San Diego – Cuyamaca Rancho Park

On travel for work?  Got that rare day off?  Get outside, run.  Run away before they change their minds.  They know where you live, it’s how they pay you.  Run!

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Cuyamaca Rancho State Park, about a hour or so east of San Diego depending on whether you exceed the posted speed limit.  The park itself is massive and you could spend weeks there without seeing it all.  I had a day.

I did no research other than just to drive to the park.  The state highway snakes through it and you can get off at various campgrounds, trails, etc.

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Stonewall Peak.  One of the greatest feelings on the planet is to see a mountain and you’re like, “I want to climb that.”  So you do.  A campground sits at the base, you can park there for ten bucks or so with the park rangers.  It’s two miles up and two miles down.  It’s not too difficult if you regularly hike.  I did some other shorter hikes off the highway, but this was the longest and best part.

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The climb for the most part is a series of switchback trails carved into the side of the mountain.

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After a while you get the creepy idea that this place burned in the past.  Turns out I was right.

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In 2003 a lost hiker lit a signal fire in Cuyamaca Rancho and started one of the largest wildfires in California history, which is saying something.  Nearly the entire park burned including just about every long growth tree.

Once upon a time, the firefighters of the American West were dedicated to putting out every fire no matter how natural, no matter where it was.  This was a mistake.  It allowed decades worth of growth to accumulate into the forests.  Nature needs fire.

A forest of the West needs to burn as part of the natural progression of its ecosystem.  It cleans out brush, certain species of plant need the flames to reproduce, etc, etc.  By putting out every fire folks got in the way of this.

So when Cuyamaca Rancho burned for the first time in like five decades.  It burned hot and massive.  If you have a wildfire once every ten years or so, the ecosystem can recover.  That’s the way it’s meant to be.

But it seems when it burns once in a century, that the system can’t recover.  They’ve waited for Cuyamaca Rancho to regrow for these near 15 years and it’s become clear that some species aren’t coming back.  They were wiped out by the intensity of the flames.  So the park service has begun replanting by hand instead.

When you hear people talk about allowing natural wildfires pay attention.  This stuff is important.  It’s also why some folks who build brand new swanky houses up in the forests and then demand the state protect them are in many cases actually doing their surrounding forests genuine harm.

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Stonewall Peak and the nearby abandoned mine were named after Jackson by former Confederate veterans who’d come out West after the war.  What a tale some of those lives must have been.

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Immune to fire.

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At the summit.  The folks who put this up here were the real deal.  They got to the top before proper trails, before online park maps, and so on.

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Just one hill among many.  So much else to see.

fake smoked salmon sandwich

Everything is apparently fake nowadays. The news is fake, science is fake, happy cat videos are faked, celebrity births are fake, and so on. So we decided to get in on the action, with this fake smoked salmon sandwich. It’s not actually smoked, but it’s ability to fill your body with delicious food will surely be the most realistic part of your day. So climb aboard our mystical journey, in a life where apparently nothing is more fake than the quest to determine your place in this currently destructive world. Wait, what? Let’s begin!

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fake smoked salmon sandwich

 

1 pound salmon filet

olive oil

salt & pepper

1 tsp Old Bay

1 tsp smoked paprika

1 tsp crushed red pepper

1/3 cup mayonnaise

1 tbsp capers

1 tbsp tightly packed fresh dill or 1/2 tbsp dried

fresh lime juice

onion, chopped

toasted bread, sliced

basil leaves, chopped

tomato, sliced

arugula leaves

 

preheat the oven to 350 degrees, brush the salmon filet with olive oil, dust with salt & pepper, and sprinkle with juice of 1/2 lime

in a small bowl mix Old Bay, smoked paprika, crushed red pepper and rub over the salmon

wrap the salmon in foil, place the foil in a roasting pan, and bake for 15 minutes

increase the oven heat to 450 degrees, unroll the foil to expose the salmon and bake for 5 more minutes

while baking the salmon, in a small bowl mix the mayo, capers, dill, 1/2 lime juice

in a small skillet add 1 tbsp olive oil, add chopped onion and cook to your desired brownness and caramelization

to make the sandwich, spread the mixed mayo on the bread, add cut salmon filets, top with onions, basil, tomato, and arugula

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After you’ve mixed up the spices, pat them into the salmon.  The oil and lime juice you’ve brushed it with will allow the grains of goodness to stick to the salmon flesh.  Smoked paprika is the top ingredient here.  I’ve used paprika since the beginning of my cooking journey but have only recently discovered smoked paprika.  It has so many delightful uses.

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After 15 minutes in the oven the salmon is mostly cooked, but we now open the foil to expose it to the increased heat.  This will allow your spice blend to brown considerably.  Note the difference visually, I assure you the taste difference is even better.

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Salmon is just about the most criminally easy thing to cook.  So quick to do, and yet so delicious.  I get the idea that salmon was one of those softballs God tossed to humanity after creation.  We basically got left with war, pestilence, turmoil, and an ingrained desire to destroy ourselves.  So God was like: oh, sorry, eh, uh, hmm, okay, here’s salmon.

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The mayo gets mixed up briefly with the capers, dill, and lime juice.  The onion is extra credit, you don’t need to do it if you don’t want.  The greens and tomato just get thrown right on there.  Use your bread of choice.  I went with sourdough, but any good bread will do.  Just flake the salmon to fit the size of the bread.

It’s a quick dish for a weeknight, that’s mostly healthy, and well worth your time.

Enjoy life.

destroy selfie sticks, ask somebody instead

It’s close to summer, so the selfie sticks have emerged from hibernation with glorious abandon.  Even your dog(s) is in on the action.  They used the selfie stick to take a photo of them attempting to kidnap the partially cut meat off your kitchen counter.  Or so the online video prophets have told me.

I simply have never understood the selfie stick.  Instead of asking a kind passerby to take a picture of you, your friends and family, and said local landmark?  No, no, you can just do it yourself with this partial makeshift club thingy.  Why not just ask somebody for help instead?

My photography (and I take this word very loosely) is amateur garbage hour.  So you can take my opinion as the garbage it is.  But to me, selfie stick shots are the worst thing on the planet.  The human always takes up too much of the frame, the angles are weird, the resolution on cell phone cameras remains crap, and it just doesn’t look natural.

All of this for what?  So folks don’t have to talk to another human being?  Hasn’t online death spiral of human contact taken us far enough down the non-contact-outside-our-own-personal-bubbles-realm?  Why do we need yet another reason not to talk to another human we don’t know.

Destroy selfie sticks.  Ask somebody instead.  Let them take a picture of your special moment.  Let them laugh with you at how awesome it is.  Share the moment.  Actually get a good shot you can remember.  What do you have to lose?

Milwaukee – Oscar’s

So what does one do after they’ve hiked seven miles, were already tired to begin with, and just want a good meal and few beers before an early bed? Well, you plan ahead and plot a stop between hiking and the hotel at a place that is consistently on every top ten burger list for all of Wisconsin.

And you get Oscar’s

1712 West Pierce Street Milwaukee, WI 53204

http://www.oscarsonpierce.com/

They have awesome burgers. They have dozens of draft beers. They have a great atmosphere. I got in there late afternoon. There was one white-collar office party, one blue-collar office party, a reception for elderly veterans, and a bunch of random folks like me. All were smiling and having fun. Oscar was helping the employees everywhere. Everybody was enjoying themselves.

I got The Big O, because if you’re in a place so highly recommended, you get the flagship menu option. It did not disappoint. This is a really great burger. And it’s a superb place. Parking is available in their own lot. And you should go.

Wisconsin – Kettle Moraine Forest

We’re back, after an unexplained 13 week absence. During that time we had the pleasure of enduring work, more work, a visit with a self-described crypt-keeper-leprechaun, some more work, and we fought a dragon. Now we’re back to mindlessly telling stories and share the breadth of humanity’s experiences. Because it’s what we do. Side note: don’t ever fight a dragon. This was a bad choice.

Anyways, as part of their desire to endlessly prove their incompetence, I ended up in Milwaukee again for work a whole day early. Rather than tool around downtown again I decided to venture out away from the concrete. So I planned a hike through Kettle Moraine Forest, Lapham Peak Unit. It’s about a half hour drive west of Milwaukee via I-94.

I hiked the Moraine Ridge trail which they clock at 6.6 miles. I broke with my usual practice and didn’t carry any weight. I even left the boots aside and just used my running shoes. I was just too tired to get crazy with anything.

I saw something new in that all the trails are actually made for cross country skiing. In most places the paths are cut through the woods with a very wide diameter. It’s weird. Though they probably don’t have any choice for skiing.

When I was there it was still the end of winter, only the very barest of green saplings were beginning to appear.

The various trails constantly cross each other at multiple points.  Accordingly, the park unit labels each intersection and provides an updated map.  Beyond that they don’t really label the trails at all.  I had to check multiple times to ensure I didn’t take a wrong turn.  Even so, I did actually take the wrong way once and had to backtrack.

Dude is glad winter is ending.

There were many other folks on the trails, but I would not call them crowded.  Like a dummy I dropped my gloves and had to go back and get them at one point.  A couple put them where I could see them after finding them on the ground.  I passed them later and they were happy to see I’d found them.  I thanked them, though was a bit embarrassed.  I was a nice human moment.  I think they were Quebecois.

According to the trail marker, the Native Americans that used to inhabit the park grounds bent these trees on purpose as their own markers.  This one marked the way to a water source.  Here is another example.

Note the difference between the trees just emerging from winter, and the pine trees who laugh at winter.

I didn’t time myself, I stopped here and there.  Again, I was tired to begin with so it didn’t matter.  But I had a great time.  It was a good release from paperwork and all the stuff that doesn’t actually matter.  So nature did it’s job.  Hail nature.

oh, no

I’ve connected through Houston Bush before, but that was years ago.  So I deplane and as soon as I get out the gate I notice there’s a bunch of small screens everywhere.  The normal waiting areas with rows of chairs were apparently replaced with tables.  Each individual seat had a tablet in front of it.

I didn’t think much of it at first.  I had a quick hour to grab food before the next flight.  I ended up at a place called Bam Bam for Vietnamese.  I sit down at the bar, and I’m face-to-face with another tablet.

Oh, no.

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It’s the future.  Today!

It took me about five minutes to realize no bartender was coming to see me.  I figured out on my own that to get a beer or order food I had to use the tablet.  Then I had to swipe my credit card right on the spot.

Even after you’re done ordering, there’s this still that evil screen right in front of you.  They continuously bombard you with ads, proposed money games, and whatever else.  You can’t turn the damn thing off, at least not that I could figure out.

The beer was local Texas good, they had a great banh-mi, and a so-so salad.  But I couldn’t get over the darn screen.  I want a quiet beer and meal.  And maybe to watch sports behind the bar.  Not get ads shoved in my face.  Note the company logos on the shot above from the many, many usual suspects of the Giant Octopi.  I should have put a napkin over the thing.

I’m an introvert.  So you better believe it’s a legit problem when I say I actually genuinely missed ordering my food and drink from a real live person.  To actually engage in conversation with a fellow human.

I eventually figured out the screen thing, but almost nobody else did.  Other folks coming in were exasperated with trying to work it out.  And they got frustrated as the one poor waiter had to walk them through it.

Business consultants told Bam Bam and Houston Bush that there would be friction during the “initiation period”.  But that eventually customers will get used to using this technology on a regular basis to order.  Then they can save 47% on restaurant personnel costs once all orders are handled in this electronic manner.

This is the future.  Every single moment of your time is one giant opportunity for somebody to shove ads in your face.  Everyone notice the new gas pumps?  Where they throw ads at you in the 49 seconds it takes to pump your gas?

Machines probably won’t totally take over every job.  You won’t see a full blown robot bartender.  Instead you’ll see various aspects of humanity removed from the equation.  Technology will destroy jobs on the margins.  Instead of six waiters a restaurant will have two.  What are the other four newly unemployed humans supposed to do?

If you believe the wizards of the future, technology will free those four people to go become artists, or learn a new trade like plumbing, or whatever.  What I suspect will happen instead is that society will generally continue to become poorer and more unequal.

When traveling, I don’t think I’ll do this again.  If I see a screen like this again, I’m walking away.  I’ll take my cash to a business that employs humans.  And if every bar stool on the planet has a screen one day?  I don’t know what I’ll do, but that’ll be a sad, sad day.

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The future can kiss my ass.