Archive for March, 2016

Neither Here Nor There: Travels in Europe – Bill Bryson

I like reading about the travel experiences of other people, particularly when it is about someplace that I am unlikely go to. Europe may not seem like one of those unlikely places, but let’s face it, it costs money (which I don’t have) and with the issues they are having with terrorism lately, I’d rather travel the good old U.S.of A. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of things I would like to see in person abroad, but “like” doesn’t get me there or keep me safe.

I’ve read a couple of Bill Bryson’s books and I have found them interesting, this one as well. If you are looking for excitement and plot twists, this ain’t your book, but if you are looking for a “man on the street” view of travel in Europe, this book is right there. However, and this is a big “however,” this book was written somewhere around 1992, before the current wave of problems hit either the U.S. or Europe. I think that the mindless wandering that the author does around certain cities might require more mindfulness today. Twenty-four years can make a big difference.

Regardless of any current issues in Europe, this book definitely alerted me to certain places that I would probably not like to visit, and if I were traveling, this would be useful information. The author tells of his travels with humor, as evidenced in his other books, too, and that makes it all the more entertaining. I tend to be swinging back and forth from fiction to non-fiction these days, and this book was a pleasant stop on the arc.

Finished 3/25/16

portion control in ice cream

This really has nothing to do with dieting, even though one of the best ways to eat right is to control your portions. Eat less, weigh less. No, this is about the involuntary portion control you encounter when you are a piggy and eat the whole freakin’ container of something, in particular, ice cream.

Now, this occurs with many prepackaged food products. Suddenly the quantity in a package of food you have bought forever goes down, but the price stays the same. This can be undetectable until you actually open the package, because often the packaging size remains the same. It’s just that there are one or two less items in the package, or the weight of the product has changed.

This is most obvious with ice cream. It’s hard to hide the change in the amount of ice cream in a container, since it makes no sense to keep the same size packaging with less in it. People would think they were cheated and didn’t get a full container. But reduce the size of the package and reduce the quantity of ice cream from 64 ounces per container (a full half-gallon) to 48 ounces (one and a half quarts) and you still feel like you are purchasing a “half gallon” of ice cream. In fact, I bet that if someone were to ask you to buy some ice cream, they would still say, “Pick up a half gallon of ice cream for me when you go to the store.”

This is not a recent change. It’s been years since they did this and there are kids today who have never seen a real half-gallon of ice cream. I guess this is just an oldfart’s rant against change. However, as the title says, this does result in portion control. If you are going to eat your troubles away with a half-gallon of ice cream, you are going to eat one pint less than you used to. (Yep, that 48 ounce container is only three-quarters of what it once was.) The consolation is that you cannot help but eat less ice cream, which is a good thing. Of course, even that 48 ounce container is supposed to be twelve servings, so theoretically you’ve eaten twelve times more ice cream than a “normal” person should, but I sure won’t judge. And of course, you could eat more than one container of ice cream at a time – if so, get help!

And don’t even get me going on how some “ice cream” is no longer able to be legally sold as “ice cream” and is now labeled a “frozen desert product,” or some such thing. You have to know it’s just one more way for the producer to reduce their costs but sell at the same price as real ice cream. And you probably aren’t even unaware of how much air you are paying for in your ice cream.

You know what? Homemade ice cream is starting to sound like a good idea. It may be a bit of a hassle, but at least you get whatever quantity you make and you know that it is real ice cream with an ingredient list that you understand. Time to see what an ice cream maker costs.

a dinner too sad

I just watched a video where they asked adult couples who they would like to have dinner with, whether the person was dead or alive. They came up with various answers like Justin Bieber, Kim Kardashian and Marilyn Monroe. Then they asked their kids the same question, and they all came back with “family,” or mom and dad, or something similar. That was a touching and thought provoking piece, but it gave me pause.

Who would I like to have dinner with, live or dead? Probably no question, my mom and dad. But then I thought twice, and changed my mind. I decided that it would have to be someone alive now. Who in their right mind could wish to have a dinner with your dead parents, or a dead spouse or child, or anyone that you had a significant relationship with, knowing that at the end of the dinner you would have to say goodbye all over again? True, it may give you some closure if you weren’t happy with how things stood between you and the deceased at the time of their death, but personally I can think of nothing more painful. I would spend half of the whole meal crying in joy that I got to see them again, and half of the meal crying because I was going to have to say goodbye again.

In the end, the kids were right. I think I would rather have dinner with my wife and son more than anyone else I can think of. Gratefully, it doesn’t have to be limited to one meal now, or limited to just them right now. But we should all keep in mind that those special people in our lives will not always be there, for dinner or for anything else. Spend time with the people you love, because you never know when you will no longer be able to.

do it

You know what you need to do, don’t you? You need to quit living as though something is going to come along out of the blue and make life meaningful for you. You know that’s not going to happen, right? You know, in your very heart of hearts, that it is YOU who is going to have to get a grip and make life meaningful for yourself. So quit dickin’ around and do it, or you’re going to run out of time. Time is not your friend. Mindful living is. Do it.

bookmark: tuesday’s socks

Tuesday’s Socks – Alison Ragsdale

Tired of my usual non-fiction reading, I decided to escape into a novel. This book provided an pleasant diversion. I could also appreciate the main character as he is near my own age and suffered some of my own, well, regrets. The writing is pretty straightforward and uncomplicated, and while I enjoyed reading it, for the most part I felt like an observer rather than a participant in the story. If that doesn’t make sense, then either you haven’t read much or you haven’t read the right books. The one section that did really get to me was – spoiler alert! – when the author described how the main character dealt with his mother’s death. I actually had to stop reading for a bit because it got to me. Too many painful memories.

The supernatural plays more than a small role in the story, in almost a ghostly way without the scary bits. It works in the story, though perhaps that was part of what kept me more of an observer. While the story seemed a bit lightweight to me, I did enjoy it.

Finished 3/16/16

a parently thought

My son and his wife have decided not to have any children. They have good reasons for this and I totally understand and support their decision, not that my opinion should count in any event. Having said that, I was just listening to Peter, Paul and Mary and “Puff the Magic Dragon” just played. When my son was a child, my wife and I took him to hear PP&M live at Ravinia. Singing “Puff the Magic Dragon” along with PP&M and everyone else there is one of the best memories I have of my son’s childhood. Along with the happy memory, though, I found myself sorry that my son will never have those kinds of memories.

Again, I understand the reasons not to have children, and at one point in our lives my wife and I debated whether we should have kids or not. We decided that we would wait until we were financially able to afford a child, but the universe laughed at that and we found ourselves pregnant in spite of our best efforts at prevention, though it took us until the age of thirty for this to happen. We knew that it was then or never, and it was a decision that I have never, ever, regretted. My life would be so very much less fulfilling without having my son in it.

Not everyone is meant to have children. Having children is (or at least should be) a real commitment. This is a human life that you must shelter, feed, educate, and support in many, many ways, for many years. It is time consuming, expensive, at times frustrating, and something that you cannot just walk away from. (Yes, I know many do, but that’s not anything I could or would do.) But the rewards of parenthood outweigh all the disadvantages of raising children. At least that has been my experience. Of course, there are rewards for not having children, too, and everyone needs to weigh the pluses and minuses of children on their own scales, and sometimes the scales may be very heavily weighted on the “no children” side.

For me, when it comes time to live in my memories, that world will be all the richer for having raised a child along with my wife.