Week Zipping Past….

It seems as if I have once again allowed extra days to zip past without posting. This is another case of having a full schedule and then, oops – gee, can’t you fit in this one other task? Oh, well, I guess I meant two; or really I suppose it’s three, etc., Not to mention I’m trying to manage to get a dive in before the end of the month. Okay, with that said, I’ll move on to the topic of the day which is I managed to not get reservations for an Eagles Tribute band performance at the Seminole Theatre as I had intended. In all fairness, I tried to get tickets a couple of weeks ago, but with the reduced attendance capacity of the theatre due to on-going COVID restrictions, the on-line seating function wasn’t working. I even went by in person a couple of days later to no avail. Alas, when I tried earlier this week, the site was functioning correctly along with the notice the show was sold out.

However, there is a potential silver lining. It so happens there was another performance I was interested in, but it’s for Apr 2d, and as there are already one (now two) more events scheduled for April we have to attend, I passed on the Swon Brothers. I decided on them as our back-up: “The Swon Brothers became the first duo to make it to a season finale with the help of their coach, Blake Shelton on the hit TV show, The Voice. In October 2014, The Swon Brothers released their self-titled album and received a nomination for CMA Vocal Duo of the Year. Shortly after, in 2016, they released their EP, Timeless and spent the year touring coast to coast in the United States and Canada with Carrie Underwood on The Storytellers Tour.”

I’m sure we will enjoy them and the only potential drawback is Hubby has been teaching a lot lately due to the usually busy spring break crowds. He may have full day on the 2d which means a late dinner after the show instead of dining beforehand as I prefer. Ah well, that’s easy enough to handle.

Exciting New Cybrarium…..

The word may not yet be familiar, but Homestead now has one. The full article about the grand opening of the Cybrarium will be in next week’s paper. I have of course written multiple posts about how deeply I feel about the value of libraries. When government at different levels look to cut funds, unfortunately, they can be prone to view libraries as a target. Our county did cut back some hours a few years ago during a crunch and thankfully were able to restore them. Our library here has always been modest and in an older building, but the County has a robust program for getting materials from other branches so it wasn’t bad. A few years ago, the City Manager envisioned something much more ambitious with the intent of making the Cybrarium appeal to the digital generation.

The new building opened yesterday, bright and airy and nearly 24,000 square feet with two stories. “Regular books” are available, but also Virtual Reality capability, a Children’s Theater complete with a digital “wall” atop the stage to allow for special effects such as rain falling if that is part of the story/play.(Yes, they will have adult shows, too). Later in the summer, there will be a Book Mountain, which is a two-story high interactive sculpture where apparently a young astronaut will read books or talk about them or something (I’m a little unclear on this). Then there is the Steampunk area, complete with more books, art, displays, and a special lounge where they have 3-D printers.

While some older people may be a bit reluctant to enter initially, there’s no questions kids of all ages through teens (and of course their parents) are going to be drawn in. This is a City initiative and so people will need to have a separate card, but there is a reciprocal agreement with the County and everyone will still have access to the county library system.

Have a peak: www.cybrarium.org

No French Dressing in France….

I’ve written before about me being a “picky eater” according to some and growing up with basic Southern fare in small towns where ethnic cuisines simply weren’t available. Something like pizza wasn’t really on-hand either and that wasn’t something we had at home. In fact, I had my first slice a couple of months before my seventeenth birthday when I was at the summer school in Quebec. It was of course France in my senior year of high school where I was introduced to many different items even though I was no where as adventuresome as a number of my classmates. Our dining arrangements did mean I often had group meals which is how I ate duck and horse. In these cases as you can imagine, I frequently had extra bread or cheese and soup was usually a first course. An interesting note is that vegetable soup in France is not what we generally think of, but is instead a creamy soup of vegetables pureed and cooked with stock. It is delicious. As for salad dressing, oil and vinegar on the table was most likely or a light vinaigrette. They do not have what we call French dressing and I truly don’t know where that comes from. I was also introduced to a few Moroccan dishes. My first Indian curry was on a trip to England. Oddly enough my first time in a Chinese restaurant was much later in Germany as two of my peers discovered I’d never been in one.

German food does tend to be heavier than French, although similar ingredients are used in their preparations and no, I never developed a taste for sauerkraut. I was glad to learn about white radishes. The multiple variations of pork schnitzel were as much a comfort food as you could ask for, too. Germany was also where I truly learned about wines as I was still being a good Baptist when I lived in France.

Asking Forgiveness or Permission…..

Many, many years ago I and a friend wanted to do something that quite frankly would be utterly not allowed these days. (It was questionable then, too). So I had my first encounter with the phrase, “Better to ask forgiveness than permission because some asshole will always say no.” We went ahead and didn’t encounter an issue, but that was another of those “youthful indiscretions” that could have easily gone awry. (The details aren’t important) A recent local situation brought this memory to mind along with a common misconception about this phrase.

I have heard others cavalierly toss this out when faced with the sudden realization forgiveness might not be granted. People have a tendency to think their “initiative” or “boldness” will count more heavily in their favor. It very often does, particularly if the action results in something good. Even so, though, it can also lead to friction within a group as not everyone may be in the “forgiving” mode. The point though is it doesn’t always. At those few times I’ve witnessed the reaction of the one “not forgiven” the common reaction is one of disbelief followed by an emotional response of anger and/or pleading for reconsideration. (More about that below)

A boss of mine later expanded on the idea with his three “rules”. First, make sure what you want to do is legal. Second, think it through carefully and be able to explain your reasoning. Third, accept the consequences if things don’t go as planned. To reinforce the above paragraph, that meant prepare myself if the action/decision didn’t work out correctly or forgiveness was not in the mix. This is one of those life lessons that served me well and I passed it on to numerous subordinates during my career.

E-Readers and “Real” Books…..

The other day, we – as in a group of friends – had the discussion about e-readers versus real books. I’ve posted about this before, but it’s been a while and I will add an extra note at the end. We did hold off on buying Kindles for a few years after they came out and are a couple of generations “behind” the newest versions. Although the original reason to do so was because I had a fan who insisted I publish an e-book edition of my books, we quickly appreciated what others had been telling us all along. I don’t own a tablet as I have my regular laptop and a smaller laptop for travel. The point about tablets is because the Kindle app and I think now Nook (Barnes and Nobles e-reader) can be downloaded onto a tablet as well as a smart phone. That eliminates the need for a separate e-reader if someone already has a tablet.

Storage space and travel (notwithstanding all the restrictions of 2020 and into 2021) are what I like about the Kindle.With our many bookcases filled to capacity and the difficulty in finding a place to take used books, being able to store hundreds electronically has definite benefits. Yes, I do still like the feel of a “real book”, but that doesn’t take priority over practicality. The other thing though about real books is the ability to quickly flip back through if I want to re-read a passage. I haven’t found an easy way to do that with Kindle. Oh yes, being able to increase the size of the font with an e-reader is handy,  too.

E-books have also opened the way for many authors who decide to self-publish because costs to do only an e-book are significantly less than to do even a trade (paperback). That of course can lead to the debate of all those books that probably shouldn’t be published, but that’s not the point of this post. And speaking of costs, I refuse to read newly released best sellers on Kindle because the price of $14.99 (standard) is ridiculous. I know what it costs to do a Kindle conversion. What you are paying for at that price is the name recognition. Wait a few months and it will drop.

Too Complicated for Me…….

My friend Richie Kohler called the other day and wanted me to take a quick look at an article he had due to the scuba magazine, “Alert Diver”. He just needed another set of eyes for “Hazards in Wreck Diving”. As usual with his writing, it was well done. It also brought to mind the whole recreational diving and technical diving. A quick detour though into scuba.

From the 1950s through at least the 1970s scuba was pretty much an extreme sport due to rudimentary equipment. As more people joined in and developed  increasingly sophisticated equipment with the idea of making it a mainstream kind of water activity it changed considerably. Yes, during training you focus on the safety aspects and how to handle emergencies, but with the right equipment properly maintained and following normal precautions, it’s a safe sport. Now though is where you diverge into two paths. Recreational diving (with no decompression) means you dive to 130 feet or less. But if you dive much below 50 feet when you start to surface, you do a “safety stop” where you hang at 15-20 feet for 3-5 minutes to allow the nitrogen gas in your body to dissipate. This is the primary precaution against decompression sickness (the “bends”). Since how deep you go also impacts how quickly you use air and therefore how long you can stay on a dive, most people will not go below 80 or 90 feet for long and 50-70 feet lets you have nearly an hour of diving. It so happens the reefs around Key Largo are shallow at like 30-40 feet with the deeper dives on the wrecks. This is the kind of diving I do.

Since there will always be those who “want more” in any sport, technical diving requires specialized equipment and training that allows a diver to go deeper than 130 feet and get into what are now decompression dives. So, if a diver goes to say 200 feet, he or she has to calculate “decompression stops” as part of the dive time. That means stopping multiple times on the way up for a designated number of minutes in order to allow the nitrogen to dissipate. (This is also referred to as off-gassing). Notwithstanding the fact guys like Richie, quite a few of my friends, to include Hubby get into this, it is simply way more complicated than I want to mess with.

Might Miss Another Party….

In the scheme of things, this isn’t an overly important point, but it did bring an interesting memory to mind. I’ll start with the main thing.As I mentioned in a previous post, last year was granddaughter’s fifth birthday and the first one she was to have as a “major event”. Our present to her was to be the venue, a popular place with a specific children’s birthday party package. She was inviting people months ahead and then, as timing has it, her March 13th day hit right before the official shutdown. At that stage, however, parents were becoming concerned and most basically told the kids they weren’t going to be comfortable with attending. The venue acknowledged they’d had many cancellations and so the decision was made. The grandparents from Maine did come down and they had a special day which helped take the sting out of no big party. Granddaughter hasn’t forgotten though and apparently the decision again this year is “not yet”. They are looking for something extra special so we’ll see what that turns out to be.

Anyway, reaching way back to when her dad was a baby, as I have explained, his dad was killed when he was only four months old. Single parenting with an infant and being on active duty in the Army came with more challenges than I want to get into. And as often happens when the “needs of the Army” and the “desires of the individual” conflict, it’s not hard to guess who wins. This is how I found myself on the way to a specialized school at Fort Ord, CA in Monterey for almost four months when the child was only ten months old. Most at the school did not have their families with them and since I didn’t really have anyone to care for him for that length of time (as was suggested), they made an exception for me to have him with me. However, being the only single parent, especially with an infant, came with yet another set of challenges. We were divided into work groups and since several of the individuals in our group were also parents, they rallied around to help at least some and those who weren’t parents got into the swing of it. As the child’s first birthday approached, they were startled I said I wasn’t having a party for him. The fact is birthday parties for a one-year-old is for parents and grandparents to have cute photos. Unknown to me, the group decided that wouldn’t do and our “dinner out” that night segued into a surprise party complete with messy chocolate cake and a ride on an indoor merry-go-round. They also gave me a touching framed multi-photo piece of photos one of the guys had taken over the series of weekends as I brought the baby along for times we when went out to lunch. And yes, I do still have that hanging on the wall.

Lesser Known Etouffe……

Way back when, Justin Wilson and Paul Prudhomme were the only two “known” Creole/Cajun TV chefs. Emeril Lagasse of course is the one who attained true celebrity status and opened the way for lots of interest in Creole/Cajun cuisine. In the shortest explanation Cajun is viewed as the more “country” fare. Restaurants throughout South Louisiana and any place that bills itself in that fashion are likely to have a mix of the dishes with no distinction. A popular dish almost always included is crawfish or shrimp etouffee. Unlike jamabalaya or shrimp creole, which are tomato based, etouffee is roux-based and generally served as a thickened dish atop rice. It will be flavorful rather than hot although cayenne can be added for those who like extra kick and hot sauce is always an option.

A little known dish rarely found on a menu is tuna etouffee. It may sound a bit strange, but it is high protein, low fat, inexpensive and the calories and carbohydrates come in with how much rice is used and of course if dunking crusty French bread in it. Also roux-based, it can be thinned to resemble gumbo. So, if you’re in the mood to try something different and delicious, here it is.

Two 12-ounce cans tuna in water; 1 packet brown gravy mix (yes, that’s the quickie way instead of making roux from scratch); 1/2 cup diced onion, 1/2 cup diced sweet pepper (your favorite); 1 stalk celery diced, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp pepper, 1/4 – 1/2 tsp red pepper (optional). In the tradition of most Cajun dishes, saute the “trinity” of onion, celery, and peppers in olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat for 3-5 minutes until softened. Add tuna, then fill each can with water and add. Stir thoroughly, then sprinkle in gravy mix and stir briskly until blended. Add salt, pepper, stir thoroughly and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium low, cover, and cook for 30 minutes. Check every 10 minutes for thickness and stir to make sure it isn’t sticking to the bottom of the pan. Prepare 1 cup of white or brown rice in either another pan or use one of the quick microwave packets. If you want a thicker etouffee, increase the heat to medium and stir frequently as you reduce the liquid. Serve over rice in a bowl.

 

About Those Luxury Cars……

Yes, I have owned two Mercedes, a Saab, and a Jaguar. Now in all fairness, they were all “previously owned”, three of the four purchased through Carmax. The first Mercedes was when we were in Germany and it was a “European Spec” which meant certain things would have to be modified to bring it back to the U.S. Rather than bother with that was when we bought the Saab convertible. Not only bought it, but did the deal where we went to Guttenberg Sweden to pick it up. We had transferred to Italy at that point. So here was the deal. The price of the car included delivery from Sweden or the other option. Train from Italy to port of Hamburg (I think it was). overnight ferry to Guttenberg, pick up the car, overnight stay, then drive back. Daytime ferry for return trip. Since we went on a Saturday and the factory wasn’t open, a lady from the factory delivered the car to the hotel. This was all very civilized. It was also the first time we’d done a high-speed train which was a nice experience, too. It was winter though so a bit on the chilly side. Clear, however, which meant we did walk around and Guttenberg is a charming place. Our son enjoyed it because the TV shows were in English with Swedish subtitles. Yes, he did walk around with us, too. The drive from the port back to Italy allowed Hubby to get a good feel for the car and we spent the night in some hotel in Switzerland close to the highway.

As much as I loved the Saab, unfortunately, it was not designed for hot climates and I had serious mechanical issues with it when we left Virginia for Hubby’s last assignment in Puerto Rico. I went with the second Mercedes when we came back from there and then had a most unfortunate accident on the Turnpike. No injury thanks to great Mercedes engineering, but car was totaled. That led to the Jaguar. Again, loved the car, but I erroneously thought we had a dealership closer than we did. Getting service and repairs became truly annoying. There was also the matter of running premium gas. At that stage, I said, “enough”, and returned to my Ford roots. What brought all this to mind was the two-day Porsche events this weekend. Yesterday (Friday) was at the Homestead-Miami Speedway and today is car show at Schnebly Winery. We aren’t going due to some other things scheduled, but if it’s successful and they return next year, it might work out for us.

A Special Scuba Treat…..

Circumstances have once again interfered with my goal of diving once a month. In reality, January is almost always a loss due to post-holiday things, plus weather. This year though I “lost” November and December and so it wasn’t until Sunday – which was coincidentally Valentine’s Day – that I was able to go out. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, the winter water temperatures here go down to 70-74 depending on the site and day. While the wet suit helps, the maximum I have is a 3 mil and that’s right on the edge of comfort. I can’t see getting the next thickness up as it’s too warm for most of the time I dive. Also, if the air temperature is around 80 and especially if the sun is out and wind down, then it doesn’t take long to warm up after a dive.

With that said, there was a bit more wind than predicted to bring us 3-4 foot waves; nothing too difficult. Visibility was decent on the first dive at about fifty feet and while there was nothing “big”, I did see several of my favorite fish and multiple lobsters. We moved to the second site and visibility dropped to only about thirty feet. That again is a matter of perspective. People who come from the Northeast often consider thirty feet as “excellent”, not being as spoiled as we are. However, I had just seen one of my favorite fish and knew I couldn’t get the attention of Hubby and his student in time to show them, but as I turned, Hubby gave the sign for “shark” and pointed beyond me. I didn’t see anything and then it happened. Three – count them – three dolphins came zipping past us within like fifteen feet. Hubby hadn’t actually seen a shark and knew I missed the dolphins on their first pass. He just wanted to get me pointed in the right direction hoping they would come back as they did.

Once we were on the boat, the Captain and Mate explained they’d seen the pod approach and realized several of them were close to where they could see our bubbles. Like Hubby, they couldn’t be certain as to which divers would have a chance to see them. Fortunately, only a few of the divers missed out and they did see a shark. It had been like 20 years since I had seen a dolphin underwater.