Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Travel Tuesday - To That Tall Skyline I Come

Times Square

View from our hotel room on the 30th floor.

The view from the top of One World Trade Center, the new tower. The view from lunch.

Bryant Park at night, just behind the New York Public Library

One World Trade Center

There is something magic about a tall city, New York, Chicago, parts of San Francisco, parts of London. I love Washington DC, but DC is a short city, the tallest buildings are only about 15 stories.  The result of a building code change 100 years ago, when a new building blocked the view of the Washington Monument from someone with power and influence.  

Our hotel room was on the 30th floor, we had lunch last Thursday on the 102 floor.  There is a lot of low and mid-rise buildings in New York, but there are also amazing tall buildings.  

We had a great trip.  My longest stay in New York City, four nights, three fully uninterrupted days. We visited three amazing museums (the weather was miserably hot and humid, we focussed on indoor fun.) We had lots of amazing food, a couple of surprises.) We met up with two great friends (and we will see the third one on the next trip.) 

The crowds have started to return to the city.  People were wearing masks for the most part.  The museums and most restaurants were asking for proof of vaccination to be seated inside.  For the most part the subway was much less crowded.  

Until a dozen years ago, I had never been to New York.  And frankly until I had been there, I didn't understand what people see in it.  It is big, it is crowded.  It is New York.  New York is not representative of the United States. It is its own unique identity.  Seeing New York and thinking you have seen the United States is like seeing London and thinking you have seen England, or Paris and thinking you have seen France.  Yet all of these places are worth seeing, for their unique identity as a place. 

I expect a few of you will be humming Simon and Garfunkel for a while,  New York to that tall skyline I come,   

Monday, August 30, 2021


A few weeks ago, I posted the Beach Boys recording, a couple of people suggested this one.  I love watching art being made.  It isn't always pretty when it is being made, the end result is worth it. 

Sunday, August 29, 2021

Sunday Five - Have You Ever

This is a gallery of the American Indian in Popular culture, the names and symbols used in branding, marketing, and media.  Cultural appropriation and in many instances racial stereotyping at its worst.  Cleveland has decided on a new name for their baseball team, maybe someday the owners of the Washington Football team will decide on a name, for the currently nameless team.  

This weeks five:

Have you ever?

1: Attended a profession football game/match (no matter what game you call football)? 

2: Attended a major Rock and Roll live performance (and if so what one stands out?) 

3: Attended a professional baseball game? 

4: Been a part of a wedding that was not your own? 

5: Been on the television news? 

My answers: 

1: Attended a profession football game/match (no matter what game you call football)?  Nope 

2: Attended a major Rock and Roll live performance (and if so what one stands out?)  Yes, Kiss in Jacksonville Florida in the late 1970's, my only time. 

3: Attended a professional baseball game? A couple of times in Cincinnati 

4: Been a part of a wedding that was not your own? Once, when I was about 5 I was ring bearer in my Aunt's wedding. 

5: Been on the television news? As a talking head expert a couple of times. 

Please share your answers in the comments. 


Saturday, August 28, 2021

The Saturday Morning Post: Manners, Service and Civility

 Last weekend, I read in a blog posting and comment,  a missive on people lacking manners.  People who fail to look up and acknowledge the presence of others, who don't respond to a polite hello. Yes, I see it.  And I am one of those old fashioned people who says Hello to strangers on the street, or when entering a business.  It is nice when the gesture is returned but it seldom is.  

The issue runs deeper.  I had reason recently to send two emails, 23 hours apart to management at the Condo, about the shuttle bus service to the local subway station that we pay for as part of our condo fees.  The second email was sent because there was no response to the first email.  24 hours after the second email there was a general announcement, but not really a reply to either email.  There was no attempt to say, thank you for bringing this to our attention, or we are sorry the service has been a mess, or please go away and leave us alone.  And these are people I pay the salary of as part of my condo fees. 

Not every email deserves a response.  I get angry follow up emails demanding a reply from people I don't know, trying to sell me something I am never going to buy, or inviting me to submit a proposal to speak at their overpriced conference on a topic that is totally unrelated to the work that I do.  

But when there is a relationship, or the request is reasonably related to my work, I always try to reply and to do so promptly.  Even if the reply is, "sorry, I don't have a clue and can't help you." I had one of those this week, and I offered three suggestions of where she might find a speaker with expertise on the subject.   

In my professional career I have had interactive training in how to respond to a complaint, and how to truly apologize.  I have had training in manners, service and civility.  Is it missing? Have people stopped doing it?  It is training that is interactive, not something that lends itself to virtual training.  People need to be paired off and forced to practice, with trainers offering guidance.

Some of the unresponsiveness is people glued to their phones, or with their ears plugged with what ever dribble they are listening to instead of the people around them.  When the deli has to put up a sign saying, if you are talking on the phone when your turn comes up, you go to the back of the line, people should get the message.  Is hearing about your sisters, neighbors, nephews girlfriends sister having an affair with a married woman really more important than ordering your lunch?  Hang up, and live, hang up and drive. 

I was entering my local subway station one morning last week.  The "Next Train" sign at the faregate said, leaving in 3 minutes. I can be on the platform in 2 minutes if I hustle.  I was running halfway down the escalator to the platform not 60 seconds later when I hear "stand clear doors closing" and the train starting to pull out of the station.  I let out an audible, sorry to the guy two steps behind me running to catch that same train, I said loud enough to be heard "#ucking Metro."  

This prompted me to send a complaint message to the subway operator. This is not an isolated issue, I have the same problem every day at the station I enter for my trip home. I received an automated response, nothing more.  Based on the complaint number I was only the 56th complaint that day.  Certainly if they cared, they could send a personalized "we are very sorry and we will pass this along the people who can't seem to get the signs right. But then Metro Rail is not known for it's customer service, manners or civility.  At least they have reduced the frequency of trains falling over, running into one another or catching fire.    

A black and white cookie, a thin cake, frosted with a mix of frostings.  Simple and delicious, a New York Classic.  Mitchel, the next time you are here, I'll buy them. 

Friday, August 27, 2021

Happy Friday!

I am 11 days younger than Madonna. I have survived another year, another trip around the sun.  I am another year older, another year wiser, another closer to retirement, another day closer to the end. We are celebrating my birthday in Manhattan, going out to lunch, shopping, sightseeing; the first out of town trip in over a year.  I will check your comments when we are in the hotel.  

By all measures, this was a weird year.  Working from home, covering our faces to enter a business or bank.  Strange for me not traveling.  My first real staycations.  Slowly returning to a deserted office, 250 desks and maybe 10 people in the office, yet everyone (nearly everyone) is still employed.  Every life needs a little weirdness- 2020-2021 was a lifetime of weird.  

I have had fun.  I have taken more long walks than ever in my life. I have slowed down, maybe not enough, but I am seeing things I missed in my rush through the years. I have rediscovered my love of photography, and captured some incredible images. I have grown what is left of my hair to an all time length.  I have discovered that I have a beach body and enjoyed floating in the pool. I have found wonders in my backyard. I have baked cakes, made tarts, pickled things, and cooked things.  I have read, I have learned.  I have shared.  I have taught.  I have found new insights into old topics.  My critics may not believe me, but we agree on more than we disagree on.  I have spoken up a few times, probably to few times.  I eliminated a few toxic people from my life.  I have tried to make the world a better place for having been here this year.  Financially it was a good year, income was up, expenses were down, savings passed a long term goal.  I have written, 365 or more blog posts. I have written professional articles, a few long letters, and the text for a book about my walks.  I have loved and been loved.  I have tried to be there for friends. I have recognized tipping points in my psyche, and worked to restore balance and happiness in my life. I have lost, a dear blogger gone far to soon, and some faith in the media and our political system.  

The good, has outweighed the bad.  It is a year I won't forget, and at the same time one I wouldn't want to repeat.  But I am not one for reliving the past.  

My wish for the coming year?  For everyone to have safety, security, good health, good friends, to make the world a better place for having been here.  

 My parents were not much for baby pictures, I was born in August, my best guess is this was taken either in December of that year, or March of the following year on my sister's birthday.  It is one of the earliest photos of Me! 

The views from lunch on Thursday.

Thursday, August 26, 2021

Thursday Rambles - Guests - Being and Hosting

I couldn't resists, when Jay's older brother was here, I asked the waiter at lunch one day, "two of us are brothers, which two?"  Jay and I are often asked if we are brothers, of course the dear waiter got it wrong.  

It was fun having guests.  When I bought the condo, I was stretching on how much money I could afford to spend.  Buying a larger apartment with an extra bedroom, to serve as a guest room would have added another $100,000 to the purchase, and another $150 a month in property taxes and maintenance fees (our fees are high, but the maintenance and service are generally first class.) My thought was for what I would spend extra on taxes and maintenance fees, I could pay the hotel bills for guests most years, let alone the extra $100,000 to buy the larger place.  I have been here almost 12 years, I just paid my first hotel bill for guests. And I was glad to have the guests and to be able to do so.  

We don't get a lot of guests.  My sister has come a few times, her husband has a brother who lives in the area and if he and his brother are speaking, they stay with Patrick.  Neither of my brothers have come to visit, though I have offered to pay their hotel bill if they do. 

When I travel, I much prefer staying in a hotel to staying with friends or family.  I truly enjoy the privacy, and service.  I like feeling that I am not invading someone's personal space, or interrupting their routine.  

We were staying with Jay's mother one summer for a few days, it was hot, and she couldn't get the air conditioning to work. After one miserable sleepless night, we checked into a hotel.  She was insulted, she felt a failure, we did our best to explain that our comfort was well worth the minor cost of the Days Inn or whatever it was that was near her. She moved to a smaller place shortly after that, and us staying in a fluffy hotel after that was easy (and our taste in hotels moved upscale.) 

One year we were in Florida for Christmas, using both guest rooms at my parent's house, and my oldest brother arrived unannounced.  After a sleepless night trying to squeeze two king size guys into a queen size bed, we checked into the local Holiday Inn the following day.  Again comfort wins out.  I left the housekeeper a massive trip on Christmas Day, she cried with thanks when she saw me the next day. 

If you come to visit, I know some nice local hotels, depending on how close you want to be to the subway, and how fluffy you want.  I don't have a guest room. But I do enjoy having guests.  For select family (who I don't believe are regular readers) come visit and I will pay a few nights hotel bill for you.      

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

The Way We Were Wednesday - Something French for a Change

Based on advice from the service manager, the bunny needed to go.  I looked around a little, I wanted something new, something with a warranty.  I was working for a small family owned development company that treated me like family, stingy family.  The money was always there, but not a lot of it.  On the way to the weekly staff meeting I stopped by an American Motors Jeep Dealership.  Renault had bought an interest in American Motors, trying to figure out how to rescue American Motors, and trying to get a solid foot in the US market.  That idea was abandoned after a few years, and Nissan partnered with Renault, I think the interest was finally bought out in one of the Chrysler reorganizations. 

Part of the early strategy was to import French built Renault's into the US.  This was parked out front.  I took it for a short test drive, it was comfortable, fast, had a canvas folding sunroof, a killer AM-FM stereo system, and the coldest air conditioning I have ever had in a car (ice would form on the vents on the dash.) They made me an offer on the Rabbit, I said yes, the deal was done and I was out of there driving this to the office in about 30 minutes start to finish. (Maybe the fastest I have ever bought a car.) 

It was amazingly fun to drive.  I drove it to New Orleans to the World's Fair. About 18 months later, after the warranty has expired, the brake failure warning light came on.  I had the brakes replaced, and it started leaking brake fluid.  Two different shops worked on the brakes, and no one could find the problem, I was adding brake fluid every couple of days.  The mechanics hated the car, the service manager at the dealer I had bought it from begged me to not bring it back again.  

It had some quirks, Renault had stuffed a larger engine in it for the US market, you couldn't change the rear spark plug without removing the engine, or cutting a hole through the back of the glove box.  Most of the markings were in French, it blew a fuse, and was using a French/English dictionary to decipher what I needed to do to fix it. 

Still I was young, it was a fun car.  I really enjoyed it.  When I traded it I made a car salesman cry.  I will explain that someday. Not the last time.  

Oh the bow, I bought a couple of days before Christmas.  

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Travel Tuesday - Tis Tourist Season

When I lived in Florida, people joked that it was tourist season, kind of like hunting season, but people get all upset if you shoot them. And they tended to get lost or go partying in the wrong places, and still they came.  

Here it is tourist season, the locals just caution, don't feed them buns and things, it only encourages them, they become dependent if we make it too easy for them to find food, or bathrooms, or the entrances to the subway stations (the subway stations are notoriously hard to find in Washington DC.)  

It can be a pretty time of the year to go sightseeing.  Sit among the monuments and you never know what you might see going by.  

Monday, August 23, 2021

My Music Monday: Evergreen (Love Theme from A Star Is Born)

One of my all time favorite songs.  I am taking the week off from work.  Spending time with my sweetie bear. 

Sunday, August 22, 2021

The Sunday Five - I Really Prefer

  1. Coffee, tea, or something fizzy?
  2. Chicken, fish, beef, or vegetables?
  3. Soft cheese, hard cheese, or no cheese?
  4. Rice, Pasta, or no starch? 
  5. To cook, to be cooked for or to cook with someone? 

My answers:

  1. Coffee, tea, or something fizzy? Coffee - cold 
  2. Chicken, fish, beef, or vegetables? Chicken 
  3. Soft cheese, hard cheese, or no cheese? I have never met a cheese I didn't like 
  4. Rice, Pasta, or no starch? Pasta 
  5. To cook, to be cooked for or to cook with someone? To cook with someone 

Please share your answers in the comments, feel free to be creative, and enjoy the day, 


Saturday, August 21, 2021

The Saturday Morning Post - The Arts

The Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts opened The Reach, a new art space, rehearsal space, creative space, just before the Pandemic closed everything.  The Center cancelled their 2020 season in March of 2020, the 2021 season has tentatively started mid year. We have tickets starting in the fall.  They recently announced that they will require proof of vaccination for entry. Good move.  

Art and expression help us to understand the world, and more importantly ourselves.  There is an artist in each of us, even those of us who can't draw a circle, let alone a mountain or a face.  

My brain has difficulty processing some visual spatial data, I never learned to read music, yet there is music in my brain. (I have talked with musicians, who have told me that I never found the right music teacher, someone who could help me understand musical notation, or who would teach music without scores.) 

I paint, I enjoy it, I find it relaxing.  For me is about color, and light, not about representation.  I encourage everyone to paint, don't worry if no one can figure out what you painting,  do it for the process of creating. Very little of my painting even tries to be representational, but all of it makes me feel good for having put paint to canvas.  

Photography is a major artistic outlet for me. I do it because I enjoy it.  From past experience, I know I need to be careful to not slip into doing it to please others, or to try to achieve perfection.  

Writing.  One of the reasons I write this blog, is to force myself to write. To write creatively, to write more clearly, to learn the craft of putting ideas into print that others can understand.  My writing is much more representational than my painting, maybe more than my photography.  I challenge myself to get fully formed ideas, that others can read back and understand what I was thinking, what I was feeling, what I was experiencing.  My writing needs a lot of work, but it is getting better.  I have heard a 10,000 hour rule, that if you want to master a skill, it takes at least 5 years of full time work, 10,000 hour of practice.  My art, my painting, my photography, and my writing, all will improve with practice, practice, practice (how do you get to Carnegie hall.)   

So what are we up to this week?  I am taking the week off from work.  I need to use up some vacation hours before the end of the month, or write them off.  We have an excursion planned to New York city, unless travel becomes too scary.  I will take lots of photos, maybe paint or see things that will inspire me, and I will write.  Oh, and I get another year older.  

Friday, August 20, 2021

Foodie Friday - Getting Crocked Again

I am in the process of getting pickled again, picking cucumbers that is.  One of the reliable vendors at the farmers market has nice small pickling cucumbers, and the cute organic farmer boys (there are three of them now) have fresh dill.  Only one thing to do, pack the crock and get pickled. 

The process is simple, yet for most of us terrifying.  This kind of pickle is fermented, allowing natural yeasts on the outside of the cucumbers to convert the sugars to vinegar, changing the chemical make up of the cucumber, that would spoil in a couple of days, into something that will last for weeks.  

A few keys.  

Buy, fresh unprocessed pickling cucumbers.  Pickling cucumbers are a different variety, they are not just a smaller version of a salad cucumber, they are a variety that stops growing at a pickle size, and they have a thinner less bitter peel.  Ask the vendor, if they don't seem to have a clue what you are talking about, they don't have what you want.  

The cucumber should only be lightly washed.  Not scrubbed, never waxed (as most grocery store cucumbers are.) You need some of the naturally occurring yeasts left behind to work their fermenting magic.  

The blossom end needs to be trimmed off, about 1/8th of inch.  The blossom end contains an enzyme that will cause the cucumber to decompose and release its seeds into the ground. Trim this, or your fermenting pickles may start to decompose.  If are not sure which end is the blossom end, trim both ends.  

I have had better luck with whole cucumbers, if they are on the large side you may need to split them or quarter them.  If you do this before pickling the center will be softer.  Better to cut up after pickling.  

If you are on city water, you need to either use bottled water, or bring the water to a boil for 10 minutes, and let it return to room temperature.  The chlorine and other sanitizers in most municipal water supplies may kill the good yeasts you need to make pickles pickle. 

This is a simple half-sour mix. 

4 Cups water

2 Tablespoons salt (I use Kosher, table salt may result in a cloudy brine.) 

1/2 cup white distilled vinegar.  Don't substitute on this, the acid in the vinegar is needed. 

Fresh dill 

Fresh Garlic

Rinse trim and pack the cucumbers in a non-reactive crock (I use simple glass canisters or cookie jars) layer the dill and garlic in the mix.  Combine the water, vinegar and salt to make a brine.  Pour over the cucumbers.  You need to weigh the cucumbers down so they don't float to the surface.  I use a circle cut from the top of a resealable plastic container, cut to fit inside the crock.  Weight that down.  This batch has a juice glass filled with extra brine on top of the plastic disk. Cover with a loose fitting lid.  This needs to breath, but you want to keeps things out of it.  The glass containers I use have a lid that fits imprecisely, and work perfectly. If the liquid is near the top, place something under the crock.  The contents often expand as things ferment. 

Now comes the brave part.  Let this sit at room temperature. It is normal to see bubbles form and rise the surface. How long, about a week, a little less if it is warm, a little longer if it is cool or the cucumbers are large. Check every couple of days, skim off any scum or mold that rises. (I have never really had mold.) If the brine gets cloudy or mold starts to form, you may need to re-pack in a clean crock with fresh brine. The contents will change color, with the cucumbers going from dark cucumber green to pickle green. It will change smell, but it should smell like vinegar or pickles.  I usually start sampling after about a week.  When the cucumbers are pickled pretty much all the way through and have the right taste, store in the refrigerator.  These have a limited shelf life, a couple of weeks, but they are so good they seldom last that long.  

The first crock was good, and only lasted a few days.  The second crock pickled fast (five days) and are divine.  

Thursday, August 19, 2021

Thursday Rambles: Question the way things are done

One of my first university classes, was an interdisciplinary introduction to the humanities. It was one of the first times my mind was challenged to think that just because it is the way things are done, does not make it the best way, the only way or the right way for things to be done.  Shortly after that I send a memo to my boss - who was famous for issuing memos on every little detail - that simply read  "when all else fails, disregard all other memos."  He didn't get it. 

I saw the video and photos of the chaos at the Airport in Afghanistan this week.  Thousands of people mobbing the airport, clinging to the outside of airplanes, a cargo plane with over 600 people sitting on the floor. My thought, how lucky I am, that I have never been compelled to flee a country in real fear of being killed by my government.  It may not be perfect, but I have never had the level of fear.   

My office recently issued a new flexible work policy.  For years telecommuting was strictly limited, because work was something you did in the office, and how could supervisors supervise without being in the same space?  It was simply the way things were done, the way they had always been done.  And it cost us.  My department lost a great editor / publishing person a couple of years, when she was denied a three day a week telecommute schedule.  Then along came March of 2020, and we went from nearly no telecommute, to 99% telecommute in 2 days.  And you know what, for most people it worked well.  We had a productive year.  Our costs went down, even without getting rid of office space (we have long term leases on most space.) Many people were happier.  When we announced in June that you could return to the office if you wanted to, only a few people did (I was one of them  - it works better for my mental health.) There is some value in face to face collaboration. The new policy asked that people be in the office at least once per week, most are opting for 2 or 3 days per week in the office.  Full time telecommute still requires approval of an exception, but below that only the department, and in our case two steps up the management chain need to sign off.  We had no problem getting approval for our current editor to only come into the office once per week. She has done amazing working from home, there is no reason for her to strain her health to be in her cube. So the old, "the way things should be done" was disproved, and the new way things can be done is much more flexible.  It took a pandemic to re-examine the old rule.  Maybe it shouldn't take that much. 

I really like having people around the office, not surprisingly an email came out late on Tuesday moving our return to the office at least one day per week, to at least November 1st.  

The photo above is an SR71 Blackbird.  A super high altitude, super high speed surveillance aircraft.  The idea was first thought of in the late 1950s, it was designed, built and flown undercover, starting in the middle 1960's.   In many ways the SR71 broke all of the rules.  It was designed in secret, by a small group of the most creative, in a matter of months.  Sitting on the ground, fuel leaked out of the tanks. Aircraft shouldn't leak fuel. The tanks were designed to seal themselves in the air as the friction of supersonic flight heated the metals.  It was hard to detect on radar, and flew so high and so fast that nothing could catch it at the time it was built.  It seemed to defy the rules of physics, but it flew.  At last report it holds the record for the fastest flight by an aircraft that draws its oxygen supply from the air.  How fast, over three times the speed of sound, beyond that the rules still say, they can't say. 

I love things that fly.  The innovation a few years ago was light aircraft with diesel engines. Not an an entirely new idea, the Hindenburg had diesel engines.  The engines were more fuel efficient, th fuel was more widely available, in theory the engines should last longer. The innovations today, rechargeable electric single engine aircraft, the charge lasts a couple of hours, giving them a couple hundred mile range. Using the drone model of autonomous aircraft, designers are working on pilotless, electric aircraft.  Currently they are small 2 or 3 passenger concepts.  But we went from the  Lindbergh flying the Atlantic solo to the DC 3, in less than 25 years.  We went from the one person spacecraft to the moon in a decade.  

What will we be flying in 10 years, or 20 if we question the way things should be done?


Wednesday, August 18, 2021

The Way We Were Wednesday - What An Appropriate Shade of Yellow

 A year or so after buying the ugly Oldsmobile, I moved to Orlando and went to work for a land developer / home builder.  My work was in field offices spread across two counties, often 25-30 miles from home to work.  I was also driving to my parents house on the east coast at least once, and often twice a week.  And the price of gas was spiking.  

I was rolling up Interstate 4 one morning when a VW Rabbit Diesel passed me, and it struck me I was trying to stay under 55 miles an hour, hoping to get 20 miles to the gallon, and the cute little VW was going by doing probably 80 and getting 40 miles to the gallon.  A few days later I pulled into a VW dealer on the way home.  I should have bought the one I looked at that evening.  But I wanted to be sure, so I stopped at another dealer a couple of days later to compare prices on used cars.  And I found this.  

I don't remember the year, late 1970's or very early 1980's VW Rabbit Diesel, the L trim package.  I don't remember how many miles it had on it, not a lot, it was a couple of years old.  VW listed the color as Lemon Yellow.  I should have seen that as a sign.  It overheated on the way home the day I bought it, and went back to the dealer, who rebuilt the heads (warranty on an a used car without a warranty, the dealer was good.) 

I drove the crap out of it. It was a little slow to accelerate, but once it got going it would go 80 miles an hour all day, if I kept it close to the speed limit it got about 50 miles to the gallon.  I loved that if someone was tailgating me, I could floor it and leave them in a cloud of sooty diesel smoke. I raced a Rolls Royce one night on I-4 (he won but I gave him a good run.) In a little over a year, I put about 40,000 miles on it, then one morning it wouldn't start.  I had it towed to the dealer, who pulled and reworked the heads again, and basically said, it has been fried to many times, it is only going to get worse.  I traded it shortly after that.   

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

Travel Tuesday - Shuttle Discovery

 A couple of weeks ago, we were tour guides for Jay's oldest brother for a few days.  We went out to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center at Dulles International Airport.  Why the long name, he donated much of the money to get it built.  Why is it out at Dulles; Dulles is a long-long way out, so they could fly in aircraft for display.  It is home to an SR-71 Blackbird, a Concord, the original 707 prototype, and Space Shuttle Discovery.  

I have watched Discovery launch and land at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. My one and only first cousin was a ground support worker in the shuttle processing hanger.  The day we were out to Dulles, he forwarded one of those memories on Facebook, a selfie in the hanger with a freshly landed shuttle Discovery in the background.  

The shuttle Discovery has traveled, around the earth many many times.  The day it was brought into DC to go on display, the 747 carrying it made a couple of low and slow passes over the National Mall in DC.  Half of the staff in our DC office was out on the roof terrace watching, including me.  

Monday, August 16, 2021

My Music Monday - The Skivvies and Nick Adams - Stars Medley

Entertainment is about putting on a show that people enjoy.  Sometimes the performance, outshines the music, and that is okay.  Watch this to the end, it gets more entertaining near the end.   

Sunday, August 15, 2021

The Sunday Five: Sometimes I Think

  1. First thing in the morning I sometimes think?
  2. Sometimes in the middle of the night I?
  3. There are days when I just need to?
  4. I am happiest when?
  5. If I won the PowerBall lottery I would?
My answers: 

  1. First thing in the morning I sometimes think? How can I still be alive? 
  2. Sometimes in the middle of the night I? Listen to the darkness. 
  3. There are days when I just need to? Put on the funny hat with the propeller on top, and take a walk in a breeze. 
  4. I am happiest when? I am traveling along watching the wonders of the world go by. 
  5. If I won the PowerBall lottery I would? Buy a farm, hire a farmer, and keep a flock of black sheep. 
Please share your answers in the comments, be creative, be silly, have fun. 

Saturday, August 14, 2021

The Saturday Morning Post - Observations

 Home is in the photo above. This was taken from the pedestrian way on the Woodrow Wilson Bridge.  I had a nice walk last Sunday, around the neighborhood on the Virginia side, and out onto the bridge. I find a certain irony in the state motto being Virginia is for Lovers, the supreme court case forcing states to recognize interracial marriage was "Loving vs. Virginia." The Lovings had to sue the state to have their marriage recognized.  

Across from the west entrance to the pedestrian way across the Woodrow Wilson Bridge, is a monument to the Freedmen's cemetery. The cemeteries remained segregated after the civil war. 

Two things struck me, a marker saying that members of a black regiment that served on the Union side in the civil war, had to fight to be be buried in the military cemetery, half a mile away.  Records show that about 70 were moved to the military cemetery when the appeal was finally granted.  

The other was this reminder above, in most states it was illegal to teach a slave to read and write, education and learning are the keys to free thought and freedom. One of the great failures of this country, was segregated and in most cases second class education for persons of color.  If you want to create a class divide, block educational opportunities. This is still going on with the push for public funding of private schools and "charter schools." Every person who looks like me, needs to demand that we make every school a first class school, let every child achieve based on ability. 


I have come to the realization that dogs are easier to photograph than people.  Dogs never worry about what they look like, they never try to pose or smile, they are just glad someone is paying attention to them. Dogs never seem to be self conscious.  Maybe the dog would be concerned if he saw the photos, but they don't, and they don't seem to care. As I grow older, and arguably more comfortable in my stretched out skin, I would like to become more like a dog. In one way I already am, I will respond to almost anything you say to me, as long as it is said in a kind tone of voice.  Now isn't he a pretty guy! 

Friday, August 13, 2021

Foodie Friday - The Saturday Farmers Market is not just about the veggies

 Buying fresh local tomatoes, lettice, green onions, and local fruits is always at the top of the list for my Saturday Morning venture to the Alexandria Farmers Market.  There has been a public market on the square in front of city hall on King Street in Alexandria, Virginia for 200 years.  I love seeing the vendors and the crowd, I like supporting local and semi-local farmers (some of them drive 100 miles to get here.)

There are also a couple of bakeries that sell at the market every weekend.  Mirabel's has the most amazing bread, fresh, local, sometimes still warm from the oven. And there are a couple of pastry vendors, I have a favorite.  My weekly indulgence in tasty pastry.  If you are here on a Saturday morning, I will bring back extras.   

Thursday, August 12, 2021

Thursday Ramble - Set a spell, Take your shoes off.

Set a spell, take your shoes off, make yourself comfortable, and watch really watch the world go by. Notice the people, who are they, where are they from, are they having fun, who appears to be upset, who is dancing, who is struggling.  Look at the place, what were the designers and builders hoping you would see and how it would make you feel? 

We spent three days as tour guides here in DC.  Revisiting places I have been many times, our guest was someone who hadn't spent a lot of time in the area in nearly 50+ years.  The agenda was ambitious.  It is so easy to be overly ambitious.  This time I was careful to not over do.  I am old and there is a lot of me, my feet hurt if I spend too much time on my feet. So rather than walk every museum, every area of every monument, I took Jed's advice to set a spell.  I sat and I watched.  And I took in what was around me, thinking about what was there.  I was stuck by FDR's words, hard to reconcile his words about civil rights, with his administration interning 120,000 Americans of Japanese ancestry, ripping families from their homes, and businesses just based on origin.  

Next time you are out and about, find a bench, set for a while and watch the world.  

The character Jed Clampett, was played by Buddy Ebson, who, along with Fred Rogers of Mr. Rogers Neighborhood fame, both graduated from Rollins College in Winter Park Florida, where I also graduated, where I met my sweet bear.    

Wednesday, August 11, 2021

The Way We Were Wednesday - the Oldsmobile Days

With my first car I was trying to sell real estate, in a two door car, no one wanted to ride with me, I didn't really want anyone riding in my first car.  One of successful people in the office was upgrading to a new Cadillac, I bought her 1972 four door, Oldsmobile Delta 88.  It had enough room in it for a family of six. It had been rebuilt after being nearly totaled.  It had the same engine, and appetite for water pumps as the first Oldmobile.  The air conditioning worked.  It was a much better work car.  It was actually a pretty good car, if a bit large and a bit boring. I drove it a year or so, and had it in for service when the ugly Oldsmobile caught my eye. 

It was much newer, had white leather interior, plenty of space, and from the rear, it was the ugliest car I have ever owned. It got better gas mileage, was more reliable, I felt better driving it.  It was also the first car I ever financed. 

My father hated that I referred to it as the ugly Oldsmobile.  He bought the Buick version of this for my mother when they retired to Florida in 1982.  She hated it. 

The ugly Oldsmobile was the last of my Oldsmobile days, in fact I have only owned one car from a domestic manufacturer since then, the amazing massive Cadillac I had when I moved to DC.  I will get to that someday.  

Tuesday, August 10, 2021

Travel Tuesday - How To Do This

Here are two photos of the natural fountain on the northwest corner of the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian.  The top one is in standard auto mode on a digital camera.  This is the image you would get with a camera phone.  The action is frozen, depth of focus is relatively shallow.  In the second image the water is moving, it is cascading, there is a wider range from near to far that is in focus. Not everyone, and not always, but many people would find the second image more interesting, dare I say more beautiful.  It is essentially the same scene, the difference is in shutter speed.  

So, how to do that. If your camera has an aperture priority mode, click on that, and stop the lens down, in other words turn the dial until the largest possible number appears, that will force the camera into the slowest shutter speed.  Alternatively if your camera has a shutter priority mode, you can dial down to the slowest possible shutter speed. Many digital cameras will resist letting you go to a shutter speed below what freezes the action.  Alternatively you can go fully manual, select a low ISO speed, I would go down to 50 if I could, then set aperture to mid range, and you should get a shutter speed of 1/4 of a second or slower. 

The second image above was ISO 100, f32, 1/6th of a second, handheld with a lens with VR vibration reduction.  An amazing image for handheld at that shutter speed, I used aperture priority mode, on a Nikon D5500, and an 18-55mm DX VR-II lens.   

This is an interesting museum.  The building is very impressive, the collection and displays have improved over the years, but it still struggles with trying to paint a coherent picture of vastly diverse histories and cultures. It tries to make everyone happy.  

Monday, August 09, 2021

My Music Monday - 2001: A Space Odyssey Theme Song

We can never have too much music in our lives.  Saying we have too much music, is like saying we have too much joy, to many feelings and emotions that make us human.  I almost always have music playing the background when I am working, or writing.  When I walk, I generally walk in silence, until the internal tunes start to play.  I remember one holiday time, Thanksgiving or Christmas when I was living in Florida.  It had been a difficult year, the end of a dead relationship, the loss of a job.  I was at my parent's house, helping Mom in the kitchen, and I started humming a tune that was stuck in my brain. My mother commented, that it was nice to hear me being happy again. 

Sunday, August 08, 2021

The Sunday Five- Have You Noticed

  1. Have you noticed, that new opportunities tend to follow old problems? 
  2. Have you noticed that most of the stuff we surround ourselves with, we don't use? 
  3. Have you noticed that despite the dire warnings about changes in publishing, there are some really great books being published? 
  4. Have you noticed that people take more photos than ever before in history?
  5. Have you noticed the train in the image above? 
My answers: 

  1. Have you noticed, that new opportunities tend to follow old problems? I have often found this to be true. 
  2. Have you noticed that most of the stuff we surround ourselves with, we don't use? Yes, but I like the stuff.  
  3. Have you noticed that despite the dire warnings about changes in publishing, there are some really great books being published? I am well on my way to reading 60 books this year. 
  4. Have you noticed that people take more photos than ever before in history?  Yes, most of you took at least one last week with your phone. 
  5. Have you noticed the train in the image above? Go ahead and look again, through the fence on the right.  That is what inspired me to capture that image.   
Please share your answers in the comments.  


Saturday, August 07, 2021

The Saturday Morning Post - Who - What -Where - When - Week 2

Who have I been spending time around?  My sweet bear, his oldest brother Ed who will be 81 this month, Ed came to visit for a few days. 

What have I been thinking about.  Photographs, I am averaging about 1,000 exposures a month.  I haven't had this much fun with cameras since I was a teenager.  I am active enough to start to have deep thoughts about the current art of photography, framed with the history of someone who has been doing this for 50 years, who was mentored by photographers dating back a hundred years (I have my Grandfather's Kodak Autographic camera.) I am afraid of boring my readers by going off into photo geek talk, maybe this is the topic for a second blog.  I really think a second blog is a retirement project.  Each blog takes 4 or 8 hours to create content and monitor it per week.  I tried a daily photo blog, and gave up after a few months, I was having a hard time finding time to create content.  But in another couple of years, 

When, as of last weekend, I am potentially 24 months from retirement.  I will likely stay flexible on that, there is a potential for a new assignment at work, and I don't want to dissuade decision makers by saying I am only going to do this until x-date.  And if I really like it, I might morph it and work a little longer (with more flexibility I could see that working.) This also puts me 6 months from the emergency retirement option, not a route I want to do, but if push came to shove, it would get me to Medicare without having to scramble for a job with health benefits. 

Where, have I been around home.  I was in the office a couple of days this week, then sightseeing near home for the rest of the week.  My traveling mind is in Scotland and England, the latest episode of the Grand Tour just posted, it is set in Scotland, what amazing countryside, and someplace I have not been.  I see the Instagram feed from Edinburgh and I long to go there.   

I have a disconnected social media presence.  The blog you are reading.  Two instagram accounts - that was a mistake - and I can't be bothered expending the effort to fix it.  Facebook, which I increasingly dislike. I miss the days when Jackie posted photos on Facebook of every meal she ate in a restaurant (and she traveled 90 days out of the year.) No twitter, I loathe the concept of twitter.  

How was your week? 

Friday, August 06, 2021

Foodie Friday - Eat Your Lawn

 I don't understand the obsession with mown grass, with the "perfect lawn."  People spend so much time and effort growing plants, that serve no real purpose.  I ran across this recently, the side lawn of a huge house on the bluff overlooking the Potomac River in Alexandria, filled with edible plants.  Tomatoes, squash, peppers, chard.  There are some decoratives, flowers and such, but most of this is edibles.  Gardening is a lot of work, but so is growing and mowing grass.  Let's connect with where food comes from, let's grown things we can eat and enjoy.  

Thursday, August 05, 2021

Thursday Ramble - Go Stack Some Stones

I had a bit of a melt down a week ago.  It was triggered by a simple email request from a colleague. My immediate response was grumpy, within 10 minutes I sent a follow up that I would fix it in the morning.  It revolved around IT issues. It brought on a torrent of viterol and sarcasm that woke me in the middle of the night and kept me awake. The next day, with calmer heads prevailing, I worked out a solution to an ongoing IT issues, by the time this posts there should be two new computers in my life.  A new(er) office laptop and a new additional  computer to use in my office that I simply bought.  I have reached the point in life that my comfort and happiness are worth more than a few extra dollars in the bank.  Working at home, with my personal computer and my office computer side by side for the past 17 months, I have grown accustomed to two computers, complete with two keyboards and two mouses (many years ago I asked what the plural of computer mouse was, a friend circulated the question, and the response came from Stanley Fish, who at the time was at Duke, that the plural should be mouses.) I will have two computers on my desk at the office for the rest of my working life.  

The bottom line of this was a realized how little it took to trigger the emergence of grumpy bunny.  I have noticed, as I mentioned last Saturday, that my writing has been down, merose, at times angry. I have written posts, read them and couldn't post them because they were so negative. Maybe this is another advantage of writing a lot, the tone of my writing reflects how I am feeling.  Bottom line, like millions, tens of millions, probably hundreds of millions of us, I am stressed out, maybe on the verge of burned out.  I am making decisions that will change that.  

I bumped into a neighbor coming home one day last week.  He is going back into the office one day a week.  I explained that I was back in the office three days a week - working from home I was finding the line between work and not work was blurred, I found myself responding to office emails at 6:30 in the morning and 9:30 at night and working all day in between. He said, "oh that is normal." I wanted to scream, no it isn't.  It isn't normal, it isn't healthy. Unless you are a surgeon on call to stop someone from bleeding to death, your work is not that important.  If he doesn't reply to an email until tomorrow, or next week, no one is going to die, millions of dollars are not going to be lost.  Yet, we treat our work as though every message carried that weight.  

The past 18 months have been difficult for all of us, and we are not sure if that light at the end of the tunnel is the dawn of a new day, or a freight train. People are concurrently craving human contact, and terrified by it.  

Step back, relax, put it all in perspective.  Work is not life, we live for more than work. Smartphones are killing us. Working us to death.  Keeping us from disconnecting from the world.  Turn it off, leave it on the desk and walk away.  It will still be there later.  

Go down by the railroad tracks and stack some stones.  Spend an hour concentrating on finding pretty rocks, stacking them so they are stable, making the stack tall, leaving it for others to wonder at. If stacking stones is not your thing, go find stones someone else has stacked, and admire them, post a photo of them.  

When the pandemic is over, we all need to get together for the world's largest group hug.  We need that. 

Wednesday, August 04, 2021

The Way We Were Wednesday - My First

We all look forward to our first, we fantasise about the joys, the feeling of adulthood.  We remember our first, the thrills, the disappointments, the reality of it all.  Our first cars that is (I can only imagine what some of you were thinking.) 

This was my first, a 1973 Oldsmobile Delta 88 Royale.  It was four years old when I bought it, the odometer said it had 40,000 miles, I would bet that had been rolled back a bit.  I had finished high school, worked my last summer on the farm, and I had a little money.  What I really wanted was a small car, my fantasy car was an AMC Pacer (the greenhouse on wheels.) But for the money I had to spend, and pay for a year of insurance, this was the best I could find.  It had a 350 cubic inch V-8 that went through water pumps about every 10,000 miles.  I got to the point I could change them myself in about 30 minutes.  The trunk leaked. The air conditioning died after about 4 months (and I was living in Florida.) Still it was wheels, and it was mine all mine.  
I remember being shocked the first time I put gas in it.  Previously I had driven dad's cars, and when I was home on the farm I had a key to the farm gas pump.  I had never bought a full tank of gas. My that was a surprise.  I drove this about a year, then bought another one, and my oldest brother bought this from me - I warned him. 



Tuesday, August 03, 2021

Travel Tuesday - Alaska

 I have been to Alaska twice.  The first time was work - with a rest day adventure - the second time in the fall of 2008 was an inside passage cruise.  The cruise was wonderful, leisurely, relaxed. The ships go into places that are difficult or impossible to get to by land.  This photo was taken on a sail up a fiord. This was in early September, before new snow for the season, that is a glacier going up that valley.  

My recommendation for Alaska is go, and if you get a chance to do so, go again. 

Monday, August 02, 2021

My Music Monday - Rainin' Fellas by Todrick

One of the early scientific uses of photography was to prove that all four hooves a horse are in the air at the same time when a horse is running.  A rapid sequence of photos, provided irrefutable proof on an issue that had been hotly debated in scientific circles for eons. And above is proof that all of feet of this fella are in the air, before he rains down.  (I know it is a stretch, but I liked the photo, and this tune was next up in my music to post.) 

Sunday, August 01, 2021

The Sunday Five: Growing

This plant, is growing the hollow at the top of a post.  It is growing in a place that was not meant to be grown in, a place where the post has deteriorated, rotting from the inside out. Yet there it is, green and growing.  In another 50 years it could be a mighty tree, that started life in the most unlikely of places.  

1:  What is the most mind expanding thing you have read recently? 

2:  What piece of art caught your eye recently? 

3:  If you could move tomorrow, would you want to? 

4:  Do you smile and say hello to strangers you pass on the street? 

5:  What do you dream of doing, that you haven't done yet?

My answers: 

1:  What is the most mind expanding thing you have read recently? "Our Incorrigible Ontological Relations" I really should take a philosophy class.  

2:  What piece of art caught your eye recently? Blue at the Kennedy Center. 

3:  If you could move tomorrow, would you want to? I kinda like it here, maybe someday, but not tomorrow. 

4:  Do you smile and say hello to strangers you pass on the street? Yes, some of them think I am strange. 

5:  What do you dream of doing, that you haven't done yet?  Renting an apartment in a walkable city in Europe for a month, flying in a hot air balloon,

Please share your answers in the comments.