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Where Eagles Dare

December 22, 2013 |  by  |  Featured, Writing  |  No Comments

A whisper of breeze ruffled the airfield’s August-browned grass. The sky overhead was warm and inviting. With unlimited visibility, the bright blue canopy appeared as if it had pulled back from the earth to provide extra airspace beneath. One lone cotton-cloud lazed over the horizon. Two eagles circled effortlessly high overhead. It was a perfect day for flying.

Pilot Rod Rees strode across the lawn. A young man in the Summer of 1963, my Uncle Rod was little older than I was when I first heard the story of his maiden flight. My mother Arlene, only a girl then, saw no trace of fear as her older brother approached the field. His eyes were set, his face was determined, and his aircraft was slung confidently under his arm.

After weeks waiting for the kit to arrive, after a summer holiday spent indoors on painstaking assembly, after his fingers had become calloused from fine tooling and his lungs ravaged by glue fumes, the day had finally come for his dream to take flight.

Aircraft fuelled and pre-flight checklists completed, Rees glanced yet again at the listless pine-bough windsocks overlooking the R-Bar-Eagle farm’s upper horse paddock —newly rechristened the Galiano Island Airfield. He bent low over his aircraft and, with a high whine and a puff of blue smoke, the engine coughed to life. Rees cycled the controls and adjusted the radio’s trim knob one last time. He looked up, taking two half-steps backward.

The plane burst forward.

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Best Turkey and Stuffing Recipe (or How Mom Gets Me to Visit)

December 22, 2013 |  by  |  Featured, Food  |  No Comments

Turkey, turkey, turkey! Here it is, my mother’s amazing turkey dinner recipe, straight from the source [with my notes added in brackets].

I know that everybody’s partial to their mother’s cooking, but my mom’s turkey dinner is always outstanding! It’s her secret weapon for getting me over to the Island to visit. I’m a horrible son. (Sorry Mom!)

It’s not as specific as a cook-book recipe, but it doesn’t need to be. Anybody with a cook’s soul should breeze through it (chef-ery not required). Post your questions, and I’ll answer below. (My Mom may even too!)

Stuffing

  • italian bread, extra long sliced loaf [D'Italiano works great, so do more squirrely breads]
  • onion
  • garlic
  • celery
  • italian sausage [Costco hot italian is outstandingly good italian sausage for any recipe!]
  • mushrooms [I use white, but you can use whatever floats your boat]
  • red pepper
  • eggs
  • salt
  • pepper
  • sage
  • poultry seasoning
  • butter
  • olive oil

Make sure that you freeze the loaf of bread ahead of time so that it is easy to cut into cubes without it getting squishy.

Put some olive oil and butter in a large saute pan. If your italian sausage is in casing, remove and crumble into pan as many to taste, say 5 or 6 for a full loaf of bread [I use 4 or 5 of the big Costco sausages, about 600-700g]. Add onions and brown along with sausage.

In the meantime finely chop one or two celery stalks, loads of garlic, and as many mushrooms as you like [I use lots, you can't have too many!].

When the sausage is browned, turn down heat and add the celery, garlic, mushrooms, some more olive oil and too much butter for anyones good. I use lots of butter as it gives a nice flavour [It's turkey dinner, leave your food-conscience at the door!]. Add quite a lot of sage – again to taste – bearing in mind it will diffuse through the bread so if it seems too strong, it probably wont be. I’d say about 2 tablespoons at least, maybe more. Add about the same, or a little less in poultry seasoning. Grind in some pepper, but don’t use too much salt as the butter is salty. Also at this time add water to the pan, enough to make it all quite moist but not soupy.

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Stirring, Shaking, Sliding

June 27, 2013 |  by  |  Featured, Food, Writing  |  No Comments

He prepared the explosives with slight care, quickly, casually, the ritual well-practiced, components proportioned more or less precisely, burner tuned just-so to an unmarked setting, the steel lid lowered for even heating and explosive containment.

Sirens sang, foreboding shrieks and squawks and shearing sounds, as the vessel was shaken and slid across the element, stirring untouched its contents. Intermittently the concoctor ceased his agitation and crooked an expert ear to the silence, listening for sizzling, steady but not slow, energetic but not angry. It mustn’t burn. Burning meant acrid smoke, accusatory smoke, overpoweringly aromatic smoke, smoking evidence that lingered, alerted the neighbours, testified to his activities, testified to his inexpertise.

An explosion surely overdue, his doubts began to mount. Was it too hot? Not hot enough? Was this batch going to explode? *pop* The first explosion always a surprise, always a relief. *pop-pop-pop* The explosions came faster, faster still. The tin-can rat-a-tat-tat of the popping startled his senses, stimulating salivation before sent was detected.

Still shaking, sliding, stirring the pot, he watched, trance-like, the stochastic explosions sending kernels careening, chaotically clanging and caroming off the pot with each pop, pop, pop.

Eyes drying and mouth watering, he stood mesmerized by the turmoil. Blasted blossoms burst like frozen fireballs, each concussion showering the seething mass with corn-husk shrapnel, triggering secondary and tertiary explosions as ticking time-bombs tumbled.

At last the cacophonous barrage began to abate. But not the stirring, shaking, sliding. He knew the risk of burning was highest now, knew that explosive packages had to be sifted toward the heat, had to be detonated before the now-dry pan overheated.

Three seconds. Three seconds without a pop was all that could be afforded. One—*pop* The clock reset. One…*pop* Reset. One… two…*pop* Reset again. One… two…*pop* Too long, three seconds was too long this time. One… two… —burning, it was going to burn— three! He doused the burner, threw back the lid, and dumped the steaming contents into the waiting container.

Perfect popcorn.
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A Warped, Frustrated Old Movie

December 14, 2012 |  by  |  Featured, Movies  |  2 Comments

If you haven’t ever seen It’s a Wonderful Life, or even if you have seen it, but don’t remember it well, do yourself a favour and go watch it. It is one of those somewhat rare classic films which still holds up amazingly well today. More than that, it isn’t at all the sappy, corny movie that most people assume it is or mis-remember it as.

Far from the cinematic snow-globe that most people mis-categorize it as, It’s a Wonderful Life is surprisingly dark, very witty, and truly entertaining.

Whether they’ve seen it or not, most know it for Jimmy Stewart as George Bailey running through Bedford Falls, yelling “Merry Christmas!”; and of course for the sacharine-sweet Zuzu proclaiming “Teacher says, every time a bell rings, an angel gets his wings!”; all culminating with the tearful reprise of Auld Lang Syne. Those are the images that everybody –everybody who doesn’t remember the film well– recalls immediately upon hearing its name. And I’d agree, if those scenes were indicative of the overall tone of the movie, it would indeed be a sappy mess, hardly worth watching, save for when you desperately need a simple and sweet bit of holiday fluff.

Auld-Lang-Syne

But that is not the feel of the movie! Far from the cinematic snow-globe that most mis-categorize it as, It’s a Wonderful Life is surprisingly dark, very witty, and truly entertaining. The film is thoroughly rewarding even to more refined modern-day audiences. And while it has been elevated to Christmas canon, very little of it actually occurs around Christmastime, and it certainly isn’t your standard holiday fare.

The first two hours of the film are a long, dark study in the psychological torture of George Bailey.

The reason for the dissonance between the perception and the reality of the film is obvious; for decades television network and advertising executives have slavishly adhered to the Law of Classic Films, the law mandating that all, and only, the most clichéd moments of classic films must be repeated, ad nauseum, in every advertisement or reference to said films.

What makes It’s a Wonderful Life such a surprise to the first-time viewer is that, while its runtime is a hearty 130 minutes, all of those oft-remembered, oft-rehashed, and awfully sweet moments occur in the final 7 minutes of the film. While the final few minutes are indeed a super-concentrated distillation of the essence of Christmas, they serve as a well-balanced counterpoint, a satisfying glaze, too sweet on its own, but just perfect as the topper to the body of the film. These clichéd, over-sweet moments work so beautifully well, because the first two hours of the film are a long, dark study in the psychological torture of George Bailey.

Whats-the-Matter

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My Laser Eye Surgery, Part I: PRK Pre-Op Preparation

My Laser Eye Surgery, Part I: PRK Pre-Op Preparation

October 3, 2012 |  by  |  Science  |  50 Comments

In July of 2011, I had PRK laser eye surgery done. Shortly before, I wrote up a Primer on PRK vs Lasik that the reader may find interesting (TL;DR: Lasik is a dodgy quick-fix, avoid it). Long before signing up for the surgery, long before going under the laser, I did a ton of research. I had been interested in having it done since 1998, and only got it done last Summer, when I thought the tech was finally there (I felt it had been for the past few years) and when I finally had the time and money.

This will be the first of several posts which serve as a journal detailing my experiences with PRK. I’ll update this page with links to the subsequent journal entries. (Part 2 is up! Details of the day of surgery here: My Laser Eye Surgery, Part II: The PRK Operation, and so is Part 3, detailing the post-op recovery: My Laser Eye Surgery, Part III: PRK Post-Op Recovery.)

I am also not going to argue the case of PRK vs Lasik any further in these accounts, but I am planning for sometime in the future a more comprehensive breakdown of the differences between PRK, Lasik, and the other forms of surgery. Edit: Here it is: Lasik vs PRK: What the Lasik Doctor Doesn’t Tell You.

I am not going to mention any names, as I don’t want my accounts to be mistaken for an endorsement for, nor a warning against, any particular surgery centres. Hopefully this information will be sufficient for any prospective patients to know what questions to ask of their PRK surgeon, and to know what they might be in for with the procedure.

Summary First

It has been over 14 months since my PRK surgery, and I couldn’t be happier. I reached better than 20/20 vision three weeks after surgery, and have had practically no side-effects with my 20/15 vision since around the four-week mark. I was about -4 in each eye with an astigmatism of around 1.00. I see much better now than I did with glasses or contacts before and my eyes are actually less dry and less red than they were before surgery. I have had zero regrets about the procedure.

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