The Fempire Strikes Back!

img_5794

The National Mall, Washington, D.C., January 21, 2017 — It was as if an ocean of pink hats was flooding foggy bottom, an alternative name for part of our nation’s capitol.  This rising tide symbolized an amazing change in climate compared to the inauguration of the President of the United States only a sunrise earlier.

Millions of women across the globe marched to protect their rights and all human rights under threat from the seismic changes quaking governmental leadership in the U.S. and elsewhere around the world.  Their spirit was bright, their energy strong, and their objectives earnest.

img_5793

The younger crowd crashed on the carpet.

When the march was announced we made it known to friends outside Washington that our basement would be a 60’s style crash pad from which they could launch themselves into the Million Woman March.  All told, nine folks accepted our hospitality while many more had alternatives elsewhere in the area.

img_5745

Our posse numbered 11 – six women and five men.  Each traveled from Trump country – representing Georgia, Oklahoma, rural Virginia and Pennsylvania.  Among them, two mother daughter combinations.  My wife and I were the only married couple.  Our daughter did her own thing with her friends.

Our group members trickled in starting late Friday afternoon.  After we found space for each of them, we fed and watered our herd ahead of an early crash.  After all, reveille would be at zero-dark-thirty, early enough to snag METRO parking and seats on the subway.

img_5746

Pancakes were on the griddle by five a.m. and our herd of cats tumbled onto the subway platform around seven fifteen for a rendezvous with our final partner in crime.

The early start paid off.  The trains had empty seats and the crowd near the meet-up point was thin, allowing us to snag a great location just behind the stage where we could watch the speakers prepare.  For example, former Speaker of the House, Rep. Nancy Pelosi walked right past us.

All across the nation, women knitted pink “pussy hats” that were handed free to the crowd.  The cat ears were the hat’s defining feature.  Their color definitely defined the crowd.

The crowd grew rapidly and topped out in the 600,000 range.  Of note, not a single person was arrested.  We met people from multiple states and from many foreign countries.  The marchers were polite and the conversation serious.  Most, but not all, were marching for rights and not against the president.

At a point we decided the press of the crowd was a bit much and determined it would be best if we were to swim closer to the edge.  To our amazement, the footprint was far larger than we could have ever imagined.  https://www.facebook.com/plugins/video.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Fstpetedessertbar%2Fvideos%2F1829944483955749%2F&show_text=0&width=400“>Crowd Video  It took nearly a half hour to struggle from our perch near the stage on Independence Avenue northward to the Mall itself.

Ultimately we returned to base for a CNN watch party late into the evening.  The animated conversation continued well past breakfast Sunday morning.  We met people who didn’t vote, people who were Trump supporters and mostly people who are motivated to protect individual and group rights.  You might call that freedom.

Here are a few examples of creativity including the good, bad and the ugly.  Warning, some are vulgar.

 

 

img_0055

This woman said Planned Parenthood detected her breast cancer.

img_0069

End of story.

*I haven’t posted here for awhile.  The mundane part of retirement continues, but I was hiking most of the summer.  All of that can be found on my sister hiking blog, A fork in the road.

Is Facebook Killing Christmas Letters?

What a difference a year makes.  On the left 2015.  On the right 2014.

Kensington, MD, December 1, 2015 — It can’t be December already.  Part of me wants to ‘say it ain’t so’ while another part can’t wait for what promises to be a joyous holiday season.

It’s a time of year when everyone tends to contemplate meaning.  No matter what your faith tradition, or even if you are only driven by the astronomical calendar, this is a time of reflection and renewal as we close one chapter in life, anticipate for longer days and turn to next year.

As I contemplate what to write in our holiday newsletter, my mind is flooded with jumbled thoughts ricocheting inside my skull.  Generally I prepare a newsy and positive recap of the past year’s highlights without looking forward too much. I just have to get it organized.

It occurred to me though, as I noodled on how to craft the story, that Facebook is killing family Christmas letters.

I mean, what could anyone write that their Facebook “friends” don’t already know in much greater detail than they could pen in a 250 word essay?  Worse, readers can now fact check my (usually) glossy facsimile of the year gone by.

Seriously, I could get busted for sugar-coating.  As a former spin doctor, I would be automatically suspect.

Oh oh! Could it be that software has disrupted our lives yet again?

The fact is that not everyone on my holiday card list is a Facebook “friend.” That alone, will ensure the existence of my traditional holiday letters.  After all, even buggy whip manufacturing, black smiting survived profound technological disruption.

As for what to write, my head aches with thoughts of our nation’s political discord, world problems, climate change, poverty, ignorance, violence and just plain stupidity.

On the other hand, There is hope.  The sun rises every day, our family is together and healthy, our lives have purpose and meaning, and we have a lot for which to look forward.  Isn’t that what this season is all about?

2015-11-26 18.45.24

We shared a special multi-cultural Thanksgiving with three of our daughter’s co-workers from India who are working here for six months. It was a wonderful way to jump start the spirit of Christmas.

Now to write that letter.

What Could Go Wrong?

 IMG_1958

Mustache checking out our new window.

Kensington, MD, January 31, 2015 — Whether or not you accept the overwhelming scientific consensus on climate change and know the effects are here and more are yet to come, putting money in your pocket by reducing energy consumption is  good policy.  Best of all, when you use less energy, you can immediately detect the weight of more duckets (ducats) in your pocket. The instant gratification feels good.

As retirement neared and we made the totally irrational decision to move from a low cost area back to our old neighborhood just outside the Washington beltway, we knew the cost of living here would smack our retirement budget like a sacked quarterback in the Superbowl.  Costs are a huge factor for most anyone who chooses to retire in any high cost area. Being near our only daughter was the deciding factor.

We chose our new house because it was in the right location among the miles of bike paths and trails which attracted us here in the first place. There is no cut-through traffic and you can safely run/walk for miles.  And, unlike many in the D.C. metro area, we don’t have to leave our neighborhood, or even travel on busy streets to shop for necessities such as groceries or to patronize some charming neighborhood restaurants.

Our house is a bungalow that was custom built in 1953 in a 1940s-era style.  We love the arched doorways and duplicated them when we remodeled. Our ultimate plan was to make the house as energy efficient as possible to help stretch our budget.

As we considered what to change, the period rectangular-paned wooden windows were in perfect condition having been protected from the sun and weather by overhanging eves.  Consequently, we initially hoped to save the ambiance the offered.

Otherwise, we determined that, besides the 12 inches of pink fiber glass insulation under the attic floor, there was limited insulation in the walls other than R 1.5 “Insulite” sheathing popular at the time.  The Insulite™ is hardly worth mentioning.

Always emulate others’ bright ideas.  When we lived in Boston, our neighbors added a family room, the walls of which they insulated with closed cell soy foam.  Soy foam has an R value of 5.5 per inch.  In an old house like ours which has full dimension 2 x 4 wall studs and Insulite, that’s four inches of foam plus the Insulite, equaling R 25.5 in our walls!  Not bad, so we did it.  At the current energy prices in our area, we calculated that the cost was recoverable in about five – seven years.  Those are good numbers.

The benefits of soy foam are that: 1) the R value is huge.  2) it doesn’t give off toxic gases.  3) it’s a vapor barrier.  4) it helps the farm economy. It can be added without much mess or damage through small holes drilled inside or outside of the house.

Soy foam has the additional benefit of being fireproof.  I tried to burn some.  No dice.

One welcome feature of our energy bill is a graph telling us how much energy we use compared to similar size/style houses that have been upgraded and those that haven’t.  We were delighted to learn that, with the new insulation, our house was more efficient than comparable upgraded houses.  Maybe the windows could stay, we hoped.

After the first winter, we realized that the architecturally correct, but exceptionally drafty windows we loved would have to go. We thumbed Consumer Reports to shreds before  ultimately choosing Anderson™ replacement windows that were a best buy comparing their cost to efficiency ratio.

Smug with confidence, we ordered windows for the entire house at the end of August with a promised installation by the end of October.  It’s still warm in the mid-Atlantic in October, so the windows would be in before cold energy sapping cold weather arrived.  What could go wrong?

Let’s spare the details other than to say Murphy’s Law was in full effect.  The past record of the orange-colored big box retailer through which we made our purchase had always been good, so we placed our bet.

Let’s not count all the screw-ups and lack of communication other than to say that the original order came in with the wrong color and the bow window we chose to help psychologically widen our narrow living room was the wrong size.  Take two wasn’t much better.

As Murphy would have it, installation day was months behind schedule in late January.  The weather conditions featured well below freezing temps with a thin blanket of snow on the ground! Perfect conditions to have all the windows ripped out of your house! Tracked in slush isn’t listed in any interior decorating style manual I’ve every seen, so it wasn’t an added attraction.  We could have changed the date, but by then, we just wanted the job done and over. I think bone-headed companies count on that.

IMG_1960

Old window with the rectangular panes going out.

IMG_1957

New window going in.

IMG_1959

Finished product.

The installation crew were good guys and we enjoyed having them around.  It wasn’t their fault that the weather was unfavorable or that Big Orange had it’s head in rectal defilade, at least when it came to this job.

The work is now done and we can feel the difference.  Now to reap the savings.