Wednesday, January 31, 2024

My World of Wonders, aka The Wednesday W's January 31 2024

Where have I been this week?  The DC Convention Center for the Auto Show, King Street in old town Alexandria for a nice long walk about, the Kennedy Center to hear the National Symphony Orchestra, into the City to have lunch with a friend, Museum of American History, grocery stores, my local library (first time in 14 years - on my list of goals for this year - I picked up three books), IKEA it was time for a shopping run. 

Who have I talked to this week? My sweet bear, a dear friend who has been unwell, my replacement at the office. . . I need to work on talking to more people. 

When is the next adventure?  Tomorrow I fly to Louisville, Kentucky for a conference, and the middle of the month I am going to Yale for the elder abuse symposium.  

What made me smile this week?  A mid-winter summer day, it was 80 degrees with bright blue skies on last Friday. 

What am I reading?  I finished "Burn This Book" a collection of essays edited by Toni Morrison, and a very thoughtful collection of essays by Anne Fadiman titled "At Large and At Small." Next up, "Young China" and "The Blood of Emmett Till." 

What am I planning?  I intend to finish out the hotel planning for the trip in May.  It looks like we will be going to a conference in Chicago in August, I will get plans made for that in a few weeks.  

What made me laugh?  HWMNBN* was ordered to pay $88-million,  I hope she starts attaching assets and forcing the sale of them if she is not paid promptly.  A quarter of a century ago, I helped a man who had a small claims judgement against a local business man that had not been paid.  We went go back to court and ask the judge to attach the man's pride an joy, the day they towed the Mercedes convertible, my guy got paid.  I don't need slaps this week, the judge awarded 88,000,000 of them. 

What made me think this week? Two things, certainly there were brilliant thinkers before written language - what great ideas are lost over time because the ideas were not recorded in some way; an exhibit at the Smithsonian on the golden days of magazine publishing. We are seeing a massive shift in how people learn about the world.  And our blogs are a part of it.  

*He who must not be named. 

Monday, January 29, 2024

Moody Monday: Change

Back in the late 1970's early 1980's gasoline prices went up significantly, I can still remember the first time I paid more than $1 a gallon, at the Gulf station at US1 and Knox McRae in Titusville, Florida (the last I knew there was a bank on that corner.) I was driving a massive Oldsmobile, that was traded on a smaller one, that still only got about 25 miles to the gallon on the open road.  I was driving down Interstate 4 in Orlando one evening, and a VW Rabbit Diesel passed me, and I thought, he is getting 50 miles to the gallon and he passed me. That looks like fun. I stopped at a VW dealer on my way home.  And another one the next afternoon, and I bought a diesel powered VW.  

People hated the diesel.  It sounded funny, and if you put your foot to the floor it would put out a puff of black smoke (I enjoyed doing that if someone was driving to close behind.) GM attempted to sell diesels,  Issuzu was probably the most successful.  

I loved the little car.  It was a little slow to get going, but once I got it wound up it would go 80 miles an hour, and get 50 miles to the gallon.  And people hated it, because it was different, it was change.   

I am getting a steady stream of postings on FB of people who hate the idea of an electric car.  Electric cars are different, they are change.  They sound different, they work differently and people are hating on them.  

I think electric cars are here to stay.  They are fast, in fact the Ferrari pictured above is a rechargeable electric. Electric motors have an advantage on acceleration coming up to full speed almost instantaneously.  Hydro, wind, geothermal, electricity can be very clean and renewable. 

People hate change, they always have.  One of my grandfathers farmed with a team of horses until World War II, he had a dozen reasons why he hated tractors.  Why he resisted change. 

Change is inevitable, how we react to it is up to us.  


Sunday, January 28, 2024

The Sunday Five: Birds of a Feather

  1. Can you ride a bike? 
  2. Drive a car with a manual transmission? 
  3. Ski, either water or snow? 
  4. Soar with the Eagles? 
  5. Row a boat? 
My answers: 

  1. Can you ride a bike? Yes, I own three bikes. 
  2. Drive a car with a manual transmission? Yes, I grew up driving manual transmissions. 
  3. Ski, either water or snow? Nope, I have been dragged behind a boat, never tried snow.
  4. Soar with the Eagles? On a good day. (I recently saw to male eagles sparring over mating rights.) 
  5. Row a boat? It has been a long time, but I have. 
Please share your answers in the comments. 

Saturday, January 27, 2024

The Saturday Morning Post: Blogland

There are 21-blogs on my daily read list, and another dozen or so that I look at on a regular basis.  I have found community in blogland, and an outlet for my creative urges.  You could count on your fingers the number of posts I created last year without a photo attached.  

If you look at my profile, you will see that I have other blogs.  One is from my first year in DC, I moved in just before the Obama's moved into the neighborhood near my office. One is old family photos.  One was set up for my collection of do-not-disturb signs and has never been built out. I started a blog based on the daily photo concept, and abandoned it - it is a lot of work unless you are out in the neighborhood everyday - I might take another look at that one.

I have two active second channels. 

Something on  Having Coffee With Peppy inspired me to take a stab at a daily self representation, self portrait, a selfie blog. I am about four weeks into it.  Long enough to form a habit of posting daily.  I am not sure where that one is going. A few of you have visited it, as I accidently posted to this chanel, a post intended for that chanel, one day.   

I love taking photographs, I was classically trained as a photographer back in the days of manual everything cameras and film.  I have a decade of darkroom experience, mostly black and white, but also E-6 and C-41, color printing, and cibachrome printing (let me know if you know what cibachrome is/was.) So the other channel is about photography.  I talk about my feelings, my experiences as a photographer and what I have learned along the way. Currently I am posting to this one two or three times a week.  When inspiration strikes me.  This gives me an outlet for writing that would bore the Travel Penguin audience, but I enjoy writing.  I am very glad that photography is back as a part of my everyday life and that I can share my passion if anyone wishes to read about it.  

Feel free to visit and comment on the other channels.  Let us know if you have a second or third or fourth blog that we might enjoy.   


Friday, January 26, 2024

Foodie Friday: Brussel Sprouts Au Gratin

Brussel Sprouts, the little green cabbages, can be an acquired taste for many. My mother would make them a couple of times a year, boiling them until the house stank and my father was propping open doors and wishing he still smoked so he could kill the smell. 

I prefer them roasted or baked into a casserole or au gratin. If I boil them or steam them, I am gentle, they need to be cooked, not mashed.   

So how to prepare them. 

They are a little fussy to prepare. This is a quart of fresh - reasonably local - from the local farmers market.  I trim off the stem end, and peel off the outer leaves, then slice them in half. If they are tiny, they don't need to be sliced.  If they are very large, cut into slices about 1/4 of inch thick.  

The au gratin is simple sauce making.  Start with equal parts butter and flour - equal by weight works about 1.5 ounces of butter and 1.5 ounces of flour.  This is not precision, I start with a nice chunk of butter and a couple of spoons of flour.  Heat that over medium heat, the butter will melt and the two will meld into a paste.  You can let it brown a little, but don't let it burn or the flavor will be off.  Add a cup - cup and a half of milk and stir over medium heat.  You are making a basic bechamel sauce, simmer it gently and it will thicken.  Add 5-7 ounces of grated cheese, I used parmesan left over from the day before and white cheddar. Stir over medium heat until the cheese melts and the sauce is smooth and thick.  

Pour the sauce over the sliced sprouts, I topped it with a little grated cheese.  

Bake, 375 to 425 degrees F (about 200C) until bubbly and browned on the top.  20-45 minutes depending on the oven.  When it is bubbly and browned on the top, it is ready.  I baked this along with the roast in a very hot oven, and pulled it when it looked done and a knife showed the sprouts to be tender.   

The same basic technique can be used with potatoes, cauliflower, and I am sure a dozen other veggies.  

Thursday, January 25, 2024

A quick Update

 For anyone following the saga of getting all of the health insurance details tied down.  I confirmed today that all of the retiree coverage is in place to start as my former employment coverage ends, including vision and dental.  Ahhhhhhhhhh!  

Thursday Ramble: Departures


Reading comments on a recent post, I got to thinking about some of the jobs that I have departed from.  The first half of my working life was spent in the homebuilding industry, work that goes through a lot of people and money. The risk was high, the margins sometimes low.   

The first company was small, family owned, and treated people like underpaid family members.  I was there seven years. Then the owners received an offer they couldn't refuse and sold out to a massive British conglomerate.  Changes were rapid, and ugly. People were moved around, assignments changed, schedules changed, prices went up, communications went down. I was not happy, and I started to look around. A former boss played tennis with Wild Bill, and I got an offer, and he needed me to start the next day - he had fired someone that morning and I was the replacement.  I remember going into resign, I was kept we waiting for an hour.  I was emotional. When she asked why, I simply said, "I lost faith in what we are doing." I handed her my keys, and drove home. 

Wild Bill, told me when he hired me that he would "screw with my mind, but not my money."  He was a master manipulator, but the money was really-really good. Then he tried in intervene in an affair between his boss, and one of my colleagues. The stress level in the offices was high, and I was very burned out, and needed a change. I took a sabbatical, a semester off from work and went to University full time.  I was invited to a staff party a couple of months into it, that was great fun, and ended up being sort of a going away party for myself and my boss.  He was replaced soon after.  When I called to get back on the schedule, I was told by my former colleague, who had been promoted to replace Wild Bill by the boss she was having an affair with, that I should move on. 

The next builder was another large national company, that was really an accounting firm that built houses to keep the accountants busy.  It was a nightmare. The product was poorly built, and overpriced, and the solution from the bean counters was to keep adding more staff. I mentioned to my boss that more people was not the solution.  A few days later, on my birthday, he showed up in my office late in the  afternoon to tell me, that I was right, and I was the 8th person he had let go that afternoon. 

I did a brief interlude for a building supply company, then returned to the previous builder.  After most of the staff was let go, the boss was axed, and replaced by the Wild Bill.  Things were better, the product was improved, I had a few good months.  Then a well meaning friend "outed" me to Wild Bill, and I was asked for my keys and told to leave.  I was fired for being gay, in a state that offered no protections.  

The next builder was from out of state, and really didn't understand the market. It was an easy place to work, but not great.  We were paid once a month, one payday we showed up and there were no checks.  The guy who owned it had decided he didn't want to lose anymore money and shut it down.  

Then strangely enough, I went back to work for the Brits that owned the first company that I worked for.  They had gotten their act together, the product was good, the prices somewhat competitive.  I worked there until we decided to move. My plan was to collect my check, take it to the bank, and go back and hand in my keys. Someone had tipped off the boss that I was leaving, and there was no check.   

The building industry used large numbers of people and money.  I wanted out, though I still miss parts of the magic of turning raw land into finished neighborhoods.  

I had a year to fill before I started graduate school, and I had a couple of short term jobs.  The first one I left with notice for the second one, and I left the second one to start law school with little fanfare. 

My first job out of law school lasted 9.5 years.  I was overworked, underpaid, and burned out. There were some internal challenges with the director. I spent some time looking for a work in a place we wanted to live in. I interviewed with the ABA.  The director resigned, and my colleague stepped into the hot seat as director.  Her first day on the job, I accepted the offer from the ABA, and tendered a month's notice, assuring her that it was not her.  If she is reading this, Nan it really was not you, I felt so bad leaving just as you were starting to lead. We talked about a going away lunch, and at the last minute finally found a day that fit everyone's calendar.  I was scheduled to be at a holiday luncheon that day hosted by the local aging center.  I figured I could skip that and no one would notice. As we are heading out to lunch I get a panicked phone call from a friend at the aging center wanting to know where I was.  I explained that I was headed out to lunch with my co-workers.  He broke the news to me that I was to be honored at the luncheon, and I was not there.  The plaque is on top of the safe in my bedroom.  I felt guilty, but you can't be in two places at one time.  That one was complicated.   

Wednesday, January 24, 2024

The Wednesday Ws, aka My World of Wonders January 24, 2024

Where have I been? The George Washington Presidential Library at Mt. Vernon, the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History & Culture, the community center for the opening of a show of nature photos, the gym, the grocery store. 

Who have I talked with? My sweet bear, Susan our neighborhood rocket scientist, my former officemates, my middle brother, Jim a friend in Chicago, Jennifer a friend in Indiana. Traded emails with Maddie, Spo, and Emily the daughter of a high school friend. 

What am I planning?  The meetings and dinners in Louisville in a week or so when I am there for a conference. 

What am I thinking about?  I have been invited to a short conference at Yale, a bunch of friends will be there.  Why am I thinking about it, it is in mid February - the weather could be atrocious. 

Where am I headed? The DC Auto Show today, at the Convention Center, and lunch with my successor on Monday in the city - followed by a walk in one of the museums.  

What made me smile this week?  Getting out and enjoying the area. Understanding most of what the author had to say at the library (I had read the book in December.) 

What is making me sad? The number of bloggers taking a break, we miss you!  

What has the weather been like? It snowed, then it snowed again.  More winter this week, than we have had in the last two years. 

What have I been reading?  I have finished five books already this year.   

Monday, January 22, 2024

Moody Monday: Seeing the World Around Me


I moved to the Washington DC area, because I enjoyed being here.  There are a couple of dozen world class museums here, many of them free.  We have a good public transit system, and I live a 10 minute walk from a subway station.  

The first few years, I would run into the city on weekends, and see things.  At times I have walked or biked across the city on my daily commute. Then I settled into taking the train to the station directly below my desk. Coming and going with only a glimpse of the city from the train window as we passed through the airport, and went up and across the Potomac River (a view that almost always causes me to pause and look up.) A couple of times a year I would go into see a museum, but not really enough. I was seeing more of other places than I was of the wonders in my neighborhood. 

One of my goals this year, is to see more of the city. I am also concerned about becoming one of the retirees that falls into a habit of only leaving home to go to the doctor or grocery store.  Habits are formed by doing things.  So one of my commitments to a new habit is to go into the city at least once a week.  

The first week we were gone to NYC. The following week, I went into see the Portrait Gallery.  This past week I went out to Mt. Vernon for a book lecture, and spent half a day in the National Museum of African American History and Culture, one of the Smithsonian museums.  I had watched it being built, I had never been in it.  It was well worth the visit. 

With a couple of dozen museums in the area, at one a week, I will make the rounds a couple of times a year.  

If you want to form a new habit, you do it, by doing what you want to do repeatedly.  

This week, we are headed into the city to see the DC Auto Show at the Convention Center.  That will be a nice walkabout.  

Sunday, January 21, 2024

Sunday Five: Drinks

1: What is your favorite distilled spirit? 

2: If you order a mixed drink or cocktail, what are you likely to order?

3: Do you drink shots, or sip slowly? 

4: Beer, wine, or water? 

5: Is there a brand you will decline? 

My Answers,

1: What is your favorite distilled spirit? Bourbon 

2: If you order a mixed drink or cocktail, what are you likely to order? Probably a manhattan.

3: Do you drink shots, or sip slowly? Sip slowly, I don't think I have ever downed a shot. 

4: Beer, wine, or water? Water. 

5: Is there a brand you will decline? Jim Beam, nasty cheap stuff. 

Please share your answers in the comments.

Saturday, January 20, 2024

The Saturday Morning Post: Working for a better world in 2024

This quote is on the walls of the Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial here in DC. It is as true today, as it was when it was said 75-80 years ago. There are those in our country that wish to divide us into those who belong and those who do not. The comments on the campaign trail of he-who-shall-not-be-named stir the irrational fears of racism and classism. And we are not alone, political leaders around the world seem intent on destroying the civilization of mankind.   

The immigrant, legal or not, flees home not because they want to destroy the place they are going, but because they are seeking a better life.  We are a civilization built by immigrants, and we are not alone.  The second most common spoken language in  the Republic of Ireland is Polish, followed by the native Irish Gaelic. Eastern and Central European immigrants are the backbone of hospitality and many service industries in Western Europe.  Spanish is the second most common language in the United States.  Immigrants build our homes, grow and prepare our food.  Hardly a restaurant kitchen in the United States has English as a primary language.  People fear the immigrant will take the job, that they don't want to do, or are incapable of doing. 

There are political leaders in the world, that would like nothing more than to see democracies fail. They spread theories, and rumors,  trying to destroy civilization from the inside out.  When they get political leaders to buy the narrative and dismantle civilization from within, we are all at risk.  

The root cause of immigration, is the vast inequities in world.  For most of us reading this if we have seen true poverty, it was isolated someplace else. A couple of hours across the border in Mexico was a real eye opener for me. For many immigrants it is escapable only by leaving home.  While we live in relative safety, in the places people are fleeing safety is rare.  Violence in ways we have never seen, is common in the places that people are fleeing.  

And we do little to change this, if anything we support governments that perpetuate the inequities and violence.  If we want to stop global immigration, we need to work to assure that more of the world is home, for people who don't feel compelled to leave home for safety or opportunity.   


Friday, January 19, 2024

Foodie Friday: So Meaty!

At holiday time, my local supermarket often puts whole beef tenderloins on sale at a special price, $13.99 a pound this year ($8.99 a couple of years ago.)  This one came in at just under 7 pounds.  That is a lot of meat.  Far too much for the two of us.  

This is an expensive cut, it is tender and flavorful. There are just two of these per cow.  This was about as small as they come, at about 7 pounds the two of these would have been between 14 pounds from a cow that probably weighed in at 600-800 pounds. A fairly small percentage of the dressed or finished weight from the cow.  It is the same cut that filet mignon steaks are cut from.  Those steaks were on sale for $19.99 a pound when I bought this.  

This yielded two roasts between 1.5 and 2 pounds each, six steaks, between 5 and 11 ounces each, and about 1.5 pounds of cubed beef to make stew from.  I have a scale, I have cutting boards, I have knives, there is no reason I can't cut this down myself.  And I have the last couple of years. Before that I had the butcher at Whole Foods cut a 2-pound roast for christmas one year, it was just under $100. 

The Christmas roast beef, was cooked a perfect rare to medium rare, tender as could be and full of flavor.  The rest is in the freezer to be used over the next couple of months.  

For the roast, I salted it and let it set on the counter for about 90 minutes to take the chill off of it before putting it in the oven. The internal temperature about 55 degrees when it went into a 425 degree oven (salt and pepper on the outside) uncovered.  I am cooking for temperature, not time.  I checked it a couple of times, and pulled it when the temp was between 126 and 130 degrees depending on where the temperature probe went in.  Covered it with foil, and let it rest on the counter for 15 minutes while I cooked the Yorkshire puddings. It was perfect.  


Thursday, January 18, 2024

The Thursday Ramble: Well I didn't screw this up after all

After 25 years of working on aging issues, I know most of the weird and obscure rules for Social Security, Medicare, or Medicaid; and where to find the answers I don't know. 

But I found the system intimidating, at times difficult.  This is complicated by my decision to retire a few months after I became eligible for health care under Medicare.  Knowing the rules, knew I had to start Medicare part A within months of being eligible, but I could delay Medicare Part B, until my work insurance ended.  Doing this saved me about $875. 

Knowing that it can be done, and actually getting it done, are two different things.  The system is set up for the normal rules, not the exception that only a few people know about, and try to take advantage of to save a few dollars. And in person help, from someone who may or may not know the rules, is difficult or impossible.  There is a waiting list to talk to a human being.  The chat-bots were unable to help.  I feared I had screwed it up.  It would have been an expensive mistake, like $1,000 a month mistake. 

Then it arrived, the magic card, showing the effective date of Part B, the day that my office medical insurance ends.  I did it, I maneuvered through the exception to the rule.  

If I had it to do over, I would have gone with the norm, not the exception.  The $875 was not worth the stress.  

I was afraid I was going to have to "go all lawyer on them."  Back in 2015 my health care providers were waiting for pre-approval from my health insurance, I was stuck in limbo for several days while they waited.  When I finally asked and was told why we were waiting, I got on the phone, said the magic words expedited appeal, and had an approval before the phone call ended.  As I explained it to the nurse in charge, "I went all lawyer on them, it usually works."  

Glad I didn't have to do that this time.  

Wednesday, January 17, 2024

My World of Wonders aka the Wednesday Ws January 17 2024

Where have I been?  New York City, the grocery store, the farmers market, Aldi, the gym, the storage vault, an estate sale, Dyke Marsh, 

Who have I seen? Well after New York, my sweet bear, people at the store or gym, Anna at an estate sale at the end of the hall one floor above home, Susan stopped by for a Sunday chat. 

What's cooking?  I made a chicken and white bean chilli, braised pork stew, a beef stew, salmon mousse, - I am very much enjoying having time to cook. 

What am I feeling?  Kind of waiting for the other shoe to drop, for it to really sink in that I am not headed back to the office again. 

What surprised me?  A call asking if I want to lead a field evaluation of a legal aid program. I said yes, details to follow. It is a small consulting project, a week or so of paid work later this spring. 

What am I reading?  I finished three books one on law and history,  one on the creative process, and Ken Dychwold's latest tome on aging. I am working on one filled with stories about old town Alexandria, and a book on writing by George Orwell.  

What did I see at the Marsh?  Three bald eagles, evidence of beaver activity, and evidence of safer sex. 

What have a sorted out?  I worked on my closet, tossing a couple of dozen pairs of pants (trousers) that either didn't fit, or were uncomfortable.  A good start.  I have two largish closets in my bedroom.  

Who have I heard from?  My sister, she is moved into a house she recently purchased, Urspo, Mitchell, Sassybear, and John Gray. 

When am I headed out this week?  As you are reading this I am going to lunch with an author at the George Washington Presidential Library.  The library is open to scholars and for ticketed events.  I finally booked tickets for an event.  I have wanted to see the inside for a long time. 

What made me sad? Watching Grindavik in Iceland. We had a delightful lunch there last April.  

How was the weather? It effing snowed, 2-3 inches, and turned cold. 

Who deserves a slap this week?  The mother who encouraged her kids to run screaming up and down the hallway. 1 out of 5. 

Who deserves a big Thank You this week? Amtrak was ontime, comfortable, and affordable.  


Tuesday, January 16, 2024

Travel Tuesday: Lake Tahoe

In October of 2022 I spoke at a conference in Reno, and we stayed over for a few days at Lake Tahoe.  We stayed on the south end of the lake, just across the state line in California.  The last day we were in Reno it rained heavily, and snowed in the mountains around the lake.  It was the first snow of the season and a wonderful way to see the lake.