Category Archives: chewed shoes . . .

idle ramblings . . .


Today is Monday June 12, 2017. In the wee hours of April 3, 2016 a rather large Tulip poplar tree fell on the 1991 addition to our 1940 house in Bethesda, MD.  The damage was non-trivial.


At the time of the arbor assault I was sleeping on the side which is in the background of the photo above. My wife was cleverly on the oh so protected side nearer the photographer. She was fine. I am too – now. To provide some orientation, the foot of the bed is to the right, you are looking to the west, and some of the outdoors that is visible above will disappear when the emergency team removed the tree and shored the walls.


What you see above is the roof outside the bedroom that covers the porch on the north side – and the tree. The tree’s appropriate location was about 60 feet to the west northwest on our yard’s property line. So – not that close to the house, but not far enough away – obviously.

Anyway – it tore up a lot and today, 14 months later, work has finally begun to get us back into our house.

I thought I’d keep track of the progress here.

Budapest – it’s 2, 2, 2 towns in one!

Well, time to fess up, I knew nothing about Budapest before getting here. If I had I would have, 1. brought my swim suit, 2. not been surprised to learn it’s 2 separate places divided by the Danube. The swim suit because they have numerous hot spring spas which sound really good because the Buda side is built on a mountain and is an excellent hips and thighs workout, so some relaxation would be welcomed.


You don’t get to take pictures from this altitude in the way we do things without walking up here. A serious climb.
But a great view.


They take lighting their landmarks quite seriously. Since they’ve had to rebuild much of many of them due to Budapest’s popularity as a war siege target (a fact that is pointed to with some pride as an indicator of the city’s importance), this seems appropriate.

The people have been very nice, and the language is totally indecipherable. English is widely available, and the mass transit very good and amusing. There are at least 3 types of subway cars, from ancient to modern, buses, and street-car type trams. If Beth is with you, you’ll have no problem getting around. Like in Berlin you can buy a multi-day pass that you stamp only on the first day of use, then show when entering a subway, but not trolley or bus. It’s very confusing to me, but many things are. Beth appears to understand it all. I understand that I should stay close to her. That works. More later.

The German History Museum is about, well, the history of Germany

And there’s a lot to it. But first, some stage-setting. The weather today was beautiful, clear and cool. It was also the first day that wasn’t a weekend or holiday, so things were less crowded. Saying the e museum is rather large is like saying a golf course would create a bit of a mowing problem with your 18″ Sears push mower. But Germany has been around a while, so they had a long story to tell. One of their all stars was the starting pitcher in the reformation, so there was a lot of chest-thumping and high giving about that. They had a non-trivial part in a couple of world-wide unpleasantries in the 20th Century, so they had some explaining to do about those missteps, and there’s all those reallylongwordsthatjustseemtogoonandon and that takes up space, so there’s that.

So it needs to be a big museum. And it is. And it is fabulous. Well laid out. Logical, lovely. And before you go all, “well sure, it’s German designed and engineered”, believe me, it’s not all Porsche here. More than a few unfortunate architectural choices have been made. This museum, however, while trapped in the standard old school building, is really fabulous. And cool.


Isn’t the woman creep looking?


Yep, that’s the weird hat Napoleon wore. No way that’d keep the sun out of your eyes.


No, that wasn’t in the museum, just checking to see if you’re paying attention. This was on the street on our way to dinner Test BMW electric. I opted not to steal it. Trying to maintain good international relations.

For some reason many statutes seem to suffer from Morton’s foot, where the second toe is longer than the great or first toe. Not sure what’s up with that, but, that’s just weird.

If you can do creepy really well, it is art. This is art.

This is a not to miss museum.

We also went to the museum of Jewish history. The building is very modern all angles and slopes, rising and falling, but I found the exhibit very problematic in its lack of linearity. When it’s a history museum, call me old fashioned, but I really like to be able to move from Aleph to Taw, and it doesn’t work that way. It’s an interesting place, well attended, with a very cool special photography exhibit during our visit, but the permanent exhibit’s presentation left me wishing it was otherwise.

So it goes.

On the 31st we visit a nearby concentration camp, then to Potsdam to view a really old gaudy castle and back for fireworks. It will be New Year’s Eve.

All that may be boring to retell, so I’m going to discuss door frames, toilets, how my daughter would enjoy it her because the women are really tall, and a big, big city with few homes. Cheers! And happy new year!!

Hot yogi

I have dabbled with yoga in various forms off and on for the past 20+ years, often taking scores of months off between bouts of interest. My skill level is just beyond beginner, and there are many poses I cannot do due to a variety of physical maladies (1 bad knee (about 25 years), 1 really, really bad knee (43 years), a bothersome shoulder (only about 25 years), and, of course, and just having turned 62 in September

However, I return to yoga because I enjoy the discipline (never a real strong suite), I enjoy become limber again (in high school, I could not only kick an 8′ ceiling, but put both feet behind my head. Of course I did weigh 140 pounds versus this morning’s 187 (which is 33 less than my all-time high of about 6 years ago), I enjoy the discrete time periods, and there are elements of yoga that fit well with my Buddhist sensibilities.

Bikhram yoga is a severely restrictive form. It consists of 26 postures, each of which is done twice. About half are standing poses and half are on prone. The first time the pose is held for some period of time, maybe 45 seconds to a minute, the second somewhat less. The repetition are consecutive, that is, you do it, rest a bit, do it again. That “rest a bit” part? That’s important. Perhaps I failed to mention the room is heated and humidified. Usually 104-105 degrees, probably 40-50% humidity. The session lasts 90 minutes. The first water break is 20 minutes in. Bring your own, there’s no running out in the hall for a drink. There’s also almost no talking beyond the near constant stream of instruction, encouragement and motivation be the instructor. There are usually 15-30 others in the class which is held in a room on might mistake for a dance studio, wooden (probably bamboo) floor, mirrors floor to ceiling on front and one side wall, and heating duct that runs the length of the room. Everyone uses yoga mats with some type of towel on top. As you guess, there are many vendors selling stuff for the various types of hot yoga.

Not for the faint (or weak) of heart, those who are modest about there bodies (most of those yogis who wear the fancy duds need not bother with them here, nothing is really that sexy when the sweat is splashing about. My mat is oversized, since I’m about 6’3″ it’s nice to have a long mat, but even the nifty, environmentally appropriate towel that’s made of some recycled plastic stuff lacks something when the sweat drips and literally splashes up.

The first few classes are brutal, but it does get easier, or at least your body becomes acclimated. And it’s great to be able to touch my toes.

Taking it off

Every 10 years or so I contemplate shaving off my beard. I’ve been with some form of facial hair for about 40 years. I had a full beard in grad school and various time since. A goatee for at least the past 15-20 years, save a one week break when went to Paris, I believe. I have been truly clean-shaven probably less than a cumulative month since the early-mid 1970s. I think that since I’m approaching my 62nd birthday I’m old enough to try something different, so I thought I’d shave it all off, at least for a few days – let the long-shaded dermis experience some sunlight and fresh air, learn to fear the razor, all that stuff.

I know my bride prefers my having a beard since I don’t exactly have a strong chin, and the beard covers more of my ugly mug. However, I’m about 20 pounds lighter than I was the last time I was beardless, so we’ll have to see if she swoons.

The most memorable response to having shaved was when my daughter, Emily, was about 4 I think, I shaved and her response was “shave it back on, daddy!”

We leave for our place in Michigan in 3 days, and i can grow it back in about 3 weeks, so, we’ll see how this goes.

Here are some step by step pics:









Terrorism on our shores

While I was serving caffeine yesterday morning, a young man with some form of mental illness was walking through the halls of an elementary school in Connecticut killing children. More to the point of my discussion, he was shooting children.

If he had been born in Saudi Arabia, trained in Yemen for the task, flown into Canada, and come across the border for the task, having then retrieved his weapons of mass destruction from a safe house two blocks from the school, the country would, today, be demanding that we go to war to avenge these deaths. There would be cries that we must build walls to protect us from invaders from the north, that we must more carefully screen who is able to come into the country, that those whose names sound so very foreign to our ears should be more carefully screened and watched, because they may bring terror to our towns.

But since the terror was brought to bear by one of our own, it will be “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.”

If these children had been in a school bus that caught fire and had burned, there would have been a cry to make sure busses didn’t burn. If the bridge they were riding across collapsed, there would be investigations demanding oversight and safer bridges. If they had all had their morning milk and died from bacterial poisoning, there would be Congressional hearings today on how could such danger be allowed near our youth? But if it’s someone brought guns, with magazines that hold enough ammunition to slaughter classrooms of children, well, that’s American freedom.

No, that’s sick. It is time for the President to lead and Congress to get out of the way, and the NRA to accept some real responsibility for gun safety. Ban assault weapons, again. Ban the sale and manufacture of ammo clips that hold more that one can use for hunting (3-5 shells), and make the possession of these an immediate jail term. And yes, require that those that exist should be confiscated. Please let them pry them from your cold dead fingers. Grow up. It’s life, it’s not a television show, you are not a great gunslinger, you are not going to save the day by shooting the bad guy. You are far more likely to leave it lying around after having shot some dangerous tin cans and have some child pick it up and kill themselves than you are to do anything of any social importance by toting your gun. It is time for reasonable gun laws.

when to let a old friend die

how do you know when it’s just time to let go? when is it time to stop the heroic efforts that keep one going, but will never make one whole again? how do you know when it’s time to no longer spend your hard=earned money on one soon to be gone regardless of anyone’s efforts? Yep, our Volvo wagon is on life support and we are probably going to pull the plug. The other day, at 4:30 AM, as I started off to work, the car started and I left smoothly, then noticed none of the dashboard lights worked. The external lights worked fine, and through the flickering street lights I could tell that neither the speedometer nor tach worked, and neither did the gas gauge or any of those handy things. So, I couldn’t be sure how fast I was going nor when I was going to run out of gas. Other than that, it was fine. I checked with my friendly Volvo repair guy, who I actually trust, and has done right by us many times, “Oh yes, we see this frequently on the model a couple of years newer than yours, the hyperdrive control and command module” or something like that. That part I don’t distinctly remember. This part I do: $1200 for the part alone. We had considered selling this car 4 years ago. It was worth $3000 then. Hmmmm.

We just recently replaced the radiator, it has tires with less than 5,000 miles on them, it looks nice, but it has problems with karma. We probably need to be a one car family. I took it to Carmax. On the way there, the electronics started working – good karma, maybe a sign. Perhaps it’s a play on words Karma – Carma – x . They offered me $3000. It’s like 4 years never happened. Or that’s the scrap value of the Volvo Wagon.

Maybe it’s just time to let it go. We’ll see.

Serving coffee

In July I began working at Starbucks. In part it was to see what I could do after my strokes, in part to keep me from using the term “Amyloidosis” too often after having heard it several times each day on House, MD reruns, and in large part, it was to let me get medical insurance.

I was lucky enough to get a position at a high volume neighborhood store in Chevy Chase, just inside the District line. The manager is a great guy. Annette, a neighbor of mine, who helped me get the job, is a long-time employee, and our clientele are some of the DC power elite along with some just very nice people.

I’ve never shied away from manual labor. Given my druthers, I’d opt to watch a football game rather than dig post holes, but even though I’ve made an excellent living for the past quarter century using my brain, since some of the key chunks of that handy organ that allows one to process numbers rapidly and concentrate for extended periods were zapped during a weekend in early June of 2010 marked by a delightful outing to a friend’s very exclusive golf club and a less nice outing to a wonderful stroke center at the emergency ward at a hospital about a driver and lob wedge from our house, that option, returning to the world of using my noggin to mess with numbers was closed. I needed something else to do. Starbucks always received excellent marks as a place to work, and I thought it would be a good option for me.

Working at Starbucks is tough. You’re on your feet moving along a narrow corridor for 4-8 hours while taking orders, making drinks and trying not to spill things. It became clear fairly soon after I started that making drinks more complicated than coffee was something that may take considerably longer than the two weeks many baristas take to learn how to make most of the drinks in the Starbucks coffee universe. It is also fun. The customers are generally pleasant, even in stores such as ours, which is a haven for many of the Washington famous and near famous. A member of the Court (yes, THE court), PBS types, and nannies from many countries with lovely children from lovely parents in tow are daily visitors, each standing in the long line to order their cappuccino or latte, or the occasional cup of coffee. No one tries to pull rank, no one uses the “don’t you know who I am?!” line, most smile and make small talk, many drop their change in the tips jar, many leave much more. To those of us who are providing the caffeine that gets them going, we are generally afforded at least a bemused respect. I think many are genuinely dazzled by the level of competence that can be brought to the act of ordering and delivering the thousands of permutations of drinks available.

The people I work with are an interesting and generally affable mix. Young, old (not old like me, but middle-aged), students, searchers, time-biders, parents, just plain folks working and then going off to life. Much like those who provide the endless stream that pay and pay for coffee based drinks. Most of our customers are friendly and frequently somewhat flattered when we know what they are going to order. I am only beginning to recognize some regulars. Michael, who opens regularly (that’s getting there around 4:30 AM), knows about 80% of everyone who shows up before 8 AM’s drinks and is a delight for a newbie to work with.

The only things I do well are work pretty hard, and tend the cash register. Starbucks likes to put a premium on the customer’s entire experience, so even though I am not making your Grande Peppermint Latte, I will take your money and send you on your way, hopefully with the correct drink and certainly with less money than you came in with. And, as a bonus, I’ve lost at least 10 pounds in the months I’ve been working. I think I’ve been drinking coffee too long to be any type of aficionado or can appreciate the subtle differences promised by each. But I do appreciate well run machines, and while only a cog, I find it interesting to watch.

Sorry, I’ve been out

I’ve been trying out a variety of other blogging venues/platforms and haven’t found anything that floats my boat enough to make me abandon wordpress for good. anyway, it’s been a good couple of days, what with the healthcare law surprise, the toasty days we’re having (it’s about 100 here today in the shade), and many excellent things to watch on the tube (Olympic trials in swimming and track & field).

Emily has been home for the past few months and is less than 2 weeks away from moving to Thailand. No, that is not some small village in the piney woods of east Texas. When I was 23 I am damned sure that the thought of moving literally to the other side of the world was out of scope for me. I am hugely proud of her, anxious that she be successful and as always, only really concerned that she be healthy and happy. You are only as happy as your saddest kid, and while she is no longer a child, she is still our only kid, so . . .

I am still looking for employment. Am I sorry that I had parts of my brain fried by strokes and can’t do what I used to do? Sure. However, I have a job lined up at a Starbucks that I am excited about, but am having to wait for their computer systems to purge me from a 60 day window before I can reappear in their DC database so they can hire me. Yes, I know, it is a “huh”? Trust me, I’ve tried that, whatever it is you are going to suggest, so has the store manager, sometimes the bureaucracy is so large that you can’t just shove it aside, even when that is the clearest course. So, in a few more weeks I will be that barista at the Starbucks in Chevy Chase with a Ph.D.

I am totally cool with that.

I have a daughter with a college degree from a great school who has the cojones to move around the world to teach and learn about others and herself, a ridiculously hot wife who is about to become a member of a society that is 375 (yes three hundred and seventy-five) years old in London, three dogs (only 1 is actually ours, 2 are Emo’s), a cat, a pond full of fish which we have raised since the Clinton administration, a house in Bethesda so close that I walk in to an excellent Irish pub where the bartender (Paul) knows our name and frequently provides me with free Guinness. Life is good.