Thursday, February 29, 2024

Thursday Ramble: Out for a Think

Having time, and being able to get out and about, I find myself walking and thinking, and taking photos - at the rate I am going I will to take 1,000 photos this month.  

I never know what is going to walk by, or when I pause for a moment's rest in the sun, sit down next to me.  On this walk I started at the subway station at Arlington National Cemetery, and walked into DC.  

Several members of the "Old Guard" were out for a run, they live just west of the Cemetery on a small Army Base.  Two were recently charged with vandalism and theft, for ripping down and stealing rainbow flags in front of home near the base.  Five flags were ripped down in one week, all captured on video doorbell cameras.  The neighborhood responded by most of the homes posting rainbow flags, and sending the police more video from security cameras.  The comment from the "Old Guard" was at this point the soldiers have been suspended pending the criminal process, the behaviour is not in accordance with our high standards of conduct. If not court martialed, they will spend the rest of their enlistment hauling trash at some remote base in North Dakota.  

Alabama has ruled that frozen embryos are people.  The next day the news was that IVF, in vitro fertilization clinics had suspended operations in the state. This hits close to home.  Like many young people today, a dear family member didn't marry until mid-30's, they desperately want a baby, and the normal way of conceiving just didn't cut it. They have used IVF, and are expecting in the spring.  It is exciting.  If they lived in Alabama, they would now need to travel to another state, adding an additional layer of stress onto a process that is fraught with stress - and expense.  A new car would have cost less.  For a policy that is pro-life, it is not pro-baby, or pro-family.  IVF often results in more fertilized eggs than can be used, we don't need more Octo-Moms. Classifying the fertilized eggs as humans, causes all kinds of legal traps that no health care professional, and no couple desperately trying to have a family should have to consider.   

I have had a couple of long walks around Amazon's developing east coast headquarters, as they call it HQ2.  Several new office buildings have been built, several older buildings remodeled with people actually working there. Several new apartment buildings have been built. Some of the buildings from the late 1960s and 1970s have been torn down and replaced with new buildings.  There is a thriving restaurant and bar scene, with wonderful new offerings that appear to be busy.  With the exception of grocery stores (including an Amazon Fresh) what is missing is retail.  There is very little retail in the neighborhood.  There is a major shopping mall a few blocks away - and it is doing well.  Stores that went empty during COVID are being filled, some local one off shops are going it a try, new national and international retailers are filling in the space.  But I was surprised in the neighborhood where people are living and working, there are lots of new places to live, and restaurants and bars, but next to no places to shop.  It is not a truly walkable neighborhood, if there is no place buy a new pair of shoes. 


Wednesday, February 28, 2024

My World of Wonders, aka The Wednesday W's, last of February 2024

Where have I been?  Out and about locally, Oxen Hill Farm, Monumental Washington DC, Crystal City, a little shopping, the MGM Casino at National Harbor, the lawyers office to sign updated estate planning documents, and King Street for a walk. 

What was I doing at a casino?  It was a cold wet day, it is a good place to walk inside, and parking is free.  I limit myself to $10, I cashed out when I was $32 ahead.  As the bard said, "know when to hold them, know when to fold them, know when to walk away."  Anytime you are ahead, it is time to walk away, or run.  

What was in the agenda last week? Nothing, and I am proud to report that I accomplished all of it and more.  

What have I been drinking? A Castle and Key, single barrel, 2023 release. It is good, a little young (4 years.) 

Who have I corresponded with?  Sassy Bear, Catalyst, Maddie, Urspo, Andrew, it was a wonderful week. 

What made me sad this week? Bill Kelly, husband of Ron in Delaware died. Ron dedicated the past few years to caring for Bill at home. Ron is heartbroken, and probably exhausted.  

What does my week look like?  I have two Zoom meetings. Busy for a retired person. 

Who deserves a big THANK YOU this week? My local library, they are keeping me supplied with books, Amazon's revenue will be down a little, but my reading is way up. (I have finished 16 books since the first of the year.) 

Who deserves a slap this week? Alabama, five out of five. 

What surprised me this week?  I have been trying to buy a new address book, a paper book for postal mailing addresses, phone numbers, email addresses.  They have all but disappeared, I have looked in five stores and found one, a nice leather cover with replaceable pages that is $30.  

Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Travel Tuesday: Isn't that grand!

I had walked past it before, the Steinway showroom in New York City, this last trip I slipped through the revolving door to take a look.  There were a dozen or so grand pianos on the floor, most of them in basic black, but also white and pink? Pink? Yes, for $40,000 or so, as a special order they will paint it just about any color you want.   

Monday, February 26, 2024

Moody Monday: Staying on the Path

It is so easy to get distracted, to be drawn into the 101 crisis in the world, to get sucked back into the day to day of my former office.  One of the attorneys left a few days after I retired, and they are short handed and struggling, and no I am not the rescue ship. 

It would be easy to settle in front of the television, and not leave the house, or my bed for that matter.  But that is not what I want to do with the last 10-20 years of my life.  So I limit the time it is on, I find the off switch and get off my duff.  

It would be easy to get sucked into the petty, but I choose to stay on the path I have chosen.  A path that takes me places known, and to explore new places I never knew existed, or have never found.  

How am I feeling?  I am feeling good.  I am getting done what I want to do.  I am getting out of the house, I am staying busy, I am taking random afternoon naps that I had fought back against for 50 years.  

Are you staying on the path you wish to be on? 

Sunday, February 25, 2024

Sunday Five: What are we thinking

 1: What are you looking forward to in March? 

2: There are 29 days in February this year, any plans for the bonus day? 

3: What is the strangest thing you have seen this week? 

4: What is the first blog you read after your own? 

5: Have laughed or cried most recently? 

My answers: 

1: What are you looking forward to in March? My sister's birthday. 

2: There are 29 days in February this year, any plans for the bonus day? I have an editorial board meeting that day. 

3: What is the strangest thing you have seen this week? A murder of crows. 

4: What is the first blog you read after your own? Ken in France. 

5: Have laughed or cried most recently? Laughed, much laughter these days.  

Please share your answers in the comments. 

Saturday, February 24, 2024

Saturday Morning Post: You Can't Tell a Book, or Library, By It's Cover

When I mentioned that I was going to a symposium at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, I received several messages about things I had to experience while I was there.  There were messages about pizza, apparently New Haven thinks it has the world's best pizza, and like most pizza wars, there is deep disagreement on who has the best.  I avoided the pizza war, we had nice old school Italian that gave me heartburn.  

The other set of recommendations were about the rare book library. I was sent images of the interior, and links to photos of the interior.  It looked interesting.  And it is across the pedestrian way from the Law School where the symposium was being held. I remembered that it was a "must see."  I am very glad that I was told to look inside.  From the outside it looks like a 1960's brutalist modern windowless building.  The telephone company built dozen of these to contain automated call switch gear across the country.  But we went inside and Oh My Dog!

The rare book collection is inside of a glass box, inside of the building.  It has its own climate control and fire control system. I understand if you enter the glass box you have to acknowledge that if the fire alarm sounds you have moments to get out before all of the oxygen is sucked out of the room.  The bland exterior of the building, creates an interior where light can be controlled.  There were a few treasures in cases outside of the cube, two volumes of Audubon's Birds of North America, the original with hand colored engravings, and a Gutenberg Bible, the first western book produced with movable type in relative large numbers.  Probably a million dollars for each of those three books.  

There is an old saying "you can't tell a book by its cover", I will add to that you can't tell a library by it's exterior.  If I hadn't been told you can't miss this one, I would have walked by looking for a nicer cover. 

Now to be fair, the exterior panels are alabaster, I understand at night when it is lit from inside it has this amazing warm glow.  I was not there long enough to see that (and it was colder than an ex-spouse on Valentine's Day making the thought of a midnight stroll very unattractive.) 


Friday, February 23, 2024

Foodie Friday: Something is Fishy Here


I love smoked salmon. I love it when I see it on a breakfast buffet, I love it in an Eggs Benedict, I love it in a mouse or spread. Salmon spread is simple to make and so good.  



Smoked Salmon

Cream Cheese


Sour cream (sometimes) 


fresh ground black pepper 

Smoked salmon can be expensive, and I wouldn't use the best for this.  Trader Joe's here in northern Virginia has probably the best price on smoked salmon.  A 4-ounce package of sliced smoked salmon is currently $8.  An 8-ounce package of bits and pieces is $7. Bits and pieces are not perfect slices, these are most likely the trim pieces left behind when the perfect slices are packed.  And for this use, bits and pieces are ideal, and twice as much for a little less money.  I use Trader Joe's spreadable cream cheese. 

Finely chop or mince one large shallot or two smaller ones.  Place in bowl of a stand mixer or food processor.  Add salmon, and about 6 ounces of cream cheese.  Mix, or pulse watching for the texture you want.  I like it course, a little bit chunky.  If it is thicker than you want add a spoon or two of sour cream.  Season with salt, pepper, and dill.  I have dill I dried at home (just hang it upside down in a dry place) from when I was making pickles last summer.  How much dill? To taste.  How much salt and pepper, to taste.  

Store tightly covered in the refrigerator, it can smell a little fishy.  It is gets better after a day or so in the refrigerator.  This can also be made with leftover roast salmon.  

Thursday, February 22, 2024

Thursday Ramble: Trains

We live a little more than a mile from an Amtrak passenger rail station. I enjoy riding the train, the seats are comfortable, I can get up and move about, I can watch the scenery of the country roll by the window.  At times rail travel is a bargain, at times it is cheaper to fly. We live about 6 miles from a major airport, the subway that is a ten minute walk from home, stops at the airport.  I can be in the security line at the airport in 30 minutes after I leave home.  

The United States trails much of the world in passenger rail service. There are many excuses for this.  The country is vast, and over long distances, flying is certainly faster. The top speed of trains is about 200 miles per hour, cross country airliners average about 450 miles per hour (with a strong tailwind, one crossing the Atlantic last week at a  reported 802 miles per hour ground speed.) But for shorter distances, it is often faster door to door to take the train, than it is to fly.  Washington DC to Philadelphia, is about 2-hours by train, the length of time we are urged to be at the airport before the flight leaves.  

There are two major bottlenecks on the upper east coast (Washington DC to Boston.) There are old tunnels in Baltimore and from New Jersey into New York City.  The tunnels that are being used where built over 100 years ago, are narrow, not tall enough, the one in Baltimore has curves in it that require slow speeds. The contract was just awarded for the new tunnel in Baltimore, the new tunnel in New York is under construction (delayed several years by He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named when the governor of New Jersey ran against him for President.)  Those two tunnels will reduce travel time up the east coast by over 30 minutes.  The Baltimore tunnel alone will cut 20 minutes travel time out of the trip, even though it will make the route about half-a-mile longer. 

Passenger rail and freight share the same tracks for the most part in the United States.  Other countries have built dedicated high speed passenger rail tracks (France, Spain, Italy are three I know of.) Often the speed of travel is limited by the condition of the tracks.  As a country we need to work on this.  We can do better.  

The best passenger service in the USA is on the upper east coast, and the California coast from San Diego to San Francisco.  The service south of Washington DC, to Florida is slower, you can drive it faster.  Cross country routes are very limited.  Someday I want to ride the train that passes through Glacier National Park in Montana, I stayed in a hotel across from the station at East Glacier one time. 

With the travel credit from Amtrak from the mechanical delays last Friday, where to next? 

Wednesday, February 21, 2024

My World of Wonders, aka The Wednesday Ws February 21, 2024

Where have I been? Yale University, a long train ride there and an even longer ride back, the grocery store, the gym, 

Who have I talked to? Part of the reason for going to the symposium, was to connect with a bunch of old friends, I rode up and back with Erica who replaced me as director, I also saw Alison, Cathy a former Secretary of Aging, M.T. Connolly was effusive in thanking me for doing a review of her great book, Ron.  It was great fun. 

Who have I corresponded with? Mitchell, Catherine, Paul, Woodchuck, Andrew, I am sure there are a couple more. 

What surprised me? I liked Yale University.  I previously had a bad impression from a few graduates I had met over the years. The campus is pretty, the people were nice.  I will go back. 

What disappointed me? Amtrak, about 10:00 AM I started receiving text messages that there were mechanical problems with our 4:30 PM train.  The 4:30PM train, became a 7:30PM train, getting me into DC about 15 minutes too late to get the subway home.  I made it home at 1:45 AM, instead of 11:00 PM.  I did get a travel voucher for about 70% of what I had paid for the train ticket.  It was an expensive train ticket. 

What have I seen? I love passing through Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York on the train, watching the daily life along the way.  I need to book more train travel. 

How have I mellowed this week? I kept thinking, and saying, this is outside of my control, as the train was delayed.  I am along for the ride, and no matter what happens, I will deal with it.  I found a taxi to take me to the subway station near home (I had parked my car at the station.) In the past I would have been a raving lunatic at the delay.  Not that doing so would have changed anything.  

Who deserves a big Thank You! The Red-Cap at the train station in New Haven.  A Red-Cap is sort of a porter, passenger helper - a hold over from when the station had staff to carry your bags for you. I was standing in line to see if I could rebook to another train.  He asked me what train I was waiting for, and said, "they just said on the radio that the mechanical problem has been resolved and they are loading passengers." Amtrak didn't announce that for another 30-minutes, his kindness of information was the best information in a three hour wait. I told him, "THANK YOU, that is the best thing I had heard all evening.

When is the next adventure? Cincinnati in about six weeks, 

Monday, February 19, 2024

Moody Monday: An Assignment this week

Your assignment this week it to write a personal letter, to someone who is not expecting it.  It can be an old fashioned paper, sent through the mail, or email.  What will matter to you, and to the person receiving it is the content. Say something in the letter that is personal.  Ask about the other person's life, about what is happening, about the health of the person and their loved ones.  Talk about how you are doing, and what is happening in your life.  Make it personal.  

Back when dinosaurs roamed the plains,  and I was in school, we were taught to write letters.  There were templates, formulas like this:

Dear ___,

I hope this finds you well.  How is your ____ doing?  What are your plans for _____? 

I am doing _____.  I have been doing _____. We have plans for ____. 

We hope to _____. I wanted you to know ____. 

I look forward to your reply. 

Love or Sincerely or Yours Truly


I send a couple of letters a month, sometimes more. I cannot control if anyone will will respond. I love it when I receive a reply, but if I don't I can hope that I have touched that person's life for a moment. I have let the person know that someone knows and cares that they exist. The essential of human contact. 

Some respond often, some seldom, one person never responds (a family member.) Responding takes time, something many people believe they lack. Many are afraid that they have nothing to say or share, and we all do.  A response, even if it is to say that life is complicated, busy, stressful, fun, challenging, or painful.  It takes sharing.

If you are at a loss for who to write, there is a contact me box on the right on a computer (it does not show up on the mobile device feed.) If you use blogger and want to add a contact me box, it is one of the standard sidebar gadgets. 

Sunday, February 18, 2024

The Sunday Five: Amazon

We live about 5 miles, 6 subway stops, from Amazon's developing east coast headquarters, as they call it HQ2.  Opinions vary on Amazon, an inspiration for a Sunday Five.  I do want to snag an invitation to tour their new meeting space. 

1: Do you order from Amazon? 

2: Do you check products and prices on Amazon? 

3: Have you ever had an Amazon delivery go astray? 

4: Has Amazon, as they say, "built a better mousetrap?" 

5: Is there Amazon in the afterlife? 

My answers: 

1: Do you order from Amazon?  Yes, 

2: Do you check products and prices on Amazon? Often.

3: Have you ever had an Amazon delivery go astray? Yes, they send a picture of the box outside the door, I had one that was delivered to the wrong door based on the photo.  Amazon re-shipped when the package didn't arrive after a few days. 

4: Has Amazon, as they say, "built a better mousetrap?" I think they have. 

5: Is there Amazon in the afterlife?  Hmm, I am not a believer in an afterlife, but orders kept showing up on my father's account after he died.  

Please share your answers in the comments. 

Saturday, February 17, 2024

The Saturday Morning Post: Shooting Ducks at Huntley Meadows

 Huntley Meadows is a county park near where we live. There are a couple of very well designed and maintained trails, and a three long complex boardwalks over a large pond.  It has become a wildlife refuge. A wonderful reuse of the site.  

The site has a history, at one time it was developed as an airship landing field, then a classified military installation, and an early automobile safety testing field. It was bought by the County and developed as a park and wetland. 

There are a couple of loops to walk, about an hour's walk for either option, plus time to see the wildlife.  I have seen about a dozen varieties of duck, Canada Geese,  herons, ibis, several varieties of hawk, beaver, muskrats, turtles, frogs, fish and deer. And one summer a very off course roseate spoonbill.  

On my most recent walk it was ducks.  There are several nesting pairs of Hooded Mergansers in residence, there should be ducklings in a few short weeks.  I saw canvass backs, teal, and pintail, in addition to more common mallards.  The Mergansers are putting on quite a show this season.   

I was not alone, the boardwalk across the back pond, had about $100,000 in super telephoto lenses set up on it.  Lots of duck hunting, and everybody flew away into the afternoon sky.  

Friday, February 16, 2024

Foodie Friday: Bourbon

Like many young people, when I was much younger, for a couple of decades I focussed on the effect and price of distilled spirits.  I remember what brought about the change.  A client that I helped sort out some complex health care benefits issues, was a marketing specialist at Wild Turkey Distillery, and as a thank you, gave me a gift box with some of their finer Bourbon.  One taste of the good stuff, and I knew there was a real difference. The flavors become more complex and subtle with careful aging, the grain mixture makes a huge difference, even the aged product from year to year will vary depending on the weather and even the barrel. 

Many distilleries make both high quality and low quality bourbon.  The difference is often aging, how long and under what conditions.  I often say that I wouldn't use Jim Beam to sanitize a bird cage,  the same distillery also makes very high quality, well aged, single barrel and even better single barrel selects.  

Buffalo Trace led the way in single barrel bourbon with Blanton's.  Blanton's was developed to compete with single malt scotch, in the Asian market.  There was a limited domestic market.  When the single barrel market exploded, Buffalo Trace couldn't keep up with the demand, the production cycle is 7 to 10 years.  Prices rose, and there is little incentive for them to increase production.  At one time you could go to the distillery in Frankfort and buy Blanton's by the case for about $40 a bottle.  Today it between $150 and $300 a bottle, if and when you can find it.  Allegedly crimes have been committed trying to supply for the demand (one of my favorite retailers has been investigated for re-importing Blanton's without all of the correct paperwork.) 

There are dozens of good single barrel bourbons on the market.  Prices are about double what they were 10 years ago.  Good stuff, to be savored in small sips.  

Can you name the two primary types of stills in the photo? 

Thursday, February 15, 2024

The Thursday Ramble: What am I thinking about?

Does a bird living in a cage, consider it confinement, or protection from the outside world.  It is all a matter of perspective.  For a bird born in a cage, being free outside of the cage might be terrifying, and predators unexpected.  For a bird born in the open, it must be terribly confining.  

I have been reading a lot. It is a great way to fill the "what next" time in the afternoon.  I have regained my enjoyment of printed books.  I still use my Kindle, especially when I am away from home, I can carry an entire bookcase full of reading.  I read the original "Wizard of Oz" book, there are surprising differences between the book and the movie that I know and love.  The shoes were silver in the book.  The flying monkeys could only be summoned three times in the book.  It is an interesting and relatively short read.  

I re-read Encore Provence, it is hard to believe it was printed 25 years ago, I can remember buying it the first time I saw it in a bookstore, anxious to read the latest in the series.  My printed copy was donated with nearly all of my print books when we sold the other house.  The local library had it on the shelf.   

Back in March of 2020 I jammed a second computer onto my small desk at home, for what was thought to be a temporary work at home period.  My desk is small, we live in a small space.  And my desktop was home to two 27-inch computers, my personal machine, and a monitor, keyboard and mouse to plug into my office laptop.  File security dictated that my office computer needed to be used for most of my work, and I didn't want my personal matters on my office machine.  Last week, I finally cleared away the office work space at home. I cleared off my desktop, gave it a good clean, and reorganized it.  I should have done this weeks ago.  I have regained my personal space.  I have space to work on the desk, that had been cluttered with the extra monitor and paraphernalia. Remote or hybrid work, means work intrudes into our personal lives, in ways we don't even realize, until the work is done and the intrusion cleared away.  A decade from now the shrinks will be dealing with the "I can never get away from my work" depressions.  

Last week was the first time I had a week with nothing on the calendar.  And I seemed to stay busy, how did I ever find time to work? 


Wednesday, February 14, 2024

My World of Wonders, aka the Wednesday Ws Valentines Day 2024 edition

What made me go, Huhh? Nothing says I love you like a red baseball bat. No, I didn't buy one, I love my spouse, a lot.  

Who have I seen this week? Not much of anyone, my sweet bear, Susan, and passing strangers on my walks. 

Where have I been?  I took a long walk in Crystal City, the area nearest to National Airport, a walk in Dyke Marsh, a walk at Huntley Meadows, the Mall, the grocery store, Trader Joe's, and Target.  The gym, took my car in for it's annual safety inspection. 

Who did I reach out to this week? I sent four chatty emails;  electronic letters really and received three responses.  

Who deserves a slap this week? Congress, for a couple of reasons.  Underfunding the National Park Service to start with, part of the boardwalk at Dyke Marsh floated out of position in high water 6 weeks ago, and the Park Service has been unable to get people and machines in to put it back in-place. And for stopping immigration reform, that both sides agree is needed, and the only meaningful reform since Reagan was in office.  Five out of Five, only because 50 out of Five can't happen.  If I could take them over my knee, a couple of them would likely enjoy it too much.  

Who deserves a big Thank You this week?  The pension folks, I received the health insurance card this week, it includes a gym membership. I need to select a location and activate that as an alternative to the condo gym. 

What has happened? I helped a couple of academic friends with Medicare questions, I have started on a small consulting job that will take me to Cincinnati in early April, and will fund our attending a conference in Chicago in August.  I have been nominated for a seat on a board that will take me to a couple of national conferences a year for the next couple of years.  Next February is in Phoenix where I can have lunch with a couple bloggers.   

Where to next? New Haven, Connecticut. 

When? Thursday and Friday. 

Want to hear more about my past work? I was interviewed for a pod-cast. 

What surprised me? A guy I have known for about 25 years, from my senior legal aid days, is running for Congress from California.  He reached out to me wanting to know if there was anyway I could share the word.