Saturday, February 27, 2016

Quote of the Day -- Tom Brokaw

For parents, bribery is a white-collar crime; for grandparents, it's a business plan.

-- Tom Brokaw

Friday, February 26, 2016

Quote of the Day -- Isaac Asimov

If the doctor told me I had six minutes to live, I'd type a little faster.

-- Isaac Asimov

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Quote of the Day -- Ray Bradbury

Stuff your eyes with wonder, he said, live as if you'd drop dead in ten seconds. See the world. It's more fantastic than any dream made or paid for in factories.

-- Ray Bradbury

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Oh the Places I've Seen! Norwegian Fjords

I love many different kinds of travel. Teeming vibrant cities are energizing. Museums and monuments satisfy a thirst for knowledge and can be awe inspiring as well. But there is something about that special combination of majestic mountains, trees, and water that is wonderfully uplifting.  Seattle or Vancouver on a sunny day. The Chilean fjords (although we had more clouds than sun when we sailed through). Or Norway.

Several years ago, we cruised from Rotterdam all the way to Nordkapp, above the Arctic Circle. We spent many days gazing at the mountains, the water, the waterfalls, the trees. From the ship, from a bus, from a train, on foot. And I never tired of it. I've felt the same way riding a ferry across Sydney harbor or through the Stockholm archipelago (even though neither has mountains). It makes me feel happy and serene.

We have yet to see the New Zealand fjords. Some Australian friends we met on our Norway trip felt that the two are tied in the beauty category. New Zealand is high on our list of places to see. We're all about finding out for ourselves.

In the meantime, when I'm in yoga class and the teacher encourages us to imagine a place that makes you feel uplifted and serene, I picture myself standing on the deck of the ship, sun in my face, breeze blowing my hair, gazing across the water at the mountains of a Norwegian fjord.

Quote of the Day -- Mahatma Gandhi

An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.
-- Mahatma Gandhi

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Bucket Lists and Country Counting

When the movie "The Bucket List" came out in 2007, I'd never heard the term. I absolutely loved the movie, and the idea of a bucket list struck a chord with me, as it did with so many others.

I didn't spend a lot of thought in constructing my own bucket list, but I quickly discovered that it's all about travel for me. I certainly have goals -- "be more fit at 60 than I was at 50" or "start studying the piano again." And I achieved both of those, by the way. But I didn't aspire to do things like skydive or drive a race car or play a concert at Carnegie Hall. I aspired to see the world.

By the end of 2007 when the movie came out, I'd already traveled quite a bit. Starting in the late 90's, my job often took me around the world. And we did quite a bit of personal travel as well. I'd already seen many of the items that top most people's bucket lists: the Eiffel Tower, the Statue of Liberty, Big Ben, the Coliseum, Sydney Opera House, and the Grand Canyon. My ultimate goal was "seeing the world," but how to translate that into a bucket list as we turned the calendar to 2008?

As much as I can remember, here's my list from 8 years ago:

  • See all 50 states (I was only one short)
  • Visit at least one new country every year
  • Great Wall of China
  • Taj Mahal
  • Red Square
  • Pyramids
  • Machu Picchu
  • Great Barrier Reef
  • Panama Canal
  • Stonehenge
  • African safari
  • Visit all 7 continents

So far, I'm doing pretty well checking items off my list.

  • We've been to Hawaii (my 50th state) twice
  • Since the beginning of 2008, I've been to 26 new countries
  • Great Wall - 2009
  • Red Square -- 2013
  • Taj Mahal -- 2013
  • Pyramids (and Petra) -- 2015
  • Machu Picchu -- scheduled for later this year
  • Stonehenge -- 2012
  • African safari -- 2014
  • Visit all 7 continents -- Antarctica in 2015 was our 7th

    A plan to see the Great Barrier Reef last year got derailed by medical issues, so that is still on the list. And I still want to see the Panama Canal, but our forays into more exotic travel (aka developing world) have pushed the Canal further down on my list. That's an adventure we can easily accomplish when we're older and presumably a bit less fit.

    Which brings me to country counting. I do have some iconic travel destinations on my list now (Panama Canal, Great Barrier Reef, Easter Island). But mostly, my list is "see the world." And one way to measure that is to count the countries that I have visited. Yes, it gives me bragging rights to say I've been to 58 countries so far. But more importantly, it's a personal indication for me that I'm reaching out and seeking new adventures.

    We have a running of list of places we'd like to see and trips we'd like to take. All the travel catalogs we receive in the mail provide temptations and exciting new additions to our list.

    But we also give in to serendipity. We've discovered that we enjoy traveling with friends (although we're perfectly happy going solo). So sometimes a destination pops to the top of our list because we mutually choose it with friends. Sometimes we explore a new area of a country we've already checked off. We certainly don't travel just for the sake of counting countries, but when the opportunity arises to visit a new place, why not?  

    At the risk of tempting fate, our travel plans this year will take us to 4 new countries, one in Africa and three in South America, plus a repeat visit to our beloved Paris en route to Africa. Stay tuned.

    Quote of the Day -- David Allen

    You can do anything, but not everything.

    -- David Allen

    Monday, February 22, 2016

    Sunday, February 21, 2016

    A Travel Blog Worth Reading

    So many blogs, so few worth reading... And yet the internet is populated with a few great blogs by people who have information and insight worth sharing. I've taken to surfing the Web a bit more in recent weeks, and I am starting to discover some nuggets. I have stumbled upon travel blogs that are awful, both visually and verbally. But I found a fun site that is primarily a video blog by a young (from my perspective) couple whose livelihood is seeing the world and reporting on it. 

    As this picture demonstrates, a visually attractive and eye-catching blog post, or, more importantly, the tweet or Facebook post that points to it, can be very effective. Who wouldn't want to read about high-kicking soldiers from India and Pakistan

    I was impressed enough that I went in search of more by "Captain and Clark" and found their blog. They visit great places and inspire me to continue to travel and to embrace the unexpected. The photos are luscious, and their engaging personalities come through in their writing and videos. Indulge yourself whether you're an aspiring traveler or a temporarily home-bound traveler planning your next adventure.

    Saturday, February 13, 2016

    Friday, February 12, 2016

    Knowledge for the Sake of Knowledge -- A Thing of the Past?

    At first reading, a recent Forbes article, "What Happens When Business Starts Accrediting America's Colleges," seems quite reasonable. The impetus for the article is a new report by the US Chamber of Commerce Foundation. The report criticizes accreditation as “operated by higher education for higher education” rather than as a quality measurement in tune with the needs of employers and would-be employees. The report sites a recent survey that only 11% of business leaders believe college graduates are equipped for entering the workforce. 

    Self-evaluation as the primary means of measuring success certainly seems like a flawed system. But the Chamber proposes that because this measurement is most probably not sufficient, it should be completely abandoned in favor of an alternative.

    According to Forbes, "The report argues that higher education should use the principles of supply chain management, with colleges and employers working together to develop performance measures to assure that graduates have the workforce skills they need."  Hmmm... So as an alternative to the status quo, we're turning colleges into trade skills for business to completely free them of any need to train employees on the job?

    I'm both the proud and reluctant owner of liberal arts degree. I relish the cultural literacy and critical thinking skills that I acquired in college and graduate school. At the same time, I bemoan the complete lack of practical skills that I possessed when I graduated. I was fortunate that "back in the day," IBM was hiring liberal arts majors and training them. Something unheard of today. My fellow liberal-arts colleagues and I quickly learned the necessary skills both in training classes and on the job. We weren't crack accountants by any means but it wasn't that hard to learn the basics of creating or analyzing a balance sheet and income statement. And my previously little-trained logical mind took to programming like a fish to water. Plus, we came to the table with a depth of knowledge, flexibility, and agility of mind that our business-major colleagues were challenged to match. Businesses today say that they value innovative thinking and flexibility, but how do you measure those things (or develop them) in the supply chain that the Chamber is proposing.

    [Disclaimer: My higher education coincided with the Viet Nam era, when business was a "jock major" and the best and brightest chose fields of study that were frowned on by the "military industrial complex." So perhaps the comparison above is a bit unfair.]

    With the mushrooming costs of higher education, parents and students alike feel compelled to ensure that a good paying job awaits. But does that have to mean that colleges become trade schools? Whatever happened to aspiring to cultural literacy that was so in vogue after the publication the book by of E.D. Hirsch, Jr? We learn so much from a good historical novel, but who will be the authors in the next generation if our best minds are trained to meet the specs of the business supply chain?

    Despite the dynamics of this era of polarity and intense distrust between academia and business, I think a compromise is in order. Economics and competition dictate that the majority of our graduates have some employer-ready skills. But employers also need people to be innovative, adaptable, self-motivated, and, let's face it, just plain interesting. What we need is a well-rounded curriculum with both breadth and depth that teaches students to think and to do along with a joint measurement system that evaluates a broad spectrum of capabilities.

    Quote of the Day -- Carl Jung

    I am not what happened to me, I am what I choose to become. 
    -- Carl Jung 
    (via Maria Shriver's Sunday Paper for the Soul)

    Wednesday, February 10, 2016

    Quote of the Day -- Isaiah Berlin

    Total liberty for wolves is death to the lambs.
    -- Isaiah Berlin 
    (Thanks to Jane Mayer, Dark Money)

    Saturday, February 6, 2016

    Mostly Frightening and Aggravating, with a Dash of Humor

    Despite being retired, we somehow seldom find the time to see movies in theaters. Last night, we saw "The Big Short." Just wow! I haven't yet read Michael Lewis' book, and now I probably won't. Even if the book is, as usual, better than the movie, I think that the movie was sufficiently careful and complete to satisfy my thirst for understanding this horrible chapter in our economic history.

    For those of us who are fortunate enough to be a bit removed from the still stagnating economy and the plight of most of the middle class, the Big Recession is starting to feel a bit like a distant memory. But it's good to remember...

    Despite the esoteric subject-matter, the story is completely riveting. Director Adam McKay uses occasional comic sketches to illustrate the most difficult financial concepts and to provide a bit of relief from the drama. The actors all turned in stellar performances. I have to believe that they "believed" in the importance of the story they tried to tell. 

    This isn't a horror film in any traditional sense of the term, but at various points, fellow audience members gasped audibly. And we all left the theater shaken and angry (and better informed). The truly frightening thing is that I don't think we have learned very much from the experience of 2008 and the subsequent years. The financial fat cats are still at it, and we've done very little to rein them in and protect ourselves from the next bubble ready to burst.

    Quote of the Day -- St. Augustine

    The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.
    -- St Augustine

    Friday, February 5, 2016

    Waging Peace. Fighting Disease. Building Hope.

    In my opinion, Jimmy Carter is a true statesman and a hero. The successes and failures of his presidency can be debated ad nauseum, and it's not yet clear how history will judge him as a president. But as a former president, he is without peer.

    In his book Everything to Gain: Making the Most of the Rest of Your Life, Carter writes of how bereft he and Rosalynn felt leaving the White House with so much work left undone. After personal, financial, and spiritual soul-searching, they began the work that resulted in the founding of The Carter Center

    We had the opportunity to visit The Carter Center headquarters near Atlanta a few years ago. It's beautifully situated and quietly elegant. The many stories of accomplishment are moving and inspiring. I'm a sucker for a great tagline or aphorism. I've always thought The Carter Center's tagline to be one of the best.

    Waging Peace. Fighting Disease. Building Hope.

    Most of us have neither the ability nor the inclination to do the amazing things that the Carters have done. In David Brooks thoughtful opinion piece "A Question of Moral Radicalism," he argues that the world is better off because we have people like Ghandi and Mother Theresa, but it wouldn't be better off if we were all like that. The same can be said of the Carters. We can't all achieve what they have, but the world is definitely a better place thanks to all they have done. 

    Brooks concludes, "Yet I don’t want to let us off the hook. There’s a continuum of moral radicalism. Most of us are too far on the comfortable end and too far from the altruistic one. It could be that you or I will only really feel fulfilled after a daring and concrete leap in the direction of moral radicalism." 

    At the very least, in this era of personal "branding," we should think twice about whether our own taglines are justified.

    Thursday, February 4, 2016

    Quote of the Day -- Louis Brandeis

    We must make a choice. We may have democracy, or we may have wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can't have both.
     -- Louis Brandeis, Supreme Court Justice 
    and "Robin Hood" of the law

    Wednesday, February 3, 2016

    Oh the Places I've Seen! Iceland

    My husband is much better than I am at reminiscing. He regularly looks at pictures of past trips. I should do it more often because it makes me smile. I recently rediscovered this picture when looking for something to use as the backdrop on my twitter feed. We visited Iceland four years ago for a short but thoroughly enjoyable trip. Two things stick in my memory -- beautiful waterfalls and vast lava fields.

    A shout-out to our friend and travel companion David Pace for taking a great picture.

    Quote of the Day -- Gretchen Rubin

    How we schedule our days is how we spend our lives.

    -- from Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin 

    Do It Now!

    When I was a kid, one of our nicknames for our dad was "do it now." I never knew him to put anything off until tomorrow. Most of the time, we affectionately tolerated his insistence on seizing the moment. Sometimes, we found it seriously aggravating. Most of us have at least some corners of our lives where we avoid and postpone, but if my dad had those corners, I never ever saw them.

    My mom, although less insistent about it, was also very much in the "do it now" camp. She too seemed to be completely lacking any hidden corners of procrastination. So where in the world did I develop my finely honed skill for "waiting for just the right time" to get certain things done?

    About a year ago, I made a commitment to totally revamp the web site of a non-profit where I'm a board member. The look and feel needed modernizing. The information needed reorganizing and updating. It needed to be easier for the staff to maintain. I felt very qualified to do almost all of that, but woefully unqualified to make the fundamental decision about what platform to use and where to host the site. I read, I researched, I queried friends and colleagues. I felt uncharacteristically paralyzed by indecision. So basically I procrastinated.

    And then one day, in a completely different meeting, I casually mentioned my dilemma to two web-guru colleagues. They both said "Wordpress, WP Engine, Woothemes." I don't know if that was the optimal choice but it was definitely a good choice. And it got me past my roadblock. Now, my non-profit has a great new web site that everyone loves, and I'm liberated from day-to-day responsibility for maintaining it because it's so easy. As one of my favorite authors, bloggers, and podcasters Gretchen Rubin is found of saying, "Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good."

    This blog is another case in point. I started out shortly after I retired 5 years ago. I tried to post regularly but fizzled after awhile. Since then, resuming has been a regular inhabitant of my "should" list. I enjoy writing and it's a muscle I need to exercise. But I felt embarrassed by the blog archive that showed such huge gaps in posting. I experimented with creating an entirely new blog. But finally, I convinced myself to just suck it up, start posting again, and put up with the embarrassment of a spotty past. 

    So in honor of the memory of both my parents, I vow to try harder to "do it now!"

    Tuesday, February 2, 2016

    Word of the Day -- jeremiad

    I don't remember ever encountering this word before today. (More later about the book where I saw it.) 

    According to, it means a prolonged lamentation or mournful complaint.  From Jeremiah's Lamentations. Makes sense. I hope I don't have occasion to use it in conversation anytime soon.

    Places to Visit -- Postojna Caves, Slovenia

    I'm a travel junkie. I love to travel, and I love to think about where to travel next. Tempting brochures from several different travel companies arrive in our mailbox regularly. I toss many, but I savor many of them also. And I get emails galore. One of my new favorites is The Inside Scoop from Harriet Lewis of Overseas Adventure Travel and Grand Circle. In addition to fun travel stories from exotic places, it features pictures with a brief description / hint. Usually, they are places that I haven't been and can't guess, which is a bit surprising because I've been to a lot of places. Often these mystery places end up on my "to visit" list. These caves look fascinating. They provide another reason to visit Slovenia, which is already on my list.

    If you're a fellow travel junkie, check out The Inside Scoop.

    Poetry in Motion

    Trite but true. The graceful, athletic dancers of Hubbard Street Dance Chicago at Northrup on Saturday were truly poetry in motion. 

    Sets, costumes, and even the music were minimalist. Lighting enhanced and added mystery. But it was all about the dancers and the stories they tell with their lithe bodies. 

    I'm occasionally impressed by a touchdown pass, a diving catch in the outfield, or a three-point swish. But I'm impressed by these dancers every second that they are on stage. Reaching the pinnacle of both artistry and athleticism, and making it all look easy, is an achievement to be treasured. Bravo!

    Monday, February 1, 2016

    All the Superlatives Are Justified

    I love book covers and miss them when I read on a device. I like seeing the author's picture and reading the short bio. I like the synopsis of the book that gives me a hint of what to expect. Usually, I just scan all the praise-filled quotes on the back of the book cover, but when I picked up All the Light We Cannot See, I was struck by the familiar and well-respected names of the quoted reviewers and their seemingly heartfelt superlatives when describing this book. And when I reluctantly put the book down at the end, I agreed with each reviewer. This is a very special book.

    Through Anthony Doerr's elegant, emotional and evocative prose, I at least partially appreciated and understood so many experiences:

    • The daily terror and helplessness of being blind.
    • The heightened senses of a blind girl.
    • The equal torment of being a blind girl's father.
    • The daily deprivation of living in Germany between the two wars.
    • The compelling and inescapable indoctrination of German youth by the Nazis.
    • The tumult of fleeing everything you know in the face of an invasion.
    • The combined fear and excitement of participating in the resistance.
    • And for so many characters in this story, rising to the occasion.
    Historical fiction is my favorite genre precisely because I think it is the best way to gain true insight into our collective past and what things "really" feel like.