Archive for December 2018

YouTube Railfanning

Published on December 9, 2018

I’ve loved trains since I was a child, and it’s a passion I never grew out of. In fact, one of the best parts of our trip to Switzerland last year was riding the rails, which we did each day. That is one of the (many!) reasons we wish to return to that fantastic country.

Here in the United States, train spotting (i.e. railfanning) primarily consists of watching freight traffic. As fun as it is to see a train in person, I have neither the time nor the inclination to get in my car and ride around chasing trains. To my good fortune, there are plenty of people on YouTube who do enjoy that pursuit and who film their efforts.

One of the best channels I’ve found to help me scratch that itch is Distant Signal Productions. Danny Harmon, based near Tampa, Florida, wonderfully narrates his railfan adventures. That he works in television is apparent, both from the professional voice-overs to the fantastic video editing. Here are two great introductory videos to his channel:

I learn quite a bit each time I watch one of his videos, and I enjoy it immensely. Another channel worth checking out is Delay in Block Productions, another very professional channel. This video on the Blue Ridge Southern Railroad was exceptionally shot, and fun to watch.

Who Needs Sleep?

Published on December 4, 2018

My wife and I welcomed our first child, a daughter, in late October. Our lives have changed so much in the few short weeks since. Former routines have been shattered. Thought patterns changed. Our two house cats even behave differently!

Prior to her arrival, we often got similar comments from friends and strangers: “sleep while you can.” If another parent happened to say these words, they inevitably came with a knowing glance or twinkle of the eye. Though unsaid, the implied “trust me on this, and enjoy it while it lasts” always came through with conviction.

Now that we’re several weeks into parenthood, I can better identify with those parenting veterans. I knew sleep was going to be a precious commodity, but I didn’t know to what extent. Some nights are better than others (and things are slowly improving), but lots of mornings still start in a dense fog of exhaustion. I’m most amazed at how my body has adjusted to this change. As it turns out, we humans can apparently survive on less than 8 hours of sleep a night; who knew?!

In the end, the lack of sleep is small potatoes. When your child needs you, you’re there for her in a heartbeat. And when she looks at you and smiles, it gives you the energy to do it all a hundred times over.

Southern Biscuits

Published on December 2, 2018

I’m transcribing the White Lily biscuit recipe here, because I hate having to look for it when I want to make some biscuits. This is a great and simple recipe that yields terrific results. Be sure, however, to use the right kind of self-rising flour (White Lily or Southern Biscuit brands are best). These brands consist of soft winter wheat, which is generally better for biscuits.

I also typically double this recipe, since I cut them larger than the recipe calls for (I use a 2 and 3/4 inch cutter).

  • 2 cups self-rising flour
  • 1/4 cup vegetable shortening (e.g. Crisco)
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
  1. Heat oven to 475°F.
  2. Place flour in a large bowl. Cut in shortening with a pastry blender (or two forks or knives) until the crumbs are the size of peas. Add buttermilk, stirring with a fork until the flour is moistened.
  3. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface. Knead gently 5 or 6 times. Roll the dough into a circle that is 3/4 to 1 inch thick. Cut out biscuits using a 2-inch biscuit cutter, and place on a baking sheet 1 inch apart (for softer biscuits, arrange so edges almost touch). Shape dough scraps into a ball, flatten into a circle, and cut remaining biscuits.
  4. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes until golden brown. Remove from oven and brush with butter, if desired.

Yields about 12 biscuits.

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