Tiny House Cohousing?

green creek rv park

The Green Creek Hotel and RV park is the model for tiny house cohousing infrastructure. On the horizon is the Smith Mansion, which has an odd history.

On the road in Wyoming last week one night was spent at the Green Creek Inn and RV park. If you’ve stayed in camping / RV parks there’s, generally, an area set aside for semi-permanent places for longer-stay RVers.

In Wyoming, they are seasonal park workers, oil and gas field workers, hard-core hunters and fishers.

There’s been talk about low cost housing types for Millennials paying off student debt, seniors seeking nursing home alternatives and marginalized populations like homeless vets.

Forms of cooperative and collaborative approaches float to the surface. Tiny houses are low cost to construct and lots of them can be crammed onto a piece of ground. As such, there are cities that are building tiny houses for the homeless population.

A few years ago, I helped organize a Regional Cohousing Conference in Boulder. There were around 90 people in attendance from the US, Canada and Australia with various interests in this collaborative housing form.

This is tiny house that is 21' by 8.5' in size with a fairly tall ceiling.

This is tiny house that is 21′ by 8.5′ in size with a fairly tall ceiling.

In a past life, I used to be a city planner in Wyoming and a member the Boulder Planning Board in Colorado, as well as the Executive Director of Habitat for Humanity of the St. Vrain Valley in Longmont. I studied ecological biology and environmental politics as an undergrad and grad student. How to live a balanced life in both the human and natural environments has always been an interest of mine.

The cohousing idea is a little bit about the buildings, but it’s more about setting up an old fashioned sense of community in which residents participate in the design, character and culture of their neighborhoods. With an itinerant population like homeless people, creating a sense of community would be a challenge.

The cohousing idea originated in Scandanavia, which is a bit more communal and socialistic than in the US. Here, cohousing tries to adapt communal tenets into the “rugged individualism” of America.

The pitfalls of that evolution was the main topic of the Regional Cohousing Conference which was entitled “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.” I’ve written a post or two about those issues.

cohousing2

This is a 500 sq ft tiny house that has a 1-car garage and a balcony.

Over the past few years, interest in “tiny houses” has been growing. That is, people choosing to live in homes that are from 200 to 600 sq ft in size.

They are generally built on a “flat bed” and can be wheeled around from place to place, but also can be built on a foundation, but that kicks in an entirely different set of building requirements. Tiny houses on skids or wheels fall into the land use category of mobile homes.

They are far different than your standard mobile home. Regular mobile homes can be the size of stick built houses that incorporate some space saving design features. If you google “tiny house” lots of websites and images pop up.

How about this idea – a cohousing community  that consists of tiny houses?

It makes sense to me.

The biggest hurdle for traditional cohousing, as well as regular housing, for that matter, is money.

Cohousing homes are houses with no lot lines with the development and individual houses

Cohousing homes are houses with no lot lines with the development and individual houses “designed” with input by the resident / community members. This home in Silver Sage Village recently sold for $750,000.

Money for land, money for the development. Because cost is such a huge factor, homes are constructed that maximize profit. This generally means expensive houses crammed onto a tiny space. How about the opposite – inexpensive houses on tiny spaces, that results in more open spaces?

Tiny houses cost anywhere from $20,000 to $60,000 and can be parked in friends’ back yards. They are often built with sweat equity. There’s a cable tv show about downsizing baby boomers, young couples and individuals making the move to drop out of the “bigger is better” society. Some tiny homeowners want to be more mobile, others are sedentary.

With tiny houses, a cohousing organizer wouldn’t need near as much space as a typical coho development. It would depend on the rules, but a tiny house development would likely be more transient.

Utilities could be “hook ups” like in an RV park. Decisions would have to be made, based on political jurisdiction about individual septic or a septic field or central wastewater collection; individual water cisterns or central water.

I would think there would be some amenities like streets, sidewalks, open space, in addition to the common house.

This is the interior of a tiny house that through innovative design maximizes the space.

This is the interior of a tiny house that through innovative design maximizes the space.

At the typical RV park, the longer-stay “residents” have access to the common showers / restrooms, laundry, the little store and breakfast available to the overnight campers.

I can envision a common house that is more permanent, though. As a monetary hedge against potentially higher turnover rates, the common house could be mixed use with community amenities like the open dining area, kitchen, laundry facilities, TV room, guest rooms, with business tenants or owners like a convenience store, coffee shop, business offices, laundromat and the like.

I happened to be at a commercial development in Highlands Ranch – a ‘burb of Denver. There was high and medium density housing on the back side and mixed use / commercial fronting on the main drag and a strip mall with convenient services like coffee shops and kitschy stores that also included large box retail which require lots of parking.

Highlands Ranch is more known as a typical “cul de sac” nation and not as a “sustainable” community – intentional ir not.

Because tiny houses are small, neighbors would be more likely to frequent the common house, than in some traditional cohousing communities in which homes are the same as in suburbia with large living rooms, utility rooms, large kitchens. Neighbors go in their house and you don’t see them again.

Sarah Susanka says that buying a home strictly for

Sarah Susanka says that buying a home strictly for “resale” value isn’t the best choice.

There are the unfounded housing characteristics necessary for resale, as espoused by Sarah Susanka author of “Not So Big House.”

Susanka, who is also an architect, says that the sense of “home” has less to do with quantity and everything to do with quality. She points out that we feel “at home” in our houses when where we live reflects who we are in our hearts.

I heard her speak at Denver University a few years ago. The examples that stuck with me are those of the “den” and “dining room.” She asked the huge audience about who uses their den and who eats in the dining room. Not many hands went up.

I’d say that, for the most part, communities still have a bias AGAINST mobile home parks and hold the “trailer trash” stereotype. In a place like Boulder, there would be an uproar about this as a form of affordable housing. The best place to try this out would be where land is inexpensive and there is less of an elitist attitude.

At the coho conference, I was talking to a fellow filmmaker from Minnesota, who also lives in cohousing, about the idea of tiny house cohousing.

I’ll plant the seed here, but it may take me developing the idea in order for me to document it.

lincoln court old postcard

Click on the Lincoln Court image to check out and download the draft business plan.

As it turns out, I am trying to get interest in a mixed use intentional community located in Cheyenne, Wyoming called the Lincoln Court. We had our first informational meeting with participants naming “tiny houses” as one of the possible land uses, along with cohousing, apartments, coworking offices, gallery and performance space and studios.

The project is moving forward with a draft business plan available. Check it out. The project is planning for a tiny house village to diversity apartments, and two affordable cohousing projects offering stick-built town houses and cottages.

Anyone interested in building a tiny house in a cohousing community?

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This article was originally published in December 2014, but updated, in part due to a wordpress glitch that obliterated the story.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that

elway xxxiii

Denver Broncos quarterback John Elway in Super Bowl XXXIII

The Broncos fresh off a win in Super Bowl 50 are looking for a quarterback now that Peyton Manning is hanging up his spurs. His back-up, Brock Osweiler is on to greener prairies in Texas leaving the team’s General Manager, John Elway, in a lurch.

I’m sure Elway can relate to the quarterback replacement dilemma after his retirement following the Super Bowl XXXIII win which brings me to my story.

In 1999, I was doing some consulting work for a non-profit in Boulder called Rock the Planet that used mountain climbing as a metaphor for positive youth development.

The group sent me on a field trip to attend a climbing wall convention in New York City.

It was the dead of winter. I made arrangements to stay with one of my college classmates who still lives on the upper westside between Broadway and Central Park on 72nd.

A couple days before my visit, he called and said he was deathly ill with a cold and made arrangements for me to stay at one of his friend’s short term rentals in Greenwich Village.

I arrived and was greeted by Jon who escorted me to the little studio, that he rented to me for a couple hundred bucks for the weekend. It was cozy but cold. By the time the steam heated up the small place, it was time for me to leave.

I don’t recall anything about the meeting I attended, but it was Super Bowl Sunday and the Broncos were playing. I didn’t know the neighborhood that well, since I normally stay a little further uptown at the Hotel Pennsylvania.

Near my room was a bar – or what looked like a bar. There wasn’t a prominent sign. Since neither of the New York teams were playing, I suspected the crowd would be light.

When I walked through the door, the place was rocking – loud music, people dancing. There was a TV behind the bar. I elbowed my way through the crowd, and sat down on an empty stool and ordered a beer. I asked the bartender to put on the game.

Meanwhile a couple guys walked over and sat down and struck up a conversation wondering what I was doing there. We had a couple laughs before they disappeared into the crowd.

Eventually, I noticed that the bar was not only full of mostly men, which wasn’t unusual, but there were men dancing with men and guys making out with guys in the booths.

Stonewall1

The Stonewall Inn was ground zero for the modern day gay rights movement.

Turned out, I had stumbled upon the infamous and now famous Stonewall Inn.

Back in the summer of 1969, it became the birthplace of the modern gay rights movement. In those days, police routinely raided gay bars, but on June 28th of that year, nobody cooperated and a riot broke out. The following morning thousands joined a protest on Christopher Street.

My college friend is gay and while frat brothers at a small Presbyterian college in the middle of Nebraska, sexual orientation wasn’t of much concern since it was an assumed heterosexual world there. I didn’t learn that my ‘mate was gay until we were well out of school.

Back in the late 1980s when I was living in Lander, Wyoming, I was out drinking with a buddy. After the bars closed we went over to his place. That was the first and only time I had been propositioned by a man. I told him I prefer women. He made it sound like being gay was a choice and tried to talk me into it,  “You might like it,” he said.

I told him I prefer women.

That was that.

I imagined he felt the same as when I was when a woman turned down my proposition. My sexual exploits aren’t anything to write home about. I don’t imagine they are much different that the rest of the people I’ve hung around with over the years.

What may be different, I do have a documentary movie in mind about personal classified ads and online dating. I’m of the age where I’ve had success and failures with both. I’m now getting up the nerve to ask some of the women I’ve met through those means whether they’d be willing to share their experiences  – not necessarily experiences with me, though.

I watched a documentary on HBO about gay online dating which included some bizarre stories.

The Stonewall Inn will probably be a part of this project in someway, but i probably won’t get around to it until the next Super Bowl because I’ll have to make a pilgrimage there.

By the way, the Stonewall was hoppin’ by the time the confetti was flying at the end of Super Bowl XXXIII. I was the only one who cared that the Broncos beat the Atlanta Falcons 34 – 19. I got on the train and went uptown to Sardi’s to celebrate.

Be nice to your mail carrier this holiday season

christmas seals

Christmas seals appeared on all my parent’s cards they sent out during the holiday season.

I stopped to chat with the postman as he was locking up the Silver Sage Village mail boxes. I get a few things by 1st class mail, but it’s mostly bills and junk.

Today was no different as the mail ended up in the circular file headed to the recycling bin. The other day I got a letter from the IRS saying I owe a few bucks. Maybe government agencies are obliged to use hard copy and resort to first class mail.

“Things have been really crazy. We made a deal with Amazon and now have 40 percent of their business,” he lamented. “That, plus everyone has started mailing a lot earlier this year.”

Like November 1.

The post office, unlike FedEx and UPS delivers on Christmas and Sundays. He said some days he starts at 7am and doesn’t get finished until 10pm and mail is getting delivered at odd times.

What about “Neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor gloom of night, stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.”

“Oh, that’s still true, but this month the mail just gets delivered later! We’ll get it figured out eventually.”

I’ve been selling a bunch of stuff on eBay which also must have a deal with the postal service. On all packages, I get a postage discount, plus I don’t have to go to stand in line at the post office and can have the occasional chat with the postman.

Every year, I plan to send out hard copy Christmas cards, and every year I don’t get around to it. Fifty cents for a stamp and fifty cents for the card – a buck to send a greeting and well wishes is a pretty good deal.

I remember when I was young, my parents sent out Christmas cards every year. That tradition included going to the post office and picking out just the perfect stamps for that year’s mailing.

It was also a time to make donations to fight tuberculosis and putting those on the envelope was also signs of the season.

I don’t even remember mailing packages. Once in a while something would be sent to my aunt in Washington DC, but she generally came back to Cheyenne for Christmas. She always brought with her “big city” gifts like Godiva ch0colate, sweaters from Lord and Taylor.

These days, all that fancy stuff is now very common and available in malls.

We’ve become mass society.

The Baby Boomer diaspora also contributes to the package shipping explosion. When my grandparents died, my uncles and aunts didn’t come around as much any more. That meant my cousins didn’t come to town much either.

Any presents had to be mailed. That was all before FedEx and UPS. When all the cousins were in high school, the unwritten rule was, no more gifts.

I really don’t send stuff out, but now that I’m getting to the point in life that I’m downsizing, I’m selling stuff on eBay. Why on earth I held on to that Charlies Angels lunch box, I’ll never know (although I still have a crush on Kate Jackson) but someone will enjoy having it gathering dust on their shelves.

The few holiday greetings I’ve sent out are gift cards to amazon.com or event tickets. As long as there are kids, there will be a demand for unnecessary stuff. The cycle seems to keep going and going.

Even if I don’t get around to sending out cards this year, I’ll at least be nice to my mail carrier this holiday season.

By the way, I learned that this quote which has become the US Postal Service motto was written by Greek historian Herodotus, 503 B.C. The words are inscribed on the General Post Office facility on 33rd Street and 8th Avenue in New York City.

I hope ‘American Sniper’ has a good story: I like sniper movies

"American Sniper" has been getting quite a bit of buzz these days. (photo credit - fair use)

“American Sniper” has been getting quite a bit of buzz these days. (photo credit – fair use)

There’s been quite a bit of social media and entertainment news traffic about the movie directed by Clint Eastwood and starring Bradley Cooper, as Chris Kyle in American Sniper.

Last night at the Silver Sage Village pot luck dinner, there was a pretty good discussion about the military experience of five men in the community , which is no experience. None of us saw any duty during the Vietnam War era, mostly because of student deferments.

I’ve always thought that service in the military was a part of my maturation process that I missed, considering that four of my uncles were in the army 1-A. My dad was 4-F.

I wasn’t sure if I wanted to watch American Sniper.

After some thinking, I realized that I like sniper movies. There are sniper characters in lots of movies which date back to when I was a kid. I was a bit of a loner back then – still am – which probably explains my attraction to them.

My earliest recollection of snipers is from a 1960s TV show called "Combat". (photo credit - fair use)

My earliest recollection of snipers is from a 1960s TV show called “Combat”. (photo credit – fair use)

There was a TV show called Combat with Vic Morrow as Sgt. Saunders and Rick Jason as Lt. Hanley. I remember one episode called “The Sniper”. The squad takes refuge in a French town after it was liberated and gets pinned down by a Nazi sniper. They can’t find him and Sgt. Saunders eventually figures out he’s been hiding in plain clothes in town.

Turns out the bad guy was abetted by Sgt. Saunders’ love interest. He eventually mows the sniper down with his Thompson sub-machine gun, after the girl gets sniped. She has a recognition and reversal and realizes she should have remained loyal to her homeland and dies in Sgt. Saunders’ arms. Combat always had good stories with war as a back drop.

From when I was young, I’ve always liked James Bond, some war movies – many have snipers as characters.

In no particular order, here are some sniper movies that came to mind. I’ve watched these many times. All of the video clips linked are graphic, so open them at your own risk.

I like movies where there are old guys teaching young guys, like in "spy Game" (photo credit - fair use)

I like movies where there are old guys teaching young guys, like in “Spy Game” (photo credit – fair use)

Spy Game – This is one of those two generational movies. Robert Redford plays a veteran CIA agent – Jason Muir – who recruits upstart sniper Brad Pitt – Tom Bishop – during the Vietnam War. He passes on all his spy wisdom to Pitt who is a bit of a renegade and ends up  imprisoned in China after a botched attempt to rescue his girlfriend who was aiding the bad guys in the Middle East in exchange for money to keep her NGO going. Robert Redford is retiring and the double entendre story has Redford giving his exit interview with his bosses while using CIA resources to spring Pitt and the girlfriend from prison. Bishop and Muir were both better loners than team players.

Jean Reno reluctantly teaches young Natalie Portman the assassin trade in "The Professional" (photo credit - fair use)

Jean Reno reluctantly teaches young Natalie Portman the assassin trade in “The Professional” (photo credit – fair use)

The Professional – This is an odd movie with Jean Reno as Leon, the assassin, and a 12 year old orphan named Matilda played by Natalie Portman. In one scene, Leon gives Matilda a sniper lesson teaching her how to follow a target with a high powered rifle. I think this scene is only in the director’s cut. I don’t remember it when it was on TV the other night.

Matilda wants to learn the ways of an assassin to avenge the death of her brother. Gary Oldman plays a rogue cop addicted to meth trying to foil Leon and Matilda.

It’s a different kind of love story and when the two aren’t blowing stuff up, the two get to know each other like father and daughter as well as partners in crime.

Classic 1972 yarn about a plot to kill de Gaulle. (photo credit - fair use)

Classic 1972 yarn about a plot to kill de Gaulle. (photo credit – fair use)

The Day of the Jackal – The original has Edward Fox playing an assassin who is hired to kill French President Charles de Gaulle in the 1960s. The Jackal ends up getting a clean shot at de Gaulle, but misses. He’s noticed by the French police who kill him.

Fox also became a staple in couple of my favorite war movies A Bridge Too Far which was written by my favorite screen screenwriter William Goldman and in Force 10 from Navarone, the sequel to The Guns of Navarone.

There was a remake called The Jackal with Bruce Willis as the bad guy who is being chased by Richard Gere. The new version doesn’t have much similar to the original. Both versions are on cable TV. I catch parts of them when channel surfing.

Andrew Robinson plays a creepy bad guy called Scorpio in "Dirty Harry" (photo credit - fair use)

Andrew Robinson plays a creepy bad guy called Scorpio in “Dirty Harry” (photo credit – fair use)

Dirty Harry – This was the first installment of Clint Eastwood’s portrayal of San Francisco detective of questionable ethics Harry Callahan. It came out the year I graduated from high school in 1971. The psycho bad guy is a sniper called Scorpio played by Andrew Robinson. He was type cast after his Scorpio role. Towards the beginning of the movie, a San Francisco police helicopter catches up to him on a rooftop aiming on some unsuspecting targets. He leaves notes at each crime scene demanding $100,000 from the city government or he’ll keep killing random citizens ($100,000? why bother!?) He and Callahan have a final shoot out in a rock quarry when the infamous line “Do I feel lucky” is uttered. Scorpio was a Vietnam vet who came home and was a victim of PTSD and mistreatment when he came back stateside causing him to go berserk. This veteran stereotype probably wouldn’t go over very well today.

Eastwood also directed American Sniper. I wonder if he had any throwbacks to his original Dirty Harry role and Scorpio.

Back when I was a kid, playing war was a part of goofing around in my suburban neighborhood in Cheyenne, Wyoming. I still don’t think that there was anything odd about my pals and me dressing up like WWII soldiers and digging fox holes in the vacant fields behind the subdivision. It was a big treat to browse around the Sergeant’s Surplus store for old canvas backpacks, dummy grenades and such.

I didn’t turn out to be that demented.

This socialization process was the norm back in those days. I owned lots of toy guns, including a Sgt. Saunders Tommy gun by Mattel and a Marx bazooka that shot these blue plastic rockets.

When we played, nobody wanted to be the sniper because that entailed being alone and we all would rather storm pretend machine gun nests.

This is why I think there has always been a fascination with the lone wolf sniper persona.

There are plenty of other movies from Rambo to the Hurt Locker that include snipers in them. I’ve heard that American Sniper is very graphic. My guess is that any gore is left up to the imagination. I can’t see director Eastwood going over the top with any of that.

American Sniper will be on demand soon, I’ll likely live the life of Chris Kyle vicariously on the small screen.

Modern health care: mixing folk cures and medical apps

I just reenrolled with Kaiser Permanente as my insurance provider for 2015.

I just reenrolled with Kaiser Permanente as my insurance provider for 2015.

As has happened to me on an annual basis for the past 20 years or so, Kaiser Permanente (KP) cancelled my health insurance coverage on December 31. I call it cancelled, insurance companies call. the new iteration new and improved.

I’ve always had the choice to either re-up with the same policy and pay more or get a lesser policy to keep the premium about the same.

I’m sticking with KP – brand loyalty.

Over the past year, I’ve been melding old world medicine in the forms of acupuncture at the Southwest Acupuncture College Clinic for my lung problems, neti pot flushing to rinse out my sinuses, gin soaked raisins for joint pain; with modern medicine through KP.

I've been melding old world medicine like acupuncture with modern medicine.

I’ve been melding old world medicine like acupuncture with modern medicine.

The reason I’ve stayed with KP over the years is the HMO is one-stop shopping. I’ve had the same primary care doctor for many years and access to others in his group over at the Baseline office.

The main downside is the hospital and emergency services are located 15 miles away at the Good Samaritan Hospital. That was a big hassle when I was laid up early in 2014.

Anyway, there was a NPR radio segment on “Science Friday” yesterday about how smartphone apps are changing how health care is accessed.

That’s been very handy for me.

The Kaiser Permanente smartphone app is very handy for keeping track of my health.

The Kaiser Permanente smartphone app is very handy for keeping track of my health.

I use the KP app on the phone which is the same user inner face as the computer. I can access my health records, write to my docs. On the computer I can make and cancel appointments.

The best part is being able to communicate by email with my doctors. Over the past year, I’ve developed a long list of them from the main doctor, to surgeons to rheumatologists, to pulmonologists. They’re all pretty good at writing back and that saves on co-pays and trips to their offices.

It’s amazing what they can tell from blood tests.

In addition to keeping track with the app, I’ve been able to combine old world and new world medicine together successfully. I downloaded my health record and put it in my acupuncture health file. That’s been useful since the herbalists there are able to see how my regular doctors have been treating me and can suggest acupuncture and herbal alternatives. KP offers acupuncture, but its clinic is pretty far to the east of me so I haven’t tried it.

There are also phone apps for acupuncture meridians.

There are also phone apps for acupuncture meridians.

The Southwest Acupuncture College Clinic is a lot like an HMO. Based on a patient’s needs, there are a variety of practices offered from acupuncture – needles, moxabustion; body work – shiatsu, tuina, cupping; herbal medicine; pain management and combinations of those practices. I have a smartphone app about the acupuncture meridians.

I’ve heard about people who refuse to use modern medicine in favor of traditional remedies.

There’s a reason people used to die when they were 40.

There’s room for both approaches in the same treatments. My post herpetic neuralgia got better with acupuncture and electrical stimulation and blood letting. My Kaiser doc put me on prescription drug neurontin and the combo has been reducing the pain.

I've been trying some kitchen remedies like gin - infused raisins for joint pain.

I’ve been trying some kitchen remedies like gin – infused raisins for joint pain.

Lately, I’ve heard about soaking golden raisins in gin for joint pain and arthritis. I haven’t asked my medical docs about it, but will report to them if I find it effective.

I made up a batch and have been eating nine gin-infused raisins daily.

I’ll report back any changes in my stiff fingers battered up from sports abuse and autoimmunity. A couple of my friends have reported that the raisin – gin concoction was effective.

The Little Yoga Studio is, in fact little, but has a great welcoming environment for beginners to expert yoga practitioners.

The Little Yoga Studio is, in fact little, but has a great welcoming environment for beginners to expert yoga practitioners.

My Kaiser doc did recommend the Neil Med / Neti Pot. I bought the starter kit for a couple bucks at the pharmacy and it worked instantly for my sinus dripping / nonallergic rhinitis. I use it a couple times a day with a couple shots of the prescription flonase in the morning.

Did I mention I’ve been going class at the Little Yoga Studio two or three times a week?

My top stories from 2014: Mork, Gutless NFL, Soft on Commies, Homeland and ISIS, Blues blow it, and more …

My yoga teacher at The Little Yoga Studio told a story about why we should avoid New Years resolutions about making us perfect, since we are imperfect beings.

My yoga teacher at The Little Yoga Studio told a story about why we should avoid New Years resolutions about making us perfect, since we are imperfect beings.

When I was working in the newspaper business, at the end of the year, the staff sat around and came up with the top news stories. I was the sports editor and came up with the top sports stories. The yoga teacher the other day was talking about how none of us are perfect. Rather than striving for perfection with New Years resolutions, we should figure out ways to work within our imperfections to make life better for ourselves and for others.

Now that I’m an arm chair journalist, here are my top 10 picks mostly about the foibles of people and how they may have an impact on our daily lives, in no particular order:

The GOP took control of the Senate with Harry Reid leaving as President Pro - tem and Mitch McConnell on tap to take the job.

The GOP took control of the Senate with Harry Reid leaving as President Pro -tem and Mitch McConnell on tap to take the job. (Photo Fair Use)

Democrats blow midterms, lose US Senate – The biggest domestic story that happened was on election day when the GOP took control fo the US Senate. Harry Reid is out and Mitch McConnell is in as President Pro-tem. Politicians like these two guys are an odd lot. Neither wants to budge from their  extreme positions. I wonder if McConnell will soften up now that he’s in charge. It was a weird election – stock market strong, gas prices low, unemployment rate low. As near as I can figure, the Democrats blew it by not getting out the vote. This midterm election was decided by 36 percent of the electorate. It will be interesting to see how things change starting in January.

Ray Rice, Janay Rice

Washed up Baltimore Ravens running back had a roller coaster ride after slugging his wife and getting away with it for a while until a movie surfaced of the bludgeoning.(Photo Fair Use)

NFL cuts DV perps slack – Having worked in the domestic violence prevention field for a number of years, I was intrigued by how incompetent the National Football League was in dealing with the Ray Rice issue. His domestic violence proclivity brought the issue to light in big time sports. Whether or not there will be any long lasting changes, we’ll have to wait and see. I have a MPA degree from CU – Denver in domestic violence prevention. One of my thesis advisors, National Coalition Against Domestic Violence Executive Director Rita Smith is a member of the NFL advisory group. So far, the issue has become irrelevant with the playoffs on the horizon. Ray Rice still doesn’t have a job and unlikely to get one.

mr november

I was in Yankee Stadium when Derek Jeter was dubbed Mr. November during the 2001 World Series against the Arizona Diamondbacks. (Photo Fair Use)

Jeter calls it a career –  He hung up his spikes after 19 years in pinstripes. This is the best “feel good” story of the 10 I picked. I think Jeter is truly a good guy. Playing shortstop for the Yankees was always my dream job, but it was always taken. I had a chance to watch him play a few times when the Yankees played the Colorado Rockies and in the 2001 World Series. It was scheduled later in October than usual because of the 9/11 attacks in New York. I was at the game when he was dubbed “Mr. November” after he hit a game winning home run to knot the series against the Arizona Diamondbacks at two games apiece. Derek says he wants to settle down and have a family. I imagine he’ll be giving a lot back to the community, whether it’s in New York or his home town of Kalamazoo Michigan.

NBC reporter Nancy Snyderman was one of the biggest stories when she broke quarantine and went to a coffee shop in her neighborhood and got caught.

NBC reporter Nancy Snyderman was one of the biggest stories when she broke quarantine and went to a coffee shop in her neighborhood and got caught. (Photo Fair Use)

Ebola non-story keeps voters at home – A couple of the cable TV stations had a heyday with a few people getting sick from ebola. You would have thought that ebola was spreading like weeds. When the election was over, suddenly, the US ebola epidemic was over – four cases, one death. Contrast that with the 30 pediatric flu deaths as of September 2014 and 36 states reporting widespread flu occurrences as December 20th.  Cable TV was also airing that Dustin Hoffman – Renee Russo movie “Outbreak” during this time period, just to get us all in the worst possible scenario mood. I hope people look at stories holistically, rather than in a reactionary fashion.

There was a big to do about "The Interview" which was reportedly the reason Sony's internet security was breached.

There was a big to do about “The Interview” which was reportedly the reason Sony’s internet security was breached. (Photo Fair Use)

Sony hacked, sets up “The Interview” publicity stunt – Everyone pretty much knows about the Sony hack job that’s been reported in the popular media. The FBI is still blaming North Korea because of the James Franco – Seth Rogen movie, “The Interview” about the assassination plot of the Kim Jung Un. Turns out, it may have been an opportune publicity stunt riding the wave of an inside Sony hack job by a band of disgruntled employees. Nonetheless, reading the private emails between angst – filled studio execs was quite revealing and entertaining. I’m planning a watch “The Interview” party on January 6th. Moral of this story is, don’t write down stuff you don’t others to see in emails.

A man backs away as law enforcement officials close in on him and eventually detain him during protests over the death of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager killed by a police officer, in Ferguson, Mo.

Ominous US Army surplus riot gear supposedly added to the schism between citizens and cops in Ferguson, MO (Photo Fair Use)

“Stand Up Don’t Shoot” “I Can’t Breathe” movement needs closers – This is another story that everyone must have heard a little something about. There is definitely more awareness about the “us versus them” mentality that is evident in at least some police departments. The unarmed black kid shot by a white cop in a suburb of St. Louis and riots and protests ensued around the country. I’m not sure where it all will be headed, but protesting and tossing cars will soon become old hat. The “Hands Up Don’t Shoot” movement needs some closers. Also on the shirt tail of this shooting is that of the band of cops who strangled a guy selling loosey cigarettes on a New York City sidewalk. That added fuel to the fire. I hope this movement doesn’t end up like Occupy.

The Showtime cable series "Homeland" has brought ISIS into the living room. Carrie picks off snipers.

The Showtime cable series “Homeland” has brought ISIS into the living room. Carrie picks off snipers.

“Homeland” CIA crew fights ISIS in our living rooms – I’m a big “Homeland” fan. That’s the cable TV series on Showtime that just wrapped it’s fourth season. Homeland’s Carrie – who has been dealing with bipolar illness – somehow keeps afloat in a very high stress job. She and former CIA director Saul have normalized the US fight against ISIS and brought it into our living rooms. The last three episodes were about ineptitude in the US Embassy. In real life, the Islamic State, as near as I can figure is quite enterprising. They raise millions in cash from family oil fortunes; revenues from their own oil fields; contraband in the forms of drugs and stolen ancient artifacts. The US pulled out of Afghanistan, just in time to keep soldiers employed as the US re-escalates in Iraq and Syria. I can’t wait for the next season of “Homeland” to air next summer! I’m not quite sure what to think about the war with ISIS. It’s seems like another non-starter and a no-win situation. The US has less at stake since domestic fuel production is at an all time high.

The Mork and Mindy house in Boulder was turned into a shrine for the late Robin Williams.

The Mork and Mindy house in Boulder was turned into a shrine for the late Robin Williams. (Photo Fair Use)

Mork from Ork leaves this world – Around Boulder, this was a pretty big story since his 1970s classic sitcom “Mork and Mindy” was set in Boulder during the 1970s. He committed suicide, which is always too bad but he must have been fighting off demons. I don’t think he spent much time in Boulder during the series. Based on the tributes placed at the Boulder TV house, you’d think he flew in from Ork and lived in Boulder his entire alien life. I must admit that I made a pilgrimage to the Mork and Mindy house this summer – Nanu Nanu …! He could have been so much more prolific. If you feel like you need help for a mental illness, get to the doctor.

Air Asia and Malaysian Airlines were at the center of three air disasters this year. (Photo Fair Use)

Air Asia and Malaysian Airlines were at the center of three air disasters this year. (Photo Fair Use)

Asia-based airlines go down in flames with three disasters  – It wasn’t a great year for Asia – based airlines. This week, Air Asia flight 8501 was lost and the remains found in the Java Sea with no survivors of the 162 passengers on board . Malaysian Airlines 370 dropped off the radar screen and vanished with 239 passengers. The Malaysian transportation minister tried to stonewall the story but finally came around and said that no wreckage had been found. On top of that, Malaysian Airlines 17 carrying 298 passengers was shot down over the Ukraine by separatist renegades. These crashes certainly are not everyday occurrences, but give me a train ride any day!

President Obama and Pope Frances were involved in negotiations with Raul Castro to normal relations with Cuba. (Photo Fair Use)

President Obama and Pope Frances were involved in negotiations with Raul Castro to normal relations with Cuba. (Photo Fair Use)

Obama and Pope soft on the Cuban commies – This story just came out of nowhere, even though it was in the making for several months and included intervention by Pope Francis. President Obama announced that the full diplomatic relations would be renewed with the Raul Castro regime and that an American Embassy would be opened in Havana.

The Cuban baseball player market will be open with normalized relations between Cuba and the US. Sal Maglie played for a Cuban baseball team

The Cuban baseball player market will be open with normalized relations between Cuba and the US. Sal Maglie played for a Cuban baseball team.

The Cuban baseball player market will be open with normalized relations between Cuba and the US. There are a bunch of people who think this is a bad idea since they have been working on getting the government to change its tactics. The recent announcement, put the kibosh on their efforts.

The biggest benefit I see is baseball players won’t have to defect or risk drowning at sea in make-shift rafts. I went to visit family in Peru and flew on AeroPeru. The plane made a late night stop in Havana, not enough time to get off the plane, but I count that as being in Cuba.

The Little Yoga Studio is, in fact little, buck has a great welcoming environment for beginners to expert yoga practitioners.

The Little Yoga Studio is, in fact little, buck has a great welcoming environment for beginners to expert yoga practitioners. I like this place because of  the stories.

There are many more stories, but these are 10 I picked out as significant in 2014.

I picked stories mostly about people with flaws and I hope that we can learn from their stories.

My life in 2014 really wasn’t that memorable, but if you had some great experiences, good or bad I hope they will help inform your decisions and choices in 2015.

 

 

O’Hashi O’Holiday soups – O’Zoni and O’Yster Stew Redux – 2015

Christmas Eve with spiked eggnog and oyster stew.

Christmas Eve at the Hunter’s with spiked eggnog and oyster stew.

Christmas Eve got away from me. By the time I got around to getting to the store it was after a party in Longmont. Turned out that the only place open after 7pm was Target.

These days, I mostly get practical stuff for Christmas – laundry soap, floss, toothpaste, contact lens solution.

As for the 2015 Christmas Eve oyster stew, I had to settle but the concoction was good, not great.

In the recipe below that I wrote about in 2014 substitute canned for bottled oysters. 

Since my parents died, I’ve been having to retool my December holidays.  We used to have a standing rib roast with all the trimmings on Christmas Eve.

On New Years Day, my grandparents were the focus and they always had a big spread of American food like turkey, ham, yams and Japanese-type food like sushi, abalone salad, tempura shrimp and veggies.

Can you still get Bisquick?

New Years Day morning, my dad always would have cooked a Japanese soup called ozoni. It varied from year to year, but generally it had a fish base (dashi) with napa cabbage and this fish cake stuff called kamaboko. Sometimes he would cook up a chicken soup. In any case, there would be a couple mochi (pounded rice into globs).

New Years Day, in front of the Boulder courthouse on Pearl Street, some Japanese guys who work over at the Sushi Zanmai restaurant, bring rice and big wooden mortars and pestles and pound rice into gooey mochi and serve it to the onlookers with a bowl of miso soup.

mochi pounding 2009

Mochi pounding on the Pearl Street Mall in 2009. I haven’t been able to find if it’s happening this year.

I just read that Sushi Zanmai cancelled the mochitsuki event due to cold and snow. Maybe it will be rescheduled. Here’s a picture from the mochi pounding back in 2009

My Japanesish tradition now isn’t really a tradition, since I make a variety of soups from Christmas to New Year and add in a couple mochi cakes with each serving.

New Year Ozoni I’m making this year a kind of “surf and turf” soup with chicken and shrimp.

Alan's Ozoni

Add a mochi cake and kamaboko slices just before serving, otherwise the mochi can disintegrate in the hot soup and the kamaboko gets discolored by the broth.

You’ll need this stuff:
8 oz of fresh or frozen peeled and deveined shrimp (I use the frozen ones in a bag)
12 oz of skinless and boneless chicken cut into bite – size pieces
4 cups chicken broth (this time around, I have a couple cubes of bouillon)
2 cups of water
8 mushrooms quartered up
1/2 cup diagonally cut celery
8 oz bean sprouts (snip off the bean head part, otherwise it will turn the broth dark brown / black)
1/4 cup diagonally cut carrot (I’m not much of an orange food eater)
1/2 green pepper chopped up
2 mochi cakes / bowl (I use frozen mochi from the Asian market)
4 green onions chopped up in 1 inch pieces
2 tbs soy sauce
pepper to taste

This is how you make it:

It is best served piping hot.

It is best served piping hot.

1. Thaw out the shrimp, if frozen. Rinse shrimp, pat dry and set aside. Spray PAM (I use vegetable oil) onto a 4 qt Dutch oven or other larger pot and preheat over medium heat. Add the diced up chicken and cook until no longer pink

2. Add the chicken broth and water to the pot. Bring to a boil. Add the shrimp, bean sprouts, mushrooms, celery, green onions and soy sauce. Return to a boiling; reduce heat until shrimp are done and vegetables tender.

3. Get the mochi ready. If it’s frozen, thaw it out either ahead of time or in the microwave. Mochi can be purchased quasi-fresh in refrigerated form. There’s also fine rice flour called Mochiko that can be pounded into mochi, less ceremoniously in the privacy of the kitchen.

4. Serve the soup and add a couple mochi globs on top of the soup and serve. Take some pix and let us all know how your ozoni turned out and have a Happy New Year.

The Silver Sage Village community, where I live, is having a New Years Eve thing at which everyone reminisces their pasts. My job is to set up the record player and get it to play through the sound system in the TV room. We’re spinning some discs from the past.

It should be fun for all us Baby Boomers.

As for Christmas, the last three years, I started making oyster stew. Apparently, it’s a tradition that throws back to Italians, Catholics and seven fishes.

Last year, I had all the ingredients in the fridge, which aren’t many, but I landed in the hospital and physical rehab for six weeks and didn’t get around to it until Super Sunday.

When I got out of the hospital, part of my occupational therapy was getting stuff out of the cupboards and refrigerator. It was quite a chore to grab and lift a gallon of milk, but I managed.

I tried making the stew and found out that oysters have a shelf life. They were totally disintegrated when they were cooked. It was more of an oyster puree That was on Super Bowl weekend.

This year – 2014, I bought the ingredients fresh.

Christmas Eve Oyster Stew turned out much better. Here’s the gluten – free recipe I used:

You’ll need this stuff:
3 cups milk
1 cup half and half
1/4 white onion
2 stalks of celery
four cloves garlic (more or less to taste)
one bottle oysters
4 tbs butter
salt, pepper (to taste)
parsley (optional, its for color)

This is how you make it:
1. Melt the butter in a pan or pot over medium – high heat; stir in the minced up garlic, finely chopped onion and celery; cook until soft (5 or 6 minutes).

Oyster stew on Christmas Eve.

Oyster stew on Christmas Eve.

Slowly add the milk and half – and – half stirring constantly; stir in the salt, pepper and parsley.

Reduce heat to medium until the mixture bubbles.

2. Add the oysters and the liquid from the bottle; cook until the edge of the oysters curl.

3. Easy Peasy – take a picture and tell how guests liked your version.

Oysters – raw or cooked – are an acquired taste. My mom made oysters by deep frying them and serving them with lemon and soy sauce on the side. I learned about oysters at an early age and have eaten them ever since.

No matter what your December holiday and New Year traditions and memories may be, I hope they are memorable ones.