Sunday, December 31, 2017

2017 in Review, 3 of 3

The Settlement I effected in September of my ageism and retaliation complaint against my former agency, which led to my involuntary retirement after I had devoted more than a quarter of a century to government service as a lawyer, was the most significant thing I achieved in retirement, in my legal career and perhaps my life.  I felt the settlement terms I negotiated over the four months of discussions with the GC's office once an avenue of discourse was opened up, vindicated my complaint and showed the way for those coming behind me.  Most importantly, it did not contain an NDA which is the customary way government and corporate entities keep their misdeeds under a shroud of secrecy.  My settlement is open for anyone to review and use as they see fit.  It cost me my job and took over two years, but the Settlement forced my former agency to give me the evaluation I should have gotten in 2014-2015 but for the age bias of management in my division, it required the agency to pay me money, and it mandated that all managers involved in that division take training in age discrimination, even those who left if they returned within five years.  The Settlement was entered in September by the ASLJ and my case was thereby, of course, dismissed as settled.  (The settlement terms.)

October was taken up by working for the Democratic candidate for governor in Virginia and trying to notify the manager who, in my opinion, created a hostile work environment for me in retaliation against me even while I was supposedly protected by the law while the investigation into my formal age-discrimination was ongoing.  He had left the agency abruptly shortly after I retired and I sent a copy of the Settlement to him at his new workplace to inform him that if and when he went back to his former managerial position which he had, in my opinion, abused, he would be aware that there were requirements for him to undergo training if within five years.  (Taking training to be an inside precinct observer in the November elections.)

A very big occurrence for me and the nation was the election in November of the Democratic candidate, Dr. Ralph Northam, to be the next governor of Virginia.  Hopefully it's the first indication that America is on its way back to greatness.  I  put in a long day as a poll watcher and was gratified when I returned home late that night to find out that Northam had already been declared the winner.  I spent the Thanksgiving week in Ohio at my sister's house relaxing, reconnecting with some of my nephews.  (A Confederate statue in Ohio, guarding a Confederate cemetery on Johnson Island at a former POW site.)

And now another year is in the books, my first full year of retirement.  In December I set up a couple of holiday lights walks on the Mall for my former running buddies at my former work, but nobody came along.  I enjoyed the sights.  I am looking forward hopefully to the New Year.  (The Christmas tree at the Canadian Embassy on Pennsylvania Avenue.)

Saturday, December 30, 2017

2017 in Review, 2 of 3

I had filed my Complaint alleging age discrimination in my 2014-2015 Evaluation, and a Hostile Work Environment subsequently that caused me to retire involuntarily in May of 2016 during the investigative phase of my original formal complaint, with the Regional Office of the U. S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") in December of last year.  When May rolled around and I had not received a single confirmation from that office, no docket number issued by the Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") there or even acknowledgement of receipt, I contacted the General Counsel's office ("GC") at my former agency, my adversary, to inform them that I would be contacting the EEOC office to inquire about the filing in order to make sure I wasn't sleeping on my rights and thus be dis-enfranchised by inactivity, and that call got the settlement discussions rolling for the first time.  That led to lengthy negotiations about settlement that resulted in a Stipulated Settlement Agreement ("Settlement") later in the summer, more than two years after the original incident that triggered the Complaint.  The Settlemet was the most significant event of the year for  me, because it totally validated my Complaint, brought meaningful relief and was an open document, not sealed by the improper and oft-used device of a Non-Disclosure Agreement ("NDA"), in effect silencing the successful complainant and imposing a shroud of secrecy upon the matter.   My Settlement can and does serve as a warning to other violators of the law and a potential blueprint for individuals struggling by themselves against the formidable array of lawyers in their agency's GC office and the oppressive process of the bucking the system and waiting out the interminable passage of crushing time while seeking to prosecute their valid complaints about discrimination.  I did find the time during the month to donate double red blood cells, my 117th lifetime donation. (Notice that this Order of Dismissal of the Complaint I mailed in on December 27, 2016, is dated September 20, 2017.  This was the first and only court-issued document that I received in the case, the first indication I ever received from the ALJ office that it had even received the Complaint.  Also notice that the Agency number assigned is 2016-2, indicating that only two cases were filed with the EEOC office during the entire previous year, attesting to the obvious reluctance of many persons to keep pursuing the long, drawn out system  of protesting agency discrimination in the workplace.) 
In June, as settlement negotiations dragged on (it's a long, slow, strategic dance that I'm not unfamiliar with), I went to Nationals Stadium two days in a row, once to see the Nationals, those proverbial losers, play the Braves and the next day for an inspirational intramural baseball game where the Congressional Democrats played the Congressional Republicans shortly after a crazy man shot some Republican congressmen and staff members at their practice field.  We were all at the stadium to cheer on and be inspired by the small Capitol Police contingent that immediately engaged the assailant at the practice field and prevailed although massively outgunned.  The injured Capitol Policeman David Bailey, though on crutches, threw out the first pitch in honor of his force and his wounded partner.  That pretty much summed up the month.  (A true hero.)

Settlement discussions during July got into the same arena for both adversaries, pointing towards a distant yet foreseeable successful outcome, if both parties remained reasonable.  The opposing counsel I was dealing with at the GC's office was always courteous, professional and truthful, not character traits that are present in all lawyers.  I watched the July 4th celebration from my back stoop.  I visited a sick neighbor twice who had been clapped into the hospital for tests, and I was soon to discover just how fragile life can be.  (Happy Fourth!)

Early in August the phone by my bed rang at 6 a.m., never a good sign.  My neighbor and friend, a man younger than me, had died suddenly overnight in the hospital.  A few days later, for the first time that I remember, I attended a Catholic memorial service in his honor, and it was beautiful service with beautiful, tear-inducing singing.  I noticed that I was instructed, along with all other Protestants and, I guess, fallen Catholics, that I was instructed not to participation in taking communion.  The faux total eclipse of the sun came and went without my noticing it despite my constant attention to homebuilt eclipse viewer in my driveway (I didn't have a government jet at my disposal to fly to Fort Knox accompanied by a trophy wife bedecked in designer clothes she had to tweet to us "adorable people" about to view the bonafide total eclipse).  On August 26th, exactly two years after my faux evaluation at work that started my ageism complaint, I mailed back to my former agency the final draft of the Settlement, signed by me, for their signature.  I hoped they wouldn't notice or object to the lack of an NDA, which the three drafts of the document had always lacked and had never been the subject of discussion.  Its lack in the document was very important to me, for the reasons stated above.  Almost two weeks went by without me hearing back from my former agency whether or not they, in fact, would execute it.  It was an anxious time for me, because the Settlement I had signed contained everything I could realistically hope for and aligned very well with my principles as a man.  (Farewell, my friend.)


Friday, December 29, 2017

2017 in Review, 1 of 3

Retirement leaves you with a lot of time to do nothing, as your friends from the workforce melt away.    But my world took a seminal change on January 20th while I listened in growing disbelief to the dystopian inaugural address of the new president--what was this bombastic fraud, this faux president, this Russian plant, talking about?  American Carnage?  Where?  Oh, I got it finally--he meant going forward.  Protest marches, my first in 45 years, ensued for the following three weekends, and more to come undoubtedly, as I and others did our best to protect our sacred democratic institutions from these destructive bomb-throwers and truth-levelers.  (The new line in the sand?)

Perhaps February was spent in a funk.  I watched a lot of CNN and MSNBC.  Something new and concerning or infuriating occurred every waking hour, it seemed.  I found it impossible to watch a Kellyanne Conway interview as she does not answer a single question, she only turns it into an opportunity to launch sideways into some unrelated anti-democratic screed and never relinquish the platform.  I thought Sean Spicer was almost equally unwatchable, but now in the days of the unprincipled lyin' Sarah Huxabee Sanders, I pine for him.  I do remember that the greatest football game ever was played sometime during this month, Super Bowl 51, where the Patriots came up off the mat when down 28-3 midway through the 3d quarter and prevailed in OT, 34-28.  Unbelievable.  The Patriots showed that there is hope for patriots, no matter how dark it looks.  (A patriot stands watch over Clarendon.)

In March a couple of friends and persons important to me professionally passed on, one older and one younger.  I saw one on her last night, after many years of no contact, and the other one's passing was a shock.  We celebrated their lives and said our goodbyes to these two fine people at two separate wakes amidst laughter and tears.  But as always, nature rewarded us with its annual display of resilient life in DC with the blooming of the cherry blossoms.  (A goose serenely glides along in the Tidal Basin with its back bejeweled with cherry blossom petals.)

April represented to me, as a history major, the centennial of America's entrance into WWI and pathway to global greatness, and a friend and I ran around DC to see as many of the WWI monuments as we could find, like the Pershing statue downtown and the cardboard cutout doughboy temporarily outside the Navy Memorial at the time.  There were other historical runs around the District later this month visiting sites associated with the end of the Civil War in April of 1861, like the Surratt Boarding House where the Lincoln assassination plot was hatched and the Ford Theatre where President Lincoln was shot.  And, of course, there was a resistance march, the Science Rally.  (Statue of Homeless Jesus downtown outside a church.  If you look instead of looking away, you'll see that the humble soul without possessions has pierced feet.)


Thursday, December 28, 2017

Children

I still try to keep up with my three children, all sons, none of whom I have communicated with in at least a decade, who in my opinion all became victims as minors during the nuclear divorce of a form of child abuse perpetrated by their mother and her coterie of agenda-driven "professionals" known as Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS).  This phenomenon, a form of brainwashing in which caregivers to tender minds dependent upon those trusted persons overwhelm the childrens' will, manifested itself in the Lamberton case in the form of unjustified, unreasonable and unremitting extreme hatred towards me and everyone in my family.  (The noon hour on Christmas Day.)

One lives next door in Arlington, I think, or maybe in Baltimore, another got married two years ago and moved to Chicago to be able to hang on to his capable and ambitious wife, or maybe they've moved back to Richmond, and the third moved to the Left Coast I think, the only one able to escape the thrall of his mother.  I know nothing else about any of them, I doubt if I would recognize these children now grown into men if I walked past them on the street, and I don't even really know if they are well or even alive because their mother who lives two miles away from me (although her house is now for sale), and who is a covert narcissist in my opinion, stonily refuses to disclose to me a single thing about them or their welfare.  (Twelfth hour of November 11th.)

But on every Federal Holiday, actual day of celebration and birthday of theirs when I am in town I have lunch at noon at the same local restaurant in the neighborhood they grew up in, hoping someone someday will join me.  I have always dined, unfortunately, with the ever-present Empty Chair.  (The empty chair this Columbus Day.)

Hope springs eternal, and I love them and have forgiven them.  Maybe New Year's Day, eh boys?  (High noon on Labor Day.)

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Goodbyes

I lost some people who were close to me this year, and I regret their passing, as I regret the passing of  all people I know who passed.  Pictured below on the left is Dave, who was one of the two mentors of mine in my legal career.

Dana was a close colleague and a friend, whom I hadn't seen in years because she moved on to a different agency, but I saw her on her last night in hospice.  Her passage was shocking as she was only in her fifties if that.  The other mentor in my legal career, Steve, and I attended a memorial gathering for our friend and then extended the celebration of her life afterwards by discussing our fond memories of the cases that the three of us did.

A friend and neighbor, Steve, passed suddenly and at his memorial service I discovered just how deep was the reservoir of good will that all of his quiet, good works had created.  His wife found a beautiful place to lay him to rest in a cemetery atop a hill nearby.

Other people I knew and respected died too, like Peter, a runner who maddeningly almost always beat me and was also the editor of the Kipling Tax Review, and I fervently hope my 3 children are alive and well and believe they are, but I mourn deeply the possible passing of our democracy with the inauguration this year of our unqualified and unstable demagogic president, voted in by a distinct minority of the misguided or misanthropic voters last year.  He is pictured below in the opening days of his presidency blowing a kiss to then-FBI Director James Comey; shortly thereafter he fired him because the director wouldn't vow personal fealty to him and the putative king dismissed him in a possible criminal act.
   

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

A Merry Christmas

The winds were ferocious on Christmas Eve and overnight.  It blew down the Christmas Tree I had set up on my covered porch, trying something different this year, and the tree lay in a distressed heap on the driveway in the morning.

Time for a re-boot.  I brought the tree inside, untangled the garlands and trimmed it.  It came out okay.

Christmas breakfast was a treat.  Lox and bagels, loaded further with cream cheese, capers, onion, cheese and brown tomatoes from Mexico.

It was so filling that although it was cold, a walk was called for and a wonderful, packed North Pole on 14th Street in the District was discovered.  A Merry Christmas was had by all.

Monday, December 25, 2017

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas to all.

Here are hopes for a happy and better New Year.

There's a lot to be thankful for, like family and friends.

Life is too short not to forgive.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

A life changing event

I switched my dumb phone over to a smart phone over the Thanksgiving holiday I spent in Columbus because my sister made me do it. I had been paying a few dollars a month for an HTC Android for a couple of years, along with a low-data plan, but the unit sat on my shelf unused because my dumb phone did everything I wanted in a portable communication device; it made and received calls, sent and received texts, directed me to call voicemail when messages were there and alerted me on its landing page of any calls I'd missed, with the phone number and time of occurrence noted, and any texts I'd received. Plus it fit into my pocket and it had a slide out keyboard.
The new phone, not so much. At least where I can find the stuff that I'd like to know about, like when I receive texts, of any missed calls, or about waiting voicemails. Plus my fingers are too fat to quickly type on the on-screen keyboard, and auto correct and/or auto fill are killers. "Courteous" is not spelled "curious" and they mean vastly different things in a sentence. 
Plus the new phone, being bigger and thinner, doesn't fit into my pocket anymore and if I slip it into my back pocket, like I see all the cool kids do, I fear it will slip out or I'll sit down forgetting it's there and break the thin instrument right in half.  So I carry it in my hand, when I have it on me at all, like all the self-absorbed people I see around me do, except that I don't hold it up to my face constantly and stare reverentially at it non-stop. 
When a call comes in, I don't usually answer it successfully.  Especially at 55 mph.  I hear the ring and see the green button alright, but I haven't figured out whether it's a swipe or a poke or a stab and hold on the greenie thing that starts the connection yet.  It seems to me that it has been all three things in the past the few times I have answered it in time, and whatever technique that worked the last time doesn't work the next time.  I think the device is sentient and trying to give me apoplexy.
The only thing it shows me when I poke the phone icon, in addition to the number keypad, is the last call I successfully had.  But if I touch that flag it immediately dials the number, not knowing that I want other information like when did I speak to that person and for how long.
Five days into using the new old smart phone, AT&T texted me that I had already used up my data for the month and they were billing me another $20 for another 300MB.  That was the plan they sold me two years ago, based upon what I said then my internet usage would probably be.  I didn't know how I even used up 300MB since I never went to the Internet on the stupid thing (I didn't know how, or desire to go to the Internet on it).  Knowing people told me that things were "running in the background" was how that happened. So I shut the phone off and kept it off to save my data. This was not progress. It drained dry every 18 or 20 hours anyway, whether I used it or not.
Frustrated, I went to the AT&T store and complained bitterly about the phone. The nice man there listened patiently, saw how old I was and didn't take my recriminatory statements personally, probably figured correctly that I didn't have any kids in the house (the real solution), and informed me that AT&T no longer sold my model phone or the plan I was on.
He put some things on my landing page that were useful, like a Google button and a Travel button for GPS, saying they probably should have spent a little more time with me at the AT&T store in Columbus when they swapped out my dumb phone for the two-year old model I had. 
I said, for instance, I hadn't received a voicemail in a month and how could that be? I didn't even know how to call my voicemail.  He took my phone, prodded a couple of times and handed it back to me with the first of many unlistened-to voicemails I had stored up playing.  I asked how he did that. He said to go to the phone's number pad and push and hold "1".  That connected me to voicemail and played any outstanding messages.  I asked how I was supposed to know that, and he just gently said that people had to tell you that, is all.
So now I have settled in to listen to 29 voicemails dating back to December 1st.  The ones older than that have probably been deleted.  I listened to 8 last night, oldest first and all way out of date, before I got bored and left the rest for today.  At least two were at least 3 minutes and they were excruciatingly long.  The two most interesting ones were the same but days apart, a computer-generated woman's voice informing me that my Microsoft Windows license had expired and I needed to call this 800-number immediately to get it restored.  Since I swore off Microsoft forever when they saddled me with the terrible Windows 8 system years ago when my old computer died, and I went to a Mac after junking the new computer with that Windows abomination on it, I don't know how my Microsoft Windows license "expired" but I'll sure call to rectify it right away!
The man at the 7-Corners AT&T store suggested that I change my plan to a 3GB plan, which I was going to do but when I called AT&T customer service they upsold me to an unlimited plan for "only $10 more."  The AT&T store man also suggested that I keep my obsolescent phone for now, because it was like a "trainer model" that I could practice on.  A wise man indeed; he didn't try to upsell me to a fancier phone that I can't use and don't need.
Oh, the adventures I'll have with this new/old phone.  I have heard from more than one person that possessing a smartphone is a "life changing" event, and the small implement "contains your life" in it. Forward!

Saturday, December 23, 2017

My microwave arrived

My microwave arrived on my porch unannounced, where I found it later, unstolen. It's a beauty.  The Control Panel is a paragon of simplicity-- a top dial for power and a bottom dial for 1-30 minutes. Period. It starts when you close the door after dialing up the minutes, and stops when you open the door or the timer dings when it reaches zero. There are no stupid, incomprehensible pictures.  On my recently departed model, for instance, it had a picture, among many, of a pizza slice.  What did that mean?  Push here to heat up a slice of pizza left over from the night before?  Or push here to cook a frozen pizza? 
I even read the user manual, in about 3 minutes, and it told me a few things I didn't know, like, it cooks from the inside walls in, so arrange the heartier items, like meat hunks, closer to the outside of the rotating plate and the more delicate items, like asparagus tips, on the inside of the plate.
It had a couple of useful charts, Utensil Guide of what you Can Use (microwave browning dishes), Cannot Use (glass jars), and Limited Use (narrow aluminum foil strips to cover tender parts like wings on a chicken) in the microwave; and Safety Information (Can Use--wax paper) (Cannot Use--wood) (Limited Use--wood).  You have to read a little further into the chart to understand why you can, and cannot, use wood inside it so I think stay away from wood (it dries out and could ignite).
The best chart detailed the six power settings in terms of Power Output--Low 17%, Defrost 40%, M. Low 48%, Med. 66%, M. High 85% and High 100%. The power knob is set up like a clock--turn clockwise to the end (High) and leave it there. The manual did explain Defrost, which I had never bothered with before. "MW energy heats up outside surface of the food and this heat moves slowly into center. This thaws the food evenly." Good to know. 
The short manual, written in good, comprehensible English, did have a picture or two, like the helpful picture in the short Installation Guide showing--plug it in.
Under Set Up & Use the manual listed and briefly described Cooking Techniques, the five headings being self-explanatory: Arrangement; Shielding ("with narrow strips of aluminum foil to avoid overcooking [delicate parts]"); Turning; Standing (the food once taken out, not you); and Adding Moisture. 
The Troubleshooting Guide was informative: Trouble--Oven will not start, Possible Cause--Electrical cord not plugged in, Possible Remedy--Plug it in.
I loved the manual's suggestion for preventing or curing Arcing (Sparking)--"Clean cavity with wet towel."
Yep, it's a beauty, look at that clean control panel--two dials, period. And the light shuts off when you open it.

Friday, December 22, 2017

Picture this

Pictures from last winter all come from my old sports camera, as I didn't get my new camera until April.  It was the winter of discontent, no time for sunshine patriots, as the faux president was inaugurated in January and immediately started putting into place the permanent diminution of American power and prestige with his disastrous policies.

Here I am as a protester at the women's march in DC, the first time I have protested in the streets since the seventies.  The more things change, the more they remain . . .  .

Another weekend, enroute to another protest, this time at Lafayette Park.  Strangely, on each of these days of protest, the subway curtailed service before it crossed over or under the Potomac and "provided" overcrowded or non-existent bus service to continue the journey into the District.

Freedom of speech and exercising the right of assembly.  I did get out for a few early morning runs last winter.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Drawing the year to a close

Here are some snapshots from my new camera from the summer.  I could have been more active, but it's the Trump era, after all, which drags all of us patriots down, but I did go to wine country in Virginia in July with a friend (I was sporting a "boot" for my achilles strain) and wouldn't you love to be an immigrant and own a vinyard like this, as seen from our outside deck enjoying a bottle of its wine as we talked with the South American owner who related to us his hardscrabble path to here.

In August, I went to the District early one Saturday morning with some out-of-towners who had never been to Washington before to show them the free sites.  I discovered that the museums don't open till 10 a.m. but we walked around the Mall until then and visited the Museum of Natural History where I immediately recognized its "landing page."

For the first time in decades, I took a tour of of the Capitol.  Here is a statue there of Chief Justice Roger Taney, who wrote the infamous and notorious Dred Scott decision, which ruled that slaves weren't citizens and that most African-Americans were property (chattel) and gave us the Civil War.  Thank God all ancestors that I have uncovered were Northerners who fought to overturn this travesty, at least one who paid the ultimate price; may Taney be doing well in Hell.

There are many Smithsonian exhibits that travel through DC, our locale formerly being the leader of the free world.  A friend and former colleague came to DC and we went on a walk that included a passage through a new exhibit at the Hirschhorn; we were accompanied by a former colleague who is a friend of hers.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Drawing to a close 2

As the current year winds down, here are some snapshots from my new camera from the fall that I like.  This portrait of a jumbo jet encompassed within the symmetry presented by the straight line drawn down the National Mall by the Grant statue, the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial symbolizes, to me, the continuing greatness of America, denoting inventiveness, innovation, power, world leadership, transportation and tremendous commerce.

The Christmas tree in the Trump International Hotel in Washington, presented here against an American flag backdrop, reaching up towards the sky beyond the soaring roof of what formerly was the Postal Pavilion.  America's greatness never needed to be restored, it has always been present since July 4, 1776.

Mists rise from the hillocks below, signifying the agelessness and endlessness of the Shenandoah Valley.  This view is from Skyline Drive.

Sunrise in a Columbus park.  I enjoyed Thanksgiving in the midwest with my sister and her family.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Drawing to a close

The year is drawing to a close and it's time for a review.  Here are a few of my favorite photos from the year.

I really like the above photo of the shadows upon the wall of the lattice-work clear roof covering over the interior courtyard at the National Portrait Museum.  The photo below shows that I always look out for nice reflections.

Below is a reflection on the Vietnam Wall.  That's me reflecting on the tragedy.


I always love taking pictures of the Washington Monument juxtaposed against a dramatic sky.  These pictures are from the spring, using the new camera I received for my birthday.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Shopping for a microwave.

Microwaves. I had a countertop 0.6 cubic foot model that lasted 17 years and handled every task I put to it--heating coffee, warming leftovers, finishing off still-slightly-raw cooked fish, cooking vegetables, baking baking potatoes. Turn the power level to High, turn the minutes dial to the desired number and hit On. If the dish started shrinking or smoking, take it out early, or if it still wasn't hot or cooked, add more minutes. It stopped working and I replaced it a few months ago. With 4 models and counting.
I went to my warehouse club knowing I wanted a 0.6 cubic foot model but their units were measured by dimension, 12 by 18 by 9 inches, or whatever, so rather than driving home to tape measure the darn thing, I bought the smallest unit. It turned out to be too big for my limited counter space (I think I eventually determined it was 1.1 cubic feet--but that helpful size-description was not listed anywhere on the sealed box) so I took it back. At the big box store I bought a 0.7 cubic foot unit with the simplest touchpad control, and trying to conjure up 40 seconds of Hot or 2 minutes of Cook on that thing's confusing sequence of sequential levels on the detailed touchpad was beyond my ability level or level of interest. Back it went as useless.
I found a stripped down floor display microwave unit of a suitable size at a Bed & Bath type store, with an even more simply laid out touchpad control for $36 and it worked fine for two months. I discovered with a little trial and error that once I had set the Cook "button" and, I think, put the Power Level on High, that if I pressed the numbers buttons correctly and hit the On button, the thing would warm the object placed inside for that length of time. It was annoying in that if you left the door open the light stayed on, if you didn't remove the food after cooking it would keep on beeping every two minutes forever, and if you removed the food before its preset time was up, you had to "cook off" the remaining time to get the touchpad clear again because the Reset button was apparently for decorative purposes only. Oh, and you couldn't set anything for less than a minute. So I had a system of cooking on it that devolved into 1-1-1 (71 seconds) for warming liquids or topping things off, 2-2-2 (2 minutes and 22 seconds) for medium duty like "browning" a piece of meat or warming last night's cooked sweet potato and 3-3-3 or 4-4-4 for vegetables or baked potatoes respectively. Hit those numbers, hit On and it performed its assigned task. Until last week. Then it inexplicably refused to respond to any touchpad pokes, it just said Clock. I started pushing all the buttons, I tried 'em all, any and all sequences of numbers and pictures, but no ingenious pattern of pushing Reset button, Arabic number buttons, Set button, pizza picture button, potato picture button, roast picture button, or On button did a thing. It was either broken or crazy. I took to calling it Hal as I evermore forcefully pushed, poked, prodded and pressed buttons in my frustrated desire to cook a broccoli crown in a plastic dish with a little water in it as my fish's 20 minutes time in the oven whiled away. I had to set up a steamer unit on my stovetop to cook the broccoli. Why did I have a microwave at all then if it wasn't going to work? I didn't know if it was broken, or in deep sleep, waiting for the Mother Circuit Board to wake the sleeping sentinel up again.
Grumbling, I contemplated touring Best Buy, Target, Walmart and Home Depot to look at more microwave units to find one that had a simple and understandable control unit that would warm things up and cook simple things like baked potatoes and vegetables. I did look forward with relish, to trash day when I would dump my non-functioning unit into my trash barrel for transport to the scrap heap. My sister listened to my bitter complaints about newfangled, incomprehensible control units that give you indecipherable pictures for tasks instead of old fashioned plain English instructions. Being more savvy and smarter than me, she apparently was googling "Microwave" and "turn knobs" as she spoke with me. "I found a half-cubic foot microwave on Amazon with a turn-knob timer for $60," she said. A light went on in my head. The turn-knob controls! One for power level, one for cooking duration. Of course!
Tomorrow I will take delivery of a small microwave unit from Amazon for under $65 with turn-knob controls. You can't dial in seconds; it only operates on minutes. But when you think it's ready, open the door and see! The light won't stay on. You can push the turn-knob back to zero, it will ding when it's there. No more Reset buttons that apparently have no function. The reviews of the unit were uniformly sterling, like "I ordered this for my 93 year-old grandmother who has a brain tumor and can no longer do simple tasks and this works just fine for her." It sounds perfect to me.
I can't wait for it to arrive so I can set the power knob permanently on High and twist the timer knob to my desired number of minutes for the task at hand and just close the door so it starts. It dings once when it's done, and you can leave the door open.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Still More Christmas Tree Traipsing

A new stop on the annual Holiday Lights tour is the Christmas tree at the Trump International Hotel, the made-over Postal Pavilion.  I preferred its old iteration, as I preferred the company of normal citizens to plutocrats.

The public can still go up into the tower at the building, though.  The NPS runs it during business hours, it's free and the view from there is unparalleled.

There is a nice tree outside the Willard Hotel.  Across the street from there is Pershing Park, where you can see a statue of Black Jack Pershing, who directed his men, according to the president's telling of a phony legend, to smear their bullets with pork fat and thereby quelled a muslim separatist and nationalist movement in the Philippines when it was a colony of ours and he commanded our troops there.

Memory Lane contains Christmas trees too, such as this one at the Occupy Camp on Freedom Plaza.  This photo of that tree is from 2011.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Friends

Now that I'm retired, and coincidentally my friend and most recent (and last) running buddy, John, moved to the Southwest, I don't interact regularly with many people. I have lunch with my former colleague, mentor and friend Steve once a month so we keep up.


We and a third lawyer did a two-week trial together in Reno in the nineties and had several memorable moments, such as Steve having to go on the penultimate night of the trial to the casino hotel where our star witness, due to testify on the last day, was staying to co-sign for his impending hotel bill because the witness had racked up too many expenses in the casino. Our expert, scheduled to testify first the next morning to open the trial, had showed up in town late the night before dead drunk and incapable of undergoing any meaningful witness prep.


That was the trial where, famously at my agency and infamously generally, we demanded the opposition's witness list during the five-minute recess at the conclusion of our case-in-chief, just before they proceeded with their defense, and the lead defense counsel, a former U.S. Attorney, took out a casino matchbook, scribbled the defendants' names on it, added "rebuttal witnesses"on it as an afterthought, tore the half-cover off and handed it to us as his "witness list." The outrageous but funny incident was later recounted in the February 2001 issue of Regardie's Power magazine as part of its cover story.


It is important to make a concerted effort to keep up with friends after you have moved on, like Steve does by scheduling a monthly lunch. I'm keeping up with my friend John because I'm planning on taking a driving trip to the Southwest during the winter.


Also, for instance, I recently had an enjoyable lunch with a former colleague and friend on the new waterfront in the District earlier this month to catch up with this busy lawyer, trying to juggle work and three children. I remember I was lead attorney on a case with this woman, trying to reach settlement with a young, pro-se, destitute defendant containing a judgment amount in five-figures, representing full disgorgement of his ill-gotten gains which would be fully suspended under an inability-to-pay theory, provided he provided us with a sworn financial statement verifying his claimed impoverished state.


We were getting nowhere after multiple negotiations with this young man, a student actually, because he couldn't timely provide us with sworn financial statements due to, you know, the fire, the move out of state, the flood, the bailment, the repossessed car. My colleague finally interjected pointedly during another interminable discussion with him about his excruciating difficulties that he'd just have to owe the full amount then.


Bingo, the defendant readily agreed to being responsible for paying the full amount (he obviously had an IRS problem and feared a perjury charge). Case settled.


The eventual effect upon the judgment would in reality be the same, dischargability of the amount as unpaid versus suspension of it based upon inability to pay. I love it when a lawyer cuts through all the endless, highfaluting, legal mumbo jumbo with a pithy, common-sense solution.