Thursday, October 30, 2014


In the news over the past couple of days was the explosion of a private resupply rocket headed to the international space station. Rockets are complex, and this one was not helped by the fact that it was powered with rocket engines made in Russia in the 1960's.  Not just 1960's engineering, but actually made in the 1960's.  Two reasons were given, very few rocket engines have been designed and built in the past 20 years, and the surplus Russian engines were a bargain, until they went boom. 

The picture above is another kind of a rocket,  Now either it is a hard top convertible, or owner has two of them.  There was a Ferrari with top down in that space the day before.  This is in the parking garage at the office.  I bet it goes like a rocket, if I won the lottery I'd buy a red convertible. Zoom-Zoom - wosh! 

When I lived in Orlando I ran regularly with the local Front Runners group.  There were identical twin brothers who ran with the group.  One of them was a dancer at Disney, the other one was a rocket scientist, an engineer on the space shuttle main engines.  You could tell them apart, one wore a T-shirt that said "My Brother is Rocket Scientist" and the other a T-shirt that said "As a Matter of Fact I am A Rocket Scientist."  Two very talented young men. 

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Making Progress

A quick update.
After a couple of nights in bed with my ankles above my head, I am walking better. Not that kind of nights, the recommendation was to elevate my sprained ankles above the heart. My feet have been propped up on one very large pillow. It seems to be helping, the swelling is down and I am moving somewhat better.

To minimize walking I drove to the office yesterday, and will again today. To take the subway I have a couple of large stations I need to navigate, including a change of lines that requires changing levels in a very busy station. I seldom drive to work, like 4 or 5 times over the past six years.  But it is much less walking, the car is parked near the door to the condo tower, and there is valet parking in the office building ($12 a day plus a tip.) It is about 10 miles from home to the office, it took me just over an hour yesterday morning, I can ride there on my bike in 55 minutes (when my ankles are not messed up.)  Coming home last night, the first three miles took me 32 minutes - Ms.Garmin took me across through Georgetown.  I HATE driving in Georgetown, it has the worst traffic in this complicated city.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Limping along

On Friday I was walking back to my office from a meeting and I rolled my right ankle (not unusual, this happens from time to time) and sprained my left ankle when I fell in a heap on the floor. It was literally, help I have fallen and I can't get up.  The arthritis in my knees has been bad the last couple of months, and with both ankles hurting, I couldn't get up.  Fortunately a couple of people came to my rescue, after a couple of false starts, I was able to lift myself onto a chair and walk from there.  My insurance has a call and RN service that they recommend calling before racking up the emergency room deductible for what they later decide is not an emergency and hence won't pay.  Her diagnosis was a bad sprain and to treat at home (in other words, they won't pay the first $500 if I go to the emergency room.)

The wrong body type and 10 years of running, my hips, knees and ankles are a mess. Even on a good day, I walk funny, and not for the reasons a man might wish for.

When did emergency rooms replace walk in office hours at the neighborhood physician?  I grew up in a rural area, there were two doctors in town. The one my family saw had walk in office hours four or five afternoons a week. You could make an appointment, but if you walked in, the doctor would see you before he went home for night. He lived in a brick home next door. I hated sitting in the waiting room - but only now know how lucky we were to be able to walk in.  Today, appointments take weeks to get, and non-emergency care fills emergency rooms, with hospital level care and cost for things the old country Docs treated as it came in the door. For Dr. G medicine was a calling, he lived well, but money was secondary to caring for the people in the community. His church in California paid for him to go to Medical School (late 40's early 50's) and when he was done asked him to go to an undeserved community whose only doctor had died (reportedly in his office between patients.)  When my family started spending winters in Florida in the mid 70's, I could sense that he missed living in cities and warmer climates.  But his commitment to the community kept him there until he retired.

In the end his skills were a little dated, he missed a diagnosis on my grandmother that was life threatening. She was having some trouble and was a bit of a hypochondriac, so she had been to see him and he had told her it was nothing to worry about. The next day she as visiting my father who was in the hospital with a kidney stone. His doctor came in, looked at her and said, "do you mind if I look in your ear?" 24 hours later she was in a teaching hospital with the head or neurology doing surgery to remove an infection the size of a tennis ball. No one is perfect, he provided a great service to the community.  I miss the corner Doctor.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Good Morning

Another crazy busy week.  I sorted out the top of my desk yesterday for the first time in months.  Now I know what archeologists feel like, digging through history layer by layer.  The bottom layer was January,  actually one folder for the shredder was from August of 2013.

Board meeting today.  Tomorrow I spent the day interviewing students for next summers interns.

I am almost done with site selection for next year's big conference. 

Sunday, October 19, 2014

From Nice to Not-so-Nice in 1-second

I waited for a discrete moment, and mentioned to a colleague that we had made a mistake on a significant but not critical detail on the Conference.  The agenda included two hours of "ethics"credit and only one of them had been submitted for accreditation.  Likely I was the only one who noticed, I had designed the agenda and selected the sessions specifically to include two ethics sessions.  My colleagues response was that "Pat must have thought that there was only one session eligible for ethics credit."   - WRONG ANSWER, resorting to an excuse.

Why is the immediate reaction to my pointing out a mistake to look for an excuse, rather then to admit that someone made a mistake?  I know we have a generation of "everyone gets a trophy" soccer players, but in the real world we all make mistakes.  The best course of action is to say, oops, sorry, let me see if anything can be done to fix it. If it is your mistake, to take ownership of it. Doing so keeps me from going from Mr Nice Guy to Mr Asshole in 1 second or less.  I like Mr Nice guy better.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Three 14 hour days

I am back home.  Three long days of work.  Wednesday was an annual project meeting,  followed by two hours of emails.  Thursday and Friday were the national conference I have been working on since January.  The conference was a major success.  Other then three fire alarms and some av issues, everything went better than expected.  It is nice to be home. 

Monday, October 13, 2014

Columbus Day - the week ahead

It is Columbus Day, you know he was lost - didn't know where he was.  He was likely not the first European to "discover" what we know as North America - he was brave enough to publicly defy "common sense" and sail west across the Atlantic knowing he would find land. There is something for being brave. I have read his logs of the trip.  His description of the people he encountered was very degrading - he thought them barely fit to serve as slaves at the same time they were kicking his crews' ass (holding some of them prisoner.) I don't really understand a national holiday in honor of Columbus.

Columbus Day is a day off.  I am normally in Lexington visiting my sweet bear this weekend.  But I have a couple of massively busy weeks ahead and the bear has a special decennial-birthday coming up the first weekend in November - so I am going to Lexington for that instead this year.

Wednesday is the annual partners meeting for the project that funds 80% of my work.  There are five grantees in the project. Once a month we have a conference call, once a year we meet for a day in person. The money is here in DC and has difficulty traveling, so we always meet in DC.  The five partners take turns organizing the meeting. But only two of us have meeting space that works for hosting.  Actually my office conference space is the largest and most accommodating.    I provide the space and one of the other partners plans the agenda and pays for lunch.  I also organize and host monthly conference calls for all of the partners.

Thursday and Friday I am hosting a National Conference.  I have mentioned this in the past, again to keep the content of this blog, from becoming the intellectual property of my employer, I can't mention the name of the conference.  Putting the Conference together has been a massive project, starting last December.  We have over 140 people registered, we would be well over 150 but we ran out of space. The attendance projections were maybe 100 people would attend.  We went with a venue that holds 140 maximum, and sold out six weeks before show time.  We have an agenda of four plenary sessions and 19 workshops.  There are about 70 speakers, some new voices, and a couple of superstars.  I have a MacArthur Genius award winner as a speaker (pain in the ass I will never work with her again - she has no idea what a deadline is - let alone how to meet one.)  I have two high ranking government officials, an assistant cabinet secretary and the second in command at a federal bureau.  It will be two long and intense days.  Oh, and J and I's anniversary is on Friday.

Next week we have our quarterly board meeting, that we hold three times a year.  Only a bunch of lawyers would hold a quarterly meeting three times a year.  And then on Saturday I interview students for next summers' internships.  I need to finish that process up and make offers before I can leave for Thanksgiving in Florida.

Friday, October 10, 2014

October 11th is National Coming Out Day

Coming out is a description of an LGBT person telling others or being open about being LGBT. I doubt that it will come as a surprise to anyone reading this that I am gay.  This is something I figured out when I was a teenager, but denied and hid from for many years. For me probably the toughest was self acceptance.  It took me years to do so. I can still remember the first time I attended the LGBT group at Rollins College, it was the first time in a social setting that I felt comfortable in my own skin. For the most part I have avoided dramatic scenes when coming out. Early on a wise person told me to live my life honestly and openly and friends and family would figure it out. I decided by the time I brought the same man home for Easter the second or third year, family would figure it out, and they did, my family has been very welcoming for the two of us.  Jay and I are coming up on 22 years together. Every time I meet someone, I have to make the decision on how I describe my personal life. Most of the time, I tell it like it is; other times if the relationship is not important it is easier use gender neutral terms and ignore Jay being spoken of as she, I am not into confrontation.  I have only run into hostility a handful of times, usually a result of someone’s prejudice or insecurity.  I have learned to be out with employers, I was outed to a boss by a coworker and lost a job that I really needed a couple of years before I left Orlando in the mid 90’s.  From the time I moved to Lexington in 1995, every employer has known up front.  It has paid some nice dividends. I have had a chance to do some rewarding research, published several articles on LGBT aging (I am finishing two book chapters on LGBT aging) and spoken at the National LGBT Bar Associations’ Lavender Law Conference three times. I am happy and comfortable with my life.  

Come out- come out wherever you are!

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

A Step Closer to Spouse and Spouse

"Across Virginia, county clerks are readying for an influx of marriage license applications now that same-sex couples in the commonwealth are allowed to marry. The new marriage licenses, which contain spaces for spouse and spouse instead of bride and groom, became available around 1 p.m. Monday." 

The Supreme Court spoke volumes by not taking the appeal on same-sex marriage cases. I had predicted that the Court would decline to hear the appeals.  There are several reasons. All of the Federal Circuit Courts (federal appeals courts)  that have ruled, have ruled that same sex marriage can not be prohibited. The only contrary ruling is in a Federal District Court, that ruling will be appealed to a Circuit Court and as long as Circuit court ruling is in accord with the other circuits, the Supremes can avoid the issue. The Court really does not have an obligation to hear the case, if there is no real disagreement in the Circuits. 

From my point of view, the Chief Justice is trying to keep the Court from being politicized. He can't always do this, but he has done a much better job then most expected. 

It can also be inferred that the Justices didn't see any fundamental flaws in law or logic used in the Circuit Court Decisions. 

I think some of the Justices want to avoid the issue, so they can avoid agreeing with same sex marriage or writing an opinion not easily supported by Constitutional law.  I can just imagine a couple of them writing that the authors of the Constitution had no more intention of equal protection protecting same sex marriage then they did people marrying their pet ducks. Equal Protection, full faith and credit, apply today to a lot of things that the framers could not have imagined. It was un-imaginable when the Constitution was written that you could talk in Philadelphia and be heard in New York, that a machine could could be read around the world instantly, that you could take the heart out of one man and use it to keep another man alive, women voting, women owning property in their own name, a great deal has changed in 225 years. The essence of a common law system, the basis of our Constitutional law system, is that the law is a living thing that changes and grows as society and technology change. 

The Court could have taken the cases if they wanted to.  The underlying reasons used by the Federal Circuit Courts to rule that states can not prohibit same sex marriage, varied slightly, but meaningfully from Circuit to Circuit.  The outcome was all the same, but the reasons were different.   At this point, the reason is not important, unless and until you are using these decisions to try to arrive at a conclusion on another issue. 

If the fight is continued, one state at a time, one circuit at a time, it will take several more years to resolve the issue in all 50 states. Because of jobs, Jay and I are in two federal circuits, Virginia now allows marriage, Kentucky is waiting on a Circuit court ruling. If one of the Federal Circuits rules in a contrary manner, the Supremes are likely to take on the issue of the Century. 

Friday, October 03, 2014

It is a simple question

It is a simple question, where are you from?  My answer is complicated.  I have lived in five states and at the moment, don't feel a strong connection to any of them.  I have been reading a book by a college student from Kansas who was awarded a scholarship to study in France for a year, and spent the year homesick for Kansas.  Where would I feel homesick for?  I was born in Michigan.  Before the first grade I had visited Florida and Arizona.  I went to half of the first grade on Phoenix.  My parents were farmers in a seasonal farming operation in Michigan and my father was trying to escape the cold Michigan winters.  Phoenix didn't work well and we didn't do that again until I was in the 8th grade.  That is when my snowbird years began,  I would start school in Michigan in September, in late October early November we would go to Florida, I would go to school in Florida, in late March we would go back to Michigan.  I did that the rest of the way through high school.  I left Michigan the fall after finishing High School and moved to Florida.  For a couple of years I ran around saying, "back home we did it a different way."  After a while people convinced me that they really don't care how you do it back home.  I thought I would stay in Florida forever.  I grew frustrated with the work I was doing and I fell in love.  When sweetie bear was offered the job in Kentucky, I readily agreed to move.  It was a fresh break and a chance to go back to school.  I lived in Kentucky for 13 years.  I adjusted well, but responded to where are you from, with, I live here but I am not from around here. Almost six years ago, I moved to northern Virginia, for the job in DC.  I rented for a while, I have owned the condo for almost five years and it still does not register as home.  So where am I from?  No place that I feel homesick for.

Thursday, October 02, 2014

Opps, I did it again

I learned the fine art of sarcasm from a master, my dear father.  Then I studied communications and law, making me a trained professional at verbal war.  My father once said that I have "a tongue that could drop an elephant at 50 yards."  In a moment - no make that a day filled with - frustration that I described as chasing idiots, I let loose yesterday and "crushed" someone with just a one paragraph.

This started with looking at a calendar and sending an email request.  I have a big meeting coming up on October 16 and 17th.  We will send a last minute details email to the attendees, normally three days before the meeting date.  Looking at the calendar, that would be Monday October 13th, Columbus Day, we are closed.  So I emailed the person responsible for sending the email and said, we need to send the attendee emails on Friday October 10th.  She replied that she would send it on Tuesday October 14th. In a moment of supreme "kitchen sinking"* I replied in an email with 5 numbered paragraphs, each expressing my opinions on a different screw up relating to this meeting.  Paragraph number 3 went something like this:

"The attendee emails MUST BE SENT ON FRIDAY OCTOBER 10th.  About 1/3 of the 140  attendees will be attending a meeting on October 15th, I know this because I am hosting that meeting in my office.  If we send the email on the 14th, they will get it when they are at the airport, making it impossible for them to print the 17 pages we are asking them to print before they leave for the conference.  When I asked for the 10th, I had thought through this and didn't expect to have to argue or justify my request."

I went to far, I am told I scared people because a couple of paragraphs had passages all in CAPITAL letters.  Yes I was shouting, be glad you weren't in the room with me.  The above passage, sent someone blubbering to her boss, that "he thinks I am an idiot."   Opps, I didn't mean that.  I think one of her coworkers is an idiot, but the unfortunate target of that passage is actually one of the best people I have worked with on this project.

I get frustrated with debating or being asked to justify minor decisions and requests, and my collaborators on this project specialize in sweating the small stuff.  I think I will send them the classic book, "The Peter Principle" for Christmas.  One of the principles is that people spend too much time on the little decisions, because they understand the little decisions, and too little time on the major issues, because big decisions are frightening and hard to understand, so they quickly agree and move onto things within their comfort zone. How can people not know this and understand that the big issues deserve time, and on little shit, it is easier to do it the way the @sshole wants then it is to argue with him.

I don't do this often, but sometimes feel bad when I do, I write a great apology email (took a class in how to do it.) I hope I did a good job today - she was talking to me again this afternoon. In six years I have only eviscerated two people that I felt bad about.  I did it again, I wish I hadn't, I should have let someone else have the full treatment in a couple of the other paragraphs in that email - I was tired of dealing idiots.

*Kitchen Sinking, is throwing in everything including the kitchen sink when frustrated, mad or upset.  A simple rule of dealing with an angry person is to let them talk until they throw in the kitchen sink.