The Most Annoying Polls…..

We all know election years bring not only volumes of mailers, but also streams of telephone calls. Some are simply robocalls asking for support, others are of course asking for donations. Polls are divided into two types. One is an actual poll which measures different things and the key to these is length. A few really are brief as promised while others seem to drag on and on. I tend to respond to polls though because I do have a family background (maternal side) of small town politics and polls can be helpful. The ones I dislike – and occasionally terminate before completing them – are the negative campaign disguised as a poll. If you haven’t experienced one of these, here’s the way it works.

It starts off in a normal way with questions about your likelihood to vote, do you approve of X,Y,Z, which issue do you consider to be most important and so forth. Then the very thinly disguised campaigning starts. Are you familiar with Candidate A? What is your opinion? Are you supporting him/her? Are you familiar with Candidate B? What is your opinion? Are you supporting him/her? If you know this about Candidate A, does that make you more or less likely to support him/her? If you know this about Candidate B, does that make you more or less likely to support him/her? By about the second question, it is obvious which candidate the “poll” is pushing and of course the “things” revealed are statements you have no way of knowing the validity of unless you’ve been following the campaign all along. If I haven’t become so annoyed at this stage that I tell them to stop, I go with the standard, “doesn’t have any impact” on my opinion no matter what the “thing” is they mention. After all, the individual calling doesn’t write the script and is probably merely trying to make a salary. This is the only reason I try to continue with them until it’s over. Unfortunately, we have another 4.5 months until election. Sigh!


A Dark Version Yet Again……

Okay, I have no problem acknowledging the 1950s/1960s TV series were “old-fashioned” by today’s standards. Things were different then and when, as Hollywood does, in deciding to re-make a series or movie, the choice is to retain as much of the old as possible (which they do infrequently), “modernize” it (sometimes successfully), or create a different take. That’s the approach HBO selected for their series Perry Mason. We recorded the first two episodes and I tried. Now, before I say more, it turns out my first objection was an error on my part. I did read a few of the Perry Mason books, but they were the later ones and I didn’t realize Earl Stanley Gardner wrote them in the 1930s through the 1960s. When I saw the first episode was set in the early 1930s, I thought it was a mistake. Hubby did a quick search and set me straight.

With that said, I’ve told Hubby he can record all the future episodes and watch them whenever he wants to. After all, I generally head to bed between 9:00 and 9:30 so he has plenty of time. I don’t want to spoil anything, however, this is not remotely like the Perry Mason of the original series. There is a Paul Drake, a Della Street, and an uncle Mason who is the lawyer. This Perry is a private detective, damaged from his experience in WW I, and has a very long way to overcome numerous issues/flaws. The warnings prior to the show of sex and graphic violence were accurate if that tells you anything. The period piece is well done and I’m okay with “noir” to a point. For example, HBO’s first “True Detective” short-run series was dark, yet manageable. Season Two was worse and by Season Three it was beyond what either of us cared for. I don’t know how long Hubby will stick with this Perry Mason, and there will no doubt be those who enjoy this type of show.

Genre Reading….

I’m not entirely sure what triggered this thought – probably something posted by one of the writers on Twitter. I think I’ve mentioned before I grew up in a series of small towns in Louisiana and we were a basic middle class, one-income family. Mother worked occasionally, but never anything consistent or for long. Anyway, the library was always important for us and I spent lots of summer time with different reading programs. I had my phases; of course Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys. Victoria Holt and Norah Lofts for historical fiction. Frank Yerby was in there, too, but in confession mode – his racy take was where I learned all sorts of things that had the librarian ratted me out, I wouldn’t have been allowed to read his books any longer. (Of course, maybe she didn’t really know either) I went through a Western phase too with Louis L’Amour and Zane Gray. In fact the first time we went to the Zane Gray Restaurant in Islamorada, it was a special thrill. Then there was science fiction with Azimov, etc.,. although not Robert Heinlein. Some fantasy as in most of the Dune series, but interestingly nothing by Tolkien. Other classic literature came through school and since I was always taking honors classes in English I had plenty of those to read. French lit later was an entirely different situation.

I mostly alternate now with mysteries, lighthearted reads, some poignant, historical fiction, and the occasional literary fiction. I generally steer clear of that because so many of them seem to feel the need to be depressing. I wouldn’t mind fantasy if I could find an author I really like, however, I haven’t found one since Anne McCaffrey. There are thousands of fantasy books, but all I’ve tried fall flat for me. We did give Martin and Fire and Ice, the first of the Game of Thrones books, a try. Aside from having way too many characters to keep track off, if you think there was graphic violence on the TV series, it was only part of what was portrayed in the books.

Anyway, I do also try to support other indie authors, and have found a few I enjoy.

Weird, But True…..

We don’t watch much network TV and tend toward cable. Two of the Science channel shows we enjoy is “The Unexplained Files”, another is “What on Earth”. The reason we like these is they find and show some really odd things, then set about with a variety of science and other experts trying to explain what is seen. In a case like I’ll get to in a moment, it’s truly weird and in other cases after exhausting all sorts of angles, if they can’t figure it out, they admit that rather than try to “force” an answer.

So, there was a lake near Bardstown, KY were not only was fire burning in multiple patches on top of the water, there was a 100+ foot pillar of flame. None of the firemen who responded had ever seen anything like it and they literally didn’t have the resources to put it out. The most they could do was protect the surrounding trees. Among the experts they went to (I don’t recall his exact field), was a guy who explained about “fire tornadoes”, then actually created one in his lab. Apparently, when wind conditions are precisely aligned, it can create this phenomenon. Not only does it look exactly like a tornado, it also burns hotter than most fires reaching up to 1,000 or more degrees. In this case, the way the trees were around he lake contributed to a “funneling effect” of the wind. While that explained the tornado, the next question was fuel. After all, there can be no fire without fuel,especially not with it burning on top of water. The obvious first answer is oil of some type except that wasn’t the case here.

Ready for this? Bardstown is home to some of the largest bourbon warehouses in the country. One of the warehouses with hundreds of thousands of gallons of bourbon had caught on fire from severe lightning strikes. Firefighters eventually got it under control, but what no one realized was a large quantity had drained out and the small lake was downhill and away from the warehouse. That was what later ignited in the lake and was feeding the fire. What a sad day for bourbon lovers.

Not Stuck on Cars, But…..

It really is a coincidence this post is also about Ford. I can’t really if it was Jan or Feb when the movie “Ford vs Ferrari” was released. I was supposed to go with Hubby to see it, but was caught up in one of the obligations I had and he went alone. He loved it and I knew it would make it to cable before too long. I finally had a chance to watch it the other night with him and quite frankly I’m glad he had previously seen it. There is a pivotal scene early in the movie that takes place in a diner. There are in fact two components to that scene and if you don’t know to pay close attention to the whole part of it, you focus only on the most obvious. This is another instance where Hollywood allegedly doesn’t stray far from what actually occurred throughout the time depicted. On the other hand, if you don’t care about cars, this will be a boring movie. If you don’t know a little about car history, you will need someone to give a few pointers. With that said, it’s a great movie.

The casting is superb although I don’t care for John Lucas playing a somewhat slimeball. He does it quite well, however. For those of a certain age, seeing Lee Iacocca at Ford brings a chuckle. I must admit quite some time ago, there was a discussion about his role in creating the Mustang that I had completely forgotten. The portrayal of Carroll Shelby is terrific although Hubby was a little disappointed they never mentioned his chili expertise. (That’s the mix Hubby always uses). Scenes with Henry Ford II are allegedly close to accurate and anyone who has dealt with corporate America can see the back-and-forth between “sticking with what works” and risky innovation. As I said, not the movie for everyone, but an absolute jewel for those who are the target audience.


More Befuddling Tech…..

I’m not saying driver-less cars are a bad idea or won’t happen at some point (even though we are still waiting for the flying cars), but adapting to technology at that level for individuals does come with drawbacks. I’ve acknowledged my marginal technical ability and that it often takes me multiple tries and explanations as I get new equipment. (I still don’t understand how to make the CD player work with the Smart TV.)

Anyway, I bought a new Ford Escape a couple of weeks ago. It doesn’t have all the really high tech options such as parallel parking itself. It does, however, have a Start/Stop button, a dial selector for Park, Reverse, etc., a button for the emergency brake, a fuel-efficiency system I’ll explain in a minute, and multiple blue-tooth functions I haven’t learned how to use yet. First, the fuel thing. This same feature is on Hubby’s Ranger and I had to ride in it for months before I was comfortable. What happens is when you idle over a certain number of seconds, the engine shuts off and restarts as you move again. Yes. Unless you are a total engineer you can understand why the concept made me nervous. I still don’t understand how this works or what on earth I’m supposed to do if the engine doesn’t restart the way it’s supposed to. I guess it would be the same as any other mechanical breakdown, but with basically no warning. Setting aside that possibility, there is also a gauge on my dashboard I can’t figure out. In the frustrating way of manuals, I can’t even find what it’s supposed to be because of the way they have sequenced things. I logically looked for “instrument cluster”, but Heaven forbid it would be there. (I’m sure I’ll find it eventually.)

On the do-love-it-side though, the remote control for the lift gate is really nice. The Fusion had the remote to unlock it, but not to fully open the trunk. I’ll keep everyone posted as I progress.

Slowly Moving Forward…..

In another move more or less forward, the ShowBiz Entertainment Complex will re-open Thursday, June 18th under reduced capacity, but open nonetheless. I’m sure I posted about this place back in the Fall when the grand celebration took place. Even though they can only bring in 50% capacity, some of the theaters are quite large, so a lot of people can still fit. The issue will be the entertainment bowling and arcade, both of which are really popular and can hold far fewer people.

On the other hand, individuals who are ready to be out and about are looking for things to do, so it might be okay. The most unfortunate things are 1) the 120 new jobs they brought with them mean fewer than 50 can be brought back at this point; 2) the arcade and bowling proved to be more in demand than they expected so the two busiest parts of the complex will be the most impacted. We’re all hoping they can survive.

At the moment, I know for sure of one business that has folded downtown and have been told there have been maybe a dozen already. Others that wanted to open are on hold as it is extremely difficult to get all the necessary permits right now.

Multiple restaurants that had been waiting to partially open for dine-in service have done so and it looks odd to walk in with tables shoved off into a corner to allow for only enough to comply with the six-foot distance requirement. And it’s small things, too – no more salt and pepper shakers, etc.; on the tables to avoid having them handled by multiple people. One-time paper menus must be used, and I always share with whoever I’m at the table with to avoid having to throw away extras. Another issue is only 6 in a group can be together. One owner was talking about a woman who insisted her family of twelve couldn’t be separated. While not ideal, the restaurant owners are definitely not the ones making these rules. They are, however, the ones who can be shut down if they don’t enforce them.

We’ll see what the next month brings.

Underdog, Not Victim…..

Borderline sociological alert. I’ve posted before about America loves an underdog. There have been countless books, movies, and plays of where the underdog wins, or at least gets close enough to where it is a measure of success, uplifting, and often transformative. In modern times, there is no better example of a movie than “Rocky”, the “underdog” movie for ten Oscar nominations as well. Even though the running up the steps to the Philadelphia Museum as the theme song soars is the most famous scene, there is a particularly poignant one the night before the infamous fight is to take place. Rocky is in bed with Adrianne. He admits he thinks he can’t win, but he wants “to go the distance” – as in making it all fifteen rounds. “No one has ever gone the distance with him,” he says. That, he recognizes would be a measure of success – not the win, but an acknowledged feat nonetheless. In the brutal last rounds both boxers have their own understanding of why they won’t allow the fight to be stopped.

The difference in the underdog and the individual who clings to victim status is the willingness to endure difficulty because of a belief one can “win” in whatever term that is. Maybe not the “big prize”, maybe instead something lesser, yet notable. I do not for one moment make light of those who are genuine victims – and sadly, there are so very many. Those, however, who hold they can’t overcome odds or they can only be successful if they quickly attain a status they define are not the same. In the work I do for the community paper, I interview a wide variety of individuals who begin life under terrible circumstances or encounter unforeseen and tragic situations that upend their lives. Often, not only do they persevere, but they then establish non-profit groups to help others. On the opposite side of the coin for example, are those who are regulars at food kitchens for years, unwilling to seek help that is available.

If one wishes to help and make the world “better”, recognizing the difference is important as a starting point.

Balsamic Onion Topping….

I don’t remember if I’ve mentioned before that for odd reasons, here were are in South Florida 18-20 miles from the Keys (depending on which measure you use) and we haven’t had a dedicated seafood restaurant for several years. We do have a Red Lobster and while I appreciate it for what it is, that’s not the same thing. Most of the restaurants do have seafood on the menu, particularly yellowtail snapper and mahi, which are the most common catch. Anyway, back when we did have the one restaurant, they served a dish of tuna balsamic. It was grilled tuna (lightly seasoned) topped with a mound of onions sauteed in balsamic vinegar.

The other day Hubby said to remind him next time we had tuna and he would try to duplicate the dish. We did so last night and it was indeed as we remembered. Now, obviously one must enjoy onions for this to be a suitable dish. It is, however, incredibly simple and would work nicely with chicken or pork. Here you could

One medium sweet onion – your preference. Thinly slice the onion, saute on medium in olive oil until caramelized; approximately five minutes. Add 4-5 tablespoons of favorite balsamic vinegar, equal amounts of white wine (can use stock of some type if preferred), and several grinds of black pepper. There is no need for extra salt unless desired. Cook on low for approximately 10 minutes, stirring every few minutes. There should not be much liquid at the end, but depending on how your stove cooks, small amounts of water may need to be added during the cooking time. Don’t add more balsamic or broth because that will alter the flavor balance. It will also keep for several days if there are leftovers.


Unexpected Loss….

Strong emotional content alert. I’ve written about loss and dealing with grief on other occasions and probably even the intense aspect of loss with no warning. This, then, may be a post to skip. Irony will “out” at times because with so much attention on COVID-19, the fact that “Death waits for no man” in the normal range still applies. One week ago yesterday, I picked up a friend at 5:00 a.m. to take her to one of the strings of “prep” appointments one has prior to a scheduled out-patient surgical procedure. She was in great spirits and her son was to pick her up later. I sent a text the next afternoon to check on her. She was fine; had slept on and off most of the day, but was ready for the CT scan scheduled for Friday. If she was finished in time and not too tired, she would join our small group for Happy Hour. When she didn’t show for that, we assumed she was either running late or tired. I meant to text/email on Saturday, but the day got away from me. Her not reaching out first was a little unusual; not enough to raise concern. At 10:30 Saturday night the call came from the other friend who’d been at Happy Hour. When she received the news and called me, no one knew quite what had happened, but our friend had passed away. The shock set all of us back and it took a while to get the correct version. For reasons as yet unknown, she suffered a seizure followed by a heart attack during some part of what was a routine procedure and they were unable to resuscitate her.

Our friend had been to dinner Thursday evening, her usual smiling, pleasant self. As everyone has attempted to come to grips with this, the comment of, “I didn’t know she was ill,” is understandable except she wasn’t, not precisely. The condition she had (can’t recall the exact term) is one that many deal with; that medical technology is such, you go in, have an out-patient procedure, rest up a bit and make sure you do your follow-up with the doc later. Then there are those tragic turns no one anticipates and no one is prepared for. Her service is today and due to the COVID-19 restrictions on gatherings, what would be a full church will instead be a relatively small group at the funeral home although the service will be “live-streamed”.  Watching a loved one/close friend suffer through a lengthy illness is incredibly difficult. Coming to grips with sudden death, especially when it is, “too soon”, carries with it a different level of loss. (She would have been 73 in September)