Sunday, April 17, 2011


I was thinking about how confusing it is to understand the conservatives in the US right now. From half way around the world, the Loud Right Wing (aka the Tea Party) seems to be screaming that the government needs to get out of people's lives and stop spending tax money on things that are not absolutely essential.

And yet it seems that these same people want the government to spend tax dollars and get involved in people's lives if those people want to smoke the leaves of a plant they can grow in their backyard. Or marry the person they love if they are both of the same sex. Or play poker with other people.

Sometimes I think the Loud Right Wing's motto should really be "Less government interference in my life but more in the lives of the people who aren't like me."  Which isn't, I suppose, dramatically different from the Loud Left Wing that wants the government to get out of their bedroom and backyard but please give us more consumer protection and environmental policing.

It's not so much illogical as a contrary way of thinking that is very definitely strong in America.

But enough politics. What started this rant is, of course, the decision yesterday for the US government to spend taxpayer dollars to indict lots of people who run the biggest online poker websites - Full Tilt Poker, PokerStars and Absolute Poker. With all that is going on with US government budget cuts, I am hard pressed to figure out why someone thought this was a good way to spend tax dollars, but my reaction has little to do with that and lots to do with the possibility that I may eventually lose one of my favorite pastimes if the anti-gambling conservatives in Washington continue to have their way.

I do play lots of online poker lately. Mostly because I am getting into low-entry tournaments and have reached the point where I tend to survive in them for several hours.

I did get a sense of how this looks to people when Jason told me last night that he and Lora had been watching a cooking competition show on TV where couples have to prepare restaurant-quality meals for a panel of judges.

"We imagined if you and Mom were on the show," Jay said. "She'd be in the kitchen working up a storm making the dishes and you'd be sitting there playing online poker."

That's really not fair, although it's not exactly unfair. For one thing, I tend to be the breakfast and lunch guy in the family (as well as making macarons, don't forget). So it's not like I don't do my stint at the stove.

Secondly, I have mastered quite well the art of bringing my laptop to the counters and playing poker while making a meal. In fact, there are only two things to worry about: splashing liquid on the keyboard and going all-in when you meant to hit the button to fold.

(I won't even mention the care you need to take when nature calls and you have to take your poker tournament into the smallest room in the house. LK says that's her favorite of my poker moments. I tell her it helps motivate me that my competitors don't know what I'm doing at the time. It's also curious how often I get a flush when I am there.)

The poker sites are still open today, and there are plenty of Americans playing at them. But I have a hunch those numbers will dwindle dramatically as they use up their current bankroll and find they cannot deposit any more money into the site. And once the Americans go away, the sites will be fighting for a very small share of the rest of the world's players.

Of course, if the Americans go away it is likely that the players typing mean-spirited and insulting comments will also go away since those are mostly Yanks, as well. It would be nice not to be called a fish, a donkey and several curiously misspelled variants of just about every dirty word you can think of.

Of course, the Yanks only tend to call me a bad player when I've beaten them. So maybe I would miss that, as well. At least it reminds me of how hard it can be to understand that contrary tendency in American thinking.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011


LK was asking why I don't blog so often anymore. Having no real answer ready, I did what I have learned from watching Fox News. I got angry and annoyed and tried to make her feel guilty for asking the question. Since she is a CNN person, that unfortunately didn't work.

So I figured I would ask the world's greatest company if they had any ideas. Microsoft, not surprisingly, came up with a quick reply when I turned on Messenger on my iPod.

I'm not sure I agree with Microsoft on this, but I am hard pressed to think of a proper rebuttal.

Oh wait, that changed last night. When I asked my bride, "Yo, LK, what's for dinner?" she surprised me by answering slow braised short ribs. She had found what she thought would be a great recipe online and wanted to try it.

It involved soaking the ribs in turkey brine mixture for six hours and then slow roasting them for another six hours. The sauce they cook in requires a full bottle of cabernet sauvignon, While I am willing to send one of my soldiers on such a mission, I hoped the sacrifice would be worth it.

It was.

In fact, it was one of the most delicious dishes I can remember eating. I was raving with my mouth full (and I suspect, thick, dark gravy dripping into my beard) during the whole meal. The meat was tender and full of flavor. The gravy was rich and almost decadent. So good.

LK was typically modest. "I was just following a recipe," she said, as if any cook in the world would have the same result. I had to remind her that while making it, she hadn't liked the original taste of the sauce and decided to add a couple spoons of chili honey. And later she felt it needed a bit more something, so she chopped up some fresh mint and threw it in.

Not quite opening a jar of Ragu and boiling spaghetti, and hardly anyone I know would think adding chili honey and mint to a first time recipe is "just following" it. Anyhow, it was 5-star yummy.

That was something new. And by golly, here's a post about it.

Monday, April 11, 2011


"Donald, we have too much stuff!"

In the category of I-never-thought-I-would-hear-my-sweetie-say-that, this was a significant moment, a world record as it were. But in the last couple of weeks, LK has been unpacking boxes, sorting through stuff, putting some in the closets, some in the area designated for the garage sale, and some back into boxes.

It has been tough, physical work and she has been tired by the end of the day. And maybe it was a combination of fatigue coupled with a near total immersion in all the stuff she owns, but at some point in these past few days she decided we really do own too much.

I know I had written earlier posts making fun of her for having more than 200 pairs of footwear or 100 cashmere sweaters or seven sets of dinner dishes or more pictures than we have ever had wall space to hang them. But I loved that part of LK. She has loved acquiring beautiful things and she has certainly worked hard enough in her career that she need not apologize for buying whatever she wants.

And besides, having LK around meant no one raised an eyebrow at my 100+ neckties or 700+ bottles of wine etc. After all, LK did say "We" have too much stuff.

There is an interesting article in the Wall St Journal this week called "Downsizing Boomers Looking to Sell Their Stuff".  The gist of the article is that my generation never learned how to say No and acquired "mountains of accumulated stuff", as the article calls it.

Now entering retirement, we Boomers are either downsizing and moving to smaller places, looking for some extra money, or just finally coming around to realizing that we really do have too much stuff and should get rid of it. 

In our situation, there are several categories:
  • The Stuff We Just Don't Need Anymore: Business suits, briefcases, all but a few neckties, four cigar boxes, size 36 pants, size 38 pants, size 40 pants
  • The Stuff We Could Use But Probably Won't: Exercise equipment, the third barbecue, the digital voice recorder, bicycles, the cassette-based video recorder, the 5-year-old half bottle of red vermouth
  • The Stuff We Don't Need As Much Of: the fourth-through-seventh set of dishes; the fourth and fifth iPod speaker sets, the 50th-through-100th cashmere sweater, the paintings that won't fit on the walls, some of our 120 wine glasses, most of my 26 pairs of  underpants. On second thought, better hold on to those.
  • The Stuff We Had in Storage for Years and Never Missed: the electric piano, eight director chairs, the 7 or 8 suitcases we don't use anymore, the walking machine
The first date we set for the garage sale has passed, but we are still piling the things up that we hope to sell. We have already resigned ourselves to the fact that won't get great prices for most of our things, but as LK just said after sorting through her handbags and sweaters today, "If we just sold everything we don't want for a dollar, we'd make quite a bit of money," she said.

I don't know if it's classier to run a Dollar Store than a Garage Sale. But if it is, maybe that's the way to go.

Thursday, April 7, 2011


The fog comes
on little cat feet.
It sits looking
over harbor and city
on silent haunches
and then moves on.

Carl Sandburg

Daybreak was something special this morning. Bright sunshine flooded through our windows, but on either side there were massive fog banks crawling down from Kingston to the beaches.

To the south, you couldn't see a thing in Blackmans Bay, and just a short ways away to the north Kingston Beach was hidden.

Not much to say, but I thought you might like to see them, too.

Blackmans Bay last week
And here it is this morning.

The last finger of the cloud still covering Bruny Island

As Wendy Matthews sings, "Hey, there's not a cloud in the sky"

And to the north, Kingston Beach. Cue Judy Collins - "I've looked at clouds from both sides now"

Tuesday, April 5, 2011


I love my wife. Especially when she finds a way of putting a good spin on one of my less than wonderful characteristics.

This happened the other night when I placed a drink awkwardly on the end table while watching TV and we ended up with olives, vodka and vermouth all over the floor. "I swear I put it in the middle of the table," I said, but I could see in her eyes that she doubted that the laws of physics had altered briefly just to make me look clumsy.

It probably wouldn't have been a big deal except that about a week earlier I had placed a drink awkwardly on the end table while watching TV and we ended up with olives, vodka and vermouth all over the floor. That time it really wasn't my fault. I had seen the glass hydroplane on the coaster and just scoot over the edge of the table. Honest. I did see it happen.

I should add that both of these were the first drinks of the cocktail hour, so it would be wrong to blame the vodka and vermouth for the misadventure since most of it ended up on the floor.

That may not be quite the case in explaining why I spilled a full glass of wine right after pouring it the other night. In that case I bumped it with my arm as I cleaned up the sink after spilling a little wine in it.

And then there's the tub of cottage cheese that I knocked out of the fridge this weekend, which then popped its lid and made a pretty pattern of curd on dark wood.

And since I was just preparing the first drink of the day yesterday when I dropped the tub of feta-filled olives, you know you can't blame the booze. I tried to blame it on a case of dropsy, but then I discovered that dropsy is an old word for edema and has nothing to do with dropping things. So even then I dropped the metaphorical ball, as it were.

LK was on the phone with our accountant at the time I dropped the olives. Since the olives were in one of those little plastic containers from the deli department, it didn't make any noise when it fell. LK first noticed that something was up while still on the phone when she glanced over and saw me kneeling on the floor with a soapy sponge and spray cleaner trying to get all the olive oil up.

Or perhaps she first noticed when she watched me grunting and groaning and very nearly going ass-over-teacups as I stood up after cleaning the floor. At any rate, when she was off the phone she asked what in the world was going on.

When I told her that I had dropped yet one more thing, she shook her head and said (quite calmly, I should add),  "Donald, you're not having a real good run right now."

Well, I replied, I guess those are the sorts of things that happen when you're clumsy.

And God love her, LK shook her head and said I wasn't really all that clumsy. "No," she said in a very thoughtful tone, "your problem is that you're always looking ahead to the next thing and not focusing on the current moment."

"You mean I don't pay attention?" I asked.

"Not exactly," she said. After a few seconds she came up with one of her specialties - a detailed hypothetical example to illustrate her point.

"Let's say we were both walking on the beach (that part lets you know this is hypothetical) and there's a minor car accident. You would remember so much more than I would. You would know how the accident happened, what the drivers did, what colors the cars were, maybe even the license plates."

Of course there was a "but . . ." hanging in the air, and I let her off the hook by completing her thought for her.

"But I would probably trip over something on my way to help them out. Isn't that what you're saying?"

"Exactly," she beamed. "You wouldn't pay attention to the things around you but would be very focused on what you were going to."

Bless her heart. I know she was doing her best to make me seem less like a klutz. But if I am totally candid, I would have to say that if I am a visionary, it still sounds like I am a very clumsy visionary.

And I think it was quite telling last night I went to get a bottle of wine from the storage fridge. "Oh Donald," she said, "you're not having red wine, are you?"

As a forward thinker, I understand exactly where she was heading.