I’m going to start making shorter posts about random, interesting things that I learn. First up, the Hornets. I’d always assumed the NBA team based in Charlotte was just given a random mascot. After all, they didn’t always have the Hornet name, it was temporarily the Bobcats.
Several months ago, I read a series of articles about flashlights by Ben Brooks, a blogger whose posts I enjoy. His article convinced me that my iPhone flashlight may not be as useful as I once imagined. I decided to buy a dedicated flashlight and see.
I’ve accepted a position as a Sales Specialist on Degreed’s Global Business Solutions team, a sales support role. For those who don’t know, I’m currently working at Degreed as a Product Designer, so this is an internal move. This will mark the end of a lengthy era of doing “creative” work that has spanned almost 15 years. I couldn’t be more excited for this change!
I’ve been a product designer roughly 9 years. I started doing product design in college to pay the bills, worked for the LDS Church for 3 1/2 years, and now at Degreed for almost 4 years. Prior to that I did video production, motion graphic design, and other creative jobs.
Transitioning from product design to sales isn’t a very orthodox career move. As I looked at what I wanted from my career, I realized I didn’t want to do product design forever. The work was becoming repetitive, I felt like I was coasting, I missed feeling the satisfaction of learning new skills and trying new things. I still care deeply about making great products, but I just haven’t experienced the same joy in the process as I once felt. The product design field doesn’t have many options for mobility or variety. Most companies want product design generalists, which means product design work is about the same wherever you go. Design is also unique in that there aren’t many opportunities for vertical movement either.
I realized my next career move would ideally be outside of product design. As I looked at the skills I had and what I enjoyed, I started becoming interested in sales opportunities. I enjoy working with clients, explaining our product, and thinking about ways to clarify our messaging. Successful product design requires the designer to be good at explaining particular solutions, and convincing others why to take a particular path. Those skills translate well into the sales world.
18 months ago I participated in a company sales demo competition, which I ended up winning. I loved preparing for the demo and presenting it. Winning validated that I had potential to be successful in a sales role.
Degreed recently closed a round of financing which opened up more internal opportunities. This position was among the roles that interested me, and I pursued it. I love working for Degreed and wanted to stay with the company. I also felt that a drastic transition like this would be easier with an internal change, and would allow me to leverage my deep institutional and product knowledge to hit the ground running.
This type of career move is one that Degreed hopes to facilitate for individuals and companies. We believe that your education is more than just your college degree. What matters most is the skills you have acquired, not how you acquired them. Degreed enables invididuals to develop, certify, and demonstrate ability in skills.
I’m so excited for this change! I’m looking forward to being a rookie again. If anyone has wisdom or advice for me, please reach out. I’d love to hear it!
Last year we were given old Dutch ovens. I knew absolutely nothing about cast iron cooking and so, naturally, I turned to the internet for advice. Generally, the internet serves me well for subjects I’m unfamiliar with. Things did not go well for the cast iron, however. I’ve learned, by trial and error, how to use and care for cast iron. If you’re willing to relearn some care and cleaning habits, you’ll be able to enjoy some amazing cookware!
If You’ve Never Used Cast Iron…
If you’ve never used cast iron, like me, here are a few things to know.
Cast iron cookware has been used for a long time, and for good reasons. They’re inexpensive to buy, last for generations, you can use them on almost any heating surface, get better (i.e. slicker) with use, are versatile, handle high heats, and work extremely well. Cast iron retains heat really well, making it great for searing meats, or caramelizing vegetable (or anything else). Once seasoned (seasoning refers to the oil buildup that gets baked into the cookware, resulting in a smooth, non-stick coating) they are slicker than non-stick pans and don’t require bizarre chemicals to achieve that feature.
We started looking at cast iron skillets to use with our induction burner in the RV, which we can use on solar power. Our old non-stick pans were getting worn out, and we wanted a cheap and durable replacement.
Handling cast iron may require you to get a few things you don’t already have in your kitchen.
- Heat resistant gloves—You may be fine with just hot pads, but these make things so much easier, especially for cleaning.
- Wooden spatulas—I’ve started using Bamboo, which is supposedly a harder wood. Here are some that I bought: Flat Spatula and Curved Spatula.
- Lint free cotton rags. Think old t-shirts. We didn’t have old t-shirts in the RV, so I bought a package of cotton rags which are essentially cut up shirts at a hardware store for $1.50
- Don’t use paper towels. They leave behind lint that weakens your seasoning.
Our Dutch ovens were rusted and the seasoning was sticky and splotchy. It needed to be restored.
The internet has good information on the restoring process. Generally, goes like this:
- Strip the cookware of all gunk, seasoning, rust, and grime—get down to the bare metal. The bare metal is a dull silver color.
- Season the cookware several times in the oven
Stripping old seasoning and rust can be really hard. Working with the pan when it’s hot can make old seasoning and gunk come off easier. It does, however, make it harder to handle the pan.
Here are some methods I tried. You’ll find videos and articles for each of these methods. I’ve listed them in order from best to worst:
- Using a wire brush attachment with grinder tool. Highly recommended for difficult jobs.
- Steel wool
- Chain mail scrubber
- Salt + sponge or rag
Do what it takes. Get down to the metal. Then skip to Chapter 3, Seasoning.
Chapter 2—Buying New Cookware
Buy Lodge. They’ve been doing cast iron for years. Their cookware has the best factory seasoning. Worth it. Also, the Wirecutter agrees.
Even though Lodge preseasons their pans, I think you should season it a few more times before using it.
For skillets, we have 3 sizes. 10″, 12″, and 14″. I use the 10″ the most because it’s lighter, making it easier to use. It’s large enough for about 70% of the things that I cook. If you’re getting only one skillet, the 12″ is probably the way to go. I don’t like the size of the 14″ that much. It’s really heavy, but when you need size, you’ll be glad you have it.
For Dutch ovens, we have 12″ Lodge ovens that we were gifted. 12″ seems to be the most commonly recommended size of Dutch oven, and I’ve been happy with the size. We recently re-gifted one of our ovens. RV life mandates minimizing!
Chapter 3—Initial Seasoning
So, now that you have your new or stripped cookware, it’s time to season it. Some people will advocate that simply using the pan for cooking will season it. That’s true, but I think for beginners (like me) getting more seasoning on the pan to start will help.
- Heat it until it’s hard to touch with your bare hands
- Rub a thin coat of Crisco all over the cookware. Inside, outside, everywhere.
- Take a dry cloth and wipe off all the oil. In reality, some of it won’t come off, and that’s okay. This step is to eliminate as much as you can. You may be tempted to put on extra to “shortcut” the seasoning process. This will backfire horribly.
- Bake the cookware, face down, in the oven for 90min+. People claim different temperatures work best, anywhere from 350 to Broil. I use 500° but I’m not certain my RV propane oven thermostat is correct. You want to bake the oil into the cast iron without burning/smoking it off. When my oven is set to broil, the oil just smokes away and no seasoning is achieved. So, get it as hot as you can without all the oil smoking away before hardening to the pan.
- Turn off the oven, let the cookware cool in the oven.
Repeat as many times as you want to. I did mine 5-7 times before using for cooking.
After cooking certain foods, you may want to re-season the pan again and can follow this same process.
Oh boy. Now this is where things get dicey. I’ve found that the internets advice on cleaning is based on working with a well seasoned piece of cast iron. A well seasoned piece of cast iron can deal with abuse. A new or recently restored piece can not.
If you have a new or recently restored piece of cast iron:
- Don’t use the salt scrubbing method for routine cleaning. It strips the seasoning.
- Don’t scrape with metal (ie metal spatulas). It strips the seasoning.
- Don’t use soap. Soap is designed to cut grease/oil. That’s what seasoning is made of. Soap may not be tough enough strip existing seasoning but it does you no favors in building seasoning.
- Don’t use chain mail for cleaning. They say it doesn’t strip seasoning, but it does.
- Don’t use paper towel during the cleaning process. It leaves behind lint that can get baked into the cookware, resulting in a weaker seasoning.
- Don’t let the cookware sit for hours and hours before you clean it. The sooner you clean, the easier it is.
I use a tiered approach to my cleaning.
First Pass Cleaning
If stuff is stuck on the pan after cooking, the first thing I do is:
- Scrape as much food out of the pan as possible
- Put the pan on heat and pour in enough vegetable oil to cover the pan
- Let the pan soak in oil on medium-high heat to soften
- Scrape the pan with a wooden spatula. I use bamboo.
- Don’t use metal spatulas, as some advise
- Don’t buy the plastic scrapers from Lodge. They melt in hot pans. They are worthless.
- Remember to use your heat resistant gloves!
- Dump the oil and burned debris out and dispose.
- Wipe the pan with a dry, lint free cotton rag to remove as much oil as possible.
If this process has sufficiently cleaned the pan. You are done. Wait for it to cool and then store.
Second Pass Cleaning
For new pans, you may have some messy, sticky jobs to clean up. If food has cemented to the pan during the cooking process, the first pass method won’t be enough. However, you also don’t want to strip any seasoning.
- Complete the first pass process
- Run hot water over the pan (which should still be hot)
- Use a stiff dish brush (not a steel one) to scrub off the burned food. Running hot water on the pan during this process helps tremendously.
- Dry the pan immediately using a lint free cotton cloth. Do not air dry or it will rust.
- Heat pan again until it’s hot enough you can’t touch the sides
- Wipe with a thin coat of oil. Use dry rag to wipe off excess.
- Immediately turn off the heat after adding oil. Some people say to leave it on the heat. I found this just smokes off the oil rather than letting it get absorbed into the cast iron.
Third Pass Cleaning
If you have severely stuck food, and the first two approaches haven’t worked, you can try any of the methods used in the restoring process. I’d probably start with salt/sponge, then work up to steel wool or chain mail if needed. Be gentle to minimize the amount of seasoning you remove.
For a newer pan, I’d recommend doing a seasoning pass in the oven afterwards (see chapter 3).
The main thing to remember is keep things dry and exposed to air. For Dutch ovens, put some paper towel between the lid and pot so it can breathe inside the pot.
Chapter 6—Cooking Tips
Here are a few things to keep in mind when cooking:
- You can use cast iron on any cooking surface. Glass flat top stoves, induction burners, gas flame, campfire, or charcoal. It’s heavy, so be cautious on surfaces that can crack, but cook away!
- Add food to a hot skillet to avoid food sticking
- Avoid acidic foods. Tomatoes, vinegar, citrus are common acidic foods
- Don’t store food in the cast iron. Remove it quickly to avoid food sticking. From what I understand, the cast iron has pores that expand when heating. As they cool, they will close again and the food will stick.
- Feel free to use metal utensils when cooking on cast iron
- Cast iron doesn’t always heat evenly. Preheating gradually can help ensure even heating.
Chapter 7—It’s Not That Bad
This looks like a lot of information. It may seem like it’s not worth bothering with cast iron. If you’re not interested in learning some new habits, then that is probably going to be true for you.
However if I was to describe how to cook and clean a normal pan, it would likely be pretty long too. It’s just a different process, but aside from the initial seasoning process it’s no lengthier or more difficult than a regular pan.
A little over 2 years ago, my wife and I had a scary incident at one of our investment properties. We decided, given our interest in real estate and the inevitable scenarios that come with it, to purchase a gun. We also got our concealed carry permits.
Over time as we trained with and learned more about guns, we came to enjoy shooting and have developed an appreciation of their defense and recreational purposes.
I didn’t grow up with guns and only shot a handful of times, so I’m very new to the world of gun ownership. As a result, the issues around guns have become increasingly interesting and relevant.
My current summarized view on guns
I want to own guns and be able to carry one if I feel I need to. I want to be able to use them recreationally and as a means to protect my home and family. I think it’s important to teach kids about guns safely. I want my son’s first experience with guns to be under my supervision so that I can ensure he’s learning how to correctly handle guns, respect them, and always use them safely.
The US government is set up with several checks and balances. The Judicial, Executive, and Legislative branches are the most well known, but there are other checks and balances too, such as a free press. I believe guns are also one of those checks and balances. I believe that the principle of the 2nd amendment is to ensure the citizens are able to stand up to an oppressive government or any other threat. Defending my family isn’t something I want to fully rely on the government for.
I also want there to be fewer gun deaths but I have a healthy skepticism of gun laws being able to reduce the number of tragic deaths we deal with in our country. That said, I’m very interested in exploring ways to reduce gun deaths.
The problems with the gun discussion
As I look at the national discussion around guns and gun control, I feel like there are some issues preventing constructive dialogue.
A thorough study of the existing data about guns, and specifically gun control, is inconclusive. We know people die from guns. That is a fact. But whether tighter laws can reduce gun deaths is unclear (with the exception, perhaps, of suicide deaths). Gun advocates will also claim that guns can actually reduce crime and violence, but that data is also not reliable. It is impossible to draw reliable conclusions either for or against guns from the data that exists.
Gun lobbies have effectively prevented the government from spending money to research gun control. It will be difficult to overcome opinions, whether pro or anti guns, without the assistance of reliable data.
Personally, I’d rather our government make decisions based on conclusive, unbiased data, rather than the political whims of the party in control. I’m in favor of doing gun studies provided they meet the highest standards of unbiased data research.
Polarized perspectives which ignore realities
Increasingly, dialogue over sensitive issues including guns has become so polarized they are no longer grounded in reality, but one-sided rhetoric. Here are some representative statements commonly heard in the gun discussion.
“Guns kill people. We should get rid of all the guns!” Even if the government decided to take all the guns, it is a logistic impossibility. Even today, people own guns illegally, and that will always be the case. Any steps we take to reduce gun deaths will require that we acknowledge guns will continue to exist and be owned by both good citizens as well as criminals who, by definition, go around the law. Not only is proposing removal of all guns impractical, but it contributes to the inability for us to have meaningful discussion.
“The Second Amendment is Holy Scripture. Guns don’t kill, people do.” On numerous occasions, I’ve heard gun advocates say that the gun suicides and homicides are the price we pay for liberty. I believe in the principles of the Second Amendment, but I personally feel like it’s irresponsible and heartless to refuse to even explore ways that we could save lives. Many strong gun advocates are Christian, and I personally believe it’s not Christ-like to be so dismissive of people dying needlessly. I think that solutions may exist that don’t require additional laws controlling guns, so it’s frustrating that we can’t even agree that people dying is a problem.
The question I wish we could ask is “How can we reduce gun related suicides, accidents, and homicides without infringing the rights of law abiding citizens to own guns?”
The majority of media attention with guns is on mass shootings. These are unquestionably horrible tragedies, but the amount of attention they get is disproportionate to the number of people who die in them.
Mass shootings account for about 1% of all gun deaths. Suicides, gang violence, and gun accidents all contribute significantly more to the death count. It even appears that the unjustified police killings (the ones ruled as such by the court) account for more deaths each year than mass shootings, although these numbers may not be reliable (again, we lack data good data).
If our true goal is to reduce gun related deaths, I think there are better places to start than mass shootings.
We need to consider more solutions than just gun control
Sometimes gun control is talked about as though it is the desired outcome, rather than a potential solution. We need to refocus on what we’re trying to solve, rather than becoming fixated on a single approach.
I think the outcome we should seek is fewer gun deaths. Suicides, homicides, accidents, gang violence. There are plenty of alternative ways to achieve that.
Why can’t we teach gun safety in schools? Sex education already exists, why not gun safety?
Why couldn’t we also experiment with gun requirements? What would happen if every family was required to have a gun? I know there are cities who have done this and some claim that crime goes down (who knows for sure). It’s worth trying.
To me, exploring solutions outside of traditional “gun control” would be something that gun advocates and opposers alike could get behind.
How could we move forward?
I’m not a politician or lawyer so I’m not equipped to propose legislation or anything like that. But I’d love to see more national leaders propose ideas for how to reduce gun deaths which take into consideration the principles of the Second Ammendment.
I’d like more transparency and insight into the role guns play in crime and violence. I’d also like more transparency (and visibility) into how guns protect families and individuals from crime and violence.
I’d love to see respectful, thoughtful discussions between people from all perspectives on guns and gun safety. I’d love to see both sides develop more empathy for others perspectives. We would benefit from a reduction in inflammatory, hateful comments from both sides.
I’d like us to explore solutions to gun deaths that are outside of the traditional definition of “gun control”.
I’d like to see us identify less as opposing groups, and more as a unified nation trying to solve problems that our nation faces together.
I’m not saying we can’t disagree. Quite the opposite, in fact. Thoughtful and respectful disagreement is what our country needs more than ever.
I’d love to chat
I’m still learning more about guns. I recognize I don’t know everything. Talking through things is a great way to gain insight. I’d love to discuss these issues with anyone willing to respectfully disagree (or agree) with me. Feel free to reach out to tell me I’m wrong, and why. Or let’s go shooting! I’d love to hear it all!