July 24, 2006

Goodbye Internet, I'm Going To Philmont!

Tonight I'll be meeting a group of Boy Scouts at the Fullerton train station; we'll be riding Amtrak's 'Southwest Chief' to Raton, New Mexico (a 22 hour train ride ... if you're lucky). From Raton, we'll take a bus another forty miles to Cimarron, home of Philmont Scout Ranch.

Philmont is one of the Boy Scouts' national "high adventure" bases. "Crews" of Scouts come from across America — about twenty thousand each summer, if things haven't changed too much from back in my day — to go backpacking on ten-day "treks" through the Sangre de Christo mountains. (The Sangre de Christos are the 'foothills' of the Rockies, although they're no slouch themselves, with the tallest point on Philmont property being 12,441 feet.) Treks can be anywhere from fifty to ninety miles, with an activity level ranging from 'challenging' (or 'typical') to 'super strenuous'. The thing that makes Philmont different from a typical backpacking trip is that the Philmont backcountry is dotted with "staffed camps", where the Scouts stay overnight and do various activities. Some of the staffed camps offer program that's similar to what you might find at a summer camp — rock climbing, shotgun shooting, horseback or mountain bike riding. Other camps are inhabited by staffers who are playing the role of New Mexico backcountry residents of years long gone by — miners, trappers, loggers, homesteaders.

This is a big trip for me in a couple of ways. The first is that my brother is one of the Scouts in the crew. (For any new readers, we're sixteen years apart). The second is that I spent two summers working at Philmont — in 1994, I was a photographer; in 1995, I managed the photo department. One of the advantages of being a photographer is that you got a lot of time off; I spent most of mine backpacking, which got me well-acquainted with a wide swath of Philmont's backcountry. While the people I worked with back in the day won't be there (with a few exceptions; my old boss seems to have moved to Cimarron to run a souvenir store/gallery in town!), I'm expecting this to be an emotional reunion with the place itself.

See you in a couple of weeks!


  • Here (at my old, old Web site) are some photos I took while I was at Philmont.
  • Here's Philmont's official home page, from the Boy Scouts' national office.
  • Here's Philmont's unofficial homepage. (It's got a big bulletin board and a lot of community-assembled information, so it's more active/useful than the official page.)
  • Here's a big collection of Philmont-related links.

Posted by Kevin at 12:49 PM | Comments (0)


A look at our newest neighborhood friend (click for a larger version):

... needless to say, the hounds are very concerned. I think that he's been coming in under cover of darkness to strip any leftover grapes off of our grapevines; he's careful to stay on the top rail of the fence, safely outside of standing-dog range (lucky for him that instinct tells our dogs to put their paws on the fence and bay at him, rather than lunge and snap).

Maybe it's thanks to the rats and mice that I kept as childhood pets, but I think that he's pretty cute.

Posted by Kevin at 07:43 AM | Comments (1)

July 19, 2006

Things That Are Okay

Just so you all don't think that this blog is only a place for me to vent my spleen at things I dislike (the Anaheim White House, medical billing offices, Tan Nguyen and his signs, the TSA, etc.), I've decided that I need to call out things that I do like from time to time. So here goes:

  • Favorite Wine Store: The Wine Exchange in Orange. I don't even need to preface this with favorite local wine store, because this is just about the best that you'll find. Unparalled selection, great prices, and tastings twice a week. If you want to know more about wine, look at their event calendar and pick one of their under-$20 tastings — a dependable choice is the "Features Presentation" that they hold at the beginning of each month. You'll get to taste a wide variety of interesting wines that beat the heck out of what you'd find on your supermarket shelf (and often those wines are cheaper than those supermarket bottles) — and after the tasting is over, you can go back out into the store and buy the bottles that you liked the most to take home with you. The staff is friendly and pretension-free; nobody will look down their nose at you here, and they'll tailor their recommendations/explanations to your experience level.

  • My Gym: For the past few months, I've been going to Koloseum Gym in Fullerton. If you look at their website, you'd think that it'd be full of hyper-muscular men and women looking at normally-physiqued people like me with disdain (... I crush you like bug! ...), but it's not. There are an abnormal number of extremely sculpted dudes there, but they mostly keep to themselves over in the free-weight area, lifting insane amounts or practicing their poses in front of mirrors. All of the other clients are pretty normal, and everybody lines up nicely over at the drinking fountain. They don't have a hydrotherapy room or whatever you might be looking for over at a Bally's or 24-Hour Fitness, but they've got more weight machines and stairclimbers and what-not than I'll ever need, and at ~$18/month, who cares? The place used to be a Gold's Gym before the owner took it independent; you can still see here and there where he hasn't gotten around to painting over the previous branding.

  • Our Neighborhood Japanese Restaurant: Osaka, in the shopping center at the corner of Lincoln and State College in Anaheim. You won't confuse their food for Great Cuisine, but it's a good, dependable, low-cost place to go for a sit-down meal on a weeknight. Every neighborhood needs someplace like this. (We had our favorite quick-Japanese place in San Jose — Bento Express — and we came back to find that it had closed. We took it as A Sign that we'd gotten the hell out of that neighborhood right on time.) Don't confuse Osaka for the dollar-Chinese-food place next door — Shelby went there once out of curiosity, and she turned out sorry that she did.

  • Cookbook of the Month: Weber's Real Grilling, by Jamie Purviance and Tim Turner. Actually, we've had this one for a while now; I bought it months ago after reading about it in Sunset magazine. It hasn't steered us wrong yet. Unlike some other cookbooks, whose recipes all focus on marinades that you have to prepare 5,000 hours before grilling, there are lots of knockout sauce-based recipes that only require the making of the sauce itself as prep time — great for those (like, um, me) who aren't into planning ahead very far. And despite the corporate-focused title, there are no sermons about how much better your grilling would be if you would just buy a Weber grill.

Posted by Kevin at 08:10 AM | Comments (0)

July 13, 2006

It's Government-Recognition Week

It's just been government-recognition week around here at the Hogan household. The first to receive recognition was the house itself. You may remember that way back when we researched the house's provenance so that we could apply for the Mills Act, wherein owners of homes of a certain age receive massive property tax benefits in exchange for agreeing to maintain their homes in a historically accurate manner. On Tuesday night, the City Council meeting started with a brief recognition ceremony for us Mills Actees; we got to shake the mayor's hand, took our picture with the rest of the homeowners in the Mills Act "class of 2006", and were presented with this plaque that's now mounted by our front door:
It's no concidence that the ceremony where they handed out the plaques took place the week after the County Assessor's property valuation for 2007 arrived in the mail:
... that little box, snipped out of our valuation notice, makes the value of having a Mills Act house pretty darn clear. We bought in 2004, but now we're paying property taxes like it's the mid-90s — woohoo! (If only we could find some way to apply the same reduction to our mortgage.) Now we just need to get some projects started around here and start sinking some of that found money back into the house.

The second to get good stuff from the government was me. On July 4th, while we were celebrating freedom and hot dogs and all that, some hard-working soul at the U.S. Patent Office was issuing a patent with my name on it! My first patent, almost four years after we made the application:

... unfortunately, it lists me as living in Morgan Hill, but you can't have everything. Maybe soon we'll start getting good (or bad, whatever) news about some of the other applications that we made around the same time period.

There's a tingly feeling about now being (in an extremely small way) part of a historical record that stretches back to 1790; maybe in the future, bored high-school kids will stumble across this patent while listening to their twentieth-generation iPods and surfing the Metaverse for three-dimensional porn, chuckling at its quaintness in much the same way that one might smile at a patent for an enhanced buggywhip or whalebone corset today.

Posted by Kevin at 11:16 AM | Comments (3)

July 04, 2006

Happy Fourth of July

Today's view from our front porch

Happy Fourth of July, everybody. Enjoy a piece of properly charred meat (or your favorite vegetarian/vegan alternative; we're not picky) and a beverage of your choice. Watch some fireworks. (Unless you're one of my international readers; then just have your grilled food and beverage and reflect on whatever you want to.) That's what we'll be going off to do in a few hours; in the meantime, I have a cherry pie that I need to bake ...

Posted by Kevin at 12:28 PM | Comments (0)