Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Speaking Of BLT's

I keep two lists posted on the inside of one my kitchen cabinet doors. One is labeled 'Great Food Combos'; the other is 'Fake Food That Tastes Good'. The first list details what, over the years, have emerged as seemingly perfect combinations of taste, texture, and visual appeal. While very far from complete, the list includes the following:
  • BLT's - bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwiches on toasted, preferably whole wheat, bread with mayonnaise
  • Hot Fudge Sundaes - complete with homemade fudge sauce and warm, freshly roasted, salted pecans
  • Campbell's Tomato Soup and a grilled Vermont cheddar cheese sandwich
  • A hot dog (frankfurter) on a grilled roll with Raye's mustard, relish, and freshly prepared horseradish
  • Pepperoni pizza with and ice cold Foxon Park birch beer
You'll no doubt note that these are not gourmet, up-scale meals. True enough. But, they very well meet the qualifying conditions outlined above for sensory perfection.

The second list needs a bit of explanation. Over the years, artificial flavors, colors, additives, preservatives, and so forth have supplanted what was once the 'real thing' in many prepared foods. However, this doesn't mean that they can't and don't taste good. Again, it's far from complete, but what's on the list so far are:
  • My-T-Fine butterscotch pudding - make butterscotch pudding from scratch and you'll know what I mean
  • Banana Popsicles - flavor by Monsanto?
  • Fanta Grape and Orange sodas - nothing close to grapes nor oranges, but they sure refresh and go down easily
Let me know what's on your lists.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Balance And Equilibrium

You know that expression about too much of a good thing? It's true. There is a fine, but well defined line between enjoyment and overdoing it. As an example, imagine a great meal with good friends at a fine restaurant. Stop short of being fully satiated and you still hunger for another bite or sip. Your longing intensifies what you have already enjoyed and makes what has been good even better. The positive experience will linger indefinitely. Cross the line to consuming that extra bite or having too much to drink ... how you feel and what you remember is not so pleasant. All the flavors, camaraderie, and great surroundings fall away and you're left feeling stuffed or worse.

Equilibrium plays a part in another food related arena and has larger implications for life as a whole. There's no taste quite like well prepared bacon, but it's probably not the healthiest item you can put in your diet. Eat too much and you tamper with your well being - avoid it and you'd miss that perfect combination of taste, texture and visual appeal - the BLT. What I'm trying to say is that within reason, you've got to want to get up in the morning - if you can't look forward to what lies ahead, why bother? You just need to do it within rational boundaries - neither too little, nor too much. If you follow my line of thought, this rationale is an approach to daily living - neither too little, nor too much - know when you've had enough and when to stop. Just don't forget the mayonnaise.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009


"...a fish in the water doesn't know that it's wet"
- Unknown

"...a fish begins to stink at the head"
- Unknown

"...even a dead fish can go with the flow"
- Jim Hightower

Saturday, October 24, 2009

A Few Terms

While not all inclusive, the following terms, in many ways, describe the way I see the world:
  • notan
  • patina
  • terroir
  • wabi-sabi
  • chiaroscuro
  • provenance

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Anthropocene Epoch

Astronomers recently discovered 32 new planets outside our solar system that might be capable of supporting 'life'. Anthropologists unearthed the skeleton of 'Ardi' - a 4.4 million year old female that may reveal clues as to our origin as a species. And, scientists from the University of Portsmouth have concluded that humans' impact on our planet in the last 200 years is so significant that we may have ended the Holocene and begun the Anthropocene Epoch.

Apparently, the impact of physical, chemical, and biological changes we have made on Earth now mandate a change in philosophy about our place in planetary history. The recent Industrial Revolution has so impacted our environment that we must now make a mental leap in understanding our place in geological time.

Only more time will tell us if this theory will hold true. For now, however, it's worth considering where we might be headed, and at this rate, we're certainly getting there in a hurry.

Monday, October 12, 2009

The Pace Of Change

In this morning's Wall Street Journal, there's an article about how communicating by e-mail is being supplanted by newer, faster technologies such as Facebook and Twitter. No longer will you have to wait as long for responses. Electronic communications will be near real time and we'll always be connected with instant gratification. The article closes by postulating that these new services may not save time, as much as they eat up more of it. And, if you read my previous postings about being busy, you'll know where I stand on the subject.

For years, I have puzzled over the notion of change. I frequently ask others about their sense of how things are now versus what they used to be - human nature, relationships, lifestyles, the pace of living - nobody seems to know with any certainty. However, one thing is for certain and that is the inevitability of change. Change has always been and it will always be, but not all change is progress.

I firmly believe that the pace of change is a significant issue. Our abilities to recognize and adapt to change are threatened by its increasing acceleration. As we are constantly confronted, if not bombarded, by new inputs, our need and ability to establish foundations is impaired. Before we fully understand the operation of, the implications of, and perhaps our need for new technologies, we are presented with a new menu with newer options. Often it feels like we embrace change for the sake of change, whether or not the old methods did the job adequately and certainly before we fully comprehend value, efficiency, relevance, and functionality.

So, buckle your seat belt and hang on, because we humans evolved long before Blackberries and wireless networks showed up. Unlike a friend of mine who was chastised by her family for writing a letter to someone instead of sending an e-mail, too many electronic junkies are looking and waiting for the next instant hit. And, it's acceptable, if not essential, to stop, think, and reflect before responding to the next instant message that shows up at your electronic doorstep.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

To Get Anywhere

"To get anywhere, you have to have the patience to fail"
- Anonymous

"To dare is to lose one's footing momentarily - not to dare is to lose one's self"
- Soren Kierkegaard

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Chocolate Or Vanilla ?

I was thinking recently about the choices we make and wondered about the differences between children and adults. It seemed to me that children's choices are often simpler - chocolate or vanilla, where as adults we choose from more complex variables - French vanilla, vanilla bean, chocolate fudge brownie, chocolate marshmallow and so forth. I think that it's not that children can't taste the difference between flavors - it's just that they are satisfied with fewer options and are maybe less jaded than adults. On the other hand, I enjoy the spectrum of a rich and varied palette made possible through experience, experimentation, and a wide variety of choices.

Thinking about choices led me down a another path. When we choose 'X', in effect, we un-choose 'Y'. By selecting any given flavor, trip destination, political candidate, career, etc., by default we de-select other options. Life doesn't really offer us control groups - once we begin down a given path, we can never quite replicate a different choice or direction from the same starting point. Even if we retrace our steps, literally or figuratively, change has occurred and the new direction is ultimately different in more or less subtle ways. And, since time moves forward in an apparently linear fashion, it seems that decision making is as much about what we don't choose as what we do.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Making Choices

I like to read and I read a lot - both fiction and non-fiction. On a recent 'milestone' birthday, I had the somewhat disquieting thought that no matter how much and how quickly I read, I would never have the time to read everything on my list. I began to ponder the idea that if my time is finite and the number of books almost non-finite, how might I best sort through the many choices of what to read.
I have asked friends, librarians, educators, and life guides, but there seems to be no methodology, no stratagem, no plan by which I could optimize both time and choice. For everyone I asked, there seemed to be a different approach - best seller lists, subject matter specificity for hobbyists, favorite authors and so forth. My tastes are so wide and varied that none of these methods would help.
My current sources are many. Frequently, one book leads to another - either through bibliographies, author's style, or relevant themes. Serendipity plays a large role when passing through the stacks at my local library or when on-line in the library's virtual card catalog. Books related to the places I travel frequently adorn my bedside table, as do guides and references for the natural world around me. Book reviews are a favorite source for ideas and choices, but my manila folder of printouts and clippings is bulging at the seams.
Ultimately, a path emerges, though to ascribe a route or destination would be difficult. It's not a bad dilemma, but I do continue to value my limited time and try to make the most of the endless resources around me. I guess I'm lucky to have so many options.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Monday, September 21, 2009

Banish Uncertainty

Banish uncertainty.
Affirm strength.
Hold resolve.
Expect death.

Make your stand today. On this spot. On this day. Make your actions count; do not falter in your determination to fulfill your destiny. Don't follow the destiny outlined in some mystical book: create your own.

Your resolve to tread the path of life is your best asset. Without it, you die. Death is unavoidable, but let it not be from loss of will but because your time is over. As long as you can keep going, use your imagination to cope with the travails of life. Overcome your obstacles and realize what you envision.

You will know unexpected happiness. You will know the sorrow of seeing what is dearest to you cut down before your eyes. Accept that. That is the nature of human existence and you have no time to buffer this fact with fairy tales and illogical explanations.

Each day, your life grows shorter by twenty-four hours. The time to make achievements becomes more precious. You must fulfill everything you want in life and then release your will upon the moment of death. Your life is a creation that dies when you die. Release it, give up your individuality, and in so doing, finally merge completely with the Tao.

Until that moment, create the poetry of your life with toughness and determination.
- 365 Tao / Daily Meditations - Deng Ming-Dao

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Being Busy - Part III

Some final thoughts.

Change may be inevitable, but the pace of change has dramatically accelerated. We produce more labor saving devices, but multiply the number of those devices we purchase and utilize. The work week is shorter than that of our ancestors, but recent trends in the United States show a lengthening of hours spent on the job. Holidays and their incumbent expectations increase our stress and anxiety, while we have less time to enjoy them and the people for whom we care. Do we honor longstanding traditions or cut corners to save time and preserve our sanity?

I once figured out that a two day weekend leaves us wanting when Monday arrives. We need time to do the chores and errands we can’t do during the week, we need time to play and have fun – visit family and friends, and we need time to unwind and relax. If my theory is correct, when Monday rolls around, one or two of the above activities weren’t properly addressed and we begin the new work week already ‘in the hole’.

Euphemistically, we may tell others that we are busy as an excuse or as a way to avoid responsibilities. Maybe it’s a badge of perceived importance – maybe it’s just a way out. Mainly, it seems that being busy has become one of the mainstays of our existence. I believe that it is worth considering, so that we stay healthy and make the most of our limited time.

Being Busy - Part II

Busy as a beaver - busy as a bee ... all pretty productive, all pretty positive. Being busy isn't a bad thing, as long as we have some control and are not wholly run by being busy. Are you more productive when you have a lot on your plate? Are you better able to prioritize when you can sort through multiple tasks, so that you do the most important ones first?

How we got so busy remains the crux of my concern and here are a few more possible reasons as to why we are:

  • Two income families – change in roles and responsibilities - fragmentation
  • Activities for children - soccer moms, after school activities, college preparations, helicopter parents
  • Blue Laws relaxed - Sunday openings, 24 x 7 business and services, constant traffic on roads and highways, extended work day, play day, chores and activities day
  • More data / less information – television crawl lines, sports scores, weather, sports, talking heads, and background slides, web content, magazines, CATV, satellite radio, telemarketers, iPODs, iPHONES, snail mail, e-mail, text messages, Twitter, etc.
  • Workers don't do what they used to do - full vs. self serve gas station, post office, trash collection, banking, etc. - we do more ourselves
  • Office Meetings - what do we accomplish, how much productive time is usurped, additional tasks are assigned in meetings, work not done while at a meeting needs to be completed, scheduling meetings for longer than necessary, longer meetings drain energy, if we are less energized and/or efiicient, we need to work longer or harder to make up for lost productivity

Part III - the conclusion follows.

Being Busy - Part I

Pretty much everyone I talk to these days tells me that they're busy - too busy and they're frazzled or burnt out, busy enough and they're fully engaged, not busy enough and they're just bored. After recently returning from a vacation where I was just busy enough, I began to wonder why so many of us are so busy, feel so busy, act so busy. In no particular order, here are some of the reasons why I think we might be feeling this way:

  • Being busy is 'good' - there is a perception that being busy equates to being fulfilled, active, whole, and purposeful and if I'm busier than you, then I must be (more) fulfilled

  • Drive times – greater distances, longer commutes, distance from family, friends, services, changes in neighborhoods and shopping patterns

  • We multi-task constantly - how often do we just sit and watch TV, or read, or chat with friends - today's model seems to demonstrate that we do more than one thing at a time, making us busier than if we were just doing one thing - see my 'Sheep Miles' posting

  • Technology has outstripped our genetic/evolutionary abilities to manage/maintain/adapt to change/new inputs/data ... texting, e-mails, voicemails, cell phones, blackberries, call waiting – multiple communications and see-saw electronic methodologies vs. completing thoughts and ideas with real time conversation

  • Still only 24 hours in a day - time hasn't increased with the options available

  • We are/stay busy to fill a void - are we afraid of seeing what there is - what life is like, if we slow down?

  • We fill more hours with more activties - leaf blowing vs. leaf raking ... where does the saved time go?

  • Work boundaries are extended – people work longer hours, take laptops and cell phones on vacation – try to outdo one another or keep up with the worker in the next cubicle

Enough for now - take a deep breath, unwind, wait for Part II.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Three Quotes

"...we do not stop playing because we get old - we get old because we stop playing"
- Unknown

"...unless there is dark, you cannot see the stars"
- Unknown

"...only when the tide goes out do you find out who is not wearing a bathing suit"
- Warren Buffett

Friday, September 11, 2009

The Sound Of Silence

I recently spent two weeks with my family in Downeast Maine and woke before dawn one morning to the sound of nothing - no clocks - no refrigerator compressor - no computer fan - no cars - no planes - in short, 'dead silence'. As I lay in bed listening to virtually nothing, I began to wonder about what we hear when we hear nothing - do we hear our body mechanisms running - do we tune in to our inner rhythms - or, do we try to fill in the silence, because it might be too scary to listen only to ourselves.

Several days after returning home, I happened to see two teenage girls walking together, each independently listening to her own headphones on her own iPOD. I wondered why they were together, as each girl had no apparent connection to the other, except in walking side by side. I wondered if they had consciously decided not to communicate or maybe that was the message - they had nothing to say to one another.

I'm not the first to wonder in which direction the art of conversation might be headed. But, in a world of 140 character limits, text abbreviations, and emoticons, maybe the sound of silence is the coming thing.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Coats Of Arms

In the Middle Ages, knights went into battle wearing suits of armor emblazoned with coats of arms - complex amalgams of history, tradition, and meaning. These not only represented which side they were fighting for, but symbolically stood for family, community, and identity.

Jump forward to the present. Certainly, gangs have adapted a modern day version with clothing, tattoos, and gestures, much in the same tradition as those knights. But, many of us now sport our own coats of arms - with baseball hats, T shirts, logo driven fashion accessories, paraphernalia and so forth. Instead of family, we now identify with sports figures and teams, corporate identities, manufacturers, foods we eat, and places we visit. How strange a transformation.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009


There is a theory in life that there are no coincidences. Maybe so - maybe not. But, in any case, there must be at least two elements for a coincidence to occur - the events that are in conjunction with one another and an awareness of those events. While the first part may seem obvious, the second implies a consciousness of those elements - the ability to remember and see things in context, and an understanding of the relationship of those events. So, while you may be talking about a song with a friend, if you then heard that song on the radio, you would have to draw a connection for a coincidence to have occurred. Myriads of coincidental events may occur without us observing the glue - making the connection, to make those instances coincidental.

Of somewhat different note are what I think of as 'near coincidences'. If you and I are shopping at the grocery store and bump into one another, that may be a coincidence. If you and I are at that same store, but keep moving ahead in lockstep - an aisle apart from one another and we don't meet, we have a near coincidence. It is interesting to think of the number of times that we miss the astonishment of a coincidence - that other person is just an aisle away, but we never bump into them. How many times are there near coincidences? Who knows, but they must happen many more times than we are aware.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Living Life

"When you were born, you cried and the world rejoiced. Live your life so that when you die, the world cries and you rejoice."
- Sanskrit and Native American sayings

"Don't be afraid of death so much as an inadequate life."
- Bertholt Brecht

“My main aim is to be a good ancestor”
- Jonas Salk

"Life flows on within you and without you."
- George Harrison

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The Land Museum

Last fall, I visited Broadmoor, a Massachusetts Audubon Sanctuary in South Natick. I hadn't been there for several years, but since the late '60's, I had walked, hiked, cross country skied, and explored there on many occasions. Its diverse terrain, abundant wildlife, intimate setting, and proximity to home made it a favorite venue and I was a frequent guest.

My recent visit left me with a very different, almost haunting feeling. While Broadmoor felt mostly the same from within, something about it had changed. It was no longer just a home for the resident flora and fauna, rocks and streams; it was a sanctuary unto itself. It felt fragile, isolated, and alone. Instead of being a protected entity amidst contiguous surroundings, it had become an island, apart from its neighbors ... a sanctuary of a different sort. And, while not wholly encroached upon by high rise buildings and incipient development, it had changed from being part of the ebb and flow of its environs to become a tiny enclave, a private repository, a land museum.

Time passes, things change. What we once thought immutable, is no longer. Populations grow, land is developed, homes are built.

I wonder how Broadmoor will look and feel to future generations. Will they know that once there were no boundaries - no fences - no man made delineation of itself from the world around it? Or, will they experience the land as we today experience fossils in a natural history museum? I wonder.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Sheep Miles

We've all got 60 minutes in an hour and 24 hours in a day, but what and how many things we do in a day often varies - hence the concept of 'sheep miles'.

A shepherd with a flock of 10 sheep moves all of them forward 10 miles in 1 day yielding 100 'sheep miles'. Another shepherd moves 100 sheep forward just 1 mile - 100 'sheep miles', as well.

At the end of the day, same number of 'sheep miles' - very different days.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Three Aphorisms

" silent the world, if only the best birds sang"

"...a fish in the water doesn't know that it's wet"

"...the best fertilizer is your own shadow"

Friday, July 31, 2009

The Outermost House

"...the three great elemental sounds in nature are the sound of rain, the sound of wind in a primeval wood, and the sound of outer ocean on a beach."
- The Outermost House - Henry Beston