Archive for the ‘Life in general’ Category

Here are two facts from the most recent issue of Barron’s that I find interesting:
1. U.S. Olympic Committee awards American athletes $25,000 for a gold medal. Tiny Azerbaijan gives its athletes a half million for gold. Hmmm..
2. Who knew? More than two-thirds of American men plan on buying one or more luxury items in the next year, but only 44% of women plan to.

Like I said, it is a quiet Saturday afternoon.  Too quiet.


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To get to the new Wal-Mart in Tyson’s Corner, Virginia, about a mile from where I live in Vienna, you go down Route 7 until you see the Aston Martin dealership on the right. Then, you take the next left at the Porsche dealership.

You can’t miss the Aston Martin dealership, for it is across Route 7 from the Mercedes dealership.

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What is not to love about great food that is well-prepared by a knowledgeable and creative chef?

But what about a five-star culinary experience with a knowledgeable and creative chef who comes to your home, brings everything needed, and prepares a four-course gourmet meal for you in your own comfortable surroundings?

That is just what I was honored to experience recently with dearest friends/neighbors Lew and Lynn Hilder. For Christmas, their wonderful children gave them a Creative Culinary Experience by Chef Benedict Zappone, of Haymarket, Virginia. Thoughtfully, their kids made it a four-person event so we could join in.

The idea is simple enough: “Our goal is to bring the world of five-star cuisine into your home, at your convenience, and to provide the highest quality local products, when available, for a healthy and positive culinary experience,” Chef Zappone says.

The Hilders had set their dining room in appropriate manner for a five-star dining experience. But Chef Zappone is so engaging and educational, we ended up dining in the close-to-the action comfort of the kitchen table so we could better communicate with Chef Zappone as he prepared the feast.

The dinner was as much a food, cooking, and healthy eating seminar as it was just pure culinary hedonism. Chef Zappone talked to us easily and in a down-to-earth manner about food, its proper preparation, and how he was preparing each dish. It was simply fascinating to hear and see this expert chef at work.

Our menu:

First course. Baby beet salad — mixed baby beets, braised artichokes, goat cheese, local greens, and sherry vinaigrette. Wine: Riesling.

Second course. Spring vegetable risotto with asparagus peas, fava beans, parmesan, and lemon beurre blanc. Wine: Sauvignon Blanc.

Third course. Butter poached lobster — Maine lobster with mango-jasmine rice, bok choy, and herb beurre blanc. Wine: Chardonnay.

Dessert.  Passion fruit brulee with mango puree and fresh berries.

I am neither a competent nor experienced food writer, but to me, this was gastronomic heaven. Chef Zappone, who attended Le Cordon Bleu Culinary Institute in Pittsburgh, prepared a wonderfully satisfying meal, but his personality and wealth of knowledge so easily shared made the experience truly memorable.

Chef Zappone has worked at The Inn at Little Washington, working and studying under Patrick O’Connell, a multiple James Beard Award winner. He was also Executive Chef at L’Auberge Provencale in White Post, Virginia. His credentials are extensive, but whoever first said, “the proof is in the pudding” certainly had Chef Benedict Zappone in mind. It was an extraordinary and memorable experience.

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I have arrived at geezerhood. It happened so quickly. It just sort of sneaked up on me. But now, here I am.

How do I know? I registered for Medicare today.

That’s the great American rite of passage for hitting 65 years of age. You must register for Medicare. Now, I am officially a senior citizen.

That sucks out loud! Senior citizen indeed. My mind is little more senior than when I was 17 years old. And while that is a problem in itself and a topic for another day, I simply do not feel 65 years old. I am not even sure I know what 65 should feel like.

However, the fact is inescapable; I am aging. I frequently read references to “aging Baby Boomers”. Well, guess who that now describes?

I should have known that geezerhood was imminent. There were telltale signs all along the way, for example:

  • I teach at a university, and each year, I seem to be older, but the students all stay the same age. It isn’t fair! Why should youth be wasted on young people?
  • I get asked about senior citizen discounts all too frequently.
  • Technology becomes more baffling every day. Oh, I have computers, a smart phone, and even an iPad, plus I tweet, blog, use Facebook, and LinkedIn. But that does not mean I am tech savvy, just marginally so and slipping daily.
  • And perhaps most telling of all, I drive a Buick. And an older Buick at that, a 2004 vintage land yacht. When I am tooling around in my certified pre-owned, fully optioned Buck Park Avenue, I notice that all the other Buick drivers are geezers (or geezerettes) too.  And I mean all of them. Shaq and Peyton may pitched the “new Buick”, but only geezers drive what I drive. If there is an official GeezerMobile, then an old Buick is it.

And now I am enrolled in Medicare. I guess I should gas up the GeezerMobile and check out assisted living facilities.

No, not yet. Truthfully, aging really does not bother me. I am happy to have gotten this old. There were times and incidents in my life that foreshadowed a much earlier demise. I came terribly close twice. But I survived and prevailed. I have made more than my share of mistakes along the way, but I always tried to learn from them and do better.

And what more can you want out of life, other than to survive and prevail, to learn and grow, to evolve?

John Prine said, “An old man sleeps with his conscience at night, while a young boy sleeps with his dreams.”

Fact is, I still have dreams. Maybe I am not so old after all.

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If I were asked to give a college’s commencement address (fat chance), here is what I would tell the graduates:

1.  Lose the narcissism. Wellesley High School English teacher David McCullough Jr., recently covered this better than I ever could, and I agree with McCullough; I would tell graduating college students that “you are not all that special”, even though, as members of the Millennial Generation, you have been told that you are all of your lives. The difference here is that McCullough was addressing high school seniors. My commencement speech is to college students, whose egos, by this time, have been knocked down a peg of two. But the point is still important — you are not the center of the universe, so get over your self-importance. In the grand scheme of things, you are just one among many out there scratching to make it. That simply means that you are not entitled to a high starting salary or the job of your dreams immediately. You will have to earn what you get, beginning with an entry level job and working your way up.

2.  Work means work.  When you take a job, you are expected to earn your keep. Being hired is not a license to coast. You must work to prove yourself every day, with every task, and on every assignment. You are being paid to do a job. Do it to the best of your ability, and then improve on your performance continually.

3.  Results are the only thing that matters. I love my Millennial Generation college students, but I get sick of hearing this excuse for a bad grade: “But I worked so hard on that!” Who cares that you worked hard? You are supposed to work hard. Do not ever tell an employer who critiques your poor performance that you tried really hard. The implication is, as it is with my students, that you should get some sort of credit for your effort. No way. You are supposed to give every task, every assignment, and every project your 100 percent effort. That is merely an entry fee. Results are all that matters. Yoda said it best: “Do, or do not. There is no try.”

4. The Golden Rule is the only thing you ever need to know about diversity.  Simply treat people like you want to be treated. The Golden Rule is the golden key to living a successful, meaningful, and productive life in harmony with other people.

5. As members of the Millennial Generation, you must deal effectively with other generations in the work place. Learn to understand and respect Baby Boomers and Generation Xers. They got there first. They have paid their dues (if they are still employed there with you). Respect them. Help them. Learn from them.

6. You can’t text your way into super-stardom. You are not inherently smarter than the Boomers and Xers  just because you “grew up digital”. Just because you can text and Tweet and Facebook and email and surf Websites, often all at the same time, does not mean you are smarter than they are. They can do these things, too.  Being adept at Web 2.0-enabled social media, a hallmark of the Millennial Generation, is of small advantage in the face of the incredible life experience that these older generations have on you.

7. Never drink too much at an office social function. That is a career-limiting move for sure.

8. Happen to things; don’t let things happen to you. That was important advice from one of my mentors, David Hogan. When I went to him for advice about how to do a difficult project, he advised me to “go make something happen.” In other words, he advised me to figure it out. That is what he was paying me for anyway.

9. Accept the guidance of a mentor. Like David Hogan, and David Wesley before him (See my blog post below dated October 21, 2011), my mentors have been invaluable to my career success. You will find them, too, or they will find you. The is much truth to the old Zen proverb, “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.”

10. You, and you alone, must find your own way. And here is the good news — you will. I know you will, and it will all be okay.

Good luck.

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Nike’s new Air Jordan basketball shoes went on sale today, causing riots around the country among would-be purchasers.  Seems some folks will do anything to be the first to wear the latest cultural statement.

Riots, all over bloody sneakers!

The frenzy over the $180-plus Air Jordan 11 Retro Concords seems to exemplify so much of what troubles us today. It’s Christmas Eve Eve, and rather  than peace and joy, some people are getting all worked up over a new shoe.

Obviously, I do not get it.

To be fair, I realize that to some people, a new fashion statement like this shoe may be really important. I think that is so sad.

The reason for the season is love, peace, and joy, a renewal of hope for a troubled world.

This is a time for fellowship and good will toward all people. Who cares how cool your shoes are.

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Because so many things are in motion. It is all too easy to let Life come between a man and his blog.

Since I last posted here, I have been through an earthquake, a hurricane, and the death of Steve Jobs. Or, a moving experience, a wet experience, and a sad experience.  Life again. Comes at you hard when you least expect it.

Right  now, my focus is squarely on the November 10, 2011, defense of my comprehensive exams for my doctorate. I worked on the six comp exams since January 2011, completing them in September 2011. Now, I must defend them before my Doctoral Committee and some other deities.

And miles to go before I sleep…miles to go before I sleep.

Yes, that is the Road Les Traveled.

It is quite a journey, and I am comforted you have come along for the ride. I will be more loquacious when the comps are done. That is a big deal and requires much preparation.

So, more later, my friends. I’ll be back to share some thoughts with you as soon as possible.

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