Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Annual State of the Blog Address

In keeping with recent past practices, I am proud to offer my annual State of the Blog address, as an alternative to the State of The Union Address, I suspect this one will be much more upbeat than the other.   

With slightly over 1,580 postings in slightly over 11 1/2 years, and with now two years without missing a day of posting, I declare that the State of the Blog is Good!  Viewership continues to grow, with several thousand page views each month, the blog is rapidly approaching 175,000 views.  This is tiny when compared to some other blogs, but my loyal readers are the greatest readers, simply the best audience a blog could have. You can't imagine a better following - we have made the blog great again (oops sorry, I am starting to sound like the great orange leader.)  

I really do appreciate people reading what I have to say, and I hope you enjoy the photographs.  I check several times a day to see if I have any comments.  3 or 4 comments is normal, days when you leave 8 or 10 comments I know I have the greatest blog posting every (sorry - the great orange one keeps seeping in - kind of like sewage out of a cracked pipe.) 

For me every posting starts with a photograph.  I have a small backlog of draft posts - that are photographs I want to post - eventually I figure out something to say to go with the picture - but the picture always comes first.  With over 35,000 digital photographs in my files, I have a lot to choose from.  I changed computers this past year, and in moving the image files to the new computer, I lost the filing order.  The images are now organized by name or image number, meaning that they are somewhat random. This unplanned change has brought long forgotten images back to my attention.  I also blog photos from my phone - random daily stuff, that being in DC, can be kind of interesting at times.   

I consciously limit political postings.  Being political is not my goal with travel penguin.  It has been difficult this past year.  And yes I did get rude once, sorry.  It was a moment of weakness, I will try to be better. 

I didn't bring back Travel's sister blog this year, "New Neighbors" that was created 8 years ago when a new family moved in around the corner from my office.  It was sad to see them move - but the time had come - their lease was up and couldn't be renewed. I miss them, the Great Old Days before the Orange One moved in, wandering the halls late at night, apparently not in a bathrobe, ranting and tweeting. 
I did create a new sister blog this year, The Adventure Continues, to show a large number of photographs from the adventure in Italy. I will add other collections of photographs as time progresses.  I recently linked that blog on the right side of Travel.  I will likely create another sister blog to catalog my collection of hotel Do Not Disturb Signs this year.  I have the best collection of do not disturb signs you have ever see, no one has a better collection, it is truly the greatest . . . oh my he is back again.  

So onward to another fun year of blogging. Please keep stopping by to read, leave a comment, and keep blogging so I have plenty of fun stuff to read.  

What is the state of your blog? 

Monday, February 27, 2017

May I Help You?

This creature reminds me of the ideal staff person in retail, there, ready and willing to help, but not insisting on helping when you really want to be left alone.  It is a delicate balance between being available and being intrusive.  The customer should always be welcomed, and help should be offered.  The standard answer of "thanks, just looking" may mean "leave me alone" or it may mean "I am trying to figure out what I want." If the staff person follows or continues to ask, the risk is being intrusive, if the staff person ignores the customer who is "just looking" they miss the clues that you may be able to help the customer find or understand product for sale, and miss a sale.  Doing this right is a skill that takes time and training to develop.  Successful retailers, need to take the time to train good staff and then pay them to stay.  

Have you ever worked retail? 

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Five Questions to Avoid my Idea of Hell on Earth

Another Hell on Earth, a bus load of children having breakfast in the hotel one morning. 

So I was recently in Florida watching and waiting for mom to die.  She was a tough old bird, hanging on and exceeding everyone's dire prediction.  As someone told me, "breathing is an old habit and some people find it hard to break."  I have a theory, mom was always the first one ready to go, and she waited impatiently for others to get ready to go.  Karma has saved up all of those minutes and gave them to her at the end of her life, while the rest of us sat and waited for the inevitable.  

She was been unable for some time to communicate, or even change the channel on the TV.  One of the things we failed to ask her when she could communicate was do you want to watch on TV or what music do you want to listen to, when you can't tell us what you want.  So the family is guessed.  Resulting in my version of hell on earth, watching endless reruns of Property Brothers on HGTV. 

So five questions to offer some guidance for your loved ones when you can't communicate. 

If you couldn't communicate what would you want:

1: What music do you want to listen to?
2: Do you want the television on, and if so what kinds of programming? 
3: Do you want to lie in bed, or be propped up in a comfy chair? 
4: Who do you want to come visit you? 
5: What pets, (living or inanimate) do you want to spend time with?

My answers: 
 1: What music do you want to listen to?
      Jimmy Buffet has written the sound track of my life, or anything new age instrumental, also the play list on my phone is a good starting point.  
2: Do you want the television on, and if so what kinds of programming? 
     Turn off the TV.  
3: Do you want to lie in bed, or be propped up in a comfy chair?
     Comfy chair, 
4: Who do you want to come visit you?
      Sweet bear and selected bloggers 
5: What pets, (living or inanimate) do you want to spend time with?
      The flocks, sheep and larger penguins 

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Not Bad for Mid February

I lived in Florida for about 20 years, and every January and February I question the sanity of having moved back north.  Politely put, I HATE cold weather.  Not that it can't get cold in Florida in the dead of winter - I have seen mid 20's (F) in Central Florida, days when it didn't get much above 40 degrees (F.) 

Last week the weather in Florida was wonderful.  Highs in the mid 80's a couple of days.  Bright and sunny.  A little windy - but overall very-very nice.  Not bad for mid-February.  

Do you prefer warm weather or cold weather? 

Friday, February 24, 2017

Earning those Frequent Flyer MIles

I have been to Europe 10 times, 7 of those trips in free seats from Frequent Flyer Miles.  I tend to hoard the miles for those trips, though I will occasionally use miles for domestic flights.  I am a member of three major frequent flyer programs, Delta, American and United, a couple of them are in alliances that allow me to earn miles for flying on other airlines such as Alaska.  Most of my miles are on Delta or American.  I also have airline branded credit cards for two of these.  I earn miles on all dollars spent on those cards and receive free checked bags and priority boarding on those two airlines.  

Last Friday I was earning my miles.  I flew from Orlando to DC, on American.  Went home to the condo for two hours, did laundry, paid the bills, checked the mail, retrieved packages that arrived while I was out of town, went to the gym, took a shower, packed, dressed and went back to the airport.  I then flew on Delta to Lexington to visit Jay for the long weekend.  That is one of the craziest days of flying I have ever had.  It is also a couple of thousand miles earned, on two different airlines.  That much closer to the next European adventure.   

London, Ireland, or Spain for the next trip? 

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Big Bird

I ended up with a mid-size Jeep as a rental car in Florida, I kind of liked it, and I took advantage of it to get a little off the beaten path.  Not off-road, but out onto back roads in the Merritt Island Wildlife refuge.  Out where the big birds can be found.  Above a roseate Spoonbill and a Heron.  The Heron flew away shortly after this first picture was taken, the Spoonbill stayed around and I was able to get several great images, then it flew away.  I didn't catch it in flight, I wish I had, the color was spectacular.  

Do you like to get off the beaten path? 

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

What Have I Been Reading 2nd Edition

I have finished reading an imperfect book about being an imperfectionist.  How to Be an Imperfectionist: The New Way to Self‑Acceptance, Fearless ... by Stephen Guise is a bit of a chore.  I should have known when the introduction warns the reader that book moves a bit slow through a lot of steps, and the in the last chapter supposedly tells you how to tie it all together and put it to use, then in the last chapter reiterates that it has been a long haul to get there. There are a few good nuggets hidden in the book, but unless you are moribund by perfectionism, I would not recommend wading your way through to get to the point of the book.  I paid for it, so I finished it.  I think it could have been half the length and better made it's point (kind of like a lot of my blog posts.)   

I have read a couple of really good popular psychology / self help books recently, Get Off Your "But": How to End Self-Sabotage and Stand Up for Yourself, by Sean Stephenson, and The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good ... by Mark Manson - I would recommend both. Those successes left me open to Kindle's suggestions, and along came this imperfect book. I have a couple more books of this type on my Kindle, I will let you know what I think.  I just started Americas Best Food Writing - and anthology. So far so good - tasty even.    

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Goodbye to Mom

Her adventure is finally at an end, my mother died late Monday evening. The last few years have not been easy, the top picture is five years ago, two years ago, and this summer. She slipped away by inches over the past several years.  

Born Joyce Jean Harp in June of 1927, to a farm hand, and his very young bride in rural Michigan.  She was their only child. She was a C-section birth, at a time when any surgery was terrifying. She was two when the great depression hit, the stories of her childhood are ones of struggle until her later teens when her parents settled on a farm. They didn't have running water or electric power in the house until she was a teenager. During World War II her parents saved up gas ration stamps, and took her to California and back one winter. One of her high school teachers was arrested as a German spy. She finished high school during World War II, her graduating class was about 12 people, many of the men in her class would not survive the war. 

After High School she talked about getting a job, and maybe more education and her father told her she should find neighboring farm boy and settle down and start a family. She wrote an aunt in the Detroit area who offered her a place to live, one of her uncles drove her to the train station, and she left home - essentially running away from home. 

She met my father when she was on a date with one of his friend's. Her date's car broke down, and my father rescued her from a long walk home - he as always prided himself on owning a reliable car.  She and my father have been married 68 years.  She had four children.  

She was a stern disciplinarian, the threat was never wait until you father gets home.  She kept an immaculate house,  cooked a mid western farm diet.  She protected her children, but let life happen to us.  When I was in elementary school we had a crop failure on the farm, and she went to work for a newspaper and printing company.  I think she liked going back to work outside the home.  I learned how to cook and bake while she was working.  

Later she helped run the farm, working the rest of us into the ground.  Five years after I finished high school, my parents sold the farm in Michigan and "retired" to Florida.  Retirement did last long, within a year they were both back working.  They retired a second time about five years later, and that time it stuck.  They traveled a bit, spending summers in Michigan for about 20 years.  They went to Hawaii twice and Europe just once (I have made up for them.)  Ultimately what she liked was being home.  Home being a modest home in Florida that they bought in 1976 and lived in the rest of her life.   

Several years ago she developed Parkinson's and dementia 2 or 3 years later.  Four years ago she was very sick, in the hospital and then a nursing home for a few weeks.  She was home about a month from that when she fell and broke her leg.  She never recovered from that injury.  Physical therapy was painful, and because of her dementia she couldn't understand why the man was hurting her.  She never walked again.  The dementia slowly robbed her of the ability to communicate. When I visited in September she knew who I was and was able to say a coherent sentence or two, by December she was not sure who was around and in the time I was there the only thing she said that was clearly understood shouting at the dog to be quiet (she knew his name.) When I visited in January she didn't seem to recognize me, she was sleeping most of the time, not wanting to get out of bed many days and had little ability to communicate.  Her condition had worsened since then, she essentially stopped eating and drinking almost two weeks ago. She lingered much longer than anyone expected - she was made of tough stuff.   

She is survived by her husband George, oldest son Dale - now 65, middle son Gary - in his early 60's who has worked for Disney for decades, her daughter Karen - who was her primary caregiver for the last three years, and her 58 year old baby, your one and only Travel Penguin. She has two grandsons Michael and Andrew.  

Arrangements are pending at this late hour.  

Monday, February 20, 2017

Getting the Most Out of my Daily Commute

One of the reasons I wanted to move to Washington DC, was I wanted to live in a real city with a mass transit system, and by mass transit system, I mean trains and subways.  I enjoy not having to fight traffic on a daily basis. The subway system is not perfect, and it does have it's moments of frustration, but far few frustrations than traffic.  

I live in a high rise condo, on top of a hill about 8 miles directly south of Washington DC.  I am a 10-12 minute walk from the nearest subway station.  The condo runs a shuttle bus mornings and afternoons on weekdays, or I can walk, about once per week I drive to the station and park (the station has three large parking garages.)  
When I can I walk to and from the station.  The route crosses a small park, skirting around a steep ravine that has not been developed (a developer owns the ravine and will do something with it some day.)  The picture above was taken on morning, I nice sticky snow had fallen overnight - it had all melted off by evening.    

Once on the train, I almost always settle into my favorite seat, third car from the end, middle doors, east side of the train.  Most mornings and afternoons I read, looking up as the train crosses the water at Four Mile Run and again as it passes the end of Reagan National Airport - I love checking out what planes are on the ground.  I read again, looking up when the train crosses the River north of the Pentagon.  I change trains at Gallery Place China Town, and if I can get a seat, read for another 10 minutes.  If I don't feel like reading, I people watch, or simply sit and think.  I leave the driving to Metro Rail. My office is five floors directly above a subway station.  My commute takes 50 to 75 minutes each way - depending on how many problems the train has.  I enjoy it, and do my best to get the most out of it. 

What is your commute like? 

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Foodie Questions

I sometimes think of myself as a foodie, but I really am not a food snob.  The truth be told, I am an adventuresome eater, who will eat almost anything.  I don't have terribly high standards, though I enjoy really great food.  Except for soggy french fries, I seldom find food inedible.  

Some food questions:
1: Cupcakes, a brilliant idea, or a stupid idea gone viral?
2: Velveeta - is it cheese? 
3: Sashimi - wonderful or bait? 
4: Apples - red or green? 
5: How do you like your steaks cooked? 

My answers: 
 1: Cupcakes, a brilliant idea, or a stupid idea gone viral?  I think cupcakes are the stupidest idea in baking.  I can't eat one without getting my fingers sticky, I can't get it out of the paper wrapper without making a mess.  

2: Velveeta - is it cheese? I was raised with Veveeta in the house, I have eaten a lot of it, and it is not cheese.  It is food chemistry. It has its uses, but don't try to pass it off as cheese.  

3: Sashimi - wonderful or bait? I love sashimi and sushi.  Who knew, raw fish could taste so clean and fresh. 

4: Apples - red or green? Red and ripe.  A sour apple is either not ripe, or a tree that didn't graft correctly.  

5: How do you like your steaks cooked? Rare to Medium Rare, I want red meat to be red in the middle - this is a major conversion for me, I was raised in a family where steaks were cooked well done and beyond, I once heard my father order a steak well done - dried out. 

Saturday, February 18, 2017

My What A Big Rooster

Welcome to the year of the Rooster.  The Atrium between the hotel and casino at the MGM Grand Resort at National Harbor is decorated for the Lunar New Year and welcomes the year of the Rooster.  The colors are dramatic and the displays nicely detailed.  The music is a little loud and repeats far to often on a loop.  It is a nice place to visit. I hope that the big cock brings you good luck this year.  

Friday, February 17, 2017

Look up and Look Around

It is so easy to become focused on work, and life, and things that need to be done, that I fail to notice where I am and what is happening around me. This picture was taken a couple of weeks ago.  I drove into the city on Saturday morning to meet and old friend for breakfast.  I realized that it was the first time I driven into the City in five months.  Driving into the City, I saw things I don't see on my daily commute.  Once my commute enters the city, it is underground, I don't see anything between the Potomac and popping up in front of our office building.  Even walking from home to the subway, I walked by within 25 feet of two of the three deer one morning recently and didn't notice them, until I heard them moving.  It is not that I am looking down mesmerized by my phone.  Though I do miss things on the metro when I am reading my Kindle.  I just zone into getting to and fro and miss what is around me.  

So, the reminder to myself, look up, look around, see and experience the world.  I never know what I am going to see, what adventure is in front of me.  

What surprising thing did you see this week? 

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Sin City Comes to Washington DC

MGM has opened a resort casino and hotel, at National Harbor.  This is not exactly Washington DC, it is about 6-7 miles down the Potomac and on the Maryland side.  As the crow flies, it is about 2 miles from my condo.  It opened in December, my first visit was in February.  I waited for the traffic to subside, and went on a Sunday morning (it is open 24 hours a day.) Parking was plentiful and free.  It is not well connected to public transit, there is a local bus - that runs a couple of times and hour.   

It is nice.  A little lighter and airier than most casinos and 100% smoke free.  That is really nice, the last time I was in a casino I left after a few minutes to get out of the funky air.  

The complex includes a hotel, connected to the casino by a bright atrium with an Asian theme.  The hotel is surprisingly small, with massive glass curtain walls.  There is a theater, that seats about 2,500 people, that will feature entertainers in town to play the Verizon Center (seating 20-30,000.)  Cher is going to be there in March - I should look into ticket prices.  There are a wide array of restaurants and bars, I will try a few of those over the coming months.   There is some nice pricey shopping. 

The Casino floor is mostly slot machines, with a good mix of table games.  At 10:00 AM on a Sunday, the poker rooms were half full.  There is a nice mix of machines.  

So do I gamble?  A little.  I put $20 in my pocket when I went in, and considered it money spent on entertainment when it went in my pocket.  I left with $12.25 of that after almost an hour.  At one point I was a couple of dollars ahead. I play as long as my spent money lasts and as long as I enjoy it.   

Are there Casinos near you? 

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

But is it art?

  1. 1.
    the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power.

I think it is art, 

What do you think? 

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Happy Valentines Day

Happy Valentines Day to my one-and-only, and to all of my readers! 

May your life be filled with love and happiness.  
May you life and love be filled with grand adventures. 
May your love be there to stand by you and help you through the challenges of life. 
May every day, be touched by love and caring.  

Monday, February 13, 2017


I had never really thought much about sheep, until we visited Yorkshire one summer.  The field behind the house we rented for a week had a small flock of sheep, we could see them and hear them.  The surrounding hillsides were teaming with the cute little fuzzy creatures.  They are soft and fuzzy and for the most part quite contented.  We fell in love with them. If they had better manners I would keep a flock of them in the living room.  But their biological needs are incomparable with high rise living, so we make due with acrylic sheep.  The flock keeps the carpet flowers mowed down.  They are quiet, soft and fuzzy, but not as warm and cuddly as their farmyard friends.  

If they could be housebroken, what would you keep a flock or herd of in your living room? 

A quick personal note: I am in Florida for a few days.  Hospice urged calling in the family, mom is not doing well.  The Travel Penguin will update with scheduled posts, but I may not offer as many comments as usual.  I am reading, my daily dozen blogs keep me connected.  

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Sunday Five -

I have spent parts of my life trying to be the best, the top dog, the salesman of the month.  Much of that energy was wasted, worrying about how others were doing. Over the years I have learned that enjoyment is often found in the journey, in the adventure.   So, five questions: 

1: Do you have to finish first, or is merely participating reward enough? 
2: Do you let what strangers think of you, influence what you do?
3: Will you wear last year's Gucci loafers in public? 
4: Have you ever quit seeing a friend who consistently treated you badly? 
5: Does your work have to be perfect, or good? 

My Answers,  We look forward to reading your answers in the comments below. 

1: Do you have to finish first, or is merely participating reward enough? This was a mid life change for me, from needing to be top dog, to finding happiness in the middle of the pack.  When I started running and doing triathlons I realized I would never be first, but being a part of the event was so much fun.  I would challenge myself, I remember my fastest mile split time, finishing the first triathlon and finishing both half marathons.  I was no where near the front, but I finished under my own power.  

2: Do you let what strangers think of you, influence what you do? I do this less and less as time goes on.  One advantage of traveling, is I can say to myself, none of these people will ever see me again, relax and have fun.  

3: Will you wear last year's Gucci loafers in public? Oh yes, I am not very fashion forward.  Given the choice, I would wear jeans to work everyday (shorts in the summer.) I have to remind myself to not look like a slob from time to time. 

4: Have you ever quit seeing a friend who consistently treated you badly? It took a lot to get to this point, but yes. He was one of the few people I knew in high school that I consistently stayed in contact with.  Over time his treatment become worse and worse and finally one day I said NEVER AGAIN.  It was not an easy move, but I am so glad I did it.  

5: Does your work have to be perfect, or good?  Good, is good enough.  Few things in life are perfect, perfection wastes so much energy.  If I worked on each blog posting until it was perfect, you would give up and not come back to see what I was up to and have to say.  

Saturday, February 11, 2017

A Blast from my Past

This was my first post card job, back in the mid 1970's. Over 4-5 yeas I earned enough money as a photographer to buy a bag full of professional cameras.  My "by-line" is on the back of this card, I took the photographs and contracted for the printing.  I did three or four postcard jobs over a period of a couple of years. I also did some "catalog shoots."  I did a couple of weddings, I hated shooting weddings.    

The cowboy on the roof was very cute - nice eyes, a pleasant smile, and he knew how to wear a pair of jeans! He made a pass at me a couple of times, but I was to naive and scared to do anything. 

What I really enjoyed was aerial photography.  Dad would fly and I would take the pictures, most were custom ordered images of farms or businesses.

After a few years I stopped taking pictures professionally.  I was driving myself nuts finding imperfections in my work, and worrying that people were paying for my mistakes. People were thrilled with the images, but I could always find ways I could make it better.  If I knew then, what I know now, few things in life are perfect, beauty sometimes lies in the imperfections of life.  

I stumbled across this postcard in a box of old photographs, a real blast from my distant past. 

What did you do for fun a profit in your teens? 

Friday, February 10, 2017

So What Have I Been Reading Lately 1st edition

When I was in the 4th or 5th grade, the class went to the library in the basement of the Jr High School across the street and we were told to select a book, we could check out, read and write a book report on.  I selected a biography of Andrew Carnegie.  I recall being enthralled with the book, the story of his life from a young penniless Scottish immigrant, to wealthy industrialist, to philanthropist. I poured my heart into writing the book report.  It was work beyond my years.  The teacher proceeded to tear apart my choice of book, I had not chosen a "proper work of literature."  After chipping off a chunk of my self esteem, and likely some bluster and tears on my part, she grudgingly agreed to GIVE me a barely passing grade, on what was probably the best work of writing of my young life. Needless to say, I was not terribly enthusiastic about reading for a decade after that.  

I recall when I graduated from high school, one of the speakers saying that projections were that I would read much more as an adult, than I had as a student - I thought he was out to lunch.  A couple of years later, bored in an office job, I discovered the joy of reading.  I still have strange taste in books.  I seldom read fiction. I don't really see the point in most fiction - I see enough problems of real people - to spend time reading about the fictional problems of fictional people.  I read a lot of narrative, travel, a little history, some business, some popular psychology, some law, some aging, some public policy, some urban development, some sociology or modern anthropology, and biography.  Mostly non-fiction.

My daily commute to and from work on the subway trains of Washington DC, provides me with about an hour a day, 30 minutes in the morning and 30 in the afternoon, of reading time.  I almost always have my Kindle in my bag - it almost always has 4 or 5 books on it, usually 2 or more are being read at one time.  

So what have I been reading?  
I just finished SPQR A History of Ancient Rome, by Mary Beard. She is a professor at Cambridge.  Jay says I probably met her when I went to the Oxford Patristics Conference with him about 15 years ago. 

The book starts in about 200 BCE and runs until about 200 CE, and focuses on Rome, with minimal references to the Roman Empire - that stretched from Great Briton to  Egypt. Professor Beard explains that a history of the Roman Empire would fill several volumes the size of this (and at just over 500 pages, this is no quick read.) The book is a good balance of political process, social history, military history, and the day to day culture of life in Rome.  If refers to history, archaeology, and literature.  It is a long read, but easily accessible by someone who not a scholar of ancient studies.  The book is intended for a mass market, but I could see it as a good text for a survey course on Rome.  I enjoyed the book.  I was able to identify places I have visited and names I have heard - over nearly 25 years with Jay.  I found the book to be a good balance (I loath military history - military history is touched on as needed to understand Rome, but is not droned on about for pages and pages.)  The book expanded my understanding of Rome.  I am ready to go back to Rome. 

So what are you reading? 

Thursday, February 09, 2017

I have the urge to do something radical!

I have the urge to see if I can go 24 hours without looking at Facebook.  What a radical idea, to disconnect from my connected world for 24 hours.  Should I do it? Can I make it 24 hours?  When should I try? 

The shoes, a compulsive posting for some special friends on Facebook over the weekend.  Great colors - why don't men's shoes come in great colors? 

Wednesday, February 08, 2017

Refugees and Immigrants

A never asked my grandmother or great grandmother if it was a coincidence or a conscious plan, but my grandmother's family immigrated from Europe on the eve of World War I.  During World War II, one my father's uncles and a couple of his cousins came to the seek refuge in the relative safety of the United States - and never returned home. We are largely a country of immigrants.  Some of my family has been here for nearly 400 years, other parts for just over 100 years.  They came here seeking a better life. 

Refugees and immigrants are not always welcomed with open arms.  Those who become a part of the culture, who become part of the creole of the community, are much more welcome than those who do not. People who fail to become a part of the culture - stand out and never really reap the bounty of being here. They are permanent tourists, in the place that they live. If I moved to France (a fantasy in my dreams,) I would need to improve my French, dress like the locals, shop, cook and become a part of the local community, or I am merely living my American life in an inconvenient place - complaining about a lack of peanut butter in the local market. I love to travel, but living my American life in another country and culture for a couple of weeks, is very taxing for me and for the locals.  I do it for a couple of weeks, if I was there longer than that, I would expect the locals to lose all patience with the crazy American who has never really learned the language.      

Our immigration system is outdated and does not work well.  We need to fix it.  In doing so, we need to think about who we are as a culture and who we want to be 100 years from now.  Are we still the great mixing bowl of the world?  

If you moved to another country, would you try to become a local, or try to live in a bubble of your culture in a new place? 

Tuesday, February 07, 2017

Into the Deep End

It has been a long time, since I have gone in way over my head, but it happens.  I was placed in charge a significant research study, months were spent designing the survey instrument, and testing it, and over 500 responses were received from busy professionals.  Only one minor little issue, I am not a trained researcher.  I didn't take research methods in college or law school.  

I can view it as being set up to fail, or as an opportunity to shine, to do work beyond my experience and training.  I have had to remind myself a few times, that - that choice is mine to make.  The outside consultant has finally started replying to my emails, though he is asking questions I don't understand.  I start my answer with, I am not sure what the question means, but this is what I was hoping this question would tell us.  If he can explain the data to me, I can explain it to anyone.  The ultimate goal is to come up with a report that others can understand.  By stretching to understand myself, I will be forced to write a report non-experts can understand.  There is an advantage to being thrown into the deep end.  

When you go in the deep end, do you sink or come up swimming? 

Monday, February 06, 2017

When Will We

When will we return to supersonic travel?  I recall the days of the space race, the massive spread of technology, when several global companies were competing to develop supersonic commercial aircraft.  Only two designs ever made it into production, a dozen or so Concords flew, and a handful of Tupolevs.  The American designs were all canceled before a flying prototype was built.  The costs were high, and in the end government funding failed to come through.  The other two designs were made possible by significant government funding for development costs.  

In the end the Concords flew about their expected life cycle, proving reliable.  The Tupolev only flew for a few years and had a rocky history of engineering issues.  There has been so much advancement in materials science and engineering since those two were designed, that if you designed a new SST from the ground up today, it would be a much better plane. 

No place in the world today, can you buy a ticket and travel faster than the speed of sound on a scheduled flight.  And that is sad.  We learn so much from pushing the limits, and the speed of sound is a limit left to be pushed for airline travel.  The concept of two hours from New York to Paris, still has allure.  Over my lifetime jet travel has shortened international travel time, but with the SSTs out of the picture we are stuck at the speeds of the 1960's.  It is time to go farther and faster.  

If you could get anyplace on the face of the earth in a two hour flight - where would you go? 

Sunday, February 05, 2017

Kitchen Questions

I love to cook, and it shows.  I am overcoming my fear of baking, the pastry trauma from childhood has taken a lot of work to get past.  So how about a few questions about the kitchen.

1: Do you like to cook? 
2: Do you like to bake (pastries, cookies, cakes)? 
3: When cooking do you follow a recipe or wing it? 
4: When baking, do you follow a recipe or wing it? 
5: How did you learn to cook and or bake? 

My answers: 
1: Do you like to cook?  Well I answered this above, I love to cook.  I like shopping for interesting and quality ingredients and cooking. 

2: Do you like to bake (pastries, cookies, cakes)?  Baking is harder for me.  I am getting better at it. One issue, is if I bake it, I eat it, and I need to control that.  I have been baking most of my bread for the past 5 months.  

3: When cooking do you follow a recipe or wing it? I wing it. If I look at a recipe, it is a starting point for me, never to be followed precisely.  I can sometimes replicate a dish I have eaten, without being told what is in it or how it is prepared.  I drive hubby crazy, because I don't write down how I made something.  

4: When baking, do you follow a recipe or wing it? I am more likely to follow the recipe.  Slowly I am learning technique.  What things should look and feel like, so I can stray from the formula, and wing it.  

5: How did you learn to cook and or bake? I spent a lot of time watching my English grandmother, the one who was not a great cook, a little time watching my mother, and a lot of time experimenting.  I have read hundreds of cook books, watched cooking TV, I am largely self taught.  I would like to go take a cooking class one day - just for fun - and to drive the instructor crazy by winging it. 

Saturday, February 04, 2017

How Did I End Up There

The picture above was taken in the fall of 1989, at the finish line of the National Championship Sprint Triathlon in Boca Raton, Florida.  That is me, I still have the bike (it is amazingly fast - very- very - fast.)  

So how did I end up there?  A couple of years before that, I took charge of my diet and joined a gym.  A few months after that I started running and swimming, and riding a bike for the first time in a decade.  A decade that has not been good to me.  I lost a ton of weight.  I mentioned to my boss that I would love to do a triathlon, in fact one was scheduled on my birthday that year at Sea World in Orlando - but I didn't think I would try.  It was a 1/4 mile swim, a 15 mile bike ride, followed by a 3.1 mile run.  I knew how to stay afloat in the water, but I would have to learn how to properly swim in a couple of months to do the first triathlon. My boss was a master manipulator, I don't recall exactly how he did it, but he bullied me into committing to do it.  I finished the race and I enjoyed it. The guy who finished just in front of me was running on his 80th birthday, it was my 30th birthday.  But I finished under my own power.  

So I started competitive racing, because my boss manipulated me into doing it.  His doing that was no real surprise, when I went to work with him, he said, I will screw with our head, but not your money, work for with me and you will make more money than anyplace else in town.  He held true to that promise for about three years.  

The following year I ran a full season of 5K races and the sprint triathlon series in the Orlando area - as I recall it was 4 triathlons. One day, I received an invitation for an open field slot in the National Championship sprint race in Boca Raton.  The race was in late fall (November - December.)  I sent in my check and made the field.  

As I recall I finished in the middle of the pack.  Not bad for a guy who had been 240 pounds four years before.  My greatest moment on that race, was passing Mike Pigg, (yes that was his name) one of the elite men, on the bike ride.  The bike was my strong sport.  I didn't care if he passed me back before the end of the bike course and finished the race 20 minutes faster than I did, I passed one of the best in the world, once in my life.  

I miss running and racing.  I occasionally dream about running, or riding. Swimming, I did because it was part of the package.  I got the point of being pretty good at it. I did some open water ocean swimming, that was fun.  But for the most part was a grind for me.  

Have you ever participated in a running race, a bike race, or swimming race?  

Friday, February 03, 2017

Brief Encounters

I was headed out of the condo building early one morning recently, I pushed the call button for the elevator, the elevator came down a couple of floors and opened and I stepped in.  There was a cute young couple inside, and a small suitcase.  They looked shocked, surprised and maybe a little embarrassed.  She had her backed turned to me and was kind of jumping up and down.  I kind of wondered if I had interrupted a little close up and personal time - you know - having sex in the elevator.  

She turned to me and said, "we are going to have a baby - sooooon!" with her voice rising 15-octaves at the end of the sentence. She was wearing sweats and a T-shirt and it was obvious nothing else.  She looked excited - he looked terrified.  He said "we will see what the doctors say, she replied, I hope we get to the doctors on time.  

I hope things went well for them.   I wonder if this was the first time they looked embarrassed in that elevator?  

What is the craziest thing you have seen in an elevator?  

Thursday, February 02, 2017

Mini Me

How have I changed, how am I the same?  This picture was taken about 50 years ago.  

Look closely, my hair - what there is left of it, is still a wavy curly nearly uncontrollable mess. 

My dark, beady eyes are still dark and beady.  

My nose if still prominent.  

My ears are still balanced.  

I have a bit less hair on top - a lot more on my face. 

I have one small scar and a lot of lines of experience and adventure (I am proud of them, I have survived to wear them.) 

I have more chins. 

I am about 200 pounds heavier and a couple of feet taller. 

I am happier, more self confident.  I still prefer time alone or with only one or two others, to time in a crowd.  

How have you changed over the past 50 years? What is the same.  

Wednesday, February 01, 2017

Thought of the Day, time to think

I don't make widgets for a living, I don't process piles of paperwork, or count bins of parts, or provide customer service; I think for a living.  Actually we all do.  The person who makes widgets thinks about how to make them.  The person who counts parts thinks about what supply and work flow.  The person who provides customer service, thinks about what it would take to provide a better customer service.  But most of employees are not paid to think, some are discouraged from thinking*, nor are they given time to stop and think about what it is that they do.  

It is hard to describe what I do, program, project and policy development is really the best description.  But at the core of it is thinking about how to create and produce research, programs and projects, and exploring policy issues and trying to create background research, findings and occasionally recommendations.  And I find that I get so busy doing all this, that I don't have time to think. 

I was listening to an interview on YouTube with Bill Gates, he said that once a year he takes two weeks away from the office to read and think.  It hit me that I need to set aside time to recharge my creative batteries.  I think I would have a hard time convincing my boss that I needed two weeks away from the office to read and think, but I can do a day or two at a time.  And I will, officially it will be listed as a telecommute day, and the day will be filled with reading about issues related to my work, and taking uninterrupted time to think. 

* I worked in retail for a few months while waiting to start law school and my boss told me she didn't pay me to think, and when she wanted me to think, she would let me know.