Friday, December 11, 2015

December 3rd, A Day that Will Live in Infamy


"The things we believe about ourselves are often a lot more illuminating than the truth..."

I don't know what that means but it sounded good.  I think I saw that in an analysis of one of the Republican debates as the author spoke about THE Donald.  Actually I think it can be used by a lot of us.

You know it seems like I forgot something recently??

Oh yeah two weeks ago it was my 5th Blogoversary.  Or was it one week ago it was a few days after I realized I wanted to continue blogging two more years three years ago?  Or was it a week ago I realized it's been a year since I realized I really shouldn't be doing this any more than one more year.

Oh well regardless I forgot about my blogoversary.  Actually that's a lie I've just been too dang busy and I'm finally writing what I thought I was going to write two weeks ago.  Actually I made notes about this post a month ago while attending a workshop on training and felt really good about getting this out on time but then stuff happened and I'm just now elaborating on the notes I took a month ago about the things I was supposed to say two weeks ago.  I think I get that.

So let's see I've been writing this blog about things a regular guy does when he goes many years without sex and lives with a woman who is a microcosm of Scarlet O'Hara, Martha Stewart, Miranda Priestly, and Leona Helmsley and then discovers a thing called "married dating."

OK, so I did that and then about a month later I found out about a guy named Riff Dog.  I learned a lot from Riff Dog, not the least of which was how to get a woman to actually write back to you on Ashley Madison.  But more than anything, I learned what this thing called "married dating" should really be about.  And more importantly what TALKING ABOUT IT ON A BLOG should be all about.

Oh wait I was talking about a workshop I attended recently, you might rather hear about that than to hear about sex and blogs and how to enjoy them both.

I attended a workshop about a month ago about "Gaming in the Classroom."  It was a train the trainer type thing and it looked fun.  It was, and the instructor was like super nerdy hot.  Nerdy hot is like the best hot because with the glasses and the articulate wordiness, the lady seems cut off but you just know that, in the bedroom, if you could get that dress off she would be a total wildcat!  Unfortunately I was not able to confirm that.  She did look a bit like Selma Blair with glasses, a bit naive looking yet probably an animal in bed.

Anyway, one takeaway from the class was this:  "We are seeing a mass exodus to online 'life.'"  Reality is broken, virtual is attractive.  We struggle to make the real world as attractive as gaming...  Gamers are motivated, we just need the portal back to the real world."

What we are seeing is the "Gamification" of life.  It is happening all around us.  And what is "gamification" you say?  Gamification is the application of typical elements of game playing to other areas of activity to induce behavior (such as the encouragement of product or specific behavioral engagement).

Why?  Because games are fun and "FUN CAN CHANGE BEHAVIOR!"

What makes this important is that this generation ain't stupid; they want things to be fun.  So if you want these Gen-Z'ers, Gen NeXT'ers, Digital Natives, etc to learn/engage in anything you are doing you better learn about gaming.  I know you can't teach an old dog new tricks; leave the gaming to the youngsters and just let us Gen X'ers have our coffee and Nirvana.  But maybe this gamification thing has some applications to us mid-life dudes or ladies life!?

I know, it's really a pity to talk about a workshop so near to the holidays so let me try to get back to my Blogoversary and what all this Ashley Madison stuff means.

You know what I have so often written in AM notes to various ladies is "let's explore an alternative third place that is just for us where we can be enchanted, bewitched, and beguiled together...."

I know, kind of syrupy, it works about 5% of the time.  I'm sure saying "what's up, let's get it on" would probably yield about a 5% ROI as well but hey that type of colloquial language doesn't make for good thoughty-type blogging does it.

But what I learned from Riff and what a realized through all of this AM stuff is that we are all here for some reason.  We are here for hope or maybe to run to something or from something.  More than anything we are trying to change or behaviors because our past behavior has just not been too fun and perhaps changing behavior will lead us to fun.  And as you know "FUN CAN CHANGE BEHAVIOR."  Wait did I just say that?

I did forget to add something from the workshop so let me just slip it in here.  There are two types of "Gamification," structural and content.  Structural Gamification is the application of game-elements to propel a learner through content with no alteration or changes to the content itself.  The primary focus behind this type of gamification is to motivate the learner to go through the content and to engage them in the process of learning through rewards.  This is like Pac-Mac, same screen over and over; just a little more difficult each level.  Or maybe like marriage first you get her flowers and you get laid, then maybe it's dinner and get laid, then it's a trip to Cabo to get laid, and then it's who the hell knows what it takes you just don't get laid!

Content Gamification is the application of game elements and game thinking to alter content to make it more game-like.  The game learns and evolves as it becomes new each time you play it.  Adding elements, such as a story, makes the content more game-like but doesn't turn the content into a game. In this type of game we learn to learn and adapt.  This is when you enter alternate reality with multiple outcomes based on your decisions.  Hmmmm.

OK, enough with the academic stuff.

Wait all this seems like its similar to me as I'm talking.  Could this AM thing be like a game?  If it was a game, is that bad?  If it was a game could it change behavior?  Is it fun because it changes behavior and as such is that why it's fun?  Could being successful on AM and the resulting change in behavior not only be fun but a life changing, evolutionary process or journey?  And then would the blogging about it be part of that journey?

You know what makes this gaming stuff so fun is that fact that YOU are the hero.  Long and challenging games create the best learning.  And what is great about games is that you fail a lot and that failure is part of the learning as you alter behaviors to successfully navigate through the game.  It is also immediate feedback about performance and you adjust your strategies based on your performance and desired results.  In doing so you don't stigmatize failure you actually celebrate failure in the pursuit of success or in this case winning the game and more importantly learning the lesson.

I've found that most women on AM are not looking for reality or even the truth, as it lives in our everyday life.  What they are looking for is an escape to an alternative third place.  They are looking to gamify their life, to find a portal to the truth of who they would like to be in their minds; at least for an occasional afternoon.  Be that hero, be that portal and you will succeed.  More importantly you will succeed for yourself.  And even more importantly the hero that you become in the game may shape the person you are in real life.

OMG, I meant to write a blogoversary post and I've been blathering about nothing for far too long!

What the heck does all this mean!!!



"The things we believe about ourselves are often a lot more illuminating than the truth..."

Oh yeah, that's where I started.  I guess all this means is we live a truth every day in the real world.  But there is a truth in our minds that is part of who we believe we are or better yet who we believe we can become.  All this gaming and alternate reality is a dangerous thing, you can get lost in that alternative world of your mind.  But if you can find a way to make that alternative world, or truth, in your mind (what you believe about yourself) transport to the real world then it can be pretty transformative.

I guess that's enough for this year.

Want an illustration of gaming in society - take a look at the "bottle bank."


Unfortunately this is only structural gaming.... I wish I could do a game video about Ashley Madison though, I bet that would be truly good content (storybook) gaming!





Wednesday, December 9, 2015

C is for Cranberry!

No wait, C is for....
!

You see the Oxford Dictionary has formally given us approval to no longer speak in words but in pictures, or rather pictographs, or for you normal tweens out there EMOGIs!

Yes an emoji is officially the official "word" of the year.  Well actually it's the "lol" so much I'm crying or to be more to the point - 

Did you also know that last Friday was 


That's my emoji for National Cookie Day which apparently is every December 4!  Wow, I guess you can have a National Day for anything these days.  I wonder how I get to have a National Give Ryan a Blowjob Day, I wonder if I could get that through congress!  Hmmmm......

I wonder why we do love cookies so much?  I rather think we like them for many of the same reasons we like sex.  We all like cookies and we all like sex, right?  We like cookies because they are a small treat with such a variety of flavors and contrast of textures.  Think of chocolate chip cookies, ever so slightly crisp and crunchy on the outside with a deep rich melting chocolate squirt of flavor on the inside as you bite through.  OMG, that is exactly how I remember the best sex of my life!  You know chocolate chip cookies are always there for you and you can enjoy them just the way you like (with milk, after dinner, before bed, in the morning) just like your best sex partners (they know just how you like it).  And yet cookies are not so big and burdensome (like pie) that you can't mix and match.  Let's say you just had chocolate chip yesterday and the day before.  Today, you want a cookie but you want something new!  Well cookies have something new and exciting for you every day because today you can have oatmeal, or peanut butter, or sugar, or  maybe even maple, bacon, with sea salt. Who knows!  What you know is they won't dominate you into just one thing, they are willing to share and be as diverse as you need them to be!

OMG, now I just need a big old cookie orgy, don't you!!!

Well now that I am thinking of National Cookie Day, orgies, and December I come to one thought; it's time for 

 the Great Online (sex bloggers) Cookie Exchange Extravaganza!

As always a big thanks to JZ for organizing this treat every year.

OK, so we've established that today is not really for emoji's, it's actually for cookies.  Except that I never follow the rules so on this blog today it's for poundcake, or to be specific Cranberry Poundcake.  Now doesn't that sound all holidayish!

But you know poundcake is sexy too, just like cookies.  In fact if you can't have cookies, have poundcake; it goes great with milk as well.  I think of poundcake as like your girlfriend's older hot sister.  She's not your cookie but you would still like to pound her because she has that same nice soft round as(texture) but something just says I bet she might be really tart and lemony inside!  And OMG, I just have to taste that once!   :)

Ingredients:

*  1.5 cups + 3 Tbs Cake Flour - sifted
*  0.5 tsp baking powder
*  pinch of salt
*  1 cup Cranberries (fresh or thawed, strained if frozen)
*  5 oz white chocolate chunks
*  0.5 cups unsalted butter (at room temperature)
*  1.5 cups of sugar
*  0.5 cups of heavy cream
*  0.5 cups of mascarpone cheese
*  3 eggs
*  1 tsp vanilla extract (pure)
*  2.5 Tbs browned butter

For Frosting:
*  0.25 cups butter (softened)
*  4 oz cream cheese
*  1.5 cups powdered sugar
*  1 tsp vanilla or almond extract

*  Garnish with dried cranberries and white chocolate chips

Instructions:

*  Preheat convection air oven to 325
*  Butter and flour an 8.5 by 4.5 by 3 inch loaf pan and line with parchment paper
*  Combine cake flour, baking powder, and salt and sift multiple times (set aside)
*  In small sauce pan o/medium heat, brown 2.5 Tbs butter until it's an amber color, remove foam (set aside to cool)
*  Whisk the egg with vanilla extract and set aside
*  Mix the butter on medium speed until it's creamy, slowly add sugar and continue beating until incorporated into creamy butter
*  Add heavy cream and mascarpone into butter and continue beating until mixture is creamy
*  Turn mixer on low and add dry ingredients (flour) slowly and alternately with eggs
*  Take handful of flower and toss white chocolate chunks & cranberries in flour until covered
*  Add chocolate chunks and cranberries slowly into batter stirring constantly and gently
*  Pour batter into loaf pan, smooth the top and gently tap surface until bubbles removed
*  With butter knife draw line down center and pour browned butter into crevice.
*  Bake about 55 to 65 minutes and until top of cake golden brown and inserted toothpick comes out clean.  Upon removing cake from oven cool for 15 minutes.
*  Remove cake from pan, separating from parchment paper.
*  With a mixer, combine 0.25 cups softened butter and cream cheese until smooth.  Slowly add in powdered sugar, beating until smooth.  Mix in vanilla or almond extract.
*  Spread icing on top of cake and place cake in refrigerator until frosting is set.
*  When frosting set melt 0.5 cups of white chocolate chips with 1 Tbs of vegetable oil in small sauce pan over low heat until smooth.
*  Sprinkle the cake with dried cranberries and drizzle white chocolate sauce over cake.


And as always I finish with that most tasty of songs, sing it Cookie Monster!




And here is that big cookie orgy!


Bleu (private blog, also posted here)
little monkey (private blog, also posted here)


Monday, November 30, 2015

I am a Little Divided

"do I stay or run away and leave it all behind..."

I am not a real celebrity whore.  I've met celebrities before, they are regular people; often shorter than I am and unspectacular but for what they have done.  That being said Dave Grohl is one guy I would truly be "geeked" to meet and probably would be speechless if I could.

How many people can say they have had as much effect on music over such an extended period of time.  I would say his collective success with both Nirvana and the Foo Fighters put him in the Paul McCartney level of stardom.  It is rare that one individual finds so much success with multiple groups and as an singular artist over an extended career.  When you consider his prowess on the guitar, the drums, as a vocalist, a writer, and a wicked funny actor in all of his videos you realize how rare it is the air he occupies among rock icons.  He has accomplished this with much aloofness and for that I admire him.

Even though we think of Grohl as a Seattle grunge dude from his work as the front man for the Foo Fighters and the drummer for Kurt Cobain and Nirvana, he actually grew up right here in good old NOVA (that's Northern Virginia to anyone not from the area).  Specifically, he attended Annandale High just inside the Beltway.  In the late 80's while still a teen, Grohl began playing and touring with the DC Punk band, Scream.  While with Scream he met and befriended Buzz Osborne with the Melvin's.  Osborne would later introduce Grohl to Kurt Cobain and Krist Novoselic with Nirvana. Grohl would then join Cobain and Novoselic for that famous Nevermind album recorded in spring, 1991.

I did see the Foo Fighters in concert once with the Red Hot Chili Peppers.  Unfortunately I did not get to meet Dave Grohl but pound for pound it was the best concert I have ever seen!

Anyway, I got my satellite radio back the other day and heard this song and thought about today's post or really the intro as I always like something to segue from you know!  :)

Oh right, good news; I got my satellite radio back!  You might have read how I lost it here.  But the Beaumont's got a new car last week.  Shannon will be driving the new car,of course, leaving Ryan with the older newer car, which in fact has my beloved XM radio.  The new car doesn't have satellite radio (yet) but it does have the requisite USB port and Shannon has agree just to play XM radio and all her downloaded tunes through her phone whilst in her new car - she is so good to me!

So with that in mind perhaps I should give you a little update on life

Shannon - Nothing really new here, our relationship can still be defined as somewhere between platonically ambivalent to asexually irritating.  Over the holidays she always seems a little friendlier and it seems as if we are on the verge of a breakthrough but then I'm reminded that she tends to like to wear me as her faux husband accessory on special occasions and at certain times of the year.  And once the special occasion is over gladly puts me back in the drawer for next year.

Work has been stressful for her over the past year.  Her new job is a challenge.  It seems this time with more money she has gained a degree of personal financial responsibility.  Although she still does find a way to spend it all.  At least now it's been for new vehicles and house upgrades rather than expensive vacations.


She is, of course, as gorgeous as ever.  She looks better in her 40's than she did in her 20's.  That's not *ullshit either because I'm not writing this just to have sex with her, she ain't reading this you know!


Gone with the Wind is always on over Thanksgiving and the family watched as we always do.  She really is like Scarlett.  As one of my favorite songs goes "like Scarlet O'Hara loved no one but wanted them all...."


Shannon will never divorce me because she knows she has it good, it just galls her to admit it.  Just like Scarlett is too proud to need Rhett, Shannon will always hold onto her ambivalence like a protective shield.


Oh well, I guess I'm just happily gullible like Rhett.  As Rhette says -


Why? Maybe it's because I've always had a weakness for lost causes, once they're really lost. Or maybe, maybe I'm ashamed of myself. Who knows? 


Like Scarlett Shannon might reply - "marriage, fun? Fiddle-dee-dee. Fun for men you mean." 


One thing I have been thinking about for probably over a year is writing a post in Sandee's voice.  As you may know I've written many posts from Shannon's perspective.  It has been surprisingly easy and what I think would be fairly accurate if I do say so myself.  The odd thing is, is that as easy as it has been to write in Shannon's voice, every time I try to conceive of a post in Sandee's voice I just can't. I even have the song for the lyric title picked out (I May Hate Myself in the Morning by Lee Ann Womack), but Sandee's words never seem to course through me and through my fingers and onto the keyboard.  I'm not sure why.  Sure I've know Shannon for 20 years and Sandee for just over three. But I do know Sandee and we are so much more similar than Shannon and I are, at least on the outside.  The fact that Shannon's voice comes so easily to me and Sandee's does not worries me. Perhaps I am not so dissimilar to the cranky, curmudgeonly, future Leona Helmsley/Martha Stewart/Miranda Priestly I live with.  Or maybe that is me too?



Sandee - I still speak with Sandee often, either texting or e-mailing a few times a week.  I've not seen her in just over a month.  Her husband has actually been traveling a lot recently.  It would be convenient to be together but I know she needs and wants more.  She really needs to be rid of her husband.  She doesn't need someone making it easier to stay with him and that is just what I've become.  I would love to make a jump, I think we could be great together.  Then again, I was never good at taking the obvious path.

I'm going to really try to write that post in Sandee's voice.  And I'm sure there will be more Sandee posts in the future.  We still have to see Mockingjay part II to finish out the series together.


Work - Wow, work has been crazy and the biggest reason why I can't really blog anymore.  The good thing is that I'm never bored.  In fact, I don't really find myself missing blogging and the stuff I have to do for work is really more fascinating and that's a good thing.  I don't see that changing soon which is why I will continue to decelerate on the blog until my eventual and inevitable denouement.  But who wants to read a blog about work, I don't think a blog about the Fascinating Hospitality Adventures of a Work-a-holic Gone Bad is going to sell anytime soon!


Ashley Madison - Which brings us to Ashley, that gal that got us here in the first place. The last I wrote about her was a pretty bad time.  A smart guy would have logged on one more time and then deleted his profile.  In fact I did log on one more time back in September with a real good intention of shutting the whole thing down.  I hesitated.


Often it's when you hesitate that things happen. 


You see to get interest in AM you have to stay active.  When you are active you get hits when ladies are looking because you are in that all important (logged on within last 7 days) pool.


It just so happens that the day I logged on to Ashley Madison for what I expected to be the second to last time, I got a wink from a certain local lady.  I logged on and took a look at her.  She seemed pretty cool.  I was interested.  OMG, she sent a picture pass key?  No lady ever does that.  Hey, she's pretty cute.  You know what, I have just 5 more credits.  Maybe I should fire up one last message with those last credits just for old times sake.


So I wrote to her.


Next day I log on and sure enough she has responded!


I click to read the message and then...


DAMN!  Even though you can always respond to a lady who has responded to you free of charge (so to speak if you don't click "priority message"), apparently once you have run out of credits you can't then respond.  Crap, what a rip-off!


So of course in my disdain for this overly capitalistic procedure I deleted my account!


If you believe that, you believe Donald Trump is going to be able to negotiate trade agreements with Mexico!


So, once more I anted up to old Ashley Madison to see what Sunny had written to me.

And that seems like an excellent place to stop for today.


"it's times like these you learn to live again
it's times like these you give and give again...."



Oh hey, one more thing.  Be careful with that crazy kookie Ashley Madison gang.  

I got this just today:

At Ashley Madison, your discretion is our #1 priority. If you ever run into any discretionary problems please contact our customer support department at 1-866-742-2218 and we will work with you to find a solution. Our personal representatives have years of experience helping our customers keep their Ashley Madison use entirely private.

Your payment in the amount of $19.99 for the Member Initiated Contact has been confirmed and your account has been updated. If you have any questions, please contact Customer Service by replying to this email or by sending an email to customerservice@ashleymadison.com.

This feature will give you access to read and respond to unsolicited member initiated communication for 30 days. To change or cancel your subscription go to your Credit History. See our Terms for full details.

Seems like for the very affordable price of $19.99/year I can conveniently respond (free of any per unit charge) to all the online hosts, hookers, and Russian brides I want!  What a bargain!  Shame on me for going back in and deleting but you know I'd never know a good deal if it hit me in the face. But I guess you can't blame a Married Dating site for trying, God bless them!  :)

Saturday, November 21, 2015

You're Working for the Clampdown

Getting posts out these days is really hard.  I have been incredibly busy at work.  Often that is bad but the projects I'm working on are fascinating and I'm enjoying being a part of so many new things.  So the days go by and the time I had spent in the past blogging gets eaten away but work related thought, how inefficient of me!


But there are constants in life and I still love sports, humor, and politics and Sandee continues to be a dear friend and confidant, and sometimes other.  I can only hope she feels likewise of me.  As we have meandered through these opening debates Sandee and I have started a new tradition of live blogging to one another (so to speak) about what we hear.



So here is the Ryan/Sandee commentary from the last witty Republican debate:


Ryan - Why isn't anybody talking about building a wall on ***** St!  Have you seen the hookers and crack heads down there.

Sandee - LOL! Best idea ever!

Ryan - Why aren't these RINO's talking about the guy talking to himself and peeing on the side of the road off **** St!  He needs to be deported to Baltimore!

Sandee - You're nuts

Ryan - And get off the back of small business owners and let the free market open more strip clubs and liquor stores.

Sandee - They are taking Facebook questions, ask them!

Ryan - Put more money in the private sector?  Has Rand Paul ever been to the Budweiser skybox at the Verizon Center?  If wings and beer will pay down the deficit great, but I think most of that excess profit goes to perks and golden parachutes.  The only trickle down is at the urinal!

Sandee - You are such as smart guy.. Can't wait to hear you say these guys have converted you.

Ryan - OMG, I think I actually saw Rand Paul get a hard on talking about taxes and fiscal policy.

Sandee - LOL, is that an good image for you!  :)

Ryan - Oh yeah, will you monetize me baby!  Or do you want to be on the Gold Standard!

Sandee - you know I'm a golden girl!

Ryan - Oh Jeb is like a salted caramel rice cake, it promises to satisfy your Bush yearnings but you take a bite and you just have to say BLECH!

Sandee - LOL, agreed on Jeb.  Generic W just isn't satisfying.

Ryan - Oh snap Marco who cares about deficit spending when you get to bomb 3rd world countries!  And it's great for Fox ratings, all good!

Ryan - Oh come on Ted, no sugar subsidies???  Is your platform really going to be taking candy from the baby!

Ryan - I need my chocolate

Sandee - Your spinning now Ryan Ted isn't taking candy from any babies, you and the lame-stream Liberal media.  Vote for Marco then!  He's super sweet!  I don't think you need any chocolate, sir... You are hyper enough!

Ryan - Well I'd love to spin sugar into Cotton candy but Ted ain't gonna let me write that off as a deductible!

Ryan - Donald, I like my Chinese currency manipulation; otherwise my next I Phone upgrade will be totally higher and that would be a total bummer!  :)

Sandee - You always get me laughing during my debates & then I can't take them seriously, lol.


Ryan - That's the point!  How can you listen and take seriously a guy with a Flock of Seagulls haircut trying to talk about deporting 5 million people who do things nobody else wants to!!!

Sandee - Oh please, you know you'd love to see his wife be First Lady!

Ryan - OMG, I didn't see the Khardashians in the Republican Facebook word cloud!

Sandee - Hahahahahasss, stop! LOL

Ryan - Thinking on it now, I could be convenced to vote for Ivanka and Ivana as 2nd and 3rd lady.

Sandee - Are you saying they look better than Mother Hillary.

Ryan - She's not the worst looking lady in the world.  I said I would vote for her, I didn't say I'd poke her on social media!  :)

Sandee - wow, you went there!  :)

Ryan - You know I think I heard this debate once in the locker room in high school before a basketball game.  "dude, let's go over there and totally kick the s*it out of those a holes...., they are douch bags, we can kick their ass any f**kin' day of the week..!"

Sandee - LOL, yeah I think you're slap happy :)

Ryan - So for real Marco keeps doing better, I guess cream does rise to the top.

Sandee - Oh and he's some sweet sexy latin cream!

Ryan - You know I'm 1/8 Spanish, does that make me dolce de leche enough for you!

Sandee - Oh yeah!  But dolce would make you Italian and that's too liberal!

Ryan - There you go correcting details on me again, you fact checker you!

Ryan - Hey did you know the average American can only listen to Ted Cruz for 4 seconds before they start gagging!

http://www.newyorker.com/humor/borowitz-report/study-average-american-can-stand-four-seconds-of-ted-cruz

Sandee - Then don't look, just listen; you Dems are mean!

Ryan - Yeah I've heard Hillary can be a real pistol!

http://www.newyorker.com/humor/borowitz-report/clinton-compiles-mental-list-of-people-to-destroy

Ryan - I get all my news from the Borwitz Report and the Daily Show!

Sandee - She needs to add her name to her own list.  Hey you should be writing for these "news" reports, SERIOUSLY! Maybe I'll secretly send in some of your material.  Big $$ for you!

Ryan - You'll hate me for this one, but more bad news for Jeb!

http://www.newyorker.com/humor/borowitz-report/george-w-bush-enjoying-new-status-as-smarter-bush

Sandee - Shame on you.  Now I feel dirty for laughing at my Georgie!

Ryan - Well just try not to feel too much worser.  See me and W has a soft spot in your heart because we give you so many opportunistical moments to correct our Englishese!  :)

Sandee - That you do!  :)

Ryan - I better say good night!  So good night

Sandee - nitey night, sleep tight and dream big free market dreams....

Ryan - will do





And BTW,

Vive la France!

My sincere hope is that the events in Paris and the bombing of the Russian plane on the Sinai are a tipping point for the world.  As with 9/11 there is a common denominator here to rally around.  I hope we don't lose focus on petty things.  I am encouraged that Europe, America, and Russia are talking; that Iran seems to be staying on the sideline (knowing how terrible these recent actions are).  I hope we do what is necessary to eradicate the evil in the Middle East not because we need cheap oil but because it is the right thing to do for the good people within that area.  And then I hope we get the hell out and don't go looking for the next fight.







Friday, October 30, 2015

Knowing Me, Knowing You; It's the Best I Can Do

I'm kind of bored, very busy, and just plain out of stuff to write about.  So here are some random Ryan facts:

Favorite Restaurant of All Time:    Dreamland
Favorite Foods:    Ribs from Dreamland, fried chicken or Catfish, red dye #2 hot dog from Maine, Clam Chowder (ask me about the famous Ryan soup diet)
What I'd Request for My Last Meal if I'm Ever Executed by ISIS or the Tea Party:    Dreamland Ribs and a side of biscuits
Favorite Fancy Restaurant:  Mary Mahoney's (Biloxi, MS), the Dickens Inn (Philly, damn it's closed)
Other Place I Really Like:   the Dobbin House Inn, May's Restaurant (Frederick), any Catfish joint adjacent to the Delta of Mississippi, nasty lobster joint on a peer in Maine, Puerto Sagua

Favorite Drinks:   Sweet Tea, Beer, Pepsi, Coffee
Favorite Sweet Tea:   Dunkin Donuts, Chick-fil-A
Favorite Beer:  Blue Moon, Yuengling, Dos Equis
Favorite Coffee:  Sheetz, Green Mountain
Favorite Coffee Blend:  Jamaican Blue Mountain, Costa Rican Peaberry
Favorite Desserts:  Lemon Icebox Pie, Bread Pudding w/bourbon glaze, Pecan Pie, Blondies (as in the cookie/brownie although I do like Blondes as well!)

Favorite Quick Service Restaurant:     Chick-fil-A, then probably Chipolte

Favorite Sports Teams:  Washington Redskins, Washington Nationals, Denny Hamlin (NASCAR), anything Big State University
Favorite Sport to Play:  Basketball, Raquetball, Chasing women on AM, swimming
My Best Sport:    Swimming, getting turned down by women on AM
Favorite Sport to Watch:  College Football
Teams I Hate the Most:  Dallas Cowboys, Los Angeles Dodgers, New York (anything), Kurt Busch, the Big 10, the Duke Blue Devils (yes I still hate Christian Laettner),

Favorite Game of Thrones Character:  Tyrion
Game of Thrones Hottie I Want the Most:  Ygritte (screw you R.R. Martin for killing her off)
All Time Favorite HBO Series:   East Bound and Down
Favorite Don Draper Quote:    "it will shock you how much it never happened..."

Favorite Burger Place (chain):     5 Guys, In 'N Out when I'm on the left coast.
Favorite Burger Place (indy):  Beef Burger, Greensboro, NC (of Bull Durham fame)

Dunkin Donuts or Krispy Kreme:     Krisky Kreme (when they're hot!) but Dunkin for coffee

My Favorite Town I Don't Live in:     Miami, maybe New Orleans
Place I Haven't Been to but Want to:      A Greek Island in the Med
Place I've Been to Far Away where I Think I Could Live:   Northern Arizona, Dahlonega, GA, just outside of Nashville, TN
Biggest Guilty Pleasure:  I love country music from the late 60's (e.g. Glen Campbell)

Political Philosophy:  the world would have been a better place if Bill Clinton got Monica to swallow!  Really, think about it; if she swallows Al Gore wins the 2000 election and there is no Iraq War, no Great Recession, etc!  Yes, I'm a Blue-Dog Southern Democrat (big time)!

Favorite Books:  Catcher in the Rye, Jonathan Livingston Seagull, the Incredible Journey of Edward Tulane, to Kill a Mockingbird (Atticus Finch was my all time favorite liberal Southern Democrat until I found out he was secretly a racist - oh the lament)

Favorite Sandwich Place:     Macado's (get the Titanic), Littlejohn's Deli

Favorite Pizza Ever:      Margarita Pizza at Azzuro in Napa.

Myers-Brigs Personality Type:  ESTJ

My Type (of women):  Gotta be outgoing and jovial
or nobody will start the conversation (once you get me started I'm fun but I need someone to initiate), gotta be energetic and enjoy being active - I walk REALLY fast (I'm told), not a big "tit" guy but I love long lean sexy slightly athletic legs, good hip to waist ratio but not overly into the Marilyn Monroe hourglass look, I like tall and willowy with long straight shoulders, I love confidence, stylish (but not married to it), well spoken and intellectual but not ostentatious.  Basically Shannon without the ostentatiousness, which is basically Sandee (except more diminutive).  I do a great job of being the straight man if she wishes to be in the spotlight, I do well with silly and a little intellectually and artistically scattered (a la Jennifer Aniston in Along Came Polly).

Perfect Date:     A drive along Skyline Drive, a brisk hike to a mountain overlook, some wine tasting, a great dinner, and then on to an intimate quaint country B&B for (you know).  Or a big game at Big State U!

Favorite Color:     Royal Blue, Maroon, Forest Green

Seasonal Fashion:   I'm a fall

Favorite Song (other than Stairway to Heaven or Freebird):   Interstate Love Song by the Stone Temple Pilots

Best Concert I've Attended:  Foo Fighters and Red Hot Chili Peppers

Some Famous People I've Met:  Andy Griffith, Mrs. Cunningham (you know Richie's mom), Chuck Yeager, Pink, James Taylor, Richard Dreyfuss, Gilligan and Hillary!  Saw Hootie and the Blowfish many times before they were famous.

OK, there may be a few more things about me other than food, sports, and women but I doubt it.





Saturday, October 17, 2015

Providence Blinked Facing the Sun

"where are we left to carry on"

A Requiem for A Marriage

Until the Day is Done is a 2008 track from REM's Accelerate album.  It debuted on Anderson Cooper 360 to promote the documentary Planet in Peril featuring Cooper along with Sanjay Gupta and Jeff Corwin.  The lyrics are thought provoking and cautionary in nature.

"An addled republic, a bitter refund," speaks to the unintended negative consequences when we don't nurture the world around us as the documentary depicts.

"As we've written our stories to entertain, these notions of glory and bull market gain.  The teleprompt flutters, the power surge brings an easy speed message falls into routine."  Of course one should never presume to know what Michael Stipe is thinking but it seems as if he asks us to take heed in measuring our past glories too richly lest we revel in the routine that fails to nurture the future.

"Providence blinked, facing the sun; where are we left to carry on."

Yes, when we blink at providence we fail to nurture and when we fail to nurture where are we left to carry on?

Dan and Cathy have been our neighbors for eleven years.  If I could take you back to 2004 and introduce you to them you would come away thinking they were the perfect couple.  Both attractive, warm, engaging people who have two lovely kids who've grown up with our girls over the years. Cathy was Dan's college sweetheart and they seemed to be an extension of one another.  Dan and Cathy used to teach a marriage class at their church.  We even attended their church a few times.  I actually enjoyed it which is quite a thing for "heathen Ryan."  Their minister is from my birth state and I enjoyed talking to him as geographically we had much in common.  I would have continued to go but he often mentioned "Demoncrats" in his sermons and that kind of turned me off.  I know I sin often but I didn't think being a liberal Democrat was necessarily a sin.

But anyway, through the years Dan and Cathy have been dear friends and it has been providence to see our families grow up together.

About two years ago Shannon and I noted that we were not seeing Dan as much as we used to.  One night a few weeks after that conversation, Cathy revealed to Shannon, during one of their evening walks, that Dan had moved out.  Cathy had indicated to Shannon previously that there were below the surface challenges in the marriage.  Dan has a very good sales related job and aspired to a someone elevated lifestyle.  That was at odds with Cathy, a part time secretary, who just wanted to enjoy what they had.  Dan wanted Cathy to step up financially.  Cathy, however, is a very simple person and did not wish this lifestyle, only to enjoy and enhance their current lifestyle.  She grew up in a military family so was never used to a lot but certainly enjoyed staying put.  All she ever wanted was to finish the basement and send the kids to camp.  Dan wanted a vacation home. Suddenly the marriage counselors and perfect couple were at odds.  Dan was restless and Cathy, beautiful though she is, seemed boring and a hindrance.  It is at these times that we blink at providence which is exactly what Dan did.

Dan is an avid golfer and he met a woman at his club, a new divorcee.  She was apparently more exciting and Dan took the temptation.  Apparently, to her, Dan seemed the ideal "catch."

Now before we all call Dan out as the dirty dog here let's understand that perhaps we don't live in a world where evil is concentrated in a few and fault is mutually exclusive.  Cathy is one of those women who has a new selfie of herself everyday on Facebook.  She always has to make mention of the fact that she has been "baking herself to death all day."  As her daughter progressed through high school it seemed as if Cathy began to live vicariously through her.  Every dance, every college trip had selfies of the smiling mother and daughter.  Of course, this is how it is supposed to be; we, as parents, should relish and embrace this time.  But we must remember it is not, in fact, our time; just the joyous time of our children's lives we get to view with delight.  I suspect Cathy's vicarious living alienated Dan at a time when they perhaps should have been reconnecting as their children became more independent.  I suspect that Cathy's vicarious living pushed Dan away and only served to incentivize Dan's wandering eye.

The marriage, which not so long ago appeared as providence, was now addled and ready to meander off the tracks.  Now under focus, the marriage which seemed so perfect showed the festering cracks of emotional drought.

It was not too long after I found out about Dan's situation that I saw him at the gym with the new girlfriend.  He introduced me to her with a sheepish look as his girlfriend.  Of course she seemed nice enough and I just said hi.  What does one say to a woman you don't know who is having sex with a man who used to be your neighbor.  The neighbor who's kids grew up with yours.  My daughter was with me and Dan's son was with him.  My daughter, the son, and I just quietly wandered off to play basketball.  It seems the only thing one can do is turn your head and hope the wreck in front of you somehow goes away.

I felt bad for Dan's son.  He is such a nice kid but very shy and not particularly strong academically.  Dan and Cathy's daughter is in all honors classes and, at the time, had one foot out the door (she is now in college).  I had suggested some local schools to her but it was clear she wanted to go as far away from the mess that was now her life as possible.  I didn't blame her.  But, the son (just a sophomore) had no escape.  Sometimes now, the son will come over.  A meal at the Beaumont's, ping pong, or just watching TV must seem like a quiet segue for him.  Quit the irony considering the wrath that is so typical between Shannon and I.  However, Shannon and I, in a rare moment of solidarity, worried about him and wished we could help.

Dan and Cathy did eventually divorce.  Soon after Dan had a break-down and broke up with the girlfriend.  Recently, Cathy confided in Shannon that Dan has begged her to take him back.  But Cathy, in her new-found freedom, had interested men.  She had started dating and did not want Dan back.  Unfortunately love and caring is not a resealable pouch, you can't put the Genie back in the bottle.  The deep wounds Dan had caused would never heal and now the only outcome could be moving on.

But Dan has been having trouble accepting that Cathy has moved on.  He has essentially been stalking her thorough the son via texts and phone calls confirming where she is.  He has visited the house waiting for her to come home.  It is scary how someone who seemed so "regular" has come apart and something that seemed like providence is now irreparably undone.  And among the nasty wreckage is the psyche of the children left to cope in the wake of the storm the adults created.

It makes me sad.  I have often told Shannon that the difference between successful understanding and outrage is often 20 seconds of listening.  Such a small price to pay and yet too often the cheapness of impatience and restlessness win us over.  We pursue a false vision.  We blink at providence because we look at a pleasant facade that conceals a less pleasant reality.

Perhaps 2004 was not any better for Dan and Cathy than it was for Shannon and Ryan but I mourn for the hope that I had back then and the faith I had in others who seemed to have what I wanted.

"the battle is lost, the war is not won..."

But "until the day is done" "forgive us our trespasses, father and son."





Requiem for a Marriage

Was there a moment in the past
When spoken words were not hurled back in pain
When Possession was not ownership, but sharing
A touching of flesh and mind
A parcel of eternity 
Golden and gift wrapped 
In the innocence of youth

Now tattered and torn
Stripped of all illusion
We lie alone, together in the night
Our lives float now on separate waters
Down different turning streams
An end to youthful dreams


eileen petsco

Monday, September 28, 2015

Oh Shenandoah, I Long to See You

"Oh Shenandoah" is a traditional American folk song dating to the 19th century.  It has been sung by many artist over the years and was the title track to the beautiful 1965 Civil War epic Shenandoah starring Jimmy Stewart set in rolling hills of the movie's namesake valley.  The song is figuratively narrated by an early American Western traveler who refers to Shenandoah, an Iroquois chief, and a lovely daughter that weary fur trader misses and longs to see again.
P. Buckley Moss - artist of the valley

While the song is not actually about the river or valley, to me when I hear the song it speaks to my love of this region and how it calls to me.  The Shenandoah River flows into the Potomac in Harpers Ferry at the end of it's journey through the Virginias.  In so doing the river helps to form a beautiful valley that lies between the Blue Ridge and Allegheny Mountains to the east and west.  The area is deep in history, beauty, and a certain elegant charm that transports its visitors to a slower pace that enriches the senses to the refreshing possibilities beyond that Beltway pace of life.

Where the Shenandoah & Potomac meet
Historically, the valley was the frontier of colonial Virginia; then was the breadbasket of the Confederacy; and now is a genteel land where apple orchards and horse country meet the exurbs and offer many wondrous adventures for those who want to flee the frenetic pace of Metro DC.  Many of those farm houses have turned from homes to charming country inns and many of those farmers have found that the warm climate and rich Virginia soil along the slopes of those gentle mountains are ideal for some of those grapes folks have been growing in places like Napa and the Rhone Valley.

Today I'd like to share with you a few out of the way spots you might think about visiting should you ever find yourself in my part of the world.  And yes, I have frequented some of these spots amid my various AM Adventures.  Who knows, that guy with the vacant look in his eyes you see on your visit might be Ryan!

Harpers Ferry, WV - Maryland Heights and the Appalachian Trail

View of town from Jefferson Rock
Geographically, the Shenandoah Valley starts near Lexington, Virginia above the James River (which flows east towards Richmond) picking up the North and South forks of the Shenandoah River near Harrisonburg, Virginia and then following that river north until it meets the Potomac at Harpers Ferry.

Once in Harpers Ferry you will feel you have been transported to the mid-19th century.  The whole town is, in essence, a museum.  The National Park area vividly depicts the famous events that occurred in the town and acted as the flash point of the American Civil War when John Brown and his raiders sought to begin a slave insurrection in 1859 thus catapulting the country forward towards war.  Now its hard to imagine such horror amid the beauty of the area.  Across the river a hike up to Maryland Heights (see above) is a challenging but not insurmountable 2 mile walk that leads you to a spectacular view of the rivers and the town.  The vista is one of the more famous in the United States and should be on anyone's "bucket list." Almost as spectacular is the view above the town at Jefferson Rock.  The Appalachian Trail runs through Harpers Ferry and the headquarters are located in town.  Throughout the town there are many attractions both historic and active such as Storer College (an important early location for the Niagara Movement, the forerunner to the NAACP) for the history lover or the zip line canopy tour of town for the thrill seeker.  Ryan and Sandee are more the thrill seekers!

Bloomery Plantation - Charles Town, WV

About 10 miles from Harpers Ferry is a quaint little distillery that makes homemade Lemoncello.  Bloomery Plantation's mantra is "an artisanal blend of vice and virtue," kind of like Ryan!  At Bloomery they grow their own lemons and berries and hand squeeze into their smooth delightful elixirs.  You can find their liquors in some of the liquor stores in Northern Virginia, DC, and Beltway, Maryland but you'll thank yourself for driving out into the country and visiting their home.  The tasting room is adapted from the log cabin kitchen from the old pre-Civil War plantation along the Shenandoah river.

If you venture through the doors you will be greeted by an exuberant and helpful staff that delight in taking you through a tasting tour of the distillery's lemoncello concoctions along with some wonderful recipe ideas.  When you walk away you won't be simply satisfied with the wonderful liquor, you'll be looking forward to that first BBQ you'll host and serve a Peach Tea Sangria with your Peach Sweet Shine or an intimate brunch where you could serve a lemoncello Mimosa.


Magnolias at the Mill

If you are hungry after hiking and/or tasting just drive along Rt 9 over the river and Blue Ridge Mountain to Hillsboro, VA and then turn right towards Purcellville.

 There you will find a real Southern Treat.  Magnolias at the Mill is a lovely restaurant built into a restored seed mill.  The restaurant sits adjacent to the Washington & Old Dominion Regional Park which is a rail to trail conversion running from Georgetown and culminating in Purcellville, VA.

Magnolias has several wonderful dishes including a fantastic wood fired Margarita Pizza, but my favorite is shrimp & grits.  The scenery in the restaurant alone is fantastic but they do have TV's and it's a great place to watch Big State U on a fall Saturday (at least when they are not screwing up and making Ryan yell at the TV)!


Valley view from Hillsboro Vineyard
Loudoun Valley Vineyards

As the Shenandoah river approaches the Potomac she crosses into West Virginia.  At that point the ridge along Blue Ridge Mountain (which also happens to be the path of the Appalachian Trail) forms the state line between the two Virginias with the Shenandoah Valley to the west and Loudoun Valley forming to the east of that last mountain on the Blue Ridges.  Along those slopes of that Eastern valley are the homes to some of the best vineyards in Virginia.  Hey, did you know that Virginia is #5 in national wine grape production!  And of course Virginia, namely Monticello (home to Thomas Jefferson), is the birthplace of American wine where Mr. Jefferson first started growing the grapes he brought home from his beloved France.

Anyway, Breaux Vineyard is the largest and probably overall the best vineyard.  If you like sweeter wines this is a great place for you.  They also do a good job with Merlots.  While I'm not overly fond of Viognier, an ancient and somewhat rare grape, the long growing season and moderate temperature needed for the variety makes Virginia and ideal growing location.  Thusly, Virginia Viogniers, including Breaux, tend to be exceptional and truly peers of their Rhone Valley European brethren.  Breaux also does a fantastic job with an iced Nebbiolo, an Italian grape one does not often come across.  But if you really have a sweet tooth, the tastiest of their wines is their Soleil a late harvest (always best and fruitiest) iced dessert wine.  Breaux also has a wonderful selection of cheeses and will bake fresh French batard to go with your wine and cheese; overall a great relaxing afternoon adventure - read what you will from that!  :)

Nearby is Hillborough Vineyard with a tasting room sitting high on the hill above the valley and yielding a spectacular and best view of the wine valley.

Just around the corner from Hillsborough is Doukenie Winery.  Doukenie has a beautiful little duck pond by the tasting room which provides a wonderful spot to picnic and enjoy your wine.  Doukenie has many wonderful selections but it's most unique selection is Hope's Legacy, a sweet Merlot infused with raspberries and blueberries - delightful!

A little hint when you are visiting Doukenie, Hope (the vineyards owner) is Greek and loves to cook.  If you see Hope ask her if she has any baklava, she usually does.  Ask her for a piece and tell her Ryan sent you.  Well, don't tell her Ryan sent you because that's not really my name but ask her for some, she has never failed to put out for me and it's AMAZING, the baklava that is!  :)


Rt 11 Chips

You may not have guessed it but Ryan has always been a little salty sweet.  At least I like to claim so because it seems all the hot women are hot for salted caramel and stuff like that.  So if you have had a little dessert wine at Breux or a tasty dessert at Magnolias you might want to take a drive south down Rt 11 to Mt. Jackson, VA (home of the apple tower) and to the best chip factory this side of anywhere.  Their savory treats will add a little salt to your sweetness.  Really, Rt 11 chips are fantastic and you can ask them for a tour or just watch them make the chips.  Either way it's fun and of course bring home some chips - the Chesapeake Crab chips are the best!  Well, second best chip actually.  I forgot that Zapp's Spicy Cajun Crawtators are my all time favorite but I'll have to save them for a New Orleans post.


Millwood

Tucked between Rt 340 and Rt 7 (as if even that were on a big map) and somewhere between Winchester, Berryville, and Paris (as if those were big towns) is the hamlet of Millwood.  Millwood has a post office, an antique store, an artisan shop, and probably the cutest, quaintest little wine/gourmet food shop you'll find anywhere.  They are often having wine tasting so check them out on the web.  But for a great picnic get a slice of quiche or a bowl of oyster stew along with a nice Pinot and hike across the road to the wonderful little picnic area below the Burwell Morgan Mill.

Trust me, it's a great first date!  Except if it's a date just tell her it's a romantic place; telling her you want to get away for some wine and quiche is just not real manly you know!




Sky Meadow State Park

Running just to the East of the Shenandoah River is Sky Meadow State Park, home to some lovely vineyards and a particularly lovely country Inn.

I make no political statement here but around these parts if a country inn is named after a Confederate Cavalry officer there is a good chance it's quite elegant, refined, and charming.  Turner Ashby was Stonewall Jackson's chivalrous cavalry officer from Fauquier County (heart of Virginia horse country).  He led Jackson't cavalry during most of the famed Shenandoah Campaign before he was killed in action near Harrisonburg, VA in rear guard action just ahead of Jackson's penultimate resounding victory at Port Republic.

Turner Ashby is now immortalized by the beautiful inn bearing his name in Paris, VA at the Northern end of Sky Meadow State park.  The Ashby Inn dates back to 1829 and is nestled into the charming hamlet of Paris, VA.  It is the perfect launching point for excursions around the local valley.  The restaurant is wonderful offering a seasonal menu and featuring local ingredients.  Sky Meadow State park offers several wonderful hiking trails, horseback riding, and beautiful picnicking areas.  The area between Paris to the north and Delaplane, VA to the south (along Rt 17) also offers a collection of vineyards that rivals it's northern counterpart in Loudoun County (mentioned above).

Ryan's personal favorite in this area is Three Foxes Vineyard, seated just above Crooked Run and offering a gorgeous view of the valley.


Twilight Polo at Great Meadows

As much as equestrian polo may seem to be a sport for the aristocracy, at Great Meadows (just outside of Warrenton, VA) the sport is delightfully accessible.  Over the summer months the equestrian event center hosts twilight polo matches.  You pay by the carload, just $30/each so it's a great chance to entertain some of those polyamorous ladies or perhaps that threesome you just met on AM.  Most people make it pot luck but there usually is a local vineyard selling wine by the glass and bottle.

Oh, yeah; the "eye candy" there is, in a word, SPECTACULAR!  :)

But, I tell you; polo really is fun to watch and the sun setting over the mountains in the background is wonderfully peaceful.



So there you go; that's Ryan's little tour of the Shenandoah and areas thereabouts.  Come join us, as you know -

Though Shenandoah is a uniquely American song this Norwegian singer touches me deeply with her rendition.  And OMG, the penny-whistle in this song is gripping!

"Oh Shenandoah, I love your daughter; away you rolling river....."