Monday, July 30, 2012

Light Display

We found a night with a pleasant temperature and no rain to view the new Bruce Munro Light Display at Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, PA. We spent hours roaming through the forests, and looking at the lights sprinkled throughout the forests and inside the conservatory. The nature walk is a long, winding path through the trees where the lights are always changing colors and reminds me of fireflies. The reflections in the ponds of water throughout the gardens make a colorful, pleasing landscape. The night time sounds provided by the loud frogs, crickets and whatever makes noises at night, reminded me of my childhood when we played in the grass at night in our bare feet and sat on the ground looking up at the moon and stars. 

It is such an extensive display, it is hard to do it justice in one or two pictures.  We took many, many pictures, some of which I put together in a photo show.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012


35 years ago, I loved bowling. Then I stopped bowling, but I still thought I would enjoy the game. Other activities took time and it was no longer as popular as it was during my college years and my twenties. I was in several leagues and I had a lot of fun. It was a great time to challenge myself, have some physical activity and chat with other people. I think smoking killed bowling, at least for me. 

Things are different now. We have started going bowling with my son's family and the kids love it. There is no smoking allowed now in public places so that is a big bonus. The shoes are a bit klunky still, but I was able to use my old shoes. I like an eight pound ball now, but I own a ten pound ball that is going to take some practice. The holes were drilled for my hand, but I will have to work on swinging a ten pound ball again. I like how the machines now calculate the score. You get to type in your names, but there is no disagreement about the accuracy of the scoring or who gets to calculate the scores. There are no practice balls, but it is all practice for me. I don't know if they have practice balls to warm up in the leagues.

It is much more family friendly today with lighter balls, shoes for little kids and a better sport for little kids. The lanes were filled with families and little kids were bowling and having a good time. They have added gutter guards that can be raised along the lane so little kids can never have a gutter ball. Kids can have a chance for a rewarding experience and a reasonable score. The lanes encourage families to attend by offering sales and package deals so that it is a great summer activity for children. They have available a ramp device where the kids can put the ball on top and aim it at the pins. They push the ball down the ramp and it rolls straight down the lane toward the pins. Even the three year old can manage the operation. They are very eager to go bowling with the family and they can also participate. I think it is a more wholesome environment when the whole family can attend together.

They have a different night time crowd and what they call Extreme Bowling with black lights and music intended to appeal to teens and young adults. I haven't attended at those times, but I suspect it is also popular.

For me, it has been a while and the old muscles are getting a workout. It is taking some practice to get that body memory working to handle the balance and delivery of the ball along with taking an accurate aim. I made enough strikes and spares to convince me that it is something I will want to continue. I'll have to check out those leagues for old ladies.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Rewards and Windfalls

About five years ago, we decided to cash in some air miles and take a trip to Las Vegas. We had booked coach and had to check a bag, so we arrived early at the airport to head to the check-in counter for our airline. I gravitated toward a nice looking lady who wasn't busy and presented my ticket. She looked at the ticket, looked at me and said, "I knew someone with this name. Did you teach English in Delaware in 1968?" I knew instantly that she was one of my former students, but I can't begin to remember all of their faces or names. I always put on a big smile and try my darndest to convince them that I remember them while I desperately look for a clue that will trigger a memory. I couldn't be happier to see them, and I'm always surprised that they remember my name even though I know my appearance has changed almost as much as theirs. Of the thousands of students and co-workers I have met, I can't remember all of them, but if they remember me, I want to make sure I make them happy that they did. I like to catch up on their lives, tell them how great they look and how well they have done for themselves.

The lady identified herself by name and the fact that she had worn a body brace for a back condition for the year that she was in my class. I really remembered her with that big clue. I always wanted to make sure she was comfortable and well treated by everyone while in my charge. For me, I felt it was my professional duty and a personal standard I hold for myself.  I knew she didn't choose the situation but tried to make the best of the circumstances. She was very sweet and a hard worker so it was easy to maintain the stiff upper lip kind of getting on with the task at hand. No one was maudlin about it, but it was necessary for everyone to carry on with appropriate politeness. When dealing with special circumstances that students have to cope with, they don't like a lot of fuss, and want to be treated just like everyone else. Staff always has to remember to consider their circumstances and not add to their burden. It is always on your mind that sensitivity to special needs should occur but without a lot of catering that would embarrass them. Kidding around a bit from time to time keeps everyone much happier.

We had a chance to catch up on her life, family and career because the airport wasn't very busy that early in the morning. She told me about enjoying the perks of working for an airline. She shared her experiences with travel and what she liked to do when she traveled to Vegas. Then she upgraded us to first class. Never expecting that, we were appropriately grateful. For me, the reward was that I was remembered in a positive light and that I had done the best I could without ever expecting any rewards. For her to remember my name after 40 years and the year that we spent together as a special one, just made my day, month, the rest of my life. It is one of the best memories of my years in education. I spent five hours sitting in first class while I enjoyed that memory.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

A Box of Wine, A Loaf of Bread, and Thou--Huh?

A Book of Verses underneath the Bough,
A Jug of Wine, a Loaf of Bread, - and Thou
Beside me singing in the Wilderness -
Oh, Wilderness were Paradise enow!

- Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam Edward FitzGerald translation, 1858

Recently,  I saw a story online about the challenges of the restaurant business with losses being posted by various restaurants. I like the idea of eating out in restaurants, but I don't patronize very many or very often. Who doesn't enjoy a relaxing meal when you don't spend hours cooking, and a meal with conversation with dinner companions? Before we retired, we ate out often.  When we used to eat out, we would set aside half of the meal, request a box, and take half of it home. We never ate as much food as restaurants served. So we weren't too offended by sticker shock for a dinner out for two was actually dinner for four.

Nevertheless, I was always offended, as a seasoned cook, to pay gratuities that could run to ten dollars per meal just to have someone walk my food from the kitchen to my table. I can buy two whole chickens for that amount. Generally, I don't like dealing with servers. The only reason I would need their name is in case they disappear for too long and I don't want to wait all night. Generally the problem is that they want to turn over the table several times during the night and they rush you through the meal . Sometimes the person who delivers the food isn't even the person who takes the order. I don't like to spend a lot of time socializing with the servers because I want to socialize with the persons eating dinner with me. Sometimes if you eat at a buffet, servers don't really do anything but expect tips anyway.

I've been cooking for a long time and technique is something I notice. I tend to be demanding about quality of the cooking and I don't like things over-cooked or under-cooked. I like food to be hot enough that I think it has just been cooked. Getting the food to meet my requirements is hard because they are cooking for a lot of people and some cooks have more experience than others. I don't like to send back dishes because that causes a whole bunch of situations. What I get as a result of that practice takes longer, and isn't usually any better than what I sent back. It has to be pretty bad for me to return a dish to the kitchen. I have done so, but it is quite a bother. I wouldn't send back a dish just so they comp the meal, but some places do that. They have to make a living too and I don't like to try to cheat them. If the restaurant is a bad one, I just don't return. Since I tend to avoid fatty foods and things with cheese or bacon, food prep becomes an issue in a restaurant. Olive oil is a favorite of mine and I prefer meats or fish baked or broiled. I like to avoid fried stuff.

My biggest quarrel with restaurants concerns the drinks. I can buy a 5 liter box of red or white wine at a wholesale liquor store for $14. Depending on who is pouring, a box of wine yields what we guesstimate to cost less than fifty cents per glass of wine. In a restaurant, most wine will run $4.50 per glass, which is rock bottom cheapest, and wine can cost up to the sky depending on how picky your palate happens to be. Some restaurants even serve their cheap wines in juice glasses so they can also insult you for buying the cheapest house wine. Those are the restaurants where I order beer. I'm not a wine snob and I have very unschooled taste buds so I'm not impressed by a $500 bottle of wine. I'm not a brew snob, so I don't know the taste of one beer from the other. Any beer that is very, very cold works for me. The price of the wine is put with the total cost of the meal so that there is also a surcharge for tips on the wine. I'm not a gourmet and I hate paying excessive amounts for wine, beer, food, or servers. When you can find a BYOB, they charge a corking fee. I use any coupon I can find and they won't be able to stay in business with many customers like me.

Since I'm not Romney with megabucks hidden in the Cayman Islands, we seldom eat out. Now that I am retired, I prefer to spend my money in other ways.

Friday, July 6, 2012


We watched PBS on July 4th for the evening program A Capitol Fourth with fireworks. It was pretty good because I discovered a star that was new to me. His name is Josh Turner, a very popular country music singer and he is a young man of 34. He is a rising star because he has a fabulous baritone voice. He sang the National Anthem and one of his hits called "Firecracker". It is a lusty little tune about his wife who is a gorgeous blond who plays keyboard in his band. They married in 2003 and have three toddlers. I looked up his videos this morning on YouTube and he has some great songs. I love his deep, deep voice. He is very sexy and a big star in Nashville at the Grand Olde Opry. They travel with the kids and perform all around the country. I can't imagine living like that, but they are young. I liked watching him and his band performing with all those guys in the band in their jeans and musical instruments. They were really confident and good musicians. Real talent is always great to watch. I've never been a big country music fan, but I could get very interested in seeing this guy perform--great stage presence.

We used to watch the Boston Pops on the fourth and they now only have an hour on CBS with mostly fireworks. Years ago, it used to go for hours of patriotic music. I discovered Linda Eder on that show and I love her voice and music. I like seeing real talent performing. We took a quick look at what was running on other channels, but they were showing a bunch of rappers who had no talent and thought grabbing their "junk" would be an adequate substitute for real talent. It is disgusting to see those guys groaning some incomprehensible, crude lyrics that you thankfully, can't quite understand, but they hang on to their privates like they are going to fall off. It is gross. So we didn't look at that channel for more than ten seconds. Anyway, I will have to keep my eyes open for chances to see Josh Turner performing. He's cool, talented and a class act. I saw a few videos of interviews he has done on TV which is interesting just to hear his speaking voice. He is really gifted and I look forward to seeing him on Good Morning America on July 11 as well as with David Letterman on Aug. 23.