Monthly Archives: December 2022

Travel pet peeves

OK, to get this out of the way… A “peeve” is a cause of annoyance. Why would anyone keep one as a pet?

After a whirlwind trip to Oklahoma (down to OK on Wed, back on Thursday…in a snowstorm) I have amassed a few things and practices that annoy me. I have divided these into categories.

Rest Stops:

  • Going West from Omaha to York, between Lincoln and York there are several Westbound rest stops. Going East from York to Lincoln, there is one. US highways don’t have rest stops like interstates, so the only place you can stop is a gas station. If you don’t like stopping at gas stations, you just hold it until you get back on the interstate…at York, after 3 hours of driving and a quart of water.
  • If you are thirsty and you don’t want to buy soda or juice, you carry your water with you, and you refill the thermos at the rest stops. Be aware that during the winter, they turn off the drinking fountains and all you can get is warm water from some of these bathrooms. Yes, it is wet, but not preferable.
  • The doors on the stalls have broken latches. We’re not talking about missing screws. They are BROKEN! The 1/4-inch metal piece that attaches the latch to the door is sheered off. I picture a very very angry woman in a wheelchair charging the door with a Viking yell and destroying the latch mechanism.
  • The toilet paper doesn’t come in perforated sheets. It comes in ribbons that are miles long. When you try to access this 1-ply, translucent paper, it comes off in 1/16-inch pieces. You can try to piece together these little scraps or you can add them to the 1-foot pile of teeny pieces on the floor. I think there is a method to get enough paper to do the job, but I don’t know what it is.
  • If you want a paper towel to wipe off your rearview camera (on your CAR you pervert!), there aren’t any. Yes, you could use toilet paper instead…see above.
  • Automatic Anxious flushers. After you have done your business and are beginning to rise to your feet, the toilet flushes and washes your backside. Now you have to get more than 3000 1/16-inch pieces of toilet paper to dry that off, and you have to leap off the toilet and step 2 feet away in order to avoid repeating the process. I’m old. I can no longer manage this feat of strength and dexterity.
  • Automatic NON-flushers. You walk into the stall and see that the toilet has not significantly flushed. You push the button and it works. Yay! It’s not clogged! (Remember that I use the handicapped stall and there’s only one in every rest area. And the lock is broken…) So after completing your business, and not getting your backside washed multiple times, you start to walk out of the stall, and nothing happens. So you walk back and the toilet flushes vehemently as you reach for the button. There is a backsplash. EWWW! Everything you did comes up in a geyser before it gets sucked into the hole. You learn to stand to the side before you reach for the button.


  • TV Remotes need to have batteries.
  • When you’re in a different town, the guide to all the channels always starts at “1” and proceeds at 5 seconds intervals with no search feature. After 10+ minutes of scrolling, you discover the Weather channel on #156 so you can see what you have to drive through tomorrow.
  • There is a blinking green light so you know that the smoke alarm works.
  • It takes a degree in engineering to set the alarm clock.
  • They now have duvets on their beds, and they seem to be weighted. If you roll over, the weight of the cover pulls all the blankets off the bed and onto the floor so both of you freeze.
  • The temperature control was designed by the same people that did the alarm clock.
  • They don’t really have a cook in the kitchen, so their hot breakfast is toast.
  • They don’t put the number of the room ON the key, so if you split up to park the car and get the cups and purses into the room, one of you will not know where the room is.

Phone Directions: You can set directions 2 different ways. You can set them by pressing the map icon, entering the destination, avoid tolls, highways, etc. choose whether to walk, drive, ride your bicycle, fly, or ride a train. The other option is to enter some event into your calendar and then add the travel time. It all depends on how sophisticated you want to be when you’re lost.

  • Sometimes you get automatic travel time calculations so you know when to start your journey, sometimes you don’t.
  • Sometimes the phone directions come through the speakers of your radio. Sometimes they don’t.
  • Sometimes they give you gratuitous directions…Stay on Rt 81 (because the road is turning and they don’t want you driving up someone’s lane.) And sometimes they don’t. “Which one of these 12 exits am I supposed to be on?” silence…
  • Sometimes you can hear the directions,
  • sometimes they’re whispered, and it doesn’t matter what the volume settings on your phone or your radio are.
  • Sometimes there’s a map that goes with the directions; sometimes it’s just directions.
  • Sometimes the screen stays on for all the changing lanes and traffic info; sometimes it goes black just when you need the information.


  • Try to find a station you like and there’s a good chance there will be repeater stations all the way to your destination. This is especially true of the Jesus stations and the Love yer Neighbor stations and the Yer gonna Roast in Hell stations. It also works on the Country stations and the local sports stations. Classical only works during the day on your way South and not at all on the way North. NPR stations will repeat the same shows 8 times in either direction you’re traveling.
  • If you’re listening to the radio and you’re in heavy traffic, YOU WILL NOT HEAR YOUR PHONE DIRECTIONS (see above.) This also happens if your traveling partner breathes heavily, or sneezes, or asks what time it is…
  • When you are traveling in especially awful weather, you will not find any information about road conditions or it will fade in and out and give you the forecast for Buffalo, NY.
  • There are places that will give you static for 200 miles no matter what station you’re trying to listen to…Scan, Kssshshhhshshs, Scan, kssshhhshshhshsh, Scan, “Jesus will…” Kssshshshshshshs…
  • Then there are the “cool jazz” stations late at night where the cool DJ is talking low and mellow, and all you can hear is something that sounds like Charlie Brown’s teacher, down one octave. “Wa wawawa wa wa wa Cool 98 on this wa wawawa.” These are guaranteed to put you to sleep after a long day of driving. But it’s not a good idea to go to sleep while you are driving.
  • I cannot leave out the Buddy Banter when the stations employ 2 DJs to talk to each other rather than play music. So you get 4 min of a song, and then 6 min of these guys asking each other questions, making jokes, gossiping about celebrities. and basic inanity. These are the cool dudes that didn’t pass the audition for the Jazz station as they are high tenors.

Still, I love road trips. It especially pleases me when I’m driving because I get to choose the rest stops and the restaurants. The more things go sideways the more stories I have available to blog.

Thoughts on Avatar

Based on the review by Christian Simpson who was moved to tears, my son and I ventured forth in the sub-freezing weather to the local cinema to view the second in the series…the way of the water.

There are many levels to this film.

Firstly, there was a mantra or prayer that all the water folk knew.

“The way of water has no beginning and no end. The sea is around you and in you. The sea is your home before your birth and after your death. The sea gives, and the sea takes. Water connects all things – life to death and darkness to light.”

~ Avatar II, the Way of the Water

It is like many of the indigenous peoples from around the world: they are connected to nature and the life force of all flora and fauna.

You can also recognize this feeling of the oneness of life in the ancient Greek text of the New Testament.

No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. We know that we live in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit.

~ 1 John 4:12-13

We see how the characters relate to their world and their world, though some of it is quite scary and dangerous, it is still beautiful. It is heartbreaking to see that the first thing the people from Earth do is destroy the forest and kill all the living creatures where they want to set up their command center. They don’t see that in claiming this world and taming it, they are doing exactly the same thing they did to their home planet. They’re like locusts.

Secondly, they originally were mining “unobtanium” which is a substance they can’t obtain on Earth. It was supposed to be a source of power for the Earth as it has used up all its resources. (So, used up the sun, the water, the air… then they overcrowded the planet.) This time they are planning to colonize the planet and they’re killing the big whale-like animals for a substance in the brain that gives allllllll these people (who can afford the $80 million per vial) the ability to live forever. In all, the invaders decide they will take what they want from the primitives if they have to destroy the planet, then make their people live forever and MOVE ALL OF THEM TO THE PLANET THEY JUST DESTROYED TO MAKE THEIR MONEY. I would guess they’d move all the people that could afford to PAY to the planet, not everyone. This would leave the Earth in a mess without resources and without a way to survive.

We’re the cockroaches of the universe–we’d find a way. If these evil people leave and take their toys with them, it wouldn’t take too long for all the plant and animal species of the earth to take back their planet. Disease and starvation would reduce the human population and predatory animals would reduce it further.

The point of this rant here is that greed and short-term consciousness makes for horrendous long-term damage. LT? These locusts would already be inoculated with the life-extension substance, so they wouldn’t be able to sell any more of it. And if you’re living forever, why have kids? If they mine all the unobtanium from the floating mountains, they wouldn’t float. I would think that would be a bit unpleasant. They’d have to build workers to do the unpleasant tasks. Then they’d develop AI so you don’t have to tell your robot what to do all the time. Then the robots would take over…

Thirdly, the plot:

In Avatar, there are 3 elements: The bad guys invade the peaceful planet. The main officer is seeking revenge against the human who becomes part of the people he was supposed to evict and decides he likes the natives better and fights the officer. He has to sacrifice himself to save the population of indigenous inhabitants.

Evil invaders seek to take beautiful land and peoples and twist them into ugly landscapes and dehumanized creatures.

  1. Lord of the Rings: Sauron uses technology to mass-produce badly-made weapons and armor for his twisted and ruined creatures. He’d rather rule an ugly world populated by evil and cruel hominids than a beautiful land with amazing flora and fauna that have successfully survived millennia. For example: Orcs are former elves that have been mutated into evil, corrupt, and cannibalistic beings. Another example: The scene where they uproot an ancient tree in order to feed the forge to make (badly) weapons and armor. And last: they repair their wounded by riveting metal plates to their heads and attaching ill-fitting prostheses that look like leftovers from a body-building competition for morons.
  2. Harry Potter: Voldemort seeks to use evil to twist men’s souls so he can rule the world. He lives in a world of death but seeks every opportunity to escape death. Even when surrounded by his followers, he is still self-absorbed and relates only to his pet snake. His loyal followers do not like him much, though they worship him. As a follower of Voldemort, Snape, the headmaster after he murders Dumbledor, focuses on punishment for even the slightest infraction and imposes a slave-like or robot-like culture in the once-beautiful school. There is a decided lack of color.
  3. War of the Worlds/Signs/Independence Day: Aliens attack and try to take over the world because they used up their worlds and this looked like an easy mark. They decide to eradicate all humans.

The underdogs must confront and serve as cannon fodder in order to allow time for the hero to defeat the enemy. They go up against a superior force with bigger technology or numbers.

  1. Lord of the Rings: Aragorn, the king, exhorts his followers to fight the hoards in order to give Frodo the time to destroy the ring and therefore Sauron. There are no deserters, and they all fight until the minions turn to dust.
  2. Harry Potter: They enlist the teachers, the students, and all the statuary to fight off the evil wizards so he can find the last of the vessels containing Voldemort’s soul. They all believe in Harry and have a definite dislike for Voldemort as he likes to kill people.It costs them many lives, but they are encouraged by another July boy to fight for their values and their beliefs. The deserters are those in the school whose parents are followers of Voldemort, though one of them died in trying to kill Harry because he didn’t know how to wield his spell and it backfired.
  3. War of the Worlds/Signs/Independence Day: The common people rise up and fight hand to hand, or the brave soldiers go to save the day even though they know it’s a hopeless battle. They believe there’s a plan in place and will give their lives to save their families and communities while the plan is in effect.

The hero has to be willing to die to save the day.

  1. Lord of the Rings: The fellowship of the ring decides to fight a much larger opponent with no compunctions about self-preservation. 4 hobbits, 1 elf, 1 dwarf, 2 humans, and a wizard lead men, elves, and dwarfs, against Sauron and his uncounted minions. Our hero, Frodo, has to sacrifice himself to get the ring to the mountain to destroy it. He loses a finger and almost his life and destroys the ring, but loses a part of his soul. (And they win.)
  2. Harry Potter: Voldemort and his ADULT FOLLOWERS attack a school full of children in order to kill a small boy (who doesn’t know much magic) because of a prophecy that says some child born in July will kill Voldemort. 3 teenage children (one of them is Harry) systematically destroy the vessels containing the parts of Voldemort’s soul and then Harry is brave enough to offer himself as a sacrifice to save the school children. He gets murdered by Voldemort but doesn’t die. They destroy all the vessels and Harry gets into a duel with a fully grown, expert wizard without a nose, and beats him. (And they win.)
  3. War of the Worlds/Signs/Independence Day: Our heroes have to find the weakness in the aliens and be willing to sacrifice themselves in order to save the planet. (And they win.)

Avatar, then, is just a retelling of a Hero’s journey, but it is beautiful and creative. It is a three-dimensional portrayal of the characters and a message that isn’t preached at the audience but implied. Everyone gets a differing interpretation as to the moral of the story, but that’s ok because it speaks to the person’s inner voice and that is unique among all the individuals in the theaters.

Ain’t Christmastime Grand?

Part Deux

We were sitting around the table the day after Thanksgiving at my daughter’s house. Dear, Sweet, Pat says, “What are Christmas plans this year?” Crickets

“Well,” said I, “I’m planning to have Christmas Dinner on Christmas day. We’re picking up Ben so he can be with family for the holiday.” Realizing this is a 7-hour drive down, an overnight stay, and a 7-hour drive back up, I’d have to get most of my pre-cook dishes done and stored before we left.

I don’t know how you do your Christmas planning, but I used to start mine in June. I’d get everything ready so on the day of Christmas dinner, all I had to do was thaw, pour, heat and eat. To understand this, you will need to picture a zombie apocalypse shelter filled with canned food (home canned so in jars) a freezer full of side dishes like breads and stuffing, containers of fudge and candy, and a todo list on a spreadsheet with times and instructions. Now Pat is talking about having the family assemble at Grandma and Grandpa’s house…so 13 people in all. OK, I just need to amend the recipes a bit. But when I thought about it, THERE WAS NO WAY I could get it all out of the oven hot at the same time!

So I started delegating guests to bring a side dish. We got Creamed Corn, Sweet Potato Casserole, Pumpkin Cheesecake, and Bundt cake. Yum! I only had to do mashed potatoes, string beans, cranberry sauce, rolls, pumpkin bread, cranberry/orange bread, the gravy*, turkey, and ham. We set the time to gather at 11 AM so we could eat at 12. We weren’t sure my middle boy was going to have to work that night so we needed to be done by about 2 PM.

Best laid plans: (AND THEY WERE GREAT PLANS!)

Do the turkey in the roaster and the ham in the crock pot! All the other heatables could be done on 2 racks in the oven. Problem Solved. Except… The ham didn’t fit into either the crock pot or the roaster. In fact, it didn’t fit into the roasting pan without having to use a foil lid instead of a regular one. It was too tall to add another shelf. Oops.

Then I started the rolls. DO NOT USE BUTTER-FLAVORED CRISCO to make bread. It doesn’t form the gluten very well so it doesn’t rise. (Note to self.) I kneaded that stuff for about 30-35 min and it never got that “roll dough” texture. This is Christmas morning, so to get the turkey into the roaster, the stuffing mixed up, and everything else figured out, I was up at 5 AM. It’s now 9:30 and I’m needing a nap! I form the rolls anyway, and they’re pathetic little teeny things. The kitchen smells marvelous, however!

Kids are supposed to arrive at 11. I’ve got time. Ding Dong…?? 10:30 and they’re here? Well, they certainly didn’t get that from my side of the family.

Oh, and BTW, the corn has to be baked for 30 min at 325. Oh, and BTW, this sweet potato casserole has to bake for 10 min at 325 (No, it’s in a glass dish and it won’t warm up the center that fast). My rolls haven’t baked yet. I’m smiling. I have 2 granddaughters helping me now! Cooking buddies! One is finishing up my gravy. One is cutting up potatoes for the mashed potatoes and I’m washing dishes to get counter space and microwaving the beans. We have the potatoes heating, the sauce is strained, and it’s time to take the ham out.

  1. The ham is heavy
  2. It has 7 cups of liquid in the roaster
  3. I have a bodybuilder for a son
  4. He expertly moves the rack with the ham out and sets the liquid waves in motion. (we can’t see this because it’s in the foil.)
  5. He deftly lifts the pan 4 inches and 1 -2 cups of liquid spill out on the inside of the oven door, but he gets it to the stovetop.
  6. The creamed corn and the sweet potato casserole go in.

My rolls have not risen. They’ve been not rising for over an hour now. My middle boy suggests we air fry them, which, since he has an air fryer, he knows how to do. We get it out of the garage and set it up and do the rolls. They are still pathetic and teeny, but now they are brown.

Wait, why aren’t my potatoes boiling? Oh. The back burner is small and I have a stock pot on it. So we move the stock pot full of water and potatoes to a front burner. They begin to boil in about 10 min. I have one of those paddle-type stand mixers where the paddle moves and the bowl is stationary. I used to have one of those with the beaters and the revolving bowl. When you add potatoes to that, the beaters break up the potatoes and everything stays in the bowl, more or less. I don’t have that mixer anymore. I thought it would have the same effect, though. We pour the potatoes and some of the water into the bowl to mash. Bad idea. Remember the exploding flour when we made gingerbread trees? Exploding potatoes with scalding water makes it a suicide mission to turn the thing off. Now, in the kitchen are my 2 oldest granddaughters, my youngest son, me, and my daughter Pat. “Look out!” and screams of fear bring MORE people into the kitchen. We get it stopped and use a potato masher to cut the potatoes into smaller chunks. There…that ought to do it. Turn it on…YIKES. It didn’t quite work. Now we’re wondering why we thought putting it into a mixer was the shortcut.

We plate the side dishes and put the decorative bowls on a card table. Pat has cut up the pumpkin bread and cranberry/orange bread onto a platter. Hubby and Pat’s husband are carving the turkey and the ham. Plastic dishes and our flatware are put out and people serve themselves buffet-style. Then I realize I haven’t put out glasses for drinks. Youngest retrieves the glasses and we have sparkling grape juice, and I have wine.

I have to write all these things down because I’ve been informed that my memories of past Christmases are totally fictional. But this was, without a doubt, one of the best Christmases ever!

*The gravy is a brown warm sauce from a French cookbook that I got for a Christmas present 40-some years ago, and it must be referred to in italics–it’s that good.

Taking Christian Simpson on a Hike

It was just a short hike, no more than an hour round trip.

We meet at the trailhead and he says, right off the bat, “Is it OK if I come with you?” Well, this is silly; I invited him. I say, “Of course,” and we head out.

We’ve gone about 15 feet and he says, “What an amazing blue that sky is! How would you describe it?”

“Um, blue?”
“Where have you seen that color before?”
“We were in Glacier Park and it was early in the morning.”
“What made that memorable?”
“We’d arrived at the park late the night before, about 11 pm, got the tents up and had a really late supper. My kids were experts at getting the camp set up by the time we got to Glacier and it took only 15 min to get the tents up, the sleeping bags unrolled, the fire started, the ‘kitchen’ set up and the water collected from the pump. I don’t remember what we ate that night, but the next morning we had a big breakfast. It would have been about 6 AM. The sun rose about 5.”
“How did that feel?”
“Cold, but peaceful. It seemed like everything was right with the world.”
“How was this feeling more memorable than earlier in the trip?”
“We were traveling without my husband. He had to work and didn’t have paid time off. It was just me and the five kids, and it was a bit stressful. I was trying to instill in them the feeling of adventure I used to get when I went on vacation with my parents. Growing up, that was a special time for me. It took a while to feel like a united group with my youngest being 5 and the oldest being 17. But that night, without prompting, without complaining, the camp had gotten set up and the fire started in record time, and I got the feeling that we were starting to gel into a working organism.” I smiled at the memory.

We walked along for about 30 seconds in silence. Then he said, “What’s that over there?”
“Over where?”
“By that structure over there?”
“Brambles. I never go there.”
“What keeps you from going there?”
“The brambles? They poke and they scrape and get caught on your clothes.”
“What’s in the shelter?”
“I don’t know because I never go there…Brambles remember?”
“If you could find a way around the brambles, would you explore it?”
“I guess. I might, I might not.”
“Let’s go look around the brambles.”
“Oh, all right.”
“When was the last time you were at the brambles?”
“I wasn’t very old. It was late in the day and when I got home, I was dirty and disheveled and crying. I remember my mom trying to pull all the thorns out and comb them out of my hair. It seemed like it took forever!”
“They hurt?”
“Yes, and I’d never seen brambles like that before. I hadn’t planned on going there, but my curiosity pulled me. I didn’t get very far and they scratched and poked and caught in my hair and tore my clothes and I couldn’t find my way out. I was by myself so I was scared.”
“How do these compare to the ones you saw when you were little?”
“OH! They’re raspberries! I didn’t know that before! They seem smaller. I can see over the top. The thing about raspberries, you bite them and the seeds get stuck between your teeth. But if you don’t bite down all the way, you can squish them with your tongue.”
“How did you learn that?”
“I don’t exactly remember, it could have been that girl scout trip I went on…”
“How did you find the door to the building?”
“I didn’t. I couldn’t see over the top so I just went straight in.”
“There wasn’t a path?”
“There might have been. I wasn’t looking for one.”
“What would have been different if you’d found a path into the structure?”
“I suppose it might have led to a door, a way through the brambles. Somebody living in the building would have had to have a way to get past the brambles to get to the door, I suppose.”
“Where would we find a path?”
“We could circle the building and see if we can see a door, and the path would be leading away from the door.”
“What do you want to do if you find the path?”
“See if someone lives there?”

We walk around the building and find the door and sure enough, there’s a path and a fence with a gate. It isn’t locked so we go in. We knock on the door and a big burly guy answers the door. He looks like he could star in a western. He greets us with a big smile and a “Howdy!” It smells glorious in the cabin. Something is cooking. He has a wood stove in the middle of the room, a dining table near the wall, and handmade chairs. There are fresh flowers in the window well. He grabs a towel and pulls out a pie. He says he was out hunting this morning and saw us come into the tourist area. He had canned some raspberries and just threw them into a pie.

Now, this is weird, we’ve only been hiking for about 10 min…oh, hmm. We’ve already been hiking for an hour? Where did the time go? It must be subjective on this hike! In a blink, the pie is cut up and put on metal plates like you’d get in a camping set. Our host tells us about the area and some stories, and then he puts some raspberries and blackberries in a box so they won’t squish when we carry them.

I decide that I want to head back to the trailhead and so we head back up to where the cabin path meets the main trail. Every few steps, Christian is asking, “What’s under that rock?” and we have to look! Sometimes it’s worms, sometimes it’s roly-polies, we found an arrowhead under one and discovered that one of the rocks was a corn grinder. Then he’d say, “Is that water I hear?” and we’d have to go see the waterfall and the cute little stream.

So, we didn’t get even a quarter of the way to the end of the hike, and yet uncovered so much fascinating and beautiful and curious stuff. The distance we traveled in 1 hour should have taken no more than 10 minutes, and instead of finishing the hike, we took two hours to discover the area. But I had been on this path countless times and had never seen any of this stuff. This trail was just a way to get from the trailhead to the destination where we’d look and say, “Now ain’t that pretty!” take some pictures and then turn around and come back. I had missed all these interesting things, and I’d never met the guy in the cabin.

The purpose of the hike is not to ARRIVE somewhere, but to enjoy the journey. The journey is part of a process, and when you stop (because you never finish!) you have become more. More aware, more conscious, more curious, more adventurous, and more brave.

If you have a coach, you are giving the grand tour of your inner world, taking a hike with someone who’s never seen it before. If you have a really good coach, he asks you about everything, including some things you have never explored. You learn things about yourself; you clarify your thoughts and feelings; you keep what you like and discard what doesn’t suit you. You explore like a child and you grow into a much better person.

I would take Christian Simpson on any hike again!


Work in Progress

I started on Friday. I got the yarn from Jo as a present last year, and I traded 1 addiction for another. I found I was spending an average of 7 hours/day on my phone! When I was done, I had nothing to show for it but a sore shoulder and wrist from holding the dam thing without changing positions! Now, I spend much less time on my phone and some on my knitting and when I’m done, I have a sweater to show for it.

I have to tuck ends in and such.

It has an invisible cast on, and it’s knit from bottom up on circular needles. Then it divides at the armholes and connects again at the shoulders. The sleeves are also knit in the round and then sewn on. What’s cool is that it’s an asymmetric sweater. The pattern stitch you see is on the left front and back, and the right side is plain. I start the divide tomorrow.

Ain’t Christmastime Grand?

Could you watch the kids so we can go Christmas Shopping?
Sure! We could do some Christmas baking!
We’ll bring them by about 9:30, and you can bring them home when you’re done.
No problem!

OK, kids! Here are the projects. Bread? Cookies? or Fudge? Each of you pick one.
Bread and cookies!

Um. 1 each.
I was choosing for me and her.
No, you can only choose for yourself.
Well, then, Bread and Cookies.

OK. Choose 1…for yourself only.
So I show them the cookie book.

This is the cover

This is what you see when you open the book. The inside of the book is upside down to the cover. It is a silly book. I don’t think it was supposed to be.

I figured about 1 hr to make cookies, without frosting or decorating, 1.5 hours to do a Christmas bread, and 1 hour to do 4 batches of fudge. Each grandchild would pick a project so we wouldn’t be doing all 3. So while one grandchild would be decorating the tree, the other would be baking. Then they would switch. 2 hours, lunch, and then home. Best laid plans… O’Toole’s Commentary: Murphy was an optimist.

Among the recipes, there is one for a gingerbread VILLAGE. Yup, 3 houses, 8 trees, a pond, and a wall. The recipe makes a lot of gingerbread, and it calls for 6 cups of powdered sugar for the frosting. I wasn’t anticipating this. Each pan of cookies has to bake for 10 min, and each piece has to be cut by hand to the specs in the design. 6 roof pieces, 4 steeple pieces, 6 side walls, 6 front and back walls, 8 full trees and 16 half trees, and 3 round bases for the houses. This is what O wanted to make. He insisted. Y decided to make fudge.

The cookie recipe wasn’t clear on how things were to be done, so we put the dry ingredients into the mixing bowl. I had the mixer plugged into a power strip, and had the power strip off. Oldest was putting things in and measuring and doing a pretty good job. Youngest then chose to abandon the tree and Grandpa and get in the way. I’m trying to get her back into the living room and told O to wait until I could help before he turned on the mixer. He said, “No problem” and then turned it on anyway. The power strip was off, so the mixer didn’t turn on. MEANWHILE, Y is still in the kitchen and whining that she wants to help. Suddenly the mixer goes on, FULL BLAST HIGH SPEED. O had found the power strip on-switch, and Poof! Flour explodes all over the kitchen. Now we’re sliding all over the kitchen on the flour. Y finally goes to the living room.

Now we cream the butter, sugar, vanilla, and ginger using the hand mixer in a much smaller bowl. We’ve already doubled the number of utensils it usually takes to make cookies. Then the book says to slowly add the flour mixture to the sugar/butter mixture. Yes. Of course. Put the 5 cups of flour and spices (well what’s left of the 5 cups after the explosion) to the small bowl where we mixed 1 cup of butter and a cup of sugar and a cup of molasses. The hand mixer cannot withstand that kind of resistance, so now we have to put the stuff in the small bowl into the large bowl. The mixture ends up crumbly. It doesn’t want to hold together. Now we have to roll it? O goes outside to play. Y follows him out. Grandma goes in to have a nervous breakdown in the living room with Grandpa.

O had insisted that we make the whole village and I have found myself alone in the kitchen. Oh no. So O and Y come back in and wonder why I’m not working on the cookies. “Me? It’s your project! Now we COULD roll them out and cut them into teddy bears…”

“NO! Why make gingerbread if you’re not going to make houses?” “So how would you like to proceed?” Y volunteers to roll out the crumbs and see if she can make them stick together. She does pretty well!!! We cut out the trees and the round bases. Then we cut out 3 teddy bears. Baked those and by now it’s 12:15.

Let’s go to Wendy’s! Wendy’s is locked. Um. Let’s go to Runza! We have a nice, civilized lunch and discuss volcanoes and compare Crater Lake to Mt. St. Helen’s. Then we discuss the volcano under Yellowstone Park. Grandpa starts driving toward Omaha. Wait! We haven’t made the fudge yet and we have to put together the gingerbread! Oh. oops. We head back home to finish the ordeal…um, the baking.

It takes about 5 min to make 1 batch of fudge so we make 1 batch and then start the frosting. While I’m making the frosting, the fudge sits in the fridge.

I can’t find my cookie press or my decorating kit. I find a ziplock bag and cut a hole in the corner, fill it with frosting, and split the seam. Argh. Grandpa finds the cookie press and decorating kit. YAY! We put together the trees and stick a teddy bear in the forest. It would not win any prizes.

Now it is after 2. It’s been about 4.5 hours with the grandchildren. I am out of shape. I cut the fudge and put it into a cookie tin. It is still mostly liquid. The kids really want to go home, so we get them all loaded up. We are informed by Y that we need to not hit any bumps because the teddy bears keep falling down.

Ya, This is Omaha. If we swerve to avoid the potholes, we’ll get pulled over for drunk driving.

We get them home about 3:00 and return to our home a little before 4. Grandma takes a 2-hour nap. It looks like a giant troll sneezed in a bakery. I love making candy, cookies, and quick breads… but my keto diet does not allow for any of those. Soooo, Sigh. I guess I’m done baking for the Christmas season. 😦 Ain’t Christmastime Grand. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

Confidence and the Lottery

I read a blog by Seth Godin on the subject.

“It doesn’t matter how sure you are that this is a winning ticket, the ticket doesn’t care,” he says. Why not? You put emotional effort into picking the right numbers! You’re sure these are the magic numbers that will get you those millions of dollars. You do research to figure out the numbers that come up the most in winning tickets, where they’re purchased, how big a batch of tickets to buy… You’ve expended mental effort and physical effort to get the numbers just right. Then some random number generator picks the numbers.

I used to play a lot of MMORPG on the computer. I tend to go with the city-building types but after you build your city, you get attacked by 1 million scouts who take out your archers, and the lookouts on the walls never see 1 million scouts coming over the horizon…

ANYWAY, if you built the required materials and did all the right things in the right order, you would get “drops” of needed materials based on a random number generator. They would post the odds of you getting said item. Now, being a student of statistics, you would assume that if you had a 1 in 2 chance, after 100 tries you’d have basically 50 positive and 50 negative results. If you have a 1 in 20 chance, Out of 100 tries, you’d have about 5 positive and 95 negative results. In this game, however, if you had a 1 in 20 chance, out of 10,000,000,000,000,000 tries, you’d have 0 positive results. Don’t ask me how I know this… So why was this? Were they lying? If you look at it from a different perspective, you had a 19/20 chance of getting a negative result, so that’s what you got 100% of the time.

The odds of getting all the numbers in the lottery are much smaller than that. You’re more likely to get bitten by a shark in the middle of Kansas than win the lottery. Why? Because your actions have very little to do with the outcome.

Seth mentions that there’s a 15-year-old boy whose 10-year plan is to get into the NBA. He also says that the strength and skill needed to get down to the last 5000 applicants is important, but after that, it’s just a lottery and you better have a plan B. There are physical attributes that would enhance your chances like being 6’8 or better, and a 90% from the free-throw line wouldn’t be a bad thing. But what if you’re short?

RankPlayerHeightNBA playing career
1.Muggsy Bogues5-31987-2001
2.Early Boykins5-51998-2012
3.Spud Webb5-61985-98
 Mel Hirsch5-61946-47
5.Greg Grant5-71989-96
 Keith Jennings5-71992-95
 Red Klotz5-71947-48
 Wataru Misaka5-71947-48
 Monte Towe5-71976-77
10.Dino Martin5-81946-48
 Willie Somerset5-81965-66
 Charlie Criss5-81977-86
In case you were wondering

Obviously, skill and accuracy are important when you’re not 7′ tall. Spud Webb, #3 on the list, also had a 46″ vertical jump!

When you look at the draft, being at the right place at the right time with the right skills and a good agent are good. So what are the right places and the right times and the right skills?

  1. You have to be on a college team that has scouts coming in to check out the players
  2. You have to be good enough to stand out from your fellow players
  3. But you also have to be good enough to enhance the team and not just yourself
  4. You’d also have to spend every waking minute improving your jump height, your strength, your endurance, and your agility with the basketball (shooting, dribbling, passing)
  5. You have to have good enough grades so you don’t flunk out of college before you get noticed.

So for someone who wants to spend the next 10 years preparing for the NBA, there are steps to prepare to be noticed in college, noticed in high school, in basketball camps, and by influential coaches who can help you improve just to get to the platform where you can compete. Can you do this in the lottery? Nope. If, however, you are cursed by bad genes to be short, you may not even get a glance. HOWEVER, this does not preclude you from being a coach in the NBA, an announcer, or a referee.

The difference between the lottery and any goal you have is that with the lottery, you have no control over the outcome. What lotteries do you contend with? Tax audits? the Stock Market? Your health roll against a red dragon in Dungeon and Dragons? If you are smart, you have many alternative plans because the one thing you do NOT have control over is the subjective opinions of those scouts. Just like you have no control over the administrators that are looking to hire you as a teacher, or the HRs that think some people should be relegated to grabbing coffee for the real businessmen in the room. Doesn’t your whole livelihood depend on the subjective behavior of the people you work for or those you serve as an entrepreneur? All the world’s a Lottery and men and women but ticket scratchers. (Sorry Will) But make your plans and set your goals anyway, just don’t get attached to a particular outcome. It’s not the goal that makes the man, but the journey–It’s what you need to become to be worthy of it.