An important bulletin for you bourbon fans!

About a week ago, I came across this. blog post about bourbon and, specifically, how to get a more refined, aged flavor out of cheaper bourbons.

I'll wait while you read it.

http://food-hacks.wonderhowto.com/how-to/make-instant-aged-bourbon-out-cheap-stuff-0164950/

Finished? Good!

I decided to give it a shot on my own because I a) enjoy bourbon and b) enjoy getting more bang for my buck, so to speak. So I assembled the ingredients.

I stuck with Evan Williams bourbon in this case because it is cheap, not terrible, and easily found.

Before doing the hack, I poured myself a small glass of the whiskey to try, just for comparison.

Like most bourbon, Evan Williams has a mild sweetness balanced by mild spicy overtones. The alcohol flavor is a little harsh but, unlike a lot of discount whiskies, not with the overwhelming aroma of nail polish remover.

For those of you too lazy to read the other blog post, the other ingredients are vanilla extract, liquid smoke, and dry sherry. According to the hack, to each 750 mL of bourbon you add 3/4 tsp of vanilla, 1/8 tsp of liquid smoke and 1 tbsp of the dry sherry.  Since I had a decanter handy, I decided to incorporate everything in there first, to keep things handy and not because I want to make folks think the actual whiskey in there was just $10 a bottle Evan Williams.


After mixing, I tried the results and I am pleased to report GLORIOUS SUCCESS! After mixing, the flavor of the Bourbon is improved markedly. The hallmarks of bourbon aren't lost and are in fact smoothed out more.

I'll just be over here. Try it on your own at home!

On Running Anything Complicated

I want to give you folks some insight into what it’s like running my branch and my business.

Picture a large, overcomplicated machine. In fact, machine is probably the wrong word. “Contraption” fits better.

So, picture a large, towering contraption. Maybe in your Mind’s Eye, it’s built of steel, wood, iron, or bricks. It doesn’t really matter which (in reality, it is all of those). It is driven by a combination of steam, arcane magics, voodoo and pure, cussed willpower, and rides on a combination of wheels, legs, treads and stilts. It is operated by a complex series of valves, levers, pulleys, blocks, tackles, windlasses, hoists, joists, rigging, momentum, springs, gimbels, rockets, fireworks and superstition. And each morning, our contraption lurches into motion, belching smoke and careening wildly across the landscape. Operating this machine are myself and my employees, who (theoretically) know which levers to pull to make the thing go, which valves to turn to alleviate pressure, and which whistles to blow to warn unsuspecting livestock, small children and buildings to get out of the way.

My job, as manager, is manifold. First, I have to make sure my employees can navigate the complex controls of our Contraption. This is to ensure that they are not a danger to themselves and others. Thankfully, the actual number of employees or customers folded, spindled or mutilated is low these days.

Secondly, as Captain of this unlikely machine, my job is to convince people that “Yes indeed, I too would like to ride that awkward, ungainly contraption. Let me give that man money for the honor of doing so!” More importantly, I must convince them to do it again and again. Maybe they need a ride on our contraption to the next town. Maybe they have a smaller, less complex contraption of their own that is broken and need to ride on ours for a while. Maybe the thrill of riding our machine outweighs the fear of being mechanically pulped into Slim Jim filler. Whatever the reason, I have to go out and seek people to give us actual money to ride this thing.

Finally, I must make sure that all the parts of my machine are in working order. Or, if not working properly, at least doing an impression of it. This means that I spend my time, covered in metaphorical grease with an allegorical wrench, hammer and screwdriver, replacing whatever jury rigged repairs one of my previous managers with a jury rigged one of my own. This accounts for the myriad, patchwork appearance of our Contraption. And not all of the repairs are metaphorical either, I remind myself.

So, at this point, I invite you to put yourself in my seat. Where not only do you have to manage personnel in operating this great contraption, but also the mechanics for what make it go. And you have to do it while not, yourself, being ground up, torn apart, or dismembered by the complex machinery.

Yes, it’s difficult, tricky, needlessly complex and probably hazardous to my health and others’. But it’s still a lot of fun. 

Various and Sundry Updates

So, just letting y’all know I’m not dead, here’s a few of my pithy and semi-coherent thoughts.

Though for all you guys know, this is just a bunch of words generated by a bunch of monkeys at the keyboard, but that’s just a supposition you’ll have to live with.

That and keep leaving bananas under the tree at the end of the lane, and nobody will get hurt.

Food and Freedom

First off, if you’re not watching Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown, you’re really missing out on a unique experience. It’s no mystery why we as people like travel shows. They show us new, exciting locales, the people who live there, how they live, and, in this case, how they eat. This is a dangerous show for the lovely and talented Hannah and I to watch, especially during dinner. You have no idea how disheartening it is to be eating dinner and then watching some dude whip up an amazing tandoori chicken or a 20 lb red snapper seasoned with garlic and suddenly last night’s bacon-fried rice seems...paltry by comparison.
Also it’s a great generator for places to add to your bucket list. However, there’s a few things that struck out to me from the series.
The first thing that occurred to me that there’s a whole bunch of countries out there- Brazil, Thailand, and Spain, for instance, that we should adopt a bunch of their culinary practices. In particular, Spanish Grenada and their tradition of Tapas. Basically, go to a bar, and as long as you’re drinking, they keep giving you delicious foods. Coupled with the institution of siestas, I can’t think of a bad reason why this shouldn’t happen.
This brings me to another point: All of these cities are, by our western sensibilities, absurdly chaotic. Everyone obeys, rather than standard traffic laws, the voices in their own heads. And pretty much everyone can be guaranteed to have had maybe a quart or two of alcohol in them. Or perhaps been smoking some illicit substances. Either way, it certainly looks like it’s a lot more fun, and it got me thinking.
Consider your evening rush hour: Everyone’s all stressed out at the end of the day, it’s hot, we’re all tired, and everyone wants to just get over and done with the end of the day. Now, imagine if there were people passing out free caipirinhas and a joint every half mile.
Now, I’ll warrant you that might not do anything to cut down on congestion, but by golly you sure wouldn’t care anymore.
And it makes me kinda sad we can’t have that here.

Trans-Jenner

Let me preface this next section by saying that I really don’t care what you- or anyone else, for that matter!- does with or to your body. As long as you’re not hurting anyone, it’s your business. And, for those of you who know me, you know I’m the sorta person to tell you to let your own flag fly. By golly if you want to present yourself online or in person as a man, a woman, a talking ham sandwich, or a super, mega, ultra lightning babe, you let your flag fly and own that.

That being said, I really don’t know what to think about the whole situation, nor do I particularly care. But a) This has been pushed to the forefront of our national conversation and b) everyone’s more or less required to have an opinion on trans people now. Basically, it amounts to a big shrug for me. It’s his life, his body, and he can do what he wants to with it.

I will say this: I really think that, as a hard and fast rule, we should consider folks whatever gender they happen to have the….plumbing for at the time. Of course, this requires a lot more consideration about others genitals. And nobody really wants that.

But then again, down the other way lies madness. If you accept the position that Jenner was always a woman, then what of his Olympic record? All of -dammit, I can’t even use a pronoun here!- Jenner’s Olympic records suddenly become world records for womens’ events, even though he/she had a physique that no woman (outside of East Germany in 1979) could compete with. And yet there are folks on Wikipedia willing to credit him/her with the record.

Look, if you’re trans-gender, and by some strange happenstance you’ve come across my pithy writings on the internet, I want to stress that I reeeeeeeeally have no idea what you’re going through. This sorta thing isn’t in my wheelhouse, and all I can really offer is my $0.02 on this whole phenomenon.

And frankly, one cannot have a meaningful discussion if everyone agrees with everyone else.

Everyone’s Different The Same Way

This is unrelated to anything that happened this week, but it’s a thought that’s been bouncing around in the back of my head.

At my core, why I am a libertarian and a capitalist, is that I think that everyone wants different things and that everyone should have access to the things they think are good. I would think these assumptions are self evident, but I’ll point this out: If we all wanted the same things, Baskin-Robbins wouldn’t need 31 different flavors of ice cream.

Or, if you’d prefer, consider your perfect Friday night. For the missus, that’s a night in with a glass of wine (or three), a good book and/or a cross stitch. For me, it depends, but I’m typically happiest when I’m entertaining; whether that’s online or in the local german bierhaus over liters of pilsner and links of landjaager. My point is, everyone’s perfect Friday night is something different (share yours in the comments’ section below!).


Anyway, that’s all I got for right now. If you want to tell me off for being a hack, a boor, a philistine or a troglodyte, feel free! I probably am. But for now, thank you for reading!
  • Current Music
    John Williams- Jurassic Park Theme

The Toad - Hunting Story.

*dusts off blog* Ok, been a while here. Too long, some might say.

So the time has come to tell you all the Toad Hunting Story.

My Dad grew up on a raisin and cotton farm in Wasco, California (between Fresno and Bakersfield) and I was lucky enough that it was a going concern when I was growing up, so we could regularly visit during the summer.

This was particularly fun for me and my younger brothers because we could hang out with our two cousins and get up to whatever mayhem 5 boys can do with relatively little supervision.

Now, for those of you who don't know Kern County, allow me to describe Summertime out there: It is hot. So hot. Mad dogs and Englishmen hot. If it weren't for the irrigation setup out there, it'd have no chance as a farming community. And for residential life, having a swimming pool isn't so much a luxury as it is a necessity.

But, as in all things, there is a downside to having a pool. To wit, toads. You see, at night, the toads would come from pretty much everywhere to the pool and jump in since, to them, it's just a pond. However, since there's an edge, the toads can't get out and they eventually drown.

So, our job was to go out after dinner with flashlights to seek the unfortunate, lumpen creatures, grab them from the back yard, and remove them. Often, between the five of us, we'd get about twenty at a time.

As for their removal...
Well, part of the issue is we needed to get these toads out as fast as possible, and the back yard at the farmhouse was enclosed by an eight foot high cinder block wall with an extremely heavy, rusted, thick gate. So we simply went with the most expedient method of expelling the toads: throwing them over the wall as hard and as far as possible. I must presume that most of the toads survived our attentions, because there were no shortage of them.

Now: I've told you this story to tell you another one.

On Dad's side of the family, I have four first cousins. And two of them grew up back east, so I've only met them twice.

On Mom's side I have thirty-two first cousins. I think. Even I gave a hard time keeping track of them all. And I'm right in the middle of all of them, age-wise. So for our family reunions, we need plenty of space for all of us to play football, tear around and shoot off firecrackers and whatnot.

One family reunion, when I was about fourteen, we were at my Uncle Owen's place in Sacramento (I did not have an Aunt Beru). Now, Uncle Owen is a pretty successful guy. A former real-estate developer and author, he usually had access to a lot of nearby fields and the like. This place had a vacant lot nearby where we had a pickup game of football going and, during the course of said pickup game, I developed a bloody nose.

I sat down on a railroad tie at the side of the field, staunching my noble wound, and was joined by a few of my boon-cousin-companions as the game wound down. And during the course of our conversation I looked down at my feet and - Lo and Behold! - there was one of the familiar toads from Wasco.

I picked up the creature and told my cousins the story I just told you all.

And then I looked up across the lot to the fence around my Uncle's back yard. And, though I couldnt see them, I coukd hear the party beyond. With all my Aunts, Uncles, half of the cousins who weren't playing football, ten or twenty of my Uncle's business associates, a buffet and a live band.

And then I looked down at the toad.

I'm sure my cousin Nicole, sitting down to eat barbecue with my parents, never expected anything to fall out of the sky into her lap, much less a bewildered and terrified toad the size of a peach.

And that is the toad story. Cousin Nicole went off to have a full and productive life, I grew older if not wiser.

The Toad's whereabouts are unknown to this day.

Reviews

It suddenly occurs to me that I owe reviews for various things, and not all of them cars.

They are for BOOKS!

Castle Hangnail, by ursulav

This was a gift to me from the incomparable  medicmsh and one of the first books I've read by this author and, I have to say, I'm instantly a fan. This shouldn't surprise you, but I enjoy tongue-in-cheek, dry humor. (This is most likely a by-product of me being corrupted by Monty Python, Blackadder, Red Dwarf, The Hitchhikers' Guide to the Galaxy, and other examples of British Humor. Sorry...Humour).

Featuring a cast of engaging characters, witty dialogue, and plenty of heart, Castle Hangnail is well worth inclusion in your family library. (I'm filing this one away as a Christmas Present for one of my nieces in England, who is a) A hopeless book addict herself and b) in her own words, "MAD about bats".

Either Side of the Strand, by haikujaguar .

When I wasn't watching Britsh hilarity growing up, I typically got addicted to watching/reading Sci-Fi. When I was in high school, I became addicted to Star Trek: Voyager, partially because the story appealed to me (a lone crew, against unfamilliar territory) but mostly because Jeri Ryan's outfit as Seven-of-Nine, the Voyager's Borg Crewmember.

Strand hearkens back to the best of Star Trek. Pleny of tension, drama, with a few light-hearted moments thrown in with plenty of philosophy to back it up. Bottom line, if you like your Star Trek, but thought that it would be improved by casting practically nothing but space cat-girls, this is for you.


That's it for now. More to Come!
  • Current Music
    Blues Brothers - She Caught the Katy

Various and Sundry Updates.

Evening one and all. It's been a little quiet here, so I should let you know what's shaking.

Writing:
I swear this is getting done. What i really need is more time in the day. (Doesn't everyone?)

Sibling Revelry:
Those of you who follow me on twitter might have noticed my rather...tempestous relationship with my brothers. Really, most of what we do (especially between Doug and I) are for entertainment. Mostly for our own. What you have to understand is that while I love my brothers*, we primiarily communicate by bickering. The good news for the rest of you is that at least its' entertaining to watch.

The Things:
Thing One is a remarkable young man, and, typically, bears up under most hardship with stoicism and good grace. Unless he's really, really tired.
Thing Two, for those of you who don't know, is on the Autism Spectrum, and, in some ways, she's more capable than Thing One in things, like mechanical aptitude, motor skills, and the like. Where she falls down on is language. She is a remarkable mimic, though, which gives us hope that she will be very high functioning.

Mother's Day:
What you have to understand about my beautiful wife is that she's arguably the strongest women I know, and part of that strength is that she prefers not to rely on others, save in very few circumstances. I cannot enumerate enough here my reasons for loving her, suffice to say that she is not only patient, kind, and lovely, but dilligent, caring and selfless with regard to her children and her customers. I do encourage you all to drop her a line, either through her etsy email or through twitter or her shop's facebook; and furthermore, encourage you not to take it personally if she doesn't get back to you immediately . She is up to her armpits in orders currently due to the wedding season, which is helping ot pay about 75% of our living expenses right now. I can't express my awe and love for her in words here, suffice to say that she's an awesome person and, if she's short and terse in personal communications, it's only due to having so much going on on her end at home. Bottom line, I encourage you folks to talk to her, mostly because she could use the company. I'm not as home as much as I'd like to be.

To that end, I did what I could to make sure she had the best Mothers' Day Possible. Chocolate Chip Pancakes, and I got the Things out of the house all day. Even better, we had a chance to spend dinner at my Parents' place, which was ecxcellent. Also, not to brag, but I managed to buy her some new shiny clothes which, in my arrogant, biased opinion, she looks stunning in **.

Other Stuff:
This weekend, I had the chance to attend the funeral of a pillar of our community, a Mr. John Kates. I only had a chance to know Mr. Kates through his wife, Gene, a friend of my parents', in the last 7 years. They managed to pull some strings 7 years ago when Hannah and I were planning our wedding reception so we could have it at a local country club. Unfortunately, I only had a chance to know Mr Kates through the other members of our community. He was a Knight of Malta, a member of the Peace Corps, a steadfast Friend, a Loving Father, and a ready Wit. While I only know him through my parents, my parents' friends and others, he will be sorely missed.

The Lemon-Ginger infused Bourbon I have has turned into a rousing success. And I may have some more before bed tonight. It's that good, people.

How To Train Your Dragon 2 is just as good as the original, and you should be watching it now.

That is all for now. I'll probably have a new review up soon, as soon as I figure out what the hell it is I'm reviewing.

*Interestingly, while I love both of my brothers, they hate each other. I hope this won't be a problem later in life.

**If in the event you're reading this, Honey, HI!!! I LOVE YOU PLEASE DON'T MAKE ME SLEEP ON THE SOFA IT'S HARD AND UNYIELDING AND OH GOD IT BENDS MY SPINE BADLY!!!

  • Current Music
    Danzon #2-Arturo Marquez

Lemon - lime pie filling.

So, after garnering some interest, I've decided to post this recipe for a lemon - lime pie filling.

Really, it's a basic curd recipe, but it's very versatile.

You will need:
2 large metal pots.
1 whisk
1 rubber spatula
11 egg yolks.
3 eggs
1 3/4 cups of sugar
3/4 cup of lemon juice
2 tablespoons of lime juice
3 tablespoons of lemon zest
2 tablespoons of lime zest.
2 sticks of butter, melted.
1/3 cup of heavy whipping cream.
2 9 inch pie crusts.
Optional: a candy thermometer, a sieve.

In one large pot, combine the juices, zest, eggs, sugar & yolks. Whisk until combined.

Cook the mixture over medium heat until it starts slowly bubbling (this is where the candy thermometer comes in handy. If you have one, it should read 180 degrees).

Remove from the heat & whisk in the butter and cream, then transfer to whatever pie crusts you have.
(Optionally, you can press the curd through a sieve to remove the zest, but I prefer to leave it in).

This recipe generally yields enough filling for 2 9 inch pies, but your mileage may vary. Or you may choose to do something different with it.

Make sure the curd is evenly distributed, then cook in the oven at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes until it's set.

Once done, allow to cool to room temperature, wrap in plastic (note: DO NOT let the plastic touch the filling. A disaster beyond your imagination will occur) and chill for 2 hours in the refrigerator.

And there it is! Your very own, delicious lemon pies. Give one to your family & keep one for yourself. 

Whiskey whiskey ginger whiskey, whiskey whiskey ginger oh

So, I'm a big proponent of whiskey in all its forms. I want to talk a bit about flavor infusions.

And to you purists out there, I'm not talking about defiling some top shelf high-falutin drinking whiskey. That'd be a waste of time & effort.

Strictly speaking, you can infuse almost any liquor with flavors, and some take to it better than others. Vodka, for instance, takes a vast multitude of flavors well.

But for me, I like bourbon. And I'll take you step by step with how you too can have your very own flavored whiskey.

First, pick your flavors. I'm using ginger and lemon peel in this case.

For this particular case, a peeler is an invaluable tool. Start by peeling the ginger and then breaking it into individual pieces small enough to fit through the neck of your receptacle. This will make sure the most amount of ginger is exposed to your base liquor.

Now, for the lemon.

When cooking, typically you can get the most concentrated lemon flavor in the peel, typically by zesting. In this case, simply use the lemon peel.

Now you need your base whiskey. I'm going with Evan Williams in this case, because while it is cheap ($10 or so for a 750mL bottle like this) it is still a fairly good "everyday" whiskey. If you live near a Trader Joe's, Rebel Yell will serve just as well and comes in a stopped bottle (which is what our finished product is served in, divested of its labels).


Then, simply pour the whiskey into your receptacle & give it a good swirl, letting the contents mingle.


And now the hard part: waiting two weeks for all the flavors to mesh.

Cheers!

The Most Practical Car in the World

Up until this point, all the vehicles reviewed to date maintain some measure of practicality. Even the Mirage, covered earlier this week, boasted halfway decent fuel economy. Here at the car blog, we’re committed to the highest of consumer information with regards to adaptability, practicality and utility.

And really, why shouldn’t we? Cars are a durable good. When we bring a car into our household it’s almost like getting a new dog. Unless something goes drastically wrong, your car will spend many happy years hauling you and yours around from place to place and peeing on your rug. When you’re buying a car, you’re making a choice on what your lifestyle is going to be like for the next several years. It’ll dictate how many people you can take with you, how much stuff you can haul, what sort of weather you can drive in without additional equipment, etc. It’s an important decision, one which merits a consideration of sober, conservative vehicles.


Which brings us to the 2015 Cadillac Escalade.

The choice ride of affluent families and celebrities everywhere, this chrome-clad monster is an instant expression of wealth and status to everyone else on the road. In fairness, it’s a striking, handsome vehicle, if a little ostentatious.


It has a monster 6.2 Liter V8 engine good for 420 horsepower and 460 ft/lbs of torque mated to an all wheel drive system and a beefy, clever transfer case. All that power will generate wheel-spin from a standing stop, which is impressive for a car that weighs the next-best thing to three tons. Stomp on the gas pedal, and it takes off like a stampeding elephant on speed. The suspension is incredible too. There’s big cars on the road, sure. But this bear can dance, even if it looks kinda funny in a tutu. Plus, that beefy mill will help you tow darn near everything up to and including the second Death Star.


It’s not just a fast car either. It’s comfortable too. The front and middle seats are heated. The front two seats are ventilated, which is a HUGE boon during the summer months. Every surface you can touch is swathed in sumptuous leather and soft touch surfaces. The infotainment system is also clever. It boasts a haptic touchscreen, and syncs up with smartphones without a hitch. If you have kids or friends that get bored easily, there’s a screen where you can watch DVD’s or any other media for as long as your batteries will last. And the 12volt outlets will ensure that as long as the car is running, that’ll be forever.

There’s more convenience factors there too. The rear has a power liftgate that can be closed with the touch of a button. And that’s not the only thing that can be folded down too. All the rear seats can be closed at the touch of a button. Throw the car into reverse, and the infotainment system switches over to all-around camera views, making navigating crowded parking lots and tight spaces a cinch.


One other, more intangible thing that the Escalade does well is that thing that all luxury cars must do, and that is provide a sense of occasion. What I mean by that is this: think back to the last time you got dressed up. You shower, shave the appropriate areas, put on the nicest suit (or dress) you have, and you check yourself out in the mirror. It’s that moment, when you see yourself and think Yeah, something excellent is about to happen tonight, that’s what I’m talking about. I am pleased to report that the Escalade is no different. Check out the dashboard start sequence. I’m pretty sure that’s what Kirk feels like firing up the Enterprise.


Preview for Tomorrow's Review. pic.twitter.com/dGYMFMnY53

— FerrousOnWithTheShow (@Iron_Fox) April 28, 2015


If there is a downside to this car, it’s the price of admission. Step onto a Cadillac dealership with the intention to drive off with an Escalade or the lengthened version, the ESV, and you’ll drop anywhere between $73,000 and $98,000.

Not including destination and taxes.

On paper, this is probably the least practical vehicle on the market.

And yet, depending on how you use it, it’s the most practical car ever.

Take a look at this: http://m.realtor.com/?rdc_return_url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.realtor.com%2F#details?listing_id=584768968. That is a typical condo for-sale near where I live in San Jose. Even if you’re renting, a single bedroom apartment will easily run you $1000 a month, not including utilities, internet, et cetera. Yes, I know that these results are skewed by where we are, which is arguably the most expensive area in the country, but unless you’re in Detroit, most people will spend about $80 per square foot for a home, if you’re buying.

From that standpoint, the Escalade is an absolute steal. Even the short version has enough room to sleep an adult man easily. If you work (and you certainly must to afford an Escalade, to begin with), you can use the floor area as an ironing board. Or, if you need the space for a spouse or children and/or pets, the Escalade has a handy hitch to attach a trailer to (and camper trailers can be had for relatively little) that would provide basic privacy, living space and dining area.

There’s ancillary benefits to living out of an Escalade as well. If you can find parking near the office, your commute time will be practically nil. You’ll never have to worry about relations dropping in out of the blue to visit (how can they find you, anyway?) and you won’t be a burden to your own relations because you’ve brought your own hotel room with you.

Even better, you’ll be paid off after 5 or 6 years, depending on the terms of your original lease. And instead of mountains of crippling debt, you’ll have what is, arguably, one of the best cars on the road today.

And that’s nothing to sniff at.

The Redwoods, pt 2

So, more on the Redwoods.

I took the Things out again this week (like every week, more or less). It rained pretty hard over the hill last night. While that made everything muddy, it's frankly one of my favorite times to go hiking over there because everything smells fresh & earthy.

We didn't get much of a chance to explore our usual haunts today since I also needed to roll in a shopping trip and make sure Thing1 got back in time for lunch before his soccer practice.

What we DID manage to get in though, was the trains.

Part of what makes the Roaring Camp & Big Trees Railroad unique among most heritage railways is that they’re narrow gauge and run geared locomotives. In everyday terms, this means that the rails are closer together than typical railroads and that the train wheels are all tied to a single drive shaft, which in turn provides better traction.
Shown here is a Shay locomotive, which has a boiler offset to the left and a trio of pistons on the right. (The railroad also operates a Heisler type locomotive, which is a V-twin, but I believe that one is in for repairs, because I haven't seen it running in the last 3 years.)

Geared locomotives aren't terrifically fast, but what they DO have is mountains and mountains of torque. Pulling a load, they can climb a 12% grade. (For frame of reference, most modern diesel-electric locomotives can only handle a 3% grade).

Also, since the tracks are narrower, they can take more extreme turns. These pictures are taken in an area where the tracks go through a 270 degree turn and climb 20 feet in about 120 ft of track.
(See below. If you look past Thing1's left shoulder, you can see the tracks below.)

These locomotives were typically used in logging operations, where their turning radius and torque were essential to climbing steep mountains & navigating narrow valleys. Today, they're an amazing curiosity for fans of machinery and history.

I think part of the appeal of steam locomotives- to children and adults alike- is that they speak to us on many levels. We can appreciate them from an asthetic perspective as we can watch all their moving parts in action and their function. We can appreciate them historically for their function and ingenuity of our ancestors. And we can appreciate them on a pure child - like level because they're loud and make a lot of noise.

Anyway, that's everything about the Shay locomotives you wanted to know, but we're afraid to ask.