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Showing posts from 2019

When in the Course of Human Events...

Friends, Now that I’m back in the U.S., I’ve been prompted to ponder the nature of nations. Beyond the roughly 200 recognized countries, I was fascinated to learn about the large number of micronations out there. Google maps even has a layer dedicated to these wannabe states ! Apparently, anybody can declare independence, set-up a constitution, issue passports, stamps and currency. As for getting recognized by other non-micro nations, well, that’s tricky. Anyway, seeing as I’m currently unemployed, I thought, why not start my own state? –I can think of worse career moves than philosopher king. First off, I’d need a territory (apparently not a prerequisite, but nice to have). Fortuitously, the donut-shaped Nakacha Huraa Lagoon in the Maldives is for sale –must be a sign! Granted, there’s the minor detail of the $11,000,000 asking price; I wonder if they would consider payment in my national bank’s new crypto currency: dough –about 100 million dough feels like a fair exchange rate.

Trademark, schrademark

Friends, There’s something amusing about the contempt some Ecuadorian businesses names seem to hold for global trademarks, English grammar and business common sense. Names ranging from the benign GoogleNet café (which, I’m pretty sure holds no affiliation with the search giant) to the meticulously recreated Moe’s tavern from the Simpsons to the eerily macabre SkyNet video service (One wonders whether this would make customers say “I’ll be back” or “hasta la vista baby”). Payless Shoes are alive and well; Circuit City has been resurrected (albeit in a lesser form) and, while I couldn’t find a Best Buy, I thought Best Cell was a rather clever play on the name. There are also unintentionally funny names. How would you feel about buying bread at the Bony Pan or the Coffee & Pan? (The Spanish word for Bread when combined with an English sounding word makes for cool constructions). How about eating some “brooster” chicken (don’t recognize the word? It’ supposed to be English!). A

I Did It Maguey

Friends, Maguey (aka Agave) plants live somewhere between 10 to 25 years –unless, that is, they’re harvested for tequila, or its cousins, mezcal, sotol and pulque (a worthy topic for another blog J ). These spiny plants are arguably one of the most useful known to man. They can be planted atop fences for protection, dried-up for rope or used as needle and thread in a pinch. There are recipes for desserts made with its flesh and, as we mentioned, strong drink can be brewed from its juice. It’s a versatile construction material –the leaves can be used as roof tiles and the flower stalk as a house beam. It also serves as a billboard to carve your loved one’s initials. There are quite a few varieties. Blue we all know. There is also the green agave and in the Andean highlands above 9,500 feet grows a variety we call Achupilla, among many others. When the end is near, a thirty-foot-tall flower stalk shoots-up from the center of the plant. This glorious reproductive display becom

Thank your lucky star it's Friday!

Friends, Last night as I watched Venus and the new moon set over the high Andes mountains, I couldn’t help but feel grateful. The frogs croaking and creaking over the vague sound of a river in the otherwise silent background. The still, crisp, fresh air touching my cheeks. The vague smell of smoke coming from the fireplace. The gift of senses to take it all in and the ability to walk around in this pristine landscape. My supportive family whose indulgence makes this possible. Life is good my friends. And it’s even better when you can share a donut. I hope your Thanksgiving was awesome and that you too have many things for which to be thankful. Happy Friday!  P.S. The photo does not do it justice.

Bring Out Your Donuts

Friends, This week I 've been pondering an appropriate way to close this chapter. A soliloquy on the  Peter Principle  reeks of sour grapes. A discourse on RIFs, pink slips and the like would sound repetitive, given we spoke of euphemisms just last week (plus I already covered it in  this blog  from 2008). So, instead, I will leave you with two quotes. One from Monty Python's cult classic  Holy Grail  "I'm not dead" and one from David Lee Roth's cover of  Just a Gigolo : "Life goes on without me". It's been a pleasure working with you. I believe WIndstream will pull through and return to growth (at which point everything becomes more fun). I also have a good feeling that our paths will cross soon --ideally over a hot cup of coffee and a donut. Happy Friday! Peace, out!

Death and Donuts

Friends, Euphemisms. The words we use to get around the words we don’t want to use. Sometimes awkward. Sometimes unintentionally funny. Death is often one of those topics surrounded by euphemisms. Someone might pass away, kick the bucket, croak, get whacked or have a negative patient outcome. This week I ran into this beauty. In the official report listing cause of death for a life cut short at its prime, the text read “he expired of acute anemia caused by a hemorrhage which was induced by a projectile from short range firearm”. True. And, so much better than “he died of a bullet wound”. I might have gone with acute lead poisoning (bullets are, after all, lead-based). Of course, rather than biting the dust, I recommend you bite the big one –the big donut, that is! And while you’re savoring that sweet indulgence, care to share any funny “polite synonyms” you’ve heard lately? Happy Friday!

Scavenging for Donuts

Friends, As a child, I was drawn to scavenging. During the rainy season, after the river exceeded its banks, I loved combing through the debris left behind. The fairly straight line where the new riverbank had temporarily been seemed like a treasure trove to me. It was mainly leaves and garbage, however, there was also an occasional jackpot –a cool shaped branch, a pen or a plant that only grew in the highlands. If our family vacationed at the beach, I would much rather explore the seashore, looking for shells, than swim in the ocean. One time, I found a whale’s vertebrae which took two people (my cousin and I) to drag home. It may be the same irrational collector gene that compels me to hoard coins and relatives (aka genealogy). While I don’t advise a donut collection (ask me about the sugar packet collection I started as a kid), I do find collecting experiences and the memories they bring can be very rewarding. Happy Friday!

Bread Babies for Dead Mateys

Friends, You’re likely familiar with the spooky Celtic traditions that spawned Halloween. You might even be versed in the eerie amalgamation of Mesoamerican and Catholic traditions that became el Día de los Muertos. Just when you thought you’d heard them all, I’ve got a new one for you—well, the tradition is quite old, I just expect it to be new to you. In Ecuador, an All Soul’s Day delicacy (November 2 nd ) are Bread Babies – Guaguas de Pan (pronounced wa-was). I’d never really questioned why we did it, just enjoyed the pastries, often followed by a Colada Morada chaser –a traditional All Soul’s Day concoction, made with 8 herbs, 5   fruits, purple corn flour, sugar and water, which is best served hot. So, I did a little research. It turns out the Incas mummified their dead and would bring them out of their graves once a year to share food and colada morada as a form of showing respect and remembering your ancestors. Of course, the Spanish would have none of this tomb desecra

Donut build that wall

Friends, I can’t get over (or under, for that matter) the fact we’ve made great progress on the Colorado section of the southern border wall . Who knew? If you ask me, I think somebody was onto something. Forget Old Mexico. We need to set our sights on New Mexico. I’m not talking about new age spiritualism, Santa Fe chicken salads or Georgia O’Keefe paintings. No siree Bob! If you think about it, what runs faster: an old car or a new car? What will kills more efficiently: an old gun or a new gun? What’s more dangerous: old ideas or new ideas? You get my drift, New Mexico is the bigger threat! But why stop there? If you look at a map of the United States, there is a pretty darn straight line extending all the way from the Utah-Arizona border to the Virginia-North Carolina border. Granted, there is a little wrinkle between Missouri and Arkansas –nothing a little poetic liberty can’t fix. You’ve got the makings of a grand wall following a straight line from Beaver Dam Wash Nat

Deceptive Donuts

Friends, Have you ever done a double-take at something that didn’t look quite right? Life may seem predictable –right until it doesn’t. Things are not always what they seem. Here are a few examples. A sunrise at sunset . When traveling, if you’re lucky enough to take-off right when the sun is finishing setting, you’ll notice this fascinating phenomenon. As the plane gains elevation the orange orb in the sky appears to reverse course and rise over the horizon. Once airborne, you get to see it set all over again. Sunset. Sunrise. Sunset. Makes you feel like a veritable fiddler on the roof… of the world! Truth in advertising . Have you ever seen those adds that say “the more you spend, the more you save”? The truth is, the more you spend the less you save. In economic terms, spending (consumption) and saving (investment) are competing ways to use your income. I recently saw a particularly deceptive ad in this family. You coul

Weekend Winter Alternatives

Friends, What a weather week we’ve witnessed! Wednesday evening’s 50+ degree temperature swing has me wondering why mother nature chose to leapfrog fall altogether and go straight from summer to winter. Now, since mowing your lawn is not an option, I thought I’d provide some alternative activities you might consider. Watch the NBA pre-season –unless you’re in China, that is; they’re boycotting over a tweet (and, no, it’s not your usual suspects). Grab a blanket and cozy-up to the fireplace with a good book. Maybe try Olga Tokarczuk (2018) and Peter Handke (2019), this week’s outspoken and polarizing Nobel literature prize winners. Binge watch one of the plethora of mediocre new shows . You know you want to! Perfect your mixology. Maybe try that new peach mint mule recipe that’s all the buzz. Who knows, this might be the perfect time to crack open a bottle of Khrotytsa vodka , the best Ukraine has to offer. Have a donut.

Serendipitous Donuts

Friends, Serendipity. The occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way. Like my being at the Denver Convention Center for the Great American Beer Fest last night led me to wonder why there is a big blue bear peering in. It turns-out Lawrence Argent, the artist, was inspired by locals’ curiosity about what goes on in the convention center (never really knowing from the outside what goes on inside). Serendipitously, he saw the picture of a bear peering into a house and liked the playfulness. Serendipitously, his printer rendered his concept in blue instead of the sandstone colors he had planned. Serendipitously, bears are important to the Ute tribe. Serendipitously, blue is a level of spiritual enlightenment for them. And so, it is by a happy chance that I stumbled upon an interesting topic for this morning’s note. I hope you remain open to serendipity in your life. Who knows, maybe you’ll run into a new donut shop or find a new favorite flavor.

Donut Misunderstand Me

Friends, Communications can be tricky and getting your message across to your audience is often fraught with potential misunderstandings. A writer’s biases can blind her to unintended meanings. The reader, who also carries biases, might lend an altogether different interpretation to the same words. The fact is, we all live in our own little bubbles. Some days I think it’s a wonder we communicate at all. Case in point, this week’s “retirement longevity checklist” from Merrill Lynch. What a downer! For the record, I don’t find the prospect of retirement depressing, however, the message that came across was cringeworthy. I’m sure my biases played a big role, still, bear with me. The two page document’s structure seems benign enough: (1) invest in your future, (2) plan ahead, and (3) document your wishes! Unfortunately, what comes across when reading it is a little more sinister (1) we want more of your money, (2) your investments might make less than you think –plus

Raise a donut to Ric and Eddie

Friends, A week ago, Eddie Money got two tickets to paradise . Why two? Well, since The Cars front man Ric Ocasek followed him two days later, you might think the other is his. If you think about it, such a pact would make sense. Ric says to Eddie who’s gonna drive you home tonight ? Eddie responds take me home tonight . Too soon? Well, you can always grab a donut, they are as sweet as Candi-O . Or, If you’re lucky enough to be near Norfolk or Pittsburgh, try a KFC donut sandwich ! Happy Friday!

Read this Post for Luck

Friends, I don’t consider myself to be a superstitious man. Now that doesn’t mean I go around breaking mirrors, walking under ladders and opening umbrellas in my house –sharp shards, falling paint and poked eyeballs are, after all, real possibilities. I don’t have a rabbit’s foot, horseshoe or lucky penny. When I cross my fingers, knock on wood or tug on a wishbone it’s just an exercise in social participation. So if a black cat crosses my path, I won’t spit or throw a pinch of salt over my shoulder. Now, the fact the four preceding sentences each list three superstitions, does not mean I believe luck comes in threes (hey I just listed 13 superstitions!). On this thirteenth day of the month, which happens to be the thirteenth day of the week (start counting on Sunday and don’t stop after week one), grab yourself a baker’s dozen donuts (that’s 13) and throw your superstitions to the wind. Happy Friday the 13 th !

Dried-up donut hole at my core

Friends, This week I’ve been bombarded by inappropriate thoughts. Minding my own business, when BAM!, a thought so wrong it shames me, sucker-punches my brain. It makes me question whether I’m the good person I believe, or deep-down, there’s a rotten core longing to come out. Here’s what I’m talking about: During Jeff Bezos’ HQ2 negotiations with New York City, there was an Amazon Burn Book –where they tallied politicians’ offensive remarks. Well, the news leaked, get this, as the Amazon Burned ! Anybody else find the timing (and wording) a bit disturbing? In my book, this feels plain wrong. When hurricane Dorian was devastating the Bahamas, the media kept referring to their residents as Bahamian –which sounds a lot like Bohemian . This would invariably trigger an earworm … “thunderbolts and lightning, very, very frightening me! Galileo, Galileo, Galileo, Figaro… Magnifico!” Speaking of this massive thunderstorm, a r

Donuts are Grape!

Friends, Labor day, that symbolic boundary between summer vacation and the school year. The time our HOA closes the pool and fantasy football returns. It’s also the time grapes in my back yard ripen. I have a brown thumb, however, I do have one agricultural achievement: not killing the grapevine that came with the house eleven years ago. In September, my ritual includes grabbing a bunch with breakfast. By October, if there are enough grapes left, I’ll make some wine. This year’s crop looks promising, so last night I bottled my 2015 vintage to start making room for the new batch. The wine is nothing to write home about, but it’s not bad either –if only my thumb were greener, I’d grow wheat for donuts. Then again, it’s so much easier to buy them at the store. Enjoy your long weekend, I’m sure it will be grape! Happy Friday!

Cuenca Donuts

Friends, Whenever I travel to Ecuador people inevitably assume the climate is hot —after all, the country owes its name to its latitude.  Of course, elevation also plays a role, and when you’re over 8,000 feet above sea level (as is usually the case when I’m down there), the climate can be a bit chilly. Cuenca is the land of eternal spring. It is never too hot and, while people like to complain about the cold (because nobody has heating or AC), it never snows. A Spanish city founded in 1557, it boasts four rivers and over twenty five churches. This fine Friday morning I thought I’d share a small sampler of photos from my home town with you. Grab a donut and enjoy. A few of the Churches (All Saints, Santa Maria de Baños, Saint Sebastian, the old Catherdral, Saint Alphonse, Turi) Some other sites in the city. O ld downtown,  t he “barranco” with its hanging houses next to river Tomebamba,    the cross of “el Vado”,    one of the “three bridges” over

San Salvador, hear the voices ringing, people singing...

Friends, What do you do when you have a 21 hour layover in San Salvador, El Salvador? Spend it at the airport? Of course not! You get out and discover a place that, while not on most folks’ bucket list, surely has a lot to offer. Granted, there were some practical considerations. Could I get a visa at the airport and explore? –yes, for a $12 fee. Should I rent a car in a city ranked by the Economist as having the highest per-capita homicide rate in the world (excluding war zones)? –no, tempting as the $15 daily rate was, I didn’t want to drive to the wrong side of town end end-up dead. Could I leave my carry-on bags somewhere at the airport? –no, unfortunately there are no lockers. The solution came in the form of Julio César, my Über driver who agreed to show my son and I the sites for $50, plus gas. It was amazing! Sure we had a false start. La Puerta del Diablo (the Devil’s gate), our first stop, had been closed for remodeling for a year, so all we saw were some zinc sheets meant

Donut judge me if I wax philosphical

1. Guinea Pig is a delicacy in Ecuador Friends, Wherever you go people are similar. We share the same basic needs, desires and aspirations. Whether we prefer filet mignon or guinea pig 1 , folks need to eat. We may live in extended families or alone, but everyone desires appreciation, acceptance and a sense of belonging. We all aspire to count, to make a difference and to have our legacy remembered. Whether we care to admit it or not, we would all like a big hand 2  from time to time –and a donut in that hand would make it even better. Happy Friday! 2. Some big hands are more literal than others

Spa Experiences and Other Forms of Torture

Friends, I must admit I’m a novice to SPA experiences. I’ve been in sauna and Turkish baths, jacuzzis and pools before, but had never ventured into the menagerie of advanced torture devices. I was curious as to why people “indulge” in them, so I thought I’d try them first hand. What could go wrong? There was the aptly named mud bath, where you rub some dubious-looking goop all over your body, let it dry until you look like Casper the friendly ghost, only to take a shower and wash it off. Meh! There was the intuitively named steam box, which evokes Edgar Allan Poe’s stories of mystery and wonder (I imagine myself being locked into one and left there to wither away). I found-out my fear was unfounded, as there are no locks on the outside and you can get out any time you like. That said, it was not a life-changing experience. I decided to forgo the contrast thermal waters where you go into hot water, then cold, then hot again. Maybe I’ll subject myself to that torture some other day

Summer Sensations

Friends, When the summer doldrums bring you down, remember that crisp splash of freshness when you bite into ice cold lettuce. That smell of jasmine on a crisp autumn morning. That soothing sensation of a cool silk sheet as you slip into bed after a long day. That sound of an old favorite tune you haven’t heard in ages. Those last rays of sunlight turning the clouds and landscape into an expressionistic painting. Life is beautiful and contrasts are awesome! Change can be beautiful. Each season is awesome –and every season is perfect for a donut. Enjoy your summer! Happy Friday!

Moon Pie Friday

Friends, With all the hype surrounding Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong’s tour de Moon, it’s easy to overlook the Thai government’s semi-successful cloud seeding experiment carried out that same day. Also forgotten, Apollo 11’s designated driver: Michael Collins. Orbiting the moon, his description of the dark side is captivating. “Outside my window I can see stars—and that is all. Where I know the moon to be, there is simply a black void; the moon’s presence is defined solely by the absence of stars.” A view that almost makes moonwalking feel overrated. Almost. I’d definitely go if given a chance –one can dream. While I’m at it, I think I’ll switch my traditional Friday donut for a moon pie. Happy Friday!

Unexpected Donuts

Friends, I’m a fan of the unexpected. Granted, not all surprises are pleasant, however, many have the power to make you smile, chuckle or even laugh out loud. Take the view from this restroom in a place called Baños (named after the thermal “baths” around it, but which could also be taken to mean “restrooms”). It’s number one on my list of bathroom views! By the way, the preview of this photo on Facebook just shows the jungle, so it's been an interesting experiment to see who clicks on the photo (folks who laugh at the photo) and those who just see the preview (likes and loves). Speaking of restroom views, this sign was posted by a restaurant trying to minimize splatter. It reads “sir, please get closer to the urinal, it’s smaller than you think”. Signs are the gift that keeps giving. There’s the bad translation on the exit sign from the devil’s cauldron, one of the most spectacular waterfalls I’ve seen (although I couldn’t begin to guess it’s output in cu