Saturday, February 28, 2015
What flips your switch, lights your fire, brings you to life?
When I moved into my office, I remarked to director that I would bring in the diplomas and licenses and put up the "credibility" wall - he said, "put up what makes you happy to be here." It was nice to fill the office with things that I enjoy being around, at times it is travel pictures, at the moment bright colorful paintings.
What I read can inspire me. Some of my professional reading includes reading about dementia, dying and death - not exactly cheerful stuff. It can inspire me to do good work to improve the quality of life at the end of life. But to maintain my emotional balance, I have to intersperse this reading with things reading that is fun, some humor, a lot of travel narrative, some business and communications. I can and need to control the balance of what comes into my mind.
I can be inspired by things that make me happy, comfortable and good, and also by things that make me uncomfortable or angry. I prefer the good, but I need the bad, I try to balance the two.
The more I understand about what inspires me, the more I can introduce these elements into my life and try to keep the lights on.
Friday, February 27, 2015
What have I done this week to bring comfort, joy, happiness, well being, beauty, laughter and goodness into the lives of others? Facebook and the blogosphere are filling with tributes and sadness at the passing of Leonard Nimoy. He brought entertainment, happiness and enlightenment in his life. I really don't want people to be sad when I am gone, I want them to celebrate while I am here, and when I am not for people to think, he did some good, brought some joy, enlightened a few, created some beauty, helped people laugh and in general made the world a little better by being here. I am not worried about what lies beyond this life, while I am here I might as well have some fun, and bring some comfort and joy.
I write a little, this blogging effort is forcing me to write more, and the more I do, the easier it seems to be. I do work that helps others, though anymore it is more helping the helpers then it is helping people directly. I try to create a little beauty - I have created a handful of memorable photographs and a couple of paintings (oh- few people know that I paint.) I love to cook and try to bring joy to others with good food and fellowship. The only way my music ever brought joy, was when I stopped - but I do share the music of others. I am a listening ear - and try to bring comfort to others. I inherited a sarcastic streak that is funny when I control it, and caustic when I don't. I have a tiny bit of influence in my work, I try to use it for good - to make the world a happier, safer, healthier place to grow old.
So what have I done this week, a little? I hope all of the little things add up to enough when I am done.
Thursday, February 26, 2015
Wednesday, February 25, 2015
Tuesday, February 24, 2015
I am amazed at how much computers have changed our lives, in my lifetime. I bought my first computer from Radio Shack in the early 1980's a TRS-80 Color Computer, with 16 MB of memory and an external data cassette tape drive. It came with a book on how to write your own software in basic DOS, and snap in read only memory software cartridges, a very rudimentary word processing and the easiest to use spread sheet program I have ever used. I wrote a software program to calculate mortgage payments and closing costs that was copied and developed over a period of 10 years by a couple of colleagues.
Ten years later, along came Windows. Windows is a huge step forward from writing your own in DOS, but the bane of our existence. I don't know what was happening in the office this afternoon, but Chrome worked fine and connected to the internet and gmail, but Internet Explorer and Outlook would not work. IT called it a network issue, but it was really a Windows issue.
I have two laptops. A 10 inch Windows machine that I use when I have to. It runs Office, and has an old style receptacle to plug in a digital projector. Almost every time I travel with it, I threaten to toss it on the floor and stomp on it. It has a habit of downloading updates - tying it's limited resources - at the least opportune time. One of these days, it is going over the rail into the parking lot from the 20th floor. The other is an 11 inch Chromebook. I love my Chromebook. It is light weight, fast, it is great for email and web-browsing, most of my blog postings are created on the Chromebook (blogger is owned by Google) they have an app for that. I use google apps to open and edit Word Docs. It is a little basic, but it will get the job done. The presentations app, has compatibility issues with Power Point. It will open a PP file, or create a file that can be opened in PP, but the formatting changes. I am not a big spread sheet user, the best was the one for the TRS-80 - I think it was called Specatulator. I still miss it's simplicity. The weakness of the Chromebook is that it does not run Office (there is dispute over how well it runs Office 365 apps.) It has an HDMI port, but not the old fashioned port that most power point projectors use. I use it to take notes in meetings and enjoy traveling with it. Once or twice a month I get an arrow in the lower right hand corner of the screen that tells me an update is available. I turn the machine off and restart, a process that takes less then one-minute and the updates have been installed. How simple.
Monday, February 23, 2015
Only a few more weeks and spring has to be here, this cold silliness can't go on forever, it is not like we are in the Antarctic or something. Actually it might be nicer there then it is here in DC, it was warmer in Alaska the other day then it was here. The last time I was in Alaska I got to talking to guy running a tourist trap, he said he moved to Ketchican from Chicago, because the winters were milder in Ketchican then Chicago. Entirely possible, there is a coastal current that moderates weather right along the coast.
A high school class mate on Facebook commented this morning that Bald Eagles have returned to the thumb area of of Michigan. One less morning dove on his bird feeder, one well fed bird of prey for the day. Some days that is how it is, eat or be eaten. Aren't you glad the dinosaur birds don't swoop down out of the trees and grab lunch of the sidewalk? Well it would thin the slow one's out of the flock.
I had a momentary pause this afternoon and my mind started to wander, in a flash I was driving around the north shore of Oahu with the top down on the convertible. Then I was back in the my office trying to write an article explaining social media to people who are still using a Rolodex. It is nice to let the mind travel, as long as it keeps coming back home.
Sunday, February 22, 2015
Saturday, February 21, 2015
I have lust in my heart, for cooking. I read and collect cookbooks, but seldom follow recipes. I am a better cook, then baker, because I don't do well at following directions. As a child I colored outside the lines and insisted that it was possible for there to be purple kittens. For me cooking is about a concept, technique and method - it is not a chemistry formula to be followed. When I say I read cook books, I really do read them, exploring the way that ingredients are put together. The great cook books include narrative describing method and technique. I love exploring ingredients and seeing how minor changes in ingredients makes subtle changes in the finished dish. There is a downside to this. I can't always duplicate my successes - anyone can duplicate a failure. Until I started trying to describe recipes for this blog, I never really thought about what I put in. I buy what looks good in the market, and add to it from what I have on hand that needs to be used (the shallots in the soup below is a good example.)
1 large onion chopped
3-4 stalks of Celery chopped
4-5 carrots chopped
1 shallot chopped (optional- I had it and needed to use it)
2 cloves of garlic chopped
sweet peppers chopped
1 box mushrooms quartered
2-3 small red skin potatoes quartered
1 medium can chopped tomatoes
1 cup favorite shaped pasta
3/4 to 1 pound beef pot roast (bone in if you can find it.)
2-3 strips of bacon chopped
salt and pepper
Chop the bacon and saute it over medium heat in a soup pot. Add the onions, add a splash of olive oil if needed. When the onions have started to cook, add the celery, carrots, shallot, garlic, peppers, potatoes, and mushrooms and allow to saute for 10-15 minutes. Add the canned tomatoes, and 2 cans of water. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add the beef and cover. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, reduce heat to low and allow to simmer for 3-4 hours. You want the beef to be cooked to the point that it breaks apart easily with a spoon. Adjust seasoning, add pasta, cover and allow to simmer an additional 20-30 minutes. The pasta will absorb much of the liquid - thickening the soup to a hearty soup.
For the beef for this I could have used stew beef, I found this nice slice of pot-roast. The bone rendered out nicely, adding a lot of flavor from the marrow (the center of the bone.)
Friday, February 20, 2015
It was 6 degrees this morning so I drove to the office, in Washington DC and parked in the garage in the building, The parking is all valet, allowing them to park cars 2 or 3 deep in parking spaces, there is no option, hand them the keys and they park it. This dent was not there when I handed them the keys just before 8:00 AM this morning, and it was when they brought the car back to me at about 4:30 this afternoon. The valet that brought the car out, called for a "manager." Who tried to debate with me if the damage was fresh, or was there before. The car was perfect when I dropped it off, dented when I picked it up. He had me fill out paperwork then said that they "would investigate and notify me within three business days of their determination." What is there to investigate, my car was perfect when I dropped it off and damaged when I picked it up. Instead the "manager" argues with me that he has to investigate and make a determination, and he can't tell me that they will fix my car. What crappy customer service.
Thursday, February 19, 2015
I am working on travel plans - what else would travel penguin do? I have a conference in Austin, Texas in early May. It is a conference I have been to year after year, and it is being held in my least favorite city in Texas. I felt obligated to submit a proposal to speak, so I did two, but not very well. I was thinking, I will do my part and hope that the proposals get turned down and I can skip the conference this year. No such luck, both made the agenda. I need to find a way to enjoy Austin. Maybe some good bbq, and a little rest. I will go on from there to Florida where I have a conference the following week. What was I thinking, two conferences back to back, being gone from the office for 12 days, I will be buried in work when I get back. I really should have said no thank you to Austin this year.
I have been working on comments to a government agency. I should have said, no thank you, when I was asked to work on them, but I was thinking "why not." I have sorted my way through a long a complex policy process. I actually wrote in an email that "if I appear to have bruises on my forehead, it was from all of the brick walls I ran into on this project." Word this afternoon that we have found a way to make it happen, well hopefully, there is a plan B if I run into another brick wall. I know our policy making process is complex, many- many lawyers trying to be careful not to piss to many people off. What was I really thinking, our assistant director wants to cut back on hours and surrender the management title, I'd like it and the raise that goes with it.
I keep trying to come up with something funny or inspiring. The muses are either frozen, or on vacation in the tropics. I keep thinking they will return, and they will, some sunny warm day.
Wednesday, February 18, 2015
Tuesday, February 17, 2015
Monday, February 16, 2015
A Taxing Subject – Inspired by Fearsome Beard at https://fearsomebeard.wordpress.com/2015/02/13/taxing-activities/
Sunday, February 15, 2015
Chop the bacon and place to brown in an oversize pot. Add a splash of olive oil, chopped onions and sliced mushrooms. Saute the onions and mushrooms and allow to slightly brown. De-glaze the the pot with a splash of port. Add chopped carrots, celery and peppers, cook for 5-10 minutes. Add the soaked white beans and water to cover, bring to a simmer. Split the pork tenderloin lengthwise and quarter, cut into 1/2 to 3/4 inch chunks. Add to the simmering soup. Cover, simmer on low to very low heat. Taste after an hour or so and adjust with salt and pepper. Simmer 3-5 hours covered, checking periodically. Add additional water if needed.
Saturday, February 14, 2015
Friday, February 13, 2015
My it was brisk outside this morning, 15 degrees with a 30 mile per hour wind out of the northwest. Walking to the car made my face and hands hurt. How cold was it, I drove to the office in DC traffic rather than face standing on the subway platform for 10-15 minutes waiting for the next train. If I drive to the office, I can park in the building, in a nice warm garage. If not for the traffic, and the cost of parking ($16 a day) I would drive to work more often.
I spent much of today trying to navigate office bureaucracy. The boss asked me to figure out how to submit comments to a federal agency. The how to do it is easy, go the website and drone on, any idiot can do that, and many will. The hard part is getting permission to do so without placing yourself at risk of being fired. There is a handbook on this, a handbook that intertwines two related but distinct processes for approval. There is a long check list of required elements in the request for permission, but no example of what this things should look like, and they expect it to look like all the others, Someone warned me that if it looked different, someone might actually read it instead of ignoring it. If everyone ignores it, it is approved. This is a process of trying to blend in and hoping that everyone ignores what you are requesting. Legal logic at it's best. I am glad I don't work for the most complex bureaucracy in town, not by a long shot.
Thursday, February 12, 2015
Wednesday, February 11, 2015
Do we want to be a carver of rock or a carver of ice. The person who sculpted this rock, a couple of thousand years ago, is long gone and forgotten, but their work lives on. If the same person had carved this in ice, it would have melted away long before they did. Is my work in ice or stone? Will I be history, or long melted away?
Tuesday, February 10, 2015
I am comfortable with that
learned to try to understand what I can do and what can I not do.
Monday, February 09, 2015
Sunday, February 08, 2015
Saturday, February 07, 2015
The Hawaiian adventure is coming to an end. It has been amazing, if a bit of a grind. Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday were 12+ hour work days. We met some really wonderful and welcoming people and saw some fascinating places. We provided training to nearly 500 professionals, that should have an impact on the lives of a lot of people. The airport in Kona, was described as huts, sort of Disney huts. Open air, outdoors. We were at a nice Marriott Thursday night. I may have left my heart in San Francisco, but the best I can tell I left my American Express card at the Marriott near Kona. I used it to pay for dinner, and the next time I looked for it, it was not in it's slot.It had been a 14 hour day, I think I left it in the restaurant. I called Amex customer service, and once we got past the I can't give you my card number, because I have lost my card, Amex, checked for charges, the last one was dinner Thursday evening (for the amount of the check, not including the tip.) They promptly cancelled the card, and will send a replacement. I was impressed with the service, the call took less then five minutes and within a couple of minutes I had an email confirming that they had closed the account and ordered a new one. I never leave home without 2 or 3 cards, so there is no issue with traveling home. I has been about 25 years since I last had to report a card missing or stolen, my ex had a card stolen in London the first time I was there - in 1990. I leave Honolulu about 1:30 on Saturday and change planes in LA and Philly and get home sometime mid morning on Sunday. I will try to post along the way.
Friday, February 06, 2015
I knew I was crazy when I committed to five workshops in five days in four different locations. We have had a couple of long days and one left to do. Then a 5000 mile trip home. It has been a good program. I am not sure I would commit to this aggressive of agenda again. But it has been a week in paradise. Is it paradise if you only see it in passing, kind of like postcards? I was warned about the cold weather on the big Island. It is only 66 this morning.
Thursday, February 05, 2015
I read about the chickens, Kauai is overrun with feral chickens. The T-Shirt said, Kauai 60,000 people and millions-and-millions-and-millions of chickens. The chickens are everywhere. There were chickens making little chickens under the hedge while we had lunch. The rosters, were crowing at the moon, street lights, tiki torches, I think even crowing at the blinking message light on my cell phone. I asked if anyone had tried opening a restaurant chain, Kauai Fried Chicken. The Judge, who was born and raised on the island said her grandmother has an old family recipe that would be perfect. Take a large pot, fill it about half full with water, put in the chicken, salt and pepper, a chopped pineapple, and a rock. Simmer until the rock is tender, toss out the chicken and eat the rock. Yes, they are kind of rough and tough little birds, I bet I could make a good chicken stew with one. Like the one that was crowing on the terrace of my hotel room at about 4:30 this morning.