Sunday, January 26, 2014

Questioning My Sanity

Every January and February, I question my sanity.  I am not a great fan of cold snowy winters.  I was born in Michigan I endured a few blizzards in my days.  When I was in school my parents started spending winters in Florida.  I discovered that there is life without layers, without hats and gloves and freezing your bits and pieces.  After high school I moved to Florida and I lived there for almost 20 years.  My idea of a cold winter night was around freezing.  Snow was something I saw on television and only felt once in 18 years. Over the years I grew to appreciate the subtlety of of a semi tropical winter. In the fall the trees and leaves change the shade of green, foliage grows more slowly and in dead of winter, things may even show frost damage. Then love and a desire for change talked me into moving back north.  The last time I saw the statistics, about ⅓ of the people that move to Florida move out.  My sweet bear and I moved from central Florida to Kentucky and I went onto graduate school.  I experienced my first driving in snow and nasty cold winter weather.  After 13 years I moved to Washington DC.  The winters are a little milder here, but still cold with snow (the week after I moved into the high rise condo, we had 48 inches of snow in a week.)  Every winter, I question the sanity of moving this far north.  I love DC, I am constantly in awe of the museums, the power and politics of being here.  I love being in a real city, with a good mass transit system, But every winter I question the sanity of a cold winter day being 4 or 5 degrees instead of 45 degrees.  

Friday, January 24, 2014


So I went from the top picture to the bottom picture this week, WHY? 

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The Journey and the Destination

Some say travel is about the journey not the destination. My experience is that it is about both.  

It is easy to focus on getting where you are going and overlook the joy of the journey.  Planes, trains, automobiles, moving across the landscape can be an incredible experience. I am always amazed at the sounds, sights and smells along the way.  I enjoy airports, watching people coming and going I am always surprised or amazed at the things I see.  I enjoy the mechanics of airports. Airplanes are remarkably complex and reliable.  I enjoy watching them come and go at an airport.  I enjoy the physical act of flying, the views out the window and the view up the aisle - especially at takeoff and landing. I wish that airplanes were more comfortable. I started flying when seats were larger and service included meals on any flight longer than a couple of hours.  I miss the bag of peanuts.  Train stations carry an interesting mix of people, rich, poor, young and old, and a nice mixture of foreign tourists.  I love the views from trains. The rails run through the backyards of America.  Driving gives us the greatest connection to the terrain,  I like to get off the expressways and onto the back roads and see what the locals see everyday.  

I also enjoy the destination.  Even the most mundane of places has something uniquely local about it.  Food, language, architecture, there is such an amazing spectrum to be experienced.  Occasionally I get to go to a “destination.”  I enjoy the great world capitals, historical sites, and tourist traps.  

In all cases I need to remember to see, hear and smell all that travel has to offer.  

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Having Fun

Growing older happens, growing up is optional.  There is a Jimmy Buffet line about growing older but not up. All too many of us forget how to have fun, as we get older.  We need to remember that it is okay to be silly, zany even a little crazy.  Remember to laugh a little each day. 

A Couple of Days in Alternate Reality Land

Many people think their parents are crazy, my mother is steadily slipping into alternate reality land.  All of the time she talks about going up stairs, my parents have lived in single story “ranch style” homes for well over 60 years.  Yesterday she asked my sister to go up into the attic over the upstairs bedroom and help that man out of the long sleeve satin dress. We had been talking about wedding dresses (my sister is getting married again) but we have no idea who the man is and why he is in the attic over the imaginary second floor in her 65 year old satin dress. Yesterday evening she looked at me and said, “I am sure there are shovels in the garage, you can plant anyplace along the front.”  When my father asked what in the world she wanted me to plant, the answer was roses - I could plant as many as I wanted.  I assured her that I had planted all of the roses and they were doing fine.  I had planted roses across the front of their house, about 25 years ago.  At midnight last night she was blowing her distress whistle and then arguing with my father that she wanted to get up (she can’t get in and out of bed without help.)  She was refusing to turn the television in their bedroom off, every time my father drifted off to sleep she would turn the volume up until he woke up.  He would turn the television off, she would turn it on and turn the volume up and hide the remote.  At one time I wondered where I learned passive aggressive behavior.

My parents are 86.  It has been a rough year. Mom was in and out of the hospital and a nursing home.  My sister and her soon to be husband (he knows what he is getting himself into,) moved in with my parents to provide in-home care for mom.  Mom has Parkinson's, is unable to walk, stand or transfer from chair to chair, or bed to chair without full help.  Her memory has been fading and her personal reality has settled in quite soundly over the past year.  I am not sure what special land she lives in, but she is comfortable and happy most of the time.  How the rest of them in this house remain sane living in her alternate reality, I don't know.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Taking Control of My Life

It happened by accident, I forgot to set my radio alarm clock one night.  I woke with a start the next morning, realizing that the music was not playing and the sun was rising.  After a moment of panic, I realized that I had slept an extra 15-20 minutes and felt so relaxed.  I had not been roused from my slumber, my dreams had not been interrupted.  I made it to the office more or less on time.  I thought about the experience over the following few days.  The clock had ruled my life since I was a teenager.  I was raised in a house where if you were not 15 minutes early, you were late. It has taken me decades to understand that not all of the world works on the principle, in fact not all of my family lives on that basis.  I took control, I turned the clock radio off.  Much to my surprise, life and work went on.  I wake most mornings, plenty early, occasionally my body takes control and I sleep a little later.  I am still fairly calendar driven, and my body seems to adjust so I am on time for calendar items, especially when they impact others.  It has been five years and I am so happy with the decision to take control and not let the clock rule my life.  On rare occasion when I have an especially early meeting or airline flight, I will set the clock, but even then, I usually find that I am awake before the music starts playing, awake without being awoken.  

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Great Adventures in Travel

An Exercise  in Flexibility 

The fog stuck around, the flight was delayed, first for 12 minutes, then 30 minutes, than an hour, then 2 hours, then cancelled.  I was re-booked on another flight and had a row to myself in the back of the bus.  I arrived at my destination over two hours late, but I arrived.  The rental car people were incompetent, chatty and polite, kept asking me the same questions and trying to sell their overpriced insurance.  Then they didn't have the class of car I had reserved, I said I would take something else, we started to make the change - the phone rang and they had what I had reserved.  Picking up the car took twice as long as it should have, I am now about two and half hours late. I drove to the Crown Plaza, park and went to registration.  They don't have a room ready, I say I will take anything, one bed - two beds I am very flexible.  She asked if "I was paying for the room" - uh yes.  She then asked if I was driving - if she had been listening I had said I had a car in the garage.  She explained that there was an option that would get me into a room immediately, the hotel was oversold, and they had just made arrangements with the Hyatt Regency across the river for the overflow.  She would comp my room, if I would be able to stay at the Hyatt instead of the CP.  Ah, yes, the Hyatt is much nicer.  So I spent the night on the 16th floor with a spectacular river view.  I was four hours late getting to the conference, but I am listening not talking at this one, so I could be quite flexible.  All in all it was not a bad trip when compared to the emergency landing in Dallas with smoke pouring out of an engine, or the time the plane backed into another plane (twice) in Charlotte one morning. Any landing you can walk away from, is a good landing.  It is all a matter of perspective and flexibility. 

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Out early in the fog

I was off to the airport before dawn today.  Very foggy on top of the hill. 

I love TSA pre - check.  One of the airlines enrolled me.  Not sure which one, but THANK YOU.  I can leave my shoes on, wear a light jacket,  leave my computer in my bag. At most airports I pass through a metal detector, hence I need to empty my pockets into my bag.  It is so much easier.  Most of the part the participants are frequent flyers, who know what to do.  So much better. 

Now the flight is delayed two hours. 

Oh well,  control the things we can. 

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

How Cold Was It?

It was so cold that I took the condo shuttle bus to and from the subway station and went to the deli in the building for lunch, rather than going around the corner to my favorites.  There is a thin layer of ice on the Potomac River, bunching up around the bridge piers where the subway crosses the river.  The trains have been having trouble with frozen switches for a couple of days.  But the worst is past.  It was above freezing this afternoon and will be 10 degrees warmer tomorrow and back into the high 50's (Fahrenheit) over the weekend.

DC has it's share of cold jokes,
It was so cold that Congressmen had their hands in their own pockets.
It was so cold that government bureaucrats stopped moving - but no one noticed the difference.
It was so cold that we had to print more money to burn (about half of the currency used in the US is printed in DC.)
Home on the hill?
I live in a condo in the high rise towers on the top of that hill. If my neighbors would cut down all of the trees I would have a great view of Old Town Alexandria, the Patent and Trademark offices and the George Washington Masonic Memorial.  About 1/3 of the time I ride a bike to and from the office.  Every afternoon, I HATE the hill I live on, when I have to climb it on the bike.  The rise is about 100 feet in about 500 feet.  Nasty-nasty climb.  I will conquer that hill.

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Fresh Look

It was time for a new look.  I was trying to edit my profile, and the template was so out of date that blogger wouldn't let me edit.  It was time to update.  I try to keep the template simple.  My focus is on the pictures and my ramblings.  I picked the original template quickly and easily and this one the same way.  So I hope both of my readers enjoy the new look, if not, let me know and I will fiddle with it.

It was very-very cold here this morning, 4 degrees Fahrenheit with a nice wind.

I will explain the house on the hill sometime soon.  I put the picture up from my phone on the train headed into the city and didn't get a chance to explain.  

Home on the hill

Sunday, January 05, 2014

I Use To Work With

I don't talk about my work on Social Media (outside of the office) but I can talk about past work.  I am on my third career.  The first one only lasted a few short years, I was a commercial photographer for 2-3 years.  I did mostly print work for the hospitality industry.   

For my second career I worked with the distant relatives of the creatures above.  I worked for land developers and home builders in Florida for 15 years.  It was an interesting business.  The first 7 years I worked for a small family owned company that developed land and built 150-200 homes per year.  Interesting people, they knew how to control risk and make money.  One day they invited us all to a hotel for a drink on the way home from work, and proceeded to announce that they had sold the assets - I found out a few weeks later that I was not one of the assets and that I had better find another job.  I did, landing a sales and marketing job for a major national home builder  aka Big-Builder Company. I was there five years and made really good money.  When they hired me, the boss said I will screw with your mind but not with your money, you will make more money here than anyplace in town.  He was right, and so began my adventures with various swamp creatures.  

Big-builder company was big money land.  At any given time we had 50-100 million dollars of work underway, in the division I was in.  Nationally it was a multi-billion dollar firm.  We had some interesting characters.  One of the division managers was young and ambitious and willing to do or say almost anything to exceed his numbers.  I was in a meeting with him one afternoon, when we left he said I'll see you at the morning staff meeting, I went back to my mail slot and there was a memo saying that he had left the firm to pursue other opportunities.  Apparently he hadn't received the memo yet - but he was gone before I left the building that afternoon.  The last I heard he was building prisons - some were surprised he wasn't a resident in one.  When I left there I went to work for idiots with lots of money.  I referred to them as an accounting company that built houses to keep the accountants busy.  Reality was suspended and what ever the accounting system said, was held to be the truth, even if it was obviously wrong to everyone looking at reality.  I learned the art of creating paperwork to reconcile accounting with reality.  I was there about a year and left.  About the time left they hired one of my former bosses from Big-builder company.  I was gone about 120 days, including 90 days working for a supplier and I went back to work for more money than brains.  The guy who founded the company did a motivational speech for staff where he said that he could "write a check for a billion dollars and it would clear," and we all snickered that it would only count if accounting could find the paperwork.  I lasted another year or so, had a shouting match with a moron construction manager and went on my way.  The next company was idiots without enough money - one payday they quit paying.  I had been warned when I went to work there, that one day, one way or another the company would hurt me.  From there I went back to work for the company that had bought out the first company I worked for - closing the circle.  Nothing was the same.  The place was run by a drunk Australian and his YES MEN with no business morals - it was all about margins - they would sooner make no money than not hit there target margin.  That was my last builder job.  I followed love to another state, and took the opportunity to hit the restart button on my work life.  I went to graduate school, and found work that I wanted to do, mostly working for and with people that I want to work with and for and that is about all I will say about my current work.  

A post script in about 2010 Big-Builder ran tight on cash, and the banks really wanted cash, and more money than brains made good on his brag, and wrote a check merging the best company I ever worked for with the stupidest.  

Friday, January 03, 2014

Good morning

15 degrees Fahrenheit and very slippery this morning.  Headed to the office.  The condo has private road through an undeveloped parcel to the subway station about half a mile away.  This walk is part of my daily commute in the city.  There were fresh fox footprints in the snow this morning. 

Thursday, January 02, 2014

A little wet snow in the DC area this evening. 

Back to the office

Today was the first day of the work year, the first day of the rest of my life.  I was in the office, getting things done.  I caught up on email that had stacked up over the holidays.  I was able to follow up with people who had taken the last 10 days off.  I try to work over the holidays, it is a good time to catch up on things that no one else needs to touch, but not a good time to try to do anything that I need to confer with anyone else on. I am producing workshops for a conference in January, and it was not a good couple of weeks to try to get people to agree on a workshop title.  

I enjoy work.  I get bored after a couple of days around the house.  I enjoy vacation and traveling, but being home gets to me in a hurry.  I prefer to be working.  This is a major consideration as I get closer to "retirement" age, I can't see myself in my parents vision of retirement.  They retired early and have been bored for most of the past 30 years.  Not my idea of fun.

Take care, stay busy and have fun!

Wednesday, January 01, 2014


So what does 2014 hold?  

Some travel, though likely not as much as some past years.  I have a conference in Jacksonville, FL in January, followed by a couple of days with my aging parents in central Florida.  My sister is talking about getting married in early February in Florida. So I may be home for a week and go back to Florida again.  In February I will likely drive to Lexington, KY for a long weekend (assuming there is not a snow storm between here and there.) If I can get an invitation, I may attend the bloggerpalozza in Delaware in March.  I have a conference in early May in Portland, OR.  Oregon is one of 5 states I have not been to.  I may go a a conference in Scottsdale later in May.  We are planning a long weekend in Chicago for Memorial Day weekend.  I will need to make another trip or two to Florida over the course of the year.  

My parents are 86 years old, and in failing health.  I am thinking about a trip to see them in late summer and maybe late October.  I would like to go to Lexington for Thanksgiving with Jay this year. I have to be prepared for unplanned trips to Florida if an emergency comes up. 

We don't have plans for a major vacation the year, though we are due for one. Last year's discretionary budget was consumed with a new heating and air-conditioning system for the condo. Other than a few hundred dollars in plumbing replacements- there are no major home improvement projects this year. 

I don't talk about my work on social media.  This spring the project I am on is up for renewal for a new three year cycle.  It appears likely that the project will be funded.  But rising costs and reduced funding are making it hard to balance the budget (hence less work travel this year than in the past.)  It will be nice to have a three year commitment to the future of the project, even if I have to sell part of my time to another project to balance the budget. Last year the office moved, this year may see some changes in organization and leadership (my bosses -boss is moving to a new job in mid January.)  
J, also known as my other half, Someone, partner, or sweet-bear, is still teaching in Lexington, KY.  He is here about 20 weeks out of the year, I am there a couple of weeks per year.  At this point we don't see this changing any time soon. We are plotting a sabbatical in a couple of years, and his early retirement in a few years.  People ask about marriage, both homes are in anti-marriage states, at this point marriage would overly complicate our legal lives. I have thought about moving across the river to Maryland if Virginia does not get it's act together soon.  We have been together 21 years, it would be hard to be more committed to each other, but the legal protections of recognition of our relationship are real and something we should be able to take advantage of sooner or later.  

New year's resolutions? 

  • be more aware of what I eat
  • ride the bike more, move more
  • read more (turn off the TV) 
  • write for 30 minutes per day