Thursday, March 25, 2010

Hot Tub Time Machine and the moments when you changed your history.

My friend Kim and I went to see “Hot Tub Time Machine” and she has asked the question, “When would you take a Hot Tub Time Machine.” I’m not sure I have an answer to that. Outside of a short vacation into the past, I don’t think I have a “moment” where I could do something different and have a better life. But then I started thinking about moments that changed, or almost ended, my life. Most of these were decision points and I don’t regret the options I didn’t choose. Here’s a list of times my life changed.

The earliest time I can remember that could have changed my life was a time when the family was swimming at a lake in Southern Oklahoma. I had the idea I could swim out to a log floating in the water. There I would rest and then swim back. I made it to the log. It was a long hard swim and I was beat; really looking forward to the rest, the way you look forward to a cool drink after working in the yard. But it wasn’t a log in the water. It was a branch from a tree that was no bigger around than my own forearm. It had no buoyancy for me to share. I was close to panic. I noticed a part of the shore was closer than the swimming area I came from. I made for it and eventually waded up through grasses and reeds to be back on solid land. I think I got in trouble for leaving the designated swimming area but I didn’t care.

The next time that comes to mind is when I was out getting some McDonalds food for some friends at 1am. It was 1981 or 82. I was working at a science fiction / media convention in Oklahoma City at the Lincoln Plaza Hotel. James “Scotty” Doohan was the main guest. Coming out of the McDonalds parking lot in my yellow 1973 VW bug and cutting across Lincoln Avenue I was hit by a huge speeding car that was driving with its headlights off. It hit the car so hard it spun it over 180 degrees and caught the engine on fire. If it had hit the car squarely in the classic T-bone then I probably wouldn’t be here to type this. The car was totaled and the food was cold and uneaten but I didn’t care.

About three years into my first marriage, Tamara and I almost split up. We were both totally stressed from school and not communicating. I had everything worked out where we would separate over the summer and see if we really wanted to get back together. When I finally talked with Tamara about it, she broke down and it dawned on me that maybe we weren’t on the same page with the separation thing. So we talked it out and lasted a total of 24 years with 2 kids and lots of experiences.

After college I took the entrance exam to get into the FAA air traffic controller school. I scored 94%. I was in. But I wanted to go to New York City and see if I could get a job there. I had a few months before the school started so I did that. In May of 1989 I took a bus, because it was cheaper, from Oklahoma City to New York City. I stayed for a couple of weeks at the YMCA on 9th Ave getting a reduced rate with my OU student ID. I moved into a SRO place at 103rd and Broadway and found a job at American Lawyer Media (the company that started Court TV – now TruTV). So I never went back and became an air traffic controller. I would not be in the same place if I had. Would it be better or worse; I don’t know.

In 1996, just after Duncan was born, I had the choice to go into computers and move back to Oklahoma or stay in New Mexico and become a Civil Engineer and Surveyor. I was into my 3rd year working for David Blanchard Civil Engineering. It was fulfilling and with my Astronomy degree I could complete the requirements to be a fully certified Professional Engineer. The other option would be to accept a job programming for a hospital in Oklahoma City. I took the computer job. It just seemed the right thing to do; the thing I would have more fun doing.

In 2008 Tamara and I decided to take our relationship in a different direction. This could be done in Oklahoma or Seattle. We’re still working through the implications of moving to Seattle; including an amicable divorce. Was it the right move? I think so. Things would have happened in Oklahoma; other things have happened here.

Have I hit every major decision point? Probably not.

Where would I take a Hot Tub Time Machine? The way the movie plays it, you risk not coming back if you go back before you are born. If you go back to during your life then you replace yourself for that time (no paradox about meeting yourself) but that makes it hard to affect changes like saving John Lennon or stopping the Challenger explosion, Timothy McVeigh, or the World Trade Center. And even if you did any of these what would the world be like; Better, Worse, Different? I’d be tempted to go back and buy Microsoft stock when it was first issued, or Google. I don’t think the only two choices are avarice and heroics. It seems like it might be better if it was an accident; like in the movie.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Horseradish Salad Dressing

I just made my own salad dressing. I’ve been making salads to go with the sandwich I will often take to work for lunches. They’re cheap and keep me away from chips and other semi-food items that taunt the American worker.

I like to get the non-iceberg lettuce and herb mix and add grape tomatoes, red bell pepper and cucumber. I’ve tried a few other things but this makes an easy to prepare salad. I would put in onions and carrots but I put the onion on the sandwich and just have carrots around to munch on during the day if I get peckish.

I wanted something a little spicy (or a lot spicy) but didn’t know what I wanted to do. There are lots of spicy things out there; peppers, ginger, horseradish, onions, mustards and other things I can’t remember. I also really like balsamic vinegar. I decided that something with horseradish and balsamic vinegar was what I wanted to try.

I looked around the grocery store and could only find creamed horseradish preparations that didn’t look that good (most had added sugar that I’m trying to stay away from). So I bought a horseradish root. There was already garlic and olive oil at the house so I picked up some balsamic vinegar and some cilantro.

I got together with my friend Lionel (who is staying with me at the moment while looking for work in the Seattle area) and his mini food processor and whipped up a batch that tasted good but wasn’t spicy. I had some on today’s salad and it was tasty; but not spicy. I wanted something spicy. After doing some reading on-line (where else) I came across an article that said the vinegar will set the horseradish and keep it from being very spicy. A different article had hints on making a paste out of the horseradish root with the food processor.

When I got home I peeled a good section of the horseradish, chopped it up and put it in the food processor. I added some garlic (very precise measurements) and some water and pureed the lot. At this point I added some onion and pureed that too. Then came the cilantro; I didn’t use all of it but I had a pretty healthy amount. After running it through the processor it lost a lot of its volume. At this point I have a very tasty blend that will open your sinuses right up; no questions, they’re open.

We mixed some of this into the balsamic vinaigrette from yesterday and it is exactly what I was looking for. I almost made a salad right then just to have some on it. Lionel had some edamame hummus with him and we added some of the horseradish base to that and it was very yummy.

Of course Lionel makes a pretty good Jalapeno, cilantro hummus and is experimenting with a chipotle hummus (I must say I found them both tasty and spicy but not so fiery I didn’t enjoy them).