Saturday, December 31, 2016

The Last Five Questions about the Adventure of 2016

Once again, I am going to do my five questions on Saturday this week, so I can do my traditional New Year's Resolutions post on Sunday.  

1: What was your greatest adventure of 2016? 
2:  A lot of the Adventures of Travel penguin involve hotel stays, how many nights did you spend in hotels in 2016? 
3: What was the farthest you traveled from home in 2016? 
4: What adventure did you experience in 2016, that you would love to repeat?  
5: What adventure are you planning for 2017?

My Answers: 
1: What was your greatest adventure of 2016? - going to Italy, there are a few highlights, seeing the inside of the Colosseum, the Pope, Venice and having my picture taken in a Ferrari. 

2:  A lot of the Adventures of Travel penguin involve hotel stays, how many nights did you spend in hotels in 2016? 42 nights, slightly above my 12 year average of 37.33 nights per year, yes I have a record of every hotel I have stayed in for the past 12 years. 

3: What was the farthest you traveled from home in 2016?  Rome, about 4,500 miles.  And I was as far west as San Francisco a little over 6,200 miles from the farthest west to the farthest east. 

4: What adventure did you experience in 2016, that you would love to repeat?  I'd go back to Italy, on the drop of a hat. 

5: What adventure are you planning for 2017?  Gee, I asked the question, and I don't have a clear answer.  I am going to Boston, Newport Rhode Island, and Newport Beach, California.  Those are all work.  I will be in Florida a few times.  I should check a couple of things off the bucket list, a balloon ride in Florida?  Drive an Indy car?  We will see.  

Friday, December 30, 2016

Holiday Rambling

I posted this picture on Facebook on Christmas day and received a stream of Merry Christmas comments, either no one noticed, or no one mention the joke hidden in the image.  Go ahead and take a moment to see if you can find what is really kind of strange in the image.  Yes, there is, a sheep wearing viking horns in the bottom left of the image.  He says he is a Nordic sheep.  The terrace gnome, and mini Zeppelin are nothing unusual.  

We had a quiet Christmas at home. I was off for three days, and didn't move the car.  I did hit the gym at least once each day.  It was nice to spend a couple of quiet days together with no agenda, the best Christmas gift, a gift of time with someone you love. 

I am working this week.  It gives the appearance that someone is working in my section.  Most of my colleagues are off.  It is also a quiet week when I can work on projects. 

DC is bracing for the inauguration.  Hotels are starting to sell out, for the event and for the protests.  It would be a good weekend to be out of town, but my office has decided we need to work.  I will likely telecommute that day.  

We will be home for New Year's.  I almost always am.  As an old friend of mine put it, New Years Eve is amateur hour for drunk drivers, people who don't normally drink and drive, try to on New Years Eve. It is a good evening to stay home, off the streets.   I will stay up late.

The weekend posts are already written and scheduled. With this I have made it through the year without missing a day.  I look forward to looking back as I create my annual state of the blog address for mid January.  

For next year, should I do a blog or more per day again?  Should I stick with the Sunday 5 questions for a second year? 

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Yes, It Is Real

I have a new addition to the collection on my desk, a taxidermy gator head. These are actually quite easy to find in Florida, they are described as "recycled scraps" from gator farming. He kind of reminds me of a few people - I won't say who.  A few years ago I saw a three foot taxidermy gator in an antique shop, and didn't buy it, I have regretted passing on that.  

I think I will put it on my desk in the office, it should scare the crap out of some people and gross out the vegetarians. 

What do you regret not buying when you had a chance? 

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Holiday Commute Observations

This was taken at 8:15 AM on the Friday before Christmas,  on any other Friday morning at 8:15 AM, half of the car would be full, sometimes 80% of the car is full at this station (the end of the line station near my condo.) We moved up the line a couple of stations and held in a station with the doors open.  The train operator announced that we would be holding because of a "sick passenger" on a train several stops ahead.  We held, and held, and held, about 20 minutes overall.  The guy sitting across from me was melting down, shouting into his phone about how Metro was screwing up his day.  All I could think was, "we are having a better day than the person being taken off a train by paramedics up ahead."   

And yet, I know my view of the world is not perfect.  That morning as I stepped out my door and walked to the elevator, I saw a very-large black man coming from the other end of the hallway.  I will admit that my initial thought, was who is he, and what is he doing here, am I safe? We met at the elevator and rode down together.  He introduced himself as Derick.  His wife has owned the condo for over a decade, they have been married 8 years.  He said, "I always try to introduce myself, people see this huge brown guy and wonder what I am doing here."  I am ashamed to admit, he is right.  I need to work on that perception of people. 

Is your "commute" impacted by the holiday season?  

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

2017 Christmas Letter

Our friendly bloggerhood shrink, Dr Spo, challenged us to write next year's Christmas or Holiday Letter now in 2016, and check on it regularly through the year, and see if we achieve what we project.  I have already written my 2017 goals email to run on New Years day.  So here is my attempt at next year's Christmas Letter.  

2017 was a fun and challenging year.  While no major trips were planned, it is hard to keep a traveling penguin home and four business trips and multiple trips to visit family were made.  Because of my parents failing health, I made several trips to Florida to check on them, and the begin settling their affairs.  While not pleasure trips, I did try to slip a little time in each trip to see old friends, revisit familiar stomping grounds and generally stop and smell the roses.  Life is to short, even if almost 90 years, to not enjoy the adventure along the way.  

In April I had a major conference in Boston.  It was a busy and hectic visit with a board meeting on one end and a major presentation on an emerging issue on the other.  I did manage to sneak away to visit Harvard Square, something I had never seen.  

The end of June I had a board meeting in Newport Rhode Island.  Jay went with me, for the first time to a NAELA board meeting.  

In November I had a board meeting and conference presentation in Huntington Beach, California, and I finally made good on my promise to add a personal day into a work trip.  It was great fun spending a couple of days exploring the Pacific coast just south of LA.  

Late this year, Jay received a retirement buy out contract from the University of Kentucky.  He has one more year to teach, then they will pay him for a year, then he is done.  We will be selling the house in Lexington late in 2018. I am also moving forward with plans to replace the kitchen in the condo, with plans to have it finished before Jay leaves UK a year from now.  

I have been saving up all year, and just splurged on something special for myself, I can't wait to see what it is.  

So what does your Christmas 2017 letter look like? 

Monday, December 26, 2016


My paternal grandmother was born in London, her mother, my great grandmother on my father's mother's side (following that?) was born in Swansea on the south coast of Whales.  Her name at birth was Mary Louise Broadhurst. Her father was a brick-maker.  Her mother was simply listed as housewife.  She was born about 1890, died in 1977 in Michigan.  

She married a former coal miner, turned tunnel digger and moved to London where my grandmother and her older brother were born.  On the eve of World War I, her father took a job digging tunnels in New York and the family moved to New York.  After World War i, he worked in Mexico City for a couple of years sending his wife and kids back to London.  After Mexico (a job that paid a fortune of about $20,000 a year) he returned to New York, and eventually worked in Chicago, Memphis, Minneapolis, Toledo and Detroit.  

Nearly 15 years ago Jay and I visited Swansea. I had a photocopy of her birth and marriage records.  We went into the visitors bureau in Swansea, and they were able to give us directions to the neighborhood she was born and raised in.  The house was gone, lost to bombing in World War II.  The church she was christened in was there.  It was a nice adventure to connect with old family history. 

Tell us about connecting with your family roots.  

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Merry Christmas To All

Merry Christmas and Happy New Years 

May your holiday season be filled with 
peace and love
May your New Year be filled with health, happiness, and great adventures! 

Much Love
David and J. 

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Merry Christmas from our Flock to Yours!

For the first time in 8 years we have all of the Christmas collection in one house, and the animated penguins are back in action. Enjoy! 

Christmas Eve Five Questions

I normally play five questions on Sunday, with the holiday falling on Sunday, I am doing five questions on Saturday this week, my little Christmas gift to my readers. 

1: Do you believe in Santa? 
2: Do you go to church at Christmas? 
3: Did you send cards this year? 
4: Do you buy gifts for everyone, or just a select few?
5: Which would you prefer to receive clothes or gift cards? 

My answers: 
1: Do you believe in Santa? Santa is the spirit of kindness, sharing and giving - yes I do believe that spirit is alive and well in many of us.

2: Do you go to church at Christmas? No, I am not a practitioner of any organized (or disorganized) religion. 

3: Did you send cards this year? No, sorry - thanks to AM, and JV for the lovely cards. 

4: Do you buy gifts for everyone, or just a select few?  Very few. 

5: Which would you prefer to receive clothes or gift cards?   Easy for me, gift cards, I am very fussy about clothes for someone who dresses like a slob most of the time.  I am very hard to buy clothes for.  

Friday, December 23, 2016

2016 Holiday Letter

2016 Found us Happy, Healthy and Humming along.  Jay went back to Lexington to teach in January.  I had a board meeting in California in late January and had planned a couple of days on the beach, only to be delayed a couple of days flying west because of the biggest snow storm of the year.  In the end I made it in time for board meeting, but missed all of the fun part. 

In April I had another board meeting in Denver, I stayed for the conference and saw a little bit of Denver.  Jay arrived in Virginia in early May for the summer as usual. 

Normally we go 2 to four years between trips to Europe, and we had been to Germany in 2015, then Jay was invited to speak at a conference in Rome the end of May.  Never one to pass an adventure, we spent a week in Rome,  the second week was split between Venice and Modena.  For details see. . 

We went to Florida for the 4th of July to visit my parents and family.  Mom and Dad continue to be in very poor health, I made return visits in September and December.  

Jay went back to Kentucky to teach in September, and I went to Lake Tahoe in Nevada for the last board meeting of the year.  

I went to Kentucky twice this year, in February and November.  On both trips distilleries were visited in search of rare and high quality Bourbons.  

Our health was good, I continue to get stronger.  For the most part the feeling in my feet has returned and my balance is near normal.  I continue with follow-up MRIs a couple of times this year, and so far nothing appears to be growing where it shouldn't be.   

Wishing you all the best in the holiday season and the new year. 

Thursday, December 22, 2016

So-Cal Pacific Coast

A few years ago Jay and I went to San Diego for a conference.  An old grad school classmate of his, picked us up one morning and took us just north of San Diego, out to see the coast for breakfast in a small town.  I don't remember the name of town, breakfast was good, but not a standout. For decades I didn't eat in the morning, but as I have grown older I have developed a love of going out for breakfast. I love a good eggs Benedict or well made omelet. A good breakfast out can easily be the best meal of the day.  

One of the things that stands out, was the number of exotic cars. Ferrari, Rolls Royce, and Lamborghini - all together in one small town - as we cruised around in a Prius.  We stopped at a point and walked out onto the rocks.  There were sea anemonies in the rocks, creatures I had only ever seen in aquariums before. There were seals on the beach.  It was a short morning, just 2-3 hours with an old friend, that created very fond memories, Thank you Teresa. 

What short encounter created fond memories for you?  (And yes, I know for some of you this could bring back memories of a different kind of encounter.)  

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

A few of my favorite things

  • Good Strong Cheese 
  • Dark Fruitcake
  • Good Single Barrel Bourbon
  • A tender filet steak 
  • Italian Sausage 
  • A warm fuzzy bear
  • Fluffy sheep in a field 
  • Home made bread 
  • Heading out on an adventure 
  • Heading home after the adventure 
What are 10 of your favorite things? 

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

View From The Top

A few years ago, when I was going to be in London for a couple of days, I decided I wanted to ride the London Eye.  I had walked past it a few times, looked at the line, and said no.  I hate long waits, crowds and lines.  I looked online and discovered that I could book a "champagne flight" that included a glass of bubbly and a scheduled time with direct access to the front of the line.  We gathered across the way, in the ticket office, walked across as an escorted group and went directly into the next available car.  Champagne was served, it was a wonderful ride, just at sunset.  

Ah, well worth the extra cost. I have learned to check online and see if reserved tickets are available.  

What tips do you have for skipping the wait? 

Monday, December 19, 2016


As I mentioned, I was recently in Florida visiting family.  I had lived there for almost 20 years, thought it has now been 20 years since I left there.  All of that time, I seldom saw an alligator, it was only the last couple of years that I lived there that I figured out how to spot them.  Most of the time you see a bump, kind of like a rock sticking out of the water.  Most of the gator is below the surface. Only when the water is cool and the air warm do you find the entire gator out sunning them self, and  you won't see them out if the air is really warm. 

This one I found last Tuesday morning.  I was out for a little after breakfast walk, he was in a drainage pond next to parking lot at Cracker Barrel. Nasty water, you can see the oil streak on the water surface.  My guess is he is 2-3 years old, between 2.5 and 3 feet long.  Not big enough to hurt you, but he could nip a finger or two.  
If you want to see a gator in the wild, meet me in Florida some day, I can usually find them. 

What wild animal are you good at finding? 

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Sunday Questions

Using only ONE WORD...,
1. Where is your cell phone? desk
2. Your hair? thinning 
3. Your dad? pain 
4. Your other half? Soon
5. Your favorite food? cheese 
6. Your dream last night? work
7. Your favorite drink? bourbon 
8. Your dream/goal? adventure 
9. What room you are in? bedroom 
10. Your hobby? bikes
11. Your fear? pain
12. Your home away from home? Lexington
13. Where were you last night? home
14. Something that you aren't? stupid 
15. Muffins? silly 
16. Wish list item? SLR
17. Where you grew up? Complicated 
18. Last thing you did? dishes
19. What are you wearing now? shorts
20. Your TV? off
21. Your favorite pets? inanimate 
22. Friends? few
23. Your life? fun
25. Missing someone? Jay
26. Favorite breakfast food? toast 
27. Something you're not wearing? tie
28. Your favorite movie w/one word title? ?????
29. Your favorite color? blue
30. When is the last time you laughed? yesterday
31. Cried lately? yesterday  
32. Who will repost this? John 
33. One place that I go to over and over? France 
34. One person who messages me regularly? Spo
35. My favorite place to eat? Home  
Copy then paste it to your page and put in your answers.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Isn't it always

Isn't it always a good day for a good day?  I recently finished reading what may be the best book I have read all year, "The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck."  It is a book of modern popular psychology.  I kind of like that kind of book. A few points from the book.

Happiness is a choice. 

Life is pain and discomfort, you can choose the discomfort of sloth and poverty, or the discomfort of working and making a good living. You can choose the pain of being overweight, or the pain of being careful about your diet and spending hours at the gym each day (I have done both in my lifetime.)  

Unrealistic goals and expectations, make people feel like failures, who are really quite successful.  

People spend to much energy, being miserable, about things that are unimportant, or beyond their control.  

A key to happiness is learning to only give a fuck, about things that are within your control, and that really matter.  Ignore all the rest.  

What is your favorite book of the year? 

Friday, December 16, 2016

Update From Florida

I was in Florida last weekend visiting family and checking on Mom and Dad. I was last there in September.  

My siblings are doing well.  My sister and brother-in-law continue to labor tirelessly as caregivers for my Parents.  Without Karen and Pete, Mom and Dad would be unable to remain home where they wish to be.  My oldest brother has decided on a career change, he signed up for Medicare this fall as he turned 65 and discovered that most of the people selling Medicare supplemental insurance were not well informed, he can do a better job, and the company has offered him a job, he is in the process of obtaining the needed licenses. It has been about a year since he left his last IT job, I am glad he has found a new direction and I think he will be good at it, it is a good match for the way his brain works.  My middle brother came over for a visit on Saturday.  The Rat (as in Micky Mouse) has been busy, he has worked a ton of overtime.  He is making good choices about what he wants to do, and not letting others make the choices for him - very good.  

Mom is unbelievably thin and frail.  Her skin is breaking down.  She says little, and little of what she says makes any sense.  Blitz (the wonder dog) was barking at something and Mom shouted at him, "Quiet Down and Get Back Here," it was the only complete and logical sentence she said in the couple of days I was there, her face lit up with a look of utter amazement that she had pulled together a statement that everyone, including the dog, understood.  She sleeps most of the time, some days she does not get out of bed at all.  

Dad had a bad fall three weeks ago, and is in pain, but won't say anything unless you really dig in with questions.  The doctors believe his cancer is metastasizing. He uses a walker and we remind him to ask for help if he is not feeling up to it.  

Both of them are receiving care at home through hospice.  Our goal is to keep them comfortable at home, and as happy as possible.  

I bought the two of them a giant bag full of good chocolates, and encouraged them to eat all they want.  

I will go back in January, sooner if needed.  It is increasingly difficult to go and visit, leaving each time with full knowledge that this might be the last time I see them alive, and then going back again a few weeks later and repeating the process.  

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Why Brussels?

A few years ago I was planning a trip, I was going to be in England, I wanted to revisit Amsterdam, and I had decided to go to Normandy to see the D-Day sights.  I looked at taking a Ferry to Amsterdam, and it was overnight, in both directions.  I decided that a trip through the Chunnel, the channel tunnel would be fun.  At that time the Eurostar ran as far a Brussels, so I decided I would spend a couple of nights in Brussels.  Other than it being in Belgium, a country I had never been to, I knew nothing about Brussels.  

I booked a nice Hilton, just north of the pedestrian zone and across a square from a subway station and away I went.  The trip through the tunnel was delayed and then at low speed through the tunnel.  There has been electrical fire in the tunnel and power was not back to full strength.  

I had no idea what to do in Brussels. The hotel provided a map, I found something marked museum center, an easy subway ride.  Once there I stumbled across a large car museum - featuring European cars.  I had a wonderful wander around.  Had a nice lunch, strolled around the park, peaked in the art or history museum next door, and went back the hotel.  It was totally unplanned, and totally fun.  

The next day I walked into the train station and bought a seat on the the cheapest train to Amsterdam, leaving in 20 minutes.  The train seemed to stop every two miles.  It was great fun.  The college kids on the train kept going off between the cars to smoke, and each time they came back they were more and more wasted.  I don't know what they were smoking, but they really seemed to be enjoying it. I behaved myself, like I always do. It was a great experience in unplanned adventure.  

I ran across an interesting quote in a book the other day, "most are afraid of death, because they are afraid to really live."  Show no fear, go out and enjoy the next great adventure.  Like it or not, you are going to die some day.    

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Dear Santa

Dear Santa! 
I have been a good boy this year.  I have been honest, kind, trustworthy.  I have helped old men cross the street - even when they didn't want to cross the street. I haven't dishonored anyone, not challenged anyone to a duel, dueled or seconded - I don't know as that is important - but it is in the oath of office for Kentucky.  I have supported the finest Bourbon distillers by sampling and collecting their best.  

So what would I like for Christmas this year? 

  • I could really use a little more order in my life. Once things start to get messy, it kind of spills over.  A nice houseboy who could keep my bedroom in order would help. He really needs to be willing and able to clean floors and bathrooms.  
  • I am looking for inspiration for my traveling adventure next year.  My office travel budget is limited, we have not received an invitation for a conference in Europe this year, and frankly I don't have a clue what to do or where to go. It does my mind so much good to take a couple of weeks off and head off on a great adventure.  Help me find a sign, deliver one of us an invitation to an exciting venue, something that will inspire us.  
  • This might be a good year to have someone come visit us this year.  It has been a long time since we have hosted out of town guests for a few days.  DC is a fun place to show people around.  I promise to take a few days off from work.  Give someone else a nice conference in DC, so we can spend a few days showing them around town.  
  • It is going to be a year of transitions in DC, please keep me sane and grounded.  I can already see others running in circles looking up and crying-out, the sky is falling - the sky is falling.  Even if the sky is falling, remind me that I can't told it up single handed.  
  • It is also likely to be a year of transitions in my family. If you could slip an easy passage for those likely to leave us, and map forward for my siblings under the tree this year - it would make our lives better. Sprinkle in a whole lot of patience and understanding - we will need that.  
  • A winning lottery ticket, or a lucky pull on a slot machine would really come in handy.  I love my work and all, but I promise I would do the parts that are really important if a stocking stuffed with enough money to cut back my hours appeared under the tree.  

Thank you for being there for all of us good boys and girls.  I'll write again next year.  Let me know if there is anything I can do for you. 

So what do you want from Santa?  What does Santa want from me? 

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

My Irrational Fear

I have an irrational fear of flying birds.   Chickens are just fine.  I know chickens can fly, but not very well, or very often and I am fine with them, the same goes generally for turkeys.  Water birds don't really bother me, what scares the crap out of me is small tree nesting birds.  The kind that fly at me, by me, especially near my head.  Maybe this is a result of watching Alfred Hitchcock's The move "The Birds" as a child, but small flying birds scare me.  

Rationally I know I have never been hurt by one, in fact no one I know has ever been attacked by a small flying bird.  But they always seem to be headed directly toward my face.  Silly I know.  

We all have irrational fears.  I was on the metro one morning recently.  The woman sitting in front of me was drunk, no two ways about it, you could smell the booze from five feet away.  As she sat there staring at her phone and there was a spider crawling down the sleeve of her coat.  This freaked out the person sitting next to me, who fled down the aisle.  I calmly said, "mam, there is a spider on your sleeve", she flicked it off on the floor, stomped on it and went back to her phone.  One person freaked out - I know how she felt, I might have done the same thing if it had been a sparrow crawling down the sleeve of the woman's coat, two of us were unfazed by the spider.  What is rational and what is not, is all a matter of your mind or state of intoxication. 

So, what is your irrational fear? 

Monday, December 12, 2016

Spur of the Moment?

I am known for my detailed, far-far-far in advance planning of travel and adventures.  Then there was the trip to Greece a decade ago.  I kept putting off making a commitment. The office was a little in flux and I was unsure what was going to happen there. Finally I cornered the boss while she desperately waited for coffee to brew one morning and insisted on an answer.  She said, Go! we will find a way to resolve the questions in the office.  

So with less than 90 days to go, I made plans.  As I recall I cashed in 100,000 frequent flyer miles for a seat in coach, making it the equivalent of full fare in coach.  (That came in handy when I missed the last flight of the day on a connection coming home and made it home anyway that night.)  We booked a nice hotel and away we went.  I am so glad we went.  The job lasted a couple more years for me, and a decade longer for someone else.  If I had waited, we would have missed the opportunity to have fearless Kent as our tour guide and driver.  He took us to see things we never would have found on our own.  

How far ahead do you need to plan your adventures? 

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Five Questions on American Politics

So why a picture of a roofless Abbey for questions about politics?  First isn't is a great image?  Second, it is in ruins because of a political disagreement involving an English King, a divorce or two or three, and the church. Look at history and you find the roots of the American Constitutional system - the prohibition on religious affiliation as a condition of government service and the separation clause were included to prevent the government from interfering with the religion and the church from interfering with government.  

1: It was a nasty election, how many people did you "un-friend" over political postings? 
2: A month later, upon reflection, are you more or less surprised by the outcome of the election? 
3: Trump, totally crazy, a genius, or we will have to wait and see? 
4: Did you contribute to a political party or campaign? 
5: If eligible, did you vote? 

My answers:
1: It was a nasty election, how many people did you "un-friend" over political postings?  - Only one, I have messaged one more asking him to cool it.  

2: A month later, upon reflection, are you more or less surprised by the outcome of the election?  I am less surprised, there is a trend of "disrupters" in business and politics, I should have seen this coming. 

3: Trump, totally crazy, or we will have to wait and see?  I don't think he is crazy, but I don' think he has a clue what he has gotten himself into.  Time will tell.  

4: Did you contribute to a political party or campaign? Yes

5: If eligible, did you vote? Yes 

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Nice Wheels!

A year ago or so, I wrote about my disappointment at Jeremy Clarkson's behavior, and the end of the BBC hit show Top Gear, at the least the end of it as we knew and loved it. It was a shame, and it had to happen.  Clarkson had crossed the line and management had to take a stand.  The end was likely coming, the freewheeling production style of the show kept bumping up against the staid BBC management - and the contracts of the three were all up at the end of last season. BBC tried recasting and rapidly discovered that the chemistry between Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May was an essential part of what made Top Gear work.  The same show with different players fell flat, floundered, and is currently on hiatus.  

The Grand Tour has recently launched on Amazon Prime Video starring Clarkson, Hammond and May, and in my opinion, the magic is back.  As I write this I have seen the first three episodes. The season premiere has some amazing vidiography, the opening scene is Epic.

The Grand Tour is certainly a car show.  It is masculine, occasionally politically incorrect,  a little vulgar, a little immature.  It is also pretty funny.  They are also visiting some of the most amazing landscapes on the planet, the photography and editing are amazing.  The core of it all is three blokes, enjoying the amazing adventure that is life. If you ever wonder what pure joy looks like, watch the opening sequence of the first show, when the three of them pull up next to one another on the freeway for the first time, look at the expressions on their faces, that is what joy looks like. 

So have you seen the Grand Tour?  

Friday, December 09, 2016

One of my all time favorites

I started taking pictures when I was about 10. I received a Kodak Instamatic camera for Christmas that year, and my father had a simple darkroom set up in the garage.  At times in my life I have been very active as a photographer, at other times, not.  Digital photography has renewed my interest, being able to shoot hundreds of images and select only the ones I want to share.  I have something over 36,000 digital images on my computer.  Between the two houses there a a few thousand prints from the film era, and unless I tossed them in a moment of madness, several thousand black and white negatives.  There are some gems hidden in the negatives.  

Out of all of this there are a few dozen all time favorites, ones that I have printed and framed.  The image above is one of them.  This was taken on a mountain in Juneau Alaska.  I love the way the water is beaded up on the leaves.  There is a print of this hanging in my DC area condo.  

Where did you take your all time favorite photograph? 

Thursday, December 08, 2016

Growing Older Together

I went to see my sweet husband for Thanksgiving.  I laughed more in the first 24 hours than I had the previous month.  We get one another's jokes, we share a common language of sarcasm and whit.  We met for the first time about 25 years ago (you know you are getting older when you say things like that.)  Over the years we have grown closer, as we developed a deeper understanding of one another.  I know what he is sensitive about, the things that make him uncomfortable, sad, depressed or angry - the places we just don't go.  I suspect he knows mine, I don't know for sure, he never goes there.  We have shared many of our life's secrets - certainly not all of our secrets, but we have both listened with love and without judging as the other talked about the things we never talk about.  

We have shared one another's joys, I was there when J landed a tenure track job, and threw the party when tenure was approved.  I have been there for the delivery of two red dream cars.  J was there for me when I finished my BA (I was a late bloomer) and when I finished my JD, and was admitted to the Bar. We have flown and floated around the world together.  As we get older there is still more of the world to explore together.  

We can be a couple of odd Ducks, a couple of old Crabs, but he is my old crab and I am his, and we are very very happy with that.  

Who makes you laugh? 

Wednesday, December 07, 2016


In American English, raisins are dried grapes, why label this product dried golden raisins? 

Police in Frankfort Kentucky recently charged an employee in a liquor distribution warehouse with stealing bottles from the distribution process and selling them from the trunk (boot) of his car.  Among the whiskeys found in the trunk of his car was Hibiki, a very fine single malt made in Japan that sells for up to $100 per bottle (and is worth every penny.)  The irony is that the majority of what he had in the trunk of his car was Maker's Mark - and not even their best.  Why steal mediocre stuff, when you have access to the best of the best?  How embarrassing to go to jail for Maker's - I won't even use it to cook with.  (I am a snob on such things.) Oh and the contents of the trunk, because it has been "outside of official distribution channels" will be destroyed after his conviction. The same fate awaits a couple of barrels of Pappy Van Winkle, that were stolen and recovered.  The retail value of a barrel of Pappy once it is bottled off, can easily exceed $40,000 - it will sadly go down the drain some day soon. 

I was deeply disappointed as a child to discover that comic books were not funny.  Why make it look like the funny pages in the newspaper, and then fill it with drama, stress and gore?  

I was recently surprised when I figured out that Star Trek and Star Wars are not related to one another.  Having not been an aficionado of either I hadn't paid that much attention and figured both had Star in the title and one was a brand extension of the other. They really should make these things clear.  

What irony of life comes to mind for you? 



Tuesday, December 06, 2016

What I Learned from Growing up On A Farm

So I grew up on a funny farm, actually a honey farm, but definitely out in the country surrounded by mostly small traditional family farms with cows, pigs and chickens far outnumbering people.  What did I learn from that? 

  • Life is easier in the proper season. You can fool mother nature and sprout seeds out of season, but you have to work a lot harder than letting them grow in season. You can try to be a teenager in your 40's, but it is a lot of work to fool father nature. 
  • Crop failures happen.  Bad things happen to good people, who have done everything right, a fluke in the weather, an unexpected pest can wipe out an entire years harvest.  In all walks of life, you have to be prepared to survive the bad year when it happens.  
  • Bounty happens.  A couple of days of the right weather and an average crop, can turn into a record setting crop.  Windfalls happen in all walks of life - the secret is to not squander them when they happen.  
  • A fresh start is just around the corner.  The birds, the bees, the seeds, are always there waiting for their season in the sun. 
  • From the stinkiest manure, grows the sweetest clover. Sometimes you have to endure the unpleasant, to get to the pleasant. 
What one thing from your childhood, shapes your day? 

Monday, December 05, 2016

Wild Turkey Barrel House 1

This it the oldest still in use barrel house at the Wild Turkey Distillery.  Bourbon must be made in the USA, be at least 51% corn, go into the barrel at not more than 125 prof, and be aged in charred new American Oak Barrels. There is a United States Federal Regulation that says you can not label it as Bourbon, if it does not meet these standards (there are a few more, it has to be made in the USA, it cannot have anything added to it, it has to aged for a minimum of 2 years.)  

The barrel houses are traditionally several stories tall.  In the bad old days when all that was sold was nasty blended bourbons, the barrels were rotated from floor to floor to try to assure uniform aging as it will be as much as 15 degrees warmer at the top, than it is at the bottom.  The modern practice is to age in place, and for blends to contain barrels from different parts of the warehouse.  Small batches will generally contain barrels from the lower and middle levels (small batch is not defined in law or regulation.)  Single barrels are generally from lower levels - where they age cooler and slower, developing more complex flavors.  

Though the initial aging has to be not less than two years in a new charred oak barrel, past that bourbon can be aged in other woods, or in old barrels such as sherry or wine barrels.  There is nothing limiting where the aging can take place, I have a bottle to sample soon, that was aged at sea - the barrels are locked in a shipping container, put on the deck of a cargo ship and sent around the world a few times.  I'll report on that one when I open it. 

So that is my font of useless information for a Monday, 
What is yours? 

Sunday, December 04, 2016

About You?

Time for fun. Twenty-six things about me?

A- Age: 58
B- Biggest fear: Failure
C- Current time: 6:18 PM Eastern
D- Drink you last had: Diet Coke
E- Every day starts with: Starting my computer
F- Favorite song: Everything is Beautiful
G- Ghosts: Fun adventure
H- Hometown: It's complicated
I- In love with: My hubby
J- Jealous of: no one

K- Killed someone?: no
L- Last time you cried?: Today watching the opening of The Grand Tour

M- Middle name: Mark
N- Number of siblings: 3
O- One wish: Everyone being safe and secure
P- Person you last called: Work conference call 

Q- Question you're always asked: How do you travel so much
R- Reason to smile: life is a great adventure
S- Song last sang: Bright Sunshiny Day
T- Time you woke up: 7:00 AM
U- Underwear color: black
V- Vacation destination: Adventure
W- Worst habit: working too much
Y- Your favorite food: cheddar cheese
X- X-Rays you've had: 5-10
Z- Zodiac sign: Virgo

Saturday, December 03, 2016

A Job I Would Probably Not Be Good At,

This it the flavor and tasting lab at Wild Turkey.  Adults are paid to sit in this room and smell and taste bourbon samples everyday.  While I work in a certified drug and alcohol free work place, these people get paid to drink on the job.  In this day they have two goals. First is to assure that the blended bourbons maintain a consistent flavor, aroma and color from batch to batch, and when the batch size is sometimes in excess of 1,000 barrels, that is an exacting task. This produces the lowest quality bourbon sold by the distillery and probably takes the most precise skill set.  The second goal is to select the finest of the fine to be offered as single barrel releases.  That I could probably due, if the world had my taste.  

For the most part they sniff, taste, spit, and look at the color.  There are cabinets in the room with examples to be matched for profile of color, flavor and aroma. I don't know as I would be very good at tasting and not drinking the best of the best.  Still it might be fun to try. 

What job would you find fun, but probably not be very good at?  

Friday, December 02, 2016

Lair - Liar

I love telling tall tales, playing lose and fast with the facts, making things up as I go along.  Kind of like the Donald when he claims that he won the popular vote if you take out all of the people who voted illegally - something he has said with nary a fact to back it up.  It can be fun to talk like that, but when I do, people figure it out, and then they don't trust anything I say.  Over my working life, especially once I moved into the professional side of the workplace, I learned that if I want to be respected, I have to hold back on the hyperbole.  It make me less fun, but it is essential to my being respected.  

So, how much stretching the truth can you do in your workplace? 

The picture above is the fermentation room at Wild Turkey in Lawerncburg, Kentucky. It had been 10-12 years since I had been to Wild Turkey, over that time they built an entirely new distillery and bottling plant. It is HUGE, with a capacity of about 11-million gallons per year - current production is about 6-million gallons per year.  That is a lot of bourbon and a fair amount of rye.  More on Wild Turkey Soon.  

Thursday, December 01, 2016

Bourbon Express

During my recent visit to Kentucky, I toured a couple of distilleries, I wanted to add to my single barrel collection.  My first stop was Four Roses, on Bonds Mill Road, just north of the Bluegrass Parkway on 127 headed north toward Lawrenceburg.  

Four-Roses provides great information.  All of their products are from one of two mash-bills, or combinations of grains, one is wheat dominate, one is Rye dominate, and five yeast strains.  Between the two, there are 10 possible formulas.  Their lowest priced blends are going to be a blend of all ten, their small batches, will feature just a few, and their single barrel products are clearly labeled with the mash-bill and yeast strain.  Really a very amazing degree of transparency.  

Their top product is labeled "Distillers Select - Single Barrel." These are available in the onsite store and through very select retailers who go to the aging warehouse with the master distiller and select the barrel, that is then bottled and labeled for them.  I added one of the distiller selects to my collection.  It is the wheat heavy mash bill and a sweet floral yeast.  It should be very smooth. 

The bourbon truck above reminded me of Orange Juice adds run by a Detroit area supermarket chain in the 1970's (the same add ran in Cleveland for a difference super market chain.)  Sadly the Four Roses truck does not make home deliveries.  The aging and bottling facility is about 40 miles from the distillery, and the truck is used to move white whiskey from the distillery to the other facility to go into barrels, and from there after 5-10 years of rest, into the bottle.   

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Bright Sunny Day

Ten Things that Make Me Happy! 

  1. A bright sunny day 
  2. The tree outside my bedroom window in winter 
  3. The sound of water lapping on the shore 
  4. Comments on my blog 
  5. A tree covered hillside 
  6. Driving in dry weather 
  7. Airline tickets 
  8. Starting a bike ride - the first push off 
  9. The smell of bread baking 
  10. Capturing a great photograph 

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

How Many Hedgehogs

How many hedgehogs in this picture?  There is one in the bowl, and you can see three under the bowl, there were at least four and possibly five burrowing under the bowl.  Strange, or normal behavior for burrowing animals?  They are cute, but I just can't imagine them being cuddly.  

Monday, November 28, 2016

Road Trip

Over Thanksgiving week I took a road trip, 550 miles each way, about 1,400 total miles.  Easy-peasy today. It is hard to imagine that only 100 years ago, driving 550 miles in 9  hours was well - unimaginable.  There were a few race cars built for speed and endurance that might do it, but the average car of the day could go fast enough and was not durable enough.  My how far we have come in 100 years, where will the next 100 years take us? 

It also got me to thinking about my learning to drive.  When I turned 16 my family was living in Michigan 8 months of the year and Florida 4 months of the year.  I really didn't care if I got a drivers license, my parents had been stingy about providing cars for my older siblings, the last "second-car" my middle brother had totaled in spectacular fashion a couple of years older flipping it end over end into some farmers flower beds, and walked home from the accident.  

My father on the other hand was insistent that I had to looking into driver's ed and getting a license.  I called the school that summer and asked, and the fall semester driver ed class didn't finish before we would be going to Florida for the winter, I figured I had my reprieve and I would take the class the following summer (also thinking this would get me out of 2-3 weeks of work on the farm.)  In a rate move, my father called the school the next day and then informed me I would be taking drivers ed as a special independent study in September.  Oh joys!  

Shortly after school started I checked in the with shop-teacher / driving instructor.  He talked to me for 2 minutes and gave me a copy of the text book and said the read the first half of the book and come back and see him when I was done.  It didn't take long, it was not a complex text and at the time I read about 40 pages an hour, with occasional gusts to 50 pages (and no one pointed out to me that this was an unusual talent.)  About a week later I went back the to shop teacher, he chuckled and handed me three multiple choice quizzes and a pen.  About 30 minutes later I gave them back to him, and he sat at his desk going over them and putting check marks next to nearly every answer.  Now I knew I hadn't studied hard and I really didn't care, but I didn't think I was doing that bad.  When He finished he looked up and said, you only missed 3 questions out of the 60, he was putting a check mark next the correct answers.  He said to read the rest of the book and come back and see him next week. The following Monday I was back in his office,  he asked me the average stopping distance from 60 miles per hour, the minimum safe following distance at 60 miles per hour and handed me a 10 question true or false final exam.  Five minutes later he confirmed that I had 10 correct answers and he asked me if I was free after school at 4:00 PM the next day to do some driving.  I was.  The first day of driving started off kind of rough, he asked the three students to put gas in the car and set up the jack to change a tire.  I had never used an electric gas pump (the one on the farm was gravity feed) and we had a hard time finding the gas cap on the Ford of the year.  But we managed, he stopped us before we started to loosen the lug nuts and told us we had the jack properly set and the wheels blocked.  And off we went.  The only think I remember about the route on the first drive was an impossibly rough section of gravel road the the instructor questioning my honesty when I told him I had not been driving illegally.  He said to plan on three hours the second evening, he had paperwork he needed to drop off in Saginaw and we would do some expressway driving.  There were only two of us the second day.  The other guy went first, and after the instructor backed the car out of the ditch, I took over.  On the expressway on-ramp the instructor slid over, put his foot on mine and mashed the accelerator screaming you drive the accelerator not the brake.  We arrived back at my house and I asked "what time tommorow?" and he replied you won't be back tomorrow, hang one just a second and he signed something on his clip board and said, "You passed, go get a learners permit."  

Now I was still not keen on the idea of getting a license, I couldn't really see why.  But dad was insistent.  My middle brother was very patient and took me driving, my mother only let me drive with her once.  A month or so later, just before we left to go to Florida for the winter, Mom scheduled me for a driving test.  The examiner had me go around one-square-mile, four left had turns, one with a turn light, one with a traffic light, one four way stop, one two way stop.  I didn't hit anything or drive off the road.  I was most nervous about the parking test. As we approached the end of the test drive, the examiner looked at me and said, "turn in the driveway on the right, and get it stopped in any of the 40 empty parking places in that lot without hitting anything, and you passed."  I didn't hit anything. 

The following spring we returned to Michigan and shortly after getting back into classes I needed to be there early or late, and asked my parents the evening before.  My father handed me the keys to his Chrysler and a key to the gas pump on the farm and said, always be careful.  A week later he traded the keys to his car for the keys to a red 1965 Ford pickup truck and said get yourself back and forth to school - we have always trusted you to be good. 

Tell us about your learning to drive?  

Sunday, November 27, 2016

If I Knew Then, What I Know Now

I turned 18 the week before I started my senior year of high school.  Not totally unusual, a result of my Phoenix adventure in the first year of the first grade - but that is another story.  One of the unique things for an American turning 18 when I did, the legal drinking age was 18.  One of my high school teachers taught me how to enjoy Scotch. So to stretch the Sunday imagination, I am going to have my 58 year old self interview my 18 year old self.  

1: What is the biggest surprise about the way I have turned out? 
2: Why didn't you go directly into college when you had the chance? 
3: So, at 58 I have a husband, how does my 18 year old self feel about that? 
4: I have lived in 4 states since I turned 18, how does my 18 year old self feel about all of moving around?  Where did you imagine you would be at this age? 
5: What advice does an 18 year old me have for this 58 year old me. 

For all questions - adjust to current age as appropriate. For question #3, adjust as needed for your personal relationship.

My answers: 

1: What is the biggest surprise about the way I have turned out? A law degree, really? At 18 you had only ever met one lawyer and he didn't impress you. At 18 I didn't think you had it in you to earn this much education.  

2: Why didn't you go directly into college when you had the chance? 
My 18 year old self lacked courage, belief in self and role models.  I was aimless and rather depressed.  

3: So, at 58 I have a husband, how does my 18 year old self feel about that? 
Oh thank-gwad you finally came to your senses.  The opportunities for fun you passed up or shied away from as a teenager, it you had known then what you know now, you would have had so much fun. 

4: I have lived in 4 states since I turned 18, how does my 18 year old self feel about all of moving around?  Where did you imagine you would be at this age? 
Wanderlust was instilled by your upbringing, what had kept you from living other places that you have fantasized about living?  

5: What advice does an 18 year old me have for this 58 year old me. 
Don't waste so much energy on meaningless little stuff.  And most of it is little stuff, will anyone care next year? If not, why care now?