Monday, May 30, 2016

Random Musings on Memorial Day

It has become fashionable to criticize people who mix up Veterans Day and Memorial Day. I know I've done it before...maybe you have too. I think part of the problem is the timing of these days. As a Northern Hemisphere country, we get our better weather in the middle six months of the calendar year, and the last Monday in May quite rightly dawns for much of the country as sunny and warm--perfect for BBQ's, traveling to see friends, being outside, whooping it up.  This is when we ought to celebrate Veterans Day. Thank Vets, celebrate great military victories that helped put us where we are, talk about the greats, etc.

November 11 solemnifies the end of WWI, and that is when we choose to thank Vets. Wouldn't it make sense to move Memorial Day to the 11th of November, when the chilly winds are beginning to blow? Wouldn't there be less of the "holier than thou" criticism we get at the end of May when folks fire up the grill and whip around on an innertube behind an Evinrude 85? I don't know. Just seems to make sense to me. But what do I know.

This particular Memorial Day, the weather has cooperated here in Easton and given us a somber, dreary, wet day. No one is out on the river, and I predict very few cookouts.

Brother Jim continues his volunteer work in the wilds of Canada.  The local news up there got wind of it, and now more of the US and Canada know why "WWJD" has always meant "What Would Jim Do?" to me.

Are you a Game of Thrones fan? I am. I consider it to be the most entertaining television ever produced. I've watched every episode made twice (at least--except last night's which I have yet to watch a second time), and I've started again at the beginning as a way of passing the time on the treadmill in the ManCave.  That said, last night's episode was pretty--meh. Too much time on Arya and Sam-neither of whom move the story along very much for me. Also, I'm growing a bit weary of the elevation of Dany to this level of mystical uber-leader. I think there's a bit of the megalomaniac in her.  Hopefully things will pick up this coming week.

I'm beginning to get a little "car" itchy. Not that I want to replace the wonderful car I'm driving now, but more that I want to get what the Hammer once called a "fishin'" vehicle. I'm looking at two cars with passing interest these days, both would be used. The first is a 2005-2008 or so Porsche 911 Cabriolet. The second is a 2009-2012 BMW Z4. Both of these cars give me a thrill when I see them on the road, and having once owned a BMZ Z3, I remember how much I loved it. Looking at used and it won't happen any time soon--but I'm looking. I really feel it this time of year as I drive west on 50 on the way home from DC....I see guys in their convertibles, baseball hat and sunglasses....and I think I'd like to rejoin that club.  Of course, this would reduce the amount of time I could spend on the phone with clients--but I'm willing to make the sacrifice...

Speaking of which....for the longest time, I figured that I'd have a pretty big change coming my way in the Fall. I really believed Hillary was quite beatable, and that the Republicans would return to power in the Executive Branch. Had that happened, I figured I would have a fighting chance of going back into public service, something that I've greatly desired for a few years now. Then things went sour in the GOP and the Party turned to someone I cannot support--so, the whole "put the consulting thing aside and go into a full-time gubmint job in DC" is going to have to be put on ice for a while. I've got to admit that it is a downer. Mitt's loss in 12 was downright depressing, but things seemed to be moving in the direction I had hoped.  I've told a lot of people that I'm thinking of quitting the consulting business and becoming a high school history teacher. No one believes me when I say it, but the thought is never far from my mind....

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Some Time in the Garden

The Kitten is a wonderful gardener of flowers, shrubs, and vegetables. She is keen to have me join her in this pursuit, but I have lo these last nine years managed to find something else to do, and my excuses are never really that good to begin with. Yesterday, I was cornered. It being her birthday, She was She Who Must Be Obeyed, and her wish was to spend the day in her garden with me as her helpmate. Complicating this was the fact that several years ago, I had given her as a birthday present a "Three Hours in the Garden" certificate as one of her presents. She has mentioned the certificate a few times over the years, but I always pointed to the codicil contained therein that it was to be "...executed on a mutually agreeable timetable..." and to this point, we had not reached such agreement. But it was a gorgeous day, and it seemed my luck had simply run out.

I had only a few simple things to do. I dug up two bushes and then replaced them with two other bushes (I don't ask questions, I just do). And then I mostly moved dirt around in a wheelbarrow. I'd go to this wonderful, loamy pile of compost/soil, shovel a load full, and then move it to where it was needed. Then I'd unload it before repeating the process.
The Kitten's Vegetable Garden

I've written here before of my envy of the dudes on the Zero Turning Radius mowers, men of action and result. The thought of having a job with such instantaneous results has always fascinated me, and I have to this day, never seen a man on a Zero Turning Radius mower look unhappy. Not only do they get instant or near instant gratification, but they don't appear to have to think a whole lot in order to get that work done. In fact, my guess is that there is a TON of thinking going on, but little of it is about politics, or force structure, or weapons systems. This was the essence of the joy I beheld yesterday as I filled and dumped from the wheelbarrow. For hours (in excess of the promised Three), I just moved dirt. It was blissful.

I've discovered after nearly a decade of domestic bliss that when it comes to "chores", there is an art to my happy participation. Bottom line--give me a job that will keep me busy for a few hours, let me know what success conditions are, and then leave me be. Or, if there are a ton of little things to be done, give me a list and then allow me to plan and execute in the manner and order I wish. Where I find myself sometimes a when the tasking involves a lot of stick and rudder applied to an endless array of small bite tasks. I find it hard not to ask "why?" or "why this way?", which invariably is not a question that brings cooperative energy.

I think The Kitten has figured these things out. I have her right where she wants me.

Oh, and by the way. I told her when the day's labor was done that making her spend her Three Hour Present on her birthday was ungenerous, and so she still has it for a mutually agreeable time.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

On the Road Again

Or, almost on the road again, as I am in the ManCave typing this little ditty before hopping in the car for the airport. Today's travels take me back to San Diego, via Denver. Since I last wrote about my travels west, United has jacked up the non-stop from Dulles to San Diego, and so I now take the BWI-DEN-SAN route out there, and SAN-SFO-BWI home. I've got a conference through Thursday afternoon, and then will he redeyeing it Thursday night.

For those who follow such things, I am in standard travel rig: green long-sleeved T-shirt, Adidas track pants, white socks, trainers and blue blazer. My rig is specifically designed for comfort, convenience, and passing quickly through security. The blazer has pockets that I can jam phones, keys, change, pens, etc into and by wearing it, keep it nice--the track pants have no belt so I don't have to remove one. The sneakers kick on and off without tying and untying. It's all about efficiency folks. But there is no question I cut a fine, chic-ly shabby figure as I traverse our nations airports.

Which is of course, NOT what our government is all about these days, apparently, as our friends at TSA are not achieving ace results in moving us through security lines with dispatch. Ah...government.

It is raining outside, but then again, if you live on the East Coast, you know that, as apparently it has rained for much of the past month. The forecast is calling for a dramatic improvement this week, but I will of course be in San Diego where the outlook is--as is customary for May and June--sorta blah.

The big news in the McGrath Family is that we have another blogger to claim. That's right, big brother Jim has begun a blog/travelogue/diary of his journey to and from Alberta, Canada, where he has gone to aid folks suffering from a series of wildfires. This is quite a journey from North Carolina--but when I read about it, I thought two things: 1) that I was proud of Jim for being a man of action and 2) it sounds like a trip that I would love to take. Drive across the wilds of Canada, eh?  I'm in!

My quest for the perfect place to stay in San Diego brings me to a return engagement with a spot in Mission Valley that has a gym, free wifi, and breakfast included in the "gubmint" rate. It must have been a happening spot in 1978, but now it just is sorta out of place and a bit dark. Don't get me wrong--it is clean and well run, the bed is very comfy, and the customer service is top-notch. They could just use a bit of a spruce up.

I intend to -- as is my custom -- remain on East Coast Time whilst on the West Coast, though this could be tested this evening as I attempt to stay up long enough to watch it on its "West Coast HBO feed" time of 9PM.

I'll post again on the trip if something interesting pops up, or if the muse moves me.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Old Dogs and New Tricks

I began drinking coffee when I was nine, a move to dramatically raise my game when it came to the quest to disavow childhood in favor of assuming my rightful place among the adults. My parents used an electric percolator, a green-handled number with a glass carafe into which the percolating stem and top-mounted vat of coffee was placed. My mother would assemble and prepare it each night, and then turn it on first thing the next morning, as time-activated pots were yet in the future. After what now seems like an ungodly amount of time, a full pot would be brewed for the two people who drank from it--Mom and Dad. Always, there would be at least an inch worth of the mysterious brown liquid in the pot which would be poured down the sink, or (heavens) consumed by my father some ten hours later after dinner.

One day, I asked my mother if I might have that last bit in the pot, and for whatever reason, she agreed. In retrospect, feeding caffeine to a slightly hyper little punk may not have been her wisest decision, but who are we to judge lo these many years later. I was hooked. Soon, I was granted privileges to drink from the pot BEFORE it had sat and burned itself down to the dregs upon which I started out, and my love of coffee continued.

In high school, Mr. Kunz was my senior history teacher. Smilin' Jack. He had a little storeroom in the back of his classroom where he kept a Mr. Coffee Machine (it now being eight years later) to feed his own habit. One day early in the year, I walked into the storeroom as my fellow classmates were filing in, and I grabbed an extra cup he had there and poured myself a stiff brew. Then I sat down at my desk. Remember people, this is 1982...long before it became de rigueur to enter every meeting or class with a venti frappacino in one's hand. Smilin' Jack came marching over (he had an identifiable stride) and upbraided me for taking the coffee. I asked if he wanted me to return it. He said no. And then I basically did the same thing most days for the rest of the year.

It is now 2016, and I am not only addicted to coffee, I enjoy it immensely. To that end, I--like many of you--have owned a series of Keurig coffee machines into which you place an individual little pod of coffee and seconds later, you are gifted with a perfectly brewed cup of (in my house) Tiger People, dark coffee. The Kitten has always asked me to hold onto the used pods so that she can add the grounds to her compost, but she very seldom does so and they begin to pile up. And so I throw them out. Over the years I must have consumed and thrown away thousands of these pods.  Until today.

You see, I'm not the world's greatest environmentalist, but I really have begun to worry about the amount of plastic that I am consuming just to have a cup of joe.  And so, I have--for the moment at least--put aside the accumulation of little white pods in our nation's landfills and turned to instant coffee. That's right. Instant coffee. Brother Tom will tell you of my great love of instant coffee, something he observed during our trip to South Africa a few years ago. When we went for breakfast the first morning, I was positively beside myself with joy at the prospect of a cup of Nescafe Gold instant, and I raved about it for the remainder of the trip. Frequent readers of the this blog may even recall other posts extolling the virtues of a good instant.

What put me over the edge on this momentous decision was a little excursion this weekend. The Kitten's boarding school chum's mother passed away recently, and so we drove out to the wilds of Virginia on Saturday for her memorial service. We decided to make a night of it and chose to bed down in Old Town Alexandria.  Before leaving town on Sunday morning, we made our way up and down King Street and poked our snoots into a few stores, including a kitchen store. There, we espied a little electric tea kettle like the one to the right. When I awoke this morning, there one was, sitting next to my Keurig machine, shaming me. Had I any instant coffee on hand, I would have made a cup, but this lack was addressed later in the day. Three cups into things, I am happy with my decision, though I am not sure if it will be permanent. We'll see.

Monday, May 16, 2016

On the Bus

I live 75 miles from the Pentagon and 72 miles from the center of Washington DC. I know this because I make these drives several times a week. In January of 2010, I purchased a brand new car upon which as of today I have put approximately 190,000 miles. That's a lot of driving.

One way to mitigate the miles and the driving has been to use the Metro system.  If I drive (63 miles) to the most remote station on the Orange Line (New Carrollton), I can park ($4.00) and then ride Metro the rest of the way. This has been an acceptable alternative, and also somewhat enjoyable, as the last ten miles of the drive is always the worst. When Metro works, it works well. But Metro isn't working all that well these days; there are a lot of unscheduled outages and recently, management put forward a one year plan of rolling service reductions meant to provide time to perform critical repairs and maintenance.

I recently took the repair schedule and wove it into my calendar for the next year, in order to ensure that I avoided Metro routes that would cause problems. In the course of these preparations, I remembered that the Maryland Transportation Authority has a bus service into downtown DC from the Park and Ride on Kent Island, a mere 27 miles from my house.  There are two routes with multiple departures before 0700 (the last bus), and then a number returning in the afternoon. At $6.00 each way, the cost seems better than that of either the drive option or the drive and metro option--both of which also involve an afternoon $4.00 toll over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge. So, I ordered a ten trip ticket online and decided to give it a test. This blog post has been written and will be transmitted while in transit.

The bus (posh motor coach, comfy seat) arrived right on time and left on time. I aimed at the 0700 bus, waking at 0450, coffee, 30 minutes of treadmill, shower, dress, depart. All the while, I knew that I would be ahead of schedule, but my efficiency provided the opportunity to hop on the 0630 departure--which I did. Will likely not move as fast in subsequent trips....maybe stay in bed another 10 minutes.

This is a commuter bus, and the patrons are professional and well-turned out, not the kind you sit next to on a Trailways bus who pulls out a can of Colt 45 at 0930. People are quiet, and cell phone conversations are kept very brief and quiet, if at all. There appears to be a well-understood system of etiquette, which I applaud.

Fortunately for me, were I in my automobile right now, I would be somewhat perplexed, as there was an accident on the westbound span of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge which has traffic snarled for miles. I however, am sitting comfortably on a bust talking (typing) with you. The actual bus portion of the commute is scheduled for 97 minutes each way, and the drop off/afternoon pickup point is a block from where I have a project for the next couple of months. The prospect of gaining three hours of productivity each day that I commute thusly has me joyous. I make phone calls while I drive, and that helps with business, but in general, my extended commutes have been a net loss. I see goodness coming from this. Will keep you posted.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Note to Readers on Comments

One of the things that drove me over the edge with the blog a few months ago was that I had an automatic forwarder of comments to my email account, wherein I could very easily accept or reject them. Not only did it drive me to my smartphone on a much greater basis, but the content of the comments often just pissed me off.

So now, I only occasionally go to the comment adjudication page. Keeps me from spending as much time on my phone and from being pissed off. But it does mean a little gap between when you comment and how long it takes to go up.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

West Point Cadets Should Know Better

There's a bit of a kerfuffle on the interwebs these days, as this photo has become something of a litmus test for liberals and conservatives:

In it, a group of female, African-American Cadets pose (as many groups of students do) to recreate iconic old style photos. Except, in this one, the most iconic aspect of the photo is the raised fist, which most believe to represent "black power" or more recently, the Black Lives Matter movement.

You can read about the issue from the perspective David French at NRO, most of which I agree with. Or for a more sympathetic view, try this from the Wall Street Journal. 

Bottom line: this is an overt, political statement made while in uniform, and so it is thoroughly inappropriate, irrespective of how many other photos were taken, how "young" these women are (soon to be 2nd LT's, in the Army and THEY KNOW BETTER), or your sense that it shows "strong, proud women".

Ask yourself--what would be the reaction if pictured were a bunch of white, male, cadets, but with a Confederate Flag hoisted on the two swords in the middle? Would you try to explain it away as a sign of their strength and pride?

Friday, May 6, 2016

Good Piece Here from Iowahawk

Thought provoking. But I think he gives voters more credit than they deserve.
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