Education

Western Civilization

(c) 2012 Earl L. Haehl Permission is given to use this article in whole as long as credit is given. Book rights are reserved.

In the category of the decline of education, I got news the other day regarding the University of Kansas where I took baccalaureate work more years ago than I care to remember. The College of Liberal Arts and sciences is discussing eliminating the requirement of the “reading heavy” Western Civilization discussion course which also included a four hour comprehensive examination (I really hated Rousseau).  There is a statement that the course is not going away but that there will be “other options” for the bachelor of arts degree. The College also awards a bachelor of general studies degree that eliminates onerous requirements.

As I recall, the discussions and the works were sometimes long and, from a 20-year-old point of view, not really relevant to the world of 1964. They did cut into study time for other courses, not to mention pool playing, but the discussions could be very interesting. Why did I need to read The Communist Manifesto although it was considerably more readable than Marx’s Capital? What did long dead philosophers have to do with the gritty world of the 20th Century with its “new” ideas and problems. And we still ask the same questions in discussion groups that are more voluntary in nature. Forty years makes a lot of difference in perspective. If someone wants to discuss political ethics, I start with recommending Plato’s philosopher king and work through Aristotle, Machiavelli (The Discourses as well as The Prince) and even Bonhoeffer—if you want a heavy discussion you do heavy reading.

It is 2012. And we still have arguments flying around as “new” and innovative.  And, unless we are required to the majority of us do not discuss the historical and philosophical underpinnings of Western culture.  I hear people talking about defending western civilization from people who have no clue as to what they are defending and what are the consequences. Hint: Our political and social system owes more to Greece and Rome than to the Bible.

New needs to be tested and sometimes there is no substitute for heavy reading.

 

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Compleat Idler, Preparedness

Idler’s tools — cutlery

(c) 2012 Earl L. Haehl Permission is given to use this article in whole as long as credit is given. Book rights are reserved.

I have more knives than I really need. But it is better to have it than to need it. I could get by with a paring or utility knife, an eight inch chef’s knife and a boning knife. Also in the block are a couple of bread knives, spare eight inch chef and utility, an Ontario scalper, a six inch chef’s knife, a ten inch butcher, a small oriental cleaver, my grandfather’s butchering cleaver and some steak knives. I have a fine steel. The pairing knife gets quit a bit of use for odd jobs. When I am doing serious cutting I use the chef’s knife and when I do cuts on chicken the boner works. For a good discussion get The Supper of the Lamb(http://www.amazon.com/The-Supper-Lamb-Reflection-Paperbacks/dp/0375760563). I disagree with Fr Capon in Swiss Army knives but I had been looking at a Huntsman for belt carry.

This afternoon I was downstairs and need a knife—if there is anything in surplus downstairs besides multi-bit screwdrivers it is knives. I can wear a fifty year scout pin—I have knives, axes, saws. I trained leaders in woods tools. So I was in the one room where nothing is accessible and will not be until we relocate the shelving temporarily stored there. I reached into a box in the cupboard and snagged the handle of a Russell Green River skinning knife. Have I used it in the past year? No. Am I going to remainder it? No. Am I planning a hunting trip? No.

A knife is a tool and it may also hold memories. When my mother died I got all the cutlery that was left from my grandparents and my aunt. There is a ten inch butcher knife whose blade would not survive a coat of naval jelly and the handle has been cut down to fit my grandmother’s hands—not exactly a professional job. But with the rest it will go on to my son when I s0ould hold out one or two big roasts and have a feast of the three households on the property. And that knife would be out and doing most of the work. I vaguely remember my grandfather butchering a sheep or goat in the kitchen, but I was under five. We did butcher chickens up until 1954 when the City annexed the property and we had to give them up.

In 1954 my grandfather gave me a Plumb hand-axe. I was 10 and my kit now included a two-blade pen knife, a three blade Case stockman, a KampKing scout type knife and a Plumb hand-axe. The other term commonly used is hatchet which has bad connotations from the 19th Century tong wars in New York and San Francisco which are, according to Carl Glick in Shake Hands with the Dragon, based on occidental stereotypes rather than fact. The Norse referred to it as a hawk and that word entered and apparently left the English language with persons making handsaw into heron-shaw. The traders of Hudson’s Bay Company and similar trading companies used metal axes as trade goods. There were fancy ones which featured a smoking pipe opposite the cutting blade. It is known that the Tomahawk was carried by trappers and soldiers as well as native peoples. Somewhere downstairs I have what is called a Hudson Bay Axe with a head shaped more like a tomahawk blade than a Michigan blade which is standard for camp axes. As I have gotten older I have gotten away from the idea of a hand axe as that essential item in my woods tool box. I discovered the ¾ size axe seems to fit my arms and give me greater control over the tasks I am dealing with. I also tend to use a saw when dealing with limbs. And a ¾ size steel Estwing rides in my truck box.

The date 1954 in the above paragraph is important. I had turned 10 in 1953. I was trusted by my grandfather to use all the woods tools that now require certification in the scouting movement to even carry. One of the more insidious tendencies in our society is the infantilization of youth. Think about it.

As to safety, another matter comes up. The Scout Movement, at least in my own council, came up with a rule that prohibits the carry of fixed blade knives—for reasons of safety. A non-lockback folding knife will, unless properly used, close the sharp side of the blade on the hand of the user. So we recommend the lockback configuration. I have had lockbacks fail. I have had non-lockback folders fail in the spine. I’ll be specific on this latter point. One was a USGI Camillus. One was a Victorinox red scale. There were others, but they were cheap. The only fixed blade knife I had break on me was a “survival” knife with a hollow handle that had everything Rambo needed but his crossbow and blowdrier. The only problem was no tang.

So whether you are in the kitchen or the field, you may need cutlery. Treat tools as tools.

I would have loved a bayonet when I was digging cattail roots.

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Compleat Idler, Preparedness

Idler’s kitchen – cool weather

(c) 2012 Earl L. Haehl Permission is given to use this article in whole as long as credit is given. Book rights are reserved.

It is hard to believe that fall is coming. It used to mean training events, camporees, campouts. All of these equate to food. And in cooler weather, we need warmth which means fuel. Granola is criticized for the fats—the fats are what your engine burns to keep your body warm inside that super insulated parka you laid out the big bucks for.

But while granola or preferably GORP is good for snacking you need a good breakfast. While my camp coffee requires an EPA permit for disposal, it is not enough to really warm up. Next to dessert breakfast is the most important meal of the day. And here I am going to discuss two, if you have enough time, get a couple bowls of both before you head out on your “trail.” Both require cooking which tends to turn some people off—it is one of my few outdoor activities left.

First we make a pot of oatmeal. No, I do not mean one of those little pots that come in the one or two-person cookset from Scout supply or and outdoor or Chinese goods outlet. A note here: Aluminum burns and burns nasty. I still have an aluminum GI messkit and a couple small pots, but I prefer Lexan or enameled plates. I used to use my enameled canner but it has lost some of the enamel and I do not remember whether I pitched it or remembered to save it to sterilize topsoil. If your group gets up to twenty or larger, use a big stainless pot. This also doubles for boiling water in wine or beer making and deepfrying turkeys.

Ingredients: Water, butter, brown sugar, rolled oats, chopped or dehydrated fruit. Remember that you can add more water, but you cannot reduce it. Leftovers do not reheat.

Equipment: Gas burner or campfire. The way things are going I would use the gas burner for more control and less fire hazard. Pot, depending on size of group. Steel, long handled spoon which can be used to both stir and serve. A towel to wipe your hands on is essential unless you have no qualms about wiping your hands on your jeans.

Procedure: Bring water to a rolling boil. Toss in the rolled oats—the generic rolled oats are packaged differently, but they are the same thing. As the oats begin to form, throw in a couple sticks of butter and chase them with at least half a bag of brown sugar, keep stirring while someone else pours in the fruit. I like raisins and apples. And add your cinnamon at the end and stir it in. My friend an mentor Richard Branson (The design professor, not the millionaire) would throw in a bag of red hots. Buy your cinnamon in the restaurant size. You’ll use it up in a couple trips. I am not much on measurements but a carton of rolled oats will serve 8-12. A half a bag of brown sugar will be enough. If you have 30 or so you add more of everything.

A note on sugar: I am sensitive to this issue because my wife is diabetic and I have the tendency on both sides. I have also had campers who tend to hyperactivity—a lower amount of sugar beat Ritalin as a countermeasure. There is a substitute called Splenda(tm) which measures about the same. Avoid aspartame.

At home in the kitchen: Use quick cooking oats and small quantities. The amount of activity is somewhat less.

Now we’ve dealt with my grandmother’s idea of a breakfast—although she would have real problems with the way I do it. So let’s cut to the chase with what I have heard described as Mountain Man Breakfast, farmer’s breakfast, arterial pollution, death at Lauds, etc.

I know people who believe the ads that say a particular coat or outfit will keep you warm. I have never in my retail career made such a claim. Clothes are like shelter—they ideally hold the heat in (unlike Oklahoma City) but they cannot create heat. In cool, say 30-50 degrees Fahrenheit, weather you need both shelter and heat. The oven is within and the fuel is protein and fat. When you are working strenuously in the cooler weather, the fuel burns easily—if you are sedentary and working in a temperature controlled environment, this can lead to coronary artery disease, stroke and morbid obesity. (I have never figured out why people who tip-toe around the crimes of battery, rape etc with the term “abuse” will refer to people as “grossly obese” when the term “morbidly obese” is less judgmental and is, in fact, used in medical reports—I have read it in post-mortem reports.)

So here is my particular approach that I jokingly called Prelude to Angioplasty—Southwest Style.

Ingredients: Sausage, lard or butter, frozen hashbrowns or finely chopped potatoes, dehydrated or freshly chopped onions, eggs, frozen or canned corn, cheddar cheese, black pepper, ground Ancho or Chamallo pepper and salsa (chile).

Equipment: Dutch oven(s) or cast iron skillet, large stainless steel spoon for stirring and serving, spatula for stirring and browning the meat. Iron sheet or “Lewis and Clark” cooking stand to hold charcoal and prevent fire from spreading. Shovel to move coals. Dutch oven tool. A gas burner can be used but it is less impressive. If you have a crowd, you may need a couple or three ovens full. Ditto on the warnings about aluminum—yes, I have been present when an aluminum Dutch oven caught fire. Mixing dish big enough for a dozen or so eggs. Fork to whip eggs.

Procedures: On this one I could go into detail on shopping, but suffice to say that you will get plenty of grief at checkout. Cast iron can and should be pre-heated. For each 12 or 14 inch Dutch oven you should use at least one of those pound wrapped packs of mild sausage (you’ll take care of the spice with the pepper and salsa). You start by browning the sausage—in the old days this produced enough grease to brown the potatoes and onions. Do not brown onions first because the moisture will cool the oven and retard the cooking of sausage. While this is going on, someone needs to break and stir the eggs—about a dozen per oven. You’re now browning the potatoes. Fresh onions would go with the potatoes, but I prefer the dehydrated variety which get mixed in with the eggs. Also a dozen eggs would get about two tablespoons of pepper. When the potatoes are looking brown, add the eggs. The heat from the cooking food will cook the eggs and the corn which follows the eggs in. Cover and move some coals onto the top of the oven—this is why I use only cast iron. The lip was invented by Benjamin Franklin who appreciated the Deutsch oven though he fought to eradicate the language from Pennsylvania. Let this sit about five minutes and then remove the cover long enough to dump and stir in about a pound of grated cheese. Cover for a couple more minutes and remove from heat.

Serve with salsa on the side. Use salsa from the Southwest or Mexico or make your own. None of that stuff from New York City. If you feel a need for more carbs, you can serve it with tortillas or make up some fry-bread.

Bon-appetit. Cardiologists are listed in the yellow pages.

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Compleat Idler

Idler’s Kitchen Mass Prep Burgers

(c) 2012  Earl L Haehl – Permission is granted to redistribute this in whole as long as credit is given.  Book rights are reserved.

I spent much of the holiday in the kitchen. The objective is to go beyond making just enough burgers for the meal and not have to do this again until fall. Last fall I used beaucoup Cabela’s Club points and obtained a Gamesaver Silver vacuum sealer which has simplified meals. If I need something I can open the freezer. I can buy chicken thighs, pork chops or ground beef on sale and use it until it is once again on sale. The kids have not taken a deer since I got it, but it is going to happen. Now, the stuff you need for one of these burgerama moments in addition to the gamesaver is probably in your kitchen already:

*  A four or five quart mixing bowl or prep tray is essential. The bowls come in pyrex or stainless—stainless is much lighter and less cleanup if you drop it. Do not use plastic when dealing with meat unless you like cleaning with a lot of bleach and worrying if there is some food particle residue in the absorbent surface. The commercial prep trays come in stainless or a food grade plastic. The mixing bowls are available at your grocery or local discount store. The prep trays are available where they sell the better grade and commercial food processing equipment.

*  A burger press is nice. I am closer to 70 than 60 and have only used the press a couple of years. It has made a difference in the time I spend and added some uniformity. The 5/8 to ¾ inch thick patties cook best in cast iron which is my utensil of preference.

*  Wide aluminum foil or butcher/freezer paper to protect the counter from the processing and the meat from the counter.

*  A paring knife—okay I could use the BenchMade in my pocket, but there issues as to where it has been. This opens up a three, five or ten pound tube of ground beef. (Yes, I do have a grinder but time is money. See Einstein’s alternative E=MC2/C$=T$.)

*  Clean rubber gloves. I picked up a box of powderless nitrile gloves in the first aid pain control aisle.

NOTE: I had a bottle of water but the water of life should wait until the job is done. It boils down to the following principle: When offering a keg party for your students to paint your garage, do not open the keg until the job is done. I might also here note that while I foolishly bought some quart and gallon bags for the vac-sealer, the rolls are better for sizing bags.

If you are like me you will probably have dehydrated chopped onions and coarse ground black pepper. It’s better not to try grinding two tablespoons of black pepper or chopping fresh onions the night before.

THE RECIPE I USED

Ingredients:

2 – three pound tubes ground round. I use the leanest cut available. When Angus is on sale I use. Bison (Tatonka) is never on sale. 1½ cups of dehydrated chopped onions. According to my son Oso Penzey’s has some fantastic dehydrated shallots.

1 to 2 (or maybe 3 depending) Tablespoons of coarse-ground black pepper. My preference is Tellichery. Alternatively, you can use some ground Ancho for the southwestern palate.

Mix ingredients together in the mixing bowl.  Be sure that the pepper does not clump.  It is a good idea to use wax patty papers to keep the patties apart and the burger press clean.

As I wrote when I left the blood-bait on the desk of a friend (after asking the cashier if they had crackers to go with it), “Bon appetit!”

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Compleat Idler

The Compleat Idler

(c) 2012  Earl L Haehl – Permission is granted to redistribute this in whole as long as credit is given.  Book rights are reserved.

This is about the art of idling, a nasty habit affecting young men aged 10-17 and older. I do not know whether young women engage in this as there were none in any of my circle of idlers. It is something adults discourage and they may occasionally be right. However, I am going to tell a few stories in what may be called an apologia. And be aware that in these articles there may be words or tags that you do not recognize. That is the signal to crank up Startpage.com.  I took the title for this category from Isaak Walton whose book The Compleat Angler is a discourse on society from a Royalist Anglican point of view in the seventeenth century,

What you may discover are hobbies, sources of information, games, activities and books. The one element I will not discuss is smoking because it is not necessary to the culture and may have helped me to cardiac rehab.

“Idle hands are the devil’s workshop.” It’s one of those quotations that has many variants—an idle mind, idle hands the devil’s tools. In New England Puritan society, idleness was frowned upon, especially among apprentices who were supposed to be learning trades. Idling was not condoned on the Sabbath as that was allowing the Devil in. New England Puritan society affected the whole of New England because the Puritans were the dominant culture—and this culture moved on as the great American migrations mixed people up.

My mother’s culture was Yankee on both sides. They settled in Nebraska and brought their culture with them. My father’s German Protestant culture had similar attitudes regarding work. A point of clarification must be made. Idlers are not lazy—they are just energetic about different things.

At age eight I began going out to my grandfather’s shop or picking up a Red Ryder and walking the dry irrigation ditch after school instead of digging into the insipid story in the reader I was talked to. I loved working with tools and I had built a lego fortress and put a couple new tubes in an old radio so I could listen to shortwave while I did homework. So it was in Spanish—so I did not understand it—it was relief.

When we were in San Diego I managed on two consecutive evenings to pick up KOA-Denver on the AM band by attaching a wire hanger to the loopstick. I should have been doing my book report. The purpose of a book report, according to the curriculum manual I glommed onto in Methods/Language Arts is to encourage students (they may have said “pupils”) to read works that are not in the curriculum. My experience had been the opposite. I read a lot of books from the library—it was Great Expectations and Silas Marner that I suffered through, waiting for Saturday when I slipped on my brown hiking boots, jeans and hooded sweatshirt to go wandering down to the cliffs. It was Saturday that I could go to the library, or my friend Mike and I would hop the bus for San Diego (we lived in Point Loma) to haunt bookstalls and discuss philosophy with a couple old guys in a coffee shop. This had little to do with the business at hand, but we learned about Spinoza and Pascal.

THERE IS MORE TO COME

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