Friday, September 30, 2016

How Did I Survive Childhood?

Beyond the hotel at Lake Tahoe was a playing field at a local park.  I looked out one afternoon and kids had taken the field to play a football like game, wearing giant inflatable bumpers. It got me to thinking, how did I survive childhood? 

I rode in the font seat of the car, between my parents without a child safety seat.  This would actually be criminal today.  But it was normal, the child seats of the day, had a rigid metal frame and a steering wheel for the baby to crash into, I think my oldest brother had one, it was long gone by kid number 4. I have memories of crawling around on the floor under my mother's feet.  

I would have been 7 when my parents bought the first car with seat belts.  I remember waiting for the dealer to install them, before my mother would let my father drive away in his new Plymouth.  They had to find the right bolts, we didn't get home until after my bedtime.  

I played in the dirt, not a sandbox that was kept covered and sanitized, the end of my mother's vegetable garden.  

I rode in the back of open pick-up trucks.  My grandfather would put the tailgate down and let us ride sitting on the tailgate with our legs dangling in the wind.  

I rode bikes thousands of miles, almost always alone, and long before anyone had heard of a bike helmet.  

I explored miles of back country roads, alone and unsupervised.  

I shot thousands of rounds of target practice with a rifle as a teenager, alone, without adult supervision.  I did ban my middle brother from the field - after a close call caused by my bad habit and his disregard for basic gun safety, that I still don't talk about that.  

I rode mini-bikes, motorcycles, and three-wheel ATVs.  The motorcycles were something my parents didn't know about.  

Maybe I was lucky, maybe I was careful, likely a little of both.  I wouldn't trade my childhood, risks and all, for the padded cell kids in live in today. 

Thursday, September 29, 2016


The second day of the meeting in Lake Tahoe was across the street from the hotel, in a conference room overlooking the Lake.  I stepped  in front of the hotel and this was parked there. From what I can find, it is late 1950's vintage, -the real deal and not a later clone-, it is a $250,000+ car.  Nice, very nice.  

When I was planning for the drive in Germany, a friend gave me advice on driving on the Autobahn. The inside lane is the fast lane.  You only drive in it if you are driving faster than everyone else and passing.  When you have outrun the traffic, pull over - or the ticket is about $1,000.  Before pulling over into the fast lane, look in the mirror, if there is a smudge on the horizon, it is the Porsche that will be running up your tailpipe in about 20 seconds.  Outrun it, or get over.  Good advice, except it was an Audi that was running up my tailpipe at 108 miles per hour.  

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Home Sweet - I Use to Own That

When I was in Florida earlier this month, I took a morning to drive into Orlando and revisited places from my past.  The city has changed a lot since I moved there in the summer of 1980 - we left there in the summer of 1995.  The population has more than doubled since we left 20 years ago.  Old familiar places, were sometimes no longer recognizable.  

I moved to Orlando to escape the town on the east coast, that my parents still live in.  The move was made possible by a job selling new homes for a small developer / builder.  Laurel Homes - long since gone they sold the building operation in 1987 - I moved onto another much larger builder that summer. 

While I worked for Laurel I built three homes, two I lived in, one was a rental.  The miniature Taco Bell above was my first house.  I built it in the late summer early fall of 1982.  Two bedrooms, one bath, one car garage.  As I recall I paid just over $40,000 for it, and picked up a bargain first time buyer interest rate of only 13.5%.  I sold it less than two years later and made about $10,000.  While I was there I built the rental, not included in these pictures, it became my ex's as part of a property settlement that bought the two of us freedom to enjoy the rest our lives.

The second house above was the last home I built for myself in Florida.  We built it in 71 days from building permits to move-in, in early March 1984.  It was a bit larger, 3 bedrooms, baths, 2 car garage.  It is on about 1/3rd of an acre.  As I recall it cost me just over $70,000 and interest rates were down to a bargain 11.5%.  It was in my half of the property split, I sold it in 1995 when J and I moved to Kentucky, as I recall made about $15,000 - over 11 years of a dead market. The first house had been as plain and simple as I could make it, the second one was much nicer.  I upgraded trim, windows, door handles, I reconfigured the kitchen and added cabinets (a job the cabinet shop messed up, shorting me 2 feet of cabinets and counter space - but I was in such a hurry to move in let it slide rather than wait two weeks for a remake.)  The brick on the planters was also the wrong color, it was suppose to be grey, and it was brown. The house hadn't been painted yet, so I changed the paint color to work with the brick rather than delay the house waiting for the brick to be changed.  In the long run I was glad I did that, the grey paint faded terribly.  I planted the tree out front, it was about an inch across and about 5 feet tall when I planted it.  

So there are my first two - no longer mine.  What homes have you owned in the past? 

Monday, September 26, 2016

Get Out of My Way!

DC is a bit of  a fast paced city, it seems that people are constantly in motion.  If you move to slow, you will get bumped, pushed out of the way, and on occasion shouted at.  The Condo I live in has a private road to the nearest metro station.  The easement for the road only allows us to operate a shuttle bus and provide alternate emergency access via the metro road.  

A few month ago we replaced the back gate with  a new remote opener.  The shuttle bus operator has struggled with the new gate, it does not move fast enough.  One trip recently it didn't get out of the way in time, and got bumped, well kind of, it was bent in half.  

That will teach it to move faster or get our of the way!  

In your town, are slow people part of the charm or bumped out of the way?  

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Cleaning The Closets

I decided that this fall's project was to clean and organize my closet.  I moved into the condo six years ago last January, and the closet had not been cleaned since.  So here are five questions about your closets? 

1: When was the last time you cleaned your closet?  
2: Do you have clothes that are too large or too small in your closet? 
3: Have you "lost" anything that you might find if you cleaned your closet? 
4: If I went through your closet what would the item of clothing that would most surprise me? 
5: What item in your closet should you get rid of, but just can't bring yourself to do so? 

My Answers: 
1: When was the last time you cleaned your closet?  I just finishing, it had been 6 1/2 years. 
2: Do you have clothes that are too large or too small in your closet? Yes, I kept one size smaller - hope springs eternal 
3: Have you "lost" anything that you might find if you cleaned your closet? I lost a blue Adidas shirt when we came home from Germany a year ago, and found it when I cleaned the closet. 
4: If I went through your closet what would the item of clothing that would most surprise me? A chief's jacket.   
5: What item in your closet should you get rid of, but just can't bring yourself to do so?  A sweatshirt from the Hard Rock Cafe in London, I bought on my first visit back in 1990 - I don't fit it, it is ratty - and I can't bring myself to toss it - ROCK ON! 

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Travel Tech

Some technology we never leave home without, our phones for example.  Once in the past 10 years I was well on my way to the office when I realized I didn't have my phone with me, I felt so vulnerable without it.  I made it through the day, but I would prefer not to go phone-less.  You never know when you might have a rare opportunity to take a selfie with a curious bear.  

I am using a Samsung Galaxy that is three generations, or three years old.  I like it, it works well, I am comfortable with what it does.  I see little reason to replace it as long as it works well.  I always have a charging adapter in my shoulder bag, in fact two of them, one standard one that will charge my phone, my kindle, or my camera, and one specifically for the phone that has a slightly higher voltage and charges the phone about twice as fast. 

I always have a Kindle with me, and with that half a dozen books to read with only a few ounces of weight to carry.  

For travel I carry a very small, very lite weight laptop or notebook computer.  I prefer a full size desk top computer at home, I find the larger keyboard easier to use, and the larger display allows me to work without glasses.  So the laptop is only for travel.  I am currently carrying an 11 inch Dell, Windows 10 machine.  It does what I need it to do, it weighs less than 3 pounds and it cost less than $200.  I know Mac makes an amazing laptop, but not for that price.  

When I go out of town I carry a compact digital camera.  Currently I am using a Samsung.  I selected it based on a wide-angle to moderate telephone lens.  Camera technology is rapidly advancing, you really need to replace these things every 2-3 years.  I have a larger "through the lens" digital, that I occasionally use, but only then the added bulk and weight seem worthwhile.  

All of this stuff connects with the same USB, or micro USB cables. I carry a couple of them, including one that is 15 feet long.  The long one comes in handy in a hotel room when the only available outlet is no where near where you want your phone (I bought it when I spent a month in hospital rooms.)  I have a small zippered kit with a USB cable, headphones, a standard wall charger, and a 6-volt car adapter.  

I carry a couple of sets of headphones, with microphones in them, so I can make phone calls without trying to hold my phone to my face.  

If I am driving in unfamiliar places,  I carry a portable GPS unit with me.  I know there is GPS on my phone, and I use it when I need to, but the Garmin unit with the suction cup window mount and power cable, is easy to travel with and I am not trying to hold my phone and drive at the same time.  

What do you never leave home without?  

Friday, September 23, 2016

Sunset and a big Moon

When I am home, in the city, I seldom see the sunset, I know it happens, the room gets dark and lights are turned on, but I am almost always too busy to notice.  And there is not much of a view.  
Here along Lake Tahoe for a couple of days, I have noticed the sunsets.  How pretty.  Last night I looked up and the moon was bright and huge.  Part of that is being over 6,000 feet in elevation, and the mountain air is clear, and there is a lot less ground light interfering with the view of the moon. I sure am glad I stopped and looked up. 

Stop and look up, pause to gaze at the sunrise or sunset.  Enjoy your day. 

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Working late into the night

Part of the work I do, includes serving on boards for organizations that advance the kind of work I do.  I am in the third year on one of the best board appointments I have ever had, this board generally meets in person three times a year, twice a year at conferences (hence, Newport Beach, California, and Denver in the past year) and once a year the organization pays for an annual "board retreat" two days of meetings in someplace nice. 

The first year was Charleston, South Carolina, it was nice, I was having trouble with my funny walk and didn't enjoy it as much as I should have.  Last year was Portland, Oregon - great fun, I was moving much better and had a nice wander around the city.  This year is Lake Tahoe, on the Nevada side.  A little hard to get to, but it is a spectacular place. 

Most of the board is from the eastern half of the united states, and here we are for the second year in a row, in the Pacific time-zone for the board retreat.  This results in waking up very early local time, and wanting to fall asleep early.  

One of the traditions is the board dinner on Thursday night. Last year in Portland, we met at a nice restaurant 6:30 local time - 9:30 east coast time and they served wine for an hour.  Then we set down and it took the restaurant an hour to serve the first course (salad) and more, much more wine.  Entries were served at about 8:30 pacific time, or 11:30 east coast time, and the wine just kept flowing.  Most of what I remember about desert was that we were having a hard time keeping a couple of board members from trying to dance on the tables.  

This year, it was cocktails on the beach at 6:00, and a buffet at 6:30.  Much less opportunity for people to get crocked before dinner, and while still late by my bodies standards, dinner at 9:30 is much easier for me than dinner at 11:30. It worked much better.  My digestion still does not like the large volume of food and drink at that late hour, but it will calm down in a day or so.  

It is always important when traveling across time zones to keep one's body in mind when scheduling meals. 

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Lake Tahoe

I swear this is work, why else would I get up at 4:30 in the morning, leave for the airport at 5:30, fly 5.5 hours, and drive through the mountains to Lake Tahoe - someone is paying me to do this.  The drive from Reno to Lake Tahoe is breathtaking, in more ways than one.  It crosses a mountain, I passed a sign saying 8,000 feet, and kept climbing.   Reno is very much a high dessert landscape, I love that landscape.  The area around the like is very alpine village - I prefer the dryer side of the mountain, but the lake is very pretty.  Meetings will consume most of the time I am here, and being three time zones away is a bit disorienting.  I surprised by the slot machines in the airport in Reno.  I spent 10 minutes in the casino at the hotel, I was $6.25 ahead and I cashed out.  Now I need to stay out.  

I posted the picture of me on the plane on Facebook and Ron mentioned the aisle seat.  I almost always, book and aisle seat.  I book as early as possible, and I always try to select seats.  If I can't get what I want when I book, I keep checking back online and 9 out of 10 times, I am able to get an aisle seat on the left side of the plane, so my right arm is on the aisle side.  

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Oh My! I'm Late-I'm Late

Oh My, I missed setting up my morning post today.  Sorry  my early bird readers.  Every morning when I get up, the third thing I look at is my blog to remind myself what I said today.  This morning I looked and I was still stuck on yesterday.  I have never seen the movie "Ground-Hog-Day" but I understand that the plot is that some guy keeps waking up and reliving the same day.  Well I don't want to relive yesterday - the day I discovered that I had missed the due date on a mid-point project report and spent most of the day scrambling to pull it together - along with catching up on general day to day office stuff after having been away at board meetings for three days last week.  I live in the present, and that is today, and that means I must have a new post.  I have only missed one day in the past 21 months of blogging every day, today is not going to be a miss.  

There was a bit of great news in the office yesterday, my colleagues  received approval of funding for a huge two year project.  They has applied for it months ago.  The request for proposals offered $500,000, and they submitted a proposal for $498,000.  A month ago a request came through to modify budget to the full $500,000 - a process that was easier said than done, because every time you change a $1 in costs on the budget, you actually change the overall budget with all of the overhead costs someplace between $1.60 and $1.80, different overhead factors apply to different costs.  It took a week to make the edits.  So yesterday the good news arrived, the project was funded at $488,455, yup, about $12,000 less than the modified budget submitted a couple of weeks ago or about $10,000 less than what was originally asked for.  The person who labored over the budget was ready to start drinking heavily when I left the office - if she had room I think she might set up a still in her office for next couple of days while she reworks the budget.  Nice still above at the A. Smith Bowman distillery at Fredricksburg Virginia  

Monday, September 19, 2016

Space Shuttle Memories

I was living in Florida when the space shuttle program took flight. I can remember the NASA briefings at the Kennedy Space Center talking about this exciting new design, the first gliding tests in California, then the arrival at the Space Center of this new vehicle.  

I was standing on the banks of the Indian River just across from the Space Center the morning of the first launch, I had driven over from Orlando the night before and stayed at my parents house (they had not yet retired and were in Michigan on the farm,)  I needed to get to Orlando for work that morning.  I did this twice, the first attempt was down to go for main-engine start and it stopped.  The second time it went.  You see it for second before you hear it, you hear it for seconds before you feel it, and you do feel it, the air and the ground vibrate as the spacecraft pushes off the launch pad.  You can see it for over a minute as it speeds away.  

The first few landings were on the west coast, then they started landing at the Cape.  There was less to see on the landing, and it was much faster than the lift off.  I saw a few landings.  I saw many launches, including a couple of night launches out on the Space Center.  I missed the Challenger explosion, I was working in Orlando, talking to a client on the phone who watching the launch out his office window, he simply said, "oh-shit that is not right, I'll call you back" and hung up, we picked up the conversation a week later.  

I was working in DC when the orbiter above flown in for display at the Smithsonian out at Dulles.  They took it on a low-slow loop around the city, we went up to the roof of the building to watch the legend fly into retirement.  

What moments in history have you witnessed? 

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Ron's Bucket List

Ron from Retired in Delaware posted his one on Facebook - thank you I needed something for this Sunday

Been Married - Twice
Been divorced - Yes
Fell in love - Yes
Had heart broken - No
Gone on a blind date -  Yes
Skipped school - No
Watched someone give birth - No
Watched someone die - No
Been to Canada - Yes
Ridden in an ambulance - Twice
Been to Hawaii - Yes
Been to Europe - Yes
Been to Israel - No
Been to Washington D.C. - Yes- work there
Been to Nashville - Yes
Visited Mexico - Yes
Seen Grand Canyon in person - Yes
Flown in a helicopter - Yes
Been on a cruise - Twice in 2008
Served on a jury - Yes- we convicted him
Been in a movie - No                                      
Danced in the rain - No
Been to Los Angeles - Yes
Been to New York City - Yes - this month
Played/Sang in a band - Yes - if playing the tuba in middle school counts 
Sang karaoke - No
Laughed so much you cried - Yes
Laughed so hard you peed -  No
Caught a snowflake on your tongue -Yes
Had a pet(s) - Yes
Been sledding on a big hill - Yes
Been downhill skiing - No
Been water skiing - No, I have been dragged helplessly behind a boat with skis in the general vicinity 
Rode on a motorcycle - Yes
Traveled to all 50 states - No - 48 of them
Jumped out of an airplane? - No
Been to a drive-in movie - Yes
Rode a camel - No
Rode a Horse -  Yes, once when I was 12                     
Rode an elephant - No
Been on TV- Yes
Been in the newspaper - Yes
Been on an election ballot - No
Stayed in the Hospital - Yes
Donated blood - No
Gotten a piercing - No
Gotten a tattoo- No
Driven a stick shift - Yes 
Been snorkeling - Yes
Rode in the back of a police car - No
Been arrested - No
Got a speeding ticket - No
Broken a bone - No
Gotten stitches - No, staples 
Traveled Alone - Yes - I travel for work alone a lot, three times I have flown to Europe on a different schedule than J.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

You Are So Beautiful

Last Sunday I was out running errands, a stop at Target, a farmers market, and a stop at a large regional shopping mall.  Lots of people, lots of different people.  I was struck at one point by my thoughts, thoughts of how each person has something special about them.  Each one is beautiful in their own unique way.   Many of them are different than me, many are not what I would find personally attractive, but there is something wonderful about each one.  Many years ago a speaker urged the audience to look for the good in each person.  That message stuck for me.  

Friday, September 16, 2016

Enjoy the Journey

So here I am stuffed into row 25 seat C, the back of the plane, a nice crowded plane - and I am smiling.  Hey, even the flight attendant is smiling. This was another trip, another flight, another hotel, I have already passed 30 nights in hotels for the year. This week I am off for another 5,000 miles, three nights in another hotel.  The hotels all start to look alike after a while.  

And I continue to enjoy the journey. I am always thrilled by the feeling of a plane taking flight, and by the sight of the airport fence just before landing. I look forward to exploring the new, and seeing the familiar in places I return to.  Sometimes the journey is the highlight of the trip.  

What is your favorite part of travel?  

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Amtrak and Food in New York

Last Wednesday I had a meeting in New York, so I took the train there and back.  Going out, because of schedule needs and wanting to get a little more sleep, I opted for the Acela Express, Amtrak's version of high speed rail.  It was - well mediocre.  The train has two classes of seating, first and business.  Business was the same 2 and 2 seating configuration as coach on standard trains, first class was 2 and 1 seating.  The seats in business class were leather, had tilt down footrests and a nice recline.  That was the extent of the amenities.  The overhead luggage racks were enclosed, meaning my fellow passengers with larger bags, couldn't get the bags in the bins.  It was slightly faster than the standard trains, but we lost all of that time and more, being delayed going into Manhattan.  In the end I was a few minutes late.  

The return trip was on a standard Amtrak train, affectionately known as an Am-Can.  Other than it being 45 minutes behind schedule, it was a pleasant trip, for less than half the cost of the Acela going up.  Bottom line, don't bother with the Acela unless it is the only train for a tight schedule.  

New York was wonderful.  I kind of knew my way around.  The taxi driver from Penn Station to the meeting site spoke English and was pleasant (I think NY has nicer taxi drivers than DC.)  I walked 30 blocks from the meeting site back to Penn Station for my return train.  I had been sitting all day and it gave me a chance to see a little of the City.  

I grabbed dinner at a place called Schnippers across from the Port Authority terminal on 8th Ave.  The concept is upscale fast food, fancy burgers and such.  You order and pay at the counter and they give you a restaurant pager and bring the order to you.  Except the pager does not tell them where you are, so the runners end up running around the dining room shouting numbers for the order.  The food was dismal.  I ordered "sloppy Joe's" and what was billed as "Baked Macaroni and Cheese."  The "sloppy Joe's" were dominated by too much sweet pepper.  The bun was too small for the amount of meat, very plain, and kind of dry.  That was the good part of the meal.  The macaroni and cheese was not baked, it was creamy, way to mild, not far from the garbage that comes out of a box. Good baked macaroni and cheese has a variety of stronger cheese and baking it results in a firmer texture.  Cheese changes in texture and taste when it is baked, this might have been heated though in an oven, but it was not baked.  My recommendation, pass this place by, there is better to be had. Such a shame, it is bright modern space in an incredible location.  

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Random Observations on People and Life

I spent Labor Day weekend in Florida visiting family. This involved four days of travel, three nights alone in a hotel room, time that tends to bring about deep thoughts.  I spent a morning retracing my steps on Orlando and Winter Park, a slow drive down unfamiliar memory lanes.   

I remarked to my brother in-law (b-i-l) that I am able to write some people off, to close them out of my life.  I named a couple of family members that I don't care if I see again.  One is a nasty moody son-of-a-bitch - who is always angry if he does not get his way.  Two are drug addled and spend far too much time with people I don't trust.  I remarked that I won't be surprised to hear that they are arrested, my b-i-l added or dead.  And yes, I would not be surprised to hear they are dead.  They are adults, adults knowingly making bad choices.  Still the b-i-l was surprised by my remark about writing people off.  

I visited the site of the Pulse night club, scene of the terrible massacre just three month ago. It was a pilgrimage visit. I had never been there, that club opened after I moved from Orlando.  If it had been open 25 years ago, I probably would have visited it, it was the kind of place I enjoyed.  I did drive by the Cactus club on North Mills - it is still there, though I think under a new name.  That is where  J gave me his business card, and the next day I called him back.  And Southern Nights, down on Bumby.  I thought it had closed, but it is apparently still in business, it was hosting an LGBT wedding show when I went by.  I had some fun nights there in my single days.  I felt it was important to retrace the places I had enjoyed the club scene to put in perspective the scene at Pulse, young people out enjoying life and being comfortable being who they are - just as we did in other venues 25 years ago.    

It is difficult to put into words the horrors of Pulse - the random nature and the ugliness of it. From the memorials on the fence and sidewalk it is clear that the scars are deep and still fresh.  As I was walking back the rental car I caught a foot on a bump in the sidewalk and a guy said, "are you doing okay," and I answered "Yes, I am okay," he said, "you are the only one."  I am doing okay, I think it is acceptable for me to be okay, and it is acceptable for him to not be okay, we are what we are.  I am disturbed by the act of hate, but, I choose not to let it rule me.  Orlando will never be the same, I accept that.  

I was living in Orlando the first time it lost it's small town innocence. About 35 years ago, an unstable man, upset over a traffic ticket, shot up the Court House, killing a couple of people and leaving a couple of Court personnel to die slow deaths, one over a period of 20 years.  Orlando was never the same, open doors were closed, security was tightened, the small town I had moved to was forever gone.  And continues to go farther and farther away.  Florida did executions at 6:00 AM, about the time the gym I attended opened, about the time I reached the weight pit, they would announce the execution on the radio, I remember the morning the announced the guy  who shot up the Court House was dead, it was one of only two times I thought, the state did a good thing today (the other was Ted Bundy.)  

What can I say about my parents, they are both in very bad shape.  Since my last visit two months ago, dad has slipped more than mom, in fact she was surprisingly talkative - even if little of what she said makes sense.  Hospice care seems to be agreeing with her.  Dad has a laundry list of fatal things wrong with him, treating any one of the illness would kill him.  He and his doctors have agreed that the best thing he can do is enjoy each day as if it were his last.  

I have an exercise for my fellow bloggers, draft the blog posting of your obituary.  What do you want the world to read about you, when you are gone.  I am working on postings for mom and dad, it is an interesting process, I will need the postings someday - at a time when I will least feel like writing them.  

Tuesday, September 13, 2016


I was recently in Florida for a few days visiting my frail parents, and honestly I think the inmates have taken over the asylum. 

Now Florida has never been the sanest place on the earth.  Few people in their right minds would choose to voluntarily live in a mosquito infested swamp, on a giant sandbar hanging like a bull scrotum from the lower 48 states. There are two kinds of swamp land in Florida, high swamp land - that is the stuff maybe 50 feet above sea level, and low swampland - pretty much the majority of the state; but Florida is all swamp land.  The highest point on the land mass in Florida is barely taller than the building I live near Washington DC, in fact the hill my building sets on, is nearly as tall as the tallest mountain in Florida.  I have climbed Mt Dora - when do I get my congressional medal?  

If not for the invention of air conditioning only a few foolhardy swamp rats would live in Florida.  Now air conditioning seems to attract New Yorkers, and Mid Westerners in very high numbers.  Turning it down to stun, reminds them of Christmas back home, except Christmas back home didn't feature roaches two inches long that can fly and alligators who can't fly, but can eat a poodle in 3 seconds flat. And yet there are more yappy little alligator magnets than you can shake a stick at running around this state.  

I think the combination of the heat, humidity and brain-freezing air conditioning has negatively impacted the population, just look at the robber barons they have elected to run state government.  When I was here in high school here in Florida, the mother of a friend looked me square in the eyes and said, there are two kinds of Yankees,  Yankees who come down here on vacation, get drunk, spend of lot money and keep Florida green, and damned Yankees, they move here.  The Yankees have taken over.  

Monday, September 12, 2016


I had so much fun playing in and out of the light in the Pantheon in Rome.  This is the concrete dome with an oculus or opening in the top.  The contrast between the sun streaming in and the shade in the interior was simply enlightening.  When it was build 2,000 years ago, it must have blown the minds of the people who entered, it still does today.  

Travel - it can be so enlightening.  

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Spo Meme

1. ARE YOU NAMED AFTER ANYONE?   I asked my mother one time, she said an old boyfriend.

2. WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME YOU CRIED?  I am a softee, today. 
3. DO YOU LIKE YOUR HANDWRITING? No, I can't read it half the time. 
7. DO YOU USE SARCASM?  Who me? 
13. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE ICE CREAM FLAVOR?  Hard to pick just one, chocolate 
15. RED OR PINK?  Red 
16. WHAT IS THE LEAST FAVORITE THING YOU LIKE ABOUT YOURSELF?  All of these years dealing with self image issues, and you ask this? Really? 
18. WHAT WAS THE LAST THING YOU ATE?   Potato chips 
19. WHAT ARE YOU LISTENING TO RIGHT NOW?  The television playing in the background 
21. FAVORITE SMELL? Wintergreen 
27. FAVORITE FOOD? Cheese 
29. LAST MOVIE YOU WATCHED.   - - - it has been too long 
31. SUMMER OR WINTER.  summer 
32. HUGS OR KISSES?  Hugs.
33. FAVORITE SWEET FOOD?  dark-chocolate 
34. WHAT BOOK ARE YOU CURRENTLY READING?  The Road to Little Dribbling.
35. WHAT IS ON YOUR MOUSE PAD?  don't use one 
36. WHAT DID YOU WATCH ON T.V. LAST? Gas Monkey Garage 
40. DO YOU HAVE A SPECIAL TALENT?  I can roll my tongue 
41. WHERE WERE YOU BORN?  Michigan - many - many decades ago 

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Learning Patience

Recently I was coming back from the grocery store one Sunday, I live in a high-rise and park outside, so I was pulling my shopping cart in through the garage to the elevator.  I came up behind a neighbor of mine, walking with a walker.  I slowed down and followed.  When we got to the door, I said, go ahead, I can wait.  When it came time to get in the elevator, he tried to waive me in front of me, and I said, no you go ahead, I can wait.  I told him, "I spent a month using a walker, I can wait." 

I have walked a mile in his shoes.  Spend a month using a walker, and you develop an understanding and patience.  

Friday, September 09, 2016


Offered without further commentary, I photographed this sign in the old town section of Nassau in Bahamas.  

Thursday, September 08, 2016

Soul Searching

JP has been gone a little over year year.  At times I am haunted by memories.  Did we, bloggers, society, the medical system fail him?

Anyone who read his blog, knew that he was troubled, deeply troubled by something. He posted about drinking himself to sleep, being depressed, and worrying.  If you spent a couple of hours on a bar stool next to him and got him to talk about his life,you knew he was struggling with something.

When I talked with him I remember being very uncomfortable at things he said and wondering if I really understood what he was saying - I didn't.  Point blank, I missed the clues, he was deeply troubled, and I was clueless about understanding what he was saying or to how to urge, or push him to get help.

I have waited a year to write this.  At times I have been angry, angry at JP, angry that he killed himself, angry that he may have hurt others, angry that the doctors and mental health care providers who treated him didn't do more, angry that I didn't hop in the car and drive to Richmond and I don't know what - I don't know what I could have said or done.  Could we have done more?

I have edited this posting deeply to try not to offend his friends. There are clues to what was troubling him, but my goal is not to accuse someone who can no longer explain what he may or may not have done.  He was troubled, and the help he received didn't help, it didn't work.  As a society we need to do a better job and helping people, get help to deal with the issues in their lives.  We need to see the clues and urge others to work through what is bothering them.

Wednesday, September 07, 2016

New York!

If all is on schedule, I am grabbing a few hours sleep between returning from a quick trip to Florida to check in on my parents, and heading off on a day trip to New York city.  I was telling my father about this trip, he spent a year or so in New York at the end of World War II, he said his one regret was never going to see the Statue of Liberty up close.  I should do that one day for him - he is no longer up to the travel.  

I am taking an early morning Acela, Amtrak's high speed train up this morning. It is the first time I have splurged for the faster train, it makes an hour difference in how much sleep I can get on an insanely tight schedule.  I will let you know what I think of it.  American high speed rail still lags far behind European high speed trains.  

I am headed up to hear a speaker on understanding and working with persons with dementia.  I am hoping she is as great as her You-Tube reputation.  I need her as a speaker for next year.  

It looks like I have time for an early dinner in New York before my train home this evening.  So many choices, so few opportunities, New York is one of the worlds great food towns.  

Tuesday, September 06, 2016

How Do We Pay For National Treasures

I get spoiled in DC, there are so many great museums and monuments that are open to the public without charge.  I won't say they are free, because it costs a great deal of money to build and maintain galleries, museums, public buildings and monuments.  Most of the ones that are open without charge, are paid for with tax dollars and donations.  

We do this as a civilized society, in the words of James Smithson, to "increase the diffusion of knowledge." My life in this society is enhanced by others being exposed to art, science and ideas.  As such we take on a society to support these institutions.  Public institutions are not businesses, in the traditional sense of being run to make a profit.  The profit or benefit, is a more worldly society.  This is not to say that nonprofits should be carelessly or recklessly operated, over the years many have been.  But they also fail to fulfill their mission if they are run on the model of a traditional business, making knowledge only available to those willing and able to pay for it.  Those that need knowledge the most, are likely to be those least willing or able to pay for it.  

So it strikes me as odd, when places like Westminster Abbey charge a substantial admission fee.  I wouldn't mind tossing a couple of pounds on the box as I enter, but 16-pounds, almost $20 US, seems a bit steep, for maybe what I need most and am least likely to pay for.       

Monday, September 05, 2016

Mt Washington by coal fired steam locomotive

Back in 2009 I was invited to speak at a conference in Mt Washington New Hampshire.  I had never been to New Hampshire or Vermont, and it was an interesting conference, so I said yes.  I knew nothing about Mt Washington.  Through the magic of google I quickly learned that Mt Washington is home to some of the nastiest weather in the continental United States.  The top of it sets in a sort of a natural wind tunnel, famous of high winds, fog, rain and generally ugly weather.  You can drive up one side, on the side that I was staying on there is a Cog Railway running up the side of the mountain.  When I checked into the train, I discovered that it was in it's next to last season of running coal fired steam engines - it was already phasing them out and replacing them with diesel powered hydraulic drive engines.  I paid the extra to assure a seat on the steam train.  

Riding coal fired steam on a cog railway up the side of a mountain engages all of the senses.  You can feel the locomotive spitting, breathing, coughing as it struggled to push against gravity.  You can smell the coal smoke and steam, fell the heat from the locomotive 4-5 feet away from the end of the single passenger car. The noise is an assault on your ears, you could hear every push of the steam pistons against the load. You could taste the coal smoke.  You can see the changing landscape and the look of wonder and at times horror on the faces of the passengers. Very little scares me, and  I will admit that at least once I was sure the entire thing was going to slide backward down the mountain, as we climbed what was more of a cliff than a steep slope. I think everyone was relieved when track finally leveled off in the dense fog at the top.  Few experiences impact so many senses at once.  

I am so glad I was able to catch one of the last coal fired steam rides.  It was an experience, an adventure that will not be easily duplicated.  The modern hydraulic drive system, is cleaner, quieter, smoother - safer and more reliable.  I would like to go back and ride again, I expect that this time I will experience the incredible landscape more, and the physical experience of the train less.   

Sunday, September 04, 2016

Stashed Away

The Ancient Egyptians knew how to stash away a thing or two for an eternity or two.  We have joked that my father isn't going, if he can't take it with him and he is still trying to find a hearse with a luggage rack.  When you are gone, and it is not a question of if, it is a question of when, we are all going to die sometime; someone will sort through your stuff.  What will they find, what will be most precious, most surprising, most embarrasing?  This weeks five questions - what do you have stashed away? 

1: We all have some surprising family keepsake, for me it is a ladies pendant watch from 1913, my grandmother gave it to me. It is a gold case with amazing enamel work on the back.  Her father bought it for her mother when he returned from working in Mexico City.  What will be the most precious thing they will find when they go through what you leave behind? 
2: Probably the oldest thing I have is a mosaic tile from a roman villa, just a single tile from a floor put in place over 2,000 years ago.  It was a gift from an academic friend, I don't want to know the conditions under which it left Italy.  What will be the oldest thing they will find among your possessions? 

3: My grandmother narrowly missed being a passenger on the Titanic, and I have a lifelong fascination with the ship.  She was spooked by it, felt that it was a gravesite and never should have been disturbed.  I am fascinated by the artifacts recovered from the wreck site.  I have a tiny piece of coal recovered from the wreck site, I bought at an early exhibition of artifacts recovered from the wreck - part of a fundraiser for exploration and preservation funds.  It freaks some people out.  What is the spookiest thing they will find in your collection.   

4: I have a friend in his early 60's, he has been out since he lived in San Francisco in the 1980's.  He was in a panic last spring when he was here in DC for a conference and his brother was looking for a missing car key back at his home in the midwest.  He was afraid his brother would stumble across his stash of sex-toys.  Will they find a box of personal "toys" in your stash? (Yes - a couple of boxes.) 

5: About 50 years ago, my grandmother told me, "if I saved my pennies, I'd be able to go to England someday."  She was born in Hammersmith, and I dearly wanted to go (and I have several times.)  But I also started saving my pennies, in fact I have seldom spent one in 50 years, I have boxes full of them, a couple hundred pounds of them.  Who ever cleans out my stash, will hate me for having so many pennies.  What will they hate you for having to much of when you are gone?  

Saturday, September 03, 2016

11 Years

11 years ago today, Travel and I made our debut on the blogging scene.  Over the years we have posted about 1,400 entries and attracted just over 100,000 page views.  The Adventures of Travel Penguin has chronicled not only travel and adventures, but our routine daily life, very occasional political or social rants, family and personal experiences in this adventure we call life.

I blog because I want to write about this adventure I call life, I want to share the photographs that I capture and I want to force myself to write more and get better at it.  Blogging is a creative outlet for me.  For me, publishing the photographs is a key, once a camera geek, always a camera geek.  My photographs don't have the technical expertise that they once did, but I love creating and sharing them. Writing for the blog has improved my writing.  Improved it in that I am much more comfortable sitting down and writing, even when I don't have much to say (yawn - you knew that.)  For anyone struggling to create blog content, I would urge that it gets easier and you get better by doing it.  I am 3/4 of the way through the second year of committing to blog daily, I have missed one day in 20 months.  I should add developing discipline and planning ahead to the list of things blogging does for me.

An old friend started me on blogging, and I / we have made some dear and wonderful friends though blogging.  People we never would have met without blogging, and who make real differences in our lives.  Thank You.  I miss the bloggers who have dropped off along the way.  A couple of them continue as dear friends, a couple are dead, others just stopped publishing and slipped beneath the waves.  New bloggers join the community each year.  I read recently that 80,000,000 blog posts and 500,000,000 social media posts are created each day worldwide.  I am glad to play a small role in that.  I will keep doing this as long as the adventure continues.  

So how long have you been blogging, and why do you do this?

Friday, September 02, 2016

Adventure changes

I love steam trains, there is something about the exposed mechanical parts, moving back and forth to go around and around, that I find endlessly fascinating.  Modern trains are comfortable and can be a wonderful way to explore, but they never have the same alive feeling of steam.  And yet, steam trains seldom appear on my blog, because there are few of them left.  They are a novelty item, a throwback to a bygone era.  I find them and ride them when I can.  I will write one day soon, about riding the Cog-Railway up Mt Washington in New Hampshire during the last season of coal fired steam - it was breathtaking. 

As technology changes, so does the adventure.  I can remember sitting in a hotel bar in Paris in January of 1991, reading, or at least trying to read the local newspaper - in French.  Interesting the obituaries were listed by the oldest person first and in descending order by age at the time of death,  in the USA obituaries were always listed alphabetically.  What does that difference tell us about the culture we are exploring?  Travel and adventure change our understanding of what it is to be human. 

Today, most likely I wouldn't be reading a print newspaper.  I can see print newspapers becoming as novel as steam trains in the next 25 years.  There will be a few hold outs, but technology has written the obituary of print newspapers.  Why should I wait until tomorrow morning for already out of date "news" when I can go online and read it instantaneously. 

The unanswered question, is how will news be collected and stories written?  How will we know we are reading a reliable source and not just one person's observation and rantings (like this blog)?  The news industry is being turned inside out, wire services have collapsed, merged and morphed.  Newspaper newsrooms have a tiny fraction of the staff they once did, instead relying on an army of independent writers to create content.  Curators like the Huffington Post (and I know HP is liberal and somewhat reactionary) have developed relationships with trusted sources and consolidate content, are replacing the traditional newsroom.  I think we will continue to see fundamental change in news publishing.  And print magazines, and newspapers will be as novel of an adventure as a steam train.  

Thursday, September 01, 2016

Rollins College - Winter Park Florida

I spent the better part of a decade finishing a Bachelor's degree at Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida.  When I finished high school I couldn't see why I should go to college, there is a not a history of higher education in my family - there were few if any role models.  I went to work and 3 or 4 years later when I figured out why I should get more education I started.  I worked full time and went to college part time.  I choose Rollins because it had a dedicated part time program assuring that I could finish without having to quit working - it really helped that the place is kind of a country club with a university attached.  

The place had a reputation as a semi-tropical playground for the kids of wealthy new-England families who either were not up to riggers of the Ivy League or were too lazy for Harvard and preferred the place in Florida that fields a collegiate water skiing team.  The place dripped with old money. I am not from old money - my great-great grandfather drank his way through a fortune in the late 1800's - and there was nothing left by my grandfather's generation.  One of the jokes in the 1980's and 90's was it was easy to tell the student parking lot at Rollins from the faculty parking lot, the one with Toyota and Honda's was the faculty lot, the lot with the BMWs, and Porsches was the student lot.  I drove a new Honda, they let me into the student lot - then I started sleeping with a member of the faculty and moved the faculty lot.  

The 7-11 store across from the main entrance to campus was famous for two things, being painted pink, and for keeping Dom PĂ©rignon  champagne in the cooler - for Rollins students to celebrate their latest conquests of learning.  

An acquaintance of mine here in DC, is building a new home a couple of blocks from the Rollins Campus that he will eventually retire in (I hope he delays retirement a few years, I like working with him.) We were talking the other day, he said lot he is building on use to have a big old house on it, that for the past 50 years was rented to Rollins students.  He said I "shutter to think how much "illicit sex"  took place on that property", my reply, was I hate to think how many supertankers of booze have been consumed on that property over the past 50 years.  Ah, college memories!