Wednesday, August 31, 2022

Wednesday W's, Last of August Edition

The Way We Were. A couple of weekends ago, we went out to a local indoor shopping mall to take a long walk. It was hot outside, cool in the mall.  We bumped into a Spencers,  I can remember shopping at Spencers in the 1970's, they are still in business, still a place to find fun, offbeat, tasteless stuff. 

What am I thinking? The kitchen work is dominating my mind, I want to be in the middle of it, running the show, I am paying someone to do that, I want to stay out of the way.  Maybe I should see if Dr Spo is in network.  

Where have I been?  Lowes to discover that my beloved light maple floors have been discontinued. Fortunately I had the one piece of trim needed to bridge the living room floor to the new kitchen floor.  Not the perfect transition, but it will work.  

Where am I going?  The day after Labor Day, Metro is shutting down all rail service south of National Airport for 6 weeks to reroute tracks through a new station that has been under construction since early 2020. My commute will be unpleasant for 6 weeks.  Shuttle buses stuck in traffic, maybe driving in once a week.

What is new in my world?  I had to buy a new beard trimmer, the adjustable plastic guide on the one I was using broke - again.  

Who deserves an atta-boy! The Demo crew from last week that made such quick work of the kitchen. 

Who deserves two atta-boys? The appliance guy, the ovens are set to be delivered on Thursday.  

Who deserves a slap? Book banners and book burners. On a scale of 1 to 5, all 5. 

Who have I been thinking about? My brother in law.  His health continues to decline. Death is getting nearer, hard on my dear sister. 

What should I be doing?  Well there is always work to be done.  I need to work out the details for Spain.  I should be walking more.  

What is my excuse? It is hot, work is crazy, I am old, I have lots of them, and as someone once told, me we all have one and most of them stink.  

What have I done to make the world a better place this month?  Never enough.  I try to be kind to others.  To be generous.  To be considerate.  


Tuesday, August 30, 2022

Travel Tuesday : Mt Washington

 I was thinking recently how lucky I have been to do some of the work travel that I have done.  Work has opened the door for some amazing adventures.  For a few years, I had a travel budget, the only instruction was "make sure you would feel comfortable explaining to congress why you spent the money on that trip."  The travel budget went away 6 years ago with a restructure of a project.  And over the past five years the office budget was cut to the point that less and less was possible.  

I have been backed into a corner and had to redo the office budget.  One of the results should be a return to a modest travel budget for the department.  The full effect of that won't kick in long before I retire, but perhaps there will be an adventure or two before then. 

I went to Mt Washington in New Hampshire to teach at a conference.  I don't remember the topic.  I added a day to the trip at my expense, and rode the cog railway up the side of the mountain, in the fog.  Michael Downie on the YouTube channel Downie Live posted this week about his ride on the line. A great adventure.  

Monday, August 29, 2022

YouTube Monday: A New Narrowboater

During the pandemic, I discovered the joys English narrow boat videos, on Amazon Prime, then discover that my favorites were on YouTube, often on YT long before other platforms.  There are a variety of people who live on canal boats and document it on YouTube.  Some of them are brilliant content producers, some are interesting people, some are annoying. A few of my favorites have sold their boats (Cruising the Cut, Foxes Afloat, Boating Beyond ), a few seldom post.  

There are new voices, Chris started this journey about 10 months ago, and documented building his boat, he is now living on it.  He is a nice working class guy.  Retired military. Well educated and endlessly curious and learning. Divorced with kids.  His storytelling is good, and has gotten better.  He decided to buy and live aboard a boat, having never spent the night on a boat before.  He describes why, and the process of deciding and building what he wanted.  

You can follow his story from the beginning, or jump to his current postings, he is now on the boat, near his kids.  He is posting a couple of times a week, I look forward to his posts.  

Are there similar channels that you follow? 

Sunday, August 28, 2022

The Sunday Five: Retirement Plans

  1. Have you retired, or do you have plans to retire? 
  2. At retirement, stay where you are or move? 
  3. What is the ideal age to retire? 
  4. Is it likely you will continue to work after retirement?
  5. Are there parts of your work that you miss, or worry that you will miss? 
My Answers: 

  1. Have you retired, or do you have plans to retire? I have plans, there is actually a date on my office calendar that says DO NOT BOOK AFTER THIS DATE.
  2. At retirement, stay where you are or move? Our plan is to stay put. 
  3. What is the ideal age to retire? My goal is to leave while people are saying "you are leaving so soon" rather than "finally!" 
  4. Is it likely you will continue to work after retirement?  I might do a little consulting, training, and reviews. 
  5. Are there parts of your work that you miss, or worry that you will miss? My only real fear is that I will miss the structure.  
Please share your answers in the comments. 


Saturday, August 27, 2022

The Saturday Morning Post : Getting Older Today

A comment before my scheduled post today.  I am so glad to see the student loan debt forgiveness.  I benefited from a public interest student loan debt forgiveness plan that the State of Kentucky had, $10,000 and a year's interest taken off my balance, allowed me to pay off my debt in a little over 7 years.  I paid for most of my education.  For undergrad with the exception of one semester (my midlife crisis) I worked full time, went to school part time and paid as I went (at a nice expensive private school.)  For law school I was a full time student, and finished with a little over $45,000 in loans in 1999.  The student loan payments were more than our mortgage payment, and I went into public service work, at a modest salary.  For years I worked 50 hours a week and moonlighted to have a life and pay the debt. A little help in paying it off, was such a great relief. I hope everyone who benefits from today's forgiveness feels the same.  We are one of the few countries that treats higher education as a profit making business, instead of the building block of a stronger country.  Everything we can do to lessen the burden, makes us all stronger.  End of rant, onto my Birthday. 

It is my birthday I was born a long - long time ago, in a land far-far away from here.  Very early in the morning.  

I am always a little surprised by my age.  I am getting very near to retirement age.  And I sometimes wonder where the past 40 years have gone.  I have been filing tax returns for 50 years.  

I do believe getting old beats the alternative. Besides I am too old to die young.  

My father lamented that he had lived too long when his ability to enjoy life diminished and each day was a struggle.  There is a line in a Jimmy Buffett song, I'd rather die while I am living, than live when I am dead.  

When I was young, I never imagined that I would have the education that  I have, that I would have traveled to all of the places I have, experienced the adventures I have.  All in all, life is good to me.  

So today will be a trip to the farmers market, hopefully the pastry boy is in.  A little blogging.  A nice dinner - we will probably go out.  Gifts are limited these days.  My Sweet Bear always seems to find something fun and unexpected.  With a small family, that continues to shrink, there are not a lot of greetings.  

What does the next year hold?  More travel, I committed to taking a couple of major trips a year as long as I am working, it is good for my psyche.  I am finalizing plans for retirement, by this time next year I may be able to count the remaining months of work on the fingers of one hand.  

My wish, another decade or two of enjoying life.  

Friday, August 26, 2022

Fabulous Friday - Lawn Art and Airline Adventures

In front of the last house in Florida, I had a concrete eagle, sitting on a piece of granite from the front of the old Orlando City Hall.  City hall was imploded to make way for a new building, it kind of bothered me because the building was my age.  But Orlando had grown from a sleepy cow town to Mouse Town, and bigger diggs were in order.  

The implosion of city hall was filmed for one of the Lethal Weapon films. I have never seen all of that film.  I was watching it on a flight from San Francisco to Atlanta, someplace over Texas the lights went out.  The plane had experienced a major electrical generating system failure.  We went from 38,000 feet to on the ground in Dallas in less than 10 minutes, when we pulled up to the gate there was smoke coming out of the engine on my side.  For some reason I have never gone back and watched the rest of that film.  It was the only time I ever paid extra to watch a movie on an airline flight.  And I didn't get my money back. I made it to Atlanta later that night, and onto my destination the next day.  Delta did put me in a really nice hotel near the airport for the night.  

My how the story takes on a life of its own, that was not what I intended to talk about when I started this post.   

Thursday, August 25, 2022

The Thursday Ramble: I am calling about your car warranty that is about to expire

I recently read that the Attorney General of Ohio, is making headway at shutting down the major robocall operation on extended car warranties. If you have a phone in the United States, you have gotten the calls, often several in the same day, saying we noticed your car warranty is about to expire, or may have recently expired and this is your last chance to reinstate or extend it.  At the peak, it was estimated that they were making 100,000,000 calls a day.  That is a couple of calls a week to every woman, man, and child in the country.  Endlessly annoying.   

Most of it is controlled by two scumbag partners, most often in California. They have a nearly impenetrable network of shell companies and limited partnerships, many of them with links outside the country, making it harder to prosecute, or recover money.  Law enforcement often gets an order for them to cease operations - they simply shut down that corporation, and use another one with hardly a break.  They have been fined over $120,000,000. And they keep coming back.  

The premise of the calls creates a legal cause of action, what they are selling is a service contract, not a car warranty. Those are technically different things, and lawyers love mincing over words.  

The calls violate the Federal No-Call list.  Most of the cease and desist orders and fines have been based on violations of the no-call laws.  But that does not stop them from moving to the next identity. And Congress didn't make willing and repeated violation a criminal act, lock-em-up.

So what next.  Phone service providers.  Phone service providers can lose their license to operate for knowingly facilitating violation of federal laws. That can make it hard for scammers to find a phone service provider. 

In the early days of wireless phones, hundreds, maybe thousands of tiny local providers were licensed to provide cell service.  Often in small towns that the big name providers hadn't reached yet.  Over time the big providers covered the market, often simply squeezing the little guys out of business, only the more successful ones were bought out.  The little ones became worthless, but often retained their registration as a phone service provider.  One never knows.  

The scammers know, and they buy the license.  The licenses are considered worthless, and can often be bought for very little.  And suddenly a phone service provider in town with 100 people, that had no active lines, has a 10,000 lines connected to it, and is handling 60,000 outgoing calls an hour. The state and the feds have figured out the way to shut down the robocallers, is to shut down their phone provider, by cancelling it's license and disconnecting it from the grid.  

Advances in technology have made it possible to identify the originating provider in seconds, instead of hours - or days - or weeks. 

Shutting down the one group, will shut down over 80% of the calls.  There will be others. And the same strategy will work.  Until they figure out the next way around the system.  


Wednesday, August 24, 2022

Wednesday W's - Way, Where, When, Who, What

Way back when I was a child, my grandmother impressed on me to be seen not heard, and to listen more than I speak.  I haven't done a good job of heading her sage advice. I sometimes cast a large shadow, sometimes I want to shrink into the background and be unseen.  

Where have I been?  The office, home and the farmers market.  No place special.  

Where am I going?  I made travel plans to speak at a conference in Boston in late October.  I hope the weather is nice, I have not had good luck with trying to spend time in Boston.  I am not sure what all is going on in Boston that weekend but hotel prices are outrageous - a record for me - and not a super over the top hotel. But I want to be there.  It is a group I want to support, we have friends we should visit, and I would like to spend time in the area.  I have dead relatives there. 

When is the kitchen remodel going to start? Thursday!  Yea! 

Who have I seen?  Just the usual.  

What have I been watching?  One of the 6 local public broadcasting stations, yes six,  is playing the English Landscape Painter of The Year competition.  The show runs about 45 minutes, they bring in half a dozen artists and have them paint a scene, select a winner for the day, and at the end the daily winners face off again.  Reality TV with an artistic flair.  We started with 2015 or 2016 and are moving through the series with one show each day.  Sometimes I agree with the judges, sometimes I don't. It is fun and diverting.  

Who Deserves a Slap? DeSantis and his disciples in Florida. Censorship, imposition of his values, cultural genocide that will result in death for people like me.  On a scale of 1 to 5, about 5,000 slaps.  

What can I do about Florida?  For starters I will not travel to and spend money in Florida.  Remember tourist dollars keep Florida green, hit them where it hurts.  If they want to be a racist haven, let them be self supporting.  Second, I have had a real estate brokers license in Florida since 1980.  I have paid to keep it current since I left there in 1995.  It is up for renewal this fall, and I am not paying Florida $75 to renew it.  I will use the political motive to justify it, but realistically I am never going to live or work there again.  The odds of me falling into an opportunity to make money with it again are near nill.  It is time to give it up.  Time for me to become a retired real estate broker in Florida.  

What have I been eating?  I recently made a lasagna without tomato sauce.  J's digestion has become sensitive to tomatoes, so extra layers of cheese, veggies, and ricotta. It lasted three days.  

What is happening over the next couple of weeks?  A couple of three day weekends,  I need to take a day off this week - Friday makes a three day weekend for my birthday.  And then labor day is coming up.  The colonial fair at Mt Vernon is in September, if the weather is nice that is great fun.  

Till next W. 

Tuesday, August 23, 2022

Travel Tuesday - Trolls

I am a troll, I was born in the lower peninsula of Michigan, or as a Uper, would say, below the bridge.  The Mackinac Bridge connects the upper and lower peninsulas of Michigan.  I have never been across the bridge.  I have seen it from the air, the couple of times I was there, we flew into the Island.  

In the town my parents lived in, in Florida, the state built a new high rise bridge across the inland waterway on the north side of town.  In the shadow of it they built a new concrete fishing pier to replace the wooden one that had burned.  At the beginning of the pier was a small bar and restaurant.  I don't know that the official name of it was, we always just called it the Troll bar.  The food was good and the views of the water amazing.  The Bridge provided shade, all the better for the trolls.  

Near our home here in Alexandria, Virginia the Woodrow Wilson Bridge carries 10 lanes of I-495 across the Potomac River.  Under it is Jones Point Park.  In it is the original marker for the southern corner of the District of Columbia before retrocession.  That marker is in front of a colonial era lighthouse.  We were married at the lighthouse.  I sometimes remember it is Jones Point Park, but if I refer to it as the Troll Park, we know exactly what I mean. After all who lives under a bridge, trolls.  

Monday, August 22, 2022

Music Monday : The Penguin goes political Lock Him Up Yesterday! - A Randy Rainbow Song Parody

I usually leave politics to Bob, and others, but the video is - well fun.  A word of caution, if you are drinking when you listen, you may spew like this. Don't say I didn't warn you. 

And a catchy toon, Randy's book is a fun read. 

Sunday, August 21, 2022

The Sunday Five: Running Along

For years I had a framed Nike poster that read something along the line of, "there is a fat man, wearing my clothes, running my street, and I am afraid if I ever stop running, he will catch up with me."  Well I did stop running. 

  1. Are you now or were you ever a runner? 
  2. Do you know what your fastest mile or kilometer time is? 
  3. Have you ever participated in an organized run or race? 
  4. What is the longest distance you have run or walked? 
  5. Has he caught up with you? 
My Answers

  1. Are you now or were you ever a runner? I ran for about a decade, starting at about 28, I miss it. 
  2. Do you know what your fastest mile or kilometer time is? 7:03 mile, 
  3. Have you ever participated in an organized run or race? About a 100 of them. 
  4. What is the longest distance you have run or walked? 13.1 miles, I finished half marathons twice. 
  5. Has he caught up with you? About 100 pounds ago, and I am okay with that. 
Please share your answers in the comments. 

Saturday, August 20, 2022

The Saturday Morning Post - I Wonder if That Would Work

 I recently saw the registration poster for the 19th Annual Grandparents as Parents conference in Lexington, Kentucky. 19 years ago a friend of mine who was a grandparent, raising grandchildren, recruited me to be on the planning committee for the first conference.  We started out small, with a little funding from local agencies, and space in the Cooperative Extension building.  I think we had space for 100 people, and worried that no one would show up, the next thing we knew we worried that we would have to turn people away.  We went from wondering if it would work, to how can we accommodate the need.  

A couple of years later, I talked them into moving to new venue. And we morphed from a local conference to a regional one. We were worried that with the new venue and having to charge a small registration fee, no one would show up.  I guaranteed the hotel contract the first year on my personal credit card, and we sold the venue out, netting money to start the next year.  

I worked with the local bar association to get local family law attorneys to volunteer to sit down in private - one-on-one - to talk with families about the legal options. 

I was surprised, the average grandparent raising grandchildren, were in their late 40's to mid 50's.  Most often the parents were unavailable because of substance abuse or incarceration. Occasionally the children were just abandoned with family members, dropped off for the weekend and never picked up. The stories were often heartbreaking.  The efforts to provide a safe and secure home heroic. 

It is a pleasure to see this conference still going strong, after all of these years.  I wish it didn't need to happen, but as long as there is a need, it is wonderful to see that people are still finding a way to make it work.  

Friday, August 19, 2022

Fun Friday - Trains

 I have no idea why I like trains, I do. I find them fun.  Outside the train station in Lapeer Michigan are three nicely preserved cabosses.  The Detroit, Toledo and Ironton railroad would have been built to move iron ore from northern Michigan to steel mills in Detroit and Toledo that fed heavy manufacturing in the midwest.  I never knew of this one.  

Some people find cabosses romantic, my reaction was that they were very utilitarian.  Originally they were home for the brakeman, who literally climbed up on the outside of the train and engaged the brakes on train cars.  The interiors were spartan at best, often having a wood or coal stove for heat and cooking, and very basic accommodations for train crew.  

As a kid, the best part of seeing the Caboose was that the train had passed and we could cross the tracks (after stopping, looking both ways, and listening to make sure another train was not approaching.) Cabooses continued long after pneumatic brakes, a place for an observer at the far end of the train, and union rules required them, even when they were no longer needed.  Today they are museum pieces.  And fun to see.  

Thursday, August 18, 2022

Thursday Ramble - Reading and Writing

Why do I read so much? Because I can. Something like 14% of the world's population are totally unable to read or write.  An estimated 32-million adults in the United States are functionally illiterate - unable to read and comprehend, unable to read understand and reply to basic questions on something like a job application.  

Because of the way my brain is wired, I learned to read without learning to spell.  This mystified teachers in our rural schools.  I didn't learn reading in the way they had been trained to teach it. We fought over this for a couple of years. But within a couple of years reading clicked for me, and the teachers tolerated my spelling, because I clearly I understood. One of the reasons my handwriting is terrible, was to cover up my spelling. When I started taking college classes I spent a semester working with an expert, who assured me what worked for me, worked, and taught me new ways to approach spelling (this was in the early 1980's prior to spell check.)  

I didn't really become a heavy reader until my 20s. I discovered a world of knowledge and entertainment between the covers of a book. 

Computers and spell check changed my world.  In the late 1980's I bought a Panasonic typewriter with spell check and about a 10 page memory.  As I recall it was about $400; a couple of weeks pay for me at the time, but it changed my life.  Moving on from there to computers I have become much more of a writer.  And the more I write, the fewer words end up underlined in red.  Some days I get to nearly 100% in spelling, but I don't worry about it.  

If you want to improve your writing, do two things, read more, and write more.  I learn from reading, new ideas, new ways of assembling ideas, new characters, or styles.  The more I write the more naturally my writing flows.  

I can think faster than my fingers can commit those thoughts to the page.  I can read faster than I can talk - I read about 50 pages an hour. My brain sometimes assembles thoughts in odd ways, and this ends up in convoluted sentences, that communicate the point, but sometimes with the wordiness of a victorian novelist.

I really should listen to recorded books.  I have over the years, but haven't for several years.  When I was in law school, the public radio station in Louisville broadcast the Radio Reader, at 9:00 PM each night, I would go to bed, set the radio to shut off in one hour, and fall asleep to the spoken word.  I remember not wanting to miss a minute of "The Perfect Storm."  A novel I probably wouldn't read, but so enjoyed listening to.    

Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Wednesday W's - Great Aunt Edith

The Way We Were. This is my grandfather and my great-aunt Edith.  Let me sort through the family tree, she was my grandmother's father's brothers daughter. In her early life she worked in a cotton mill in England. Between World War I and World War II she entered into "service in a great house."  Think Downton Abbey or Upstairs Downstairs.  She then moved to the United States and worked as  housekeeper for the Firestone family. Sometime early in World War II a younger cousin (Sally) came to the United States for safety during the war.  Sally's father Bob followed, eventually ending up in Miami.  After the War, Edith and Sally moved to Miami and lived together there, think English Golden Girls. 

So What have I been up to? Work, I have resolved a couple of budget snafus, without anyone becoming unemployed. I explained the series of mistakes that led us to believe we had overspent a project, when in fact we had underbilled it.  Apologized and seemingly have been forgiven.  Mistakes that were made before I had access to the accounts system - but that came to light during my responsibility.  

Where have I been? Not much of anyplace, back and forth to the office, the farmers market, the French bakery because pastry boy was not at the market last Saturday, a little household shopping.  

Where am I planning to go?  I am speaking at a conference in Lexington, Kentucky next month.  We are making a road trip out of it, first stop is in West Virginia, to break up the long drive into two days, then two nights in Lexington, Ft Wayne Indiana to see my nephew, Elkhart Indiana to see friends, then Cleveland to see Jay's brothers, then back home.  We booked all of the hotels in the last week.  

What are we getting ready for?  The kitchen remodel is set to start next Monday.  The apartment looks like a warehouse, with new appliances and kitchen cabinets stacked everywhere.  We will be kitchenless for probably 3 weeks.  I have started using the new refrigerator, that is sitting in the dining room, I love it.  

Who have I seen? My sweet bear, and my office staff.  Not much going on. 

What walks have a taken?  A couple of shopping strolls around Alexandria, and a walk in the swamp, I hadn't been to Dyke Marsh in a few months.  

Who deserves a slap? GE Appliances, $4,000 in ovens ordered and paid for four months ago, and they can't tell me when the ovens will be here.  On a scale of one to five, at least 3. 
The oven stack is most expensive appliance for the new kitchen, because Thurmodore was honest that it would take at least 6 months to get the $5,200 induction cooktop I wanted, we went with the JenAir that was only $3,500 and was in stock. 

What made me laugh? Some great bloggers this week. 

What am I reading? "Leading the Unleadable," even a bigger challenge than the budgets.  

What I am watching?  Mostly YouTube. There are some brilliant content creators out there.  A young guy in Scotland posted a video is few months ago about buying and renovating a small stone house. The video was good, short, easy to watch, and went viral with ll-million views in one month.  He posted this past week, what he was paid in advertising revenue from YouTube, about $60,000, about the amount by which the remodel went over budget. 

Well, that is a lot of W's for this wordy week, 

Tuesday, August 16, 2022

Travel Tuesday - Airline Travel

It is kind of nice to be flying a little again.  Two trips so far this year, a couple more before the end of the year.  I had a few years with tons of travel, over 30 flights a year, a couple of years in a row.  It was fun, it was wearing.  Half a dozen trips a year would probably be better. 

When I was flying a lot, I was able to almost always get seats in the front of the plane.  Sometimes upgrades to business class.  A couple of memorable cross country trips in business class - you get warm nuts in business class.  

My trip in July was booked at the last minute, and on an airline I have not flown a lot since moving to DC, and I was in far back.  The last three rows had no one seated in them, I was just ahead of that, and both times the flight attendants asked me if I wanted move back a row and have the row to myself.  Yes, bliss.   

Monday, August 15, 2022

My Music Monday: Deep Purple - Smoke on the Water (Audio)

Time, life moves forward, I perceive it as linear.  We can look back, the recent visit to my home town, reminded me of the first time I heard this song.  In the high school gym, with Franko coordinating a slideshow of high school life to it. My job was to watch for the cue, and drop the needle on the 33 rpm record for the start of the show, and to be there at the end to stop the music.  That was nearly 50 years ago.  My middle brother is going to Michigan for his 50th High School reunion this fall.  I am only a few years behind him. Franko was a couple of years ahead of me.  He worked a photojournalist for a couple of decades, until the local newspaper industry died. He now manages the meat department in a supermarket, rides long distances on his bike, and adores his family.  He is, a brilliant photographer, who had better taste in music than I did.  

Sunday, August 14, 2022

The Sunday Five: the most embarrassing thing in my house

  1.  What is the most embarrassing room in your house? 
  2. If you could change it, what would you do? 
  3. What would we be surprised to find in your bathroom cabinet? 
  4. What is hidden away under your bed? 
  5. What is the oddest thing in your bedroom? (not counting spouses or lovers.) 
My Answers: 

  1. What is the most embarrassing room in your house? The kitchen - this is the before photo. 
  2. If you could change it, what would you do? What is about to happen, gut it and replace EVERYTHING. 
  3. What would we be surprised to find in your bathroom cabinet? A can of wall paint. 
  4. What is hidden away under your bed? An Ikea end table that has never been assembled.  
  5. What is the oddest thing in your bedroom? (not counting spouses or lovers.) A Leech jar, a reproduction of one from the 1700's. 
Please share your answers in the comments. 

Saturday, August 13, 2022

The Saturday Morning Post - The Condo Community Center

We live in a condominium.  For those not from around here, that is an apartment that we own, that is part of an association that manages all of the common elements.  This community is large, over 1,000 apartments in 4 high rise buildings, surrounding a community center. Altogether we have about 34 acres on a hilltop overlooking old town Alexandria, Virginia.  

The Community Center closed for COVID, and before it could reopen started a massive, once in 40 years remodel.  Work that was expected to take 9 months, took almost two years to complete.  The Community Center reopened last month. 

The first photo is the entrance on our side.  There are tennis courts and an outdoor pool on the roof. The Center is in a natural ravine, the top of the tennis courts are not much higher than the surrounding ground.  

The interior is where the real transformation took place.  We have amenities,  an indoor pool and fitness center, a private bowling alley that was entirely replaced.  A games room, a space for billiards tables that we are still waiting to have delivered (where the table tennis tables are - a gift from Brunswick for the delay), a large community lounge area, a private restaurant and bar, a small market, and a hair salon. There is also a lower level that previously was only accessible by a spiral stairway that was so difficult that I never went down there.  A proper stairway and elevator (lift) were installed, the space has a large room fitted out for fitness or dance classes.  There is also a massive TV down there so they can do movie nights.  There are a couple of smaller meeting rooms, and the association offices.  The association is a $10,000,000 a year business. 

Yes I pay a large condo fee.  Larger than the mortgage payments were on the first couple of homes I owned.  And it is worth every penny.  The place is well cared for, well managed, secure, and provides a lot of amenities.  


Friday, August 12, 2022

Fantastic Friday - Blitz the Wonder Dog

It has been a few years since I have written about Blitz the Wonder Dog, my sisters now aging German Shepherd.  I call him the Wonder Dog because he changed my feelings about dogs, from fear, or distrust, or even hatred, to what a sweet dog.  Once he is sure that you are not a threat, he is a sweetest, best behaved dog I had ever met.  In his younger days he was convinced that the Amazon Delivery guy was an invading army, and he would warn all within earshot of the threat.  He has mellowed.  He is 11, he has serious hip issues, is rather slow getting up.  He avoids the kitchen as his rear feet slip out from under him on the vinyl floor, and he falls and can't get up. 

Blitz was a surprise, my sister was not thinking about a dog.  Her husband called one day and said, "I am bringing a puppy home, he needs a home." He was the runt of the litter, the last one to leave home, he has outlived all of his siblings.  He was raised well, trained lovingly but firmly.  He is fantastic.  

Thursday, August 11, 2022

The Thursday Ramble - The Asylum

Last week was a week that left me feeling like this old house.  Sometimes I need to vent, sometimes I need a full time shrink. I had a long nasty ramble written to post and I am deleting it.  Replacing it. I need to get my brain in a kinder place.  

17 months until I can retire.  Not that I am counting or anything.  

It has been hot and humid here.  Mid-90's F (high 30's C) with high humidity.  Washington DC was built on swampland, so it is always humid here.  The combination leads to early morning walks, or not at all.  The gym being open again, I try to get in some treadmill time 2 or 3 times a week.   

I don't drive much, I look forward to Saturday mornings when I put the top down on the little car and go visit market square in Old Town Alexandria, Virginia (not Egypt.) There are a couple of fruit and veg vendors that I buy from almost every weekend, tomatoes, yellow summer squash, cucumbers, the skinny french green beans are in right now. There is a bread bakery that always has something great, and the pastry boy. The market is in the high rent district of farmers markets, not a lot of bargains but a lot of quality.  

How little do I drive, about 125 miles a month.  At this rate, if my car lasts 100,000 miles, it will last another 33 years.  

I have made fresh dill pickles a couple of times this summer.  A dozen pickling cucumbers, gently washed and trimmed, 4 cups of water (not chlorinated - I use bottled), 1 cup white distilled vinegar, two tablespoons of kosher salt, fresh dill, garlic cloves, a few peppercorns, and a sprinkle of red pepper flakes.  Weight to assure the cucumbers stay submerged - I use a plastic disk weighted down with a zip-lock bag filled with the pickling solution.  In this weather and with the cucumbers I have been getting, 4 or 5 days on the kitchen counter and they are perfect.  Store in the refrigerator, eat within a couple of weeks, they never last that long around here.  

In retirement I would like to do more pickling and canning.  I am hoping the new induction cooktop will boil water faster and more vigorously. I think of that as nesting behaviour.  One of my grandmothers was a master at it.  I turned on the new refrigerator the other day, - how nice.  I am looking forward to it being in the kitchen and not the dining room.   

Last Saturday was national stationnaires day.  I went to my local, called the Penny Post.  It was busy, and I really didn't find anything I needed, but then maybe it was the heat.  I was in half a dozen shops and didn't buy anything.  I should send someone a card, just because I can.   

Blogger, I am releasing comments on a daily basis from Blogger - Comment- Jail.  It is also catching garbage, but it is far from perfect.  If you post a comment - and please do - and it does not post I will get to it as soon as I can.  If you are trying to sell something or invite me to an online cassino - FOAD - I will delete and report as spam. 


Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Wordy, Wednesday W's Big Boy Edition

The Way We Were. I remember when Big Boy opened in the nearest decent size town to where I grew up, about 1974.  The classic Big Boy double cheeseburger became an instant favorite. According to Google, Big Boy is down to just 66 restaurants in the USA, 274 in Japan.  I could go for one of their doubles. 

What have I been doing, more W's work, work, work.  Three challenges are testing my being.  

What am I looking forward to?  Three trips between now and the end of the year, a road trip, Boston, and Spain.  I need to get some hotel reservations made. 

What was surprising?  A larger than expected raise at work, 2% more than what we told to budget for. Of course that means I have to wring another 2% of salaries out of my already overstretched budget.  

What have I read? "12 Steps to Changing Yourself and the World, and Abolitionists Handbook." It was an impulse buy. It written by one of the leaders of Black Lives Matter. Buy books by radical authors, one's that challenge the mainstream.  Buying those books sends a message to publishers and booksellers that publishing these books is worthwhile.  That there is a market.  It supports the author, who are lucky if they get a dollar for every hardcover sold.  And if you read those books, they will widen your horizons.  This one talks about dismantling the criminal legal system, closing prisons and building social services and mental health programs in their place.  I just finished a study of the experience of persons with dementia in the criminal legal system, I see a lot in common with what she has to say.  

Where have I been? The office and home. A couple of weekends ago I splashed out on a stock up trip to Target on Sunday afternoon. I try to get out a couple of times each weekend for a long walk.  I have been on the treadmill at the gym two or three times a week.  

Who have I been talking with?  If email counts, one of my nephews - oh I have two of them that you almost never hear of.  We will be seeing him in September, he has been home to see his mother - my sister and brother in law.   

Who have I seen? My sweet bear, the gang in the office. 

Who deserves slaps? The dis-info wars guy, and a jury in Texas delivered about 50-million of them last week. Piece of $hit, has made a fortune telling lies and misleading followers.  Bravo for the jury! 

Who is dead? Another one of my high school classmates, Chucky Oliver suddenly and unexpected.  He was always a lot of fun and little crazy. 

What am I working on?  Making this week a little better.   

What Will I do next?  Find something to laugh about, it has been a serious month. 



Tuesday, August 09, 2022

Travel Tuesday : Small Towns I Didn't Make It To In Time

Five years ago, I went in search of my maternal grandparents graves, I had never been there.  A cemetery on the edge of the village of North Star, Michigan. The village was about as lively as the cemetery.  Virtually all of the businesses were closed, even the bar had gone out of business and was for sale.  There was one remaining church in town. *  

Growing up there were lots of local jokes about the village of Lum, Michigan. One of my father's flying buddies had a large farm there, mowed a grass landing strip and put up signs for Lum International Airport.  He got into trouble for flying back from Canada without stopping for customs and immigration one summer afternoon.** After that he asked the FAA to register his landing strip as an airport, and figured out that he was close enough to the border that as an official airport, if he called ahead and asked, customs and immigration had to have someone drive over and check incoming planes.  Don't mess with bright farmers. He encouraged his flying buddies to do the same, just to mess with customs. ***  

I had never been to Lum.  The airport is gone, replaced by a golf course.  There are a couple of dozen homes, and the rest of the town is gone.  The local market and even the post office closed.  Too many sprawlmarts 10 miles away.  

My "home town" is changed from what it was 50 years ago.  At one time there were three grocery markets, today there are none.  The hardware store is still there, as it has been for 150 years, now operated by one of my high school classmates.  But the town is still there. Hanging on.  

* We did find the graves - 

** He had been fishing 

*** We never landed at Lum, by that time dad was renting airplanes and was reluctant to land a rental plane on a grass strip. He never flew across the border.  

Monday, August 08, 2022

My Music Monday : Willie Nelson - With A Little Help From My Friends (Official Audio)

Like birds of a feather, we need to flock together.  We are all in this world together, if we help one another, we will all make it.  It is not about one of us, none of us could exist in the way we want to live, without others.  There are many layers of meaning in this song, one of my old favorite. 

Sunday, August 07, 2022

The Sunday Five : The Country Life

 1: Have you ever awakened in the morning to the sound of cows? 

2: Can you tell a pig farm from a cattle farm by smell? 

3: Have you ever lived on a farm? 

4: Have you ever driven a farm tractor? 

5: Chicken eggs, or duck eggs, or they are all gross?

My answers:

1: Have you ever awakened in the morning to the sound of cows? Yes, on the farm growing up, but surprisingly at my first house in Orlando out near the University of Central Florida (40 years ago)

2: Can you tell a pig farm from a cattle farm by smell? Yes, cows are less pungent

3: Have you ever lived on a farm?  Yes, for 19 years  

4: Have you ever driven a farm tractor? Yes, but not on the farm I grew up, in Colorado

5: Chicken eggs, or duck eggs, or they are all gross? They are all good.  Mostly chicken but I have cooked duck eggs. 

Please share your answers in the comments. 

Saturday, August 06, 2022

The Saturday Morning Post : Flying

My father took his first flying lesson February 6, 1955 at Almont Michigan in a Ercoupe.  The Ercoupe was a simple design, without rudder pedals, and very easy to fly.  After a few hours, he moved onto a Piper J-3 Cub.  This the classic little yellow taildragger airplane with the passenger sitting in front and the pilot in back. It has rudder pedals and a very sensitive rudder. He would tell the story of his first takeoff in it, with the tail swinging wildly from side the side and the instructor  roaring with laughing, until he got up to speed, the tail lifted off the runway and the plane stabilized.  Once you had it, it was easy, it took a couple of passes to get the feel of it. He had a couple hundred hours in J-3s before moving onto Cherokees and Cessnas.   

He bought a J-3 once, it was a basket case, coming home in pieces.  He had it stored in the honey processing plant, his father came home from Florida and demanded it be moved - lacking a place to work on it, he sold it.  The next plane he owned, the last plane he owned, was primarily restored at a friends house, the fuselage was recovered in Bob's dining room. The wings in a garage my father had built on the farm by then, one of my earliest memories is the wings in the garage.  

By the time of my memory, dad's home airport was DuPont Lapeer.  George B. DuPont (GB as he was known) loved to fly, and made his fortune making bolts and screws for the auto industry.  He was on in years, I met him a few times, his son Kent was in charge of the airport and the manufacturing company by the mid 1960's.  They had bought a half section of land in Lapeer for a header* and thread rolling plant, and naturally built an airport along with the plant. The manufacturing operation was sold many years ago and is still there.

The "new terminal" was built in the 1970's.  On weekends it was abuzz with activities. I spent many a Saturday morning or Sunday afternoon there.  I actually liked the old terminal better it had mid-century vibe and a great reception room.  The old terminal was converted into offices for the screw company when the new terminal opened.  

Back in my day there were usually half a dozen small planes on the ramp, often a helicopter owned by a local contractor who had been a pilot in Vietnam.  When I went by recently, there were a few cars in the parking lot, and no airplanes outside. The signs for dealerships for Piper, Cessna, Mooney, and Beachcraft are but a distant memory.  Fuel service is self service - credit cards only. 

It is heartbreaking to see the decline in general aviation.  Back in the 70's you could buy a new four seat airplane for about 3 times the price of a new Buick, today the same plane is 10 or 15 times the price of new car.  Where my father bought a learn to fly package that guaranteed a solo for $99, today according to Google this would cost $7,000 to $9,000. He financed learning to fly by giving up smoking. 


* Header, screws and bolts are made by feeding a heavy wire into a machine that cuts the stock to length, and then hammers a head on it, flattening the end of the wire stock on to die. Then the treads are rolled onto the blank. This is done by automated machines that cut, and hammer the head on, hundreds of times a minute. They had an acre of those machines, hammering away 24 hours a day.  The noise is likely what lead them to move out into the country.  When I was a kid they bought out several neighbors to help alleviate noise complaints.  

Friday, August 05, 2022

Fabulous Friday - The Variety of Nature

During my year of walking in the Swamp, I bought a couple of books on birds, and a book on trees and shrubs found in the region.  The bird books came in handy for identifying what I was seeing.  Most of them belonged here, and had clear identifiers.  

The book on trees and shrubs proved less useful.  There are so many varieties.  So many look so much like another one, or another 100 varieties.  It had a classification system, the overall size and shape, the texture and color of the bark, the size and shape of leaf, if the leafs are in clusters the arrangements, if there are flowers the number of petals.  It would be a lifetime of study.  We have a friend who is walking encyclopedia of garden bottony.  It is easier to snap a photo and text it to Kel, she will know.  

I am always moved by the perfection of a single bloom. The color, the form, the texture.  

Thursday, August 04, 2022

The Thursday Ramble: Happiness

I asked a friend if there was anything I could do to help him find happiness, and he snapped back, that he was quite good at finding his own happiness.  Screamed at me is more like it, he was having a melt down.  

He has a point.  Happiness is an inside job.  It is something we find for ourselves.  Often it involves compromise, not letting challenges defeat us, working our way through grief and loss and all of the lousy things that happen in life.  Finding happiness with what we have, and where we are.  Not letting the turkeys get us down.  And when we are down, allowing ourselves to heal and move on.  For many happiness requires help, counseling, or medical treatment for chemical imbalances in the nervous system, and being brave enough to ask for help. (I think my friend may need a little help.)  

Happiness requires liking yourself.  Flaws and all, you are the only you - you have.  Back in 2015 when I saw images of the tumor growing in my spine, my thought was I can't hate it, it is a part of me.  A part that is growing too big in a place that it shouldn't be, and it has to go, but if I hate it, I am hating me.  I know this is strange, but I need to love every imperfect part of me, or how can I be happy, how can I hope that others will love me.   The hurdles in our life, are a part of our life - even is some of them require surgical removal.

This may qualify me for the LGBTQ+ club free microwave for membership recruitment. Someone I have collaborated with, who is almost my age, looked at me as an example that the world didn't come to an end when I came out; quite to the contrary my life got better, and came he came out of the closet recently. He said after 60 years, it was time to check that box and tell the world.  His experience has been good.  Acceptance by loved one's, his employer reassuring him that there is a six month waiting list to get an appointment with him, so if someone wants to walk, there is a line down the block of people who want his expertise. Happiness is loving yourself, and not hiding anything from yourself or the world.  (He has a unique specialty that I really don't understand, his billable hour rate is literally 10 times what mine is - I am not cheap.) 

We are making progress on the challenges in the office.  I sat down the other day and wrote a list of five things I love about working where I work.  I needed that. I felt caught up in a swirl of negativity, I feared that I was becoming a part of it. I needed reminding of the good things.   

Have fun this week,

Find Joy in who you are,

Find beauty in where you are,

Marvel at being here, 

Wednesday, August 03, 2022

Wednesday : Way We Were, Who What When, Wordy

I am rethinking Wednesdays.  For a couple of years I have done the way we were Wednesdays, I have a lot of old photos, but I am kind of bored with it.  Spo - the dear - has been doing Wednesday W's - who, what, where and such, this past week Diaday did wordy Wednesday. I kind of like the variety.  

The photo above is of a farm a couple of miles up the road from where I grew up.  50 years ago the farm was one of the few in the area that raised lambs for 4-H and the Eastern Michigan Fair.  Most farmers wanted nothing to do with sheep.  I was slightly surprised and very pleased to see that the farm is still raising sheep.  I imagine that the current farmer is my age, the kids or grandkids of the farmer from 50 years ago. Sheep were a sign of consistency, something that is today, as it was decades ago. The way we were. 

What have I been thinking about?  Visiting rural Michigan, I was reminded of how difficult the economy was when I left there 45 years ago, it still a tough place to make a living.  For every $40 an hour job in the car factories, there a 100 $12 an hour jobs, and $24,000 a year is hard to live on. When I hear the unhappiness with government - part of it is people struggling for a lifetime - with glimpses of prosperity, that never seems to reach them.  We expect cheap food - and farmers struggle to find happiness.  

Where have I been? The Condo Community Center.  It closed for Covid, then underwent a total rebuild. It is much more open, much nicer.  It was needed.  It took about a year longer than expected.  I have to say it is nice. 

What have I been reading? I recently finished "How Mind Changes" and "A Perfect Score."  Spo mentioned the first one, it is an exploration of how people change their opinion or beliefs.  It is very well written, if a little long.  The second one is about a winery.  It is a print book, destined to go back the building library (I didn't like it.)  

Who have I been talking to?  My sister, my brother-in-law's medical journey continues to have bumps in the road - two ER visits and a few nights in the hospital.  We met a couple of neighbors at the Community Center reopening, there are at least 3 gay couples in the building (I expect more.) 

Who deserves to be slapped? The "financial advisor" who manages an endowment that benefits my office, who left the entire balance exposed to market risk.  At least three slaps out of five.

Well that is a look back at 50 years ago, a few Ws, and it is wordy.  I hope it is not too long.  Isn't the sheep sweet and cuddly looking? 

Tuesday, August 02, 2022

Travel Tuesday - Back Streets

 I love to explore back streets and alleyways.  Main Street is pretty, but often made up like a drag queen to conceal the real character underneath. (Or to express the character the place really wants to have.)  Usually only a street or two away, is the real local place.  The unvarnished truth.  

In many cities the best values in honest local food, is in the back streets, close enough to be walked to, but far enough off the beaten path to not by in the high rent district.  I will never forget a great lunch I had a couple blocks behind the Colosseum in Rome, surrounded by locals I was the only person who didn't speak Italian.  

If the shops are not filled with locals, go to where the locals are. Having traveled a lot, you find the same "souvenir" items in multiple cities, the only thing that changes is the name of the city imprinted in the factory in Asia.  I like to find the stuff the locals made.  I have started collecting tiny bowls and vases, made by hand, by the potters I buy them from.  These tell me more about the place, about the people, than all of the junk in the gift shops on main street.  

I am aware of safety, there are side streets I won't venture down, but most of the time, in the middle of the day, most places are perfectly safe and so worth exploring.