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You are invited to read Marcus of Abderus and the Inn at the Edge of the World, the first novel in my fantasy adventure series. Visit the Edge of the World! Come for the view, stay for the adventure!

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The Internet and Knots-

When I was a boy I went fishing. I learned from my Grandpa Laatz and my Great Uncle Buddy. They taught me many ways to cast, how to prepare bait and lures, how to select and care for my tackle, and how to tie a fishing knot.

I may have learned more than one knot. I don't recall. However, I remember one particular knot that was my "fishing knot." I used it to put hooks on the leader. I used it to tie the line to a swivel or snap swivel. Generally it was my one fishing knot, and it worked.

Most of the other knots in my life I kind of picked up. Ways to tie things down, or tie things together. Square knot, overhand knot. Several things that worked, and were probably knots, but did not have names or pedigrees.

For fishing, one knot. The "fishing knot."

Last week we went fishing on the wharf. I have not done much fishing since my youth, and I have not picked up any new knots to apply to fishing. Now that I am getting back into fishing, I think I need some new knots.

So, I search fishing knots on the Internet. I expected a few guides with various degrees of quality in illustrations. Confusing lines representing the things to be tied together and the knots tying them. I was pleasantly surprised.

One of the best sites was this one. The animated examples were fantastic. The instructions were clear. Yes, they are selling something, but that something is a practical aid to tying knots. I think I shall get some of these knot cards. Pocket guides to knot tying, suitable for glove boxes, tackle boxes and even pockets. Pretty cool.

My recent wharf fishing experiences have been quite nice. Outside, enjoying the weather and spectacular views. People to watch, or not watch. Free fish, or at least nearly free. This kind of fishing does not demand much in the way of tackle, and losing expensive lures is not a real issue. If I keep some of any given catch to use as bait, there is not even any cost in feeding the fish.

Hey, I am habitually frugal. I like keeping the cost down on the things I do.

So, I need to learn a few nice knots, and improve my fishing rigs. Experiment with baits, hooks, and whatever other variables I think might improve the fishing. As long as I can maintain a lot of sitting and just enjoying being there.

The Internet, and knots. Cool.

Wharf Fishing, a Birthday, and Woodies!

This last Saturday my son-in-law David and I went fishing on the wharf here in Santa Cruz. We were planning to go last week, but David and my daughter Beth had to take off on a rescue mission to Battle Mountain, Nevada. My son Jon had been traveling to Chicago with a friend, but they didn't make it. The car was destroyed in an accident and the shaken travelers spent the night in Battle Mountain. You really should visit the place in Google maps and try street view.

So, we went fishing this week. Unfortunately, there was an event this week. Woodies on the Wharf. It was only unfortunate due to much of the parking on the wharf being taken up by the event. We had to park off of the wharf and walk in. It was fortunate in that we got to see a lot of really cool Woodies.

"That's the smallest Woodie I have ever seen!" quipped David, at one point. A woman overheard and was overcome with laughter. There was no shortage of Woodie jokes this weekend.

We found our way to the end of the wharf and I set up to bottom fish. Dave set up a bottom rig and a Mackerel rig, called a Sabiki rig. Later in the morning David's brother arrived for his first fishing experience. David set him up with a Sabiki, and we all fished.

We spotted three Dolphin swimming near the wharf. There were the perennial Sea Lions, of course. Pigeons and Sea Gulls. Also a great many Pelicans. More Pelicans than I ever recall seeing in one place. With all of the wildlife, plus the massive traffic in pleasure boats, and all of the car buffs and tourists, the wharf was a very busy place.

There were between fifteen and twenty people fishing there at the end of the wharf, just on our side. People were friendly, sharing bait and stories and advice. Most are sport fishers, but a few are there to help feed their families. Everyone seemed to be having a good time.

David's brother did quite well. He landed five Mackerel. David landed two. I got a Perch.

David had fashioned a crab net from a metal basket, some rope, and a bit of fishing line to tie in the bait. We were using Sardines and Shrimp for bait, as well as some small Sanddabs we caught. The makeshift net caught two small crabs, which returned to the ocean.

Toward the end of our day a nice man gave us four crabs, and a bucket. We kept the crabs, and gave the bucket to another fisherman who needed something to hold his catch.

I cleaned the fish at the cleaning station. It has been a while, but I got the knack back. Some Sea Lions like to wait below the cleaning station, since the drain for fish guts runs straight down to the sea. Free snacks. I could hear them barking, the sound coming up through the four inch gut drain pipe.

We finished the day of fishing at about two in the afternoon. It was my wife Linda's birthday, and we needed to get home to celebrate. We walked out, admiring the Woodies and working our way through the crowd. We got back to our parking space in a paid lot, loaded up and got in. I started the engine and we inched out. There were many cars waiting for our spot, and it was tight.

We were stopped by a young lady working for a security company. She informed us that the streets were being closed for the Woodie Parade, and we would have to stay in the parking lot. I asked her to whom I might complain, since I didn't want to stay there. She called her supervisor, who said they had orders from the City Police to close the roads.

We waited. The young lady went to answer a question from another driver, and left the way out unattended. I waited a respectful period of time, in deference to her having a difficult job. When she remained away long enough, we escaped.

The way home was circuitous, due to all of the traffic. People sure seem to like Woodies!

Since my daughter Beth had a beef roast in the oven, we froze the fish for a future meal. The crab we put on to boil, since they don't keep well. They were small, and yielded only a bit of meat, but they were a tasty snack.

As a gift Linda received an Adirondack chair and side table. She seemed quite pleased. We enjoyed roast beef, bits of crab, and a nice coconut cake from The Buttery. On the whole a most satisfying day.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Unpaid Furlough-

I have thus far lost twelve hours of pay due to the furlough program our county is using to meet the current economic crisis. The current economic crisis largely caused by pirates in suits raking in billions of dollars.

The furlough is a period of time, six hours per pay period in my case, where time is taken off from work without pay.

Oh, the bubble was due to burst. The pirates worked within the letter of the law, for the most part. However, pirates they are. For their piracy many of us are paying a price. Most of the pirates not only remain free, but have huge piles of money as well.

I will lose many more hours of pay to the furlough program. I recognize that I am more fortunate than others, who have lost much more. Though that is true, it does not really mitigate my negative feelings. I am taking a loss for something done by someone else for their own gain.


These dogs are distant, and relatively untouchable. Few, if any, will suffer for their crimes. That just adds fuel to my anger. It would be more satisfying if they were identified, and we could ostracize them. That is hard for me to do, since I exist at a considerable physical and social distance from these creatures.

So, again I am in the position of having to forgive these scurvy knaves. I am in no position to harm them, directly or indirectly. Somehow I sense that were I in such a position I would end up paying the full consequences of any actions.

I must forgive them. I am weary of having to forgive fools and criminals who adversely affect my life. It is a considerable effort. A worthwhile effort, but it is not an easy task.

Fine. I forgive the bastards. May they rot in Hell.


Thursday, June 25, 2009

More Cheap Camp Cuisine-

Today it was the Safeway Garlic Rice Noodle Soup Bowl. On sale for a buck. I previously tried the Spring Onion Rice Noodle Soup Bowl. They are both great. Reasonably filling, for a soup bowl. Tasty, without any overpowering flavors. The flavors have a good balance.The rice noodles have good texture and add some bulk to the meal.

The ingredients are without artificial flavors or preservatives. No long chemical names in the list.

These soups can be prepared either in the microwave or using hot water. They are light, but have some bulk due to the plastic cooking/eating bowl.

These move to the top of my list for car camping fare. They are actually a positive dining experience.

This was an unusual day, as I was on unpaid furlough for six hours at my job. The first half of my shift I had off without pay. So, I was ready for another meal before I started my half-shift of work.

(Chef Boyardee) Beefaroni was the can of choice. Many of these products are reduced to a dollar or less, and are a good bargain for the car camper. I prepared this can in the microwave, but find it heats up quickly on my single burner camp stove as well.

This stuff is not bad, but I added some Safeway Ritz-cracker knock-offs to give it some more texture and bulk. That brings things up to a buck and a quarter for this meal. I also added some Tapatio hot sauce. That made it a bit better. Not a bad meal.

I find Tapatio to be a good basic sauce. Some might prefer Tabasco sauce, since it is a bit more common and therefore familiar. This Thai hot sauce is particularly good. I recommend trying this one as a good general sauce.

So, my conclusion on the Beefaroni is that it serves as a good canned meal, but really can use a few additives to make it a real meal. Simply adding crackers and hot sauce made a big difference for me. Cheeses or some help from the spice rack might be worth the effort, as well.

Perhaps that can be a future project for Cheap Camp Cuisine. Cheeses that travel well, and the campers spice rack.

Enough for now.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Cheap Cuisine-

Today was Yakisoba Teriyaki Flavor by Maruchan. The package is light, and a cooking/eating bowl is part of the package. Just remove the wrapper, open the cover half way, and remove the two packets of ingredients. Open the dried vegetable packet and put it in with the noodles in the bowl. Add water to the fill line, close the cover and microwave for four minutes. Let sit for a minute, then add the flavor packet, stir and eat.

The flavor is light, a bit sweet with the pineapple flavor, and just a touch spicy. The noodles had just enough firmness to provide a good texture. The reconstituted vegetables were good enough. It wasn't like chewing on grass, at least. At a dollar it is not a bad meal. I shall keep these in stock.

The required microwave prevents most campers from enjoying this one. The instructions are microwave only. Unless your camping gear includes a microwave, this one is out.

I have been looking into small microwaves (and air conditioners) to add to my truck tent camping gear. So far it just does not seem like a good idea. Hardly necessary, really. Of the two I think the air conditioner would win out, and even that seems a bit much.

What would our pioneer ancestors say?

Camp Cooking-

My present camping situation is simply staying in a parking lot for my work week, eating one camp meal per day. My job provides a meal as part of my twelve hour work day. I work the night shift and camp so I don't have to commute when sleepy. My breakfast (immediately following work) is generally a bowl of cereal.

The meals I select are generally whatever I can find for about a dollar a meal, give or take a few cents. Canned, dried, or whatever looks interesting. Some of the packaged noodle meals have proved surprisingly tasty. Some of those are microwave meals, and are not true camp fare simply due to the difficulty of finding electrical power in most camps.

Fortunately, I have access to a microwave much of the time.

Still, I try to tailor my meal selection to reflect truck camping, and spend some time thinking on just how I would feed myself on any protracted road trips. Quite a number of the packaged noodle meals have both microwave and hot water preparations. So far they have proved quite palatable.

Canned foods have proved good for camping. I can eat the contents of a can and be generally content. Last night, for example, I had a chunky Hormell chili. I added some Safeway Ritz knock-off crackers and a bit of Tapatio salsa. The Safeway crackers are not particularly interesting by themselves, but as added fodder for canned chili they serve quite well. They are half the price of Ritz, and so I dropped maybe a quarter's worth into the chili. It was surprisingly good, and satisfying. A good meal for less than a dollar fifty.

I contemplate the prospect of fresh foods prepared on the road, and find that the cost of meals goes up considerably. If I need only part of an onion I now have a storage issue to deal with. What do I do with the rest of a cut onion? I don't even know the cost of a large onion.Perhaps a bag of smaller onions would work better, where whole small onions are used. It is not easy coming up with meals for one or two people that are tasty and road able.

Eating from cans and boxes could become tedious, and less nourishing than fresh foods. Fresh foods are easily consumed close to sources, even if those sources are just stores. They don't travel as well, and spoilage and waste become issues. I suspect that meal selection and preparation would often be decided by how close a store might be.

Dried trail foods are expensive. Powdered foods purchased in bulk can be less so, but still quite costly compared to canned foods on sale. Generally, a stock of canned foods for periods away from stores and recipes for simple fresh meals for those times nearer stores appear to be the way to go.

Grilling fresh fare or cooking in a Dutch oven seem to be best. A charcoal starter chimney can serve as a small grill for one or two people. That same starter chimney could provide the coals needed for Dutch oven cooking. It is adjusting such cooking for one or two people that proves a bit of a challenge.

I seem to have a good opportunity to meet that challenge. I am camping three or four days each week. I can eat from cans or boxes, and probably will quite often. However, I can also take the opportunity to experiment with creating meals that are healthy, tasty and road able.

This could prove rather fun.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Rooting for Route 66-

Last Friday my son Jon and a friend took off on an adventure. They were driving straight to Chicago on Interstate 80 with plans to return via Historic Route 66. That journey is a road tripper's dream! They were doing it on a shoestring, but they were on their way.

I came home Friday evening to the news that they had gotten half way across Nevada when Jon nodded off and rolled onto the shoulder. He awoke and tried to recover only to discover a truck occupying the lane. Unable to return to the roadway his vehicle rolled and was destroyed.

Fortunately he and his friend were just shaken up. A citizen stopped to assist, and by good fortune was a physician. They got a check up right at the scene of the accident!

Jon said that the Highway Patrol officer was courteous and friendly. They and the car eventually found themselves in Battle Mountain, Nevada. Not quite the glorious adventure they had planned. My Daughter Beth and her husband Dave hit the road to rescue them, funded by my Mother-in-law Alta.

Everyone returned last night, minus one car. Jon now knows his safe driving range, but at quite a cost. He really liked his little car. It is fortunate that we actually have a spare car for him to use. It is too small for him, he being quite tall. However, it will do until a replacement vehicle can be purchased.

Then he can try the adventure again. Until then we can all keep rooting for Route 66.


Several weeks ago my Daughter and her husband borrowed my truck to get some home renovation supplies from Home Depot. When they returned to the truck they found the small window behind the driver side door to be broken, and a note left on the truck.

The note was from a Mr. Michael Gardner, who assumed responsibility and was honorable enough to leave his name and phone number. I postponed contacting him until I had researched the replacement cost of the window. The best price was $295 installed, on a used window!

Now my faithful little truck is a 1997 Ford Ranger. Nothing special, but a handy little burro. It has dents, it has scratches, and it has over 140,000 miles on it. I even live in that truck, part of the time, using a Sportz II truck tent. That price for glass seemed much too high, even if someone else was paying for it.

I contacted Mr. Gardner, and learned that a third party had actually caused the accident. A lady had lost control of her shopping cart, bumping the wood Mr. Gardner was loading and causing a piece to break the window. She said, "Oops! Sorry!" and went on her way.

Mr. Gardner was more honorable than that, and left a note assuming responsibility. I could not see sticking him with the full cost of the repair. I had already made a serviceable repair with a piece of clear plastic sheet and duct tape. Yet I might incur some further expenses when making a more complete repair in the future.

Mr. Gardner related that he owned Grey Wolf Computer Systems. I had been planning to add some memory to my computer, and this seemed a fine way to allow him to do something to absolve him of any further liability with regard to this unfortunate accident. I proposed that he could provide me with some computer memory as compensation for the damage on my truck.

He generously offered not only the memory, but to install it and provide a system tune up on my computer! He did so, and I now have a much better machine for general use and more specifically World of Warcraft.

Mr. Gardner displayed an unusually high degree of integrity in assuming responsibility for an accident that was not directly his fault. Certainly far greater integrity than Ms. "Oops! Sorry!" It would not have been particularly hard to justify simply driving away, knowing that the real cause of the accident had done just that. Mr. Gardner chose a higher road, and it was an honor to meet him because of that choice.

Regarding the "how-to" of my temporary repair, I did a bit of looking around after getting the surprisingly high replacement price. I found a duct tape the same color as the truck, which in this case was white. The material to cover the window space, however, was another matter. I looked at lots of things I could cannibalize to obtain a piece of plastic 16" x 20". Nothing was quite right, or else it was expensive.

Poking around at home I came across a poster frame that had a clear plastic cover, just a sheet of clear plastic. It was 16" x 20"! I taped the sheet over the window opening, after a bit of struggle removing the remains of the window from the frame. With care it provided a relatively good repair that looked pretty good. It will certainly do until I decide on a more permanent repair.

If you are by any chance in the Santa Cruz California area and in need of any computer services, contact Michael Gardner at Grey Wolf Computer Systems. He is a man of integrity in a time of compromised values. I am glad I got to meet him.