Thursday, September 12, 2019

Debating Law and Order

I sit on a bed in a motel in St Augustine, Florida, on a road trip with hub. The Democratic debate blares on TV and I listen, sort of. If I pay too close attention I get a headache. 

The objective of this trip (who wants to be in the sunshine state during a sizzling, hurricane-prone time? Not me. Or hub. We fly home the day after reaching our destination.)- to deliver our 2012 Mazda 3 to our grandson, 15-years-old and recent recipient of a learner’s permit. We purchased a new car (Honda CR-V). The trade-in price proposed was so low we shrugged it off and offered the car to any member of our extended family in need of wheels. Initially rejecting the idea, on reconsidering our Florida family decided a used Mazda beats no car at all.

The candidates on the screen drone on. And on. One of the many topics discussed is law and order. My mind wanders to the late great TV show of the same name. Friday, September 13th is the show’s anniversary. Law & Order debuted on that date in 1990 on NBC, and lasted twenty seasons, tied with Gunsmoke (1955-75) and a Law & Order franchise spin-off, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit (1999-present), for the longest-running live-action scripted American primetime series.

The original show spawned a number of spin-offs in addition to Law & Order: Special Victims Unit...Criminal Intent, Trial by Jury, LA, True Crime, Hate Crimes, foreign adaptations – including a Law & Order UK, and TV movies and video games. The Chicago TV series are also part of the Law & Order franchise – Chicago Fire, Chicago P.D., Chicago Med, and Chicago Justice, which lasted only one season. There may be more, but it’s hard keeping up and I am currently not a fan of any of these shows...

The original Law & Order produced 1,149 episodes. I cannot imagine binge-watching the entire series. How many days...weeks...months would it take? In the past I watched the show on and off over the years. But I am sure if watched again I would not remember which character committed the crime (usually murder). Want to watch old episodes or the entire series? You can’t. For some reason known only to decision-making media magnates, the show is not currently available on any streaming service.

Honestly, I would prefer to sit back, relax and watch three episodes of Law & Order than develop a low-grade headache watching the Presidential candidates spar verbally for three hours. Unless I move to another state quickly (like Iowa or New Hampshire), my vote will have no impact on which candidate carries the Democratic Presidential mantle. My state’s primary is too late to make any impact on the choice of candidate. Whose brilliant idea was it for the debates to drag on for three hours? 

I cannot watch the entire debate. My motel bed beckons...

Saturday, September 7, 2019

Seafood at the Seashore

Locals consider September the best month in our shore town. The weather is mild and sunny (most days), the days long (although getting shorter by minutes each day), the water warm, restaurants uncrowded (except Saturday nights), and parking spots available. Special events bring folks out to enjoy the atmosphere and activities.

This weekend the Downbeach Seafood Festival served up delicious food, with vendors representing some of the most popular (and best) seafood places in the area. There was music, games for the kids, a beer tent, cooking demonstrations and dance performers.
I am not sure you can read the print on this poster, 
but the various items offered by the restaurant vendors are listed.
Fish tacos - my choice, with soft tacos, fresh fish and veggies - lobster rolls, 
an entire boiled dinner, clams, mussels, shrimp...
The chef at a local hotel (the Sheraton) demonstrated how to
cook a fish - the picture above shows a tilefish she prepared, 
caught in the waters off Brigantine, NJ.
An event at the shore must have a sand sculpture!
After the festival, a couple of hours at the beach. 
Beach time is precious now as each day brings autumn closer...
followed by winter cold...then spring rains...and finally summer. 
I can't wait!

Sunday, September 1, 2019

Boomers Forge Ahead into the Transitional Month of September

All at once, summer collapsed into fall.
-      Oscar Wilde

This Labor Day weekend the weather could not have been better. My beach town is overrun with folks taking in the last summer rays, waiting patiently in long lines for their preferred ice cream concoction, savoring favorite restaurant dishes. But shorter days and cool nights remind us that it is time to prepare for a new season’s activities and learn something new. 

This week the boomers have some ideas to help jump-start your autumn. 

Continuing with her 2019 theme of extreme self-care, Jennifer, of Unfold and Begin, focuses on our health with her September calendar.  It's Time to Tune-up in September, remind us how important it is to take care of our body and our mental and emotional well-being. If you haven't already, it's time to make those important Doctor appointments in September.

Tom at Sightings Over Sixty was surprised to read in a recent poll that almost half of the people surveyed believe that Medicare is free. In What Does Medicare Cost? he offers a primer to how much we pay to get coverage -- so new retirees don't get too much of a shock, and so the rest of us can review what we really do pay for our benefits.

You'd think technology would distance people from annoyances but in some cases, it has created brand new levels of intrusion. Over at Heart-Mind-Soul, Carol Cassara puts on her curmudgeon hat and lays out some of today's intrusive marketing efforts and other 21st century annoyances in "You Can...But Should You?”.

On The Survive and Thrive Boomer Guide, Rita R. Robison, consumer and personal finance journalist, writes about what to do about your digital assets as you get older. Digital assets are something of value or significance created online or on a mobile phone, laptop, or tablet.

Sometimes we just want to 'get away from it all'  - including the 24/7 news - if only for a few hours. 

Living in a big city like Los Angeles can make you crazy but there are many wonderful places you can go to get away for a while. Rebecca Olkowski, with went to visit The Huntington Library and Botanical Gardens near Pasadena. She spent the day there in its serene environment. Here’s what she saw.

You know the feeling. If you see one more all red, all caps “Breaking News” flash, you’re gonna blow. There’s too much coming at us too often and it’s happening all the time. According to Laurie Stone at Musings, Rants, & Scribbles, here are 4 signs you’re on cable news overload and what to do about it

I am in the process of 'getting away from it all' by binge watching a British TV series. Read all about it here.

Check out this week's boomers and drop them a line. We love to hear from you.

Saturday, August 31, 2019

Ten reasons I got hooked on the British detective series Midsomer Murders

Binge watching has become all the rage. Why wait week after week for another episode of a favorite show? Why wait anxiously through a seasonal hiatus and begin watching again when you have a 21st century alternative – binge watch the entire series, whether a 3-episode miniseries or a show with a 20-year longevity. 

Yup, that’s me. The show: the British detective series Midsomer Murders. First aired in England in 1997, 21st season currently in production. Each episode 1½ hours. 119 episodes after 20 seasons. 

A lot of TV viewing. 

Too much squandered time, I admit. But the show is addictive. 

The setting is a somewhat affluent fictional county of small villages, farms, and country
manors. The manors are not as large as the grandiose Downton Abbey, but impressive nonetheless. Smaller dwellings also appear, characterized by low ceilings and doorways and tended flower gardens, crammed with the stuff of British middle-class life. Run-down shacks in the woods house folks of dubious backgrounds.

A pub or two play a part in most episodes, venues with dark wood paneling and a bar counter where detectives search for strangers and chat with tavern owners and barmaids. Village folks occupy cozy alcoves and guzzle alcoholic beverages, consume hearty meals, and gossip. A village church and its vicar recur...also the police station...and scenic narrow country roads, settings for car crashes, hit and runs, and mad dashes to prevent another murder. There is rarely only one homicide per episode.

Ten reasons I got hooked on the British detective series Midsomer Murders:

1.   I like detective shows, everything from Perry Mason, Murder She Wrote, Columbo and Castle to Elementary.
2.   Great scenery. Villages look unscarred by 20th and 21st century development – no chain stores or supermarkets, little traffic, pristine landscapes. Family-owned businesses proliferate, although financial troubles surface, a common theme.
3.   The actors look like real people. Apparently British TV does not feel the need to make every actor/actress handsome/pretty. 
4.   Interesting story lines and no annoying commercial breaks.
5.   The culprit is not obvious, but can be deduced.
6.   I am learning a little British lingo, and closed captions (British accents can be difficult to understand) ensure none of the dialogue or background sounds - music, doors creaking, footsteps - are missed.
7.  Lead actors are appealing.
8.   Don’t need to watch in sequence; each episode can stand alone.
9.   Amusing dialogue and dark humor lighten the drama.
10.Characters mirror real life - everybody has secrets, some relevant to the case and others irrelevant.

Midsomer is an idyllic (except for the murders) semi-rural region. I wonder what will happen when the writers kill off everyone living, working, and visiting the various Midsomer villages. 

How many more years can Midsomer Murders endure?

Meanwhile I am on season 16... 

Saturday, August 24, 2019

Lost then Found

After two weeks in Scotland it was time to get back to ‘real life’. We - hub and I - arrived home Sunday night. Monday was jam-packed with meetings, food shopping, reviewing mail, paying bills, and recuperating from jet lag and the seven-hour, unfun flight across the pond. No time to unpack.

I needed the car to drive to meetings and haul groceries. I knew where my key was. On the way out of the country we drove to the airport and parked at an off-site lot. I threw placed my key in a pocket of my backpack. 

Or so I thought.

Fast forward two weeks. Back home, I go for my key. Let is nowhere to be found, but not wanting to be late for my meeting I did not undertake a thorough search. I grabbed hub’s key and rushed out the door.

I did not worry, initially. Maybe I placed my key in a different backpack pocket, or someplace else entirely. After two weeks my mind and memory could be playing tricks on me.

Day two home. Time to unpack.

I emptied my backpack, not a usual task. Items like tissues, coins and pens remain forever in the bag. But in an effort to locate my key, everything came out. 

No key found.

I semi-panicked. It was time to methodically search elsewhere.

Maybe the key was in the car...a dresser drawer...a sweater or jacket pocket (unlikely, since I hadn’t worn either for weeks in the summer heat)...fell under the furniture...nothing. An unsuccessful hunt.

I realized the key might be forever lost. Maybe I took something out of my backpack, the key fell out and I didn’t notice. 

Hub and I could not rely on one key long-term. But replacement turned out not to be a simple undertaking. Or cheap. Keys nowadays are computer-programmed. We could not make a copy at the hardware store.

Hub called the Honda dealer and set up an appointment. The dealer needed the car to program a key. No problem, they told him, a one-hour job. Price? A lot. But we had no choice.

Hub rises early for the 7:00 am appointment and is out the door 6:30...

An hour later he reappears. “Finished already?”

“No, the repair department didn’t have the part. I rescheduled. The part will be in tomorrow.”

You are probably thinking, why didn’t the shop tell him when he called they did not have the part? Why didn’t they check before scheduling the appointment? I guess that would require too much trouble on their part. Better let the customer waste their time.

That afternoon I resigned to complete my unpacking and repacking. A small pile of items removed from my backpack sat on my dresser, including two plastic rain jackets. I picked one up and noticed a small bulge in the square-folded piece of plastic. I thrust my hand in the folds, routed around and – voila – MY CAR KEY!

I ran into the family room waving my key and shouting, “I found my key! I found it!” Hub thought something terrible happened...

But I solved the mystery!

Hundreds of dollars saved.

Next time I will write down the safe and secure place I store my key. 

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Impressions of Scotland

Wildflowers brighten the Scottish landscape.
Two weeks immersed in the land, culture, cuisine, and literary legends of Scotland, and I returned home exhausted. It took a couple of days to adjust to the time change and recover – mostly from a seven-hour flight confined to an American Airlines middle seat. Years ago a younger, more flexible me would have bounced back the next day. Oh well...


I spent most of my time in the town of Dundee. Before boarding a bus in Edinburgh for the city, about 1½ hours north of the capital, local folks inquired Why Dundee? It is not a popular tourist destination. The city is attempting an economic rebound centered on education and tourism. A branch of the Victoria & Albert (V&A) Museum opened in January, 2019, and new hotels have opened.

I spent nine days in the city attending a writer’s conference sponsored by Murphy Writing of Stockton University (New Jersey) in cooperation with the University of Dundee. I attended workshops, wrote a great deal, walked miles, ate too much, and toured city and countryside.
Conference attendees stayed in University of Dundee dorm rooms.
This is the view from my room, the river Tay in the background.
The Cuisine...

A fun part of travel is sampling local fare. Fish and chips is a Scottish staple, available for a reasonable price at almost every pub in the country. Lightly breaded and fried, the fish usually haddock, with thick steak fries, also not immersed in grease, are delicious. Calories undetermined...

Baked beans are another local favorite, part of a typical breakfast and often found with dinner entrees as well. Peas, sometimes whole and other times mushy, are also a common meal accompaniment. 

The quintessential Scottish food and the national dish, however, is haggis

pudding (a boiled or steamed dish) composed of the liver, 
heart, and lungs of a sheep(or other animal), minced and 
mixed with beef or mutton suet and oatmeal and seasoned with onion, 
cayenne pepper and other spices
The mixture is packed into a sheep’s stomach and boiled.

The Scottish poet Robert Burns wrote a poem, An Address to the Haggis, immortalizing the dish. Here is the first stanza (there are 8 stanzas) of the poem in the original Scottish English, followed by a modern translation:

Fair fa' your honest, sonsie face, 
Great chieftain o the puddin'-race!
Aboon them a' ye tak your place,
Painch, tripe, or thairm:
Weel are ye worthy o' a grace
As lang's my arm.

Great chieftain of the sausage race!
Above them all you take your place,
Stomach, tripe, or intestines:
Well are you worthy of a grace
As long as my arm.

I don’t want to give the wrong idea about the country’s culinary diversity. A wide range of eateries exist in Edinburgh and Dundee. We sampled French, Greek, Mediterranean, Italian, American (burgers of course), and Indian restaurants, along with local favorites. Cafes are everywhere and the coffee is wonderful.

A rainbow bagel discovered, and sampled, at a cafe in Dundee.
Local culture

Some cities dot the landscape with animals – like this one spotted in Edinburgh –

Dundee has its penquins, a nod to the city’s shipbuilding and navigaton history -

Dundee also is proud of its eight-foot statue of Desperate Dan – the strongest man in the world - a British comic character born in Dundee in 1937. 

Desperate Dan, the strongest man in the world!

The city also sports other comic characters – one example here:
A comic character, in front of the sailing vessel Discovery. The ship is anchored in
Dundee harbor and is open for tours.

Guidbye and see ye efter!

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Edinburgh Scotland and the Fringe Festival

Three days exploring the capital of Scotland, Edinburgh, before the reason for my Scottish trip began – a writer’s conference – and 1½ days after the conference, barely enough time to see the sites of the city and experience the Fringe Festival.
Ad for the Fringe Festival (paid for by Virgin Air!) on
the Royal Mile, a cobblestone pedestrian-only street
connecting the medieval Edinburgh Castle
to Holyrood Palace, the royal family's residence when in Scotland.
 I admit I had never heard of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival before this trip. The Fringe? The Festival advertises itself as “the world’s greatest platform for creative freedom,” offering thousands of live performances - comedy and drama theater, variety shows, one person shows and full productions, music, dance, children's shows, circus -  over a three-week period every August. 

To get an idea of the extent of the festival here are some 2018 festival statistics:

* Over 400,000 visitors.
* 3,548 unique shows in venues throughout the city, including large theaters, pub, hotel and outdoor locations. Small hole-in-the-wall sites seat less than 100. 
* Over 56,000 performances: 697 free shows, 260 pay as you want shows, 1,937 premiers.

Hub and I saw four shows: one great (Showstoppers– improv musical), one very good (Fishbowl – no dialogue, three actors), one interesting (Trump Lear – a one man play), one blah. Most of the shows are one hour, so the blah one was bearable. The play’s premise (and title) seemed interesting – Too young to stay in, too old to go out, but the man who performed the one-man show did not do a spectacular job. 

We walked...and walked...our steps interspersed with the shows, stops at pubs and restaurants for a taste of local fare, cafes for coffee – the brew wonderful throughout the trip, visits to museums and historic sites. Edinburgh is a city of steps, steep hills, too many cobblestone streets, and during the Fringe Festival too many people. By the end of each day our swollen feet demanded downtime.

One of the restaurants I DID NOT patronize.
We did have lunch one day at the
Lucky Pig, a vegetarian bistro.
This restaurant served great food at a reasonable price.
Following the first three days in Scotland we boarded a bus for Dundee. Dundee? Why are you going to Dundee? Locals inquired. Why would anyone spend time in Dundee? the overwhelming response from our new Scottish acquaintances.

The answer in my next blog post...
Love this sign found displayed above a pub door.

Saturday, August 3, 2019

High Flying Fear and Once Again a Globetrotter

The road well-traveled beckoned, and I am once again a traveler.

But not yet on the road. More accurately, in the air. No superhighways, or roads of any kind, yet link the east coast of the U.S. with any European land, so I was forced to board a jet plane. An American Airlines plane, my seat assignment far, far in the back of the plane. 

I don’t know how long the plane had been in the air before I was ready to disembark. Unfortunately there were too many hours before my feet landed on terra firma. I could not sleep, the seat too small, too uncomfortable, with not enough leg room. My body contorted into shapes my aging body should not have to experience. Sore bones, tight muscles, itchy skin. 

So why am I putting myself through this agony on an aircraft?

To reach a destination on the other side of the pond – Scotland. Land of whiskey, the Loch Ness monster, kilts, Celts, clans and bagpipes. None of which I am particularly interested in, but nevertheless...

First meal in Scotland at the Alexander Graham Bell pub, Edinburgh

Scottish seagulls. Same as east coast US seagulls. Only bigger. 

I will be attending a writer’s conference. 

But first I had to endure the trip overseas.

For a time rough weather threatened, or so my imagination made me believe. I thought I would have a shortened trip and forego participation in the conference. I feared the wind would whisk me and the plane off to the netherworld. 

But the weather moderated and my heart stopped pounding, and only mildly thumped. Loudly. Hands numb? Or just cold. I couldn’t tell.

“...once through the clouds, you will be able to see land...” the pilot’s voice broke through my imaginings.

I rolled up the window blind, ever so tentatively, and peered out. Between the clouds, white and billowy and so innocent-looking now, I sight terra firma.

I sighed, sat back, and smiled. My Scotland adventure was about to begin.
the North Sea

Saturday, July 27, 2019

A Summer Day at the Beach

Summer, meaning the hot season of the year, made its presence known in the past few weeks in my neck of the woods. Or more accurately, my island by the sea. Characterized by hot weather, suffocatingly humid at times, hours of light, sunny days and some rain, accommodating busy beach days by arriving late afternoon and evening. The word got out about this year’s ideal beach weather and people rushed in. Tourists, family, second home owners, all converged. The result slow moving lines of cars along the two main streets in town, long lines at the ice cream parlor, packed restaurants. People everywhere. 

Family members graced our home this past week, and my granddaughter and I shot photos of a day at the beach. One day of fun and relaxation soaking up the sun, temporarily forgetting about the routine activities of everyday life waiting back at the house.
Soaking up the sun, sand, and sea.
Life guards and life boats prepared for an emergency.
The highlight of the day - the ice cream man and his cart of goodies!
Obligatory beach accessories. photo by Sami.
Our beach. photo by Sami.

Saturday, July 20, 2019

Mad About Bait and Switch

Hamilton the show is coming to Philadelphia (yeah!). My niece secured four tickets, including two for hub and me. I found a YouTube video of the album with lyrics and have begun to listen to the fabulous soundtrack. I want to be prepared!

I thought it would be a good idea to stretch our Philadelphia visit and stay overnight, rather than take the train or drive home after the show. We could spend a couple of days visiting museums, restaurants, strolling city streets – as long as it is not 90+ degrees. Reasonably priced accommodations are the key to our mini-vacation.

I have used the website Travelzoo in the past to find hotel deals, sometimes successfully and at other times not so much.  Scanning the site a deal popped up for the Sheraton Society Hill. Perfect...

But things are not always as they seem.

Travelzoo directed me to the hotel website. I indicated the dates desired and keyed in the promo code. The following screen popped up:

I clicked on Select and this came up:

OK, I thought, problems occur. I tried again, same result. I closed the site. Temporarily. Hours later I tried again. Same message. The next day the error notice reappeared. 

Then I tried an experiment. I removed the promo code. Available rooms with prices showed up on the screen, but the prices displayed were very different than the Travelzoo numbers:

The quoted price was now twice as much as the Travelzoo advertised rate. I was curious whether or not I could follow through and book a room. Clicking on Select, the booking page immediately emerged. 

I doubt Travelzoo realizes what the hotel has done. Maybe the first one or two people who want a particular date are accommodated, but then the window closes. Initially excited to secure a hotel at a reasonable price for the date desired, my delight turned to frustration attempting to book a room and anger at the hotel.

Now I am back to a depressing exercise scanning websites for a Philly hotel. Deals are offered, but not for the night hub and I will be in town. But I keep trying...

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Boomers Discuss Big Issues Like Moving...and Small Annoying Things

Boomers on the move...
Many boomers decide to enjoy retirement in a new community. Folks contemplate relocating for a variety of reasons, seeking a better (usually warmer) climate, reasonable housing costs, a lower tax burden, first-rate medical facilities, and the list goes on. Rebecca Olkowski with had a recent guest post on her blog that may be interesting to Baby Boomers who are considering moving away for retirement. RentCafĂ© analyzed Census data in 250 of the largest cities in the U.S. and found the most popular zip codes that Boomers were living in. You’ll never guess which one is number 1.  Read What are the Best Places in the U.S. for Baby Boomers to Retire?
Lots of us venture outdoors this time of year to enjoy summer pastimes. On The Survive and Thrive Boomer Guide, Rita R. Robison, consumer and personal finance journalist, writes about how to remove ticks and how to prevent getting them, good information for summer activities in many areas.

Sometimes it is the small things in life that frustrate us...
This week Tom at Sighting Over Sixty vents his frustrations with some of the minor hurdles of modern appliances used every day. If you ever have trouble seeing the tiny buttons to set your clock, or manipulating the awkward switches to adjust your lights, or trying to figure out just how bright the new light bulb is, then you might want to check out Tom's post Why Do They Do it That Way? at Sightings Over Sixty. At least you'll know you're not the only one who sees the absurdity in modern life ... and not the only one to laugh about it.

In a related story...Laurie Stone of Musings, Rants & Scribbles writes about when her husband Randy did something so unexpected, so out of the blue, so sudden, so surprising, she gasped in sputtering disbelief. “Its for your own good,” he said, in her post, "The Shocking Day My Husband Intervened."  

Modern life is complicated, and ways to organize life proliferate. Jennifer of Unfold and Begin discusses a recent trend in this week’s post...Jennifer's current post is about planners and how we keep track of our time and daily activities.  Specifically, her post on Unfold and Begin is about the new trend for bullet journals.  In her post Is a Bullet Journal a Waste of Your Time, Jennifer looks at the new trend, shares how the trend started and discusses her version of daily planning that she calls the Un-Bullet Journal.

All of us experience pain during our lives, and nowadays it seems that chronic pain is everywhere, and it's one reason we have an opioid crisis in this country. But, as Carol Cassara at A Healing Spirit points out at Should You Just Take A Pill?, there are safer ways to manage pain that can be just as effective, and she and her husband have both used them successfully. So have many others.

And close to home...
The warm weather finds my street alive with folks walking their dogs, children playing, cyclists riding past, and it seems almost everyone hangs out on their front porch enjoying the view - most homes on our block do not have back yards. An interesting incident this week brought to mind an event that happened centuries ago. Read and enjoy.

Have a great week...and spend a few minutes with our boomers. We love to hear from you!