Monday, May 31, 2021

You Tube Monday - A funny story or two - Gabriel Iglesias

I slept with one of Gabriel Iglesias's tour managers one day. Now get your minds out of the gutter.  I was on a 7:00 AM bright and early flight from Detroit to Phoenix.  Sitting in the first row of first class, this was when I was flying a lot and the Airline liked me.  Liked me a lot for a couple of years.  This big guy reclines the window seat, pulls his hat down over his eyes and I think he was asleep before the wheels left the ground.  Looked like a nice idea, I had breakfast first, because it was first class and there was real food.  Then closed my eyes and slept for like three hours.  Made up for having to be up at 5:00 AM to catch the before daylight flight.  I had stayed in the Hyatt in the airport the night before so I could cut the time as short as possible.  As we are landing he wakes up, I notice his hat says "Fluffy Breaks Even". I had no clue what it meant, and I asked about it. He said, "I am one of the tour managers for Gabriel Iglesias, he finished a series of shows downtown Detroit last night, took us all out for drink afterwards, I didn't get to my room until 2:00 AM, with a 5:00 AM taxi and a run through the airport to make the flight, I am headed home to LA we move to the next city on Wednesday." So, yes all we did was sleep, and it was good first class sleep.  

Sunday, May 30, 2021

Sunday Sadness and Five Lessons

Devastating news this week, Anne Marie in Philly died after a short illness.  We met in person a couple of times, at a Blogger gathering a few years ago and for lunch in September 2019.  If the Warrior Queen liked you, you knew it. She was a constant commenting on blogs, sending birthday, anniversary and Christmas cards.  We had been trying to work out meeting in August for lunch.  Her weekly Dance Party postings were legendary and showed her diverse taste in music.  Her periodic "Hurls" truly revealed the depth of her feelings. 

Five things I learned from Anne Marie?

  1. Origin is not destiny, you are not the family you came from, you are the family you make for yourself. 
  2. When life gives you a second chance be fierce and grab it by the horns (or anything you can get a good grip on!) 
  3. Don't accept the excuses of the haters, ever! 
  4. If someone does not treat you with respect, say "fuck dat" and move on. 
  5. Love everyone who treats you with dignity and respect. 

Dance like no one's watching.

Sing like no one's listening.

My heart breaks for Todd, the love of her life. 

Life is fragile.  Take care of yourself. Have fun along the way.  Don't let others limit you.  Don't tolerate hate.  Be fierce, be a Warrior.   

Saturday, May 29, 2021

The Saturday Morning Post - Deep Rich Colors

Though my house is painted in soft pastels, I have always loved deep rich colors. There may be 50 shades of grey, but at this time of the years to trails have 10,000 maybe 1,000,000 shades of green.  They say arctic natives have 100 words to describe snow, words fail me when trying to describe the colors of the trees, shrubs and grasses.  

The Cardinals have a distinctive shade of red.  Brighter than the arm bands of the red-wing blackbirds.  But the black birds also have bands of yellow. 

The plant at the bottom is indigo.  I never knew what it looked like.  The golden bloom on the deep purple flower stalks is distinctive.  This is the original organic source for the blue in denim. Valued for its durability, fade resistance and beauty. 

I haven't downloaded this weeks photos yet.  The Eaglets have fledged, as in started to fly from the nest.  And we have three Owlets, and their parents hanging out in the trees this year.  The Owls are easy to find, look for the guys and gals with the $10,000 lenses pointed into the trees and look at what they are pointing at. 

Beyond that my printer/scanner failed, it downloaded a software update and quit working.  I swear the manufacturer send these things self destruct orders after a few years. I bought a new one, a different brand, it worked fine on everything except printing from Chrome on my Mac desktop computer. It would print from Chrome on my Chromebook, or Ipad. It printed and scanned from other applications on desktop. A new software update loaded, and now it works as intended.    

I had brunch one day in a cozy restaurant on Castro Street in San Francisco.  There was a table of marketing people for one of the big computer and printer manufacturers next to me.  From listening to them, I am convinced they plan for obsolescence, it is part of their marketing plan.  (Sit next to me in a restaurant, when I am eating alone, and I will listen in.) Don't you?    

Friday, May 28, 2021

Foodie Friday - Onions

Onions, big yellow Spanish onions dominated the garden of the widow that lived across the street from my grandparents on the farm.  His wife died of cancer, probably breast cancer, but this was the 1960's and people didn't talk openly about specifics, let alone breasts.  He had a daughter who was only slightly older than I, with a birth related spinal condition, she was seldom well enough to go to school. About the time she should have finished high school she had a major surgery, and did much better after that.  She married young, and moved back in the house after her father died in the 1980's. She died a few years ago.  

My family couldn't understand the neighbor growing a year's supply of onions, he told me he needed at least one a day, plus extra for holidays and big family dinners.  A bag of onions would last for weeks in my mother's kitchen, my grandmother would buy them one at a time. 

I was in my early teens when I discovered the joys of onions. I remember stopping at a produce market, and buying a 25 pound bag of onions - for something like $2.50.  Onions add so much savory flavor when sweated or gently fried.  A bite when raw.  A sweetness when allowed to caramelize. 

All onions are not the same, white onions tend to be more mild but tend to go sulfurous as they age, yellow onions have a deeper flavor, red or purple onions tend to be sweeter, then there are green onions, scallions, shallots, and I won't go into the more distant members of the onion family garlic. 

One of the keys to enjoying onions is getting comfortable cutting them up.  For this you really need a comfortable medium chefs knife.  And a good cutting board.  Being raised by a family with a rational basis for fear of foodborne illness, my cutting boards have to run the dishwasher, I have a stack, 5 or 6 medium size white plastic cutting boards that easily fit in the dishwasher to run at high temperature for the wash and dry. 

I started to write an essay on how to cut an onion, there are tons of them out there, there are some great how to videos on YouTube, and Jamie Oliver is more fun to watch than I am.  

My tips, your knife needs to be large and sharp. If you have trouble cutting it is not you or the onion, it is likely a dull knife, or a knife that is really to small for what you are trying to do. Take your time, pay attention to where you want the next cut to be, the knife will go where you place it, place it with care, being slow is okay, speed comes with practice, the people demonstrating on TV have been doing this for years, years from now maybe you will cut like that. And always be careful. Draw the knife through the onion, if the knife is sharp pulling it across the onion will give you the cut are seeking, if you have to force it, the knife is not sharp.  The knife should have a sharp point, so then you pierce or plunge it into the onion, it just sort of sinks in.  If you have to stab like the shower scene in Psycho, your knife is too dull or is not shaped with a sharp point like a chefs knife.

If I were writing a cookbook about main dishes, almost all of them could start with "take one onion".    

Thursday, May 27, 2021

Thursday Ramble - If I had known then, what I know now

 A dear friend of mine's son is finishing high school, he is a bright young man, well over 4 feet tall, and destined for college, starting this summer.  His parents are very bright, expectations are high.  As I am want to do, I wrote a letter offering sage advice from someone who has been there and done that, and wished I had known then what I know now.  Here are some excerpts from the letter (Jen if he didn't let you read it, there was nothing to worry about.) 

* Take time to sit in the shade or the sun, and just absorb the sounds of a college campus.  Some of my fondest memories are sitting by a fountain between the residence halls for 15 minutes before class.  

* Enjoy being a scholar, for the next few years you have the privilege of pursuing knowledge and thinking deep thoughts, just because you can. For most of us a lifetime of reading what needs to be read and thinking what needs to be thought (what someone is paying us to think) awaits. 

* Learn how to learn, how to explore the world, how to develop understanding of things outside your knowledge and comfort zone, it will serve you well in life. 

* Never stop learning.  

* Read everything that interests you.  The ancient model of higher education was not based on textbooks, it was based on reading deeply and widely, to develop a broad understanding, far beyond what is in any single book. When an idea seems incomplete - go read the underlying sources and you will find what was edited out to give you just what the author wanted you to know.  Don’t let others edit your knowledge. 

* A lifetime of rushing from obligation to obligation awaits, for the next few years enjoy the pace of school.  Learn to say no to things that don’t have to be done. (I still struggle with this one.) You don’t have to finish college in record time (says the guy who spent nearly 10 year finishing his BA.) 

* Schedule your work, so you are not rushing at the last minute. No one does their best when they are rushing.  There are two kinds of work, perfect and done, you always need the second kind. (I have a friend who can’t get anything finished on time.)  

* The most important thing to do the night before an exam is get a good night's sleep. 

* Be true to your own self.  You don’t need to be who anyone else wants you to be, or thinks you should be.  Self acceptance is hard, you are a fine person just as you are.  Don’t compromise yourself to try to make others happy, you won’t make them happy and you will not make yourself happy in doing so.   

* It is okay to not be the life of the party. 

* Find your path, do what makes you happy.  If the path you are on does not make you happy, change directions. It took me three tries to find something that was a good fit for me.  You deserve happiness. If you are not happy, it is okay to change. 

Travel, go wherever and whenever you can.  

* Your parents love you.  They will be happy if you are happy in life.  

* Don’t fear leaving the past behind, we live in the now, informed by the past, and dream of the future.  

* If you haven’t already, learn to do your laundry and cook for yourself.  No one should be dependent on others for the basics of a civilized life.  No one should feel obligated to do for you, what you can easily do for yourself. Two medium size loads of laundry will get cleaner than one overstuffed load. (Took me a few years to learn that one.) 

* Don’t stifle your creative side, art, writing, whatever works for you, and don’t worry if others like it.  Some of the ugliest paintings I have done have been the most meaningful to me (and most people don’t know that I paint.)    

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

The Way We Were Wednesday - Dad's Drivers License

My Sunday Five on Learning to drive a couple of weeks ago, reminded me of the story of my father getting a driving license.  He was barely 15 years old.  

Bob, one if his close childhood friends was a couple of years older, and had owned a car, or two or three.  Bob was not rich, far from it, he was a talented mechanic and would take junkers that everyone else was ready to send to the breakers yard and make them run, and drive the wheels off of them, then sell them for a profit.  

Dad was been pulled over by the local police, driving Bob's car, probably a little fast through town.  My grandmother was summoned to the local police department, dragging my father along.  The chief of police boomed at my grandmother, "if you are going to let him drive he needs a license and he needs to slow down."  She meekly said yes, "George SLOW DOWN, or you know what I will do!"  The chief asked my grandmother "does he know how to drive?" then started to laugh saying "I know he knows how to, he nearly outran my officers."  He said to my grandmother "if you will vouch for him, and promise to watch his speed, I'll sign off on it."  And that is how my father got a driving license. 

He drove well into his 80's.  He only had a couple of tickets.  Until the last few years of his driving only one accident.  In his early 80's he hit a farm wagon one summer in Michigan, and hit the curb hard enough to break the suspension twice.  He quietly stopped driving a couple of years before he died.  His choice, as it should be.  He never did slow down, I don't know how he avoided speeding tickets for seven-decades.  

The photo is my father at 18 or 19 years old, he drafted into the army near the end of World War II, and defended New Jersey, the Germans never took the state.  

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Travel Tuesday - Off The Beaten Trail

 There are times when we are traveling when we want to stay on the beaten path, and times when we want to get off the trail.  I often find interesting local restaurants off the beaten path, there are times when I want the Michelin starred restaurant, and times I want the place the locals go everyday. At times I set the GPS to take me on the back roads only.  I live just of US highway 1, this road runs from Maine to Key West.  When  it was built, it was the beaten track, the main road, any more it is off the beaten track.  Lots of local towns and traffic, but no longer the main road.  Some of the most amazing adventures have been on back roads, away from the main trail. 

Monday, May 24, 2021

My Music Monday: The King's Singers "The Rose "

I marvel at the sound of the human voice, I look for the strings, the woodwinds, and those instruments are not here, this is all from the musical instrument that is the voice.  Amazing, 

Sunday, May 23, 2021

The Sunday Five - To Your Health

The photos were taken a few months ago.  I had a ten year old crown removed, a root canal done, and a new crown made.  I started to write about it, but I didn't want to make anyone panic.  Other than the root canal taking a long time, my teeth are heavily calcified making them hard to work on, it was not unpleasant. The vibrations when the root canal was being done are unique, like nothing else, not unpleasant, but unusual.  I am very happy with the outcome, a complete success and the new crown is made out of some miracle substance that is likely to outlast me. (The doc said, you will break your jaw, before you will break that crown.) The 3 or 4 hours of time in the chair, payed off with being pain free and able to eat anything that does not eat me first. 

To your health, this weeks Sunday five 

1: Would you sooner see your Dentist or have your taxes reviewed by the IRS? 

2: Have you ever delayed a Dental appointment, for more than a year? 

3: Do you take a daily multivitamin pill? 

4: Do you like or dislike your doctor? (Or don't have one?) 

5: Would you trust a doctor that smoked? 

My answers: 

1: Would you sooner see your Dentist or have your taxes reviewed by the IRS?  I don't really fear either, at least with the dentist I know what to expect. 

2: Have you ever delayed a Dental appointment, for more than a year? Yes, how long did I live in Kentucky?  

3: Do you take a daily multivitamin pill? Yes, started based on a recommendation from a Doc, 35 years ago. 

4: Do you like or dislike your doctor? (Or don't have one?) I like her, I wish her office would go to electronic records and electronic prescribing. 

5: Would you trust a doctor that smoked? Yes, as long as they were honest about it.  My father's doctor smoked, Cliff was honest that it was unhealthy and that he would likely live longer and healthier if he quit. He died of a massive heart attack driving his boat at high speed. 

Please share your answers in the comments, 



Saturday, May 22, 2021

The Saturday Morning Post - Blogging

This summer I will pass 16 years as a blogger.  I started as a guest blogger for someone who was on vacation for a couple of weeks, didn't know how to update from the road, and didn't want two weeks to pass without an update.  It was fun.  I created Travel Penguin and moved forward.  There were a few lean years.  Then 6 or 7 years ago I decided to get serious and post something every day.  

I wanted my writing to get better, to be easier, to be more readable.  Writing is a challenge for me, based on how my brain works, things I have worked on since first grade. Yet no one had said, to get better at writing, practice, practice, practice.  Making a commitment to posting something everyday to the blog, forces me to write often.  

I don't do this everyday, most of my posts are created on Saturday mornings, and Sunday afternoons.  Some are in draft form for months or even years.  Once a week I make sure I have 10 days of postable content ahead of me. Nearly every post, goes up at midnight eastern time, because they are written ahead of time and scheduled.  (This post is being written on Saturday May 15th, to post on Saturday May 22nd.)  This avoids me needing to find time during a sometimes hectic work week to create content.  If something comes up, I can put something up right away, ether by rescheduling or by posting more than one per day. 

I recently uploaded my photo archive to a new cloud backup, it loaded about 70,000 images.  I love taking photos.  I love that the blog gives me a place to share them with world.  Most are average, a few are really great.  All of them are tied to a memory for me.  

I get questions about advertising on the blog. I use Google Adsense. No I am not getting rich, it has grown very slowly, and generates about $10 a month.  

Why do I do it?  Google makes money from blogspot. Blogs generate content, images, photos, for Google to link to and index.  They use my content to target ads to me.  They use your visits and comments to target ads to you. If they don't have ads on on the blog you visit, they use what they learn about you when you visit to target ads on any site that you visit, that allows Adsense ads. 

By allowing explicit advertising on the blog, I get a tiny fraction of the money.  If you click on the ads linked on the blog, a tiny bit more, if you buy from some vendors even a bit more.  If they do a good job of targeting the ads to you, they should be for things you are interested in.  

Online advertising is different than print, in that the ads you see on this post, are different than the ads the next person will see on the same post.  The ads are targeted either based on what Google knows about you, or if they know nothing about you, based on what the post is about to the extent they can figure that out. Google (Amazon, Facebook and others) are going to do this, if I am a part of it or not.  I think content creators should be compensated.  It is not much, but it is something to confirm that I helped feed the machine. Everytime Google makes another billion, I get another couple of dollars for my part of it.

Compensated or not, please keep creating content, I love reading it, I love reading your comments, even just saying Hi in a comment, lets me know someone has read what I created.     


Friday, May 21, 2021

Foodie Friday- A Classic Sort Of

I was in a mood recently for a cake, and I had fresh pineapple in the the fridge, so I thought why not a pineapple upside down cake. Cakes have never been my strength, but I am learning.  I looked at a couple of online sources and nothing looked like fun.  So I winged it. 

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

The pineapple was already cubed the base/top of the cake is pineapple mixed with melted butter and brown sugar to make a basic caramel.  I started with a half pound of Irish butter, about 1/3rd of that was melted for the caramel sauce.  How much brown sugar? I didn't measure, I mixed it with the melted butter until it looked about right.  

The rest of the butter was creamed with about 3/4 of a cup of granulated sugar, until light and fluffy.  I added three eggs, beat it on medium for two or three minutes until it was light and fluffy.  I mixed about 1 1/2 cups of all purpose flour, a heaping teaspoon of baking soda, a heaping teaspoon of baking powder, a generous pinch of salt and slowly mixed into the wet ingredients.  I added a generous tablespoon of vanilla extract.  It hadn't quiet picked up all of the dry ingredients, so I mixed in two heaping soup spoons of sour cream.  

I sprayed a rectangular glass baking dish with cooking spray.  Spread the pineapple, with the butter and brown sugar mixture in the bottom, then layered the cake batter over the top, it makes a thin layer of batter, barely covering the pineapple.  

Bake about 35 minutes, until a tester comes out clean.  Cool for 30 minutes, cover with a plastic cutting board, flip, and hope that the caked falls out of the pan.  Miracle of all miracles it worked.   I slid it back in the baking dish, pineapple side up, I have a snap lid for that baking dish.  

It is my version of a classic, sort of, and it worked, it really worked.  The sour cream adds a lot of moisture.  Store tightly covered in the refrigerator, if it lasts long enough to need storing.  

I have been reading a book that among others talks about the relationship between Julia Child and Simone Beck.  Simone cooked and baked the way this was done, I call it winging it, Simone (co-author of the two volumes of Mastering the Art of French Cooking) thought of it as cooking by instinct and technique, knowing how to cook and adjusting as needed.  Julia was the one who insisted on precise measurements and detailed instructions (8 pages on how to boil an egg, 24 pages on french bread.) I learned to cook with detail, but failed to learn to bake by detail, because so many factors impact baking, temperature, humidity, ingredients, elevation, minor differences in ovens, even the material the mixing bowl is made out of can change the chemistry of baking. Learning to bake by technique and instinct has settled in later in life, and it works, sometimes it really works.   

Thursday, May 20, 2021

Things that Make Me Turn my Head and Stare

I thought this was the neatest image, he flew up, landed about 15 feet away, and turned to stared at me.  He looks a little angry. 

So what is making me turn my head and stare these days? 

People who are wearing a mask/face covering, hanging down below their nose. Either wear it or don't, but don't leave something hanging out. People who wear their mask while driving alone in their car.  

Plastic bags of dog shit, left on the side of the nature trail. The bag has to break down, for the contents to be washed into the dirt, I really don't want to step in dog shit, but the balance of nature would be much better without the plastic bag. We have gone so deeply into the clean up after your dog, that common sense is lost here.   

People who still think the election was stolen.  If Democrats could figure out how to steal an election, do you really think Mitch McConnell and Lindsey Graham would have been re-elected? Not even Mitch and Lindsey believe the lie. Yup, I have unfriended, unfollowed, and deleted people from my life over this dumb_uckery.  

It is spring, the weather is often very nice.  The runners, and cyclists, cause me to stop, turn my head and stare.  

Critters, this past week I have seen an opossum, a raccoon, deer, turtles, and a snake on my walks.  Not things I see often, they make me stop, turn my head as needed and stare.  The opossum I heard before I saw, I looked over and thought what a big rat, then it turned its head and bared its teeth at me.  Not a rat! 

I was out walking on the trail one morning recently and I nearly tripped on a large fish.  I am talking 18 inches long, 2 or 3 inches thick, probably 3 or 4 pounds of fresh out of the Potomac River fish, laying on the hard packed gravel trail.  The fish was dead. At first I thought it was a tree branch, then I stopped, turned my head and stared, and realized it was a fish. A good 500 feet from the water.  Likely one of the Eagles, or an Osprey lost their lunch. The Eagles tend to be bullies, and will attack other raptors, to steal the fresh catch, the Osprey's will drop the fish to flee the attack, this one the Eagles hadn't caught or picked up yet.  It landed in a heavily traveled section of the trail.  The great circle of life, lunch for something. Thinking back, I should have sat down a distance away, with the longest lens and waited for the pick up.  Fresh fish to go.  


Wednesday, May 19, 2021

The Way We Were Wednesday - Christmas Gifts I remember

This would have been christmas of 1971, 72 or 73.  The date is based on the box of golf balls my father is holding.  He is wearing a new sweater, my mother's go to gift for my father, he had dozens of them.  The golf balls were in a package that my oldest brother sent from Hong Kong or Singapore. My oldest brother finished high school in 1970, and enlisted in the Navy in early 1971.  His first assignment was on a aircraft carrier.  Most the time spent off the coast of Viet Nam.  Breaks would take them to Philippines, or Hong Kong or Singapore. The ship was nuclear powered, and Japan wouldn't allow them in port.  He sent a box with christmas gifts one of those years, I remember the golf balls. The white artificial tree was a favorite of my parents, I think it was bought the winter we lived in Phoenix, 1965?  

Funny the little things that trigger memories. 

Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Travel Tuesday - Travel Outside Your Comfort Zone

 Drafting the recent piece on grandparents, I was reminded that one of the lessons I learned from my grandmother was to take myself outside of my comfort zone.  She had me drive her to places she wanted to see, that were outside of my grandfather's comfort zone.  She boldly went to Alaska in her 80's, basically saying she'd sooner die enjoying the trip, than sitting safely at home wishing she had gone.  

Any place where I don't speak the language is stretch.  If I work at it, I can muddle through in French, a little bit it Italian, and a tiny bit of Spanish.  But not mutch.  Germany turned out to be easy, virtually anyone under 40 speaks at least some English.  Greece was a real challenge.  The alphabet is different, I tried my normal preparation with audio language tutoring and found Greek impenetrable.  In two weeks I think I got out hello, and thank you maybe five times.  Yet it was an amazing experience.  In Athens english was common, we got out into the countryside on that trip, and none of us spoke modern Greek and English was rare.  

I am fascinated Japan and South Korea.  They are outside of my comfort zone.  Languages that are entirely different.  I need to remind myself, that it is better to go outside of my comfort zone, than to die wishing I had.   

Monday, May 17, 2021

You Tube Monday - FFRF's Ron Reagan Ad

When I am traveling, I enjoy visiting churches.  The architecture, the art, the glass, the peace.  The first time I visited Notre Dame in  Paris, in 1991, was the first time I encountered lighting candles in a church, I find it calming to do. The fellowship of a faith community, the rituals create a feeling of connection and the comfort of routine. Yet, I am not a practitioner of any organized religion. I understand that some people need a explanation, for the incomprehensible, others rely on a touchstone of faith to cope with the stress of life, whatever gets you through the night. I have found other ways of accepting the unacceptable, and allaying my fears.  

I am distrustful of those who think that their way is the only way, that feel compelled to try to bring others into their fold.  I am angry at religious leaders who shelter abusers, spread hate, and discrimination. I don't believe in mixing religion and politics.  The US Constitution has a clause mandating a separation of church and state because of the horrors in the name of religion that Europe had experienced in the years before the Constitution was written.   

I ran across this little gem, by the son of a dead President, a President who started to blur the line between church and state.  

Sunday, May 16, 2021

Sunday Five - Driving

Mitchell is getting a driving license in Spain.  He has a few years of experience, but the rules are different in Spain, so he is driving with an instructor to get ready.  Made me think about my learning to drive.  Hence this weeks Sunday five, driving. I think when he passes he should get something in red, like the car above, it would look good on him. 

  1. Did you ever drive on the road before you "officially" learned to drive? 
  2. At what age did you get your first driving license? 
  3. Can you drive a car with a drive a manual transmission? 
  4. Was your driving test easy or hard? 
  5. Did you have to parallel park to get a license? 
My answers:

  1. Did you ever drive on the road before you "officially" learned to drive?  Only once, I spent a week on a ranch in Colorado and drove a pickup truck back from one of the remote parts of the ranch to the barns, I was terrified.  
  2. At what age did you get your first driving license? 16, my father insisted. 
  3. Can you drive a car with a drive a manual transmission? Yes, I did about have of my student driving in an aging Ford pickup truck with a three speed manual. The last time was a rental in Iceland in 2015. 
  4. Was your driving test easy or hard? Easy, three left turns, one right turn and the examiner said "get it stopped in the parking lot without hitting anything and you passed." 
  5. Did you have to parallel park to get a license? Thankfully, NO, still not my best skill. 
Please share your answers in the comments.

Saturday, May 15, 2021

The Saturday Morning Post - Weekends

 I never thought I would earn a living in my bedroom, but I have for the past 14 months.  When I started the job in DC, I drew a sharp line between work and home.  Simply put, I didn't work at home, I didn't sleep in my office. I did this because on my previous job, I found myself working 1 or 2 hours a day at home, in addition to working in the office, and working on weekends.  Work dominated my life, I was physically and mentally burned out. For 12 years I succeeded at maintaining a good distinction between home / personal time and work.  

All of a sudden with COVID I am doing working and sleeping in the same place. For the most part, I had been doing well in separating work time and not work time. Recently the line has started to blur, I am finding myself working early in the morning, and after dinner in the evening.  A confluence of several major projects all demanded my attention, stretching time well past the time reflected on my time sheet.  Weird, I am salaried, but we report hours. But time sheets never reflect more than the standard hours, great works of fiction, more of a what percentage of time is charged to each project than a true reflection of the hours worked.

I have long known I need to learn to say no.  To set limits. At my age, I think I will retire before I learn that skill.  I was talking with an old friend who retired last year.  She said it was liberating and disorienting, to hand everything over and walk away. 

I have so far, preserved my weekends.  Allowing my office computer to go to sleep Friday afternoon, and leaving it to hybernate until Monday.   

Still I need to return to balance on Monday through Friday.  I need to say no, I need to delegate. I need to be realistic on what can be done in 40 hours a week.  

A couple of weekends ago, I took the convertible in for a car wash, the prices have gone up significantly in the past year, (30%) and the owners car was parking in one of the detail bays, it costs a lot of money to keep tires on that and pay the speeding tickets.       

Friday, May 14, 2021

Foodie Friday - Childhood Treats

 My father loved chocolate chip cookies.  He would tolerate oatmeal raisin, but his passion was chocolate chip.  So they were one of the few things my mother would bake, using the recipe on the bag of chips.  Jay's mother made them, a slightly different recipe and hers were small.  You knew Lil was there, when you saw a tupperware box of chocolate chip cookies about as big around as a silver dollar. I don't make them often, I can't remember the last time, we try to be careful in what we eat, and the temptation of homemade cookies can be hard to resist.   

Do you bake?  What reminds you of your childhood?  

Thursday, May 13, 2021

Celebrate What You Can Do -

My almost waterproof hiking shoes

Six years ago today, May 13th, is my lucky day.  The day talented neurosurgeons and orthopedic surgeons removed a rather large tumor, stabilized a section of my spine, and gave me a second chance on life.  

Walking a lot this past year, I think has helped me continue to rebuild strength.  I have walked places I couldn't for years.  I am not up to doing a triathlon today, but I can take a nice walk in the swamp, I can listen to the birds, I can feel the wind on my face, the sun on my balding head. I can venture out onto the rocks and flats, moving over and under fallen trees - to some extent.  

I could talk about the things that will never be the same.  There was permanent nerve damage.  It hurts at times.  But I am so lucky that I can feel the pain, that I can be careful when I walk- mindful of my balance.  It was my lucky day, I saw the right doctor, who had the right hunch, who sent me to the right place for scans, that would send me to the emergency room, that would land me in the care of some of the best doctors in the country.  People who gave me a chance to celebrate what I can do, everyday.  

Thanks for putting up with my annual mention of this experience. People tire of a constant tale of woe, and also are frustrated by vague mentions of health problems with no details. Hopefully my once a year mention strikes a balance.  

If you ever need someone to talk about things you are experiencing, drop me a message.  I am not a healthcare professional, I won't offer advice, but I will listen and encourage you to seek the best care, and then focus on what you can do each day, to celebrate your abilities. 

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

The Way We Were Wednesday - The Details That Catch My Eye

This was taken in the early 1950's, some of my father's earliest color slides.  I am 99% sure this is my oldest brother, I would guess at about a year old.  I am pretty sure the person standing behind him, is my maternal grandfather - my mother's father.  Most likely this is a trailer park, or fish camp in Florida.  

The detail that catches my eye.  The blue T-shirt with a pocket.  I had no idea people wore them in the early 1950's.  My mother had a strong prejudice against t-shirts as street wear.  And there is her father, wearing one.  

Hmm, I wonder. 


Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Travel Tuesday - Italy

Italy, I have been there twice, I would go back on a moments notice. Italy has history, but it is also modern.  It has a wonderful climate, warm, dry, with mountains in the north.  It has food, glorious seasonal, local food.  Wine, simple, unpretentious, drinkable.  There are places I have been, and I would go back to any of them, there are places I have not been and can't wait to see.  

Could I live there? For a few weeks or months, but I doubt that I could cope with the red tape  on a long term basis.  

Monday, May 10, 2021

My Music Monday "CHERISH" Remastered (Lyrics) 💖 DAVID CASSIDY

Oh my, if I am not careful people will think I am old, I can remember when when David Cassidy was the hearthrob on a TV sitcom, when he really wanted to be a musician.  The music of our teenage years, dates us.   

Sunday, May 09, 2021

The Sunday Five - Dinner!

 Spo mentioned one day recently the television being on a dinner time and that got me to thinking about food - not that it takes much to get me thinking about eating.  Hence this weeks Sunday five.

  1. What time should the evening meal in your home be served? 
  2. Is the evening meal supper or dinner or tea? 
  3. Do you normally eat at a table, or elsewhere? 
  4. If you have a formal dining room, do you use it? 
  5. Television on or off, when the evening meal is served? 
My answers: 

  1. What time should the evening meal in your home be served? Between 6:00 and 6:30 PM
  2. Is the evening meal supper or dinner or tea? Dinner 
  3. Do you normally eat at a table, or elsewhere? At the table, for my ex it was in bed, or in the living room. 
  4. If you have a formal dining room, do you use it? Yes, virtually everyday 
  5. Television on or off, when the evening meal is served? Off, with very rare exceptions. 
Please share your answers in the comments, and keep inspiring me. 

Saturday, May 08, 2021

The Saturday Morning Post - Grandparents

I am on the editorial board of a monthly professional journal whose audience is older professionals, primarily age 62 and older.  The theme of the May issue is grandparenting.  I have never been a parent, hence I am not a grandparent.  My nephews were raised a long way away, so I didn't have the experience of substitute grandchildren.  So I really can't write on the experience of being a grandparent.  

This got me to thinking about my experience as a grandchild.  Grandparents had an influence, positive and negative on my life.  I was fortunate that all four of my grandparents lived into my middle teens or beyond, and my paternal, maternal great-grandmother outlived my grandfathers and I had a lot of contact with all of them.  

My family and my father's parents lived on the same farm, around the corner from one another.  When I was a baby, my mother's parents retired from farming, bought a large travel trailer and as they would describe it "went camping" for most of the rest of their lives. They would spend anything from a few weeks, to a few months each year literally in our backyard.  My great grandmother lived with my grandparents on the farm for several years giving the me the opportunity to spend hundreds of hours with her. My great grandmother was born in the 1880's, my grandparents in the very early 1900's, all were alive through World War I and World War II.  

My maternal grandparents were complex people. She was unhappy with her lot in life, often feeling distressed, hateful, and fearful.  He was unflappable, simple, and stubborn. He accepted his fate, would sooner go fishing than deal with the drama that was my grandmother.    They were married about 55 years, at times I sensed that they relied on one another, felt committed to one another, but didn't really like one another.  They held deep grudges, and seldom practiced forgiveness.  I learned how damaging that can be, how it gets in the way of personal happiness.  

My father's parents had started spending winters in Florida by the time I was born. They were a presence in my life 8 or 9 months out of the year.  By the time I was 6 or 7, I was allowed to cross the two fields, skip over the drainage ditch by stepping on the rock in the middle by the mulberry tree,  come out between the barn and the pool room and visit them.  

Being out in the country without many neighbors, my grandmother became one of my closest friends.  She was born near London, immigrated to the USA as a very young child. She had lived in New York, Chicago, Toledo and Detroit.  She as the closest to a high school graduate of all of my grandparents, being just a class or two short of finishing when her mother (the great grandmother in my life) was seriously burned in a kitchen accident. She took time off to care for her mother, and by the time she was ready to return to school, her father had a new job with a move to a new city, and she never returned to school.  She valued education, she read - a lot. I learned about the value of education and making the most you could of your talents and abilities from her. 

I only ever once witnessed my paternal grandparents argue,  it was an epic fight. Apparently they fought through the early years of their marriage (leaving emotional scars on my father - that explained his aversion to conflict.) They eventually made peace, agreeing to be kind to one another.  Their love of one another was obvious.  He taught me about hard work, doing what needs to be done, and about the need to take time off.  He loved to hunt, and fish. He treasured his winters in Florida with no work to do.  He had grown up in grinding poverty, first on 80 acres of clay near St Louis, then in Detroit where Ford was paying an amazing $4 a day.  His father was born a trust fund baby, who blew it all and never really knew how to work, or how to manage money. They were my first role model with keeping a budget, saving, and taking care of your money so it can take care of you. My grandmother taught me how to manage a household.  Stocking a pantry, raising a garden, how to be a good manager, and also how to have fun a live well. I learned tolerance, generosity, and forgiveness from her. She taught me about getting outside of my comfort zone. After my grandfather died, she and I traveled to places she always wanted to see, but were outside my grandfather's comfort zone.  He had no desire to return to his roots, my grandmother and I traveled  to explore where he grew up.  She never returned to England, I wonder if she regretted that.  Late in her life, a group from her church planned a cruise to Alaska, she went.  She said, be brave, do it now, you can't take it with you, and if not now when? I learned about bravery and seizing opportunity from her.  One of my few regrets was not spending more time with her in the last 4 or 5 years of her life.  I let work, and the gym, and school get in the way. 

My great grandmother, my father's mother's, mother, was born in Swansea on the south coast of Wales, and came to live with my grandparents when I was a child. I spent hundreds of hours listening to her reminisce about  life, and change.  No matter how complicated things were, she never seemed to let it get her down.  She was in many ways an eternal optimist and a fatalist.  I adored her.  

My grandfathers died the fall I started my last year of high school, weeks apart.  My paternal grandfather had dementia, died of a heart attack in a nursing home.  My maternal grandfather, had a massive stroke parking the travel trailer in Florida. When he was released from the hospital my grandmother didn't want him to go to a nursing home, so they came to stay with us.  A few weeks later he had a heart attack, we took him to the emergency room, where he died surrounded by strangers unsure what if anything they could do to help him (in retrospect, we shouldn't have taken him to the emergency room.) My material grandmother developed Alzheimers and spent several happy years in a nursing home.  She forgot most of her worries about life, and relaxed.  My paternal grandmother gave up her car after backing into parked cars several times, moved to assisted living by her choice.  And died a couple of years later.  My great grandmother, died the fall after my two grandfathers. She had a fall, broke a hip, spent time in a nursing home, and suffered from poor care, very old age, adult failure to thrive.  

They left an impression on me.  Not the article the journal is looking forward, so it is a story I can tell here.      

Friday, May 07, 2021

Foodie Friday - Fresh

When my father was growing up, his family had a stall on the Eastern Market in Detroit.  My grandfather grew a huge garden and kept bees and they sold most the honey and wax, directly on the market. My father had many fond memories and tall tales from his years on the market.  

The adjoining vendor was Nick.  Nick spoke several languages and was forever finding what would sell for a profit.  Onions, add a lot of flavor and not a lot of cost.  Nicks secret for selling onions on the market was a camp-stove and cast iron frying pay, no one can resist the smell of gently frying onions, just don't burn them, he would say.  

One day a woman asked Nick if the eggs were fresh, it had been a busy morning, he was grumpy, he replied, "Of course they are fresh, What a silly question, do think I am going to tell you they are left over from last week!"  After she made her purchase and moved on, Nick looked at my father grinned and said, "they are left over from last week!" My father told that story a thousand times.  

Is the fish above fresh?  I think so, clear eyes, it smelled of the ocean not like a dead fish.      

Thursday, May 06, 2021

Random Rambles Thursday - May Already?

 How can it be May already?  I get chef and author David Lebovitz's monthly newsletter, he started off this month with saying he still finds himself writing 2020, then after he pressed send, realized the header said April 2021, not May 2021. I understand, 2020 will go down as the lost year, there was an article in the Washington Post about the archeology of returning to offices that have been empty for over a year, and finding artifacts of life before.  My office committed to full time telecommute through the summer, we are starting to look at returning in the fall.  I had no idea when last I was in my office that I wouldn't return for 18 months. Somehow the world didn't come to an end when I didn't look at that stack of working files on my desk.   

I have committed to speak at a conference in Reno, Nevada in October, assuming my office approves staff travel by then. 

I was talking with a collaborator the other day, who said she went to the supermarket for the first time in 14 months, after getting her second vaccination shot.  She described it as thrilling and terrifying. A lot of terrified people around these days.  

I read recently that scientists used tissue samples preserved from people who died in the 1918-19 flu epidemic to culture the virus in the lab, infected test subjects who then developed antibodies.  They then looked at blood samples from people who survived the flu in 1918-1919, and found that nearly 100 years later, their bodies were still producing antibodies that neutralize the virus.  Science and biology are truly amazing.   

Next week is insanely busy, a major policy conference, and a huge funding proposal that needs to be finalized.  That funding proposal, and another one that should come through in the next 60 days, if approved, will fund my position past my retirement date.  Maybe by then we can travel again. 

Wednesday, May 05, 2021

The Way We Were Wednesday - Hardware Stores

 The small town that I grew up, a few miles outside of, had a hardware store much like the one in this photo.  With an entire wall of wood cabinets from floor to ceiling.  The kind of place you could go in and buy 1-screw, a single bolt, or a case of 1,000 of them.  One of my high school classmates ended up running the store, started by his grandfather, or maybe it was his great-grandfather.  Back in the 1970's they sold guns and dynamite.  One night a person who was having a bit of a personal crisis, broke in, shot the place up.  The police were terrified, because they knew there were cases of dynamite.  Fortunately he either didn't find it, or didn't know how to use it.  They waited for him to fall asleep, had a local doctor sedate him and took him away.  I hope he got help so that he could feel better about life.  

The last time I was back in my hometown, the store was still there, the family was still making a living. 

Tuesday, May 04, 2021

Travel Tuesday - Or should it be the Way We Were Wednesday?

 My great grandmother Wood, my father's mother's, mother, was born on Midland Terrace in Swansea, Wales.  The first time I went with J to the Oxford Patristics Conference, we went onto Swansea.  I had a copy of her birth certificate, she was born in 1888.  Two years after the cornerstone for the Church around the corner was laid.  I expect that she was christened in that church (the Vicar was part time and not able to meet with us to check the records when we were there.) The sign says Midland Court, Midland Court replaced Midland Terrace when the neighborhood was rebuilt after World War II, the street she was born on, was replaced by senior citizens housing.  She was in her late 70's or early 80s when she came to live with my grandparents on the farm.  She died in 1977.  

I remember her telling stories about her father running after the train to hop on for the ride to work, he was a brick maker.  The train tracks and the remains of the platform from the neighborhood station are at the foot of the street.  

I am the only member of my family who has traveled there to see from whence she came.  As a teenager I spent many afternoons listening to her stories, sharing dreams about my life, marveling at the long path she had traveled.  Traveling there connected me to her in new ways.  Travel does that for me. 

The next trip to London I want to leave time to find where my grandmother was born.  When doing final preparation for the trip in 2020, I discovered that she was born closer to Greenwich, not near Tower Bridge (street by the same name, the district was different, addresses have changed a bit in 100 years.)  As a child she spent some time in Hammersmith.  Her father took a job in Mexico City, and the family went to live in London while he was on that job.   


Monday, May 03, 2021

My Music Monday - Now that I can Dance - Do You Love Me?

I know Mitchell used this video a few weeks ago, but it is so neat.  It took a couple of years, and several million dollars to program the robots to dance.  Millions of measurements and calculations are made each minute to make this happen.  Our brains do this, without us even noticing that our brains are doing this.  Amazing! The more we learn about machines, the more we learn about ourselves. 

Sunday, May 02, 2021

Sunday Five: Summer Camp

It is time to make summer plans, time when families send their kids off to summer camp, I think we adults should send ourselves off for new experiences this summer. 

  1. Do you prefer a city or rural setting for your summer get away? 
  2. Do you want to be alone, or with a crowd? 
  3. Do you want to do painting, wood shop or ceramics? 
  4. Should there be booze or no booze?
  5. Comfy hotel, or camping? 
My answers: 

  1. Do you prefer a city or rural setting for your summer get away? City, I miss cities this year. 
  2. Do you want to be alone, or with a crowd? Alone
  3. Do you want to do painting, wood shop or ceramics? Ceramics, actually pottery, I have always wanted to try pottery.
  4. Should there be booze or no booze? Either way, 
  5. Comfy hotel, or camping? Comfy hotel, 
Please share your answers in the comments.


Saturday, May 01, 2021

The Saturday Morning Post - Kentucky Derby Day

It is Kentucky Derby Day, and the race is actually today this year! For those who speak the king's English, it is derby with an "e",  not Darby with an "a".  

I spent three years in law school less than 2 miles from Churchill Downs, home to the Kentucky Derby.  It was a milestone in the school calendar, exams finished by Noon, on Friday, Kentucky Oaks Day (one of the top races for fillies only.) Known as the fastest two-minutes in sport, the Derby is the highlight of the spring racing season.  

The traditional drink is a Mint Julep, made with spearmint.  If you are not fond of spearmint (I think it smells like cat urine) try a different spin, two parts bourbon, one part peppermint schnapps shake over ice, strain into a chilled glass.  

One morning when we lived in Kentucky I was flying out of town on Sunday morning after the Derby. Queen Elizabeth's chartered 747 was boarding next to us, William Shatner (Captain Kirk) was in the front row of the flight I was on (he owned a farm in the area until his recent divorce.) They had both been in town for the Derby.