Archive | December 2018

Year in Review – 2018’s Been Real… Something…

What can be said about 2018?  It was an unforgettable year.

I’m incredibly grateful for my friends and family who care about me, but I also had to do some letting go of people who weren’t the friends I thought they were.

I also had the amazing opportunity to go on a monumental several-month road trip of the United States.  Despite never having traveled alone for more than a week, I packed up my car and set out entirely alone.  I stayed with some friends and family along the way, but the majority of my nights were camping by myself.  Not only did I get to see some of the amazing scenery and history this country has to offer, but I also got to prove to myself that I can travel solo and have a great time in my own company.

And last, but certainly not least, I got over 15,000 annual views on this blog.  My current figure is 15,098, which is more than 1,000 more views than I received last year.  I must be doing something interesting!  Thank you to all of you who read.

Without further ado, here’s the recap:

  1. Paula and I went on a girls’ weekend at Mount Rainier on President’s Day weekend.  We went out on snowshoes, drank wine, did puzzles and had a fabulous weekend of girl bonding.  It was so much fun!

    I was so excited I could do a high ponytail!


  2. My 31 year old horse Biz has been good.  My vet decided to go a conservative route last winter and not pull one of his damaged canine teeth, but instead another one broke; it has since healed.  He is doing well with his remaining three incisor teeth and a daily painkiller.
  3. In March, I did my first 15k Hot Chocolate Run in Seattle with Katy and Katie.  The weather was cold, but the company was good!

    At the Expo


  4. At the end of March, I had the opportunity to join my friend Lelani, her daughter Laura and Laura’s friend Brenna, on a 6 day road trip down to San Francisco and back.  We camped, saw the San Francisco sights, and did some wine tasting in Santa Rosa.

    Me with the Golden Gate Bridge


  5. Paula, Brandon, and Joel and I spent Memorial Day weekend in Walla Walla wine country again.  We did some shopping, soaked up the sun at the pool, and relaxed for a few days.
  6. In June, Oliver went to be with the angels.  His cancer had progressed, and it just wasn’t fair for him anymore.  I still miss him terribly.

    Oliver and I on our last day


  7. Taryn, Brandon, Brent and I took a two week trip to London in late June and early July.  It was my first overseas trip since 2006, and we did and saw so much!

    Taryn and Me with the bow of the Cutty Sark


  8. I left my job in July to fulfill a dream of mine.  I converted my car with a bed and storage, and traveled the United States for four months seeing the sights.  Since I was on the road so long, this trip probably deserves slots 8-30 in this review.  I learned that I could do it, and had an amazing experience, and hope to be able to do it again at some point.  That is such an incredible understatement too.
  9. I spent a week in September visiting family and going to my cousin’s wedding.  It was great to see everybody and catch up on life with my aunts, uncles and cousins.
  10. My former boss, mentor and friend, Larry, died in mid-December.  He played an important role in my life and my career since I met him in 2001, and I will miss him terribly.

I am hopeful that 2019 will reveal itself to be a good year, with new beginnings and continued love from my friends and family.  May all your lives be blessed as well.

Book Review: A People’s History of the United States

I have had A People’s History of the United States: 1492 to Present, by Howard Zinn, on my reading list for quite some time.  It came recommended as a great overview of US history from the time it was first “discovered” by white people to the present day.  The book is several years old, so present day must be taken with a grain of salt, as the current edition covers through the war in Afghanistan.

Zinn makes it no secret that his perspective is that the United States was formed by a small group of wealthy elites, whose aim was to make the country a place that allowed them to exploit the masses for their own benefit.  Zinn’s history tells the stories of those masses who have been marginalized and taken advantage of, including the Native Americans, slaves, poor people working in factories, conscientious objectors during the various wars, the labor movement and victims of harassment by men in power.

He does tell some interesting stories and lesser known parts of history, and I did learn quite a bit about parts of American history that I haven’t read about extensively.  However, he does not present a balanced perspective, and his method of telling the other side of the story is just as flawed as the elites and media that he criticizes throughout the book.  Zinn believes in a socialist economic system and states that he believes the US needs a complete redistribution of wealth in the country, and his book reflects this philosophy.  At least he never claims to be impartial, but you do have to read all the way to the end of the book to get this information.  Zinn’s book is essentially the same as reading only the most liberal version of the news.  There is always another side of the story.

In short, if you read this after you have read other books on United States history, it will fill in some gaps and give you additional important information.  However, don’t expect this to be a definitive or anywhere-near-neutral book on American history.  In order to truly understand, you need to look at events from multiple perspectives and sources.  Read this along with other sources.  Do your research.


Note: I read the audio book version, which was read by Howard Zinn’s son, Jeff Zinn.  It was a major source of irritation, because Jeff Zinn mispronounced the names of multiple historic figures, including Cristóbal Colón (the true name of Christopher Columbus), Augusto Pinochet, and Salvador Allende.  There were many others.  The mispronunciations were so regular it took away from the credibility of the book, in my opinion. 


London 2018: This and That and the Royal Mews

Day 6, Friday, June 29, 2018

Friday morning we slept in a bit, then headed over to tour the Ben Franklin House.  After waiting for about 30 minutes for the house to open at noon, we discovered that you had to pre-book tickets and the noon tour was already full.  UGH…  Oh well, we got to see a pretty park on the way over and check out a pub called the Sherlock Holmes.  We decided to book the last tour of the day at 4:15, and do some other sightseeing in between.

A park close to the Ben Franklin house


The Sherlock Holmes Pub

Next up – Trafalgar Square.  Yep.  It’s a square – what more is there to say?  It has statues, and a fountain, and is ringed by historic buildings – in a word, beautiful.  Several of the statues were blocked from view by a concert stage that had been erected for an upcoming event.  We didn’t stay too long, but we did end up there again later in the day, so I will save my photos for that post.

A horse statue at Trafalgar Square

From there we wandered down to Buckingham Palace, via The Mall, and passed through an impressive arch called the Admiralty Arch.  It was completed in 1912, commissioned by King Edward VII as a memorial to his mother Queen Victoria.  Along the way, we saw a model posing for a photographer in the middle of the street, but the middle lane is reserved for royalty, so they could get away with standing in the middle lane of the street.  Big city sights.

Admiralty Arch – completed in 1912


Admiralty Arch

Once we got to Buckingham Palace we took a look at it, and scoped out the best spot to watch the changing of the guard on another day.  We saw the gardens, which were pretty, but a bit wilted in the heat.  We went back to Buckingham Palace later the next week to see the changing of the guard, so I’ll save the photos for then.

The Buckingham Palace Gardens

Next we walked to The Royal Mews, on the grounds of Buckingham Palace.  The mews was at one time a place where falcons were housed, but in more recent years they started using it for the carriage horses.  A mews got its name because falcons go through a cyclic loss of feathers, called molting, or mewing.  When they started using the mews for stables, the name stuck.

The Royal Mews was fascinating for me.  The royals only use Windsor Greys and Cleveland Bays for their carriages; interestingly using the Cleveland Bays helped to save the breed from dying out.  The greys are used to transport the queen and the royal family, while the bays are used to transport high level officials such as ambassadors.  They have several horses there in stalls, so you can see them close up.

One of the Windsor Greys, snoozing

The carriages were incredible; one of them is gilded!  The Gold State Coach was commissioned by George III in 1762, and has been used for every royal coronation since George IV in 1821.  It weighs four tonnes and needs eight horses to pull it.  It is so heavy that it can only be pulled at a walk and it requires 27 meters to stop!  Ah, the things you learn when you read the plaques.  It is quite the showpiece.

The Diamond Jubilee coach is the newest coach, built in 2014 in Australia.  The interior wood comes from donated pieces from over 100 historic sites across Britain.  The gilded crown on the top of the coach can hold a camera to record its journey.  However, let’s just say that there are so many coaches that it became difficult to tell them apart – the Glass Coach, the Irish State Coach, the Scottish Coach, so many coaches, so little time…

They also had a few of the cars on display, in case a carriage wasn’t suitable for that day or that event.  It must be tough to be a royal.

After the Mews, we were ready to eat.  Taryn and I were interested in a farm-to-table style pub with fancier ingredients than the usual pub fare, but the guys weren’t interested.  After a bit of an argument, we got lunch at a wood-fired Italian pizza restaurant.  Sometimes it is tough to find something everybody agrees on!  We then took a wander through St. James’ Park, before continuing the day’s touristing.  There was still so much to do!

A view at St. James’ Park


Me in London’s St. James’s Park

Tube Stations: Earl’s Court (hotel) to Charing Cross Station
Costs: The Royal Mews – 12 pounds (free with London Pass), lunch – pizza (I thought the name of the restaurant was Capricciosa, but I am unable to find it online – sigh…)


Road Trip Photo Faves: The Road

Here is another of my favorite photos from my road trip.

I was in Badlands National Park one evening in July looking for Bighorn Sheep when a rainstorm rolled through.  I was leaving the park, driving back to my campground in Wall, South Dakota when I was greeted with the sheen from the rain on the road and the blue sky coming through the rain clouds.  It was stunning.


London 2018: Windsor Castle

Day 5, Thursday, June 28, 2018

Our fifth day in London we were going to get the royal tour!  We were going to Windsor Castle!

We had a fairly easy trip, except for missing our train at Paddington Station because we weren’t sure which one to board and we had to wait thirty minutes for the next one.  Live and learn.

Taryn and Me at Paddington Station

Once we got to Windsor, we walked from the train station to the castle, got our tickets, and went through security.  This castle is awesome!

Windsor Castle was built beginning in the late 11th century by William the Conqueror, as a part of a defensive system to protect London.  In its early years, it wasn’t used much as a residence, but over the centuries, various Kings added on to the castle and built residence quarters.  Windsor Castle currently covers about 13 acres, contains over 700 rooms and is the preferred weekend residence for the current Queen of England.

During our visit, we were able to tour the State Apartments, which were designed by Charles II in the 17th century to compete with his cousin Louis XIV and his palace of Versailles in France.  Of course, royalty is fickle, so the castle has been renovated and redecorated over the years, most recently in the early 1900s, and after a significant fire occurred there in 1992.  Thankfully, by chance, most of the furniture and artifacts had been removed from the affected rooms at the time.

The apartments are filled with historic furniture, portraits, and gifts that the monarchy has received over the years.  Everything is lavish and beautiful!  It was so cool to wander around and see everything.  Again, in typical English style, most of these priceless artifacts aren’t behind glass or barriers.  It was amazing to see!

Also at Windsor Castle is the Queen’s doll house.  Queen Mary, the wife of George V, was a lover of all things miniature and in the 1930s a doll house was created for her by the leading designers and craftsmen of the time.  The doll house is stunning!  There was so much exquisite detail and intricate furnishings in this tiny home.  I loved seeing it!  Unfortunately, photos weren’t permitted inside the State Apartments or the Doll House, so you will just have to imagine them!  There are some photos of the apartments, chapel and doll house on the Windsor Castle Website.


We spent a few hours at the castle, and then did a bit of souvenir shopping in the town of Windsor, going our separate ways for a bit before meeting back up together at the coffee shop.  Of course, I found a book store…  And then, in true fashion, we went to the pub for some beer and cider.  Just for the record, despite the British promises, I almost never had to Mind My Head!



Seriously? Plenty of room!

On the way back to catch our return train, we had enough time to do a bit of goofing off with the telephone boxes, check out the giant Lego portrait of Prince Harry and his new bride Meghan, as well as the historic train on display in the station.  We finished off our evening with dinner at Addie’s Thai House near our hotel – delicious!

What a fantastic day.

Tube Stations: Earl’s Court (hotel) to Paddington Station, transfer to the Great Western Railway to Windsor.  Transfer trains at Slough (pronounced slow).
Costs: Windsor Castle – free with London Pass, lunch – pasty in Windsor, dinner – Addie’s Thai House
FitBit Steps: 14,570


Rest in Peace, Larry

I found out on Wednesday night that my former boss passed away on Monday.  As far as I know he wasn’t sick.  He was going on a fly fishing trip in early October and had still been working and vacationing.  He was in his late seventies though; that age when even if someone’s death is a shock, it isn’t necessarily a surprise.

I knew Larry for seventeen years.  I met him when I took a few classes at the community college after I got my MBA and graduated in the middle of a recession.  I interned for him, and he took me under his wing.  He took me to meetings, gave me projects to build my skills in my career field, and exposed me to influential people in the community.  He didn’t have to do any of it…  He was a true mentor.

He helped me get my first career job, calling my soon-to-be-supervisor to give me a great reference.  I got the job.  Then when an opening came up where Larry worked and I had interned, he called me to let me know he wanted me to come back and work for him.  We worked together for eight years until he retired in 2009.

Larry taught me a piece of career wisdom that I will never forget.  You work someplace as long as it works for you.  There is no faster way to make your life suck than to dislike your job.  The people are just as important as the work, and those people aren’t likely to change, at least not fast enough for it to matter.  You spend too much time there to be unhappy.  The same is true for your personal relationships.

He showed me that you can be professional and still have a great sense of humor.  He loved to lighten the mood in a tough situation, and didn’t take life, or himself, too seriously.  I loved working for him.

Larry and I stayed friends over the years, through different jobs of mine and consulting work of his, to personal joys and trials.  He moved to Nevada for a sunnier and more affordable retirement, but we stayed in touch through texts, phone calls and visits.  He was frequently back in my area doing consulting work, which let us get together from time to time over a bottle of red wine.

I talked to him about getting together in Nevada in October while I was on my road trip, but he was out of town on the days that I was there.  I didn’t know at the time that it would be the last time we talked.

True friends come along rarely in this world, and I will always be grateful that I had the experience of having a boss and mentor become a real friend.  I know a lot of people felt that way about him.

Rest in peace, Larry.  You are very, very missed.


Book Review: Me: Stories of My Life

A few days ago I finished, Me: Stories of My Life, by Katharine Hepburn.  I wanted to like this memoir more than I did.  I have long admired Katharine Hepburn’s acting.  She is incredibly intelligent, and took Hollywood by storm in an era when female actors did not have a whole lot of control over their professional fates.

Her story is fascinating.  From her early career to her later roles, she tells her opinions on directors, producers, her personal assistants, and pretty much everything about the industry.  She talks about the roles she felt she was most successful in, the ones she felt were a flop, and the ones where she used her influence to have a movie made the way she wanted it made.

The support of her family and friends was incredible, and she is open about how much she received from them during her career.  She devotes a good portion of her book to her personal relationships, from her early career to her elderly years.  She talks about her marriage to her husband Luddy, a kind, supportive man who wanted nothing but the best for her, even if it wasn’t with him.  After their divorce, they remained friends until his death, with him attending family functions with her family even if she wasn’t there.

I have two gripes with the book.  First, her writing style is terrible, with choppy sentences, sentence fragments, and an odd train-of-thought style of flow.  It makes for a quick read, but it is pretty irritating.

My other gripe – let’s be honest, I wanted the dirt…  Hepburn dispatches her entire relationship with Spencer Tracy in a few short pages at the end of the book.  She was with him for 27 years, and he only gets a few short pages?  I wanted to know more about how they met, how they became a couple, why he decided to remain married, etc.  And nothing…

I can’t imagine that I’m the only curious one.  At the point the book was written, Tracy and his wife were both dead, so…  What’s the point of a memoir if you are going to leave out the most interesting part?

Anyway…  I still think Katharine Hepburn is fascinating, but I am glad I didn’t pay much for the book…  Some celebrities shouldn’t write books…

London 2018: Royal Observatory Greenwich

Day 4, Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Our last destination on our fourth day was the Royal Observatory in Greenwich, where you can see the Prime Meridian…

Everybody learns about the Prime Meridian in school, but perhaps you are like me and its significance loses its meaning over time.  Short answer: it is critical for the navigation of ships.

For thousands of years, sailing has been a very dangerous business.  If you don’t know where you are, you can easily get lost out there in a gazillion square miles of endless ocean.  Latitude was apparently easy to calculate.  I’m not sure I agree with that statement, but there you go.  All you need to know was the calendar date, and then calculate with your instrument how far the sun rose above the horizon that day.  Then, you just looked up that information in a book that had already been compiled for you and voila, easy peasy, you know where you are…

The longitude was way harder, and meant that for thousands of years, mariners had been using a method called dead reckoning…  Perhaps the emphasis should be on the “dead,” because it was notoriously inaccurate on long voyages where you couldn’t see land.  Remember how Columbus thought he was on mainland North America but he was actually on Caribbean islands?  Yeah, that.  That is actually a fairly successful outcome of dead reckoning.

First and foremost to calculate longitude, you needed to know what time it was.  For longitude calculations, you needed to know the exact time; a set standard time, say Greenwich Mean Time.  And clocks and watches of the day weren’t particularly accurate or reliable.  A few seconds off and you were basically screwed.  And when your clock wound down and stopped, who would you ask for the time?  Yep…  On land, you could ask the neighbor, but out on the open ocean, there was no one around to tell you the time.  See?  Screwed.  Not to mention that all that pitching and rolling on ships made it very difficult for the clocks of the day to work accurately.  Longitude was pretty much a matter of having a very accurate, very reliable clock, that would be accurate and reliable even on a ship that was getting tossed around on the open ocean.

The Prime Meridian Clock

The Longitude Act of 1714 attempted to change that accurate/reliable issue.  Queen Anne was in power when the Act was passed, establishing a Board of Longitude (sounds like a super exciting volunteer opportunity), and a reward for finding a simple, way to determine longitude that would work on ships.

John Harrison felt up to the challenge and started working around 1727 on such a clock.  His work produced four iterations, not always improving, and eventually, in 1761 he tested his fourth clock successfully.  There is a lot more to the story than that, but I’ll spare you, since longitude really isn’t that thrilling, even for me.

However, even though his fourth clock was successfully tested, the Board of Longitude for whatever reason decided he should only get half of the prize money, or 10,000 pounds, awarded in 1765.  That was a lot of money in the day, but Harrison had been working on this for over 35 years, and was, understandably, pissed.  There were also lawsuits because Harrison felt that his methods should be protected, and the Board of Longitude wanted to publish them for mass production.  I guess they weren’t super clear about patents and trade secrets when they drafted the act…  There were other prizes awarded for other advancements as well, but Harrison made the most significant contribution and won the most money.

So long story short, a meridian is just an arbitrary line set to establish a base from which time can be calculated as you move east or west.  It could have been anywhere, and arguments were made for lots of other places, but ultimately Greenwich won out in large part because the Royal Observatory was there, and because of the Longitude Act of 1714 and the fact that prize money was awarded to the winners.

Now, in the days of radar and GPS, the Prime Meridian in Greenwich is more of a tourist opportunity to stand on the line, sit on the line, pose with the line, and say you have been to the place where time begins, arbitrarily…  So we did.  Just so you know, the jumping photo was Taryn’s idea – that might explain my less enthusiastic liftoff…

The museum also explains all the nuance of calculating longitude, the 1714 Act, displays Harrison’s H1, H2, H3 and H4 prototypes, and other navigational instruments and telescopes.  It is pretty interesting!  The Observatory also has a pretty nice view of London across the Thames River, since it is located on a hill.

A navigational aid

The view of London from the Prime Meridian in Greenwich

Costs: Royal Observatory – free with London Pass.

Road Trip Photo Faves: Bryce Canyon Natural Bridge

With the countdown to Christmas and all its associated chaos/busy-making, I haven’t had much time to write…

So I’ll entertain you over the next few weeks with some of my favorite photos from my road trip.

This is Natural Bridge viewpoint at Bryce Canyon National Park.  Even though it is named Natural Bridge viewpoint, it is actually an arch, not a bridge, geologically speaking.  Bridges are formed by water; arches are formed by wind and other forces.

Natural Bridge (although it is actually an arch) at Bryce Canyon National Park


Road Trip Photo Faves: Longhorn Steer

With the countdown to Christmas and all its associated chaos/busy-making, I haven’t had much time to write…  Not to mention the fact that I am still having major issues with my internet service, but that’s a rant for another time.

So I’ll entertain you over the next few weeks with some of my favorite photos from my road trip.

This Longhorn Steer lives at the Grant-Kohrs Ranch National Historic Site in Deer Lodge, Montana.  I love cows – I have always thought they are very cute, and this guy is no exception.