Saturday, November 28, 2009

The Imu Turkey Thanksgiving Experiment...

This month has been a whirlwind for me. Pregnant wife, new house (and associated repairs), and new doubled work load. So I have been looking forward to this long 4-day weekend.

Anna and I teamed up with another couple from my office who are also away from their family, Joe and Lilian. Rather than do things the traditional way, we tried to imu the turkey. An imu is a low tech, underground pressure cooker. Imu is Hawaiian, but many islands cook this way calling it slightly different words, like umu. Typically, one associates imus with a big full pig and apple in the mouth. Really, you can cook anything in an imu.

We identified a location for the pit.

Pit

Someone had cooked some pigs in this hole six months ago, so it was easier to dig the pit. Anna and I grabbed some logs. There has been some bad rain lately, so this wood was only partly dry. We had some charcoal in the pit and Anna and I were carrying over our wood to the pit. Just then, the very second Joe lit the match to start the pit a burnin', it began to downpour like you wouldn't believe. By the time it was back to a drizzle, the pit was wet, the wood was soaked and we felt a bit timid with progressing.

We hid out by the car off and on during the drizzling moments.

Chillin'

When we finally got the fire going and the rocks as hot as we thought we could we put the turkey in and covered it with banana leaves and dirt.

Pit and Me

Four hours later we came back to assess the level of our success.

Pit and Joe

Drum roll....NOPE. Wasn't done. We did get the turkey to as hot as 140 degrees F, but not quite enough to really cook it. So, with that we did the most American thing we could. We kept with the true Norman Rockwellian spirit of Thanksgiving and went to KFC. I hate to admit it, but it was actually quite tasty.

This could very well be the last year I try an imu turkey. We did finish our turkey in the oven. The imu did have a positive effect, too. That meat fell off the bone. Despite the half-and-half cooking, it was moist and tender.

Ok, so I may not be the big kahuna of island cooking. Still, I try. And we had a great thanksgiving anyway. In the end, the imu was just for fun, as is the any of the food. It's really about who you spend the day with. Being thousands of miles away from our respective families, it was nice to be with each other. I once told Anna the nice thing about our relationship is that wherever we move, as long as we have each other, we are with family. And that is what I'm truly thankful for.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Um, Am I Really 30....?

Ick, it's true. I'm 30! Since when did I get old enough to be 30? This may be the Pearl Anniversary, but I don't feel new and white.

I remember thinking how old 30 year olds were. And now that I am one I don't quite feel as old as I thought 30-somethings should. It's and odd feeling.

As a child birthdays were always a big deal, and just like everyone else the day becomes less and less important as you realize it's closer and closer to decrepitation.

I recently took on a new department at work. I didn't change departments, I still do all the techie stuff, but also have absorbed the whole Materials Management department. As you can imagine, I've never felt more busy. So this year my didn't even see my birthday sneak up on me. But as surely as death and taxes, it did come.

Being born on Veteran's Day, I've never had to work or go to school on my birthday. It was as if the whole world remembered to pause and celebrate me...oh yeah, and veterans too, I guess. So you can imagine my disappointment when I found that my employer, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, does not take Veteran's Day off. Well those veterans have sacrificed enough already, the least I could do is take the day off and loaf around in remembrance. So I did.

After a small sleep-in session and breakfast Anna and I went to see a movie. I didn't really care what movie. I don't get to see movies in the theater much so I was happy just to be there. We ended up seeing "Cirque Du Freaks: The Vampire's Assistant" which I have since discovered was NOT based on a true story.

Afterward we ate out for lunch. I went home, treated myself to paying for some new music downloads. Took a nap. Then I played some much neglected Nintendo Wii. Thanks to me, Mario has come one step closer to saving the galaxy. He hasn't even thanked me yet.

On our way to eat at a restaurant of our choice, Anna had me drive by some friends house, The DeLongs, to pick up a cake that was made for me. The plan was to pick up the cake and then take it home and eat it after dinner. Anna had asked the DeLongs to prepare a large Mexican food meal for me as a surprise. You can't find good Mexican food on Guam (at least, not that I've found yet), so it was a nice treat. After I gouged myself and crammed the little empty pockets of my stomach with homemade ice cream cake. Anna had to roll me out the door like Violet Beauregard in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, post blueberry desert.

I got home and loosened my pants before the buckle broke. As I got ready for bed I mused on the thought of being in my thirties. Hm, is "mused" the right word? Is there a word that means "mused" but also includes "dreaded", "regretted", "feared", disappointed", and "bewildered"? No? Well, let's just say that at my ripe old age, I should be glad I'm still coherent...

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Underwater Pumpkin Carving for Halloween 2009...

Every year in Guam I join the annual underwater pumpkin carving competition put on by Guam Tropical Dive Station. This may sound odd. And it is. I bet you have no idea just how boyant a pumpkin is. Try diving with one and you will. When I rented my gear I asked for 20 lbs of weights. In scuba diving, that's a lot. Someone behind me said, "Sounds like someone needs to go to buoyency class..."

The rules state that you can not make ANY cuts into your pumpkin above water. Once you are out, however, you can dry and decorate the pumpkin as you wish. So even though this is an uderwater pumpkin carving competition, you'll see some very creative pumpkins that could obviously not have been completely constructed under the sea.

In the past, I have always done well. I don't usually win for the most creative pumpkin, but I do win a thing or two in the raffels that follow. Anna and I have a tradition of winning a hotel stay. We didn't want to ruin the streak. Even though Anna doesn't do a pumkin and does not dive, she still has fun with the competition too.

The previous years I've done impressive technological feats. My first year I made a Nintendo Game Pumpkin, Hallo-Wii-n Edition. I didn't win. The next year I did a techie computer with a working DVD drive, speakers and screen, and it was playing "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown."

My losing 2007 Underwater Pumpkin Carving Entry



Again, I lost. The winners are usually fish or underwater themed. So, I decided not to do a techie pumpkin. But I just don't have any interest in doing a fish pumpkin in an underwater pumpkin carving competition where the prize is for the most original. That's like awarding the most original haircut to a bald guy. Being the 17th annual, we've seen enough "original" fish themed pumpkins over the years.

So I decided to do a pumpkin showing another passion of mine, The Simpsons. I saw a few Simpsons pumpkins others had done and I wasn't impressed. And the pumpkin the dive shop gave me didn't lend itself to ideas I had for Simpsons charachters. Also, I was off island for work until the night before. So at 10:30pm the night before, I was looking at a blank pumpkin with no ideas.

I decided that I wanted to make it a pumpkin that would be easier to assemble than my last entries. I began to think of simple charecters, people or icons that had a distinct image that would be recognizable on a 2D, monochrome surface. Then it hit me; I needed an 8-bit Mario!

I found the perfect pixelated Mario for my pumkin carving needs. Then I cut out a 1/2 inch square of cardboard and did a bit-for-bit copy of that Mario. An hour or so later I had my template.

The next morning, I showed up at the dock ready to carve. After an hour at 15 feet deep I came out with an ugly and incomprehensible pumpkin. Even though I knew what I was doing I couldn't tell what it was.



Anna and I dried it off and went to work cleaning it up and finding a way to make it a bit more distuingishable. I wanted to stay true to the monochrome and 2D look, so I decided rather than use color, I'd just get a nice black marker and create this.

Making the top a 1-up mushroom was a late edition but a good enhancement.


As I was placing the pumpkin out for dispaly I wondered if anyone would get it. So I make up a quick and easy sign so people would hopefully get it. Not a good sign if you have to explain your pumpkin.



There are actually three categories to enter. The best prize is a free diving trip for two to Australia and since that goes to most creative, that's the one I and most others enter.

These are some other entries for MOST CREATIVE.

Bowling


Home Sweet Home


Clow fish (I think this should have won)


Fish on the hook



In a surprise and dissapointing judgement call (to all but the one person), the above pumpkin of a fish caught on a hook acutally won. I can see why the judges stay anonymous.

This is the FUNNIEST:

The Cat in the Hat


I don't know if the kid called this anything, but it won a dive trip for two to Chuuk.



Here are the entries for SCARRIEST:

Freaky Clown


Organ Harvesting


Angler Fish


Witch


Spier. The winning pumpkin and owner of a free dive trip for two to Palau



So, I didn't win the pumpkin, and some winners were a bit of an upset. At least I will win something in the raffel drawings, right? Nope. Some people won 3-4 times and we got nothing, nada, bumpkis. It was disapointing day. And despite the multiple loses of the day, I still had a good time and and am still proud of my humble 8-bit Mario pumpkin.