Mugology: Easing Back into the Classroom

Returning higher education after an absence of over three decades – even when retirement allows me to focus on my studies – demands a  gradual approach. Collegiate study skills are muscles, and atrophy after too many years languishing in the workplace. Dive into a college classroom alongside students fresh from a dozen consecutive years of study, and you are going to be outclassed, and possibly overwhelmed.

I’ve decided to start easing back into the pool with lectures, enrichment style, courtesy of the wonderful folks at The Learning Company, who publish a series of university-level courses aimed at geezers like me under The Great Courses brand. I have now been through a good half-dozen of these, just listening, and I can feel the study-muscles starting to twitch. My next step: taking notes. The step after that: scheduling 3 per week. Finally, I’ll be taking notes, doing three per week, and completing the recommended reading.

By that point, I figure I should be ready to go back to the classroom. Hopefully, that will happen sometime this coming year.

But this post was about a coffee mug, one they sent to me recently, perhaps in recognition of the fact that I’ve purchased so many of their courses.

Camp Santa

Opening the holiday greetings a few years ago, I was pleased to find a card from the Ventura County Council. I work with the team there rather a lot, and they are dedicated, caring, and inspiring.

Enclosed was this gift, a little blessing to a patch collector like myself: a limited edition council-specific patch with the Council’s legendary summer camp, Three Falls, with a visitation by Mr. Claus and his personal herd of Rangifer tarandus. This one will not find its way to eBay: it’s a keeper.

Merry Xmas, Happy Kwanzaa, Good Festivus, and a belated chag sameach to all, and to all a Happy New  Year.

Mugology: Got Kicks?

Item #232 on my Bucket List is a trip on Route 66 from Michigan Drive in downtown Chicago to the pier in Santa Monica, sticking as closely as possible to the original routing.

Clearly, this is a drive I will not be taking in Winter.

I reckon it is still a year or two off. I am staying off the road until the nation has worked out its collective post-COVID cabin-fever. You don’t take a road trip to find yourself in traffic, and since I am now in a position to travel mid-week and off season, I am dodging all of that.

In the meantime, I have my mug.

Mugology: Three Great Tastes

Inspired by this huge cup, picked up at the Hershey store in Las Vegas, I am now officially hunting down Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup coffee.

Yeah, it will probably be gross, but I’m willing to risk it.

Patchology: Saddleback Butte

As the Summer turns to fall, the shores turn chill and the hillsides to tinder, the eyes of the camper (and Scoutmaster) turn toward the desert. October through March is prime camping time in California’s arid regions. Days are comfortable, nights are chilly but not arctic, and enough animals are active during the day to make hiking more than a long walk.

One of my favorite places in the desert is Saddleback Butte State Park, a modest, Joshua Tree-girt peak located in the heart of a triangle between Palmdale, Victorville, and Edwards Air Force Base. The campsites are mostly primitive, but there are toilets and showers, making extended stays possible.

I have been twice, and only on the last trip – in early 2020 – was I in the kind of shape to take on the crest of the Butte. It’s about a 1,200′ rise in about 4 miles, but the altitude is enough to tucker someone in poor shape, and the last 100 feet is a scramble not far from some fairly sheer cliffs. Summiting this modest promontory was more satisfying that I had imagined it would be, and vistas from Palmdale to east to Victorville and Edwards south to the ridges behind Wrigtwood on a bright and clear day were a huge payoff. I only regret not having taking better pictures.

I rewarded myself and my scouts with the above patch, purchased from the park gift shop in a trailer at the north end of the park, just as I had watched my predecessor do on our last trip.

This will go on a brag rag of some sort, either a blanket or a shirt. Either way, it is a favorite. I hope to go back soon: the campground is a delight and worth the drive.

Mugology: Zona Dreams

I picked up this little fellow in a tiny shop in Williams, Arizona while waiting to go in for dinner at the Red Raven. It’s cheesy, but it reminds me that I’ll live there again one day, when the fires, mudslides, quakes, crowds, taxes, and cost of living all get to be too much.

Patchology: Presidential Champion

Back in July I talked about how important the President’s Challenge and the Presidential Active Lifestyle Award (PALA) were to me changing my thinking and my lifestyle, to getting me off my ass, off of fast food, and onto a much better life.

After earning the PALA four times, I decided to take on a much tougher challenge, the Presidential Champions Award. I managed to make it to the Bronze Award finally in 2016 year, and was starting work on Silver when the program was terminated in August 2017 by a President for whom “fitness” was, apparently, a four-letter word. 

So I am doubly proud of this award, which is the highest recognition that I have received for any physical activity since I was in High School. It took me the better part of a year to complete the requirements, and by the time I had completed it, fitness had become a part of my life, rather than something that intimidated me.

My GeekWatch

Of all of the watches that I can afford, this one remains my favorite. I’m now on my third Casio ProTrek. No, they’re not legacy watches: they last about ten years or so, even with regular service. But the last one I owned I literally wore everywhere, including some shallow scuba dives, and it only needed service when I took it below 20 meters too many times. They’re solar-charged, glow in the dark, are lightweight and tough as hell.

Don’t tell my wife this, but I’ve never been a Swiss luxury watch kind of guy, and the Apple Watch just seems like overkill. Between my Casio ProTrek and my Garmin Fenix3, I’ve got all of the timepieces I’ll ever need: geek watches for the trip, trail, and workshop.

 

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