Thursday, July 21, 2016

Retirement - LBC Post 07/22/2016

Retirement. The action or fact of leaving your job and ceasing to work. The loss of your paycheck. It's usually voluntary although occasionally - like mine -  it comes about as a result of a company folding its tents due to the incompetence of senior management and the weight of years of mismanagement crashing down on all, save those floating  down to earth with their golden parachutes. Alas- I didn't have one - LOL. Sure cuts down on my travel possibilities. Fortunately Walmart is close. 

If you are fortunate enough to be able to give up your income and enjoy what life has to offer until the road you traveled ends,  you have done something right. Congratulations.

I was not sure what to expect from retirement, but I was ready for it. I had just spent the better part of ten years being the primary caregiver to my wife as she slowly succumbed to Huntington's Disease. Add to that the fact that I was also supporting my daughter and her three kids, RadioShack - my employer - was circling the drain - I was pretty well done in.

So what did I do you may ask? Simple - RadioShack laid me off  and a rule change cut my six months severance pay to two weeks. A few months later I packed up and moved to North Carolina to be near my son and his family. He had visions of opening a food truck in the Asheville area.

Visions.  Sometimes they don't come true.  To date there is no food truck in Asheville but there is a really nice house on 1.25 acres in the little berg of Granite Falls and a single wide tornado magnet (some Texas culture remains) in a place called Conover. 

The bank account remains empty but the area is nice and friendly. In fact SF Giants pitcher Madison Bumgarner is from Hickory - the "big"  town in the area. It is a nice little place.  NC is a it of a culture shock - in spite of all that  prep  time in Texas. I  have yet to join the local senior center. In fact I may never join - too many old people there.

In a somewhat shocking/challenging happening, after eight months of freedom my daughter and her kids are back. They are all looking for work - the reality of the limitations  of living on Social Security  and their desired lifestyle was immediately obvious. We'll see how that shakes out. Having a six-year  grandson in the place is a bit like having the Tasmaniam Devil        as a roommate. Never a dull moment since Bubba hit the scene. The dog and cats are adjusting. 

Since January  I have read over 70 books (mostly mystery fiction, my new love is Native American mystery stuff - thank you Tony Hillerman). I've gotten hooked on Australian TV shows and Danish mystery TV. Now that I can sleep in I typically get up between 5:30 add 6:00 A.M.  Go figure. My day starts with a carafe of good coffee - I am still a coffee snob - and where it goes from there is a surprise daily. Some good, some not so good. You might even say life is an adventure again. What the hell - I had an eight-month break - to continue down that path would have been boring. I bore easily.

That is my shack-take on this week's LBC topic. Check out Ramana here and Pravin here. Prain is an interesting young man, well worth your time. Ramana is simply the sage of Pune - as always.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Cooking LBC 07/15/2016

Lets talk cooking.

Cooking is something people typically either really enjoy  or simply accept as a necessity and tolerate. I fall into the really enjoy category. I am a good cook - or so I have been told.  Cooking is where any creative sense I have shows its presence. My preferred cuisines are most often Cajun/Creole, Italian and my own version of str-fry.

Cooking requires a basic sense of pairing things - what spices go with what proteins, how to get the most out of your spices and the like. My preferred quick go-to meal is some sort of  madras curry based dish. Chicken, pork or lamb if available, onions, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, celery, garlic, mushrooms, potatoes and whatever other handy veggie that is available.  What you will never find in anything I cook is tofu. I despise tofu - its consistency, taste (well - lack thereof). I typically serve my curries over rice - its a gravy on my starch thing I have always enjoyed. My grandmother raised me on southern cooking - fried with gravy on bread or mashed potatoes. That stuck with me - quite literally actually as the multiple Xs on my frame confirm.

But though there are supposed norms in pairing things, the only rule that really matters is taste - it must taste good. Why else would a whole group of foodies invest time and energy with different methods of cooking. Why else would Molecular Gastronomy - the science of cooking - even exist?  If that modernist view of cooking suits your fancy check this link for some interesting stuff.

Of course the science of cooking applies to  traditional cooking methods as well. Why else would you deglaze your cooking pan if all of that burnt-looking stuff on the bottom of the pan didn't add a ton of flavor to the dish? And of course your deglazing liquid of choice also adds to the flavor.

Occasionally an inventive chef takes something a step further, like the late Paul Prudhomme did with blackening as a cooking method.
Image result for paul prudhomme
It was such a huge success the redfish population took a serious nose dive. Read about the technique here if you are interested. It is a bit tricky to use at home but worth the effort.

I spent most of the last 22 years in Texas where chicken-fried is a food group and the sauces are white and brown gravy. Of course the French insist there are five "mother sauces" that  every cook should know - Bechamel, Veloute, Espagnole, Hollandaise and Classic Tomate (yep, they spell it that way). Me? I usually use a simple roux, the flavor varying by the color and an Italian red sauce/gravy. I make  pretty good white sausage/pepper gravy too - a southern staple.

Another go-to dish of mine is soup. I make soup all of the time and use whatever is available in the fridge, spice rack and veggie bin. I always have chicken and beef stock available and can make them both from scratch if necessary.  My soups tend to be quite hearty - and they go great with freshly baked cornbread.

So that's a quick take on this weeks LBC topic To see what my buddy Ramana, another self-professed good cook has to say, simply click here

See ya  next week. 

Friday, July 8, 2016

Piece of Mind LBC 07'08/2016

Piece of mind.  That is the topic Ramana and I will address this week. No, not the Iron Maiden album - the piece of  mind that you give another when they have done something to offend  one's (your) sensibilities. Let 'em have it with both barrels so to speak.

Our former LBC compatriot gave us a piece of her mind, telling us the following:
 "I listed the three reasons I am leaving the LBC.
1. because the topics are all about death, injury, and aging, which I find morbid, and to me unacceptable.
2. because there is money being made by the consortium and I was disrespected by not being told that
3. And foremost, because you believe in inclusion, and therefore allow an incredibly aggressive and in my opinion not mentally stable person to attack one writer after the other."

Number 1 is simply inaccurate - several topics were simply song titles, Shakespearian  titles and more.topics chosen simply from life. As topics wee made up by the three active(at the time) members, one must assume she thinks Ramana and I morbid and unacceptable. Fair enough.

Number 2 - money is being made by the consortium and she was disrespected by not being told. Well that is news to me - I have never made a pfennig from these posts - they are simply done for the fun of sharing and comparing opinions. I can say for sure that any lack of respect from me directed toward our former compatriot had/has NOTHING to do with money allegedly earned posting in the LBC and cheating her out of her share.

Number 3 - inclusion. We allow an aggressive, "mentally unstable" person to attack one writer after another.  Life's a bitch. Then you die. Clearly despite her protests to the contrary, our former  compatriot does not care for disagreement. With her. Her opinions. Fair enough. She is allowed to tiptoe through the tulip patch of life  whenever, wherever and however she chooses. Personally I prefer even heated exchanges - they are fun and enlightening IMHO. I have crossed swords/fingers/words with that so-called aggressive, mentally  unstable individual over the years. One person's fun is another person's awful experience.

The above represents piece of mind as offered by two individuals. Different strokes for different folks is clearly the order of the day. Time to see what Ramana has to say onthe subject. To do so simply click here.  See ya next week, same bat time, same bat channel.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Milennials and the future

This weeks topic addresses an age-old issue - the future. Every generation reaches an age when the baton must be passed - it is the natural order. Even for we Baby Boomers - time marches on. Soon the mantle will pass.

So what does the future hold? That will be up to the Millennials. The generation raised on social media, video games, and the like. The so-called me generation, perhaps the least civic-minded generation ever. As Globalization grabs a firmer grip on society, are these the people who can steer the ship? What will happen when 21st Century society collides with laws and regulations from the distant and not so distant past?

Have  we just witnessed the first collision  of those sensibilities with the recent BREXIT referendum? BREXIT passed largely on the strength of older voters - the younger generations were largely against leaving the EU. Was this the last gasp of the older  generation that was there during WWII and simply refused to stand for the loss of sovereignty EU membership entailed?

Change is inevitable. Too much change in to short a period of time can be devastating. There was a great book I read in college by the recently decease author Alvin Toffler that addressed just that - the impact of rapid change on society. 

Per Wikipedia, Toffler argued that society is undergoing an enormous structural change, a revolution from an industrial society to a super-industrial society. This change overwhelms people. He believed the accelerated rate of technological and social change left people disconnected and suffering from "shattering stress and disorientation"—future shocked. Toffler stated that the majority of social problems are symptoms of future shock. 

Millennials are the best prepared generation to deal with the rapidly changing world economy. But as the  so-called me-generation are they civic-minded enough to do what is best for everybody?   Are they correct when some Millennials suggest Baby Boomers benefited from decades of prosperity before wrecking the global economy?  Was our legacy to the young a world of inequality, unemployment and housing shortages? Is the BREXIT referendum  the latest act of foolishness by  aging boomers? Did  the older generation vote to strip the young of a cherished European identity because they feared  globalization? 

I suspect it is all partly true but I think the Millennials will sort it out. They are certainly better qualified to do so then we old folks. It is time we enjoy our retirement and let the kids take the wheel.

For Ramana's take on the subject click here

Friday, June 24, 2016


The referendum has come and gone. The votes have been cast. Britain has decided to leave the European Union. The silly folk of England have chosen to make their own mistakes and successes - and not act at the whim of their erstwhile puppet masters in Belgium. As a yank I cannot, I suspect, understand all of the details pro/con but I can certainly appreciate the passion of those involved.

Immediate results from the vote? Financial markets are in free fall. Hmmm - may be a good time to buy that Jaguar you've always wanted. And to all of the Christians who claimed the European Union was a sign the end times are here - um - oops. Wrong again.

And all of this was done  peacefully at the ballot box. Make no mistake about it - the rancor between the two sides runs deep. Only time will tell for how long but now it is time foe the real work to begin.

We had a somewhat similar referendum here in the U.S.A. a number of years ago. It was called the Civil War - though there was nothing civil about it. More Americans died as a result of that conflagration - over 600,000 - than WWI, WWII, Korea and Viet Nam combined. Luckily BREXIT was verbally bloody but relatively bloodless otherwise.

I have friends - good friends - on  both sides of the BREXIT issue though admittedly more on the victorious leave side of the equation. I have no dog in the hunt and can actually see logic to both sides of the issue. That is irrelevant though as the votes have been  counted. Time to set in motion the wheels of  change. David Cameron is resigning and a new captain must be elected to steer the Brits Do ya think they now just might understand how we felt when we left their Empire to run our own lives and determine our own future? That turned out pretty well - one can only hope the Brits and their return to independence from the EU turns out well.

That slamming sound you hear is the doors slamming shut on immigration in England. The EU can no longer dump millions of  unwanted people on the island to disrupt all of the social services and programs for which Britain is known.  They are ahead of US on that one.

So now Britain won't send soldiers to fight in wars not of their own choosing or as dictated by the EU. Hmm - will they still ask how high? when we here in the US say jump? 

Now they can negotiate trade deals with the world on their own. Do they negotiate agreements with the EU or the individual member states? Are they in better shape negotiating deals with - say - China on their own or were they better off as part of the EU? Only time will tell.

Defense - can they better defend themselves alone? I have no idea how that will play out. 

The question seems to be this - in an increasingly global economy can Britain better compete alone or as part of a larger economic block. Britain has voted to not relinquish any of their sovereignty for the promise of dealing with the world in all matters as part of a group with allegedly shared purpose.

My friends I can only say "Be careful what you wish for - you just might get it." I know the Brits are not afraid of hard work and that is what this new world of theirs requires. Best of luck to you my friends. I wish you nothing but success.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

No, It Isn't Beethoven LBC 06/24

No, It Isn't Beethoven

No, It Isn't Beethoven

No, It Isn't Beethoven

No, It Isn't Beethoven

No, It Isn't Beethoven

This week's musical interlude is brought to you courtesy of Lin who suggested the topic. The result was total brain freeze that left me speechless and forced to resort to music.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Travel by swipe!!!

Ah retirement.  In checking my Amazon account I find I have  ordered 66 books for my Kindle so far  this year and have read 63 of them. Alas - other than the Jefferson Bible, most of my reading is what even I consider lightweight but what the  hell - retirement is like permanent  vacation so I read beach reads as it were. The last six have all  been Australian in origin by a guy named Peter Corris about his character Cliff Hardy - a PEA (Private Enquiry Agent) aka an Aussie private detective. Hardy is a bit of a bad ass - reminds me a bit of an all time fave of mine named Travis McGee.  They are a couple of generations apart so there is that generational difference - Hardy being more modern. A bit more. Both travel to the beat of their own drummer but I swear they both used session players and could have shared Hal Blaine, Bobby Graham or Clem Cattini.  I heartily recommend Hardy's adventures - as well as McGee's but McGee was authored in very different times and some may find his attitudes a bit archaic and most definitely politically incorrect although he was evolving right up to the death of his creator,  John D MacDonald.

More literary fun can be had with the Agent Pendergast series by Douglas Preston and Lincoln  Child.  Pendergast is one of the most unique characters in contemporary mystery fiction and has been for years.  There are 15  titles, the first being Relic published in 1995. The most recent - Crimson Shore is from 2015. With so many twists, turns and changes over the course of the series this one should be read in order. There is simply too much back story that is critical to the later tales. I caught up and read the last 3 this year.

Being a male baby boomer it will come as no surprise I love cowboys and westerns. These days that mantle is proudly and excellently carried by Craig Johnson with his Longmire series. I've read 5 of those this year, am current with the book series and also a big fan of the television series now available on Netflix. Season 5 is about to wrap production and should hit the streaming airwaves in September.  My only complaint about the TV  series is that Lou Diamond Phillips - who is otherwise excellent as  Walt's best friend Henry Standing Bear is not 6'4 - LOL. Otherwise Aussie Robert Taylor and Katee Sackhoff of Battlestar Galactica fame completely capture  the spirit of Johnson's characters and stories. Check out the books and the series.

Were I to be forced to pick a favorite character/author it would have to be Dana Stabenow and her Kate Shugak series set in Alaska. Stabenow is as fine a chronicler of the human condition as you are likely to find ever. Her characters are richly developed, as are her stories - typically set in a fictional park in Alaska. I am  current with the series and anxiously awaiting  the next entry. It's also about time for the next Harry Dresden tale - everyone's favorite wizard detective in Chicago - from Jim Butcher. I mention him here because Dana Stabenow suggested the series in an email years ago.

So that is my reading experience so far this year. Since I  cannot afford to hit the road for real, I travel through books. As such I have spent considerable time so far this year in the US Southwest and its Navajo and Apache nations, Alaska, Sidney Australia, New York, New England and New Orleans. And summer has only just begun. Next stop  London for the turn of the twentieth  century. Almost time to board the wayback machine.