Stress and Anxiety, Healing Through Sharing


A friend recently had an experience like none other in her life brought on by a level of stress and anxiety. Unfortunately it had to happen while she was at work. While it may be disruptive to her career, it may just have been the best time for it to happen, to bring it to the forefront, to begin her journey to self realization and healing. She asked a number of friends if her story was blog material to which we enthusiastically said “YES!!” She decided to go forth and blog. Her writing style is a thing of beauty. You NEED to read it to believe it.

I very much identify with her experience and that is something I have not gone into here due to a great deal of ambivalence about sharing with the world. It sounds ridiculous, I know. After all, I have shared some very candid details of the realization, after 40 years of confusion, of my bisexuality, not holding much back. I knew that it could help others, which, by the feedback I’ve received, I know that it has.

My experiences of profound depression and anxiety, the crippling effects of it, and the proper diagnosis and beyond successful treatment and near total elimination of it can and will help others who have been suffering with what I had suffered from for my entire life.

Here is the link to her blog. What a blog it is…

Breathe In Two Three Four

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Cooking with Foxfur: Junk Fried Rice


Fried rice, the garbage disposal dish. Got leftovers? Make fried rice. You can put anything in it and it will be a damn fine dish. Got a half chicken gathering flies? How about that pork chop you’re thinking of trashing? Your hubby and the rugrats didn’t finish their ham at breakfast? So much the better if they didn’t finish their scrambled eggs. Did the folks sitting next to you at the restaurant not finish their plates? Go scrape their plates! Their loss is your gain. Been there, done that more than once when I was a bachelor… I really like to make mine from scratch but when I have bits of vittles like left over stir-fry, that half can of Spam hiding in the corner of the fridge, or diced up whatever that I forgot to use for another recipe, I’ll dump it in the wok and recycle it into a new dish.

The biggest hurdle you might face is the rice. You pretty much have to use cold, not necessarily refrigerated, rice. 4 to 6 cups of cooked rice will do just fine. I toss 2 cups of rice and 3 cups of water in the rice cooker and let ‘er go. When done I’ll unplug it and let it sit for an hour or three. If you’re in a hurry, dump it on a cookie sheet and spread it out to cool. Don’t worry about the type either. Long grain is what I like but I’ve used short grain, medium grain, sushi, jasmine, and brown rice. Hell, try wild rice, black rice, or Rice Crispies. Hmm, fried Rice Crispies… Some R&D is called for…

Remember: Cooking with Foxfur is primarily aimed at people who think they can’t cook. The other demographic is folks who worry too much about measurements. I’ll put an ingredient list below, BUT, please don’t follow it! Make additions, substitutions, deletions, and excuses as needed. You’re making dinner not rocket fuel. Just like tossing hand grenades, close is good enough.

So here’s what I started with:

A bewildering array epicurean detritus...

Foxfur’s Junk Fried Rice

  • A pound or so of meat
  • 4 – 6 Cups of cold rice
  • A can of corn, drained
  • A can of peas, drained
  • 2 eggs, scrambled
  • 1 Green onion thinly sliced
  • Other tasty scraps

If you’re using fresh uncooked meat, why not marinate it? I used dark soy sauce, mirin, and sesame oil. You don’t have to drown the meat. Use a tablespoon of soy sauce, whatever type you like, a tablespoon of mirin (sweetened rice wine) although sake, wine, beer, or fruit juice will do just as well, and a splash of sesame oil. Use whatever oil you have. Cut the meat up into fine pieces. I go with 1/4 inch cubes, but do what you want. This is where you get to stick it to the restaurant and get even for all the unsatisfying fried rice you’ve ever had. Were their meaty bits too teensy? Use gobbing hunks in yours. Too little meat? Add three pounds to yours. Whatever you want is what you should have. Throw the meat in a bowl with the marinade. Do this before doing anything else. I like my meat to soak for half an hour before I start playing with it.

Git yer veggies. Put a good teaspoon or two of oil in the pan and heat it up pretty hot. Throw the veggies in and stir ’em around real good like. You want them all to get a bit of oil on them. Cook ’em until they’re a bit past what most folks would consider done. Not burned but not too moist. That’s how I like mine, anyway. Peas are a good indicator vegetable. They should be a bit shriveled but not all pruney. Don’t worry if you get some burned or black spots on them, it’s all part of the goodness. The picture below shows how mine look when they’re where I like ’em.

Stop when they look like this.

When you cook a little longer you’ll concentrate the flavors. The corn will be a bit denser, the peas a bit firmer, and the flavor a bit better. Toss the veggies aside. I usually use the bowl I’m going to serve with or the container I’ll put the leftover product in the refrigerator with.

Now grab yer meat. Heat up the pan with another teaspoon or two of oil. Throw in a bunch of ginger, either minced or cut into matchsticks. Drop a few cloves of garlic in as well. I like using the chopped stuff in a jar. I’d rather be outside in the yard setting stuff on fire than inside peeling and chopping garlic. Stir ’em around for 20 – 30 seconds and dump the meat in. If it clucked or snorted, cook the piss out of it. There ain’t no such thing as a medium rare chicken breast or a bloody rare pork steak that’s going to be good for you. Even if it’s beef, I’ll cook it til it’s well glazed and just a bit dry. Again, the flavor is concentrated and I love the firm texture.

Cook the pork (or other raw meat) with the marinade if using one.

Cook the meat until glazed with marinade.

Stuff your meat into the same container that your veggies went into.

The scrambled eggs are optional. I feel they’re mandatory. While I say to use two, I use three. There’s never enough eggs in the fried rice in any restaurant! It’s enough to make you want to bring a pocket full of eggs and sneak a handful in your bowl. When you beat your eggs, be sure to add salt, pepper, onion powder, milk, sugar, and whatever else you’d put in them for normal scrambled eggs. Drizzle a bit of oil in the pan, heat it up real good, and scramble the hell out of the eggs. It doesn’t matter if they’re not completely done as they’ll finish up when you mix them into the rice a bit later.

Now comes the part that stumps lots of people. An oft heard question is “How do I know when the rice is fried enough?” When you like it is my standard answer. It depends if you like your fried rice clumpy or grainy. I like mine with separated grains. I use 4 to 5 tablespoons of peanut oil for 4 to 6 cups of rice. Heat up the oil and add the rice. Stir and toss it around to get the oil worked through it. Break up clumps with your spatula or spoon. If it is clumping pretty bad or keeps reclumping, add more oil! Add a teaspoon or so, stir, bust up the rice clods and add more as needed. Keep stirring and flipping the rice for 5 to 10 minutes. I like mine pretty well done so I go for about 8 minutes. You don’t want the rice to be crispy or hard. Keep it between the lines…

Add 583,000 grains of rice.

Grab your bottle of soy sauce and shake some over it after 5 minutes or so. You might like a lighter soy flavor, I like a heartier, saltier flavor. Add a bit and taste it. Remember to keep tasting your food as you cook. Nothing makes me crazier than to see people cooking and not tasting! It’s like painting with your eyes closed. It’s the number one way to ruin your food as well as your reputation as a cook.

The perfect shade of brown.

You’ll notice above that not every grain of rice is brown. This isn’t a commercial or test kitchen. This isn’t a cookbook. This is Real Life! If I was going for a polished look the first thing I’d do is upgrade my shitty little point and shoot digital camera to something that actually renders colors appropriately. I’d rather spend my money on wine, ammunition, and fireworks.

If you really must have absolute uniformity, spread the rice out on a cookie sheet, fill up a Windex bottle with soy sauce, and mist the rice until all is right with the world. Be aware that it’s anally retentive people like you that make the rest of us look bad.

It’s time to bring it all together now. Grab your meatbucket and rain the meaty goodness down upon the rice. The veggies too! Be sure to add the scrambled eggs and green onions. Mix it all up good and thoroughly.

Add leftover fried rice to the next batch of fried rice.

There you have it, junk fried rice. For an even heartier flavor, add 1/4 teaspoon of MSG. Don’t listen to the pussies that would have you believe the stuff will kill you or it’s manufactured in Satan’s pants. The stuff is seriously good and no matter what the elitist foodies say, it’s a great way to boost the flavor of foods. It is no more cheating than adding salt or water to food. As a matter of fact, it’s much healthier than salt as the sodium content of MSG is far lower than table salt. Soy sauce, bullion, gravy, bacon, roasted meats, blue and parmesan cheese all have naturally occurring amounts of glutamate. It’s the reason savory foods taste the way they do. For you smart ones, you know the fifth taste: Umami, “pleasant savory taste”.

Whether you use it or not, fried rice made by your own hands will meet, and more likely than not, beat that which you find in a restaurant. Maybe not the first time but hey, you sucked pretty bad the first time you rode a bike, no?

Pyro School: Finale


I’m finally finished with all of my coursework for my Washington state pyrotechnician’s license! The last course, as far as I’m concerned, was the best of all. We spent a bit more than 2 hours setting up and loading racks of mortars and wiring them up for electrical firing. We spent less than 2 minutes firing them…

1 3/4 inch shells with ematches installed.

Electrical firing allows the operator a greater degree of control over the timing of launch of the shells which can give a show a nicely polished appearance. It also makes timing the show to music a bit easier. Lastly, it is quite a bit safer than hand firing shells due to the removal of personnel from the mortar racks.

Ematches are used instead of fusees (road flares) to ignite the fuses of the shells. An ematch is simply a wire bridge, a low resistance, small diameter wire that heats upon applying electrical current. The bridge is at one end of a small gauge pair of wires while the other end has stripped ends that are shunted, twisted, together to reduce the possibility of inadvertent ignition. The bridge is coated with a mixture of flammable compounds that burn insanely hot when given the juice.

A classmate loads a 2 1/2 inch shell into a mortar.

Wiring shells in series for simultaneous firing of three tubes.

More wiring…

More wiring…

Connecting the leads to a firing slat.

The firing slat runs alongside the mortars. This one has 50 individual pairs of connectors allowing 50 cues (single or multiply connected items) to be fired from the board in any desired order.

A full fan rack hooked up and ready to go.

Espressodude doing some wiring…

Espressodude is a good friend of mine and is the one who nudged me into earning my Oregon and Washington licenses. We camp together at Burning Man and build propane flame effects together at home in the Portland area. He is a crew member with Black Rock FX, an awesome group of highly skilled and dedicated pyrotechnicians who coordinate, install, and fire many fireworks and effects displays at Burning Man. They did the Flaming Lotus Girls Tympani Lambada as well as The Trojan Horse shows last year. If everything goes right and I get the nod, I will be on the crew this year in some capacity…

All loaded and ready to go…

20 roman candles quickmatched together.

Smaller candles are typically not used in big shows. Smaller shows like high school games and grand openings and the like will use them quite a bit due to their low cost.

Pepper (middle) was itching to spray somebody with the class A extinguisher.

Pepper is one of almost ten folks at the display company (where we trained / launched at) who have switched from tobacco to personal vaporizers (e-cigarettes).

A 200 point firing board.

The firing board shown here will set you back around $4,000. They’re well made and will stand up to a shitload of abuse (within reason…). Each point, when touched with the stylus, the black test probe, will fire whatever is hooked up to the corresponding point on the slats. The slats connect to the 50-pair connectors at the upper right. The board is powered by the sealed lead-acid 12 volt battery shown atop the board. It is connected to the board by the terminals at the top left corner. To the right of the terminals is a switch that selects between test and fire. In the test position it restricts the outgoing current to a few milliamps in order to check the continuity of each circuit. If the cue is ok, you’ll see a light illuminate as well as hear a tone from the speaker. Although we check each cue before connecting it to the slat terminals, something can always go wrong. Test twice, fire once. There’s no do overs during the show…

Each connector at the lower right corner of the board connects to a 50-pair cable.

A classmate firing his shells.

Shells launching!

Espressodude shooting his load…

The candle racks firing…

My training card sits atop my copy of the show report.

I need four more live shoots, two letters of recommendation, and the passage of a state exam to obtain my Washington state license. Two more live shoots and passing a state exam will net me my Oregon license. Because I love certifications and licenses (locksmith, gunsmith, heavy equipment operator, alarm and security installer, etc.), I’ll probably go for my Idaho license as well.

Fireworks display companies are always looking for people to help on their shows. Think about it. Most folks spend their Fourth of July eating brats (or chasing them) and passively watching fireworks shows. Then there’s us pyros. We’d rather let someone buy tens of thousands of dollars worth of fireworks for us to fondle, er, handle, load, and fire. Unless you’re the lead pyro you won’t be making much. You’ll do well to cover your gas and get a lunch or dinner out of it. Money isn’t the point of it though. The opportunity to work with like minded individuals and the chance to entertain a crowd with the harnessed power of a thousand year old art form, that right there is payment enough for me.

Remember, fireworks aren’t just for the 4th. New Years Eve, Christmas, weddings, parties, funerals, grand openings, and movies are but a few other events that make use of splodey goodness.

Google your area or state for fireworks display companies and give them a call. Most will be glad to train you or tell you where you can obtain training. Most states don’t require licensing to fire shows. Of course, if you don’t have a license, you can’t lead a crew on a shoot. If earning some extra money is one of your goals, get your license, put some time in as a crew member, get to know the operators, build a reputation as a safety conscious and hard working individual, and you’ll be able to lead your own crew.