Thursday, February 26, 2015


Once upon a time when I was much younger, with much longer hair, living as a child of the 60's/70's, I wrote a story.  Actually it was the draft of a book.  It was a fantasy book that reflected a lot of things I was experiencing at that point in life.  I took it a long way.  I had some artwork done for it.  I actually submitted some briefs to publishers.  But I didn't really pursue it.  I had three children and I needed all my energy to just deal with growing up to being a real husband, father, and career person.

But I never threw the book away.  The manuscripts and the maps were carefully saved through all our moves over the years.  I remember about a decade or so a go, taking it out and reading it and feeling a bit horrified at some of the things that were key features of the book.  And yet there were other parts that I thought were really pretty good.  At that time I couldn't see any way of reconciling who I was today and my values now with what I had written before.

Fast forward to December of last year.  I'm now the transition/retired person and I'm taking on new and different challenges and interests.  I had also been rereading a bunch of science fiction and fantasy from the 70's that I have in my library.  I was kind of taken with the fact that a lot of these books I loved then really weren't that well written.  So I decided to get out my story and read it again.

After that rereading, I felt that it really had a lot of good character development and plot development.  And I found that maybe the values it promoted really wasn't so far off of what I was feeling especially after all my realizations related to transition and retirement. 

I've decided that I'm going to rewrite the book.  As it is only in a typed paper version, this has meant I have to key the whole thing into the computer.  I'm not quite half way there as it is around 220 pages. This is a good process, as it is giving me lots of ideas of how it needs to be altered, added to, changed to make a tighter more solid story.  And since my latest revelation about my the demon of 'proving something to somebody', I realized that I don't really care if anyone ever sees this or not.  It seems to be something that I'm motivated to do simply for the joy of doing it. It's such an unusual, unique and joyful experience to me.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

An End To Tilting At Windmills?

(As always the warning that this post contains unabashedly spiritual content.  Avoid if that bothers you.)

I've documented at length under the 'Transition' label the multi year process of accepting the change of life that occurs going from the years of work to the years of retirement.  In particular I've talked a lot about dealing with my fighting the Dragon of ego to get to a place where I can have a meaningful new reality.  In the last week or so I've had a couple of very significant realizations. 

During this process, I focused on my ego attachments to the business that I've build and the work that I've done since the mid-1990's because that was most pertinent to my ego issues during this transition.  But a train of thought came to me during the course of weeks worth of meditation and contemplation that went like this.
  • The ego attachment that I had identified really took the shape of a 'needing to show somebody something'.  Kind of like the words, "Well they really don't appreciate how good I am, so I have to show them."
  • Then I realized that this feeling of 'needing to prove something to somebody' was not restricted to just this business that I built, but manifested all through my career.
  • Then I realized that this feeling had manifested itself all through my life!  In fact, I can identify this feeling going back to my earliest memories.
"Holy crap," I said to myself, "You mean this has been the core of my self-image forever?"

This isn't just some attachment to his business edifice.  It has been a key part of the fabric of my being. And who are these others that I have felt my whole life that I needed to prove something too?  Clearly it hasn't been the individuals or organizations that I set up because it made no difference what I did or in what arena I did it or when I did it, I'd find someone, something, some group that I had to prove something too.

The path that I follow, we are encouraged to seek out the attachments that keep us separated from the unity that truly is the see through the illusions of life.  If this isn't a core attachment and illusion, I don't know what is. 

I haven't decided quite what I'm supposed to do with this revelation but I certainly have felt a lot lighter since it took place.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Officers' Lounge Added to Eldership

Second Officer Wife has been after me to upgrade some of the accommodations for the senior staff of the Eldership de-Intimidator.  You know what we say here in Elderfleet command - "Happy Second Officer, Happy Life."

Fortunately after the recent addition of our expansive combination indoor/outdoor room, our former dining room has been sitting unused.  With the input of a number of people, we settled on the idea of creating a lounge which was finally put into place this week.

New Eldership de-I Officers' Lounge

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Things That Make Me A Plebian Peasant

This post is presented with good humor as a tongue in cheek counterpoint to a recent post from one of my wonderful daughters.

  • I still eat the same Hershey's Chocolate Nuggets as I have for years (though at least I eat the dark chocolate ones)

  • I actually like and look forward to watching The Voice on network television

  • I buy french bread from Costco

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Cooking the Blackacre Way

I offered Wife the choice of BBQ ribs or crab cakes for Valentine's Day.  She chose the latter (so I'm making the former today, Sunday).  Crab cakes are not anything that I make on a regular basis or truth be told hardly any basis at all.  So I sent a lifeline to the Nieces X and E in the Mid-Atlantic being pretty confident that that the enthusiastic cooks of that branch of the family would have something. 

This recipe comes from the test kitchen of the East Shore of Maryland plantation, Blackacre, the homestead of my older brother.

First needed - Crab

Ah Phillips a good ole Maryland brand of crab

Direct from India

Next it calls for shallots, jalapeno and poblano chiles.
Well that sounds more like what I can get here in the Southwest

And the venerable Maryland spice Old Bay Seasoning
Yikes all they had at our grocery is this garlic and herb version.
Hope that works

Next they call for homemade crab stock!
Jeesh were am I going to get that?

I'm pretty good at improvising so I made an ersatz fish/crab stock using some leftover poaching liquid from a fish I made on Friday plus some fish stock base, Thai fish sauce, and Vietnamese spicy crab paste

The recipe calls for you to dice the shallots and pepper in a lot of butter, then add the stock and cook the stock down.

Meanwhile I combined the crab, Old Bay plus some panko breadcrumbs in a bowl

So far so good

Next you take off the wet mixture, let cool some, and add butter
That's added to the other ingredients in the bowl and mixed together.

The mixture is rolled into 8 balls and fried in butter and oil 15 minutes to a side on a low to medium heat.

Look crab cakey?

Got to have a side dish so I took some corn on the cob from the summer out

Et Voila
Blackacre Style Crab Cakes

Truth be told I had a slight glitch in the recipe.  I don't think I reduced the stock mixture enough and as a result the cakes really didn't hold together.  It took a real deft had to keep them halfway together for turning and then getting them out of the pan.  On top of that I had the heat a bit too high at first.  Hence the more 'Louisiana blackened' look than the 'golden brown'  I was aiming for.

That said, they tasted excellent.  And though they didn't really hold together well, that same looseness has me inspired to use this recipe as the filling for some crab ravioli!

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Hiking and Cooking

One of the goals of the my transition into semi-retirement has been to get on a more consistent exercise program.  I was fearful that the jury duty interlude was going to wreak havoc with my schedule this week and next.  However, I was not called in today and was able to therefore go hiking.  And Monday is a holiday so I will be pretty much on my schedule. 

One of the pleasures of Albuquerque is we can have snow up in our mountains and at the same time have 50's or 60's temperature and sun days in the city simultaneously.  Yesterday was rainy in the 40's.  But that meant at the higher altitude it was snowing.  Fortunately it was below freezing over night.  That meant that the lower trail would be hard not muddy and there would be as much snow as possible lower on the mountain.  On these types of days I like to get out early so I run into as little muck as possible as the temperature goes up during the day.

I felt very good hiking especially the cardiovascular response.  I went on a trail where I know the snow line is lower because of it being a protected valley.  At 8 in the morning it was still below freezing (just).  There were only two pairs of boot tracks going up once I hit the snow and they were from yesterday afternoon.  After about an hour in the last of the boot tracks ended and I was breaking trail in the snow.  I didn't go too much further as I was on a narrow trail on the side of pretty steep slope and felt it was a bit more dangerous than I wanted to do. 

On the way down going though my own shoesteps

Meanwhile on the cooking front I have been in a very creative mode.  I have been over the last year since we got back from Cambodia much more Asian focused with my daily cooking.  I will make something flat out East Asian, Southeast Asian or Indian inspired at least twice a week.  But in recent months I was inspired to use my arsenal of Asian condiments and flavorings and use them in some no Asian dishes.  Then I read an article in the Wall Street Journal that this is same thing is being utilized by restaurant chefs around the country.  The key these chefs say is not using to much but just enough to enhance the umami aspect of a dish without having flavoring standing out on its own.

Finally, a little ray of NM sunset to finish your day.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Jury Duty

I'm serving jury duty this week and next.  By an odd set of circumstances Wife is also serving jury duty as well though her two week service period started the week before mine did.  This confluence of service occurred because of multiple rescheduling we did at the end of last year.

Here in Albuquerque there are three courts you can be called in on to do jury duty.  There is the Metropolitan Court which handles smaller criminal and civil actions.  District Court which handles the larger stuff.  And Federal District Court which deals with cases involving Federal rather than State law. 

Wife and I have been called to Metropolitan Court.  This means that we mostly go to the Courthouse in the morning, sit around for half a day and be sent home.  The reason you rarely end up going to an actual jury is that the small nature of the cases usually are settled before they go to trial.  In addition they start a new jury pool group each week and (in general) bring them in every other day.

Unfortunately they don't actually tell this to you.  They tell you you need to be available for two weeks.  So that means two weeks of not being able to schedule anything business or personal.  Wife only has two more days to go and has only been on one panel and that panel never actually was called up for interview.  I on the other hand was called onto a panel the first day there (Monday) and was selected for the jury.  The trial was a DUI case and went through Monday and Tuesday. 

The trial itself was kind of interesting and being responsible for someone's fate certainly makes you pay close, close attention to all that goes on during the trial.  What's a royal pain is all the waiting around.  I don't know anything about how courts schedule things, but as a juror you are mostly in the dark about what's happening.  So there's all this waiting around without knowing when you're starting or how long things are going to go.  Plus you can't have any electronic devices with cameras on them in the courthouse (so no phone or computer if they are half way recent at all), and none at all period when you are in the jury itself.

The jury deliberating room is this small place with now windows or anything.  When we finally finished and had our verdict, we called them only to be told they were on to something else so we had to sit in this tiny room for another hour and a half.

Fortunately today no panels were called and I was able to come home at Noon time.