Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Farmers Markets

If you were being sent into exile, forced to live in a new location for the rest of your life, with no chance of ever leaving where are sent to live, where would you choose to go?  My answer is simple, across the street from the Central Market in Florence Italy.  I have always loved markets, Florence is one of the best I have ever seen.  

When we travel I am always looking for markets.  The picture above was taken in a small town in Germany, where we stopped for lunch and stumbled into the market on the square by the church.  We had a wonderful lunch along the side of the square.  

The market on Market Square in Alexandria runs year around, though in winter is kind of sparse.  There are a lot of new vendors this spring. The chicken man is back this spring, he raises free range birds in Maryland.  He provides loving care of his birds.  It shows in the quality of his eggs.  He has a contract to supply eggs through a local supermarket, I can buy his eggs cheaper at the supermarket, than I can from him on market square.  I prefer to buy them from him.  He makes a little more, I get to spend a minute encouraging him to keep up the good work.   

There are an increasing array of other seasonal markets in the area, including a group that requires that the vendors be the person who grew or produced the produce they sell.  

Do you go out of your way to visit markets? 

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Platform 9 3/4

The secret to getting onto platform 9 3/4 was to act confidently and get a little bit of a running start.  A lot of things in life are like that, look and act like you belong and often you will go unnoticed.    

I have followed people into conferences, receptions and parties.  Just look and act like you belong here and no one will notice.  Fake it, don't let them know you are a fraud.  Underneath the facade many people fear being found out to be a fraud, but if they fake it, they make it.  

The picture above was taken with the somewhat crappy camera in an early smart phone (a blackberry.)  I had gone for a walk about, leaving Jay watching the bags, including the bag with my better camera in it, while we waited for our train.  Not a bad image for a phone faking it as a camera.  

Monday, May 29, 2017

Memorial Day

The start of the summer season, and a time to pause and reflect.  The name indicates a day set aside to commemorate the end of a couple of wars and to honor the men and women who risked and sacrificed life and limb. 

I fall into the fortunate gap in our population that was not at risk of war.  Vietnam ended before I finished high school, and the Gulf Wars didn't get started until I was nearing 30.  

Arlington National Cemetery overlooks Washington DC, the picture above is in the American Military Cemetery in Normandy in France.  

I think we should move the presidents house, and congress into the middle of a military cemetery.  Perhaps it would remind those who call the shots of the impact of their actions.  

I have to admit I am not as optimistic this year as I have been.  Too many mad men, who have never experienced the horrors of war are in control of armies around the world.  I will do my little bit today, to try to remind the world war is hell, war never proves who is right, only who is stronger, there are better ways of resolving differences, than war.  

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Indy 500 Fast Five

It is Indy 500 weekend, one of the best weekends in American Sport.  So here are 5 fast questions! 

1: Have you ever driven over 100 miles per hour? 

2: Drag Racing (the kind done with cars), Like it, Hate It, Don't Understand it? 

3: Ever received a speeding ticket? 

4: Have you ever been to an auto race? 

5: NASCAR or Indy car? 

My Answers: 
1: Have you ever driven over 100 miles per hour? 
  Three times, twice on the autobahn in Germany - legally, once on one of the toll roads around Orlando in an almost new Honda Accord. 

2: Drag Racing (the kind done with cars), Like it, Hate It, Don't Understand it?  
   Drag racing never made sense to me, - why bother - 

3: Ever received a speeding ticket? 
    Nope, have I ever deserved one, see answer #1 above. 

4: Have you ever been to an auto race? 
     I have been to qualifying at Indianapolis twice, I have not been to the race - an adventure I would like to try.  

5: NASCAR or Indy car? 
     Indy car, really any open wheel racing.  

Your answers? 

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Random Pictures

Western Maryland Scenic Railway is back running a full schedule and back with steam this year.

The sort of scaffolding is the rail for a round glass elevator to the top, it is quite a ride. 

Pike Place Market in Seattle. 

I wonder where he is going? 

Friday, May 26, 2017

The Fountain of Old Age

How ironic that Juan Ponce de Leon came to Florida in search of the fountain of youth, what he found turned out to be the opposite, the place old people come to get older, waiting for an inevitable death - the waiting room for heaven or hell.  I was in Florida recently, checking on my terminally ill father, who moved there 35 years ago, figuring he'd be dead in 20 years, and to visit other assorted family and friends and hear about their assorted ailments and illnesses. Their illnesses and treatments are enough to make you think the state should be quarantined. I don't think there is a healthy person in the state.  There is one I am worried about, he is pissing blood and no one seems to know why.  He is concerned about the video camera they are going to use to "go in for a look see" and I am thinking I'd be more worried about what is coming out, than what is going in. The camera is only a couple of millimeters wide, the other three inches are just his fears.  

I went to dinner at Cracker Barrel, because it was withing easy walking distance of the hotel I was staying in, and sat there watching the walkers (walking frames), canes and wheelchairs roll in and out, filled with frail people, eating what might well be there last meal, at Cracker Barrel. Think about it, if you thought you might be dead in the morning, would you really want to order the frozen meatloaf and overcooked green beans (actually the beans are kind of tan the way they cook them) as your last meal?  Lobster and caviar should sell much better than they do in Florida.  

Don't get me wrong, I love the climate in Florida, I like 90 degrees, and 90% humidity, 9 months out of the year - well I liked not having snow - well I did get snowed on twice in my 20 years of living in Florida - but it didn't stick.  I grew to love the flora and fauna of Florida, I grew to appreciate the landscape and rhythm of the southern seasons. But seriously, all of these old people in Florida are on deaths' door. Don't move to Florida unless you are ready to die. 

Would you move to Florida? 

Thursday, May 25, 2017


I had never been too sure of dogs, before Blitz the wonder dog.  I never really trusted them, most are poorly behaved.  Some of the little ones are vicious.  Blitz is different, he is very well behaved.  He can be fun and funny.  The last thing that I heard my mother say that entirely made sense, was shouting at Blitz to be quiet, there was someone unfamiliar at the door.  

He is my sisters youngest child.  At 120 pounds the lightest of her kids.  

Is there a special dog in your life? 

Wednesday, May 24, 2017


Part of the challenge of living and working in an urban environment is people asking for money.  If I gave a dollar to every person who asked, I'd need to get a second job.  You learn to ignore most of them, panhandlers say that people treat them like they are invisible, and that is really how city dwellers treat most of them.  

I will give a dollar or two to a musician, they don't even have to be good.  There is one, in DC who plays the ukulele, not very well, if I won the Power-Ball lottery, I'd give him a million-dollars if he would agree to never play in public again. I like the drummers on their 5-gallon-plastic-buckets or upturned garbage cans. There is a brass band here in DC, that plays on a corner in front of an office building filled with lawyers.  The law firm has offered the band a significant amount of money to move away, and the band has refused - I bet when that story ran in the Washington Post, money dropped in the bucket in front of the band went up.   

I passed a young guy sitting on the sidewalk with a sign asking for money, and a guitar case sitting closed next to him.  I was tempted to stop and tell him to take out the guitar and play some music, - but you learn to not engage street people - some of them a few bricks short of a balanced load.  

How to you respond to people asking for money? 

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Hotel Adventures

I have kept a written record, sort of a travel log book, of all of the hotels I have stayed in since 2005.  I have spent 435 nights in hotels, since I started keeping track, 14.5 months.  

Most of them are forgettable.  A nice place to stay, but nothing that I will remember afterward.  A few stand out as particularly bad, a handful wonderfully good.  

You don't forget the hotel where you killed the bedbug, or had to haul your luggage over the roll of carpeting in the hallway, or the rooms that smell so strongly of smoke that they keep you awake. 

You also don't forget the room you arrived at late at night, and woke up the next morning to a spectacular view of a lake.  In Honolulu I had a balcony with a spectacular view of the Pacific.  Occasionally I end up with a stand out room, a large corner room in a high rise in Philly -  an apology from the front desk that lost track of the fact that I was waiting for a room to be cleaned and sat working on my laptop for almost 3-hours.  The Fairmont in San Francisco, the Langham in Chicago, the Pan Pacific in Seattle are rooms that stood out for being over the top elegant.  Occassionally something old and special like the Ferme de le Ranconniere in Crepon, France - in Normandy near the D-Day beaches - a converted farm and castle. Then there was the converted Monastery in western France. 

I tend to book brand names, newer hotels. Places that are very predictable - meaning hard to remember.  I need to remember to book the interesting smaller hotels when I can. 

Do you keep track of the hotels you stay in or otherwise keep a travel log?  

Monday, May 22, 2017

Glimpses of the Adventures

Paris at Christmas

Virginia underground 

Keeping the Classics Steaming 

Woodford County, Kentucky - what are the stories of the hands that have gripped that handle? 

Spring in DC

Each of these images has a story behind it, a place I have been, an adventure I have had, a quiet afternoon, a trip dreamed about and planned, or a spur of the moment wander.  

What do all five images have in common? 

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Sunday Five - Food

1: Have you introduced anyone to a food they didn't think they liked, and they did like it? 

2: Strawberries, I was raised in a culture that ALWAYS sugared strawberries - Jay was not.  Sugar or no Sugar added to your strawberries? (The local berries are in season right now.)  

3: What food do people assume you like, because you will eat it, but in truth you only tolerate it? 

4: What is your favorite cookie (what you Brits call a biscuit?) 

5: Have you ever ordered room service in a hotel? 

My answers: 
1: Have you introduced anyone to a food they didn't think they liked, and they did like it? 
I few years ago I made potato salad one evening, Tim tried and liked it. He explained his mothers was always this funny orange color and he never had the nerve to try it, she was dusting it with paprika as a spice causing the odd color.  

2: Strawberries, I was raised in a culture that ALWAYS sugared strawberries - Jay was not.  Sugar or no Sugar added to your strawberries? (The local berries are in season right now.)  Sugar for me, my grandfather liked them mashed and sugared.  

3: What food do people assume you like, because you will eat it, but in truth you only tolerate it? 
Broccoli, I will eat - but I really don't understand why. 

4: What is your favorite cookie (what you Brits call a biscuit?) 
Chocolate chip, soft ones.  

5: Have you ever ordered room service in a hotel? 
I seldom do, but I have ordered pizza and beer a couple of times.  I know a lot of people who will order room service when traveling alone to avoid going out to dinner alone.  I sometimes grad take out and eat in my room (hence the Sushi above.) 

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Changing Trains

I have changed trains at Slough twice. Slough is just about directly west of the center of London, out past Heathrow airport.  The first time I was inbound from Gatwick, and changed trains at Slough with luggage in tow.  The last time I was headed to Windsor - and changed trains here.  That last trip, Jay was headed to Oxford, we rode together as far as Slough, then went our separate ways.  As I recall on that trip, I went home 3 or 4 days before he did.  

I have changed trains at Slough, have I really been to Slough? Do I really want to see anymore of Slough? 

Friday, May 19, 2017


We have a substantial collection of stuffed animals. Penguins, of course and sheep, but there are also a handful of exotics.  They make the ideal house pets for people who travel too much and are never sure what to do with living beings.  I am very tactile and enjoy holding them.  There is a resident sheep in my bedroom - Patrick and I have been through so much.    

We have a Dodo, from natural history museum at Oxford.  Dodos went extinct in the mid 1600's.  A lot of drawings and paintings exist, the last taxidermied specimen was tossed in a bonfire about 100 years ago by a museum employee who thought it was just another dusty mouth eaten old thing.  The charred remains are treasured by the museum, little more than a beak and feet.   

We have a life size California Condor chick, that my mother declared the "ugliest thing she had ever seen."  Jay has been pushing for psychotherapy for Fluffy for sometime.  

Ah the picture above.  A few years ago we were on a grand circle tour of Lake Erie.  We took a couple of the kids with us, a penguin or two, and our Rodney, our Wombat.  When we were checking into the hotel in Niagara Falls Rodney didn't want to stay in the car.  So I tucked him under my arm and away we went.  Doorman held the door open, did a double take and said, "this is Canada, your beaver is very welcome here!"  I pointed out the short fluffy tale and explained that Rodney was a wombat not a beaver.  I bet that doorman still remembers the guy with a wombat tucked under his arm.  

You don't have to be crazy to be us, but it would help.  

What is the oddest thing you have carried into a hotel? 

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Things to Drop, things to keep

Things I should drop; my reluctance to go out in the evening, my fear of retirement, my politeness in silly traffic, my concern about offending someone, my reservedness on my political views, my fear of baking cakes, being overly politically correct, 

Things to keep; my sense of adventure, my love, music - I need more music in my life, my sense of humor,  blogging, travel, adventure, bikes - lots of bikes, cameras - I am planning to add another one, creativity, 

What should you drop and what should you keep? 

Wednesday, May 17, 2017


Seattle, I didn't set out to plan a trip to Seattle back in 2008, I was planning an Alaskan inside passage cruise.  We had been to Europe a couple of times in the previous couple of years and had decided to stay closer to home in 2008.  My parents had always talked about going to Alaska, so when I started looking at cruises I looked at one's that would be easiest for them.  The thought was that the shorter flight to Seattle would be easier than flying into Anchorage, and would avoid any passport issues with Vancouver BC. So I decided on a round trip from Seattle.  I did everything that I could to persuade my parents to go, and in the end they were afraid of traveling and being that far away from civilization and medical care.  They waited to long for the adventure.  

I worry about being late, so I booked us to fly into Seattle a couple of days before the cruise left, and an extra couple of nights in Seattle on the way home.  It is a neat town, we visited the Space Needle and the surrounding parks, the Pike Place Market, toured underground Seattle, took a ferry out to Bainbridge Island, and met some dear blogging friends for a fun afternoon.  

Fun town, I would go back anytime.  

Have you been sleepless in Seattle? 

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Slow Drive

One afternoon recently I was planning to attend a reception at the Gaylord National Hotel, at National Harbor.  According to the google map above, it is 4.2 miles from home to the hotel.  If I lived in the on the east side of one of the building on that side of the Condominium I could see the hotel from my terrace (I have a view of a parking lot!)  

The reception ran from 5:30 to 6:30 PM.  I left home at about 4:55 PM.  I figured 30 minutes would be enough time.  Boy was I wrong.  At 5:30 I had made it as far as Fort Hunt Road, in 35 minutes I had traveled less than 1.5 miles.  Even if I was driving the Lamborghini in the picture above, I still was not going to make it on time.  I turned right at Ft. Hunt Road and went home, it took me about 5 minutes to get home.  There are reasons I don't normally drive around here on weekdays. 

Have you ever given up on traffic and gone home?  

Monday, May 15, 2017

Airport Terminals

This the B terminal at Boston, home to American Airlines and United Airlines.  The architecture screams 1960's, with the sweeping ceiling and glass wall.  It is a nice space, nice seating, relatively comfortable.  Lots of walking.  

Boston is an older terminal, chopped up into lots of parts.  Atlanta has a modern terminal but the concourses are far to long to not have moving sidewalks or people movers.  O'Hare is huge, but the individual parts are fairly easy to move about (changing airlines can be difficult.) Minneapolis is a monster, far too spread out.  Denver and Detroit are new(er) the new Detroit terminal is nice. Orlando is nice, but starting to show it's age. The challenge at Denver is it's remote location and only one security check points. Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport is easy to get around, short concourses, four security check points.  The issue with National is the limitation on larger jets and long flight.  Memphis, St. Louis and Cincinnati all have terminals much larger than they need, closed airline hubs.  Washington Dulles, it is actually closer to West Virginia than it is to Washington DC.  LAX is an ugly maze, but baggage claim is easy to get to.  SFO- is huge, parts of it are very nice.  DFW - has a ton of terminals, a slow train and lots of walking.  San Diego has one of the prettiest locations - but the last time I was there it lacked a street car connection to the city.  Phoenix is huge, and well connected.  Las Vegas is modern, has slot machines and seemingly desperate people.  

There are a ton of smaller airports across the country. I have flown in and out of more of them than I can count.  Most of them are quite comfortable, a handful are quite nice (Savannah, GA), a handful are real dumps (Fayetteville, NC.) 

What is your favorite airport terminal?  

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Sunday Five

So you know that warning is there, because some idiot tried to eat the contents of this and got sick.  We all do stupid things from time to time, so here we are five questions about silly things.  

1: Have you ever ripped the tag off of a pillow, the one that says "UNDER PENALTY OF LAW THIS TAG NOT TO REMOVED EXCEPT BY THE CONSUMER"?  

2: Have you ever said, "hold my beer, your never going to believe this"? 

3: Have you ever ridden a motorcycle, without a helmet? 

4: Have you ever left on a car trip, without a map knowing how to get to where you are going? 

5: Have you ever accidentally crossed an international boarder? 

My answers: 
1: Have you ever ripped the tag off of a pillow, the one that says "UNDER PENALTY OF LAW THIS TAG NOT TO REMOVED EXCEPT BY THE CONSUMER"?  
Yes, it is legal to remove if you are the end user. 

2: Have you ever said, "hold my beer, your never going to believe this"? 
Nope, but I have held the beer, and helped stop the bleeding.  

3: Have you ever ridden a motorcycle, without a helmet? 
Yes, back when I had hair to blow in the wind. 

4: Have you ever left on a car trip, without a map, and not knowing how to get to where you are going? 
Oh yes, see my recent post about driving in London.  Then there was the time I left on vacation and had no idea where I was going.  I decided a couple of hundred miles up the road.  

5: Have you ever accidentally crossed an international boarder? 
I missed a turn in Germany, and drove into France for a minute.  

Your answers? 

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Happy May 13th

Two years ago today, I had a tumor removed from my spine, a section of my spine rebuilt, and started the down the road to getting my life back.  May 13th is sort of my re-birthday. I will never be 100%, but I am so much better than I was, and so much better than I would have been if not for the care that I received when I received it. 

I am forever thankful for the talented health care providers who spent hours working on a few inches of my spine, the dedicated staff that kept me alive and pushed me onto recovery.  From time to time, I think how fortunate I am to have been where I was, when I was there, with good insurance.  I had access to the best people, and facilities, at a time when the science has advanced to the point that they were able to do a lot for me. 

If, I had waited a few weeks longer, the outcome would have been much different. A millimeter or so stood between me and a wheelchair.  As I mentioned last year on this day, I knew something was wrong for a long time before I went to see a doctor.  If I had put off seeing a doctor for a few more weeks, my level of recovery would have been much less, the permanent damage much more life changing.  

Please, if you, or someone you know, knows something is just not right, and you have been putting off seeing a doctor, call today and make an appointment.  Make a difference in your life and life of those who love you. 

Take a moment to thank the health care providers who have helped you along the way.  Miracle workers in scrubs.  

Friday, May 12, 2017

Favorite Seat

Here I am, seat 23-C,  aisle seat, on the left side the airplane (8 PM flight from Boston to DC.)  My right arm is unobstructed in the aisle.  I don't really care how far back I am on the plane, the whole plane gets there about the same time. 

On a train, I prefer a window seat, facing forward.  On a double deck train, I prefer the view from the upper level.  

On the metro subway trains, it is more complicated.  On the Yellow line, inbound, I prefer the fourth car from the front, middle of the car next to the seats that face the aisle, east side of the train, facing either way.  Outbound, the same seat on the first car of the train. The car placement gives me the easiest changes of trains.  The middle of the train, give me the most room because of inward facing seats near the door, the east side of the train give me the best view of the airport as we pass through.  When I first moved to DC, I would grab any car, any seat. Over time I have figured out what seat is most comfortable has the best view,  and gives me the easiest changes. 

Yes, I have spent time figuring this all out.  

Do you have a favorite seat?   

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Don't do anything stupid

After I had my spine fixed two years ago, the lead surgeons' major item of advice was "don't do anything stupid." Too bad I didn't have his advice the first time I went to London, back in May of 1990. Going to London was not a stupid idea, far from it.  I learned so much from that adventure. The STUPID idea was driving a car in London. 

London was somewhat of a snap decision. I had a conversation with a broker from London one morning. She was talking about going back and forth on a monthly basis. I thought I really should go to London. I stopped by a travel agency on the way home and booked it.  I bought a package through British Airways with round trip air and 6 nights hotel in a modern hotel in Hammersmith for about $800 per person including all of the taxes and fees. I had her add a rental car (hire car) to the package. 

We flew overnight from Orlando.  The flight was delayed several hours with mechanical problems.  I had a miserable night, thinking that I would be able to sleep on the plane, I worked the day before, the plane wasn't scheduled to leave until 11:00 PM (and left at like 3:00 AM.)   

Oh, yes, I was that funking clueless.  After a sleepless night on a trans-Atlantic flight, several hours behind schedule I picked up the car at Gatwick and with a really terrible map, headed into the city.  

To start, you drive on the opposite side of the road, and the controls are on the opposite side of the car from nearly every place else in the civilized world. So once I got out of the passenger seat and into the drivers seat, I find that the gear shift is not under my right hand, but under my left. Fortunately the pedals are in the same order, but shifting was a very conscious (in other words SLOW) process.  

Then there was the matter that the map supplied by the rental car company lacked detail, it pointed in the general direction of the hotel, the detailed map I had bought didn't go out as far as Gatwick - Gatwick is so far out I am surprised they don't speak Spanish.  Kind of like Dulles in the DC area, Dulles is nearly in West Virginia - don't fly there and expect to be in Washington DC. 

So off we head into one of the largest cities in the world.  You have seen Trafalgar Square, Piccadilly Circle, Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace in pictures, maybe from the top of a double-decker bus, I have driven past them all.  I was terribly, terribly lost, driving on the wrong side of the road, shifting with my left hand.  I eventually paid a taxi driver to show me the way to the hotel.  As I recall I was so grateful I gave the taxi driver a 50 pound note for a 20 pound fare and insisted that he keep the change. It was worth every pence. I paid more to park the car at the hotel, than I had paid to rent it for the week, and didn't move it again until it was time to go back to the airport.  The trip back to the airport was much easier,  there was an entrance to the motorway two blocks from the hotel. I even managed a stop at an English Country Pub for lunch.  

All in, renting a car in London was one of the stupidest things I have ever done when traveling. It was also the adventure of a lifetime. Looking back it would have been cheaper to hire a Rolls Royce to chauffeur us to and from the hotel - that would have also been a grand adventure. Would I do it again, NO, do I really regret it, NO, it was a wild adventure. 

What is the stupidest thing you have ever done while traveling? 

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

American Originals

What is more quintessentially mid-west American architecture than a wood barn?  This building is more specifically modeled on a classic tobacco barn - traditionally painted black to be hotter inside, to help the tobacco dry and cure faster.  

This is the new visitors center at the Wild Turkey Distillery near Bardstown Kentucky.  It is a new building, to go with the entirely new distillery that they have built over the past decade.  The ground floor is reception for the tours (they use a bus) and a nice retail shop.  The second floor has a wonderful tasting room.  Onsite tasting rooms are relatively new for Kentucky distilleries, along with onsite sales.  The first time I visited Wild Turkey, about 15 years ago, a sniff was as close as you could get to a sample - if you wanted to buy you had to go elsewhere (I did receive a nice gift from a staff member once.)  

The Wild Turkey tour, is nice, the new plant is a huge industrial distillery.  I liked the old up close and personal tour in the ramshackle old distillery better. The tasting room experience, is one of the best I have experienced.  There is comfortable seating for everyone.  You are offered a taste of a nice variety to help you understand the subtle and not so subtle differences in the products Wild Turkey offers.  It is worth the stop.   

Another American original has been creating a new business, the Kentucky Bourbon Trail. Many of the finest (and few of the pedestrian) distilleries have opened tours, visitors centers, tasting rooms, and retail stores.  It is an exciting new chapter in a storied industry.  

Have you visited a distillery? 

Tuesday, May 09, 2017

Rainy Days In Boston

Boston, not a city I have seen much of.  I have been there twice for work.  The first time was a quick in and out, with tons of meetings. I was back recently for three and half days, and it rained non-stop for the first 24 hours, then it fogged in.  It cleared as I was heading the airport to return home.  It is an old and historic city, someday I will see it.  

This last trip my hotel room allegedly looked out at the Charles River and a couple of massive office towers.  I have to assume the river and building were there, between the pissing rain and the fog, the view was just a glimmer and legend.  

I did see the inside of the "Big Dig."  Boston buried all of cross town expressways in tunnels underground.  It cost a mountain of money, took years to complete, and I understand made quite a mess of traffic.  In the end they have created a massive underground traffic jam, to go complement the traffic jam on the surface.  I took a taxi to the airport, a man with a walker passed us - moving faster on the sidewalk than traffic was moving, I watched him disappear over the horizon as the taxi meter ticked on.  

For the engineering geeks, the most of the tunnels were created with "cut and cover", you dig a trench, build walls on the sides, build a roof over it, put a road in it and put the city back over the top of it. This is why the streets vibrate in places.  I am not sure if the underwater sections were done with TBMs, or if it was built with surface tubes, essentially a pipe laid on the bottom of the water and then the water pumped out. The Metro tunnel under the Potomac was built that way (few people know that and it freaks some people out to hear that they are essentially traveling through a garden hose on the river bottom.)  Pray that those pumps keep working.  

Someday I will go back, I wanted to see Harvard Square, but I didn't have hip boots or x-ray vision.  

What city have you been to and not seen? 

Monday, May 08, 2017

What's the rush?

Back in 1978, just a few months after I bought my first car, I was in a hurry to get to nothing important, I rushed a left hand turn, and clipped fenders with another car.  I still don't know where he came from, I never saw him until I heard the fenders bending.  I can't remember what I was in a hurry for - it must not have been that important. I flash back to that and remember, I have more time than fenders.  

And yet I find myself always in a hurry.  Sometimes I have to remind myself that we are all rushing to the grave.  I get impatient with people, I fuss when the grocery checker is slow, or the person in front of me in the express lane at airport security is not ready when she gets to the front of the line (what are the amateurs doing in the Pre-check line?)  And I seldom need to be in a hurry.  I control my calendar, I schedule my travel.  I get anxious if I am afraid I am going to be late, so I allow plenty of time, then I fuss if anyone slows me down, on my plan to be early.  

When will I relax?  - After I am dead - maybe I should try it before then.  

Am I wound a little tightly?   

Sunday, May 07, 2017

New Sunday Morning Post

Being that the Sunday Five, was posted on Saturday this week, let me share a few of my fond memories of grand adventures. 

Oxford University, I was there for five days while Dr. J attended a conference one summer. We attended a tea part hosted by the Archbishop of Canterbury while there.   
Mt St Michelle, France, I dreamed about seeing this, I have been there twice

Washington DC, It is an amazing, and sometimes bizarre city.

New Orleans, Louisiana, some of the best food in the world - stay away from the frozen drinks with 190 in the name. 

Munich, Germany on my 56th birthday - I only had one beer.

Mt Washington, New Hampshire - they have stopped running steam power up the incline railway, I am so glad I caught the coal fired steam in the last months.

Enjoy the adventure that is life, we regret most in life the opportunities we passed on, grab the opportunity for adventure when and while you can.  

Saturday, May 06, 2017

Sunday Five - Airlines

My mistake, you didn't sleep through Saturday (I had to double check) somehow Sunday's post ended up scheduled for Saturday along with the Derby Posting below.  Sorry!  

I travel more than the average person. I average about 10 trips by air each year.  Most of my travel is on a couple of airlines, the two airlines that have the most flights out of my nearest airport, an airport I pass on my daily commute to the office.  Airlines get a lot of bad press, but most of the time, they get me from point A to point B and back again without incident.  I almost always travel in the cheap seats.  I have never hit "status" with an airline to get free upgrades, and few people actually pay the full premium for business or first class.  

So a few questions: 
1: How many airline trips have you taken so far this year? 
2: Do you normally select window, middle or aisle seat? 
3: Have you ever flown on free tickets from frequent flyer miles? 
4: Have you ever had a plane make an emergency landing? 
5: Have you ever had checked bags lost and never found? 

My answers: 
1: How many airline trips have you taken so far this year? 
Five - two trips to Florida, a trip to Chicago, a trip to Kentucky, a trip to Boston. 

2: Do you normally select window, middle or aisle seat? 
Aisle seat on the left side the aircraft.  

3: Have you ever flown on free tickets from frequent flyer miles? 
More times than I can count. 

4: Have you ever had a plane make an emergency landing? 
Yes, 38,000 to on the ground in Dallas in less than 10 minutes, the electrical system on the plane failed.  No problem, the people up front know how to land in the dark on batteries only. 

5: Have you ever had checked bags lost and never found? 
Never, I have had bags delayed 3 or 4 times.  But the bags always showed up by the next day.  Last year, when I went to Rome, by bag missed the connection in Detroit - but it arrived the next day. 

Happy Kentucky Derby Day!

Kentucky produces two things that are famous the world over, great Bourbon whiskey and the worlds best race horses.  This afternoon the best of the best of horses, just reaching their prime racing years will gather at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky for the fastest two minutes in sport.  A fair amount of Bourbon will be consumer by the crows (some of it the best of the best - much of it rubbish - but that is another story.) 

I don't know as my mother ever went to a racetrack, but she enjoyed watching the Triple Crown Races.  When we moved to Kentucky back in 1995, I went to the races for the first time.  There is something very special about it, the crowd, the horses, at a live race.  It is a sensory experience.  When you stand by the rail and the hoses thunder by, the earth vibrates under your feet, you can hear the horses breathing, you can smell the horses as they go by.  It is special. 

I went to law school just a couple of miles from Churchill Downs.  Derby Day had a second meaning for UofL law students, Derby Day signaled that spring semester exams were over - exams finish by Noon on Friday so the students can either attend the Kentucky Oaks on Friday afternoon (the best of the two year old mares in the world) or flee town.  I always fled town.  

Will you watch the Derby today?  

Friday, May 05, 2017

Hard Stuff

Blogging 101 tells us to write a catchy title. Let your fertile imagination run wild on the hard stuff.   Now I am not talking about sex, or booze, or drugs, or even rock and roll.  I am thinking about the unpleasant work.  

I am planning a major national conference. I spend about 25% of my time each year producing the conference. I do it because I enjoy doing it, and to get even with some folks - but that is another story. Most of it is fun stuff, not necessarily easy, but pleasant.  But there is one aspect of it that I dread.  We do an open call for workshop proposals.  After we have sorted out all of the proposals, and filled every available room in the meeting venue, for every available minute of the days, we have proposals that don't fit.  Proposals that we have to turn down.  And that duty falls to me.  It is the nasty part of producing the conference.  I am in my forth year of being responsible for this project.  I have always put off sending the dreaded "sorry" messages until last.  I hate sending them, people hate receiving them. I don't know if it is harder when the proposals are really good, or really bad; but the cuts have to be made. I try to be kind encouraging and supportive.  It is the  hardest part of the planning process.  

This year I decided to do it differently.  Once the cut was made, and everything that fit on the agenda was on the agenda, I sent the rejection emails first.  It didn't make writing and sending them any easier, but the hard stuff is out of the way.  The rest of the process is sending messages that make someone's day.  The kind of messages I enjoy receiving and frankly are more fun to send.  Because of schedule issues (a Conference in Boston were someone sent me the yes email - actually I sent me the yes email I was on the planning committee and selected myself to speak) the yes emails are going to go out 10 days after the "sorry" emails.  I bumped into one of the people who had submitted a proposal, and told him, if you have not received a rejection, you made the agenda, I will get the confirmation emails out in a few days.  

A simple message, do the hard stuff first.  Get the thing you least want to do out of the way, then move on with the fun parts of the job. 

Do you do the hard stuff first, or last? 

Thursday, May 04, 2017

Finding Time

Time, we all have the same amount of it.  What we do with it, is up to us.  It is easy blame a "lack of time" on work, life, home, family, others, but ultimately you and only you, can control how you spend your time - not how much of it you have.  

For many of us, the most critical step is deciding what we are not going to do to find time for the things we place a higher priority on.  

What have I quit doing? I don't make my bed, not doing so, does not bother me, and it frees time to do things I prefer to do.  I send my shirts out to be washed and more important ironed. I don't mind doing laundry, but ironing takes a lot of time.  I could iron them myself, but paying someone else to do that, frees time to do things I prefer to do (I know they may not do it exactly the way I would, but I look good enough and who cares?)  I am not the most meticulous housekeeper. I don't clean house to my mother's standards, doing it this way helps me to find time to do the things I want to do.  This year has been an exception, but I often trade time with family, for travel time. I trade television watching time, for time to write blog postings.  

Life is about trade offs.  If you are not doing things you want to do, you need to think about trading what are you are doing, for what you would prefer to do.  When I am pressed for time, I look at what I am doing and think, what would happen if I didn't do X, if the impact is not dire, I take doing that off my list.  

What do wish you had more time to do? What can you stop doing to fee up time? 

Wednesday, May 03, 2017

Technology, The Past, The Present and the Future

Technology moved my paternal grandfather from the farm, to the Ford Rouge Factory, it moved my maternal grandfather from farming with mules and horses to farming with tractors.  My father was born the year that Lindbergh flew the Atlantic solo. Technology changes the way we live, and where we live. 

I can remember when my parents bought their first electronic calculator in the early 1970's.  It cost about $50 and had very basic functions.  Being a bit math-phobic, it was life changing for me. Within a decade, calculators went from very basic addition, subtraction, multiplication and division, to very complex functions - I still have a TI-Financial calculator that made it possible for me to do very complex payment and APR calculations, that were previously the work of only economists and math nerds.  

In the early 1980's I bought my first home computer.  A Radio Shack Color Computer II, it had a whopping 16-K of memory capacity - to put that is perspective, that is about the size of one image file from your cell phone - and the entire computer ran on that memory.  Over the past 35 years computers have changed the way I work, the way I communicate, I entertain my self in ways that were unimaginable when I started writing software for that first machine.  The phones that most of us carry have more computing power and more memory than NASA used to land on the moon in 1969.  

I bought my first cell phone in 1996 - just 21 years ago.  It weighed about a pound, and had about a 30 minute battery life when you were talking on it.  That was okay, because my monthly plan only included 30 minutes of talk time - and about a quarter a minute after that (for about $35 a month.)   

I can remember attempts over the years at Video Phones.  The phones were large and heavy, the screens were tiny and only in black and white with really terrible pictures.  The cost was over the top, and the early video phone didn't work well, they were a failure.  Today, Facetime, and Google Video Chat, provide online video calls, with high quality audio and video (if your connection is good) for free.  

E-books have largely replaced print books for me.  I still prefer my Kindle to reading on my phone.  I use the Kindle voice feature to have the text read to me, when it is inconvenient to read (on the treadmill at the gym, on an overnight airline flight.)  The idea of being able to carry 100 books, in a pocket was unthinkable just a few years ago.  E-books will continue to grow in market share - changing publishing forever.  

So were do I think technology going in the next 10 years?  Self driving cars are in the near future. Electronic speech translation is breaking down barriers to travel and business across cultures. Electronic review of medical imaging is on the horizon -  improving diagnostics.  There will be massive changes in retailing and distribution in the world. Amazon and other online shopping platforms are forever changing retailing and how goods are delivered. (If you can find a good use for the vacant shopping malls in the USA, you could make a billion dollars in the next decade.) Robots are changing manufacturing, computers are changing professional services - with better technology we need fewer lawyers and accountants to do the same work.  

What do you think will be the greatest technological change in the next 10 years? 

Tuesday, May 02, 2017

Rabbit! Tractor! Sheep!

A few years ago we spent a week in Yorkshire with two dear friends who live in London.  Stephen is from Yorkshire, his parents still live there.  We stayed a "holiday home" a restored Victorian row house in Patley Bridge, a tiny hamlet in the Yorkshire countryside for a week.  Duncan and Stephen rented a car, and they drove for the week.  It was great fun.  We visited several English Manner Houses - and ruins of a couple of abbeys.  We rode a train, visited Stephen's parents.  The house had a nice kitchen, I was able to cook, I even did laundry the day the power went out for 6 hours.  

I was very glad that Duncan and Stephen were driving.  The English country roads are narrow, and winding, the terrain is rolling with hills and valleys.  In many places the roads were so narrow that if traffic was coming in the other direction, one or both drivers, needed to look for a wide spot, and pull over as far as possible to allow the two cars to pass without hitting.  Jay and I sat in the back seat, with the two of them driving and navigating.  

We would be driving along and the one navigating would shout out TRACTOR!  or Rabbit! or SHEEP! indicating one or more of these on the road ahead.  I am not sure why bunnies were included in the shouts to be careful, but they were.   After a day or two, I quit having a heart attack every time these warnings were announced.  We made it though unscathed, returning the rental car without a scratch.  

On that trip we also discovered a British dish called mushy peas.  This is green garden peas, cooked, and mashed.  Some recipes I have seen mix the peas with mashed potatoes.  I can't say as I was impressed enough to bother making mushy peas, but I wouldn't turn them down if they were offered. Jay sampling mushy peas led to one of the funniest comments of that trip.  He said, "the mushy peas are really are quite good, the peas retain their essential peaness.  Say that out loud and see what it sounds like - that one kept us laughing for through a couple TRACTORS! and RABBITS! 

Have you ever driven in another country? 
(I promise to write about my adventures driving in London.) 

Monday, May 01, 2017

Capital Disappointments

Yesterday was my chance to question the first 100 days of the Trump administration - such as it is.  The balance of powers built into our Constitution spreads the work of governing among the three - in theory equal- branches of government. The legislative branch is also a part of the fact that little if anything is happening. 

I am disappointed,  no make that angry, with the leadership of both political parties.  Both parties are locked into obstructionist mindsets, if it is not their idea, it must be a bad idea.  If the other side suggests it, they must oppose it.  

The result is a government that fails to fix problems.  Everyone agrees that our immigration laws are a mess, the laws have been for years - and Congress keeps failing to act.  Our budgets are passed at the last minute, always in a compromise to prevent a disaster.  Our tax code is so complex no one, and really mean no one, really understands all of it.  It has been for years.  And Congress repeatedly fails to address the tax code. We change tax rates, but the extreme complexity of the system remains unchanged.  Minor fixes would assure the solvency of Social Security - and no one wants tell the American tax payers, that a modest (about 1% increase) in the tax rate will be needed to pay the benefits promised to retirees who have paid into the system for 40 to 50 years by the time they reach retirement age.  There is not enough fraud, waste or corruption in Social Security to make up for the fact that it is slightly under funded.  

It is time to set political parties aside and move to the middle.  Trump ran as an outsider.  I was disappointed when he was elected, my only glimmer of hope was that he would be independent of party leadership.  I was hoping that he would surround himself with the best and the brightest - without regard to political affiliation.  That he would lead from the middle.  There are moderates in both political parties that are capable of hearing reason.  I keep hoping Trump will start to replace the partisan hacks, with people that will help him practice the art of the deal, in governance.  That he will drain the swamp of people enriching themselves first and the country last (starting with getting some of his family out of the picture - Ivanka - really?)    

Is there hope?