Friday, March 31, 2023
Thursday, March 30, 2023
The weather is changeable at the moment. Warm and sunny one day, cold and rainy the next. When I can, I try to get out to take a walk. I have lots of excuses about work and such, to not walk, but I know I need to walk more, use it or lose it.
A couple of weeks ago I started getting off the subway when going into the office, a stop before my stop, and walking. About a mile, a nice urban stroll in the morning rush hour. One morning last week, the weather was especially pretty, and I went one station past my usual, and walked back. A couple of blocks out of my way, had me walking on Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the President's House.
The first five years I worked in DC, my office was less than a block away from the White House. The station I exited the subway at, and the exit I took out of that station, were my morning commute for those years. When I started I signed a release allowing my employer to share my information with White House security, we were close enough that they wanted to know who was working there. As I walked south toward the White House, I could see the window of what had been my office. My employer sold that building, and we moved a few blocks north and west about 11 years ago.
It is nice to be able to walk by the White House again. Four years ago it was turned into a virtual fortress, for a couple of years you couldn't get within a block of it without an invitation and clearing security. The fence surrounding the grounds is taller than it was before, but you can now walk up and stick you phone or camera through the fence, like you could during the Obama administration. While I could always hope that more would be done, I feel good about the people who live and work there. It is both a residence for the President and his immediate family, and a workplace for a lot of people.
The Eisenhower Executive Office building is a two minute walk away, and is the work place of many senior advisors. Legend has it, that Eisenhower hated the building, it is very old fashioned, and he had vowed that when he was elected President he would have it replaced with something modern. Others feared the loss of the landmark, so before he took office, it was renamed in his honor, in a successful effort to save it from the wrecking ball. Politics have always been a strange place.
North from there, across a couple major streets, around or through a couple of squares and I am at the office. A nice 15-20 minute walk. I needed that, I need to do more of that.
Wednesday, March 29, 2023
What is that image? Me, in a termal rainbow image, projected on a large screen, holding a camera out to take a self portrait. Maybe I should have used this for a Sunday five to see what guesses it would draw.
Where have I been? The Hirshorn, Freer and Sackler galleries of the Smithsonian. I nice walk through art. The Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, to hear the National Symphony Saturday evening, and Mt Vernon for a long walk in the gardens.
Who have I seen? The usual and no one in particular. On one of my morning walks I talked with one of the chaperones of a high school senior trip visiting Washington DC from Pensacola Florida. They seemed to be enjoying the city.
What have I seen? The trees on on the brink of bursting into leaf, a couple of warm sunny days and spring will have sprung.
What have I been reading? A book about time, that was terrible, but finished.
What have I been watching? One day recently Sophie encountered an American college student at St. Andrews and posted about it. Finnegan has about 40 videos posted, a bright young long distance runner, I have watched all of them https://email@example.com.
What blog post made me think this week? Yorkshire Pudding recently posted drone video of the village he grew up in. That sent me looking, there is not much from where I grew up, but I did find a nice video of where I live, at 1:37 you can see my place.
What have I cooked? Friday evening I made a wonderful chicken and barley soup. Sunday I did a spinach and bean dish based on something Mitchell had posted, it was so flavorful.
What am I doing this week? Attending a Senate hearing on Thursday that I helped find speakers for.
What left me cringing? People who say they are collaborating, and keep secrets from one another. Effing waste of my time, if they are only trying to learn what others are doing, and not sharing what they know.
Tuesday, March 28, 2023
GQ has a series on YouTube where they interview celebrities and ask them what their 10 essentials are. I kind of enjoy it, here is my list of ten things I never leave home without.
1: A good camera, I am carrying a Nikon D5500 and an 18-200 mm lens.
2: My Chromebook, it is lightweight, has a long battery life. If I drop it down a flight of stairs, the world won't come to an end, they are relatively inexpensive.
3: My bag of chargers, and cables, I keep this packed in my messenger bag.
4: My Timbuk2 messenger bag. Expensive and worth every penny.
5: My Kindle e-reader.
6: A notebook, current one is red.
7: Ms. Garmin, if I am renting a car, or driving my car, I take a portable GPS unit with me and go wherever the little voice tells me to go.
8: Asics Cumulus running shoes. I think I am the 24th version, they are my daily go to, I have half a dozen pairs of them.
9: A cheap plastic rain poncho, these are intended for single emergency use, there always one in my messenger bag, they have saved me in a downpour a few times.
10: An old fashioned mechanical watch. My current one is a Seiko self wind. It is easy to set, as the time zones change. The movement is a Japanese copy of a Rolex. If you look around you can find them for less than $100, I have heard that they have stopped making the movement, so grab them while you can.
Monday, March 27, 2023
Sunday, March 26, 2023
1: What Flavor is this bag of potato chips (crisps)?
2: Would you try them?
3: What is the most fun specialty food market near you?
4: Have you ever bought an interesting international food and found it to be almost habit forming?
5: Is there anything you simply won't eat?
1: What Flavor is this bag of potato chips (crisps)? (If I answered this we would all know.)
2: Would you try them? Yes, and I have to say it was like pumpkin spice, there is no pumpkin in it, the flavor is the spice mix used on that item is not the flavor named.
3: What is the most fun specialty food market near you? The nice Russian market on the northside of Alexandria, she has wonderful sweets.
4: Have you ever bought an interesting international food and found it to be almost habit forming? Caviar, from the Balkan market across from the nearest Metro station.
5: Is there anything you simply won't eat? There are things I prefer not to eat - like collard greens - but I have.
Please share your answers in the comments.
Saturday, March 25, 2023
Over the years, in little bit and pieces I have figured out a little family history. The stories passed down through the family were sanitized, and maybe fictionalized.
My 4th or 5th great grandfather spent time in New Orleans in the early 1800's. He was a bit of a rogue, and reportedly traded goods, with Jean Lafitte. Possible contraband, or pirates plunder. He was active the Navy in the War of 1812 (on the side of the US, he was born in Massachusetts but in part was raised by family in England and Ireland.)
When I was in New Orleans last month, I went in search of places he likely walked, ate, drank, and did business. Looking for connection, or roots, or closure, I am not sure what.
After the war of 1812, he was shipwrecked in Mexico (not his only shipwreck.) Reportedly went back into the "trading business." Claimed to have made a fortune and lost it to bandits when returning to the United States. I had heard that story from family legends, and have always wondered it is true, or a plausible explanation for returning home broke.
He made his way up the Mississippi River the St Louis area, and reportedly repented. Established a legitimate business dealing in freight on the river. Paid to build a couple of churches, and established a finishing school for young ladies (he was married twice, had a dozen kids mostly daughters.)
There are clouds over the story. The business dealings in the first part of his life are questionable, embarrassing. He was quoted late in his life as saying, "nothing he could do would make up for the indiscretions of his youth."
Sometimes understanding, is tied to a place. Walking those streets, seeking out places he would have been, helped me to piece together understanding.
Friday, March 24, 2023
Thursday, March 23, 2023
Odds are there will be a future. Statistically at my age, I have about 20 years left to live. Some people my age life a little longer, some a little less, some won't live to see tomorrow, but there is a 50/50 chance I will live 20 more years. Being retired could be the longest single job of my life. My second professional lasted 15 years, 7 employer's. My third profession is projected to last 24 1/2 years, with only two employers. Fifteen years (by the time I will retire) with the Commission on Law and Aging has in many ways been one of the highlights of my life.
So what next?
Travel. There are places I want to go, and adventures that I want to do, that need time and flexibility, and after retirement my time will be mine.
Being more active as a volunteer. I have said if I won the lottery there are parts of my job I would do for free. I love organizing training, producing it, speaking when I can. Flexibility to do that will bring joy to my life.
Writing. Writing takes time, and being free of editorial limits (but hopefully not good sense) will empower me to write on things that I think are important. There is a publication I sometimes writes for whose audience is people my age and older. I would love to write travel pieces for them, but they only want substantive content from me, and they publish travel adventure from others. I am going to change that.
Time to cook more mindfully. At the end of a 10 hour grind, I just want to fix something edible. I have fun on the weekend, I want more days to be like the weekend.
I want to adopt a shop fresh style. I was raised in the middle of nowhere, and grocery shopping was done once a week, maybe once every other week. I want shop more often, bringing home less. (Though you will probably always be able to eat out of my pantry and refrigerator for a week if the weather is nasty and never miss a good meal.)
I want / need to get back into the gym. I know I will never be the gym bunny I once was, there a physical limits today that were not a part of my life 30 years ago, but I can do so much more with what I have to work with. In my driven gym bunny days, I never entirely looked the way I wanted to (though I was kind of hot for a few years) and even then my goal was always to do the best I could with the body I have to work with. Doing that takes time and commitment. I will never fit into 30-inch waist jeans again.
I want to take a few cruises. I have dreamed of a transatlantic crossing, my grandmother did it four times 110 years ago. I would like to go to Japan, and loath the thought of 18 hours of flying, there are repositioning cruises from the west coast to Japan, and from Japan to the west coast, I want to do that. I want to go back to Alaska, there are a couple of unfinished adventures there. In winter time the Caribbean sounds nice.
I want to travel cross country. Maybe take the train, or a long slow drive seeing everything there is to see in between.
I want to take the slow boats, a YouTuber recently took a ferry from Portsmouth to Bilbao, two nights, nice a slow crossing. That is hard to do, when I need to squeeze everything into 12 days on the ground. This time next year, (maybe sooner) I won't have that limit to deal with. Bring on the slow boat.
I want to spend time in my local library. Their hours and my schedule are not very compatible, closed on Sundays!!!?!!!?. I want to visit my local senior center, maybe volunteer to spark new programs (a photography workshop?) There are some great museums around, and historical sights to see. From the peak of the hill, through the gap in the trees, you can see the Washington Monument from here, and I haven't been in it in over a decade. Starting in August, I get half price Metro fares.
I want to spend more time with a camera in hand, to use some of the amazing lenses I have been able to accumulate. I set here and wonder why have I not photographed the Washington Monument with my fish-eye lens, I could stand five feet from it and take in the whole thing.
I want to feel free to stay up late, and sleep late. I want to be able to take a midday nap. A couple of weeks ago I was on an all day virtual meeting. The organizers needed a long lunch break, 90 minutes, I dozed off for 20 wonderful minutes and awoke to the sound of the meeting being called back to order. It was so nice. (I was attending from home, and my work space at home is in my bedroom.)
I plan to get rid of all but a couple of neckties. I think I have worn one once in the past year - and that was enough. I have racks full of them. I need to clean out my closets.
Wednesday, March 22, 2023
Where have I been? The office, the farmers market, a nearest wetlands park, a walk past the White House. Close to home.
What have I seen? A couple of bald eagles.
Who have I talked with? My sister, I called her on her birthday; my middle brother - I finished his tax returns. My boss - a couple of long conversations.
What have I decided? Firmly, I will retire the end of the calendar year.
HoW do I feel about that? Wonderful, and only slightly terrified. I am already doing research on what I can do next spring when I can get away from for more than 12 days.
What have I been cooking? I did a nice beef roast over the weekend, slow cooked to fork tender, roast potatoes and carrots. I cheap cut of beef, carefully cooked to its glorious best.
What has brought me joy in the past week? A really nice walk in the swamp.
What am I reading? A book on time - that is boring and I have decided to abandon unfinished. I have been making comments on books as I add them to the reading list this year. I am coming to the conclusion that I need to enjoy what I am reading or why bother.
What have a started doing? Sketching, or doodling everyday. There are weird visual spatial issues in the way my brain is wired, and drawing didn't come naturally to me. So I never really spent time practicing. I am going to see if practicing, helps me to develop new skills. Practice without criticism or grading. We can do amazing things if we take the time to learn in the way that works for our brain.
When will spring be here? There are subtle signs, fresh green color, the early spring flowers, it will surprise us sometime soon. Oh, and a sure sign of spring, the pastry boy is back at the farmers market on Saturdays, he takes the winter off.
Who deserves and Atta-boy this week? Trisha on my team, she produces our journal and the latest issue is a work of art. And Edward (not Ed or Eddy) from Chicago who saved our office LinkedIn account.
What am I looking forward to? Mentoring the team, to lead boldly into the future, guided by the past, but not burdened by it.
Tuesday, March 21, 2023
Monday, March 20, 2023
A few things hit home for me in the past week, involving work.
There is difference between the expectation of what we should be doing, and our capacity to do things. I tried to work on this last year, and failed (for a couple of reasons that I won't discuss here.) I need to set down again, and have people list everything they are trying to do, everything they think we should be doing, how long those things take, add up the hours, then decide what we are not going to try to do because there are not 80 work hours per person per week (we have half of the staff we had 12 years ago.)
Some projects pay more than they take in time, some take more time than they pay. A reality not understood by the accountants. In the end we need it to come close to a balance, but it is never going to be perfect.
If I am thinking about this as I am driving to the farmers market on Saturday morning, my work life balance is off.
I need time to think - to be creative. All work and no time to think, leads to the cycle of doing nothing new. We need time to think so we can go in search of the new cheese and find our way out of the maze.
It is easy to think we understand an issue, when we have finished our research. Then writing about it brings new insight. Then input from readers, gives new insight. Research is only half finished when the report is released or published. Yet the funding usually ends when the report is final. We need finish up funding for after the project ends.
Denial is not a river in Egypt. Staying around to fix things, when you are burned-out, won't fix things.
Many academic systems offer a sabbatical. Traditionally half a year or a year off with full pay every seven to ten years. It is time to do whatever the person wants or needs to do to recharge. Some teach elsewhere, or go deep into research, some go fishing, or walk the dog, or ride a bike across the continent. More employers need to recognize the value of this kind of a periodic period of refreshment. The cost is made up for by increased productivity. I did one self funded sabbatical 30 plus years ago, I took four months off from work and went to University full time for a semester - it gave me time to rethink where I was going with my life, and to end up where I am today.
Sunday, March 19, 2023
Let's go off into fantasy land for a few minutes and answer few telling questions.
If you won a Billion Dollars (or Pounds, or Euros) in a lottery would you?
1: Buy a lamborghini or a Volvo?
2: A house in the City, or a Farm in the Country?
3: A 35 foot boat, or 135 foot boat?
4: A Rolex watch, or stop wearing watches?
5: Shop at Gucci or Levi's?
1: Buy a lamborghini or a Volvo? A Volvo, reliable, comfortable, easier to blend in with the crowd.
2: A house in the City, or a Farm in the Country? If limited to one, the house in the city.
3: A 35 foot boat, or 135 foot boat? The 35 footer, unless I was going to live on it full time.
4: A Rolex watch, or stop wearing watches? I have worn a watch since I was 8 years old, I feel undressed without it, the stainless steel one with a blue face.
5: Shop at Gucci or Levis? Levi's. I can't understand paying $200 for a t-shirt.
Please share your answers in the comments.
Saturday, March 18, 2023
There a few milestones that lead to me remembering my sister's birthday. The two times my family visited the Grand Canyon when I was a child, were on her birthday. She is a little older than I am, we have disagreed over it being one year or two years. She is two years older than I am in the few months between her birthday and mine.
Being a few months apart in age, our lives are intertwined. She was a couple of years ahead of me in school. She got married the same spring I finished high school. Then we went a couple of different ways, she stayed in Michigan, and I moved to Florida. I didn't see much of her for 30 years, then she moved to Florida to care for our parents in the last few years of their lives. I will be forever grateful for everything she did to empower our parents to live and die in their home, as they wished.
The last year has been a challenging one for her. Her husband died from cancer last fall, her beloved wonder dog died a few weeks later, she has moved to be nearer to her kids. She has settled in, is doing work she enjoys, and is close enough to see her two sons often.
I wish her a very Happy Birthday, and a peaceful and happy year to come.
Friday, March 17, 2023
Bunnies, bears, penguins, sheep, a wombat, a beaver, a platypus, a dodo, dragon (actually two), are just a few of the inanimate pets we have. All of them have names, most of them have tags with their name. Some have great backstories, Bob the penguin is dean of the school of advanced aviation and flight school. Petunia the Wonder Sheep comforted me through a complicated medical journey. The sheep wait for the spring carpet flowers to bloom.
It is silly, and fun, and they are rather low maintenance. Yes we are a little crazy, in a fun sort of way.
Thursday, March 16, 2023
It is budget season at the office, for the fiscal year starting in September. In my first information upload to my boss I mentioned my hope of retiring. I have never really made a secret of my plan or intention.
Two long video calls today. With plans, A, B, C and D (for disaster.) A wonderful heart-to-heart with my sweet bear. And I emailed my boss with a firm date for my intended retirement. She will get the ball rolling. (I will reveal the date soon, it is a fair number of months down the road.)
The plan allows plenty of time for planning, and putting change in place. As I said in the email, change is never easy, but planned change is easier than sudden change.
There are days when this job is killing me.
Scary, to have made the commitment, but it also feels kind of good.
I am not worried about second thoughts, I have spent months dealing with those.
Wednesday, March 15, 2023
Who have I seen? Just the usual, I need to work on this.
What have I seen? Isn't that one sexy looking car?
What have I been up to? Work, a bit of progress on a couple of projects, a couple of chances to advise people in high places on issues that are important, ghost writing an article, final edits on a book chapter, too much work and not enough play.
Where have I been? Home, the office, a few local stops, basically staying close to home for a couple of months. Target last weekend for household items and shower gel.
What have I been cooking? I made a white bean soup on Saturday, onion, celery, mushrooms, leaks, chicken stock, bacon, dried white beans, a few select herbs and spices, simmered all day, stirred in a couple of hands full of spinach about 15 minutes before serving. Yummy.
Why am I? I am to be creative, to make a difference in the lives of others, to live a peaceful life.
When? The only time is now. The past is past. The future is uncertain.
What is the quote of the week? "We are here to enrich the lives of others" Martin Scorsese.
What is the challenge of the week? We had blank note cards printed for my office. My challenge for the staff was to find someone to send a handwritten note to. A Thank You, or Congratulations, or simply "Thinking of You." I hope that doing so becomes a habit and surprises people who are not expecting a simple act of kindness, and what can be an impersonal and cold world. And yes, I lead by example, one last week, one already this week.
Who deserves a Slap! The comment spammer who hit me twice on Tuesday telling me what a great blog, and would we please read her post on one scam or another. Five slaps are probably not enough.