John Y’s Musings from the Middle: Pre-PO’d

jyb_musingsIt’s a nice Saturday but I am not in quite as good a mood as I feel like I should be given it is a Saturday and it’s nice weather outside.

But I am not in a bad mood either.

It is what I call a “Pre-pissed off” mood (PPO). I am happy and calm but I get the feeling someone or something is going to piss me off soon — so I go ahead and prepare myself mentally and emotionally for that happening (in case it does).

I don’t like being caught off guard when someone or something pisses me off. This way I prevent that from happening. But I am left feeling on the verge of being pissed-off.

I prefer to think of myself as vigilant today. Which does make me a little irritable. Really “anticipatorily irritable.” At least I will be ready today when something irritating happens.

But other than that I am having a good day.

John Y’s Musings from the Middle: Zone Discrimination

jyb_musingsI was having a friendly and mutually respectful conversation with a gentleman I just met at my airline departure gate this morning.

That is, until we started boarding.

We were about to exchange business cards — you know that moment when you meet someone new and you each sense that the other is possibly of the same or higher status than you —and worth not only meeting but keeping track of. But instead of asking for each other’s business card, our chummy conversation was rudely interrupted by a loud voice over the speaker announcing all Gold Members of some exclusive credit card could board now.

We paused at the interruption and smiled at each other before trying to resume our conversation –but that lasted only a few seconds. Then came another thunderous announcement. This time that Zone 1 could now board. My new friend chirped, “Oh, that’s me.” And added, “Are you in Zone 1?”

I looked at my boarding pass and couldn’t find my zone but had a sinking feeling I was assigned to a different — and lesser zone— and that our newly formed friendship was more fragile than I thought.

“Hmmm.” I mumbled. Acting like there must have been some sort of mistake with my boarding pass. I shook my head and shrugged. We shook hands and he left. No business cards were requested or exchanged. All I could do was stare at the ground while my former friend strode confidently up to the ticket counter to check in and board our flight.

I was too ashamed to tell him I was not only NOT in Zone 1 –but was, in truth, assigned to Zone 5. In fact, after the announcement for boarding Zone 4 was made (in a noticeably softer and almost apologetic tone), there was a long delay before they finally announcing, “All other Zones may board now.”

That was me — “my Zone.” There were only a handful of us. We sized each other up quickly. No one seemed to want anyone else’s business card. But then something strange happened. Even though I didn’t feel like asking for anyone’s business card (and no one wanted mine), I started to feel that these were “my people” –whatever Zone number we had been assigned to. And we needed to stick together. Especially against the assholes who think their Zone is better than ours.

I started to resent the guy I was talking to earlier who was boarded in Zone 1. Who the hell did he think he was anyway? He wasn’t better than me—or better than any of us in the “remaining Zones.” He was just an ordinary guy who maybe got a few more lucky breaks. That’s all.

In fact, he started to seem like he was mostly a poser — a fraud I didn’t trust—and I didn’t even want his business card anymore. Or to be in his boarding Zone.

I am OK just the way I am . Maybe it just took this flight boarding experience for me to realize it. And so was everyone else I was waiting with who was still hoping to board the plane and not get bumped.

We looked at each other again. We may me in the “remaining Zones” –but that was OK. We weren’t defined by our boarding Zone. As far as we were concerned, we actually felt sorry the poor bastards who “needed” to board in Zone 1 to feel OK about themselves. They must be really insecure.

Then the airline ticket counter person lifted the microphone and announced my name. She explained to me —but in a voice loud enough for my people to hear — that there had been a mistake with my ticket and that I was allowed to board now ahead of everyone else in the “remaining zones.”

I was all alone again.

And thought about asking for the business card of that Zone 1 guy again —if he saw me get on the plane ahead of everyone in “the remaining Zones.”

Julie Rath: How to Pack Like a Pro

The way you pack can either make or break your trip. Hanging around the airport lost baggage office is a drag (I’ve been there), as is opening up a suitcase and finding everything in a crumpled mess. With some foresight and planning, however, you can make the process seamless and worry-free. Read on for 9 tips on how to pack like a pro:

1) If you travel frequently to the same location, say from your east coast office to your west coast office, leave a trunk or suitcase at the hotel. Most good hotels are happy to do this for frequent guests, and often without charge. Lifestyle engineer and frequent traveler Tim Ferriss recommends this, and while you may not keep lentils and whey protein in your trunk like Tim does, his idea is enormously useful for clothes and shoes which can take up a lot of space in your luggage. When the clothes you wore are dirty, simply give them to the hotel laundry and tell them to put them back in your bag when they’re clean. Every so often you can switch things out so you aren’t repeating outfits too much.

Men's Personal Stylist: How to Pack for Travel2) One can tend to accumulate things along the way when traveling, particularly for leisure. In order to make sure everything fits on the way back and/or that you can still fit your bag as a carry-on, bring along 4-5 empty gallon-size Ziploc bags on your trip. When you’re packing to come home, fold and put your dirty clothes inside the bags, then (and this is the key), SIT on the Ziploc to squeeze out all of the air, and then zip it shut. You’re essentially vacuum-sealing your clothes. This works great for dirty t-shirts, underwear and socks, and it saves you a huge amount of space. When you get home, the contents of the Ziplocs go straight into the laundry. No sorting required.

3) Keep a separate travel toilet kit with travel-size versions of all the toiletrees you’ll need for travel. Don’t touch it except for when traveling.

 

Men's Executive Image Consultant: Brown Buttons Work with Brown Shoes4) If there’s one thing that makes suitcases unwieldy, it’s shoes. Try as best you can to only pack one pair of shoes. That means you’ll need a couple of pairs in your wardrobe that are extremely versatile. A brown dress shoe (lace-up or monk straps – see #8 on avoiding a major shoe fail) is a great call because you can wear it with everything from jeans to a suit. If you’re going with brown shoes, also pack or wear a brown belt. And if you want bonus points, make sure the buttons on the sportcoat/suit jacket you’re bringing have brown in them too like in the image above.

Read the rest of…
Julie Rath: How to Pack Like a Pro

John Y. Brown, III: Thanksgiving Leftovers

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A Citizen’s Morning Weather and Trafffic Report (with a few more observations)

It’s quiet and cold outside. The city seems sleepy but eager (eager for something like a day of rest with a lot of good food — and a side of family time).

I only saw one car accident and it was’t really an accident. Just a flat tire. And a police car stopped to help.

There was a mid-sized car with antlers placed on the backseat windows and two men inside laughing about something that was probably nothing in particular.

A couple, probably in their 70’s, were getting gas. Both were outside the car helping pump gas and clear ice off the windshield. They appeared to be preparing for a long drive and got back on the road without incident.

The manager of the gas station seemed in an especially helpful and pleasant mood. The ATM machine inside worked fine and the pastries are fresh and taste good.

Stores are closed but hearts seem mostly open. People who normally wouldn’t speak to one another are saying hello as they pass. Hitchikers who are genuinely down on their luck are more likely to hitch a ride today.

A man parked at a Starbucks parking lot texted his wife to see if she wanted a coffee and she texted back that she was already in line at another Starbucks and could get him a coffee and meet him at home. He texted her back thanking her and added a capital “L” at the end of his text for “love.” And so did she.

All in all, it is a pretty good morning for a Thanksgiving.

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Thanksgiving is an under-achiever as holidays go.

Halloween has costumes and all the candy you can eat. Easter has a magic bunny who travels the world leaving gift baskets for children. Heck, even Groundhog Day has Punxsutawney Phil who predicts future weather for the country.

Thanksgiving doesn’t offer up a magic turkey with a name like Phil or provide gift baskets with bunny shaped candy. We don’t even get to dress up in funny costumes.

For Thanksgiving we just dress in our nice cloths, spend time with family and give thanks for all the abudance we have in our lives.

That just doesn’t seem like enough. But maybe somehow in a weird way it really is. If we have the right attitude. And a turkey.

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Starbucks new holiday special “Turkey and Gravy Latte” is surprisingly good.

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Thanksgiving Dating Tips

27 years ago this week Rebecca and I had been dating for just over 6 months and Thanksgiving was just around the corner.

We were having dinner at a nice restaurant in Lexington and Rebecca told me one of the things she liked about dating me was going to nicer restaurants. She said with other guys she had dated every meal she ordered came with french fries.

I took that as a compliment and talked about how the Dinner Card I had bought was a good deal and then Rebecca segued into a new topic.

“So, do you have any plans for Thanksgiving?”

I answered reflexively, ” Yeah. Probably just the usual — go to my grandmother’s in Central City on Thursday and my Dad’s in Lexington on Friday. How about you? Any big Thanksgiving plans?”

Rebecca looked down and mumbled, “Nothing big. That’s for sure.” She stabbed hard at her entree before adding, “Just the usual, too, I guess.”

“What’s wrong? Do you not like your dinner?” I asked.

“It’s fine.” Rebecca answered.

“You want some of mine?” I offered. ” You sure something isn’t wrong with your dinner?”

Rebecca paused and explained, “My friends are having Thanksgiving together with their boyfriends.”

“Oh!” I exclaimed. “Are we at a point in our relationship where we are supposed to go to Thanksgiving dinners together? I didn’t know. I have never had a serious girlfriend for this long.”

Rebecca said, “I don’t know. I guess it depends on how serious they are.”

“Well, come on then! Go with me. Or I can go with you. Or whatever or however it is supposed to be done. Was just totally over my head. I didn’t know about the Thanksgiving dating rules but now that I do I want to get it right for sure!”

Rebecca said OK and her dinner seemed to taste a lot better after that.

And I learned a valuable dating lesson and my future wife learned to give an absent-minded boyfriend the benefit of the doubt when you really are convinced your absent-minded boyfriend is a good guy but genuinely clueless.

I am a very lucky man. And I am inviting Rebecca again this year –for the 27th year in a row– to spend Thanksgiving with me. And our family.

John Y’s Musings from the Middle: Logic and Life

jyb_musingsI nominate “Logic” for a Lifetime Achievement Award. The award for those who come close many times but always seem to fall short of the the main prize.

Logic, it seems, is exalted by all; claimed by many; and referenced as a virtue as a matter of course. But in life’s biggest battles — life’s biggest decisions –how often has logic prevailed?

So let’s give logic its due. As a decision-making tool it has rarely carried off the brass ring –but deserves at least to be in the same category as Susan Lucci.

And besides, what is the logic in a brass ring being life’s greatest prize anyway?

Liz Roach: Thanksgiving Sides

Liz RoachThanksgiving is about more than just food.  Family, gratitude, fighting over ancient resentments…it all plays a role.  When a bunch of people (whether related or not) gather together over a holiday, there will be quirks.  And possibly arguments.  But, mercifully, there will always be food.  Lots of delicious, button-popping food. And while life may be as unpredictable as your Aunt Suzy’s newest hair color, you can always depend on your favorite stuffing.

While I’m a big supporter of experimenting with food and beverages, there are times when tradition reigns supreme. It can be fun to try eccentric twists like apple cider risotto or curried carrots, but ultimately, many of us crave the classic sides that filled our childhood plates this time of year.

That’s why I turned to Kahlil Arnold, the chef of Arnold’s Country Kitchen based in Nashville, Tennessee, for several of his signature creations.  Arnold’s is a mainstay of Nashville, known for its meat and three, country-style cooking and warm atmosphere.  Patrons range from politicians and lawyers to construction workers, who return again and again for dishes like squash casserole and banana pudding.

Just in time for Thanksgiving, Kahlil shared recipes for several of his most beloved side dishes: southern greens, mac and cheese, and sweet potato casserole. If you prepare these for your gathering, get ready to become the family legend, the keeper of the Thanksgiving flame. Or at the very least, up for consideration of graduating from the kids’ table.

Arnold’s Southern Greens

Ingredients:

2 pieces of applewood smoked bacon, chopped

3 tablespoons margarine or rendered bacon fat

1 turnip bulb, chopped

1 medium yellow onion, chopped

1 (8 to 12-ounce) ham hock

1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper

4 tablespoons prepared horseradish

4 tablespoons ham base

6-10 cups water

1 tablespoon salt

3 tablespoons sugar

1 pound collard greens, washed, stemmed and chopped

1 pound turnip greens, washed, stemmed and chopped

Directions:

In a large, heavy pot over medium heat, add the margarine, onion, bacon and ham hock. Sauté until onions seem translucent, about 5 to 6 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients with six cups of water, except the greens, and whisk together. Add the greens and cook on medium heat, partially covered until tender, stirring occasionally, about 45 minutes-1 hour. If necessary, add more water. The longer you cook the greens down, the more flavor the greens will have. Taste to see if more salt and pepper is needed. When the greens and turnips are tender, it’s time to eat.

Arnold’s Mac & Cheese

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons flour

2 tablespoons margarine

2 cups milk

2 1/2 cups shredded American cheese

2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese

1 teaspoon black pepper

1 teaspoon ground mustard seed

2 cups of macaroni noodles

2 tablespoons of canola oil

Pinch of salt

Paprika

8 cups water

Directions:

In a medium pot, bring 8 cups of water to a boil. Add 2 tablespoons of canola oil and 2 cups of noodles. Cook for 20 minutes, or until noodles swell and are soft. Drain in colander. Meanwhile in a double broiler, melt 2 tablespoons of margarine. When melted, stir in flour and cook for a few minutes until browned. Slowly add milk, whisking vigorously. Next add 2 cups of shredded cheese and stir until melted. Whisk in black pepper, mustard, and parmesan cheese.  Taste, to see if a pinch of salt is needed. In a small casserole dish, add noodles and stir in cheese sauce. Sprinkle ½ cup of shredded cheese in top. Lightly sprinkle paprika on top. Put in preheated oven at 325 degrees. Cook for 30 minutes, or until cheese is bubbling around edges.

 

Arnold’s Sweet Potato Casserole

Ingredients:

6 pounds sweet potatoes

2-3 cups sugar

2/3 cup heavy cream

1/2 cup (4 tablespoons) butter, melted

4 large eggs, lightly beaten

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg

 

For the pecan topping:

1 cup packed brown sugar

6 tablespoons all-purpose flour

6 tablespoons butter, cut into pieces

1 cup chopped or whole pecans

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

For the filling: Roast the sweet potatoes on an aluminum foil-lined baking sheet for approximately one hour, or until tender. Cut the sweet potatoes in half and cool until able to touch. Peel and mash the sweet potatoes with a fork or potato masher. (This should yield approximately 8 cups.)

In a large bowl, combine the mashed sweet potatoes, sugar, cream, butter, eggs, vanilla, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Beat with an electric mixer until smooth. Spoon the sweet potatoes into a lightly greased 2 quart – 4 quart casserole dish.

For the pecan topping: In a medium bowl combine the brown sugar and flour. Using a pastry blender or your fingertips, cut the butter into the brown sugar mixture until it resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in the pecans. Sprinkle the pecan topping over the sweet potato mixture. Bake the casserole until the topping is golden brown and bubbling, 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Cook’s Note: The sweet potato casserole can be assembled the day before and kept in the refrigerator until ready to cook.

Josh Bowen: Enthusiasm — Turkey Day Edition

joshThis week has been a hard week.

As most of you know I have been planning my own studio for a long time and this week a lot of my hard work has come to fruition. I am very close to opening my own business, through hell and high water.

But what I learned about myself this week is it is easy to lose enthusiasm when going through hard times but you must persevere. Soon, my dream of having my own business will come true and for that I am thankful and enthusiastic.  So why not talk about enthusiasm and the components of during Turkey Week?

So I went back into the archives and brought back this piece that I wrote three years ago for a magazine in Pittsburgh. It fully explains how I feel enthusiasm is created and how greatness can be pulled from us.

Give this a read and please have a Happy Thanksgiving (eat and drink responsibly).    “There is a real magic in enthusiasm. It spells the difference between mediocrity and accomplishment.” I bet that got your attention.

So does enthusiasm really separate those that are mediocre and those that are great? Is it passion? Is it hard work? What is it? Well, let me rephrase the question; what separates those that get results and those that don’t?

I’ve pondered this since I started working out as skinny, 18 year old kid. Why did I get results and others didn’t? Why did some of my clients get results and others didn’t?

Here is the deal there are many attributes that separate the haves from the have not’s:

  1. Fun- those that get results do not look at working out like a chore. In their own way they make exercise fun. Whether they work with a trainer, take a group exercise class or just make their workouts enjoyable to them. If you enjoy something you will do it. Take it from me you can make exercise exciting and fun or dreadful and boring, you make that decision in between your ears.
  2. Attitude- those that get results have a great attitude. They don’t let minor setbacks deter them or keep them off track. They stay positive always and they encourage others to do the same. Remember, your mind if stronger than your body, if you feel a negative towards something odds are you won’t perform well. Conversely, if you take a positive approach the outcome will be much different.
  3. Hard work- Make no mistake about it getting results is hard work. It takes time and you must dig deep and be persistent. When you get to the gym you have to work hard. You never can skip workouts and you have to always make them count.
  4. Perseverance- there will always be obstacles. There will always be flat tires, babysitters can’t watch the kids and you have to stay late at work. The best look at obstacles like opportunities, conquering them towards becoming a better person. At all costs never, EVER give up. Keep moving!

There are more attributes that contribute to success in a gym setting but these four are what I commonly see in people that overcome the odds and shatter their own personal goals. Remember this, life is all about wins and losses; some days you win, some days you lose but as long as you learn from the mistakes and keep a level head on the wins you will be ok. Momentum is all you need to carry you to the finish line. Tell yourself 2015 will be the year of YOU. No more excuses, no more procrastination, no more obstacles. This is your life, you chose what you do with it. Choose wisely.

John Y’s Musings from the Middle: Sibling Rivalry

jyb_musingsSibling rivalry couldn’t possibly exist after 50, right?

Of course not.

Our mom has been under the weather the past few days but is now, thankfully, fully on the mend.

My sister, Sissy, in Lexington called me yesterday and asked for a progress report. I reassured her that Mom was doing great now and I copied and pasted a text our mom had just sent me.
(With one minor humorous edit I couldn’t resist adding.)

“Sis, Mom wrote this earlier today to me. Here it is …. ‘So happy to be feeling better today! Still tired & not a lot of stamina yet but feeling so much better. By the way, John, I always liked you more than Sandy and Sissy. Love to all Mom'”

Most importantly it got a good laugh out of Mom as well as all three of us.

Lauren Mayer: Weren’t We All Immigrants, Once?

One of the best scenes in Blazing Saddles is when the railroad workers negotiate with Rock Ridge to help build the ‘false front’ town that will fool Hedley Lamarr’s evil army.  The racially mixed workers want to be repaid with land in town, and at first the townspeople object to including various ethnic groups.  Eventually they agree to accept the Chinese and African Americans but “we don’t want the Irish.”  However, when Sheriff Bart insists, the group’s leader finally says, “Oh, prairie sh*t, everyone!” and a happy ending ensues.

Apparently, not much has changed in 40 years (I know, those of us who remember when that movie first came out are OLD), as far as some people’s reactions to President Obama’s recent executive actions on immigration reform.  Right-wing stalwarts like Michele Bachmann and Steve King project a ruined country overtaken by illiterate criminals, and even saner politicians are accusing Obama of acting like a tyrant, emperor, king, or dictator, when multiple Republican presidents (including ‘Saint Reagan’) did basically the same thing without any protest.

Meanwhile, there are very few of us in the country today whose anceestors weren’t immigrants at one time, so to help everyone chill out a bit, here’s a relaxing musical tribute to immigration . . .

John Y’s Musings from the Middle: Obvious Shortcuts

jyb_musingsAm I the only one who thinks of these obvious shortcuts?

In line boarding a flight and listening to a plastic surgeon boast about all his recent cosmetic surgery successes.

Um, OK. That’s great and all.

But wouldn’t it be a lot easier to just make glasses for everyone with lenses that makes everybody else look thin and hot?

Pretty obvious.

There is always an easier fix for those, like me, who are willing to think outside the box. Or see things through a slightly different lens. Sigh.

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