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#37: If you’re going less than a mile, walk or cycle. About half of car journeys are under two miles, yet these create more pollution than longer journeys as the engine isn’t warmed up yet.

Bless the hearts of the ones who wrote this one. You see their point: quit driving all the time and walk when you can to cut down on pollution. Walking is also good for the body and mind. The benefit/costs ratio of walking vs. driving depends a great deal on context. I live about a mile from a shopping district in which lies the grocery store, the bagel store, and the pizza parlor. There is also a Target and an AMC theatre. It may as well be on the moon. Phoenix isn’t designed for pedestrians. From May to September the temperatures hit highs well above 40C (over 100F). Walking saves gas and cuts down on air pollution but it risks one dropping from dehydration and heat exhaustion. A friend from Chicago once came for a visit. He lives downtown where there is no need for a car given the “L” and all things within walking distance. He thinks nothing of walking a mile so he walked to said mall a couple of times while he was in town. He told me during his strolls people in cars would stop to ask him if he was all right and even offer him a ride.

I live near by an elementary school and as far as I can tell no children walks to school but they are all dropped off and picked up by mothers in large vehicles. The heat is a factor, probably but I surmise there is an element of fear that their child will be abducted, picked up by illegal aliens or drag queens or other evil beings. Perhaps there is peer pressure too. A mother who lets her children walk to school will be judged as negligent so she drives the kiddies three blocks out of vanity what will the neighbors think.*

People do the most convenient thing that is in front of them. If the stairs are ‘right there’ they will be used rather than the lift. If it is easier to drive than walk people will drive.. I would gladly take the bus and the train if they weren’t so far away and inconvenient to use.**

I don’t see myself walking to the mall particularly as I am going there to shop for groceries and that’s not easy to lug home. I try to keep my outings by vehicle to a minimum and ‘bundled’ into several stops. I may feel different if and when I get an electric car, then I won’t feel as guilty for driving a mile. Maybe no doubt the 100 ways editors will find something faulty about that in time.

Do you live somewhere where walking is feasible or are you obliged to motor everywhere?

*I once heard of a mother getting to trouble for allowing her daughter to walk to school. The police picked the kid up and the mother reported to DCFS. I don’t remember if she was imprisoned.

**The nearest Amtrak station is 2-3 hours away in Flagstaff, and it is notoriously not on time. By the time I get to the train and board it etc. I could have gotten to my destination in less time – and I have a car too.

Spo-fans occasionally write comments criticizing The Board of Directors Here at Spo-Reflections as a bunch of oafs. It cannot be denied. Regardless, I feel a need to defend these demented Danes, for they aren’t all bad. Indeed they are a source of vitality for me. I would go so far as they are a necessity for my Psyche. They are my foil, my lancers, my Shadow side. True, they are a boisterous bunch who seldom wash and they have truculent tempers of Trumpsters. On paper they are precisely not the type of folks I would want to hang with. Their lack of interest in personal growth (or personal hygiene) combined with Groupthink is challenging. At their meetings and in their cups they resemble a GOP rally minus its charms. However they keep me on my toes and provide vitality (and weaponry) that is so often void in my dull Midwest mentality.

While they continually threaten bodily harm and ‘action plans’ that rival anything The Krampus does, in all my blogging years they have never once followed through on their threats.* When I ask for things like a new laptop or office space they bellow there’s no room and no Danegeld blah blah blah but they always put out. They are dears; please don’t feed them buns and things.

If I portray them at times in a harsh light they remonstrate like my family and Someone I am embellishing the facts for the sake of entertainment. In my defense there is nothing true about any of this so one or two small evocations aren’t too bad.

For a full and vital Psyche one must recognize The Shadow and come to some agreement with it. You can’t kill Shadow nor exorcise it. To try otherwise is folly. Better to be plugged into it with eyes open for bon viveur. Would I have a more refined Shadow representatives with better dentition! But there it is and there they are and we are stuck with each other for good and bad. The annual renewal of my contract is pure ceremony. They would no sooner dump me than their favorite broadswords. And I don’t want to ditch them either. I just remember not to use words with more than three syllables in memos at the monthly meetings and to wash everything when I return from the potlucks.

*The Furies (or someone like them) remind me in 2017 during a particularly rough weekend spiritual retreat I was hung by my ankles from Heorot Johnsons I and was forced to listen to The Poetic Eddas (in E-flat) until I cheered up. The Board of Directors Here at Spo-reflections later sent an email with that rare thing: an apology. It wasn’t about the hanging per se (which they defended as well-deserved) but for the singing which was off-key. But it was something.

Hugh (the dear!) has periodic writing exercises he gives to the Hugh-acolytes. These are jolly good fun and the results are splendid reading. Alas, Babylon! I usually get wind of one days after it is proposed so I don’t participate (worse luck!). However, yesterday I dropped by his place to discover a fresh one had been posted and I was head of the line. The proposal: write a 99 word story about optimism. I am not good at writing short stories, at least on the run. As I started to write my entry The Muses or somebody like them quickly departed leaving me with nothing. perhaps because I am not an optimistic person. It’s like asking a Polynesian to write about icebergs. Although my attempt to write a story of optimism was a flop The Muses took me by the nose into a Spo-reflection on optimism. Hopefully Hugh isn’t as punitive as The Board of Directors Here at Spo-reflections when it comes to failures of contractual obligations. Spo.

I don’t know many people who say they are optimists. I grew up optimistic that things will work out for the best. This Panglossian approach came crashing down in the late 80s in my internship. A depression developed from the shock. Since then I’ve seen the country and world devolve in directions I naifly thought not possible or at least not here in the states and I don’t see things getting any better. I am fairly certain The Rotten Orange will be re-elected and democracy as we know it will end. I don’t see Someone and I surviving to see retirement and even if we do we won’t have the money or health to enjoy it and by then the world will be as rotten as The Trump party that reigns over the wreckage. I am not sure if this is pessimism or realism – perhaps they are the same thing. Whatever it is, it is not optimism. My inner-Mrs. Danvers whispers to give up.

But I don’t give up. Like The Ones who walk away from Omelas, I keep going, uncertain where I am going but determined to do so. Stoicism replaced optimism in my soul and this is a comfort. The Stoics didn’t take truck with optimism – they knew better. Behind every mountain is another mountain. They had the belief despite what happens you get through it. Life is a series of bad and nasty events yet you muddle through them somehow. In my life I’ve had a half-dozen personal Armageddons so I recognize one when it happens to me. I got through all of them and chances are I will get through the next one. I suppose this is a sort of optimism but if it is it feels more correct than life will be a field knee-deep in buttercups and daisies.

Despite it all I still carry within me Hope. This intrepid fairy from the bottom of the Pandora box of woes refuses to give up and go away even when I am swatting her like a fly. Something mawkish like a brilliant sun rise or a good deed done in a dark world makes her spring up quick and eternal, shining light and emotion of a suppressed smile waiting to be born. This feels good. She doesn’t stay but she always returns.

I like this version of optimism: realism combined with stoicism with Hope as its foundation. Life won’t be jolly but we survive its disappointments and matters without cracking up or need for becoming cynical. Life can have meaning despite its letdowns. I will be optimistic this will be so.

Patience above! My favorite pasta producer Daniel Pashman has come out with new shapes of pasta! This is bad timing for I am trying to lay off carbs for awhile. These lovelies will have to wait for awhile.

Urs Truly loves pasta and not just any but proper pasta, no rubbish types. I am bored with the usual ho-hum shapes like spaghetti, linguine, and ziti (oh the horror).Those are good in a pinch and I would never say ‘no’ to any pasta but I like the atypical types. What I look for in a pasta shape are Mr. Pashman’s four criteria:

“Forkability”: how well does the shape stay on a fork.

“Tooth feel”: how satisfying is the sensation to bite down on the thing

“Sauce-friendly”: does the shape hold onto the sauce well.


It’s jolly good fun!

About two years ago this fine fellow (suspected to be well over four feet) decided to invent a new shape of pasta, trying to capture all four of those elements. He was up against great impediments. He would have to get a pasta producer to try his design and do so during the pandemic. It would have to compete against established shapes and pasta snobs.* He invented a shape cascetelli (as in cascade). To his credit it was a great success. I’ve had some and it does meet the four mentioned criteria. During the pandemic I bought a bunch of boxes of the stuff and ate them with relish.

But Mr. Pashman is not one to rest on his rigatoni. He didn’t make new ones but scoured Italy for some rare or out-of-use shapes to ‘reinvent’ them adding a few touches. He recently came up with these two:


Inspired by Mt. Vesuvius where the pasta originates, he gave it a bit more twist and added ridges (for your pleasure). I think this one looks great to use in Mac and Cheese dishes. One of my brothers says it looks like a swirl of soft-serve ice cream while another brother sees it as the ‘poop emoji’. That’s a picture!


This looks one like four bits of bucatini around a hollow tube, just perfect for holding onto sauces. I bet it bites well too.

Someone has asked courteously I leash my pasta lust and not buy a closet-full of either, so I won’t. I don’t want all those carbs (at least for now) and it isn’t something I can do on the sly and hope he won’t notice that pantry is up to its oxters in pasta.

As for more traditional shapes I enjoy the following:


These bad boys have some ridges (for my pleasure) and stay on the fork and feel good to the bite as well and on top of that they have a funny name that translates into “priest chockers”. The story goes once upon a time some gluttonous pastors ate this pasta and choked to death. This is a nasty story and hopefully not true but it reminds one not to eat too much or too quickly, for chocking on a priest is not good.**

If I am going to eat long pasta I like bucatini as it has some ‘bite’ to it. It feels more satisfactory to bite than bland and boring spaghetti. I won’t eat Tagliatelle given my training in biology/parasitology. This long ribbon pasta is quite unappetizing in its associations. Enough said.

What pasta shapes to you use and like?

Do you have any fixed rules what goes with what?

*You’ve heard of ‘The Grammar Police’? Well there is a group I call “The Pasta Police” and they are far more judgmental. Woe to the cook who serves the ‘wrong’ pasta in the cooking. I’ve seen card carrying members of the PP raise a huge fuss seeing what they believe is improper matches. When questioned what’s the matter they often say ‘it just is” rather than provide any logic. In their defense there is a genernal recommendation to serve thin pasta types with lighter sauces and heavier/chunky pastas types with heaver sauces. All the same I think it quite rude to tell another what you are eating isn’t right or doesn’t work.

**I will let myself out.

The Board of Director Here at Spo-reflections sent an email of remonstrance stating they are tired of ‘W things’ and they are not interested in slightly improving their lives in any way (except wealth) and to ‘get on with it’ meaning write something more ‘entertaining’. Their tastes in entertainment resembles something found in a Roman arena. One of them (Sven I believe) recently discovered the wit of Oscar Wilde (patience above!) and he is entertaining the members at the weekly board meetings with his wit, boring the tunics off them. I suspect most of what’s said is lost on them. Their usual response to something not understood is not to ask for clarification but throw punches. Oh the pain.

I recently learned a Jedi-mind trick I’ve found useful at work for dealing with the no-shows. It is based on a restaurant that was losing money from folks making dinner reservations and failing to show up or calling to cancel. The lady in charge of making reservations would end the phone calls with ‘please call if you cannot make it and need to cancel”. This was changed to ‘will you promise to call if you cannot make it in and need to cancel?” Seldom does a person say ‘no, I won’t” to this. There is often a pause with a grudgingly provided ‘yes’. This cut down on the no-shows by 60%. People are less likely to bail if they feel they have given their word of commitment. I am applying this to patients who are slippery as catfish in Vaseline to get them to do what we agreed upon. “Will you promise to return in a month’s time that I may hear how you are doing?” or ‘can I get your word you will do what you just said?” I just started this and will be curious to see if this improves adherence to treatment recommendations.

I was raised your word was a good a signing a contract in blood and spit and it was unmanly and a disgrace to break your promise. If you had to back down, you told the person straight up and gave a ‘why’ and what else can be done in place of the broken promise. The notion of promise = certainty = honor so engrained that I am not one to give out promises glibly. I don’t make a lot of promises*. I might say I cannot promise that but I will do (fill in the blank) or at least try and I will get back to you if this isn’t working out.

On the other hand is my hummingbird brain that often forgets things which looks like breaking a promise but isn’t although both result in the same outcome viz. I didn’t do what I said I would. This happens at home when Someone asks me to do “X” and I don’t listen carefully and later he asks did I do “X” and no I forgot and there are ructions. This faux pas is less when I stop and repeat what’s being asked and I write it down or set a note to myself. He hasn’t gone so far as to apply the ‘will you promise me/give your word’ approach – which is a good idea.

There is the philosophical debate what does one do when you promise something but the circumstances change to make the promise a bad thing? I know a lot of people who are miserable in their marriages but still in it as they made a promise to stay together through sickness and health even as the other is doing all sorts of outrage including domestic violence. Of course this is an extreme, but you get the point.

I am not so good about making and keeping promises to myself; I do better with others. I suspect most people are like this.

That’s all I got to say on the subject. I promised myself every night I would stretch, floss, brush, do Spanish lessons and read before bed so I am off to keep these promises. The world doesn’t end if I don’t but I sleep better for keeping my promise.

*Politicians who make promises and break them are especially noxious to me. When I am asked why I wouldn’t vote for The Rotten Orange, I can think of many reasons but the one that comes to mind most was his promise (made more than once) he wouldn’t play golf when elected he would be working – and he didn’t. “He’s a man who doesn’t keep his promises” said in the most somber tone.

What’s top of my mind: Exercise. I am back under the tutelage of The Personal Trainer. I do well with structure and discipline. As soon as I vow to get regular some wicked fairy pops up to thwart my attempts. After two weeks of false hopes and quiet gyms they are no packed with new year resolution types hogging the dumbbells and getting in the way. Stirges. Despite these impediments I am down a few kilos from the first of the month. Good.

Where I’ve been: Richardsons. This is a local restaurant to take the out-of-towners for the ambience and food captures the urtext of the Southwest. Travel Penguin and I had a good chinwag over enchiladas and margaritas, no rubbish types.

Where I’m going:  Home Depot. Another wicked fairy it thwarting my attempts to get to the Land of Orange Buckets to get some new filters. The ladder has been standing in the front hall since Christmas time waiting for us to replace the air filters. I hope to get there by this weekend. I don’t suppose Mr. Bezos can send some to us. He sends everything else doesn’t he?

What I’m watching: The temperatures. Patience above! It keeps nearly hitting 0 C making for gelid mornings and almost-as-cold offices. I got out a sweater which is helpful. I wear the same one so people at office will think I am fooling around after work.

What I’m reading:  Russian fairy tales. More fairies! The ones in The Yellow Fairy Book are rawther nasty that they severely punish bad girls who are all ugly that’s how you know they are bad. Funny how in this day and age it’s usually the beautiful ones who turn out to be the evil ones.

What I’m listening to:  The seashore. I miss being by water, mostly to hear the waves. I found a few seashore videos on The Tube of Yous and I put them on at work in the background to suggest we are not too far from the shore. I was playing ‘winter storms’ but this made the already chilled room feel colder.

What I’m eating: Asada burritos. This is my lunch of choice nowadays. They are high in protein and low in carbs and I eat them with relish and lots of lovely hot sauce.

Who needs a good slap: Thems on the 101 who drive quickly up behind me urging me to speed up despite me being in the far right land and going 5mph over the speed limit already who flash their lights and pass me in a rage to go around me as they drive off going at least 20mph over the speed limit.

On my 1-5 scale I give 3 slaps and a chill pill, wrapped in a cold cut.

Who gets a fist bump: The manager at Filibertos. I ordered an asada burrito only to be given a beans and rice burrito, which I didn’t find until I had taken a large bite out of it. When he called for me to pick up my real order I explained the error and my too-late-to-return-it status. He gave me the asada one anyway, which I will eat with relish on Thursday.

What I’m planning: Getting the monkey pox vaccine. I’ve delayed getting mine on the grounds of not really needing such and letting folks who need more than I be first in line as it were. With Palm Springs holiday in March I best now get mine.

What’s making me smile: Giving pills to Harper. Harper recently had a good check up other than she’s licking away the fur in one area which the vet thought may be a rash, so we are giving her some anti-itching pills. We’ve figured out how: first give her a rolled up cold cut sans pill (that means without) that sets the scene and then give her another one that has rolled up in it the pill. By the time she’s figured she’s been duped it’s too late to spit it out. Seeing her face go from euphoria to puzzlement to slight disgust brings out a smile and then a Harper hug.

Stretch in the morning. And maybe in the evening.

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a bad back, must be in want of a stretching routine. When to do stretching doesn’t matter too much provided you do something.

There are a lot of health benefits for stretching: prevention of injury, stress management, and flexibility to name a few. Urs Truly is a big believer in stretching. In my youth I stretched in yoga class to become one-with-the-universe but at now I stretch to stop my muscles turning into beef jerky. I am the only male in a family of Spos who doesn’t have a slipped disc and I would like to keep this status. Happily I show no signs of sciatica, however I have a very stiff lower back. Instead of psoas and erector spinae muscles I have inflexible cables that routinely let me know they don’t like moving. It isn’t a sharp ache, nor radiating but a tight stiffness. No fun that.

I dislike morning stretching so I do mine in the evening. I’ve developed a routine of stretching followed by floss and brushing than journaling and then to bed to read something. Good for me!

I don’t seem to becoming more limber. Maybe my routine isn’t right. Maybe my goal shouldn’t be becoming more flexible but to stop further inflexibility. Other impediments to progress includes a cold floor which stiffens my back up. On the ground with legs up the wall, feet to ceiling and arms back is an open invitation for Harper to come lick my forehead. It’s hard to be at one with the universe with a slobbering pooch at your pate.

The Personal Trainer sent me new stretches to do whose positions are straight out of Cirque de Soleil. Good luck nurse trying to get into these pretzel positions! I can barely do one of them and another is no fun for I fall right over. However it is a goal of mine this year to be more flexible is possible.

Stretching isn’t something limited to a fixed time or the floor but something you can do throughout the day. While waiting in line or standing around I am known to raise my arms as if conducting the sky in a ersatz yoga pose for a full stretch. I frequently fan my fingers out like a cat. These are quite lovely to release built up stress.

Tip #36 isn’t dazzling and it didn’t make for good Spo-wit (worse luck) but it’s legit and good to do.

Do you stretch? Often?

The Chinese New Year – or whatever is its proper name* – starts today. Celebrating this is catching on around these parts, not unlike celebrating St. Patrick’s Day or Cinco de Mayo viz. not clear what it is really but hey it’s an excuse to have some fun. Last year I made dumplings (not very good) and gave Someone some coins for good luck. It was pleasant gesture. I sensed Someone didn’t find this entertaining but slightly silly. He shouldn’t throw stones has he’s one to become anxious if black eyed peas are not made and eaten on 1 January so there.

Looking back on the last twelve months nothing bad happened per se so perhaps it did some good after all.

Yesterday they were out of dumplings at Albertsons (worse luck!) and Someone works late so today so there will be no Asian feast or exchange of quarters this evening. I heard the new year celebration lasts several days so I can squeeze this all in soon.

I haven’t gone so far as to learn what a Rabbit-year entails, or what are the traits of thems born in bunny-years. One blogger-buddy-bunny-boy texted me this morning this means being quick, witty, and a frequent roller-down-of-grass-hills (as bunnies do), but I don’t know if this is all rabbits or just him.

We will see what sort of Rabbit is 2023. Let us hope for the fluffy type and not killer-rabbit. Anyone who’s seen Monty Python knows full well that rodent has a viscous streak a mile wide. Look at the bones! He will do you up a treat, mate.

I wish every one Xīnnián hǎo for a prosperous twelve months. Let’s be careful though.

*My friend Vuong from Vietnam tells me in his neck of the woods today marks The Year of the Cat. This is quite a different animal indeed to color the next twelve months. Overall bunnies are less capricious than pussy-cats so I am going with the former. A another friend tells me if you have a cat all years are The Year of the Cat, so there it is.

Today is St. Agnes Day, noted for being the coldest day of the year; it is all uphill for six months. I don’t recall if there is a patron saint for 22 July.* I see them as a saintly set of Snow Miser and Heat Miser. Last night was The Eve of St. Agnes, noted for young ladies doing rituals to evoke dreams of their future husbands. The only ritual Urs Truly does on 20 January is reread “The Eve of St. Agnes” by Keats. Once upon a time St. Agnes intervened for me on something but I don’t remember now what it was other than she did it. The dear.

The Personal Trainer has sent me a new exercise programme. As the workouts are new, I am going slow with them perhaps too slow as I am timorous I don’t want to hurt myself trying to do too much too fast. I feel a bit silly – and old – in the gym doing light weights. I remind myself no one is looking at me; the beautiful ones are mainly looking at themselves.

This afternoon I meet with Travel Penguin for a late luncheon. I am taking him to Richardson’s, known its urtext of Southwest cuisine. It is the sort of place people expect to see in the Southwest. I look forward to hearing all his shenanigans.

This evening Someone and I go hear the local production of “Tosca”. For thems not familiar with this opera, it is a melodrama, perhaps a bit cheesy by today’s tastes, but with some splendid tunes. Unfortunately it’s been done to death as it gets butts in the seats. I’ve lost count how many times I’ve seen it and by now I know every note so I sit there like a judge at The Olympics evaluating the figure skaters. Let’s see if they do a fair enough job with it.

Finally The Age of Aquarius starts about now. I forget what Aquarians are noted for, other than hip injuries. I don’t think I know any Aquarians so what do I know really. St. Agnes is an Aquarian in a way; while she is a dear with several nice attributes I hope typical Aquarians are not all like her. If you are an Aquarian please educate me in the comments section.

*Patience above! It’s Sir Thomas Moore of England!

Today is National Penguin Day. I don’t know who determined these things or what one is supposed to do on such an austere day, but there it is. Thanks to ‘Monty Python’ I associate flightless aquatic birds with humor, as they are either blowing up on top of televisions or are infiltrating world governments. I also associate penguins with religious heresy. In Sunday school I heard the story of Noah’s ark and how the animals came from afar to be on it. I brought up the issue how did penguins get to the Middle East from Antarctica if they can’t fly. I was told they swam there. Smelling a rat I questioned the logic of this and the walk from shore to ark. I was told they could have stayed afloat bopping like corks for forty days. I sensed if I perused this further The Grosse Pointe Congregational Church would have me as its special guest in its first auto-de-fay. Oh the horror.

Emperor penguins are cool in shape and color. The word for penguin in Mandarin is ‘business goose” which is darling. Other penguins types fall into the common category of comical little buggers. I know a handful of folks who have traveled to Antarctica or South American or South Africa where there are penguins and they all report this was a fantastic experience. There’s no word how the penguins feel about the tourist.

I remember as a boy going to The Detroit Zoo or something like it that had a penguin display with a large glass wall that allowed zoo-goings to see said birds swimming about. It was fascinating the penguins all swam in the same direction in a large circle, hell bent on going somewhere. It resembled a caucus race and it made me wonder why on earth were they doing this. I supposed they were stupid trying to find the ‘end’. Now I think they were swimming in circles as it was jolly good fun.

I have a large stuffed animal penguin who is well under four feet that gets hauled out at Christmas time. His name is Walter Weebles and he wear a bow tie. I don’t see anything particularly Christmas-like about penguins other than it’s cold.

I don’t have any penguin plans for this momentous day other than changing my profile photo on Facebook. I may have sardines for snack. Tomorrow I lunch with The Travel Penguin who is my favorite penguin. He is well over four feet and perhaps knows how these darlings got to the ark.

If you have any penguin plans I would love to hear about them.

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January 2023

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