Saturday, October 31, 2015

Did anyone notice?

Did anyone notice I am late with today's update?  Kind of like the hands fell off the clock, my update didn't post at 6:00 AM Eastern Time.

My schedule calms down a little now, I should get caught up and back ahead of the blog and other responsibilities.  National Aging and Law Conference  was a success.  We had over 160 attendees, the agenda worked perfectly, we stayed on schedule, the food was very good and everyone seemed to feel it was a very good program.  I am glad it is finished for this year, and yes I am already making plans for next year.

The Conference kind of ground me up for the past three days, I have spent far too much time on my feet with never enough sleep.  I had over 8 hours of comfortable sleep last night, a good step on getting back to "normal."  Only a couple of projects that need to be moved this month, then time to shift into neutral for the holidays.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Changing Planes

The flight attendants said, we will be holding here at the gate for some last minute luggage to be loaded.  I looked out and saw the coffin, then the honor guard came out an loaded it into the cargo compartment of the plane.  I snapped a couple of quick shots with my phone.  I didn't post them, I felt guilty about it.  I don't remember where I was going, I was changing planes in Atlanta.  But there it is, you can't get to heaven or hell, without connecting in Atlanta.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Celebrity Chefs

The modern celebrity chef is a creation of cable TV.  Prior to cable TV networks, celebrity chefs created memorable restaurants and maybe a masterwork cookbook.  Today celebrity chefs are entertainers. Food television is all about entertainment, not teaching or learning about cooking.  Julia Child showed a recipe, listed ingredients and proportions, and demonstrated techniques.  Not much of that in today's food television.  The difference between a decent home cook and a great home cook is mastering technique, starting with knife skills, sauteing, frying, grilling, roasting, boiling, simmering, and basic sauce making.  I like reading cook books.  Most read like chemistry books, the worst of them warn against varying from the recipe, as if leaving out or substituting one ingredient will result in a culinary disaster.  Great cook books talk about technique and concept.  If you understand technique and concept, you can widely vary the ingredients and create great masterpieces.  This is what great chefs do.  Jamie, Mario, Emeril great modern innovators,  great modern celebrity chefs.  

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Letter Writing

Email has overtaken written interpersonal communication.  When was the last time you received a letter in the mail from a friend or family member?  When was the last time you sent one?  This week we received a nice note along with a CD with wedding pictures on it from a friend.  The same friend had sent me a very nice personal note when I was home recovering in June.  I responded to the get well letter, that was probably the last personal letter I have sent.  I send the occasional business letter - it can be an amazingly effective communications method.

My maternal grandparents didn't have a phone for the last 25 years of their lives.  If they were coming by for a visit, my grandmother would send a note or a short card saying when they would be by and a short chatty message about what was happening, almost always closing with "that is all for now the mail is coming down the road and I need to run."  I doubt that my mother kept any of those notes - she considered such things clutter.

My grandparents were very much from the era of using letters and notes to communicate with family and friends.  None of my grandparents finished high school, but all could read and write, three of the four at a very high level, there is a difference between intelligence and education, they were bright people with very limited educational opportunities.

When my paternal grandfather died, my grandmother went through the small chest of drawers that had been his bedside table for 50 years.  That was his private and personal space and she said she had never looked in it before.  She found two things that surprised her, several thousand dollars in cash.  He has squirreled away a few dollars out of his weekly cash allowance for decades, all in neat stacks in the middle drawer.  It was what she found in the bottom drawer that moved her the most, every letter he had ever received was there, in neat bundles, tied with string. In her 20's my grandmother had gone to help her mother while she recovered from burns in a kitchen accident. While she was gone she wrote my grandfather a daily letter, everyday for a month, all of those letter were together in one bundle.  Another bundle was all of the weekly letters my father had sent home to his father when my father was in the Army for 18 months at the end of World War II. Other bundles were other family events. No one knew he had kept all of these. I wonder what happened to them, my grandmother kept them, but when she moved to assisted living my mother and my aunt cleared out her house.  I regret not calling in sick to work for a couple of days to go be a part of that.  Some of the items went home with my Aunt - who died mere weeks after my grandmother, little went home with my parents - mom was not much for such clutter.  Most went in the trash or on the yard sale. No one will find or read our emails after we are gone.  (A file of automotive history was lost, my grandmother had the bill of sale on a new Ford, Mercury or Lincoln, every other year, from the late 1930's though the late 1970's - my mother tossed it without a thought.)

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

More Wedding Pictures 

To Much To Close

My calendar this month feels a bit like the two cars above, far to much packed far to closely together.  I started out the month in Cincinnati, with two nights and three days of intense (read 12 to 17 hour days) working on a program review for a funder.  I returned from that with another half-a-dozen interviews to do by phone and a massive report to write - due November 9th.  The middle of the month was our quarterly board meeting at work, that we hold three times a year.  It was an in person meeting, so there was a late dinner the night before, the day after that we got married.  This past Friday and Saturday I was at a conference interviewing law students for summer internships - Saturday was a waste of time 2 out of the 3 students scheduled for interviews failed to show up.  This Tuesday I have an annual partners meeting for the project that funds 80% of my time at work, I get to be the asshole and tell them what we have screwed up for the past 7 years.  Wednesday afternoon I check into a hotel and do a walk through with the hotel staff for the National Aging and Law Conference, I produce the project, Thursday and Friday will be 12+ hour days.  Then I need to finish the Cincinnati report and work on a research project that is now three months behind schedule - only one hour of work was done on it when I was out on medical leave for 9 weeks this summer.  All a little much packed in kind of tight.

Monday, October 26, 2015

5 Favorite Wild Places

Keeping with the list theme, here are a few of my favorite places in the United States, and not in a city.

  1. The Grand Canyon, I have been there four times, twice as a child and twice as an adult, and I would go back.  There is a spectacular view around every bend and the colors change in the shifting light.  
  2. Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge.  When the federal government was buying land for the Kennedy Space Center in Florida two factors were considered, rockets sometimes go blow up at unexpected times and some of the things they do they don't want prying eyes watching, so we bought land, lots and lots of land.  Bug parts of it are wild and natural and make up the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge.  Over the years what is open to the public has changed, at the moment a lot of it is open and worth the visit. 
  3. The "Badlands" in South Dakota.  Mt Rushmore anchors the corner of this rocky region, well worth the day or two to explore. 
  4. Skyline Drive, Shenandoah National Park.  This is about 100 miles west of Washington DC and runs along a mountain ridge.  It is a spectacular drive, with miles of hiking trails.  A great place to see bears. 
  5. Mt Washington, New Hampshire.  For decades, home to the highest recorded wind speed in North America, in the fall the colors are spectacular.  The Cog-railway up the mountain side is well worth the ride.  

Sunday, October 25, 2015

10 Favorite US Cities

I love to travel and I love cities, so here is my top 10 list of American cities, in no particular order. 

  1. Washington, DC, I liked DC well enough to move here. As a center of politics and power it is always an interesting place, there is a lot of history, some monumental architecture, and some great art in the city. 
  2. San Francisco, CA, SF is a wonderful city in a spectacular location, surrounded by the bay, with beautiful views.  The neighborhoods of SF are wonderful, Union Square, SOMA, the Castro, Fisherman's Wharf, China Town, North Beach, the business district, the Embarcadero.  
  3. Chicago, IL, Chicago is known as the second city, because it was largely rebuilt after a devastating fire in the late 1800's.  The city as we know it was built during a period of great city architecture and is home to blocks and blocks of iconic buildings.  The location on the river and lake grounds the city. 
  4. Denver, CO.  The Mile-High City has a wonderful downtown area with a massive pedestrian zone, set with a backdrop of the Rocky Mountains. 
  5. San Diego, CA.  San Diego is in a spectacular southern California coastal setting, great food, wonderful views and a really neat climate.  
  6. Philadelphia, PA.  Downtown Philly has history, architecture, the Mint, and great art.  It is a relatively walkable city. 
  7. New York, NY.  I have a love hate relationship with NY.  The city is the biggest and boldest, with a wonderful skyline and every kind of restaurant and shopping you could imagine (and many you can't imagine.)  It is not the center of the universe or representative of the United States, visiting NY and saying you have seen to the United States is like visiting London and saying you have seen the England.  
  8. Boston, MA.  I have only been to Boston once and I have to say, it is a great city.  The city core is compact and filled with history.  It is on the water, an easy city to see by bike. 
  9. New Orleans, LA.  If you go to New Orleans and you don't have at least a little fun, there is something wrong with you.  The French Quarter, Bourbon Street, and the Garden District offer an amazing array of food and drink.  There is some interesting shopping, lots of history, and some of the most amazing food in North America. J and I spent a week eating our way through the French Quarter one trip - Oh My!  
  10. Savannah, Georgia.   Savannah is clearly the smallest city on this list, and the area of interest is the historic district anchored by River Street.  Savannah has water front with a deep water port on the river, history going back to colonial days, great food (seafood- eat local,) antique shopping and is simply charming.  It is one of the few places I go back to over and over again, even at my own expense.    

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Married Life

So, a week in how is married life?  Much the same as the last 23 years.  One thing that has changed is being able to describe my husband, as my husband. I started out 23 years ago with gender ambiguous pronouns.  I moved from there to other half, or significant other, once in a while partner.  Partner was problematic, as a lawyer they wanted to know what kind of law my partner practiced.  I seldom corrected anyone who referred to him as her, or as a wife.  As time progressed I became more likely to refer to J as he.  Over time I became more likely to correct.  I have tried over the years, using husband, but if asked, I had to explain the complications of marriage.  Yes we could have married in Iowa a decade ago, but we would have been unmarried in the states that we lived in.

Marriage is the ultimate self outing.  When I refer to J as my husband, there is no question.

Go boldly, and be true to thine own self.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Not From Around Here Are You?

With very few exceptions, we are all descendants of immigrants, people who are not from around here.  My father's mother was born in London, her father was English, her mother was Welsh. The Godfrey clan is most likely English or Irish.  My mother's family has an Irish last name, but claimed to be german, her mother we believe was half native American - but records are scarce - my maternal great-grandmother died young and the family nearly erased all traces of her existence.  But clearly most of my ancestors are not from around here, some go back to the Mayflower - undocumented immigrants and religious fanatics at that.

There is a lot being said about immigration by Presidential candidates and most of it is troubling.  I was surfing by and caught one of the entertainers on Fox "News" pummeling some guy trying to put words in his mouth that immigrants are rapists and murderers - he was not skilled in Aristotelian logic - and was not succeeding at changing the subject.  Sorry - sometimes you have to admit the ugly truth and classify it as true but a minority of the minority.

All of us have moments when it would be so much easier if the rest of the people perceived the world as we do, spoke the same language, dressed the same, acted the same, and smelled the same.  Before the politically correct movement made it racist it was  acceptable to blurt out, "in English - you are in the USA" as I have been told "in French - you are in France you know" a time or two.

I have entered 15 other countries.  Most are concerned about who enters, how long they are going to stay, and want assurances that the person is going to leave. A couple didn't seem to care, to get into Mexico I merely walked past the policeman with the machine gun - no one asked to see my passport, and you can walk off a plane into Iceland and no one cares what your passport looks like.  I guess they are not concerned about millions of people going there and staying forever. I suspect that even in Mexico or Iceland if I go to get a job, or buy property, someone will care - there will be some legal standard for working or living that I would need to meet.  Most countries have laws to assure that foreigners don't become a burden on society by taking jobs, and consuming public services.

The US has immigration laws. Foreigners who want to legally move here for a long term, or who wish to work here and want to do so in compliance with the laws, face a steep but not insurmountable task.  Traveling around the world, to places I consider to be pretty nice, I am surprised that people still see the US as the land of opportunity. Immigrants from places we consider nice, face the same hurdles as  people from not so nice places.  I had a friend who moved here from Iceland, it took her over 6 years to get permission to remain permanently and work.

Many people ignore the immigration laws. It is not hard to do, show up looking prosperous, with a hotel reservation for a couple of weeks, and a return airline ticket and be admitted as a tourist and never take the flight home.  Enforcement of immigration laws is unlikely to effect you, unless you get caught working illegally, break the law, become a political dissident, or have other legal issues.  You can own property here without having legal immigration status, it is getting harder to have a driver license. You could buy a million dollar apartment in Trump Tower and ride the subway for decades and never hear from ICE.

If I ignore the laws and break criminal  laws I am committing a crime.  The politically correct movement says we can't call these people illegals, actually more accurately, they are criminals. The scope of the situation is almost unimaginable, someplace between 10 and 20-million people are in the US, not in compliance with immigration laws.  We really don't know how many people - as long as they stay off the radar - they can hide in plain sight.  In many ways we are one of the easiest countries in the world, because we don't issue a national ID card, we don't require proof of who people are for housing, utilities, we are lax on employment, and health care.

How do we fix this?  Taking 10,000,000 people out of the workforce could be devastating to our economy. We are facing a shrinking labor pool, we will face a serious shortage of workers over the next 20 years as we baby boomers retire, even without uprooting 10-million people. Many of the people have been here for decades, some arrived here as children and have grown up here.  It is hard to imagine uprooting them and sending them away (to where?) At the same time I am bothered by allowing people who have ignored and thereby broken our laws to stay.  What message would it send to the millions who have waited in line to immigrate legally if we allow the illegals to stay?

I don't know what the answer is here.  Ignoring the laws that we haven't bothered to enforce bothers me, enforcing the laws bothers me.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Mercedes Museum

Tickets to the Mercedes museum came as part of the factory delivery package.  We went to the main train station and took the light rail line toward the museum.  First we stopped, then there was an announcement in German, we sat for about 15 minutes and started talking with young man across the aisle.  He was an engineer from Canada working in Switzerland.  He was traveling on weekends, seeing as much of Europe as possible.  He thought from what he understood of the announcement, that there was a change in service, there was - the station by the museum was closed for repairs, the train zoomed by - the next stop was a couple of miles down the road.  The cute young engineer helped us find the shuttle bus, the bus stopped in front of the museum.

I looked at the tickets, and looked at the line, and read the signs in German, and asked "do we need to stand in the ticket line, when we already have tickets?"  J asked, we didn't, away we went.  The elevators in the grand atrium take you to the top and the tour starts there.  The tour runs in a circle around the building, going down layer by layer.  What a fantastic collection and what a fantastic space.  Well worth the day.

When we finished we went outside and discovered that there was a football game in the Mercedes stadium across the street, the streets were closed, the buses were not running.  I braced for a long walk. Just then a taxi turned the corner, I waived, he pulled over and picked us up, taking us back to the hotel.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Why I need a kitchen when I am traveling

I love to cook, I enjoy artistically putting ingredients together and creating something interesting, and tasty.  I enjoy good knife work, getting ingredients ready to cook, and the act of cooking.  It really is alchemy, cooking transforms ingredients into something different.

Part of this is the search for great ingredients. When I am home, I go to the local farmers markets, ethnic markets, and specialty supermarkets.  I don't have a food budget, don't pay much attention to what I spend. Quality and selection is much more important then money when I am buying edibles.  When I travel I visit local markets, supermarkets, and farmers markets and you never know what you are going to find.  Truffles for 1-euro a gram.  When I can find them in the US, truffles are 3-4 times that price.  And I didn't have access to a kitchen,  Oh my, I was mildly heartbroken.  Next trip!  

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Autumnal Joys

New Hampshire, 2009
The weather has definitely started to change, autumn is upon us.  Living this far north, that means the deciduous trees will drop their leaves.  How much color change we will get depends on a lot of factors.  We are also far enough south that this process may take a couple of months, or if we get a couple of nights below freezing, it may happen fast.  The color is one of the joys.

I like to make soups and stews when the weather is cooler.  I made chilli on on Sunday.  It is fun at this time of the year to cook things that can simmer for hours warming the kitchen and then warm you again when you enjoy them.

I find joy in the cool autumn mornings, not so much the cool moving to cold nights as the climate control switches from air conditioning to heat, and back aging sometimes the next day. (I do like the automated system, I set the temperature in the house a couple of times a tear, and the systems do their things to keep us comfortable.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Artistic Outlets

Saturday we invited guests to come back to the condo after lunch for drinks and to continue the conversation and a houseful showed up.  It was wonderful, and also revealing.  Only a handful of people have visited the condo before, there were more people here Saturday, then there has been in the 6 years I have owned the place combined.  And they get a chance to see how we live.  One of the discoveries for many was that I like to paint.  I do abstract, color work. Nearly all of the art on the walls in the Condo is something I have done.  There is also a pile against the wall in my bedroom of work that I have finished and will never put up.  I should break then down and toss them.  For most of the guests it was the first time they knew that I try to paint.

I painted as a teenger, trying to do realism, I sucked at it.  There are a couple of those still around.  Near the end of that era I did a couple of abstract color paintings, I loved them, my father thought they were a waste of paint and wasn't shy about saying so.  I stopped because I ran out of space and muses.  Over the decades I would periodically buy paint and other supplies and dabbled a couple of times in watercolor or other media.  When I moved the condo, and I have those long winters here alone when J. is teaching, I decided I would see if I could still paint.  My bedroom is large enough to have a work space near the window.  I enjoy painting.  I like working on large pieces,  the current canvas is 24 by 24, there are several blank 30 by 40s ready to start.

We all need to exercise our artistic side.  I write for this blog, cook, take photographs and paint.  Doing this releases my mind to think differently.  I could list the things I can't do, but better to focus on what I can do.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Married 2015

On Saturday October 17th, James (Jay) and I were married at Jones Point Light over looking the Potomac River.  This was followed by lunch at Gadsby's Tavern in Old Town Alexandria.  We kept it very small, only 20 people, close family and friends.  It was amazing, and wonderful.   Thanks to all that were here.  Sorry to all that were not told (invited) we really wanted to to keep it small.

Getting Married

We are getting married this afternoon.  Please don't feel left out, we have kept it very small.  It was hard limiting the list, we been very quiet about it to keep the day from getting away from us.  We wanted something small, quiet - something that didn't overwhelm us with details.  We are dressing casually - with the exception of matching bow ties. The cake is chocolate and reportedly has sheep on top (I hate the plastic bride&groom or groom&groom toppers.)  We are trying to avoid the stereotypical wedding - after all this is a new kind of a married couple. After 23 years we couldn't be much more married, this will allow the law and society to recognize the relationship.

23 years ago today, Jay and I made a home together.  He moved into my place, we merged our belongings and our lives.  Around that time I asked him to marry me and he said, "don't be ridiculous, two men can't do that." Well times have changed, and when he asked me this summer after the Supreme Court ruled that we can do that, I said YES!.  We began planning and decided that keeping the anniversary the same would be a wonderful idea, and wonderfully enough October 17th fell on a Saturday.

We have a permit to host the event in a national park in Alexandria, followed by lunch for about 20 family and friends at a restaurant in Alexandria that has been serving since 1770- George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin ate there. George had a townhouse a couple of blocks away and was a leader in the Episcopal Church just up the street (you can sit in his box when you visit the church.)

Yes pictures will follow.  Soon.  

What am I most looking forward to? Saying, "My Husband."  

Friday, October 16, 2015


Oh my god, I am old, I just realized I have had a drivers license for 40 years this month.  How can that be?  I didn't care if I got a license or not, my father insisted that I take drivers education classes, get a learners permit and take the driver test.   Much my surprise I passed.  I will never forget the parking part of the driving test, I figured parking was a sure fire fail for me, I was always told that I was very uncoordinated.  As we approached the department of motor vehicles office at the end of the driving test the examiner pointed to an empty parking lot at a new Bell Telephone office building next door and said, "get it in there and get it stopped without hitting anything and you passed."  There was nothing to hit!  What could I do?  Soon my father's motives became clear, he would toss me the keys to the pickup truck and tell me to run and pickup supplies that he needed around the farm.  When I needed transportation for school events the following spring, he bought my grandfather's old pickup truck and handed me the keys (and a key to farm gas pump, I didn't know what gas cost until three years later.) 

I have driven just about everything from tiny cars to big box trucks. I have owned everything from a Renault Le-Car to a Cadillac Eldorado (I have owned 15 cars over the years,) I prefer small cars. They are easy to drive, easy to park (parking still haunts me, but other than an oil fired furnace I have never hit anything when parking.) 

I saw the car above in Munch near the market one morning.  It looks like such fun to drive.  

Thursday, October 15, 2015

What Makes My Wheels Go Around

It has taken me years to figure out that I am a complicated person.  I have tried to understand what drives me and what holds me back.

We moved twice the first year I was in the first grade.  The resulting slightly irrational fear of failure, drove me to work very hard in college and grad school.  Understanding that one helped a lot.  I haven't done too bad in life for a kid who spent two years in the first grade.

Almost all of it in the eastern half of the United States, but my grandparents and parents traveled a lot. My family moved between Michigan and Florida 10 times while I was in middle school and high school. Easy to see how I grew to understand travel as the great adventure it is. The desire to travel, and making plans for the next trip, drive my actions in many ways.

My grandparents raised families in the great depression, my parents are children of the depression. The attitudes about money and debt were very conservative in our house.  This drives what I do, other than the purchase of real estate - and grad school, I have had very little debt in my adult life.  When I spend money on a credit card, the cash is already in the bank to pay the bill.  If I can't afford it, I don't buy it.  

I don't balance my checkbook. With online access I track what I have written in my book and what is showing up at the bank and make the occasional adjustment, but I don't set down and do a formal reconciliation.  One of my early memories of childhood is my mother obsessing for hours, in a demand of total silence as she went over and over the accounts, because the checkbook was off by 12-cents. Life is far to short to let a few dollars ruin your day and the day of those around you.


Wednesday, October 14, 2015


I am a pretty good shot. 

The NRA scares the hell out of me, and I scare them.  The NRA is nuts, with their scare tactics that any restriction on guns sales is the first step to the government coming door to door to confiscating your guns.  It ain't going to happen. They don't believe I can exist, I am moderately liberal gay man and I own four guns. I have never harmed a living thing with a gun. I grew up with guns around the house, my grandfather, father and oldest brother all hunted. From an early age I was taught to respect guns and to keep them safe. When I was a teenager my grandparents gave me a semi-automatic rifle. It has a high capacity magazine, it would fit some descriptions of an assault rifle, but it does not look like one.  The 20+ round magazine was so my grandfather could hunt rabbits all day without needing to reload. It is nice on the range, a lot less reloading. I have fired thousands of rounds of target practice with it (probably the reason my hearing is fading, in the 1970's no one thought of hearing protection - my ears would ring for a couple of hours when I came in from the back yard.) Yes, target practice was in the back yard, I grew up in the country.  

In my 40's I developed an interest in target shooting with handguns.  It is fun. My father gave me his Colt revolver, it has been in the house since I was three.  I have since bought two semi automatic pistols and a semi automatic shotgun. Why semi automatics? They are the easiest and in some ways most fun to shoot.  The higher capacity means less stopping to reload.  The changeable magazines allow me to load all at once, and shoot for a couple of minutes before stopping to load magazines.  When I bought one of them I could only get a 10 round clip, the next year I could buy 17 round clips for it - and I did. 

Should everyone have a gun? No. We have people living in our society who are a danger to themselves and others. Persons with mental illness and substance abuse, or people with a history of violent behavior should not have access to guns.  I control access to my guns carefully. When I talk to professionals about persons developing dementia, I tell them to get the guns and other weapons out of the house.  It is rare, but changes in mind and memory can lead to tragic results. Children shouldn't have access to guns, teenagers only with appropriate training and supervision (I had little supervision as a teenager.) 

Mental illness and substance abuse are included in the national background check system for buying a gun through a licensed firearms dealer.  If you check the box and self identify you are turned down. Reports of mental illness and substance abuse by professionals into the database are rare. The advocacy systems have fought mandatory reporting of serious mental illness and uncontrolled addiction into the national reporting data bases. Very few states collect and report the data, and even fewer mental health professionals report it.  The argument is that requiring reporting is a breach of confidentiality and will discourage people from seeking help.  That may be true, but it needs to be balanced against public safety and even the risk of harm to the patient.  Notice how many mass shooters, off themselves after taking out a classroom full of bystanders. I am not a fan of the nanny state trying to protect us from ourselves, but when professionals know that someone might be a danger, they should report.  We require eye care professionals to report people who are unsafe to drive.  Why not require professionals who believe someone might be unsafe to shoot? 

I am not really concerned about "closing the gun show loop-hole."  The vast majority of private gun transfers are not at gun shows and the vast majority of sales at gun shows are by licensed firearms dealers who must run the background check on every buyer.  There are hundreds of millions of guns in private ownership in the United States, it is a virtually impossible market to police.  The gun show loophole is political rhetoric. I am always reminded that the kid who killed his mother, school children and teachers, didn't own a gun, he used his mother's and she knew he was dangerous, but still allowed him access to guns.  How tragic, lock them up, keep them out of the hands of crazy people.  

You shouldn't own a gun if you don't know how it works, or are afraid of it.  I know people who own loaded guns, and have never fired one.  I can think of few things more dangerous, in a crisis, it is not going to protect you if you don't know how it works, and if you have never fired it, you don't know how.  Is it single action or double action?  Is it cocked? Is the safety on or off? If you don't know these things, find someone who does, or get rid of it. I hired a private instructor when I started shooting handguns. It was money well spent. Most professional ranges offer this service. 

I know people who own guns and are terrified of them.  They simply shouldn't own guns.  I know how mine work, I am not afraid of them. I would have to have my back against the wall with it being me the criminal getting ready to die before I would pull the trigger, but I could if I needed to.  

Oh and ammunition is much  cheaper in quantity.  Don't look at high volume ammunition purchases as a sign of something sinister.   500 to 1000 rounds at a time is a normal purchase unless you want to pay top retail price.  For my 22's, a box of 550 is about the same cost as two boxes of 50, for the 9mm, I can buy 1,000 rounds from a large volume dealer for about half the price of buying 50 rounds at a time. I can easily go through 200 rounds an hour in a good range.  If you want to get good, you need to shoot 100 rounds at a session, 2 or 3 times a week.  

Post script: I wrote this last Saturday evening, on Sunday morning the following story appeared in the Washington Post "Most gun owners support restrictions. Why aren’t their voices heard? 

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

What Is Happening in My World

Near Keflak Iceland
In no particular order what adventures are happening in my world:

  • I have been incredibly busy in the office.  I was in Cincinnati a week ago, I have a long report to write for that project. I have another project that is still behind schedule from being on medical leave in May and June. I have a major board meeting on Friday. 
  • I am chairing the National Aging and Law Conference the end of the month, a year in the planning, two day agenda with 28 sessions.  This is my second year chairing NALC - a lot of fun and a lot of work. We are opening conversations about a partnership with a major federal agency for 2016 that could double the size of the conference - they have the money - I have the expertise. 
  • I received word this week that I will be speaking at the Aging in America Conference in the spring. 
  • My mother had a bad infection this week, very scary for a day or so, but she seems to be doing better.  She is a tough old bird. 
  • The new baby (car) is ready for pickup, airline tickets have been booked and the car will be with us in 10 days or so (we bought him, through a dealer near the other house and have to go there to take delivery.)  
  • Plans are in place for Thanksgiving in Florida, I am making plans for a board meeting in California in late January (I am going to miss Ron and Pat's LA adventure by 5-6 days.) 
  • I rode a bike from the office to King Street last Friday afternoon, 9 miles in less than an hour.  I hadn't done that in about 15 months.  I had to push myself - but I need to do that.  Someone asked me the other day "when will you be back to 100%?" without thinking the answer emerged, "never."  But I am compensating well for my limitations and pushing myself to do as much as possible. I hurt on a daily basis, but that is life, welcome to the new normal. I can't let that hold me back from doing as much as I can do.  
  • J and I are getting married - soon - don't feel left out - we kept this very - very small.  I will write about that after it happens.   

Monday, October 12, 2015

Reflections on Columbus Day

It is Columbus Day, my office is closed.  I am not a fan of Columbus.  The claim that he "discovered" north America bugs me.  There is convincing evidence that other Europeans had been here long before, many people knew of a vast land between Europe and Asia.  There were people living in developed societies here. The logs from Columbus's journey have been translated and published, I have read them, he was very disparaging of the people he encountered.  They didn't live like Europeans, so he dismissed them as being barely human, hardly suitable for service as slaves.  Someone expressing such bigotry today, would not be honored with a national holiday.

Travel is a great adventure, and a tremendous learning opportunity.  A high school friend posted on FB the other day that Boris Yeltsin developed serious doubts about socialism, when visiting a super market in Houston Texas and was astounded by the abundance of food.  Travel changed his view, changed the political course of a nation, and the shaped the history of humankind.  I try to travel with open eyes and an open mind.  When I was a teenager I was moving back and forth between Michigan and Florida. Just in that short 1,200 mile difference, I found that people thought and lived differently, it was also the first place I encountered people who said, "we don't care how you do it up north."   And you know, I learned a lot from the native Floridians.

I love going off around the world - I have been in 12 time zones this year- and seeing what people think, what they eat, what they value, what their fears and dreams are. Columbus traveled with a closed mind.  We all measure the world against our understanding of the world.  The key to opening the adventure of travel, is to see the world with an open mind of possibilities. There is much to be learned from people and places that are different from back home.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

The Future of Reading

My how far we have come, how fast.  I bought my first desk top computer less then 20 years ago, it had an incredibly large 1-gig hard drive.  My phone has 48 times that much memory.  I remember buying my first digital camera about 10 years ago, thinking it was a nice novelty but really no replacement for my Nikon SLR.  Several month later I realized that the digital was so wonderful that I hadn't finished the roll of film in the Nikon, I haven't looked back.  When I bought my first "smart phone" a blackberry, I was lied to, the young man said after a couple of weeks they wouldn't be able to pry it out of my hands, he lied, it was only about two days.  But the thing that I have been most amazed by is my Kindle. I have barely opened a printed book since I bought the first Kindle. I review books for a journal my office publishes, one of the first things I do when someone sends me a book to review, is to look and see if I can buy a Kindle version.  I can carry a stack of books, in one small device, it is easy to carry, use, store.  I read more with it, then I did before it.  I can go back and pull up any book I have ever viewed on it.  I can read Kindle books on my phone, on a tablet, on my desktop computer, if I bookmark it on one, the bookmark shows up when I open the book on another device. E-books have gone from nothing to about 25% of publishing.  I have to think that they are going to grow.

Is my Kindle perfect?  No, this one has a touch screen, a random touch of the screen will change the page, a random thumb on the screen for 5 seconds can move the book 20 pages in one direction or the other.  If I touch a footnote when trying to change pages, the footnotes page comes up (I hate that.)  The non-touch screen model that they no longer make was easier to control.  I have broken two of the, had the battery go bad in one, and had a software failure on one, so I am on the fifth one.  Still I love it.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Trust and Peer Pressure

I was amazed in Germany, I bought a ticket for the subway, walked onto the platform and stuffed the ticket into my pocket.  I didn't need it to open fare-gates, I didn't need to validate it, I didn't need it to exit the system.  They trusted that if I boarded the train, I had paid.  While transit systems in the US spend millions trying to prevent fare jumpers and policing the entry gates, in Germany it is a part of the culture that if you are going to use public transit, you pay your share of the cost.  The guides said, if asked, you need to show a ticket, but that enforcement is rare.  Further reading was revealing.  Most public transit users are local - the same is true here - on the DC subway system locals outnumber tourists by at least 25 to 1.  In Germany the public embarrassment of being caught without proof of paying the fare, is enough to bring the vast majority in line. DC is about to commit to a very expensive upgrade of our fare collection system, what we need is a cultural change that eliminates the need for the system. Riding without paying is theft, and theft should be shameful, there should be nothing acceptable about being a thief or a thug.

Friday, October 09, 2015

The Pope's Wheels

When the Pope was in DC, New York and Philadelphia recently he was traveling in a Fiat 500 and Jeep, the previous Pope-Mobile was a bit more expensive, a Mercedes G class.   Now I know the current Pope is a modest man, he lives in a typical priests quarters, not the Papal apartments, he has even broken the tradition by not wearing the custom made red shoes.  But, I can't imagine giving up a Mercedes for a Fiat and a Jeep.   What would Janice Say?

Thursday, October 08, 2015

On Top

Icky weather last Friday evening as I was trying to get home to DC from Cincinnati. My phone started ringing in the middle of the closing conference and I silenced it, after the meeting I picked up the message and found that it had been the airline letting me know that my 7:30 PM flight had been canceled and wanting to know if I could board a plane in 20 minutes (I couldn't I was nearly an hour from the airport.) Next was an email saying that I was going home the next day.  I called, they rebooked me with a connection in Philadelphia (Hi Anne Marie!) going home that evening.

It rained some more and the flight to Philadelphia was delayed, and the flight from Philly to DC was delayed.  Finally we took off, five minutes later we were on top of the cloud layer, the first blue sky and sunshine I had seen in days.  We were late getting into Philly, but the flight from there was also delayed, then changed gates, then delayed again as the crew "timed out."  We did eventually make it into DC, I was home before 1:00 AM.  

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

How do you eat a whale?

How do you eat a whale?
One bite at a time!

With adventure being the first name, I'll try almost anything once, twice if I like it.  When I was planning the stop-over in Iceland I came across a Viking themed hotel and restaurant, it looked interesting, ultimately I booked at another hotel a mile or so up the road.  One thing that stood out was the very unique restaurant, and a menu with some adventuresome Norse and Icelandic specialties. And there it is number 26 on the menu, "grilled minke whale with creamy blueberry sauce." Tightly controlled commercial fishing of this species is allowed in waters near Greenland.

So how is it?  It was sliced thin and grilled.  It is a dense dark meat more like beef then anything you think of as fish (after all it is a marine mammal, not a fish.) The texture was beef like, along the line of a flank steak. It was good.  

Would I order whale again, yes.  I couldn't talk Jay into number 23, oh yes I would, at least once, twice if I like it. I did have number 23 the first time I was in Paris; it grossed out my X to no end.

Tuesday, October 06, 2015

Air Travel Today - don't take it personally

I know what seats I will be most comfortable in, on an airline flight.  I always try to select seats, once in a rare while I can't, airlines sometimes don't know what airplane they will fly on a flight, or the plane type changes at the last minute, or simply the reservation system is messed up and won't work.  Airlines are making it more difficult to select a seat, in hopes of selling you a seat upgrade.  I think that is evil and try to avoid it.  Then there is Friday's experience, of canceled and delayed flights, when no one has any idea what flight they will be on or what seat they will be in, we all just want to get home.  Under those circumstances as long as I am not standing on my head in the aisle I am just glad to be in a seat headed home.

It gets complicated when flights are in chaos and people are traveling together.  Shortly after I settled into my last overbooked, delayed by hours flight Friday night a woman came down the aisle with a teenager and a second daughter about 10.  She sent the teenager back to the row behind me, and stuffed herself and the younger daughter into the row ahead of me.  A couple of minutes later the person who had a boarding pass for the seat in front of me appeared, looking for her seat.  The family had three seats in three separate rows, the woman's reaction was "why would he do this to me and my family, see what he has done to me?"  Well poo happens, I wanted to tell her to not take it personally.  Your 10 year old will do okay sitting next to a stranger for 30 minutes, she might even grow from not being under mom's wing for 30 minutes.  It was a tiny 48 passenger jet, mom was not going to be far away.  What "he" had done "to" this family was get them on a jet to their destination.  They had the seats that were available, not the seats were not all together, but they were all on the same flight.  Mom's attitude of "poor little why would anyone do this to me?" really bugged me.  She needs to learn to not take it personally and to inspire a sense of adventure in her children.  When things don't go ideally - roll with it and embrace the adventure.

Monday, October 05, 2015

Back of the bus

So, I  booked a work trip through Orbitz, because I have to use them for work trips. I  booked on American Airlines,  but the flight was on USAir, but really on Air Wisconsin.  Oh joys.
Last week I had an email from AA about the flight and realized that I didn't have seats selected. I tried to do it and was told I couldn't.  Grr!
When I went to check in on AA I  was redirected to USAir. There I could check in and select one of the three open seats. Two in the very last row and one inside seat a few rows forward. 
So here I am,  across from the toilet on the plane.  About the least desirable seat on the plane.  Only a little over an hour.  I can do almost anything for an hour. 

Sunday, October 04, 2015

Alpine Lakes

We wound our way through a few dozen hairpin curves in the mountains of southern Germany, and Ms Garmin showed a lake ahead, around one last corner and there it was, glimmering like a diamond.  The caribbean blue seeming oddly out of place in the mountains. The German Alpine Road ran along the shore, parks, beaches, and boat houses between the road and the lake.  Wow what colors.  The road rambled around several lakes, but only one had this magic color.  

Saturday, October 03, 2015

The Porsche of the sky

I remember reading about the development of a Porsche aircraft engine in the 70's or 80's.  Most single engine aircraft are powered by horizontally opposed air cooled engines. In that era, most were made by Lycoming or Continental (there are a couple of newcomers to the market - but these two still dominate.)  VW and Porsche also used a horizontally opposed air cooled engine design. There have been experimental aircraft powered by automotive engines.  There are issues with weight, and reliability that have to be dealt with. Because an airplane can't pull over on the shoulder of the road if something breaks, the engineering and quality standards are extremely high.

Porsche was enticed into an engineering project to develop an aircraft engine. The picture above is the factory test craft.  In the end - the project was successful, but the decision was made not to proceed with manufacture.  No real explanation why, but this artifact remains.

Seeing it in an aircraft museum outside of Munch, triggered memories for me. It is mythical, you have read about it, but never seen it, never confirmed that it really existed.  Kind of like coming across a unicorn.

Friday, October 02, 2015

Early Morning Memories

I seldom see the sunrise anymore, I am usually up at that hour, but alas at my computer reading blogs and assessing the state of the world for the day.  I like sunrise.  When I was in high school in winter - in Florida, I rode a bike to school, watching the sunrise over the Indian River and the Kennedy Space Center. I was "mooned" by a car load of classmates early one morning. Later when I lived in Orlando during  my gym-bunny days, I ran early in the morning 4-5 days a week.  My favorite course started on Park Avenue in Winter Park across from City Hall, went north on Park past the tony shops to the golf course, east to Lake Osceola, back south to Aloma and back to Park Avenue.  It would take about 25 minutes, long enough to go from dark to daylight as the sun rose across the lake.  I miss running.

When the weather is warm, there is a magic time just before sunrise, before the sun starts warming the world when the when the air is still and fresh.  I miss that.  I saw it once this past week.  I headed for the office unusually early a couple of times last week. Hence a couple of sunrises over the Potomac this past week.  The top is were I-495 passes Old Town Alexandria, the lower one is from the Metro bridge between Arlington and the District.

Thursday, October 01, 2015

Spending the Night in a former Seminary - Robert Schuman Haus - Trier Germany

The Front of the hotel
The hotel up the mountain side as viewed from the top of the Roman Gate in Trier 

The View from our room
Walking down the main floor corridor
We wanted to go to Trier in far west of southern Germany, the city has a Roman gate, and a couple of ancient churches.  When I went to book hotels prices were rather high, one hotel site said something about special event pricing being in effect - there was a Rally Race arriving in town the day were leaving and hotels were a bit crazy.  I did a little wider search and found the Robert Schuman Haus, 1.9 miles east of the city, for a good price. The pictures looked interesting and I booked.

Arriving was a bit of an experience, you go across the river from the city, and turn right up a mountain side, when the road turns into a one lane paved cow path through the trees, the signs say you are almost there, and then the parking lot, on a cliff appears.  I looked at the building and the largely empty parking lot and wondered if we were in the right place.  It looked like a monastery or a convent.  We went into reception, and yes we were in the right place, and we were on the right track, the building is a former seminary - converted to a hotel and conference center.

Our room was on the top floor with a wonderful view of the city across the river.  The room was large, comfortable in that mid-century modern Catholic architecture sort of way, clean and quiet. It was delightful.  The weather was nice and we slept with the windows open, the room was not air conditioned (one of only two on the continent this trip sans-air-conditioning.) The parking lot filled overnight.  

Boat Ride

My one-and-only Aunt and Uncle lived in a house on Lake Orion, north of Detroit when I was growing up.  I was ring-bearer in their wedding.  Richard had bought the house on the lake just before they married, so he would have a place for a boat that he had bought from one of his mother's neighbors, who had won it on the "Price is Right." As a child I would spend a couple of weeks each summer with them, and I developed a love of small boats.  I have never owned one, I should some day.  When I get a chance for a boat ride, I take it.

We spent a night in a spa town called Bad Wiessee  on Lake Tegernsee, Bavaria, Germany.  We walked down along the lakefront and I noticed half-a-dozen identical small boats on the lake. Then I discovered the boat house and attempted to read the sign in German, I figured out that the boats were electric powered and available for rent.  I asked how much, 10-euros for 30 minutes.  I jumped at the opportunity.  2 minutes later we were pulling away.  I was amazed at how simple the rental was, I handed the young man the cash, he shouted to one of his co-worker that he had two in English please for a green boat (a little larger size than the red boats.) We walked out the dock, and the guy helped us board and explained the operation and one and only safety guideline, don't go within 40 meters of the shore or the rocks will tear the drive line out of the boat.  No paperwork, no waivers of liability, the switch is on you are ready to go.

And so we went for a ride, nearly all the way across the lake, looped around, did a couple of lazy circles to take some pictures and back right on time.  Can you tell from the look on my face that I was having a great time.  I really should buy a boat.