Don’t know what to make of this place

I’m an aficionado of Pizza. I’ve had it pretty much in every continental state of the union and more than a couple countries around the world. I prefer a thin, hand tossed yeasted crust with a cornmeal dusting on the bottom, but I’ll eat almost any, just to try them — and I have enjoyed them all.

This trip had us in Des Moines (Iowa) and we ended up (as a second choice) at a place called The Other Place. They claim to have been in business selling the same recipe pizza for 50 years — and I believe them – but that means that Des Moines-ians must have a very different idea of what makes a great pizza than I do.

Buffalo Chicken Pizza – 17″

This Buffalo Chicken Pizza arrived looking scrumptious. Buffalo sauce spread on the puffy crust. Steamed chicken, covered with at least 2 kinds of cheese and baked. Unfortunately the crust was baked through but not long to develop that lovely flavor you get from a really browned crust!

I am hard pressed to describe this crust. It lacked any sense of salt — quite bland. The crust was do dry that there could not have been even a whiff of oil in the dough — resulting in a crust that was more like a thick biscuit with almost no color and little flavor. It tasted more like an unleavened Matzoh than a pizza crust.

The crust was thick — nearly 1/2 inch. But it was also hard — not in a crispy way, but in a hard to chew, hard to cut with a knife way.

The pizza was tasty because of the buffalo sauce, but there was no flavor to the chicken. The restaurant doesn’t say much about the cheese on their pizza. They say the Buffalo has a blend of 4 cheeses but when it came to the table hot the cheese was nice and stringy. But as the pizza cooled it retained it’s stringy texture much longer than any other pizza I’ve had — I’m unsure what kind of cheese combination might have done that unless one of them was cream cheese.

The pizza was supposed to include blue cheese somewhere in the making of it. I could not detect any blue cheese flavor at all.

It’s an odd review, I know. But as I said at the beginning, I’m not sure what to make of this. I doubt I’d order it again, but it was an interesting evening’s meal.


Happy Family Times

James, our Second Great Grandchild

Life is good lately. A little confused, but good.

We’ve been “stressing” about whether or not to take our first non-family related trip/vacation in three years. The concern has been LESS about COVID and more about the creeping ravages of advancing age.

In 2018 we attempted to take a trip to CA to visit Peg’s only brother before he passed (chronic bad health, he finally passed this past spring). But it was right after I started using CPAP and I was having a hard time dealing with the nasal mask they initially tried to get me to use. It turned out that we abandoned our effort and returned home about the time we reached Denver. With that frustrating failure in the back of our brain I wasn’t sure how far and how sustained a trip I was physically up to.

In the end we decided to go. But our grand daughter and her family were planning a quick trip to Chicago (where they met, and it’s Melanie’s 30th birthday this past weekend – a little family celebration). The plan was for the young’uns to drop James off in Milwaukee with the grand parents and them to carry on to Chicago for 36 hours. Mel was returning to Milwaukee earlier than dad and Sophia, and our daughter Katy planned a birthday celebration for Melanie with us and her paternal grandparents too.

Long story short is the day before our trip we were enjoying the pleasures of seeing our loved ones and laughing and eating together.


Our arch enemy, the weatherman, was forecasting a rapidly moving storm system that threatened to interrupt our departure. I took a good look at the 24 hour future radar and we took a chance on an early morning departure (hard to remember the last time I drove in the dark — pre sun-up).

In the end, we had about an hour of serious rain (spell that 40 mph on the Interstate highway with flashers on and no one else on the road!) and about 3 hours of drizzle. But… what we left behind was some serious rain.

All over S.E. Wisconsin we broke rainfall records as you can see from the chart published by TMJ4 — one of our local news outlets. We didn’t fear flooding (we have no basement, and we’re on high ground). Many of our Franklin neighbors, however, are not so lucky as the community Facebook page this morning is filled with stories of woe and flooding and failed sump-pumps. Milwaukee’s hard clay soil — if you can call it “soil” — is prone to basement flooding. When we were looking for homes it was shocking to me to discover how many had basement walls that had been bowed in by the weight of accumulated water outside the basement — requiring the installation of steel beams anchored to the concrete floor and the flooring joists.

Anyway…. we ran out of the rain about the time we reached the Quad Cities and the rest of our day was lovely.



Clever Passwords

I am NOT telling you to use this as a password. But I know full well the pain of having forgotten the odd password from time to time. The challenge — and it really is a challenge — of maintaining password records is herculean. They make password tools; some of them work better than others. The sheer number of places you need a password to access your personal account/information has ballooned exponentially over the years.

The thing is it pays to be careful about the passwords we use and how we keep track of them and just because something sounds foolproof to you doesn’t mean that a robot working far faster than you can’t figure out your invincible password in a few seconds if someone is determined to hack you.

The thing is, if you are clever enough to devise a really kewl password — someone else probably has had the same thought.

Find a safe tool to manage your secrets, and then keep that tool as secret as the passwords.


Late neolithic-era monuments

You can learn more if you follow the link below.

It’s funny the way a Zeitgeist — the spirit of the world — gets a hold of the collective consciousness and suddenly lots of people are doing the same thing — even when it’s exceptionally difficult or expensive.

by natgeomaps

Something momentous was in the air in the south of Britain about 4,500 years ago during the dying days of the Neolithic era, the final chapter of the Stone Age. Whatever it was—­religious zeal, bravura, a sense of impending change—it cast a spell over the inhabitants and stirred them into a frenzy of monu­ment building.

In an astonishingly brief span of time—perhaps as little as a century—people who lacked metal tools, horsepower, and the wheel erected many of Britain’s huge stone circles, colossal wooden palisades, and grand avenues of standing stones. In the process they robbed forests of their biggest trees and moved millions of tons of earth.


What Motivates Man?

The thought of losing our lives and leaving our loved ones behind couldn’t get us to wear our seatbelts, but add a mildly annoying dinging sound and we can’t click that fuckin’ thing fast enough.

This comment, about wearing seatbelts, could apply equally well to human behavior as regards COVID-19 or a great many other problems. Sometimes it appears that what can be demonstrably shown to be good for our life isn’t deemed worthy of our modified behavior until an innocuous annoyance joins it.

We don’t necessarily act out of our best interests.

Sometimes we act to minimize annoyance and as a by-product we benefit ourselves.

If vaccines were taken in the form of sugar coated candy I bet there would have been many much longer lines than we saw during the past couple years for COVID vaccines.

If we could lose weight by eating something sweet I bet we’d all be skinny as rails.

I’m sure we would never voluntarily stop to buy gasoline if it wasn’t for the fact that our car will come to a coasting halt if we don’t.

I sometimes wonder how often the rich and famous have used this principle to get the rest of us to do what they want. Two-week vacations sure seem to be incentive to work hard for 50 weeks per year to keep many of us willing slaves to their desires.

Health Insurance too is a sweet treat that keeps a great many worker from jumping ship and moving to a different employer. As is the concept of “Existing Conditions.” We ignore the greatest danger and respond to the lesser one.

It’s scary when you think about it.


We had dinner with a friend

Our friend is approaching their one year retirement anniversary. As might be the case with a lot of retirees I suspect they are questioning what happening with their life in retirement. In their mind they seem to think that they “aren’t doing anything.” Whether or not that’s true.

In this case we know the individual is caring for a physically failing parent at some remote distance — involving regular lengthy stays a couple hundred miles away from home. A couple kids and grand kids also means a variety of other events. And then there is maintaining a house, and checking in on other friends who also are retired and in varying degrees of health.

So, from an objective point of view they aren’t idle at all no matter what they may think of their situation. Still, that doesn’t prevent self-doubt and discouragement.

But during our meal the question came up:

If you could live anywhere you chose, where would you live?

To be fair I suppose the question should include the caveat “where could you afford to live” as I suspect many of us might have in mind an idyllic place that only the ultra-rich can afford. Still it’s a great question and one that Peg & I have answered for ourselves long ago.

Were it not for family here in Wisconsin I suspect we would have ended up in the South of France long ago. However our stint of full-time RV’ing convinced us that living at great distance away from family was for us not sustainable. The frequency with which we would want to be back here spending time with the is not sustainable and without loved ones in your life it’s pretty unfulfilling — at least if you share our same values.

So, given the fact that our options are limited to the U.S. it really comes down to the fact that after a lifetime of travel and seeing pretty much every corner of the Continental U.S. and Hawaii we have settled on Wisconsin.

I know that’s a strange “choice” considering the many people think the weather alone is sufficient reason for living elsewhere — and by “weather” they almost always mean “cold winters.” The thing is, that cold weather is not the be-all-end-all of Wisconsin “weather.”

We get a decent amount of precipitation here. Not usually super heavy — causing blizzards and flooding — though we have ben known to experience both. Not so little as to cause dangerous drought — although we have had droughts.

We haven’t had earthquakes or volcanoes — although if the Yosemite volcano ever erupts we and a good part of the rest of the Eastern U.S. will be doomed according to prediction. Still — it’s not a part of our everyday worries.

We have a reliable source of drinking water — the Great Lakes. A lot of places cannot say the same.

We have business and industry enough to keep an economy running as well as arable land for faming and animal production.

We like the social climate here. Yes there are problems. Milwaukee was one of the first cities in the country to experience forced school bussing because of our segregated housing. A lot has happened to change attitudes but it is still a city of great divide. Yet, with a strongly European immigrant history it’s a working class city and one we are comfortable with. Hatred takes generations and centuries to truly change and people here are working on it the best they can. I have noticed much more open discrimination and racial hatred in many other parts to the country — so all in all we are comfortable with a diverse but partly segmented population.

There is culture, music, and art to be found — though in our retirement we are less inclined to be attending concerts (uncomfortable seating) or galleries (sore feet) or professional theater (simply too expensive in retirement).

When we total up all these things and many more we find Wisconsin to be kind of like Goldie Lock’s grandmother’s three bears porridge: not too hot, not too cold, just sort of right.

But the question I’m sure arises for a great many retirees. Some have no choice about where to spend their time. They are simply too poor to make a major life change. Even if they could afford another place to live for many the one time expenses of making the move prohibit their moving to a cheaper / more desirable locale. For others they feel trapped by some “obligation” whether it’s real or imaginary. Our friend, for example, has tried living in their parent’s home town — a couple hundred miles away — and decided that was not a viable choice. Similarly they have a divorced spouse living locally who also has health issues and even though there are no longer any leal obligations to physically care for them they do feel a moral sense of duty that keeps them close — in spite of being angered and frustrated by the ex’s behavior. Sense of duty can be a real bear sometimes!

The “idea” of retirement; or what retirement is supposed to be; challenges many. There was a time that retirement wasn’t even a thing. We worked till we could no longer work and then we died. Not that long ago there was no Social Security check and the only social security that existed was the kindness of family and friends which sometimes wasn’t so easy to be found.

Complicating the evolution of “retirement” is the growing prevalence of communication. We SEE with our own eyes the lives of the rich and the famous and it’s easy to start envying them — or at least saying “I want SOME of what they have” even if not full time. Expensive vacations, luxury splurges, maxing out the credit cards to appear to live a lifestyle that one really cannot sustain. And I do say “sustain” because a great many people can “afford” it for a time until debt catches up with your bank balance.

I’m not sure our discussion over dinner solved anything for our friend. I know they are still pondering what they should be doing with the rest of their life — and there have been some frustrating realizations along the way. But I think it’s important to have the conversation — if with no one else than one’s self. No matter where you are going, if you are going to get there you have to know what that destination is and you have to set out a plan for what actions to take to achieve your goal.

I wish them good fortune; a little luck; and a lot of courage. Will that be enough to make them happy? Your guess is as good as mine.

On the general topic of where to live, I saw this recent graphic showing the incidence of meteorite landings across the U.S. — there are some places that are actually a great deal more dangerous to live than Wisconsin

US Meteorite Landing Maps 1700 through 2016