Dec 10

2017 – End of the Year Review


This year’s travels — Early in the year – Atlanta, I enjoyed the time with young Mr. Pi, though I did catch a nasty bug on that trip.

Jellyfish in the Atlanta Aquarium.


Jinan in Springtime, as always it was great to meet with so many of my friends and students.

Team Q engaged a in a game of Scrabble.



In conjunction with the Jinan visit, a short trip to Hong Kong in spring. The weather in HK was mostly rainy, but the culinary aspects did not disappoint!

This dish was called 5 Fortunes. One of many astonishing vegetarian delights in Hong Kong!

Pictured here is an order of crepes (essentially a very thin pancake) topped with a berry compote.

Summer included a nice visit to Montreal to dine with friends and sight-see. Back home after the Canada trip to enjoy the usual garden bounty along with some terrific wines….and blueberry cake!

Labels from 5 of wines consumed during several superb late summer feasts.







*Future adventures? — I still want to sit on a sunny beach in Thailand when it is snowing here in the Poconos, but it won’t be happening in 2018, as I had the idea to go during the Chinese Spring Festival. As it turns out I have too many other plans for home remodeling / outdoor construction and garden projects planned for next year. I also have to make a trip next summer to the left coast – Oregon, to attend my daughter’s wedding. As of this writing, the details are slim, but I am told I will receive more info as it is available.

The possibility of a visit to Bulgaria, Czech Republic and Hungary is still in flux too, but it will need to be late in the year. I have heard and read of the great value offered to travelers to Eastern Euro. Magnificent architecture, favorable exchange rate, good food and friendly people….However, all of the building projects must be completed prior to any autumn travel adventures. Looks like a busy year coming up! Frankly, I can’t fathom how fast this past year has blown by!

Things I learned this year? Better stay healthy if you don’t want to die at an early age! That was the big lesson of the year for me…..segue to the annual obituary.

Passings – Or perhaps this section should be subtitled –
It seems like everybody is dying!

In the final week of 2016, I received unfortunate news about a friend who had suddenly passed. Bill’s wife called me with the news. Bill and Marge were actually friends of my Mom. They attended the same church. He was a good man. I am grateful for all of the help and the kindness he showed toward my Mom over the years since Dad has passed.

Then, 2017 began for me with news of three old friends dying. Tom died of heart failure. Not much of a surprise as heart failure is related to poor diet, sedentary life-style and personal vices of smoking and drinking to excess. The deceased was possessed by all of the aforementioned vices.

Next, I am told that Mike arrived on a Wednesday for surgery. The doctors placed two titanium pins in his neck and on Thursday night he was dead! I had lost contact with him many years ago. I learned of this tragic situation from a mutual friend. It is still a bit of a shock to hear news of yet another contemporary dying before reaching 60 years. Stories like this are one of many reasons I am reluctant to have surgery for anything other than a life or death type situation.

And then, my old pal Kevin, whom I had visited just a few months earlier in September 2016, appeared to be in good health at that time. The circumstances surrounding his death are complicated. Apparently he suffered a heart attack just after working out at the gym. I was told by his wife that he was found unconscious near his car in the parking lot. No one knows for sure how long he had been there, but after being resuscitated by the para-medics he was effectively brain-dead – never to walk or talk again. Compounding this truly tragic event, is the fact that Kev was in the process of training his two boys, Ryan and Sean to take over the family business he had worked so hard to build over the past dozen years. His case seems so much more cruel than just a quick and sudden death. Kevin’s death hit me the hardest and struck close to home. We were old friends and had worked together in Denver, in the Hotel, & Restaurant business and were roommates just prior to my marriage in the 1980s. The bachelor pad we occupied was fondly referred to as the SS 394 Downing. Inhabited by 4 and occasionally 5 roommates. We sure had some great parties there!

So in the interest of possibly saving the life of anyone who might suffer a heart attack I share this link from Wiki-how — it offers advice on what to do if you are having a heart attack and you are alone.
…and with that I bid you good luck!

Here’s an awful mistake I made; Back in 2014, somehow, I posted that Nat Hentoff had died. Here is the paragraph from the article I titled Goodbye December 2014; “I note with sadness the passing of long time civil libertarian activist, one of the old school investigative journalist and lover of Jazz music. Nat Hentoff was a man I sometimes disagreed with, but I always respected his unwavering integrity and dedication to the truth.” Wow! What a terrible thing to do! As I read the news in January of this year, I thought, Wait a minute. Didn’t Hentoff die a few years ago? The confusion stems from my misreading a piece in the December 2014 issue of Reason Magazine. That article was heaping praise on Hentoff, which the man so rightly deserved, but I did not read it clearly and hence, my embarrassing error. So, I apologize for the terrible faux pas and now report that Nat Hentoff has truly passed on at the age of 91. Read more about this great journalist of the old school, a Classic Liberal, author of many books on Jazz and long time jazz critic for the Village Voice. He was a Senior Fellow at the Cato Institute and a leading authority on the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. He was an ardent defender of the individual right of free speech. He will be sorely missed. For real this time.

Later in the month of January, we learned of Mary Tyler Moore, aka – Mary Richards, died at the age of 80. She was lighthearted and fun, uncomplicated and gracefully feminine. From her act as second fiddle on the Dick Van Dyke Show, to her 1970s starring role as Mary Tyler Moore. The Mary Tyler Moore Show spawned the Rhoda, Lou Grant, Phyllis and Bob Newhart Shows. All were very popular situational comedy programs for television that enjoyed many seasons of faithful following and all were spin-offs of the original Mary Tyler-Moore show. This was from a time when life and t.v. programming were more innocent than the smut and cynical rubbish offered for prime-time consumption today.

In March the legendary rock & roll guitarist, singer / songwriter Chuck Berry passed. He was a rock & roll pioneer credited with writing such famous hits as “Johnny B. Goode”, “Maybellene”, and “Rock and Roll Music”. Berry died at the age of 90 which is quite a feat for a rocker! It was way back when I was a teenager that I attended my first rock concert and the headline act was none other than Chuck Berry.

April – Will Grigg was a strong advocate for Libertarian ideals with a talent for verbally eviscerating state actors whenever they were found to be in violation of fundamental human decency and the law. Will Grigg’s writing on the topic of police misconduct and government abuse of authority was always hard hitting with analysis of those who hide behind their badge or their position of “authority” to avoid consequences of wrongful action. He will be missed by many in the liberty sphere. See obituary here

In May, while I was in Jinan, I received an email message informing me that another friend, Gregg had passed as well. Gregg was a great guy with a terrific sense of humor. We worked together at Benaroya Hall – home of the Seattle Symphony and McCaw Hall – home of the Seattle Opera Company and Pacific Northwest Ballet. I always enjoyed the conversations we shared while working together. His passing was less of a shock because he had told me of the ongoing battle with cancer about 18 months earlier…very sad none the less.

At the end of May the news of Greg Allman passing was not too much of a surprise. Founding member of the Allman Brothers Band. Co-founder of the band with his brother Duane who had long since died in a motorcycle accident. The Allman Brothers Band were part of that Southern Rock genre. It was a great sound in the early days, but had lost much of its appeal as the years wore on.

At nearly halfway through the year I am considering not posting about passings in future year end reviews, because at my age there are just too many deaths and it can be a bit depressing to reflect on all of the people who have gone on to the other side….but I press on with the news of Adam West aka Batman (the original t.v. actor), dead at age of 88. It is my understanding that he was an old classmate of my ex-mother-in-law.

Sad news in July, that was likely not even mentioned in the government controlled Chinese media, Lui Xiaobo, political dissident and winner of the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize, passed away at the age of 61, after a battle with liver cancer. I did not know the man, but I have a profound affinity for any individual who is willing to speak truth to power, even at the expense of his own personal freedom. Contrary to what the Chinese communist party leaders say about Lui he was not a “criminal”. In fact, he was a man who understood the problems of the single party controlled, collectivist political system. He was an intellectual who spoke out against the same and in favor of a more open and freely democratic system. For this he spent much of his adult life in prison, had his career ruined and lost the ability to publish his writings in China. His fight is over. May he rest in peace.

Also, in July, “father of the Zombie film”, George Romero, died on the 16th at the age of 77. His Zombie films included; Night of the Living Dead (1968), Dawn of the Dead (1978) and Day of the Dead (1985). George is gone but the zombies will live on!

I know nothing of the French philosopher, Anne Dufourmantelle. Apparently known for her work that praised living a life that embraces risk. I tip my hat to her philosophicle position and applaud her final, and ultimately fatal, action of risking her own life to save another. She died valiantly as she saved two young children who were caught in rough surf, off the coast of France. The irony is stunning.

In August, famed playwright and actor, Sam Shepard dead at 71. Also in August, country singer Glen Campbell (81). Old Glen had a rough slip into dimentia a few years back and there he went, off to the Great Beyond.

September brought news of Walter Becker, co-founder of the 70s band Steely Dan (name taken from a William Boroughs novel), dead at 69…. followed by two nonagenarians of the popular culture Monty Hall of Let’s Make a Deal! Along with Hugh Hefner creator of the “Playboy Bunny” business concept and brand. From Playboy Magazine, which was more than just a girlie pin-up mag, the published exceptional work in journalism for the day including top-knotch interviews of politicos and celeb-icons, in addition to the highest quality nude photos of some absolutely stunning young women, to the many Playboy Resorts and brand ventures around the world. Here is an interesting commentary from Camille Paglia on Hefner’s legacy.

By October the obituary section for 2017 seemed to be getting exceedingly long. …Tom Petty (66) – As I said before, rockers don’t last long…mostly. Another rocker, but this one made it to the ripe old age of 89, Fats Domino was one of the original Rock and Rollers from the 1950s. Best known for hits like, Blueberry Hill , and Ain’t That a Shame, and Blue Monday, but there were many others. Fats was one of the first ten rockers inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. The simple 3-chord rock and roll tunes of Chuck Berry, Fats Domino were copied and played by many bands that followed.

Also in October Daphne Caruana Galizia a journalist – blogger from Malta. While celebrities come and go and old friends may pass unexpectedly and perhaps before their time, when journalist who fight for truth are murdered it should be a concern to everyone.

November brought a bit of humor to the obituaries. The passing of Paddles a polydactyl cat owned by the Prime minister of New Zealand, Jacinda Ardern. It was reported that the bloody cat was killed in a “traffic collision”. The report failed to disclose whether the cat was driving the car. Well, I thought it was funny.
And the former Ice Capades skating star and darling of Lion Country Safari in Florida, Little Mama – the chimpanzee, at the age of 79. Possibly the oldest living chimp in captivity….and as of this writing, December appears to be a slow month for popular people or friends of mine to die. Knock on wood!

Death Don’t Have No Mercy in this Place….

What are they Doing in Heaven Today?

As we reflect on the passing of the years and friends gone on, perhaps we might take heed of the late Warren Zevon’s sage advice. As he was dying of cancer he said; “Enjoy every sandwich.” I concur and I hold it to be a fundamentally sound life philosophy. It’s a great metaphor. A sandwich is eaten one bite at a time. Take a bite. Chew it well. Savor the pleasure of it. Swallow it down and let it nourish you. Every encounter you face in your life is a bite of the big sandwich. Enjoy it, because before you know it your sandwich is finished.

Just for fun here’s a good link for idiomatic expressions related to death and dying.

Now, reporting from the Not Dead Yet Department; the blog celebrated its 5th anniversary in June. Wooo-hooo! I have often said that I am not a great writer, in fact, I am sure many a great writer would posit that I am not even a good writer, but I do try. I never expected to earn any awards for my writing skills. I merely wanted a venue of my own to share some small part of what interests and activities I engage in during my day to day life. This blog is, in part, a way of sharing my interests and activities, albeit scattered as they may seem, and documenting my travels, thoughts and endeavors. Looking back and reviewing many of the more than 350 articles I’ve posted, I am pleased with the general production and glad I took the time to record all that I have been doing for this half decade. That alone is reason to continue, but more importantly, my initial idea was that by sharing some of these interests I may be able to open discussions on a variety of topics and perhaps pique the the curiosity of my students. In doing so I hope that ESL students will become more confident in their second language skills and subsequently learn some new things that might help to enhance their lives. Many thanks to all who commented on that post. I am grateful for the feedback I’ve received, especially from many of my long-term students.

Additionally, around mid-year I did a switch over from MS Windows operating system to an iMac. It all started back in January when I had a thought to do some form of complete and independent back-up of my blog. A project that was long overdue. It turned into a battle of fighting off viruses and cleaning out many glitches in the old system before the back-up process could go forward. This in turn, brought to the fore all of the many weaknesses of Microsoft operating system and after burning through several laptops in less than 8 years I was ready for a more reliable and secure operating system. The Mac is more costly initially for the hardware, but so far, I have been quite happy with the service and support aspects of dealing with Apple products. Now, only time will tell if this was a wise move. So far, I am pleased with what I see. It just takes some getting used to the different style of point and click interface.

With the new computer upgrade, I have renewed vigor in the continuation of the blog for the time being. Let’s see where it leads me. It is certainly reassuring that the security aspects appear to be improved and I have fewer distractions from virus related issues. I hope I can continue to provide interesting topic to present as material for discussion and further learning.

In other Not Dead Yet News, the 118th year of the Audubon Society’s Christmas Bird Count will commence on December 14th and finish up on January 5th, 2018. I know that birding is popular in many parts of Europe and it is immensely popular here in the U.S., but I am not aware of any such organizations in Asia or South America. It is organizations like Audubon that have helped us to learn so much about birds and their migratory habits.

…So the year started off with a series of bad news. That news was the catalyst for me to first, get to a doctor and have a complete physical examination, including blood-work, EKG and consultation regarding some specific issues that I have been putting off for too long. The good news is that I am generally in adequate health with only a couple of minor (and treatable) problems. At 60 years and many hundreds of thousands of miles under my belt, it isn’t a surprise that I suffer a few aches and pains. I have lived fairly well, worked hard and played harder. So, it seems this world will need to put up with me a little longer. I’m not done yet! I hope y’all don’t mind.

With all this news of death I started thinking about my own mortality. You never know when your number is up and your ticket gets punched. Every day comes with some risk. After sixty it seems to be a downhill slide for most folks. My hope is to age with some modicum of independence and personal dignity…anyway, all this thinking about death and I realized, hey! I have some really nice wines in my collection and I damn well didn’t buy them to hold forever.

Seems like a good year to dig out some oldies…..It all started in July as part of dear Echo’s continuing wine education. Over the course of a couple of weeks, I opened A Few Very Nice Wines that mostly happened to come from Rioja. The oldest was 9 years and the youngest was five. A couple of them were really spectacular and reminded me how terrific these Spanish wines can be! It also got me started writing a series about wine related info. An article about Wine Storage and another which I refer to some older tasting notes and share my reviews of Some of the Finest Wines I’ve had the pleasure to consume. In October, I opened two bottles of 17 year old Bordeaux and then a 20 year old Port.

A closer view of the labels.



Before this year ends I am planning on drinking the oldest bottle of wine I have ever kept in my cellar, a 27 year old Port! I will complete my written review after we open and taste this rare treat. Stay tuned. Cheers!




In the latter part of the year, I took the opportunity to stock up on some worthy additions to the wine cellar. A few half bottles (375 ml.) of fine dessert wines, mostly Sauterne, but I did find a few Auslese that will store for up to a decade. Some very nice stuff from the Rhone, mostly 2015 vintage, including a few Gigondas and a small selection from Chateauneuf du Pape (to hold for 12 – 15 years). South America – Chile and Argentina are still about the best reliable values in the big reds and I happened to pick up a few 2015 reservas from that part of the world. It will be fun to compare notes on these to some of the higher priced Euro reds of the same vintage. Since 2015 holds some degree of personal sentimental weight I decided to keep with the theme and purchased a shy case of Bordeaux futures, as well. Much of the various 2015 vintage will be consumed over the coming 8 – 10 years. The Bordeaux and a few of the Rhone are wines that I will drink when I am well into my late 70s ….if am lucky enough to get that far.

It really was about time for a restock of my wine cellar and these purchases are terrific contributions to that effort. I merely point this out as a counter-balance to the generally morbid tone of this year’s annual review. Morbidity was never my intention, though taking stock of life and death is an important, albeit sobering consideration. Buying wine for long term storage is an act of hope. A look toward the future with a degree of optimism. A view toward some future dinner with family and friends together enjoying fine wine to enhance the celebration of good times….and perhaps wine to remember friends and family who have gone on. If I happen to pass before I drink these, well, someone will inherit a modest collection of fine wine to enjoy in the coming years….and if I am drinking these wines in some distant time and place, I will surely take a moment to smile and to think of friends I’ve had the pleasure to know along the way.

….I raise a glass for those who have passed. No one gets out alive!

As the great novelist Robert Heinlein said, “Dum vivimus vivamus!” From the Latin – While we live, let us live!

Life really is what you make of it and you had better enjoy it while you can!

Closing words on death and dying;
The motto of my favorite news aggregator site – zero“On a long enough timeline the survival rate for everyone drops to zero.”

Cheers! Happy I made it through another year and onto the next Happy New Year!

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    • June on December 14, 2017 at 8:34 pm
    • Reply

    Treat life earnestly, and your luck won’t be too bad.

    I always believe these words. Earnest is an attitude. You do so and more importantly you do it well. So I am attracted by you and hope that more happiness and good fortune, will surround you in the near future.

    1. Thanks for your kind wishes, June.
      I send in return to you and your family, a wish for the very best in 2018!

  1. 13 days to the new year, it’s the right time to look back and make a summarization. There were new borns. There were also passings. This is the law of nature, beyond our ability to change. We’re sorry for the passed, but the most important is to enjoy every bite of the sandwich we have. Wine is something colorful in the bite, isn’t it?

    1. Yes, Maggie, it is the circle of life.
      We should all be happy to savor that sandwich of life and, of course, things go better with a good claret!

    • Morning on December 18, 2017 at 4:23 am
    • Reply

    I admire you very much because I can’t remember when the last time I had to write a long article. Maybe on my college entrance examination, hehe. Just a kidding. I admire you not only for your patience to write such a long article but also your attitude toward life.

    Every December we read your yearly report. We feel happy when you gained or your plans have been carried out very well. While we also feel very sorry for your loss. That’s life, right? The most important part is that we can cherish many enjoyable experiences from your summaries. Keeping good health is a great lesson this year.
    May happiness and health follow you everywhere and every moment. Wish you all the best for Christmas and New year 2018.

    1. This year end summary ranks among the longest articles posted on this blog! It really seemed to get carried away with passings too.

      Anyway, another year rolls by and gone before we realize. What did you achieve this year? What are your goals and plans for next year?
      Many thanks for your kind wishes for the new year….and I return them to you with abundance!

    • May on December 22, 2017 at 3:34 am
    • Reply

    This article is even longer than “Philippines 2010 “. A new record, applause!
    I really appreciate your graceful attitude towards life. Most people are not so relaxed towards dying and death. But, you are teaching us let nature take its course.
    You are so knowledgeable on a lot of life’s aspects, including history, art, culture, wine, photography, cooking, gardening, science, technology and so on. However, when we say, wow my teacher is so knowledgeable, you replied I only know a little and I need to stay hungry, stay foolish. This is our teacher – a knowledgeable, modest, hardworking and very very kind friend.

    1. You might be correct, May. I know this post was over 3,000 words. It seems that some students really enjoy the long articles.

      “Graceful attitude toward life”…but you don’t see me when I am struggling with demons. We are lucky if we can maintain some element of grace in this battle we call life.
      “Knowledgeable”…I would say I know a little bit about a few things. Continued learning is the goal.

      Thanks for all of your high praise and yes, do stay hungry and stay foolish!

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