Local flora
12 June 2021 | 2:45 pm

The other day I mentioned the deer were nibbling the desert willows (Chilopsis linearis) Lou had planted. I was unaware they blossomed.

Hello out there
12 June 2021 | 3:34 am

Mars and a sliver of the moon just before moonset. At this stage, seemingly alone in the sky, these two big rocks seem more real to me, more intimate than when the sky is filled with billions (and billions) of stars.

Adventures in cooking technology
10 June 2021 | 10:39 pm

There was something new (at least to me) in the camping foods section at Walmart. I wasn’t particularly interested in prefab pizza. What caught my attention was that it was self-heating—with any water at any temperature. So no need to boil water first. Hmmmm. I had heard of such a thing, primarily in military style MREs. Now here it was in a very civilian application, and for the same price as traditional boil-your-own-water dehydrated meals. I wanted to experience the NXH Heating Technology, even if the pizza might turn out to be crap. (Spoiler: it did.) Science!

NXH® Heating Technology, I learned, comes from NEX-XOS Worldwide, LLC which “is committed to producing safe, shelf-stable quality products that conforms to all regulatory requirements and meets the highest food safety best standards.” They also claim NXH® “has revolutionized what has come to be widely known as the flameless ration heater (FRH)… we created an innovative FRH that requires no water or saltwater, our FRH can activated with any non-flammable liquid! River water, juice, milk, tea, soda etc.” And that “Our proprietary heating technology, NXH®, is certified safe and non-toxic, odorless and safe to use in closed confined spaces. When activated, our FRH emits safe, odorless steam to heat up your meal.”

Essentially, there’s a porous packet of something-or-other that, when wet, creates a heat-producing chemical reaction.

I followed the instructions and… for a few seconds nothing happened. So I shook it and… nothing happened. I opened the bag to see whether the chemical pack had even gotten wet. Mmmm, sort of. I poked at things a little then sealed the bag back up and… Foosh! It started venting steam out of the little hole. I set the timer.

After five minutes (the instructions suggested 3-5 minutes) I used tongs to fish the foil pizza packets out of the very hot bag. The packets resisted my attempts to tear them open, so I used scissors. The “pizzas” were only slightly warmer than the ambient temperature. The “cheese” wasn’t even melty. It was as if the foil of the packets had insulated the pizzas instead of conducting heat. Maybe the process works better with other foods, like their cheese tortellini, chicken pasta parmesan, or lentils with beef. And maybe those are a better eating experience.

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