Monday, March 27, 2017

Ruffing It - An Abby Lab Rescue Memory

For me?

Abby Normal the Lab here.

In my previous life I didn't get to get up on the furniture and was outside in the cold a lot but after 5 months in a shelter while I was sick with heartworms, my new Mom Brigid let me up on the couch.  I kept getting down as I didn't think I was supposed to be up there, but she said it was OK and gave me pats.  It's so soft but I only sneak up there when Mom and Dad aren't on it.

I had my own little dog bed where Mom used to stay when she was working.  It was more comfy than the hard floor of a kennel, but it was cheap and thin and it wasn't not real poofy - nothing like "THE BED", but Mom keeps the bedroom door closed when she is at work as she has a fancy schmancy bedspread on there that is hard to clean.

Then one day shortly after she and Dad adopted me, a big box came to Mom's work crash pad.  Mom said it was from Orvis as they had a sale-- a BIG sale and she got something for almost half price. Barkley had an Orvis bed and just loved it and it lasted forever, but she wanted me to have one of my own.

It's the world's biggest softest dog bed! It's so fluffy, with really tight stitching and a durable, ultra-soft cover. When she took it out of the wrapping-- it expanded like a life raft.
Mom knows about that. Once she was flying an airplane (a little business jet) to India to be delivered from the aeroplane factory.   Three of the VERY young Indian pilots were on board.  They didn't have the experience yet to make that sort of trip so the owners arranged for the seller to deliver it with contract pilots (which was Mom and another pilot) and bring them home from plane school. Regulations required that for a flight across the ocean the plane had to have a rented life raft to be carried in the cabin to be pitched out of the plane and inflated if Mom had to pull a "Sully".

The young Indian pilots were QUITE excited about the flight and about just learning to fly their first jet so Mom and her copilot told them to just read and relax in the back and  "don't touch anything".

Halfway across the Atlantic there's this big  WHOOOSH sound from the cabin and one of them ran forward with -

"Captain B! Captain B!  Raft Veery BIG! Raft, Veery BIG.!"

Yup - they'd accidentally inflated the life raft and Mom had to kill it with a cheese knife from the galley so they could exit the airplane when they all landed to fuel.
MMMM Cheese.

So, it was sort of like that.  Bed very big!  Bed very big! Look - my tail has gone hypersonic!

My Orvis bed is SOOOO COMFY!

I can't believe it's still all mine all the time and I don't have to sleep on the Pita Bed from Walmart anymore.  I love my furever home.
I love my Mom.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Scotch and Chocolate - A Surprising Combination

Wine and food tastings have been around for a long time. One thing though, wine is not my drink of choice. I really like a good beer and I'll have a sip of wine with a meal, a red, Merlot perhaps, but honestly I'd just rather just skip the flirtation and cut right to the chase.

The after dinner Scotch whisky. 

Wine is someone showing up with flowers at the door.  A good scotch is tumbling under a blanket in front of the fire and "Barkley, bring back my socks!"

Wine is  often paired with cheese.  Scotch and cheese? Uh. . . no thanks.

But chocolate?

Scotch and chocolate pairings are not an invention of the Range but it's not something I'd tried, until a gal friend came back from the West Coast with some of the most incredible artisan chocolate,  TCHO - New American Chocolate and rumors of such late night hook ups.
 "bartender -the Titanic saw less ice, make it neat please"

I have admitted I am new to Scotch, only trying it well into adulthood.  At first I was a typical "I don't have a clue what I'm sipping or what I'm tasting" but with another novice pilot friend, we branched out in learning the various nuances of a dram.

Wilbur  - I detect an undertone of saddle leather
Ed - Perhaps, and a hint of straw.

Soon, I was hooked on the wonderful world of good Scotch. Pair that with the finest chocolate?  I'm game.

Not all pairings will work and single malts are definitely the way to go as they have very particular flavor profiles, as do single origin chocolates (chocolate that’s grown in a particular place for specific flavor qualities.) They can be herbal, grassy, fruity or smoky.

Adding to the confusion, whisky has not only  many different personalities, a single dram can have many distinct notes.  You start with the nose, then progress to the palate, and finally, the finish.  Chocolate too, is similar.  There's the snap as you break it, the subtle aroma under the nose and then the rich complexities of taste, fully released from the cacao butter as it melts, at perfect mouth temperature.
As a general rule, whisky opens up the taste of the chocolate well, and chocolate mitigates a bit of the alcohol burn.  But some chocolate is so intense it could clobber the subtleties of some whisky, some is so bland, the whisky will not let it get a word in edgewise. To truly work well, the aroma and flavor of both the Scotch and the chocolate need to complement one another, with the regional characteristics of both playing a key roll in the effectiveness of the pairing.

To truly get a combination you love, you need to learn your own palate, what you like and then experiment.  If you're just used to wine tastings, be prepared for a wonderful surprise.  Scotch has so much more of a greater mouth feel than wine, so get ready to grab your bits of fine chocolate and exploit the taste to its fullest potential.

Until then - I'll leave you with a few of my own findings  - quick HOTR primer on Whisky and Chocolate Pairings.

Cu Dhub (bastard offspring of Loch Du and WD40) and Hersheys (like eating a cocoa Yankee candle)

Edradour 10yo (burn a gummi bear with an acetylene torch) and Coconut M and M's (choco/sunblock)

Tullibardine 10yo (endorsed by soccer hooligans everywhere) and Nestle's Crunch (asphalt and gravel)

Tamnavulin 10yo (rated "OK" by drunken Australian Infantrymen) and Venchi Cuor di Cacao 85% (ever stick your tongue on a frozen metal girder?)

Cragganmore 12yo (gentlemen prefer blands) and Pralus Venezuela 75% (the dark roast deflowers any delicate flavorings this chocolate once had)

Must Try -

Bowmore 15 and Lindt A Touch of Sea Salt Dark Chocolate

Laphroaig 18
and Lindt Madagascar 65% Chocolate 

Ardbeg Uigeadail
and Picaro Salt and Nibs

Glengoyne 23 year
and L’Artisan du Chocolat: Madong 70%

Glenlivet Master Distillers Reserve
and TCHO Dark Chocolate with Subtle Nutty Notes. (Outstanding, coffee, a hint of nut, becoming sweeter as it melts)

You all enjoy.  I'll be in my bunk.

Friday, March 17, 2017

St. Patrick's Day in Black and White

Just some photos taken with the $100 travel point and shoot on a side trip (using some leave days) on an overseas assignment I didn't post "live", due to the nature of the trip.


Wednesday, March 8, 2017

On Choice -

  My reports, so concise and specific
Written clearly, not one hieroglyphic
Blood and gore, unusually keen
makes readers queasy and green
So few like my prose scientific. 
 - Brigid

An acquaintance of mine asked me to speak to her oldest son about careers as he is interested in what I was trained to do. He's in his early 20's, out of college, living in that vast cul de sac of trying to decide whether to continue his education and take a job in something he loves which doesn't pay a lot to start or go into a trade that will pay well, but holds no interest for him. I'm not sure why I was chosen for this bit of mentoring. His Mom wasn't real keen on his career aspiration, hoping he'd chose more of an 8 to 5 job to further promote the home, wife, future grandchildren agenda, as soon as possible. She probably figured I'd tell him horror stories of how hard it is to make a career in the field, the regrets I had choosing the path I did.

She could have asked others, I'm not really sure why she asked me. Granted I'm over-educated, but I'm not particularly qualified by life choices to give good advice. It's well known in a small circle that I'm a good cook; that I knew several innovative ways to sneak up on bad guys. I can field strip an AR15, fly a jet and put on tap shoes and "RiverDance" (alcohol being involved). I can't golf or sing and the only time I tried to knit a sweater, it ended up as a tube top for a Barbi as that's the size of it when I gave up. But I can play several instruments and order a glass of Ale in Russian and bad French so everyone overlooks my golf game.  But I've made my share of career and personal mistakes over the years. I've hurt others and been hurt in return by said choices. Should I really be someone who is dispensing possibly life-altering advice?

But I did.

There was no visit to headquarters, no discussion of internships or education. I simply sat him down over coffee. In a little cafe frequented by those he emulates, I look into eyes darkened by his choices into a clear unfathomable green. And all I can tell him is this.

It's nothing like TV. 

It's not Gulfstream jets that whisk you everywhere. It's not nightclubs and beaches and $1200 suits. It's greed, it's stupidity. It's death. It's politics.  Few think about the consequences of their actions, the concept of mortality being too abstruse to think too deeply on. I tell him that whatever innocence he has now will be shed quietly, the shock of its departure exacerbated by the undiluted abundance of the carnage. Things aren't solved in an hour and when you go home you won't be able to talk about it with your spouse. For reasons that often have little to do with your shyness and more that there are things we just can't talk about.

I tell him he will see acts of man that have profound, adverse effects on others, those they are sworn to protect, and how the inability sometimes to prevent or sway is a heavy burden.   I tell him he will learn how certain forms of corruption are akin to madness, derived from acute arrogance inflamed by support, removing what is left of promise, even as they manage to draw further power from it.

I tell him it will cause him to examine everything in his life more closely and at one point he may not like what he sees, making changes in his life, how he lives it and with who, based on what he knows is the truth he can live with. It will be nights laying awake, long after the world is asleep, going over the puzzle again and again in your head, looking out onto rain murmured sky, still believing that anything within the capacity of an ardent mind is within the reach of an ardent hope.

I tell him he will learn to noticed the smallest things, be it evidence or intent, and scrutinize them carefully. I tell him he will worry about fate less, for sometimes you are simply the bug on the windshield by being at the wrong place at the right time. Fate needs no blessing and sweats no fire, it comes in silently and leaves only bones as it departs and sometimes no mortal flesh can stop it. But as I've said before, I've also found that a good portion of our misfortunes arise, not from fate or ill health or the vagrancies of the winds, but from human rancor, fueled by innate stupidity, and those ever present justifications of the same, hell bent idealism and proselytizing mania for the sake of religious or political effigies.

I tell him he will be required to be dispassionate and get into a routine. Empathy is a great quality in a person, but so is efficacy.
I tell him he will see things that make what's on TV look like a walk in the park. I tell him that he will not only see a lot, he will learn the hard way that there is danger and dangerous souls in the world and if he is smart he will not be one to shy away from it because maybe he can do something about it. It's not a glamorous job, but there is hope in it, there is order.

I've never had the sense of clockwork conspiracies, or some kind of imposing order of evil. There's simply a sense of things falling apart. That's my sense of how most bad things happen, that it's not usually some kind of calculated evil driven by karma, but simply control disintegrating. Most times, things fall apart and happen out of stupidity and carelessness, not any one's personal jihad. And he'll be there to either prevent it, or if he can't, to pick up the pieces.

I tell him it's a life that involves long, disjointed hours, coming home with unpleasant things not just sticking to your shoe, but to your brain, images that come back when you least expect them. For there will be ghosts that flit about your room, loudly breathing lost dreams like air, when all you wish is peace.  I tell him it's a life that can be difficult on a partner. You can go weeks without seeing one another, conversations are often late night and tinged with both longing and exhaustion. Like loving an airman, it requires a kind of understanding sacrifice in a partner that is either foolish or beautiful or a little of both. If you have that, it sustains you, like breath, if not, it's as scalding as a burn.

I tell him that there will be those that hate you simply for your service; those that don't understand that if the good don't try to change things from within, then there's no hope left for any of it. But you can't discuss it, for that is part of the oath, and you just take the barbs and the stings home with you to talk to yourself in the mirror with inflexible weariness.

And finally, as the remains of coffee cool in our mugs, I tell him this. When you come face to face with a decision to pursue a dream, take it. That, despite the ups and downs, bone weary exhaustion, student loans I will be paying until I am dead, blood and tears and long hours, I would do it all over. Without hesitation. But he will not see that looking forward, but only looking back.
He will see it in a courtroom, when justice is served, in part, with his words, the very evidence he has gathered.  He will see it on a cold metal table, when what's left of a life can be used to save another. He will see it in the eyes of a family that bears the news he will give them in that cold abode of despair and not hate him for it but simply say "please don't let this happen to someone else"--and he will not turn from it like some wretched thing that drove him from his sleep, but rather embrace it as his calling, not just his duty.

For one day, while he is in the field, gazing at everything with that profound look that sees further than what's in front of him, he would understand. In the sightless and streaming dark, among the hushed shouts of men which seem to linger in the thick streaming air until the next shout joins and blends in, he will know, as things lost are gathered together.

In that moment, as the rain starts to fall as if it had held off all day for this moment, he will understand what I can't articulate for him. That he had to have tried, for if he did not, he would have come to this place anyway, but with regret.
 - Brigid