Eagle Scout Court of Honor

Becoming an Eagle Scout is the pinnacle of a Boy Scout’s career and only a small fraction of those who start out in Boy Scouts achieve it. We are the proud parents of an Eagle Scout whose Court of Honor was held on October 22.
But, first, an aside. The Court of Honor is the ceremony honoring an Eagle Scout’s achievement, but, first, the Eagle Scout-to be must pass a Board of Review in order to obtain the rank of Eagle Scout. Jim has been the primary mover-and-shaker in Marcus’s Boy Scout journey. He takes Marcus to most Boy Scout meetings, accompanied him on campouts when he was young, and encouraged/cajoled/ordered Marcus to stay with Scouts when he wavered, as all boys do. We were in Paris when Marcus had his Board of Review, and woke up in the middle of the night (3:17 am to be exact) to a 20 second voicemail on *my* phone. The first 15 seconds were in Chinese when Marcus told me he passed his Board of Review and that he knew it was late but to please call him back. The last 5 seconds were in English when he said, “Daddy, if you’re listening to this, I made Eagle.” I’m so glad our son gave credit where credit was due. 🙂
For Troop #128, this was only the 3rd or 4th Court of Honor where *four* Eagle Scouts were honored. And Marcus showed an uncommon maturity and internal validation system during and after the ceremony. As part of a Court of Honor, an adult—most commonly the Eagle Scout counselor—says a few words about the Eagle Scout and his accomplishments. Due to a miscommunication, no one spoke about Marcus although the other 3 Eagle Scouts were lauded. Marcus’s reaction on what happened: “I was confused, but it wasn’t important. My family and friends know what I did. And I’m an Eagle Scout—that’s all that matters.”
I do not think there are many 17 year olds, after going through all that work and all that effort, who wouldn’t have been disappointed that they weren’t praised for their accomplishments. And so we are extremely proud of our son, who already knows to look inside himself for the true worth of his actions.

Eagle Scout Court of Honor

officially deemed an Eagle Scout!

with Congresswoman Barbara Comstock

Court of Honor speech

Troop #128 Eagle Scouts!

Book review: The Number Devil by Hans Magnus Enzensberger

The Number Devil: A Mathematical AdventureThe Number Devil: A Mathematical Adventure by Hans Magnus Enzensberger
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’ve been meaning to read this book for a long time, as it came highly recommended by both my kids. After reading it, I can see why. The author has written a loose structure of a novel in order to painlessly and seamlessly teach children some basic math concepts. Along the way, he makes math fun and interesting and accessible. (I actually happen to think math *is* fun and interesting and accessible, but I realize that not everyone does.)
The book is geared towards middle schoolers, but it works well for older children and adults as well. It also works well for both people who love math and its intricacies as well as people who are math-phobic, as it provides explanations and projects for experiential learners, all in a fun and light-hearted way.
I would best characterize the book as a novel about math. If that intrigues you, then read the book!

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Book review: Wicked and the Wallflower by Sarah MacLean

Wicked and the Wallflower (The Bareknuckle Bastards, #1)Wicked and the Wallflower by Sarah MacLean
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

As you can tell from my Goodreads shelves, I read a lot of Regency romances. I love them–they are light, frothy, and “spoiler alert” always have a happy ending. :). Occasionally, one comes along that has more depth than normal in this genre of lightheartedness and deserves a special mention. “Wicked and the Wallflower” is one of those books.
To begin with, the heroine is plain (but smart). This is a fairly normal anomaly in a genre where the heroine is usually–but not always–beautiful. But the hero is dark (ethically, not just physically) and climbed out of the gutter through sheer force of will and brains. This is not a “good girl reforms bad boy” plot. This is a “good girl joins bad boy” plot. That’s an unusual anomaly. I adored it.
The backstory has complexity, the banter between the hero and heroine is charming, and the entire book has unsuspected depth. It’s as if a Georgette Heyer Regency romance married a C.S. Harris Sebastian St. Cyr mystery, and they had a child (who was happy).
I can’t wait for the second book in the series!

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Paris!! (September 2018)

We were in Paris for a week to celebrate the Inn at Little Washington’s 40th anniversary (and its 3rd Michelin star). The weather was lovely—sunny and crisp. In total, we ate at 5 restaurants (if you count the Inn) with a total of 12 Michelin stars (yes, we are gluttonous pigs). But it was a glorious gluttony!
We went with two friends of ours from Wichita and stayed at the Shangri-la Paris. The Shangri-la is situated in the 17th arrondissement, looking over the Eiffel Tower, and the building is the former estate of Napoleon’s great-nephew, Roland Bonaparte.

view from our terrace

The Inn had arranged for a couple of additional events for us to attend. The first was a private tour of the Dior archives, which consists of both clothing and documents. It was fascinating to see how the archivists conserved vintage clothing and preserved various documents from the Dior shows and from the designer himself.
In addition, Jamie McCourt, the US ambassador to France, hosted a reception at her residence for the Inn. The ambassadorial residence is a building that was formerly owned by a New Orleans-born woman, the Baroness de Pontalba. (Talleyrand also once lived at that same location). After the death of the Baroness, one of the Rothschilds purchased the estate. The family fled to Switzerland when the Germans invaded. This proved to be a wise decision as the residence then became a club for Goering’s officers during the German occupation.
The residence and the grounds are beautiful, and there is even a Calder located on the grounds (it’s on loan).

The US ambassador’s residence

the Calder!

But the crowning event celebrating the Inn took place at Vaux-le-Vicomte, the former residence of Louis XIV’s finance minister. It is said that Louis XIV modeled Versailles after Vaux-le-Vicomte (with Versailles being a bigger and better model, of course—that’s what happens when you’re an absolute monarch). Vaux-le-Vicomte is a drop dead fairy tale-like gorgeous chateau, complete with moat in front (no sharks) and an 18th century French formal garden in the back.

the gardens at Vaux-le-Vicomte

There were guardsmen, jugglers, musicians, and flamethrowers, all dressed in 17th century period clothing. Patrick O’Connell, the chef and owner of the Inn, was also dressed in period costume.

with Chef Patrick O’Connell

The food was excellent (of course!) and at the end of the evening, there were the most amazing fireworks in the garden, set to music. It was the most elaborate fireworks show I have ever seen.

menu from the 40th anniversary dinner

dining in the Grand Salon

In between all of these events, we played conventional tourists (the Louvre, Eiffel Tower, and Notre Dame) as well as unconventional tourists (Musée de Marmottan, Musée de L’Orangerie—both filled with Monet paintings, Musée d’Orsay, and Sainte Chapelle).
We also ate at Shang Palace, Taillevent, Guy Savoy, and L’Arpège. They were all their usual impressive places, but the place that stood out this time was L’Arpège. The chef is a genius with vegetables, which all come from his 10 hectare garden in Normandy.
Speaking personally, I am replete with paté and foie gras and red wine. It was a magnificent trip.

Book review: The Political Classroom by Diana Hess & Paula McAvoy

The Political Classroom: Evidence and Ethics in Democratic EducationThe Political Classroom: Evidence and Ethics in Democratic Education by Diana E. Hess
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I sit on the board of a pre-K through 12 school, and this book was recommended to me by a faculty member. I thoroughly enjoyed the book, which uses philosophical thinking and empirical science to frame a discussion on how best to answer the question: “How should we live together?” In an era of increasing political polarization, is there a place and an opportunity for schools to teach and model respect, tolerance, and political equity in the classroom, and what should that teaching look like?
The authors examine several types of schools, communities, teachers, and teaching styles to arrive at an ethical framework with which to analyze the question. They looked at schools across the political spectrum and how teachers dealt with students from differing socioeconomic classes, ethnicity, and political viewpoints to model political engagement in a respectful way and how that might differ from teachers who deal with students from more homogeneous socioeconomic classes, ethnicity and political viewpoints. The result is a thought provoking book on what ways teachers should model ideal behavior, the challenges in doing so, and the obstacles that remain.
This book should be the beginning–not the end–of the discussion of how we should all live together and demonstrates how schools and teachers can assist students to start on the path towards political tolerance, respect, and engagement. I highly recommend this book to teachers, parents, and administrators alike!

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Disneyworld September 2018

To celebrate someone’s 17th(!) birthday, we jaunted off to Disneyworld for the weekend. The weather was hot and humid (welcome to Orlando in September!), but the weekend was glorious. We tried to do this last year, but Hurricane Isabel decided to make an appearance, and we had to reschedule our trip.
Making the trip in early September meant that our daughter could come with us as well before she left for her sophomore year in college. She was beyond excited, as it was 15 months since she last was at a Disney theme park.
I was always certain that when the kids turned into teenagers, they would turn their noses up at spending time at a Disney park. I am delighted that it is still one of their favorite places (Hawaii being a close second). We have so much fun riding the rides, but our enjoyment in Disneyworld is more than that. It is one of the places where we are a family and family-focused. The kids have grown up there, we have celebrated birthdays and other special occasions there, and everyone has pushed their fear boundaries there. (Although the daughter still will not ride Rock-n-Roller Coaster.)
Disneyworld is where we celebrate the present, reminisce about the past, and create memories for the future. We have delighted in Walt Disney’s optimism, reveled in his belief that humans are capable of endless innovation and creativity, and criticized the parks/Disney where we thought it was merited. It is a place where we are forever children, looking with wide-eyed wonder on the future. It is, truly, the happiest place on earth.

I LOVE the Little Green Men!

To infinity and beyond!

the new Toy Story Land

Alien Swirling Saucers in Toy Story Land

birthday dinner

a birthday cupcake

true birthday wishes 😉

What I Did On My Summer Vacation (2018 version)

Dear Teacher—

What we did on our summer vacation:

  • Our 16 year old son went to rural China for 6 weeks and came back with better Chinese, 2 beautifully handmade (by him) silver bracelets, new friends, and a newfound maturity.

new friends!

shiny metal, fire, hammer, and sharp tools–what’s not to like?

  • Our former exchange student spent part of the summer with us while she worked for a renewable energy company in Bethesda. We loved having her with us.
  • Our 19 year old daughter came back for the summer and worked at a decision analytics software company. Even more importantly, she *drove* to work (celebratory drum roll). (Oh, and by the way, she loved being an only child!)
  • Jim and I attended the US-Japan Leadership alumni weekend in Seattle, caught up with some old friends and made new ones (despite the fact that the new delegates and fellows all look like they are 12 years old).

USJLP 2018

  • The 16 year old son spent 5 days at home before embarking on an east coast college tour.
  • Our family vacation consisted of a week in Honolulu with some friends renting a house and an additional few days in Honolulu with just the 4 of us. Zip lining, surfing, shopping, and eating were the focus of our visit. We left right before Hurricane Lane arrived (fortunately, Oahu emerged relatively unscathed, unlike Maui and the Big Island).

at Ty Gurney Surf Shop

zip lining at the North Shore

sunrise over Koko Head

Hurricane Lane is coming!

  • The son and I visited my parents and saw a couple of west coast universities.

a visit to the zoo or a college campus? (is there a difference?)

  • The family attended a ribbon cutting ceremony for an elementary school in Chehalis, Washington named after Jim. The James W. Lintott Elementary School opened on Tuesday for K-2 students.

tee hee!

  • School started.

And that’s what we did during our summer vacation.

Your friend,
May

USJLP 2018

Jim and I attended the Fellows (alumni) weekend for the US-Japan Leadership Program (www.usjlp.org) this past week. The event was held in Seattle. It’s always a wonderful time to get to know the new delegates and catch up with what the Fellows are doing with their lives.
I will say, however, that I was put in my proper place by a couple of Fellows, both of whose first words to me (after not seeing me for a year) were, “Is Marcus here?” Yes, I’m calling you out, Dan Tani and Marc Walwyn! (To be honest, it was a lovely compliment to our 16 year old, who has managed to endear himself to all of the younger children who attend.) 🙂
Seattle was beautiful and sunny (I know, Seattle friends, you would like to think it is that way year-round). It was also the week of Seafair, with the Blue Angels performing. We did get to see them practice on Saturday, and they are a marvel of flying beauty, as always. We were told that the Blue Angel pilots trim their controls all the way back so that they are pressing the equivalent of a forty pound force when they fly in order to fly with control and precision. The pilots certainly have little margin for error. They are always impressive! (And a great recruiting tool for the Navy.)  Here is a brief video of it:

We also received confirmation that we are old. We have been involved in the program for almost 20 years, and when the Fellows look like mere children, you know you are old.
But, in the end, the most important aspect of the USJLP weekend was creating and renewing the bonds of friendship. We were, as we always are, thrilled to be part of such a fantastic program!

USJLP 2018

A Weekend in New York City

For his birthday, I gave Jim tickets to see “Springsteen on Broadway.” Since the 19 year old daughter is with us for the summer and she did not want to see a show about “old people music,” we bought her a ticket to see “Hamilton.”
New York for us is a city where we eat/shop/see shows. This particular weekend was no exception. We took the train up on Friday. It was a beautiful day with not a cloud in the sky.

view from our hotel room in The Palace Hotel

We opted to eat dinner at the bar in The Modern (located in MoMA). The dining room in The Modern is rather formal and requires reservations, but the bar is much less so and is a great place to eat a casual but delicious dinner (think nouvelle American cuisine small plates). A slight digression: we love small plates because the format allows us to try numerous dishes—we realize this dining philosophy is not for everyone and that some people are more possessive about their food than others. 🙂
Saturday consisted of window shopping (and some non-window shopping) down Madison Avenue and lunch at Union Square Cafe. The advantage of Madison Avenue is that you can duck into various air conditioned stores to escape from the heat. Since the 1% that would normally be shopping on Madison Avenue are all in the Hamptons for the weekend, we had the stores pretty much all to ourselves. It was delightful.
Lunch at Union Square Cafe is like having lunch at a neighborhood bodega that has really good food. The staff is friendly and competent, and the dishes are accessible and delicious. After lunch, we continued our drunken sailor spending before heading back to the hotel to get ready for our shows.
Times Square in the summer consists of more teeming masses of humanity than I like, but it is great people watching as long as you don’t get run over (by either pedestrians or cars). “Springsteen on Broadway” is a surprisingly intimate show by the man who regularly sells out baseball stadiums to this day. The monologue is personal, and the songs fit the mood and setting quite well. It was an amazing show! (Question: why does a man who can regularly sell out on tour and is worth a gazillion dollars feel the need to do a Broadway show 5 nights a week? Inquiring minds want to know.)

getting ready to see Bruce!

moonlight over Manhattan

Meanwhile, the daughter was equally thrilled with her evening’s entertainment. While the current version of “Hamilton” does not perhaps have the same personality without the original Broadway cast, the show stands just fine on its own with the current performers.
We spent Sunday at the Met (also an air conditioned space), spending most of our time in the temporary exhibits. The “Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination” exhibit is perhaps the most controversial, ranging from artifacts lent by the Vatican to couture designers’ take on Catholicism for their costumes. Most of the costumes were relatively inoffensive, but there were certainly several that were arguably blasphemous. It was a very interesting and visually stunning exhibit.
The Chinese landscape paintings exhibit was excellent in its breadth and quality of the paintings. It did entertain me to read between the lines of some of the descriptions as forgeries have been gradually uncovered (my favorite phrase demonstrating this is the phrase: “done in the style of…”). As Jim says, any museum with a comprehensive collection of antique Chinese paintings has a forgery problem.
There were also some excellent works in the “History Refused to Die: Highlights from the Souls Grown Deep Foundation Gift” exhibit. And the daughter, especially, enjoyed the contemporary art exhibit. (There’s a beautiful Jackson Pollock painting in the Met collection that is worthy of a visit even if you don’t like anything else in contemporary art.)
It was a tremendously fun weekend. The only cloud was that the boy wasn’t there to enjoy the weekend with us. (This was not seen as a cloud but a silver lining in his sister’s eyes, however.) We do have proof of life from him as of Monday, and he is having a really fun time in China, so all is good.

A “Picnic” by Kinship (DC)

Kinship is one of our favorite restaurants in Washington, DC, so when an invitation arrived stating that there was going to be a dinner at the farm of one of its suppliers, we didn’t hesitate! Neither did our 19 year old daughter (who is home for the summer—yay!) and two of her friends.
Eric Ziebold and Célia Laurent are the couple who own and run Kinship to perfection. Eric is an extraordinarily gifted chef, and Célia is the operational brains behind the business.
The dinner was held at Martin’s Farm in The Plains, Virginia, about an hour and a half west of DC. The dinner arrangements hit a slight snag when a thunderstorm passed through The Plains that afternoon, making it impossible to start cooking or setting up on time. The storm also soaked the ground, and there’s nothing quite like the experience of that lovely red Virginia clay soil turning into lovely red Virginia mud. (The choice of appropriate footwear was directly proportional to the enjoyment of the evening.)
It was also a good experience for the 3 young women, who had probably never been on a working farm before. (Certainly, the one belonging to us had not.)

note appropriate footwear

All of these delays were easily solved by wine and sangria, of course. And once the cooking stations were operational, the dinner was as lovely as one might expect.
There were two appetizer stations set up, serving a Path Valley Farm Hen Egg with Grits and L’Abeille Garden Anise Hyssop and a Small Mouth Bass with Summer Solstice Succotash and Rouille. The grits were delicious, and the bass melted in your mouth. (I suspect the bass were still swimming happily in the pond earlier that day.)
Dinner consisted of Avocado Toast with Chorizo and Lamb Leg Terrine as appetizers with Slow Roasted Lamb Shoulder with Warm Green Tomato Salad and Tahini and Red Wine Marinated Tri-tip and Grilled Ribeye with Kinship Steak Butter as entrées. Side dishes consisted of L’Abeille Garden La Ratte Potato Salad with Beef Bacon and Rosemary, Savoy Cabbage Coleslaw, and L’Abeille Garden Chicken Spice Grilled Asparagus. Even this potato salad-hater liked the potato salad (but, then, with enough bacon, all things are possible). And the asparagus was delicious. The coleslaw lovers in the family declared the coleslaw excellent, but I decided that I needed to save my hard-earned optional calories for dessert.
The two dessert stations served Brown Sugar Shortcake with Vanilla Cream with either L’Abeille Garden Verbena Strawberries or Orange-Scented Blueberries and S’mores Cake with Chocolate Crémeux, Toasted Meringue, and Soft Cinnamon Cake. The chocolate lovers in the group declared the s’mores cake to be excellent. The shortcake was all shortcake should be—more cake than biscuit—rich and with no bitterness. It was fabulous.

a selfie by old people…

The dinner could not have been set in a more scenic location. The surroundings were beautiful—a timely reminder of how gorgeous the Virginia countryside can be. All in all, a tranquil and delicious way to wind up a summer weekend.

gorgeous day!