppressively hot. I put in about five miles and managed first-to-finds on five new caches, though a sixth proved elusive due to endlessly shifting coordinates...which I'll just go ahead and blame on the earthquake. A return trip will be in order.

Robin Jensen, from the Virginia Museum of Natural History in Martinsville, is organizing a clean-up event at Frank Wilson Park next month, so I decided to set up a complementary Cache-In Trash-Out (CITO) event to hopefully draw some geocachers, who can get caching credit for attending. It's a worthwhile effort—part of the 26th Annual International Coast Cleanup, sponsored by Ocean Conservancy International. Here's a link to the event: Wilson Park Stream Cleanup, Saturday, September 23, 10:00 AM–12:00 PM.

This evening's caching expedition kept me out till just past sundown, so I ended up doing a late-dinner kind of thing...after a celebratory Damned Rodan's Dirty Firetini, of course. And holy cows, the dead cow was good. I put some beef spare ribs on the charcoal grill and burnt 'em just right. Seriously, some of the best ribs I've ever tasted, these were. I was intending to just eat two of the three, but they were so frikkin' good, I ended up killing the lot of them. Seemed like the thing to do at the time.

Let's have no more shaking, you hear?


Sunday, August 21, 2011

Saved by Funnel Fries?

A good crowd at the Eden Drive-In for Final Destination 5 and Fright Night.

Sometimes, a combination of unforeseen circumstances and marginally good decision-making provides fodder for a little cautionary tale. Last night, Ms. B. and I spent a most enjoyable evening at the Eden drive-in theater watching Final Destination 5 and Fright Night. It's one of our favorite places to catch movies, since I've been a drive-in junkie since I was a wee young-un (according to my folks, my very first movie outing was Disney's Babes In Toyland at a drive-in theater; and do hush about my age). Per our custom, we indulged in some delicious but ever-so-naughty cheezburgers, fries, chocolate chip cookies, and tasty adult beverages. Even though the spirits flowed freely for a while, we had enough sense, or something akin to it, to put a lid on the drink at the end of the first feature.

Then...despite our calorie and cholesterol intake already being through the roof...I took it to heart to sample the drive-in's funnel fries, which I could smell cooking and had me salivating a freaking river. Oh, my lord...funnel fries are GOOD—and, I'm pretty sure, an excellent means of neutralizing alcohol. When it came time to leave, I was quite confident that I was good to drive because it had been a couple of hours since capping the bottle, and we had consumed monstrous quantities of unhealthy food in the bargain.

Thus it was that, on the way down the road, we saw a pair of blue flashing lights in the distance and figured that someone had been pulled over. As we neared the patrol cars, the vehicle in front of us slowed down, and I slowed down, as required by law, and we went on by, as we ordinarily would. Apparently, though, the officers were setting up a checkpoint and intended for us to stop, but as I could not see through the car up front, I never saw the troopers until we were past them. So, no doubt a little peeved, both of them come after us and pulled over both me and the driver of the car up front—who clearly should have understood the officers' intent.

Needless to say, the trooper asked about our evening's activities, which I answered truthfully, and he had me take a breathalyzer test. Happily, I blew well under the legal limit, and he wished me a good and safe evening—then rushed over to assist his buddy checking out the driver of the car in front of me, who, I suspect, probably did not register safely in the sober range.

So...while I clearly could have made many healthier choices last evening, at least I avoided what could have been a very ugly situation, not just for the night but potentially long-term. You can bet the mental file of the experience is brightly highlighted in my brain's little directory of folders. Also highlighted is a happy little footnote about the virtues of funnel fries....

Do drink responsibly.

As for the pictures themselves:

Final Destination 5 is less a movie with a plot than an ongoing exercise in cleverness, but it's beaucoup fun and features an ingenious tie-in to the original film in the series; I know I've seen at least one of the others, but I'm not sure which. Fright Night departed considerably from the original, which I thought worked in its favor. Colin Farrell was much better than I expected. The first half had some effective moments of intrigue, but then it just got noisy. The characters were nothing to brag on, though David Tennant was pretty good. With just a little tweaking, this could have been a decent stand-alone vampire movie minus the Fright Night title; and that's probably what it should have been.

Friday, August 19, 2011

I Has a Krud

Home from work today due to krud. Ugly summer krud. Not pleased.

On that subject, Geocaching.com, the premier website of my favorite avocation—which, if you frequent this blog, you surely know all about—has succumbed to krud as well. Krud of the brain, I'm pretty sure. The series of site updates over the past few months have steadily decreased its user-friendliness, and yesterday's update appears to have been solely intended to piss off the geocaching community. Now, if you're not a cacher, this will mean nothing to you, so forgive my choice of topic. But today, I'd rather be pissed off about geocaching than politics, the economy, publishing, and other subjects of broader scope. Just because.

Back when I started caching, in early 2008, Geocaching.com was as user-friendly as a site could be, and it—along with the geocachers I met because of it—drew me into the game with all kinds of enthusiasm. This year, in particular, Groundspeak, the company that runs the website, seems to have forgotten that it created and nurtured a wonderful community of people who share a love of caching, and that a large number of them—myself included—pay for premium memberships. Without any regard for their very substantial core base, Groundspeak has taken to implementing changes that significantly and objectively undermine the site's usefulness and even diminish the essence of the game. Yesterday's unveiling of "challenges," which are a completely different animal than geocaching itself but that count toward a player's total cache finds, has drawn significant negative but constructive feedback—the most reasonable of which was summarily gunned down by Groundspeak founder and CEO Jeremy Irish. I find Groundspeak's demeaning attitude reprehensible, and it really is symptomatic of many businesses who have grown too big for their britches and lost touch with the people who made them successful in favor of superficial glitter, probably in hopes of drawing in unsuspecting newbies.

The geocaching community is a community...a vital one...and Geocaching.com is not Facebook. It should not be styled after Facebook, and god in heaven, it should not be run like Facebook. In Groundspeak's own words, their people "got together in a room to brainstorm what should be done for the site going forward." That's what we call "in a vacuum," Mr. Irish. The ire on the feedback forums is, in my experience, unprecedented. Get a freaking clue, sir. Listen to those who've put you where you are and respect them. And fashion your product accordingly.

There. That's Damned Rodan's kruddy rant for the day. Hope you are feeling better than I am.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Seal Adventure


Given the horrible tragedy this week of losing a number of Navy SEALs in Afghanistan, it's oddly appropriate that the primary geocache I undertook to log this week was called "SEAL Qualification Training" (GC1DHDF), so named because it's a mentally as well as physically challenging multi-cache with six stages. It was originally hidden in 2008 by Ted "Sketcher" Beach, but it's only been found a handful of times, and the last logged find before me was in April 2010. If you endeavor to complete this one all at once—assuming you correctly solve the puzzle to acquire the final coordinates—it's seven to eight miles of hiking on the Greensboro watershed trails. I opted to do it a stage at a time—one stage per hike (though I did end up finding stages 3 and 4 on one trip)—just so I'd have an excuse to get out there on the trails a number of times. Thus, on my several hikes, I managed to make it a cumulative total of something like 18–20 miles. But hey, I need the exercise! This one isn't necessarily a night cache, but it is set up with reflectors so that it can be done at night; alas, except for one hike which kept me out after dark, I ended up doing most of it in daylight. I do tend to enjoy the long arduous ones (and they're particularly arduous when it's a hundred degrees out, like today), especially when they're as well-conceived as this cache. Each stage leading up to the final is a micro or small container containing the coordinates to the next stage and a numerical clue. One must put those clues together correctly in order to get the coordinates for the final, which is a big old ammo can full of fun swag.

There is a sequel to this cache, called "Hooyah" (GCV1JC), which I actually did many moons ago, and I'm kind of glad I did it first, as it was the easier of the two...a good one to ease you into the rigors of this one, heh heh.

If you're a local geocacher and you haven't found this one yet, I definitely recommend it (and its brother), whether all at once or on individual trips, the way I did. But get yourself in shape first. It's pretty rigorous.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Damned Rodan's Thai Basil Chicken


Thai food is about my favorite thing in the world, so I often try my hand at various Thai recipes. My most successful is probably Thai Basil Chicken, made Thai-hot, and I think I made the best-ever batch for dinner last night. Here's the recipe. Count on about 20 minutes prep time and 10–15 minutes cooking time.

What you need (serves two):
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 6 hot chili peppers (Serrano are perfect); 2 thinly sliced; 4 finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp. hot chili oil
  • 2 tbsp. Thai chili sauce
  • 2 tsp. soy sauce
  • 1/2 bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • lettuce
  • juice from 2 limes
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 cup chopped basil leaves
  • 1 cup fish sauce (half for cooking, half for two side servings of sauce)
  • 1 cup Jasmine rice
  • 1 lb. ground chicken
  • 1 tbsp. crushed dried chili pepper

What you do:
  1. To make two side bowls of hot chili fish sauce: into each small bowl, pour 1/4 cup fish sauce and add the two thinly sliced chili peppers. Stir into each bowl 1 tsp. Thai chili sauce, 1 tsp. soy sauce, and the juice from 1/2 lime. Now let the sauce sit and blend while the rest of the dinner is in the works.
  2. Get the Jasmine rice cooking so it'll be ready when everything else is.
  3. Place ground chicken in a bowl. Squeeze in the juice from 1 lime, and add sugar and the remaining fish sauce and Thai chili sauce. Knead thoroughly.
  4. Heat skillet or wok on high until it's super-hot. Then pour in hot chili oil. When oil is smoking hot, add garlic and chopped peppers. Stir for about a minute and then lower heat to medium.
  5. Add ground chicken mix and stir frequently.
  6. When chicken is almost done, add the basil leaves. Continue to stir.
  7. Before serving, drain excess liquid. (Careful!)
  8. Serve over rice on a bed of lettuce. Sprinkle crushed pepper over the chicken and finally place the slivers of bell pepper on top.
  9. Add desired amount of fish/pepper sauce. If you're like me, pour the whole damn bowl on there. And prepare to have your ass kicked.
If I'm really in the mood to have my taste buds hammered, I start this meal with a Damned Rodan's Dirty Firetini. Sake or a decent red wine also makes fine accompaniment; last night, we had a 2008 Mouton Cadet Bordeaux, about which I have no complaints.

Yeah, man.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Danger!


I remember watching Patrick McGoohan in Secret Agent (a.k.a. Danger Man)when I was a wee young 'un, though, of course, its finer points were lost on me at the time. Having fairly recently re-visited The Prisoner from start to finish, I decided to give the original Danger Man series (1960–62, 1964–68) a look via Netflix. What a brilliant show it was, if these days relatively obscure. While certain commonalities with the James Bond films are evident in the series, much of it was conceived before the 007 phenomenon reached the heights for which it's known today. I'm convinced that Patrick McGoohan was one of the most accomplished actors of his day, in this series alone displaying a wide range of character portrayals by way of impersonation and disguise, all the while remaining true to the character of the series' protagonist, John Drake. And what a collection of stars and character actors from the day—Sam Wannamaker, Susan Hampshire, Niall McGinnis, Jean Marsh, Patrick Troughton, Michael Gwynn, Donald Pleasence, Lois Maxwell, Anthony Dawson, Bernard Lee, Burt Kwouk, (the last five of whom all appeared in various Bond films) and many more. The famous theme song by Johnny Rivers was attached only to the U.S. release; the title themes for both the original and follow-up Danger Man series were written by Edwin Astley. Despite being something of purist when it comes to original release versions, I must say, I do prefer the Johnny Rivers song. Call it nostalgia.

I have distinct memories of seeing McGoohan in Disney's The Scarecrow of Romney Marsh from the early 60s, which I would love to check out again in its entirety. It's a beautiful period piece, set in the 18th century, about the swashbuckling adventures of Dr. Christopher Syn, based on the early 20th-century novels by Russell Thondike. Originally made as a three-part television serial for The Wonderful World of Disney, an edited version was released in the UK—and later on these shores as Dr. Syn, Alias the Scarecrow. Alas, the Disney film is not currently available (I do so hate Disney and their ultra-limited video releasing, but that's whole nuther topic). And in the 1980s, McGoohan played the darkly charismatic Dr. Paul Ruth in David Cronenberg's classic Scanners, another one I haven't seen in years and need to remedy.

Here's the U.S. opening to Danger Man, a.k.a. Secret Agent, featuring the Johnny Rivers title song. Enjoy.