New Zealand Observations

So, after decades of wanting to visit New Zealand (and having Covid cancel our 2020 trip), I finally made it to New Zealand. Been here a couple of weeks, driving around the South Island, mainly. Here are some quick observations.

Kiwis are nice. Really, you can’t stop in a pub or store without somebody striking up a conversation or offering up some assistance. Even before we arrived, a fellow Peregrino (El Camino de Santiago pilgrim) offered to pick us up at the Airport when we arrived. Donut Doug (his nom de plume) not only picked us up, but gave us a tour of Auckland, including the highest hill in the city, the waterfront, and an ice-cream store! He then gave a ride back to the airport when we left to fly to Christchurch (on the South Island).

They drive on the wrong side of the road (as evidenced that most of the rest of the world not previously colonized by the British drive on the right side of the road). Fortunately, Donut Doug’s rides allowed me to sit behind him in the rear seat, so I acclimitized fairly easily. The only real problem I have is confusing the windshield wipers with the turn signals. It turns out this is because many of the imports are used Japanese cars, where they not only drive on the wrong side of the road, but they also have all the controls reversed (fortunately, the gear shift has the same pattern, as do the pedals).

The country is not only scenically spectacular, but also amazingly clean (unlike Washington State, where people seem to think the side of the road is a good spot for their garbage). I’ve only seen a few bits of litter, and they really stick out!

Animals: Lots of critters. The domestic variety include cows, sheep, deer, sheep, and more sheep (it’s like it’s the national export or something). Wild animals are limited to birds, seals, and sea lions. We’ve seen penguins, sea lions, parakeets, wekas, and even albatrosses (but no Kiwis 😦 ). Of course, as with any British settlement, there are invasive species, such as deer, rabbits, feral cats, and imports from Australia (wallabys and possums – a completely different critter than the Virginia Opposum, but like our North American marsupial, the only time one gets to see this possum is when it’s dead on the side of the road).

Water – lots of water, Everywhere. All the time. It seems it rains almost daily (he types as raindrops are falling on the campervan). Of course, New Zealand is surrounded by oceans, so it makes for interesting weather, views, and rides. We’ve only been on one ferry so far (to and from Stewart Island, the third largest island of New Zealand). The trip out was pleasant, the trip back in 32 knot winds and 5-6′ swells wasn’t – it was more like a splashing, crashing roller coaster ride. Fortunately, my stomach contents remained where they were and didn’t go projectiling across the boat.

And now, for something completely different – an AR-16 in .276 Pederson

Okay, I know I should be writing Reset, but my mind is stuck on a time-travel idea where modern infantry wind up in pre-WW2 America, and they need to convince the Department of War to produce the Armalite AR-16 (not AR-15 – if you don’t know the difference, Google it) in .276 Pederson instead of the M-1 Garand. I think that would make an awesome MBR for WW2 GIs/Marines.


Guilty As Sin

For those of you who like crime thrillers, check out this debut novel by my friend, Ken Wilson – Guilty as Sin! Just released today.

Ken & I have worked on several cases together, one of which is currently at the US Attorney’s Office in Seattle (I’ll post about that once the trial is completed). Our most famous case, though, was getting a City Manager convicted of felony document destruction (only the third time in Washington State history!)

Veronica’s Mastodon Stew Recipe

I was recently asked by a reader to post Veronica’s Mastodon stew recipe, so here it is (remember, you don’t need a whole Mastodon, just a small part of it).

2 lbs Mastodon* – hindquarter is best, but just about any muscle part will do
flour – 1/2 tsp salt and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 TB light olive oil (make sure it’s light!)
4 cups broth (Mastodon, beef, veggie, or whatever you like)
1 lb potatoes (Russet or Yukon Gold)
1 lb carrots (big, fat, juicy orange ones!)
1 lb onions (Walla Walla sweet is the best)
4 large or 8 medium Crimini mushrooms
4 stalks celery
1 TB minced garlic
1 tsp smoked paprika
salt & pepper to taste**
2 TB flour mixed with water into a soupy slurry
1-2 bottles of red wine (Merlot or Cabernet-sauvignon)

Cube Mastodon into 1″ cubes, then coat with flour/salt/pepper mix.

Peel and cube or chop the veggies. Cubes shouldn’t exceed 1/2 inch.

Heat the oil in a large skillet/pan at medium-high heat. Once the oil is heated (spit into it – if the spit pops and spits back at you, it’s ready – if that’s too unsanitary for you, then you don’t belong in the Corps of Discovery and you can just add a drop of regular water), add the flour encrusted Mastodon. Sear the meat, then add the broth, the chopped/diced veggies, garlic, and salt and pepper (go light with this stuff initially, you can add more later, but you can’t take it out – and remember, most broth has salt in it). Open one of the bottles of wine (you did remember the wine, didn’t you?)

Bring the mixture to a boil. Cover and reduce heat to a simmer. Pour a glass of red wine. Stir occasionally (the stew, not the wine!). Cook for 25 minutes. Enjoy the wine. At the 20 minute mark, taste the stew for flavor (i.e., is there enough salt and pepper? If not, add more) and stir in the smoked paprika (replace the lid and keep simmering).

Mix flour and water to create a soupy mixture. This is for thickening the stew (although the flour on the Mastodon has done some of that already).

Once the stew is done cooking (that 25 minute thing), add the flour/water mixture and stir it up. The stew should thicken nicely. If it doesn’t, just add more – it’s chemistry!

Ladle the stew into bowls and serve with the red wine. If you want, you can also heat up some French bread to have something to sop up the remaining stew with, but it’s not necessary (and way too many carbs!).

Buen provecho!

*If you don’t have any Mastodon, substitute it with Mammoth. If Mammoth isn’t available (or you don’t know the difference between a Mastodon and a Mammoth and you think they’re they same thing, but none is available), then find another dead animal to substitute – such as musk ox, yak, bison, elk, deer, pronghorn or whatever – just not chicken, turkey, alligator, or anything that tastes like chicken).

**Everyone’s taste is different, so you add what you like – remember, too salty and it sucks – not enough salt and you can add more. Same goes with pepper (well, not really for me, but for mere mortals, maybe).

Some Answers to Reviewer Question on Openings

I saw these questions posed by a reviewer on Openings and thought I’d respond to them (questions are italicized)

They use old-fashioned airplanes, for which they first have to build airstrips. What is wrong with helicopters!! I know they had helicopters in Vietnam. But maybe that’s painful to remember. Saigon, you know.

Three issues regarding using helicopters: range, payload, maintenance, and that doesn’t include the need for flight training (easier for a pilot who is already trained on single-engine fixed-wing to transition to twin-engine fixed-wing than to transition to rotary-wing).

Let’s talk about range and payload – the helicopters in Vietnam (usually Hughes UH1 (several further designation, but let’s go with the utility helicopter, the UH1B) had a range of 318 miles and a payload capacity of 3,880 lbs, as opposed to a range of 1,307 miles the payload capacity of 8,740 lbs (more than twice that of the Huey) of a DHC-4 (mind you, I’m using maximum numbers – range changes based on payload).

On maintenance, while I don’t have the numbers, it’s pretty clear that with helicopters, like airplanes, it’s based on hours of flight (cumulative). Flying slower for longer times (600 miles at 127 mph equals about 4.7 flight hours vs. 600 miles at 215 mph equals about 2.8 flight hours) means maintenance will have to be done more often than flying faster for less time.

On a personal note, as to the Saigon reference, I lived in Laos from 1971-1974. I vividly recall the evacuation of Saigon in April, 1975 (something our current president facilitated by not allowing President Ford to obtain money from congress to us the US Military to delay NVA forces long enough to ensure a more secure evacuation. I also worked as a volunteer in the refugee camps on the Thai-Cambodian border when the Vietnamese invaded Cambodia. At the time, I was in high school. How many other high-school students do you know who helped removed dead people from a field-expedient hospital? So, yes, I do recall Saigon and the aftermath.

They get in long distance airplanes to map the world, with difficult refueling. Zeppelins (airships, dirigibles) had circled the world in 1929. Explored the North pole in the 20’s. They flew passengers across the Atlantic on regular lines…

One of the purposes behind the Monarch plane in the Corps of Discovery series is to fly high, so as not to be seen with the naked eye, or if seen, to be confused with a bird at a lower altitude. As I write speculative fiction, I can design my own equipment :-). Clearly, a dirigible wouldn’t fit that requirement.

In Openings, the issue is flying long-distance between Eastern Washington and the gold country of California. Again, a DHC-4 requires a crew of two and can be refueled by transporting readily available avgas through the portal. While dirigibles can carry more and travel longer distances, they also require more crew members (the Hindenburg had a crew of 36, and that doesn’t include the necessary ground crew and docking infrastructure) and helium or hydrogen (hard to obtain readily or transport safely through the portal).

So, I hope I answered your questions as to why I did what I did vis-a-vis aircraft in Openings.