not what the membership wants

ToastmastersI have enjoyed Toastmasters, but recently Toastmasters International (TI) has rolled out a new program. The previous program used print manuals and had a very clear progression. The new program, Pathways, is entirely computer-based and is focused on workplace and career skills. The previous program had a much broader base and addressed a diversity of interests.

We had a visit recently from our area director and she was asked if the attrition in membership was related to Pathways. She simply nodded. She also said that TI was much more interested in corporate-sponsored clubs at the expense of community clubs such as my own Menifee Toastmasters.

It is a sad and unfortunate thing. As president of my club I did receive a survey about a pilot program for more extensive local advertising, so provides a bit of hope. But the new program remains unchanged.

I’m not clear about my future in Toastmasters.


Chicken Marsala

chicken marsalaI strayed a long way from this recipe, from which I started. I only used one kind of mushrooms (fresh white), not three. I seasoned the chicken with Harris Ranch Lemon Garlic seasoning. (Yes, sometimes I do use a spice other than Penzeys. Not often, though. In any case you can’t season the chicken with only salt and pepper. Good heavens!) I used light butter to sauté the mushrooms.

I did follow the recipe suggestion of serving the dish with mashed potatoes, a way in which Chicken Marsala is often served.

It made for a really nice Saturday dinner.


Ocean’s 8

Ocean's 8Ocean’s Eight
starring Sandra Bullock and Cate Blanchett
Warner Bros., 2018

Terry had seen Ocean’s 8 in the theater. She watched it with me when I streamed it using the new Roku Redbox app.

The premise is that Sandra Bullock’s character is Danny Ocean’s estranged sister, Debbie. Danny Ocean was, of course, the ringleader from Ocean’s 11 (the original and the remake). Like Ocean’s 11, Ocean’s 8 is a movie in the heist caper genre, but with the perpetrators all being women.

The Bullock and Blanchett characters bring in a group of accomplices to carry off the theft of a diamond necklace worth $150 million. They recruit a computer hacker, a pickpocket, a diamond expert, an expert in fencing stolen goods, and others to manage the complex plot. With actors such as Anne Hathaway, Mindy Kaling, and Rihanna, the whole thing was quite entertaining.

If you’re counting the crew you’ll come up one short until after the heist, when the full eight of Ocean’s 8 is rounded out. An interesting twist in a film that was a lot of fun.


my most popular blog entry

It has been a full year since Marcela Valladolid left The Kitchen on Food Network. I initially wrote here about her departure, saying that she would be missed. When she wrote in some detail in her blog about exiting the show and stated that she regretted not saying goodbye to her fans I wrote “why Marcela didn’t say goodbye.”

The Kitchen logoThis has been far and away my most popular blog entry. It has received over 31,000 views. That is an order of magnitude (or two or three or four) more than any of my other blog posts have received. Seems that it comes up for people doing a Google or Bing search about Marcela leaving the show.

For all those views I haven’t gotten a lot of comments. What surprises me about the comments I do get is how many people are snide and bitter about Marcela and her presence on the program. Those don’t get published. I don’t go for nastiness on my blog.

It’s nice to be read, but I wish some of my other blog entries received more attention.


Sacred Music Friday: Come Sing, O Church in Joy

This hymn tune, Darwall’s 148th, has been used for other hymns as well. In any case, the John Rutter arrangement is wonderful.


pepper-curry chicken sauté

pepper curry chicken sauteIt had been a while since I had made an Indian dish for dinner, so on a recent Saturday I pulled out this recipe for black pepper-curry chicken sauté. I didn’t follow the directions, but I did use the specified seasonings: ginger, garlic, pepper, and curry powder. I omitted the cloves. Rather than preparing the spices as per the recipe, I mixed them in a bowl and then tossed the chicken pieces in the bowl. For aesthetic reasons I used white pepper instead of freshly ground black pepper.

I cooked the chicken in a cast iron skilled and added the light coconut milk. I served the mixture on top of basmati rice.

It worked out well.


Ancient Mesopotamia

Mesopotamia coverAncient Mesopotamia: Life in the Cradle of Civilization
Amanda H. Podany, Ph.D.
The Great Courses
Audio download $34.95 when on sale
If the course is not on sale, check back– the sale price will come around again

This was a most enjoyable course.

I was familiar with some of the material, but I learned a lot. One of the things that Professor Podany made clear was that while we often think of Mesopotamia in terms of the great empires, Assyria, Babylonia, Persia, for much of its history Mesopotamia was made up of multiple kingdoms and city-states.

One of the great things about this region in ancient history is the amount of written evidence that we have. The decipherment of the cuneiform script in the nineteenth century provided a wealth of information. Writing was done on clay tablets. Those clay tablets were either intentionally preserved by firing in kilns or accidentally preserved when a city was destroyed by fire.

There is a lot of boring administrative material, but also many other types of documents. We have legal documents such as court records, letters between kings, and even letters from the daughters of kings who were married off to peer or client kings.

Professor Podany’s presentation is engaging and her British accent is a delight to listen to. If the material interests you, you will love this course.