Wednesday, September 30, 2020

The Way We Were Wednesday - Running

 I ran for about a decade, starting in my late 20's.  There was a nice running series in central Florida.  I ran 4 or 5 mornings a week, and about 20 Saturdays a year, I would go off to a race.  This was taken at a 10K in downtown Orlando.  There are good reasons why I stopped running, but I have to admit I do miss it.  I miss the time alone, without interruptions.  I miss seeing the landscape at 4 or 5 miles per hour, with nothing between me and the wind.  I miss the magic of movement.  I am glad I ran before everyone seemed to be plugged into headsets.  

I am getting some of that back with my morning walks along the river.  Time alone, with just my thoughts, seeing the world one on one.  But the magic of movement isn't the same. 

Are you a runner or former runner? 

Tuesday, September 29, 2020


Spo the dear one, has done a whole series about books that changed his life. I mentioned in my comments that my parents had an odd relationship with books.  Books cost money, and took up space, so they didn't buy them.  My mother had a couple of boxes of books that had come from her parents, that I don't recall her ever reading, but she wouldn't part with.  They read the Detroit News newspaper from cover to cover every day, but books were a different story. 

When I was a teenager, my family started spending winters in Florida, and I discovered my first bookstore.  Heaven! A few years later when I was living in Orlando I started reading a lot, a couple of major bookstores moved in, I built massive bookcases in the living room of the second Laurel Home,* and books become a major part of my life.  

Thinking about books.  I remember reading a series of novels by Jack London as a young teenager, everyone remembers the "Call of the Wild", there is another one in that series about a wildlife photographer that starts with a shopping venture in a real camera shop.  I don't remember the name of it, but left an impression, I loved it, it was the best.  I still love cameras, I still love a walk in the woods.  

In high school I remember two assigned books.  The Great Gatsby, I remember slogging through it, and really not understanding it; and later Walden.  Walden changed my life.  It really focuses on living for what is important and disregarding the rest.  The philosophy and lessons from the book have been a recurring theme in my life.  Strip away the things that are more work than they are worth.  Live life - enjoy it along the way.  A focus on experiences over material things.  Thoreau was comfortable with being alone, I think the two of us would have enjoyed knowing one another, as long as we didn't spend too much time together.  

In college I read "Cross Creek" by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, she is much more famous for "The Yearling."  I remember it connecting me to life in rural Florida, to the rhythm of the seasons in the semi-tropics.  I reread it this past year, I was shocked at the racism in the book.  It would never be published today.  Rereading helped me to understand how nasty the racism was in the south, just 80 years ago.  

Another assigned book from college was Zorba the Greek. It was part of a first year course in interdisciplinary humanities.   Zorba was all about living for the moment, taking in the adventure of life, blooming where you are planted, enjoying life, and learning to dance.  Of all of the books I read in undergrad, it is the one I have reread, and will reread again.  The original is in Greek, there are several translations.  In the best one, Zorba is asked if he is married and he replies, "the wife, the kids, the whole catastrophe!"  In later translations, the last phrase is not included.  

In recent years I have started keeping track of books I have read. Most of them on Kindle.  When we sold the other house, we downsized and donated hundreds of books.  

What books changed your life? 

* I worked for a company called Laurel Homes for 7 years, and built myself three homes while I worked there.  The first Laurel Home I lived in a little over a year. It was not large enough and I sold it at a profit and built the second Laurel Home. I lived there until J and I moved on for new adventures.  The third Laurel Home I never lived in. I rented it for a few years, and then my ex received it as part of separation agreement.  Laurel Homes, was named after the founder's favorite cow.  

Monday, September 28, 2020

My Music Monday - Time In A Bottle

When I saw this wine bottle floating in the river one morning recently, I thought of two songs, Message in a Bottle by Sting, and Jim Croce's hauntingly beautiful Time in a Bottle.   

There is a lot of stress and despair going around right now. All I can say is, there, there, it will all be okay.  Happiness is something we need to find inside, happiness is in us. 

In tough times we can do our best work. I met a college professor about 20 years ago who had started her career in one of the eastern European countries torn apart by civil war.  She spoke of the desperation of burning her books, not because of what was in them, but because it was the only way to stay warm when the war shut off the gas and electricity one winter. During that time, she wrote what she considered to be some of her work. As I have told a few friends going through difficult times, the best is yet to come.   

What would you put in the bottle? 

Sunday, September 27, 2020

Sunday Five - You Must Be

We hear it all the time, you two must be brothers.  Hence this weeks Sunday Five.

  1. Do we look like brothers? 
  2. What would be the best snappy response? (We are married, we have been together 28 years.) 
  3. Are you and your other  - often mistaken for siblings? 
  4. Does my hand look weird to you? 
  5. Haven't had a haircut since this was taken in March, is it about time or should I just let it grow? 
There is no utility in my answering these, as they are kinda all about me (self centered creature that I am.) Please share your answers in the comments.  

Saturday, September 26, 2020


 The last couple of weeks of work have been brutal.  I need to learn to say no, I ended up with 6 major trainings in three weeks, three in one week.  If they weren't virtual, it would have been impossible.  I am entering a new contract year on my primary project.  Painful would be a good description of the process.  The first of the trainings was a smashing success, over 3,000 attendees online.  This time of the year is often intense.  This will pass.  

I produce an annual national conference, gone virtual this year - coming up later in October.  We have negotiated with the hotel and I now have until mid March to make a decision on going in-person, or virtual, or something else for 2021.  

The weather has started to cool, a few mornings in the 50's, days under 80.  Nice.  

I will vote, soon.  I will encourage others to vote blue. But I am disconnecting from the news right now.  The hypocrisy is nauseating.   

I met Ruth Bader Ginsburg at a reception at the Supreme Court 3 or 4 years ago. I had the pleasure of watching her ask intelligent questions in the Court, several times.  I am sad, she will be missed.  I think she did what she found value in as long as she could do it, I hope she died with no regrets.  She made a real difference in our lives.  

I am adapting to Bloggers ongoing changes.  I am easy, as long as it works, I use it.  I do wonder if they have solutions in search of problems.  

What is happening in your world?


Friday, September 25, 2020

A Fleeting Moment

 I walked to the end of the trail one morning, and this beautiful bird was wading not 10 feet away, almost too close for the lens I carry.  I snapped a few quick images, and a couple with a dog walked up behind me and said "good morning" and the dog went woof and the bird was off.  They apologized for scaring the bird, I assured them it was okay.  It was a chance encounter, the bird was unlikely to stay there long no matter what.  Birds like people, are a fleeting moment in time.  Here one moment, gone on the next.  There was a time when I would have been angry that someone scared my bird, but he/she was never my bird.  I just happened for a fleeting moment to be in the birds proximity.  I was lucky to have those few moments close and alone.  When I am walking the trail, and I see someone stopped, looking through a camera or binoculars, I will slow or stop at a distance, approach silently.  A couple of times I have seen extraordinary things by being quiet.  The couple with the dog, pointed out the beaver a day or two later. I need to remember to thank them for that, I never would have noticed him without their telling me about him. 

What has been the fleeting moment in your life recently?  

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Snatched a Picture of a Beaver

 Well that headline should hit the search engines for guys looking for an entirely different kind of beaver.  This is the aquatic rodent kind.  In the first picture, just below the shoreline, slightly to the right of center, the dark lump sticking out of the water is the head of a beaver.  A very fast swimmer, it took me a way along the trail to catch up and be a point where I had an unobstructed view.  Occasionally he or she would flick the tail out of the water. I have seen evidence, in the form of trees being gnawed on along the trail. This was the first time this year I had seen one in the water.  As the vegetation dies down for winter, beaver sightings will be more common.  One morning I was listening to the morning traffic report, traffic was backed up on the George Washington Parkway inbound because of a large beaver crossing the road.  Why did the beaver cross the road? To vote blue in the next election.  

Seen any aquatic rodents recently? 

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

The Way We Were Wednesday - London 1990 - How Can it be 30 years already

 My first international trip was in late May early June, a week in London.  It is hard to believe it has been 30 years, and somehow I missed this milestone on my blog.  This is at the end of Downing Street, I didn't have an appointment to see Maggie and she was busy. I was near my running peak at that time, a 32 in waist. We stayed in a hotel in Hammersmith, I have fond memories of running along the Themes in the early morning. The camera is a Cannon AE1 program, with a power winder.  Most likely it had my favorite 24mm lens on it.  This photo was taken with a compact 35mm - a door prize at a Christmas party.  

What was your first big adventure? 

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Taking Stock - How am I doing?

I have debated posting this. I try to stay positive all of the time. I was trained in the fake it till you make it mind set.  But at times, I need to pause and take stock. Doing so helps me understand where I really am.  For work, I write reports a couple of times a year, of all of the trainings and publications I have finished in a year.  I am always surprised by how much I have done.  

Almost 3/4 of the way over, 2020 has been filled with unexpected adventures.  Some good, some not.

What is going well for me? 

  • I am enjoying working from home.  
  • I like my 5 second commute. 
  • I like the dress code (or lack thereof)
  • I like our Zoom staff meetings   
  • I am enjoying my daily walks.  I have developed a routine, I do well with routine. 
  • I am enjoying cooking, and having time to be creative in the kitchen from time to time
  •  I love my remodeled bathroom, I dreamed about what I wanted, defied the conventions, and I love what I have 


What is not working so well for me?  

  • I miss traveling, for the first time in years I have gone six months with no pending airline reservations
  • I miss eating out.  I tire of my own cooking from time to time. 
  • I miss the reading time on the trains going to and from the office - I will do well to finish half the number of books this year that I did last. 
  • I miss looking up to watch the progress on the new Potomac Yard Station, and counting the number of private jets at National Airport (a sure sign of how many people are in town to buy a congressman today) 
  • I am afraid of the election. 
  • I have stopped watching the news.  Between the plague, the genocide at the hands of the government, and the liar in chief, I just couldn't watch anymore.  I never thought that I would choose being uninformed to protect my wellbeing.  

How are you holding up? 



Sunday, September 20, 2020

Sunday Five - Things That Make Me Smile

The Concord makes me smile. When EPCOT opened, British Airways and Air France landed a pair of them at Orlando International Airways, I remember pulling off the side of University Boulevard and stopping to watch them on final approach.  Seeing one makes me smile. 

1: What food makes you smile?
2: What drink, makes you smile? 
3: Describe a memory from childhood that makes you smile.
4: What moment in history makes you smile? 
5: What wish for the future makes you smile? 

My answers: 
1: What food makes you smile? Cheese 
2: What drink, makes you smile? Chocolate milkshake.  
3: Describe a memory from childhood that makes you smile. Seeing the Grand Canyon as a 6 year old. 
4: What moment in history makes you smile? Armstrong stepping onto the moon.
5: What wish for the future makes you smile? He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, leaving DC in disgrace. 9

Please share your answers in the comments. 

Saturday, September 19, 2020

A Day Out

 The building managers sent us notice a couple of weeks ago, that maintenance was going to be replacing a main water supply line, meaning the water was going to be off in the entire building all day one day.  I looked at my calendar and had nothing critical, I marked the day "Get out of Dodge."  

My first thought was a nice slow drive out into the countryside and back, I plotted a course into Maryland down along the Chesapeake Bay to places I have never been.  Then the weather forecast was rain, at times heavy.  So we went to plan B, an outing to a museum.  We looked online, the Udvar Hazy Center at Dulles is open.  this is the Smithsonian's huge airplane collection. You have to book in advance, on timed tickets.  They limit the number of people allowed in.  They are doing some roof / ceiling work, so parts of the floor are closed, and parts of the collection are covered to limit the dust settling on them.  We wandered around for a couple of hours.  There were few people, everyone was masked, and keeping their distance.  The small crowd enhanced the experience.  

Afterwards, we drove down into Manassas and had lunch in a local restaurant.  The food was good, the service delightful, I left a 35% tip for the server.  I do hope the good local places survive.  

Are you ready for a day out? 

Friday, September 18, 2020

More Rocks for Anne Marie

 When I posted about the political rocks, Anne Marie asked for some photos of the rocks in situ.  Most, but not all of the one's I have placed have been on benches and bridge posts along the GW parkway.  Some of them have stayed in place for a few days, most disappear within a day.  I have looked and they don't seem to be being tossed.  I am hoping that people take them home, share them with a friend, keep them handy to remind themselves to get out and VOTE.  

The candidate I voted for in the primary, withdrew.  But anyone, anything would be an improvement.  The bag full of rocks is brighter than he-who-must-not-be-named.  I recently saw a post that simply said, "You had me with complete sentences." I agree. 

Rock the Vote, Please! 

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Technology - What Have I Been Thinking About

Recently I have listened to a couple of lectures on cyber security, and John was surprised that Alexa knew his name. We live in a deeply connected world.  Our phones, computers, Google, Amazon, Apple, Blogger and Facebook know more about us than we know about ourselves.  Some of this we have knowingly shared.  Much of it is a mystery to us, how our devices know who we are. Alexa is tied to an Amazon account, and Amazon knows who the account holder is - she took a lucky guess that it was John and not a special Someone - though it wouldn't surprise me if Alexa was using voice recognition.  One of the financial institutions I work with uses voice recognition as a secondary verification. 

I had drafted a long and scary rant about data security - you can find that elsewhere.  

I am surprised that Amazon sends me advertising featuring things I have never shopped for - like frilly ladies undies.  Yes, they target ads, but the random ads for things I never look at are really a waste.  We keep Alexa sequestered in the kitchen,  I wonder why Amazon keeps suggesting cook books.  

Facebook - the cesspool of society that so many of us are addicted to -  really can't get the ads right.  Putting pro he-who-must-not-be-named ads on my feed - what a waste of electrons.  For a while I was clicking on them, it costs the advertiser more if you click on the ad, than if you just skip it.  But my tolerance for brain poison is limited and I started blocking the ads.  

The more I work at home, the less I turn my mobile phone on.  I recently went five days without turning it on.  I need it for multi-factor authentication to log into critical systems for work, if I don't need to do that, I don't always turn it on.  Five days and the world didn't stop turning, no one died.  Try it, you might be surprised.  

What have you been thinking about?  

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

The Way We Were Wednesday - The Elf on My Shelf

 I have had this elf since the early 1960's.  I thought he was long lost, and stumbled across him recently when sorting through a box of flotsam from years ago.  It has history.

Richard proposed to my Aunt Edith at Christmas of about 1962 or 1963.  A friend of his mother took an egg carton and filled the cells in it with Christmas decorations, including this little elf, and a diamond ring.  I was ring bearer in their wedding the following spring.  The following Christmas she gave me one of this elf.  I treasured it, brought it out every Christmas for years.  Now it resides in the glass fronted bookcase in my bedroom.  

Isn't he sweet? 

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Time Flies

As I described it one day, I never thought I would see the day when I would be earning a living in my bedroom, and so it has been for six months now.  As I get older, the years seem to tick by faster.  It seems like only yesterday I was 20-something, suddenly I am three times that.  

I mentioned in a comment on another blog recently that I fully expect, in fact one of my goals in life, is to die with items undone on my "to do" list.  Having things to do makes me happy, gives purpose to my life.  

I expect when I finish traveling, there will still be places I would like to visit.  I do hope I have the good sense to know when to stop traveling.  Then again, maybe I will be one of the lucky ones that dies silently on the return flight from someplace I have always wanted to go.  Back when I was in law school I interned at a legal aid program.  The office administrator and her husband took a long planned and much dreamed about trip.  On the flight home, her husband was in the window seat and she thought he was sleeping, but when the plane landed he didn't wake up.  He had died quietly with a dream fulfilled. A lot of people thought it was tragic, I thought it was a wonderful way to go.  The flight attendants and the airline were very gracious, they are trained, and many have dealt with this before.  

It is going to be a busy couple of months, that will fly by, and before we know it the end of the year holidays will be upon us.  

Have you started your christmas shopping yet?   


Monday, September 14, 2020

My Music Monday - Something a Little Different - Wintergatan - Marble Machine

I am always fascinated by machines, machines that make music are especially fun.  The first winter we were in Florida, the neighbor had a restored player piano, they welcomed me to play it from time to time.  

Do you need one of these? 

Sunday, September 13, 2020

Sunday Five : Five Things About Me

  1. One thing I have always wanted to own?
  2. One place I would love to visit? 
  3. My favorite time of the day?
  4. My favorite food? 
  5. I always enjoy? 
My answers:

  1. One thing I have always wanted to own? A boat 
  2. One place I would love to visit? Portugal 
  3. My favorite time of the day? I am a morning person 
  4. My favorite food? Cheese 
  5. I always enjoy? A cool dry morning. 
Please share your answers in the comments.


Saturday, September 12, 2020

A Bag Full of Rocks

A friend invited my to join a private Facebook group, "Rock the Blue Nation." Members are asked to commit to painting and sharing in their neighborhood at least 10 rocks, urging voters to Vote Blue (Democrat) in the upcoming election.  I have recently finished my second dozen rocks. 

One day Sweetie Bear walked through the living room and asked me what was in the red fabric bag, I replied, "rocks."  We chuckled about being brighter than a bag of rocks.  I do hope you will vote for someone smarter than a bag of rocks.  

Friday, September 11, 2020

A Little Fun Along The Way

 One morning recently, I decided I wanted to walk someplace different, than my usual morning meander in the swamp.  I stopped at a county park.  The trail in the park was unpleasant, poorly maintained with lots of exposed tree roots to trip over, lots of bugs, I am still scratching.  Along one side was a paved trail.  For about 500 feet there were signs with pages from a children's book, illustrating the flora and fauna along the trail, a little farther along there was a small art installation. A dozen or so small sculptures, I think made by children,  secured in place, with placards encouraging you to find all of them.  

These are odd times.  Have a little fun along the way, create ways for others to have a little fun along the way, things we all need to do. 

Someone should let Sassybear know about this posting. 

Thursday, September 10, 2020

In My Backyard

I am exploring places in my backyard this year.  I have lived in many places, and it always surprises me how little I know about what is close by.  Working at home, has freed time for a daily walk, the gym was closed for months, and is very limited now that it is opened, all of this has resulted in walking a lot.  Most mornings I walk the same trail, about two miles round trip in a swamp along the Potomac River.  I am noticing the subtle changes in season.  Changes in the colors, different birds, bugs and flowers.  I try to listen, I try to be aware of what is happening around me.  It is so easy to get into our bubble, and not see, hear or smell what is around us.  I am practicing awareness.  

Can anyone identify the butterfly?  


Wednesday, September 09, 2020

The Way We Were Wednesday - 1967 National Beekeepers Federation

This came from the 1967 American Beekeepers Federation Meeting in Little Rock, Arkansas.  There were pressures on honey prices, and my father went to the conference to try to get a feel for what was likely to happen.  While he was gone, we had a blizzard in Michigan.  The day he was flying home, there was a funeral at the cemetery a mile south of home, so the road was plowed.  We made it out, and somehow made it home.  Shortly after that we had a phone installed in the house.  My parents had been on the farm for about 15 years, and had never had a phone installed.  There was a phone at my grandparent's house around the corner.  They were in Florida for the winter, my mother had to go around in the snow, and set in their freezing cold house to try to reach my father and other family.  My father gave this to me, it was part of a fundraiser, they sold two buttons with the same number, is you could find the match on your number there was some small momento.  

Do you think anyone still has the other button?   

Tuesday, September 08, 2020

Bald Eagles

 I remember the first time I saw a Bald Eagle, it was a captive bird, one injured and unable to fly, that was being shown to encourage passage of the endangered species act at the Detroit Auto Show.  I saw one in Florida, actually a sub-species in the early 1990's. The only ones we saw in Alaska in 2008 were in a rescue facility. Changes in the laws have resulted in a resurgence.  There is a growing population along the Potomac River.  I started spotting them 4 or 5 years ago.  Over the river, in tree tops along the river, and a couple of times hunting in the woods on our hilltop a mile away.  

For the past three months, I have been walking in a wildlife refuge along the Potomac River, about a mile as the Eagle flies from where we live.  At least half of the time, I see Eagles on my morning walk.  I recently had a stretch of 6 days in a row when I saw one or more Eagles, three one morning in two different locations.  

The photo above is likely a nesting pair. They are frequently in that tree.  They are about 1/4 of a mile away, stretching the limits of the lenses I have.  I could use twice as much lens.  

Have you seen Eagles in the wild? 

This picture was taken after the post had been written, about as close as I ever get. 

Monday, September 07, 2020

My Music Monday: "The Girl from Ipanema" Astrud Gilberto, João Gilberto and Stan Getz

My one and only Uncle Richard, was young at heart, he was about 10 years younger than my parents, but had much more modern taste.  A visit to my Aunt and Uncle's house on the lake always exposed me to something I never heard or saw at home.  His taste in music included Jazz and early Rock and Roll.  I remember hearing this for the first time in their airy living room overlooking Dollar Bay on the back side of Lake Orion.  It transported me to far away places, I had and have never been to.  I own it on CD, it is on the playlist in the convertible.   

What music transports you to far away places, you have never been? 

Sunday, September 06, 2020

Sunday Five - If You Could

 Let's escape reality, and spend a few minutes in unreality, If You Could? Be creative, there are no limits, you don't need a reason. 

  1. If you could travel through time for four hours, where and when would you go? 
  2. If you could attend the finish of any sporting event, what would you want to attend? 
  3. If you could have lunch tomorrow with any person living or dead, who would it be? 
  4. If you could leave the earth, safely, and return in an hour, where in the Universe would you want to visit? 
  5. If you could have one celebrity or politician as a next door neighbor, who would it be? 
My Answers:

  1. If you could travel through time for four hours, where and when would you go? The liberation of Paris near the end of World War II. 
  2. If you could attend the finish of any sporting event, what would you want to attend? Seats on the finish line of the Indianapolis 500 the year Mario Andretti won. 
  3. If you could have lunch tomorrow with any person living or dead, who would it be? My Great-Grandmother Wood, 
  4. If you could leave the earth, safely, and return in an hour, where in the Universe would you want to visit? The moon, I'd love to see earth from the Moon. 
  5. If you could have one celebrity or politician as a next door neighbor, who would it be? Queen Elizabeth. 
Please share your answers in the comments. 

Saturday, September 05, 2020

Holding It All Together - more or less

 Somehow the light post, held up a ropes tied off to two small trees seems to represent this year (if you look carefully there is a second rope running off the a tree farther away.). We are holding it together, somewhat.  

The Indianapolis 500 was two weeks ago, the Kentucky Derby is this weekend, and the Tour de France started last weekend.  Two of those should have been in May, the Tour is not in July for the first time in 117 years.  Under the conditions these events are being held, they could have been held when scheduled, Indy ran with no fans in the stands, The Derby will run with a limited crowd, as is the Tour.  

I have grown used to working from home, but I miss travel and conferences.  This will be the first year in more than a decade when I will have spent fewer than 30 nights in hotels, currently 18 nights - I am undecided on attending a wedding in October that might get me to 21 nights. I miss eating out.  I don't really miss the mall, doubt that I will ever go back.  Amazon is my go to for shopping.  

I am convinced that I will vote in the upcoming election, but will likely do that as an early voter.  

I have a weird enough personality, that the isolation has not bothered me, but it would have been fun to see a few more friends and family this year.  

Are you holding it together?  

Friday, September 04, 2020

Life Requires Hard Work Sometimes - If You Do It Right

Andrew in Australia went on a bit of a rant the other day. My interpretation of what he had to say, was that he is was tired of self indulgent people complaining that life requires hard work.  I offered a comment there, but I am inspired to elaborate here.  

I have heard it from young people, complaints that you have to start at the bottom, that education takes time, is hard work, and in some parts of the world is expensive.  I also hear a similar whine from a couple of older bloggers that others had advantages in life, that others have more resources in retirement. 

And you know what, all of that may be true, but life is about what we make of what we have to work with.  I have done fairly well in life by pushing myself beyond what anyone would have expected.  None of my grandparents finished high school.  My father dropped out of school in his teens, my mother finished high school in the middle of World War II.  Education was not highly valued in my family.  

My first job off of the farm, paid a barely living wage, with the promise of bonuses based on profitability.  For that I worked 9 hour days, plus an early morning staff meeting one day a week.  Often I was called on to work six or seven days a week, being "single" with no kids I was expected to cover for those with "families." The next job after that, paid a whole lot more, but I was expected to work 60-70 hours per week.  The first time I took ten days off to go to England, I returned to a lecture about needing to be serious about work (to this day, I wish I had told Bill to go %uck himself that day.) 

I worked my way through college, working full time,  going to school part time, paying for it as I went.  I spent nearly 10 years earning a four year degree.  A couple of years later, I took a leap of faith, moved 800 miles, and applied to graduate school.  I was the fourth oldest in my law school class. An unhealthy fear of failure drove me to work very hard and finish in the top of my class.  I also took on enough student loan debt, to pay for a Mercedes, instead of the well worn Honda I was driving.  I made extra payments and paid off my student loans in less than 8 years. My first job out of law school paid $28,000 a year to start- doing work I loved - but often demanding 60 hours weeks. I ended up moonlighting doing the kind of work I do now, because I needed the extra income. A decade after law school I took another leap of faith, a job 500 miles away in DC.  A job that paid very well, but in an area with a very high cost of living.  And 500 miles away 30 weeks out of the year from the person I love. Our love endured and our relationship lasted.  

I am look at retirement in the predictable future.  We are debt free.  We will have nearly as much income in retirement as I currently earn (and I am the only earner this year, J is fully retired but delayed drawing retirement income for a year - resulting in a larger retirement income for life.) Life is good.  But no one gave us any of this, we earned, we were careful with what we had, we made due, we avoided mountains of debt. 

It has been a hard slog along the way.  I have worked insane hours, often for people who wondered why I couldn't give more.  I have a lot of education, because I worked my tail off for it, and paid for it.  

So to anyone thinking life is hard - it is and and you get out of it, what you put into it.  

Even those born with advantages in life find that life is not easy, and that they get out of it, what they put into it.  I have never assumed that someone's life was easy, because they came from a different background.  

Rant over- thank you for allowing me to vent. 


Thursday, September 03, 2020

September 3rd

Fifteen years ago today, Travel Penguin posted his first post on this blog. 
Nearly half-a-million page views, just under 2,900 posts, nearly 16,000 comments later, here we are. I know a lot of bloggers have more views, more posts and more comments, good for them.  When I started this I figured if 3 or 4 close friends read what I posted it would be a smashing success.    

In the early posts, it was all Travel Penguin, or TR. I have emerged from the shadows to be the narrator.  The posts are sometimes about travel, sometimes my rambling on life, seldom funny, even less seldom political.  I long ago lost track of all of the places we have been, I know I am still missing two US states, and I keep dreaming about the next trip to Europe (did you know you can take a ferry boat from Iceland to Denmark, with a stop in the Faroe Islands?)  

I have met so many wonderful friends through blogging, some of whom I have actually met. (If you are ever in the Washington DC area, let me know.) 

I continue to say, I do this for me.  It gives me a place to share photos, and 99.9% of the photos on this blog I took.  It has improved my writing - though I still find typos and my brain can construct some very twisted sentences. My brain works in strange ways, but it works for me, and I am okay with that.   

I love that people read and see what I post.  I read your comments, probably the only comments I miss are comments posted more than a couple of days after the post goes up.  Sorry, my brain moves forward, it seldom looks back.  I try to acknowledge comments, even if it is only a couple of words to let you know I read what you wrote.  

As I look forward, I plan to keep doing this.  I think about adding blogs (I tried that this year, and abandoned the idea, one is enough to keep up with while working full time.) 35 months until I don't need to work full time.  Then I can think about new channels.  I think about adding a vlog, more than the once in a rare while video here, I think about creating serious short videos about the adventures in my own backyard and as we travel. It is good to have plans and dreams for the future.  I am so glad I committed to a daily posting, even if I struggle sometimes to come up with the next idea. 

Thank you all for being a part of this.  Please keep reading. Please keep posting.  

If you are not blogging, please start. All of us have a story to tell, a song to sing, a picture to draw, and message to share.  If you have stopped blogging, think about just posting a selfie or a picture of what is around you - let the world know what is important to you, it is simple and helps all of us connect to something outside of ourselves.  

Take care, thank you all for being a part of this, I look forward to the next 15 years.     

Wednesday, September 02, 2020

The Way We Were Wednesday - Picnic Time

 This one is from before my time.  On the left is my paternal grandmother.  The taller woman on the right is my mother.  On the end in the hat is my paternal grandfather.  I recognize the enameled metal cake carrier it was my grandmother's.  There is a jar of French's mustard.  No idea what the event was.  A glimpse into the early to mid 1950's.   

Tuesday, September 01, 2020

World's Best Out of Office Auto Reply


I received the following automatic out of office reply the other day. 


STOP: YOUR EMAIL HAS BEEN DELETED- Out of office until September 8th  


Please read  


1. What is this? 

This is my VACATION and I am working hard ON BEING ON vacation. This is the best way I have of making sure my email does not ruin my vacation. 


2. Why delete your email?  Why not just read it all when you get back? 

Good question. This is the only way I have found to truly disconnect. Otherwise, I will be thinking about email with an impending sense of doom…knowing I would need to slog through thousands of emails when I return. 


3. Aren’t your worried you will miss out on something important? 

I am terrified actually! But I have an amazing team who can probably do a better job than I would have done anyway. 

-Research Program Manager: 

-PREPARE Program Manager: 



5.  But I really need you to see this email!! 

Consider re-emailing me on Sept 8th or email Aiesha (research) or Jana (PREPARE-related). 

You can also send a delayed email. 


Mac: the Send button on the desktop version has a drop down with a calendar function. 


Feedback welcome (if you send it after Sept 8th) 


(Borrowed from Rebecca, Gabe & Bob


I have to say, I think this is brilliant.  I have bragged in the past about replying to work email with the opening line being "Greetings from London," but in reading and replying to office email while on vacation in London, was I really on vacation, or just working remotely?  Email and mobile phones have revolutionized our world, but they also allow work to invade our off hours. My work is not life or death, why do I treat it as such.  I sincerely hope the next time I take a few days off, I have the guts to post this out of office message.   

Do you think I will have the guts to post this?  Would you?