Archive for July 2012

I am an Eagle Scout   8 comments

August 1, 2012 is the 100th anniversary of the first Eagle Scout Board of Review.  I am proud to be an Eagle Scout.

There are great resources to explain the Eagle award and what it represents.  One President of the United States earned the award … as did the first man on the moon, a current Supreme Court Justice and many, many more noteworthy individuals.  I celebrate their accomplishment, and ask you to consider a few facts about Eagle Scouts:

  • They are significantly more likely to have worked to solve problems in their community than non-Scouts.
  • Eagle Scouts are 55 percent more likely than non-Scouts to have held a leadership position at their workplace.
  • They are more likely to be active readers.
  • Eagles are 72% more likely to attend live entertainment events than non-Scouts.
  • Eagle Scouts are 100% more likely than non-Scouts to have a designated family meeting place in the event of an emergency.
  • Eagle Scouts are 45% more likely than non-Scouts to agree they always treat people of other religions with respect.
  • Eagle Scouts are 34% more likely than non-Scouts to have donated money to a non-religious institution or charity in the community within the last month.

Teaching my children to live a life in service to God, family, community and country was of paramount importance to this parent.  Scouting focuses on those core values in an environment of personal achievement, comradery and FUN.

About 2% of all Scouts attain the rank of Eagle. That has trended up recently, with about 5% of all Scouts earning the award in 2008.

Of course, Scouting is about outdoor activities … and Scouts are known to be strong environmentalists.  They know how to tie knots, go camping and build a fire.  Don’t think for a moment that becoming an Eagle is about those things.  Learning outdoor skills is just one of the methods used by Scouting to build knowledge and leadership in young men.  However, those skills are not the key result of the program.

My sons are both Eagle Scouts, and it’s had an important impact on their lives.  For one example, both Michael and Christopher got their first jobs as a result of their Scouting experience.

Christopher actually learned of a job opportunity with LA County while leading a Scout outing.  He got the job, and he’s been promoted by the County several times since; he’s currently a Recreation Supervisor and in charge of 12 natural areas in northern LA County.

The cloth badge is sewn on the shirt; the medal can be worn in its place on more formal occasions. Once a boy turns 18, he no longer wears the badge or medal on his uniform.

Michael didn’t know Scouting was important to his job with Rocketdyne until one day at lunch.  Some co-workers were talking about what they would do if they were washed overboard at sea (Note: rocket scientists often have odd conversations).  One of his peers calmly related that he would inflate his clothing – a technique learned by all Eagles as they complete the Swimming merit badge. All of Michael’s peers were amazed to learn that everyone at the table knew the technique … and, further, all were Eagle Scouts.  Apparently a degree in engineering from a prestigious university was only one thing recruiters were looking for!

To become an Eagle Scout, each young man must complete over 300 separate requirements.  They must earn 21 different merit badges, and complete the requirements to the satisfaction of an adult expert in that field.  They must demonstrate leadership by planning, inspiring others, and working with them to complete a service project of benefit to their community, church or school.  On six different occasions, they must stand before a board of review made up of community leaders, and demonstrate the Scouting spirit and leadership skills required to wear the different rank badges they must earn on the trail to the Eagle badge.

Eagle Scouts will know how to camp – and they’ll know what to do in a nuclear emergency, too.  They’ll have written a letter to their congressman.  They’ll know how to take care of money.  They’ll know first aid for a broken arm and a cut finger.  They’ll know the best knot to tie down a friend’s suitcase on a roof rack, too.

Once a young man has earned the award, they are an Eagle Scout for life.  I earned my Eagle in 1972 while in Troop 58, Maitland, MO.  I earned merit badges in Salesmanship and Journalism, which proved to be directly relevant to my success in my chosen career.  My Eagle Scout service project was developed in conjunction with the Graham Community Betterment Association in Graham, MO.  I actually assigned the street numbers to all of the buildings in Graham, and communicated their new street addresses to each resident and business owner in Graham (population 213!).

I know two keys to my success were my Scoutmasters, Eddie Hillman and Franklin Hardy.  Most important, however, were my Mother and Father.  Dad drove me to Scout meetings every Tuesday night.  Mom helped make sure I got the requirements done — I distinctly remember some gentle, uh, encouragement, to get my Eagle Scout service project done.  They got me there, and I am an Eagle Scout.

Here I am at the Pony Express Council Eagle Dinner in 1972. I’m wearing the Explorer uniform of the Camp Geiger Staff, which I proudly served on in 1972 and 1973.

The 2012 Plan   3 comments

My family has completed our 15-year plan this year.  It started in 1997 … and 15 years later, our family of 5 has earned 5 college degrees.

Sonoma State University. The graduation ceremony was on May 12, 2012.

I announced the plan at a family dinner.  Velda had decided to go back to school and get her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in order to become a geriatric Nurse Practitioner.  The kids would have to sacrifice (less of Mom’s cooking is a bad thing in our house).  But Velda’s journey was just the beginning … each of the kids would follow with their own Bachelor’s degree.

It was our plan.  It was our expectation.

It’s also a good idea, by the way … statistics show that college graduates have substantially better incomes than those that stop their education after high school.

I believe the most important reason to get a college education is that it will teach you how to think.  I got my college degree in education; a BS of Education in Speech & Dramatic Art from the University of Missouri.  I only taught professionally for 8 weeks at a private college’s summer camp.  On the other hand, I’ve been in management throughout my career, and I’ve taught many people many things.  Did I use my degree in education?  Absolutely.

I didn’t go to the graduation ceremony, though.  I got married, instead.  That was absolutely the right decision (we had to get married on the 13th of the month, because we’d had far too many “13’s” show up through our courtship to ignore).  I do have some small regrets I didn’t get to enjoy the pomp & circumstance, however.

The lesson?  Everyone follows their own path.  But get on the path!

UCLA College of Engineering graduation, June 12, 2009. The ceremony was in the “old” Pauley Pavillion, and was a long, long event by the time they awarded all of the graduate degrees … and then there were many undergraduates to go!

Velda’s college path was MUCH more circuitous than mine.  She actually attended 7 colleges on her way to her Masters: University of Missouri – Columbia, Valley College, Mission College, LA County USC School of Nursing, College of the Canyons, California State University – Northridge, and UCLA.  She took 25 years to get her degrees, but she got there.

Velda got the two degrees required to be an NP: a BS in Nursing from CSUN, and then an MS in Nursing from UCLA .  Her job satisfaction, and her income, increased substantially after she got her degrees.

Each kid followed their own path to their degree:

Christopher – College of the Canyons, California State University – Los Angeles

Michael – UCLA

Lauren – Sonoma State University

Time will tell how the degrees earned by each of the three kids will serve them, but I am 100% certain that our family is stronger because we set a very big goal, and all 5 of us worked to achieve that goal.  Some goals take some time to accomplish, and this worthy goal took 15 years.

Don’t be afraid of the difficulty of the path.  Be committed to the goal, and you will achieve it.

Orange Liqueur Taste Test   9 comments

A Cadillac Margarita has 3 main ingredients.  Previous posts have discussed the best tequilas, and a recipe for all fresh margarita mix.  But what’s the best orange liqueur?  Velda and I happily accepted the assignment.

The taste test was done with a standard 6/4/3 recipe (tequila/mix/orange liqueur).  All margaritas were made with Marquez de Valencia reposado and fresh margarita mix.

Five liqueurs were tasted, and here are their rankings:

  1. Grand Marnier – Every premium margarita recipe specifies it, and they are correct.  Best orange flavor.
  2. Cointreau – Not as intense as Grand Marnier, but it’s still a good orange flavor.  Not as much depth in my opinion.
  3. Grand Imperial – Interesting alternative flavor.  Not as smooth, but good for a change of pace.
  4. Solerno Blood Orange Liqueur – Nice citrus flavor, but a bit sharp for my taste.  Probably good in some recipes … we improved the drink with a dash of blood orange syrup.  Velda enjoyed this with a Chinese Chicken Salad; the citrus was very complementary.
  5. Triple Sec – Almost flavorless!  Not a part of a good margarita.

I had people tell me that Cointreau was the best of a “classic” margarita taste, and it was definitely part of a good drink.  I’m finding Cointreau at the same price as Grand Marnier, though, go for the Grand Marnier, every time.

Posted July 11, 2012 by henrymowry in The Perfect Margarita

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The Death of the Photograph   2 comments

Facebook is killing photography.  I cringe every time I see a blurry self portrait, or a snapshot that is oh so cute … that’s being consigned to the digital scrap heap of someone’s newsfeed.

William Henry Mowry, circa 1864. This tintype photograph is the earliest photo I have of a family member.

Photography is a relatively recent invention.  Aristotle contemplated how images of the sun projected through a hole in 330 BC.  The first practical, long-lived photographic image appeared in the 1830s, the Daguerreotype.  With the invention of flexible film by George Eastman in 1889, handheld cameras became possible … and mobile media soon followed.

This photo of Simon and Maria Chucalovich’s family was taken by an itinerant photographer, selling his services door to door in about 1922. Photography — much less mobile photography! — was still unusual in this era, and quite a crowd gathered to watch this photograph being taken on the front step of the family home.

Today, if you believe the hype from digital journalists, you might think the only cameras being used are smartphones.  There’s no doubt that the iPhone has changed the way that we think of and use cameras.  Today’s camera phones wirelessly upload your pictures using your favorite app, and they give you instant gratification when you share your snaps and friends see them NOW.

The best camera to take a photograph is the one in your hand … so the more accessible smartphones are, the more likely they will take more pictures.

However, smartphones currently deliver pictures that are generally lower in quality than even low priced “point and shoot” cameras.  The phone manufacturers are certainly improving the qualities of their cameras, but they have a long way to go before they will truly compete with the quality of dedicated handheld cameras.

So, here we are today.  We have more pictures being taken by lower quality cameras.  To deepen the problem, those pictures are almost never saved in a traditional sense … they’re uploaded to Facebook or Instagram or Flickr (and usually shrunk & degraded by the site’s algorithm).  Once on a social media site, the photographer loses control of the image (and those implications will be discussed in a later post).

So if you take a picture that’s important, what do you do with it?  Family photographs are heirlooms.  They are passed from generation to generation.  They are proudly displayed in their owner’s homes.

Unfortunately, today’s smartphones just aren’t up to that standard.  Make no mistake, those smartphone cameras are improving and mobile snapshots can be wonderful.  They are seldom, however, first quality photographs.

If your goal is to capture memories in photographs that last longer than your Facebook newsfeed allows, then you’ll want to find a way to take high quality photographs, display them and store them.

Here’s a resource for the key issues in purchasing a digital camera.

Here’s a “how to” resource for displaying and storing heirloom photographs.

The family of Phillip Patterson “PP” Shull, circa 1905.  This hundred-year-old photograph has been passed through many hands for you to see it.  Note the dog at the corner of the house, which must have been nailed in place to stay still long enough for the long exposure necessary for this photograph!  Click on the photo to enlarge the image and see the dog carefully watching his master.

The Evolution of a Back Yard   1 comment

Our first house had issues.  The “yard” was pea gravel and chain link.  My kids deserved better.  Chain link, gone … wood fence, in.  We installed sod (there’s a reason it’s called sweat equity).

The result?  Happy kids, happy life.

The next house came with a nice big yard that begged for a swing set, and that happened, complete with a clubhouse, slide and steering wheel.  That was great for a while … but then a pool was needed.  Check.

Velda had the next vision for the back yard, and it was a big one.  Kids were growing up, and it was time for the back yard entertainment to reflect that.  Next step?  Outdoor seating for parties.  The BBQ needed a big upgrade.  And the centerpiece?  A wood-fired oven.

We found a contractor that had installed a couple of wood-fired ovens – but those clients never used them, he said.  He didn’t know the Mowry’s!

Temperatures in the oven exceed 700*. Pizzas cook in under 5 minutes.

We drove to Pasadena, picked up the oven kit, and gave the contractor the design for the outdoor kitchen.  Three months later, we were cooking like never before!

Today, we regularly host “make your own” home made gourmet pizza in the backyard for our family & friends.  We’re serious about our pizza.  All ingredients are fresh and home made.  We’re constantly upping our game:  morel mushrooms were a welcome addition at our last event.  It’s almost a given that we do pizza for the kids on their birthdays & celebrations.  A small night is just 10 people and 10 pizzas.  A big night … well, it can be very big.

Here’s the idea:  you need toys.  Sometimes it’s space for the kids, and sometimes it’s something unique like a pizza oven.  Get out in front of it … what will you need next summer?  In three years?

Because of our pizza oven, we’ve:

  • Shown people how to cook with fire
  • Remained the clubhouse for family & friends
  • Hosted UCLA’s Dinner with 12 Strangers
  • Explored pizza recipes from fig & prosciutto to potato pizza
  • Had Thanksgiving turkey from the oven

Coming soon:  Velda’s hosting a group to bake bread in the oven.

And this all happened because Velda didn’t think we needed a swing set anymore.  See what happens when you THINK?

Chicken Bacon Ranch is one of the favorites. Of course it is: it has bacon.

Posted July 4, 2012 by henrymowry in California, Living Life

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