When you see a plane flying overhead, and you wonder …

Today’s Date: January 23, 2020
Today’s Birthday: Mariska Hargitay, John Hancock, Richard Dean Anderson, the original McGyver.
Today’s Special: 1% of the Earth’s wood supply is used by IKEA.
Today’s Weather: Cloudy most of the day, high of 37 … almost as warm as central Georgia
Today’s Topic: Memory triggering sights and sounds

(DISCLAIMER: Donald Trump, Jr. can not and should not take credit for putting the word triggered in the minds of people because the title of his recently published book. Thoughts and memories have been triggered for years by sights and sounds and smells. Each time someone in my house warms up a chocolate chip cookie in the microwave, it reminds me of all the times my mother would back freshly made cookie dough in her kitchen.)

There, not that I’ve got that off my chest, my mind was triggered again this evening as I was headed home from work … one of those days where you punch in when it’s dark and it’s dark again when you punch out.
You’ve had those? Yeah, of course you did. Sigh.
Anyway, to get from the northbound U.S. highway to the westbound Michigan highway for my quickest route home, I have to take one of those big, looping circles that has the “Direction” function in my dashboard going from N to E to S and then, finally, to W by the time I make 3/4 of a turn just to change directions once.
While I was making that loop, I saw a commercial jet overhead that was in the landing pattern for Gerald R. Ford International Airport here in greater Grand Rapids. And I started thinking: I wonder how many people are on that plane? How many of them had to make a connection in, say, Chicago because greater Grand Rapids doesn’t have a lot of direct flights to a lot of the larger, faraway cities? How many of them are coming home from, oh, a vacation? Or visiting a sick friend or family member? Or returning from a successful or not-so-successful business trip.
And will anyone be there to greet them?
Then I thought back to a couple of months ago when my wife and I took the “trip of a lifetime” to Greece and Italy to celebrate 45 years of marriage and friendship. When we flew direct from Chicago to Athens, were people watching our American Airlines flight descending into the Athens airport? Were they wondering some of the same things I was wondering, like, was there anyone there greet us?
We expected there to be someone, but there wasn’t. We found out, after taking a taxi to our hotel — we DID have reservations — that that’s a service the AthensGate Hotel does not offer. But that was our only real hiccup … except for the half day of rain in Venice.
And now I’m wondering, when are we going to do something like that again?

I’m tired after two long days of working double-digit hours, so ….

Today’s Date: January 22, 2020
Today’s Birthdays: Chef Guy Fieri, singer Steve Perry (Journey), former Bond girl Olivia d’Abo (“The Living Daylights”).
Today’s Special: January 22, 1973, the Supreme Court handed down its Roe vs. Wade decision, which legalized abortion.
Today’s Weather: Mostly cloudy, high in the mid-30s, but just breezy enough to be chilly.
Today’s Topic: Bad dad jokes (most of them “borrowed”)

Why did the chicken cross the road? To get away from Col. Sanders.

I went to the local apiary to buy a dozen bees. They gave me 13 and said the last one was a free bee.

What do you call a flower that gets pregnant by accident? Whoopsy Daisy.

Diarrhea Awareness Week begins Monday. It “runs” until Friday.

Two silkworms had a race. It ended in a tie.

What do sprinters eat before a race? Nothing, they fast.

Why did the scarecrow win an award? Because he was outstanding in his field.

Why couldn’t the bicycle stand up by itself? It was two tired.

What do you call a fish with two knees? A two-knee fish.

My wife is really mad at the fact that I have no sense of direction, so I packed up my stuff and right.

My friend keeps saying “cheer up man it could be worse, you could be stuck underground in a hole full of water.” I know he means well.

You know why people in Athens have trouble waking up in the morning? Because Dawn is tough on Greece (grease).

My Cuban wife said she was going to disappear on the count of “three.” So she goes “uno, dos ……” and POOF, she’s gone. “Oh, no,” I said to my grandson. “She vanished without a tres.”

That’s all for now. Sorry. Enjoy.

Love them or hate them, nicknames can be fun

Today’s Date: January 21, 2020
Today’s Birthday: Actress Geena Davis, golfer Jack Nicklaus
Today’s Special: Contrary to popular belief, ostriches do not bury their heads in the sand to avoid danger.
Today’s Weather: Cloudy early, sunshine later, high of 28.
Today’s Topic: Fun with nicknames

When I took a Creative Writing class in college — I majored in English with a focus on journalism — I thought it would be refreshing change from doing reports on The Odyssey, Beowulf, Gulliver’s Travels and other types of literature from way back when until now. Little did I know it would be just as entertaining for me to expand my writing skills as it was for the prof (I hope) to read them.
Part of that was due to a wonderful classmate and fellow journalist-wannabe Margie. I’m not putting her last name here for privacy reasons (hey, it sounds good), but, Margie, if you’re reading this, I’m sure you remember the fun times in class.
Yeah, in class. At one point, we were so (not bored but) less-than-entertained by what our prof was saying, we started trying to spell out sound effects. For example: What does it sound like when a person sneezes really hard? And don’t say “achoo.” No one sneezes like that. Even the Dagwood comic strip falls short when it prints Dagwood’s snoring sound as SKNORKXX or something silly like that.
But I digress.
At the end of the semester, our final assignment was to write a “creative” essay that had to be at least five pages long … double-spaced, indented, you know, all that college stuff. There was no limit to the subject matter. Well, maybe there was, but I don’t know of anyone who might want to blather on about their favorite positions, if you know what I’m talking about. And, no, I’m not talking about political opinions.
My paper was about (most of) the nicknames I had acquired at that point in my life. For example, my oldest brother lovingly calls me “Lee Lee,” and my next oldest brother has always called my “Tiny,” because, for a while when I was younger, I was. Tiny.
Guys on my fast-pitch softball team called me “Wheels” because, back then, I had pretty good speed and I stole a lot of bases. Bullies or bully wannabes at school changed Lamberts to things like Lambutts or Lambturds or Lambshits. And one guy, the older brother of one of my classmates, hated, no, disliked me so much he called me just Shits.
Thanks to ventriloquist Sheri Lewis, I lived with and loathed the moniker LambChops, but thanks to friend a coworker Cathy (who I call Snortz because she makes that sound when she laughs), I am now just Chops.
Which brings me, finally, to the point of this story.
While working today, with Snortz, we stopped for lunch at an Arby’s restaurant where I placed my order, at which time the clerk asked: “Could I have your name please?” “Sure, Chops,” I said, mainly because it’s easy to remember.
On my way out the door, as I rang the bell to indicate I was pleased with the service, that same clerk/cashier called out: “Thank you Mr. Chops, have a nice day.” And I laughed all the way to the car.

Call me what you think I am, but you need to know what it means what you call me

Today’s Date: January 20, 2020
Today’s Birthday: Former astronaut Buzz Aldrin, KISS guitarist Paul Stanley
Today’s Special: George Washington gave the shortest inaugural address at 135 words.
Today’s Weather: Mostly cloudy, a few flurries and 27 degrees
Today’s Topic: Explaining in detail what it means to be a “liberal”

(Copied, partially rewritten and edited from another’s post, I think this has a lot to say about falsehoods on both sides. I pray for common ground where we can find our way to be what our ancestors wanted for our country.)
Though I grew up in a conservative household and almost always took my father’s advice on whom to vote for, I find that since I received a college degree and took charge of my life through a career and the occasional vacation, I find I align myself more now with liberals. Officially, I call myself an independent because I will vote for the candidate says he or she will best serve my needs based on my age, former career and, sometimes, simply likability. For example, in 2016, I voted for Libertarian Gary Johnson because there is no way Donald Trump represented me or my beliefs and Hillary, to me, was simply not the right person for the job. That, however, does not mean what a lot of you apparently think it does. Let’s break it down, shall we? Because I’m getting a tired of being told what I believe and what I stand for. Spoiler alert: Not every liberal is the same, though the majority of liberals I know, think along roughly these same lines:
1. I believe a country should take care of its weakest members. A country cannot call itself civilized when its children, disabled, sick, and elderly are neglected. Period.
2. I believe healthcare is a right, not a privilege. Somehow that’s interpreted as “I believe Obamacare is the end-all, be-all.” This is not the case. I’m fully aware that the ACA has problems, that a national healthcare system would require everyone to chip in, and that it’s impossible to create one that is devoid of flaws, but I have yet to hear an argument against it that makes “let people die because they can’t afford healthcare” a better alternative. I believe healthcare should be far cheaper than it is, and that everyone should have access to it. And no, I’m not opposed to paying higher taxes in the name of making that happen.
3. I believe education should be affordable. It doesn’t necessarily have to be free (though it works in other countries so I’m mystified as to why it can’t work in the US), but at the end of the day, there is no excuse for students graduating college saddled with five- or six-figure debt.
4. I don’t believe your money should be taken from you and given to people who don’t want to work. I have literally never encountered anyone who believes this. Ever. I just have a massive moral problem with a society where a handful of people can possess the majority of the wealth while there are people literally starving to death, freezing to death, or dying because they can’t afford to go to the doctor. Fair wages, lower housing costs, universal healthcare, affordable education, and the wealthy actually paying their share would go a long way toward alleviating this. Somehow believing that makes me a communist.
5. I don’t throw around “I’m willing to pay higher taxes” lightly. If I’m suggesting something that involves paying more, well, it’s because I’m fine with paying my share as long as it’s actually going to something besides lining corporate pockets or bombing other countries while Americans die without healthcare.
6. I believe companies should be required to pay their employees a decent, livable wage. Somehow this is always interpreted as me wanting burger flippers to be able to afford a penthouse apartment and a Mercedes. What it actually means is that no one should have to work three full-time jobs just to keep their head above water. Restaurant servers should not have to rely on tips, multibillion-dollar companies should not have employees on food stamps, workers shouldn’t have to work themselves into the ground just to barely make ends meet, and minimum wage should be enough for someone to work 40 hours and live.
7. I don’t believe LGBT people should have more rights than you. I just believe they should have the SAME rights as you. That’s what the Constitution gives us; that’s all THEY want.
8. I don’t believe illegal immigrants should come to America and have the world at their feet, especially since THIS ISN’T WHAT THEY DO (spoiler: undocumented immigrants are ineligible for all those programs they’re supposed to be abusing, and if they’re “stealing” your job it’s because your employer is hiring illegally). I believe there are far more humane ways to handle undocumented immigration than our current practices (i.e., detaining children, splitting up families, ending DACA, etc).
9. I don’t believe the government should regulate everything, but since greed is such a driving force in our country, we NEED regulations to prevent cut corners, environmental destruction, tainted food/water, unsafe materials in consumable goods or medical equipment, etc. It’s not that I want the government’s hands in everything — I just don’t trust people trying to make money to ensure that their products/practices/etc. are actually SAFE. Is the government devoid of shadiness? Of course not. But with those regulations in place, consumers have recourse if they’re harmed and companies are liable for medical bills, environmental cleanup, etc. Just kind of seems like common sense when the alternative to government regulation is letting companies bring their bottom line into the equation.
10. I believe our current administration is acting in the best interests of the citizens of this country. A wealthy businessman who becomes president and gives tax breaks to his rich friends is, essentially, ignoring you and me, the “common” people.
11. I believe the systemic racism and misogyny in our society is much worse than many people think, and desperately needs to be addressed. Which means those with privilege — white, straight, male, economic, etc. — need to start listening, even if you don’t like what you’re hearing, so we can start dismantling everything that’s causing people to be marginalized.
12. I am not interested in coming after your guns, nor is anyone serving in government. What I am interested in is the enforcement of present laws and enacting new, common sense gun regulations. Got another opinion? Write your own blog.
13. I believe in so-called political correctness, but I prefer to think it’s social politeness. If I call you Chuck and you say you prefer to be called Charles I’ll call you Charles. It’s the polite thing to do. Not because everyone is a delicate snowflake, but because as Maya Angelou put it, when we know better, we do better. When someone tells you that a term or phrase is more accurate/less hurtful than the one you’re using, you now know better. So why not do better? How does it hurt you to NOT hurt another person?
14. I believe in funding sustainable energy, including offering education to people currently working in coal or oil so they can change jobs. There are too many sustainable options available for us to continue with coal and oil. Sorry, billionaires. Maybe try investing in something else.
15. I believe that women should not be treated as a separate class of human. They should be paid the same as men who do the same work, should have the same rights as men and should be free from abuse. Why on earth shouldn’t they be?
I think that about covers it. Bottom line is that people call me a liberal because I think we should take care of each other. That doesn’t mean you should work 80 hours a week so your lazy neighbor can get all your money. It just means I don’t believe there is any scenario in which preventable suffering is an acceptable outcome as long as money is saved.
Don’t hate me because of who I am or what I think. I’m still me and we can agree to disagree, right?

To get that autograph you want, sometimes you gotta be creative

Today’s Date: January 19, 2020
Today’s Birthday: Edgar Allan Poe and Robert E. Lee, the latter one of my nicknames in junior high
Today’s Special: Harry Truman’s inauguration was the first to be televised.
Today’s Weather: Mix of clouds and sun after an overnight snowfall and the temp reached about 28
Today’s Topic: Collecting autographs and methods of collecting autographs

Collecting autographs of sports figures and celebrities, mostly sports figures, has been my full-time hobby going on three years now, but the year after I retired was not when I began pursuing this hobby. It actually began back in the mid-1970s when I was a college student in West Michigan.
One of my classmates who became a friend for a couple of years until he graduated was a San Diego native and when we got talking about baseball one day — because he was on the varsity team and I was a sports writer for the campus newspaper — he proudly showed me a baseball that he got autographed IP (In Person) by former San Diego Padres pitcher Randy Jones. I thought that was kind of cool, so when Mr. Jones’ photo appeared on a Sports Illustrated magazine cover that summer, I thought, “Hey, if Don can get an autograph, so can I.”
Being a novice at collecting, I folded the cover in half, then in thirds so that it would fit in a size 6 3/4 envelope, the size that personal checks fit in when you send someone money. Correction: SENT somebody money; everything these days is done over the internet.
Anyway, a few weeks went by and the cover came back, refolded, with Randy Jones’ signature on it, a success TTM (Through The Mail). And I was hooked. Being a Sports Illustrated subscriber, I would get the magazine on a weekly basis and I would send out the covers … if I could find a legitimate address to send it to, usually the team the person played for.
I had to get creative at times, like when a golfer would appear after a big tournament, but I would try to time it so I would send it to the course where that player would be playing a week or two later.
As the years passed, I tired of sending out SI covers because if I only folded them in half, I would have to use 5 x 7 manila envelopes and the postage was higher. And a requisite SASE (Self-Addressed Stamped Envelope) for returns was a must. Later I even sent some of the more desirable ones in 8 1/2 x 11 envelopes so I wouldn’t have to fold the covers at all.
I have since sold all of my SI covers and now I’m into baseball cards, mainly because there are thousands to choose from and, if I’m not picky, I can get a box of 100 random cards for $4.99 at my neighborhood Walgreen’s store.
I mention that because I recently found a 2019 baseball card from the Topps Company that bore a picture of the outside of Comerica Park, the home stadium for the Detroit Tigers, my all-time favorite team since I went to my first-ever game there in 1960, as an 8-year old lad. I was trying to think of a way to get as many autographs on this card as possible, to the point where I thought about writing a note to the team’s General Manager saying I had an over/under wager with a teacher about how many signatures would fit on that card. A collector friend called B.S. on me because I’m not a student in a Statistics class (I’m 68), and “joke” letters like that are frowned upon by serious collectors.
I did get creative once, however, and it resulted in a successful request. I don’t remember the year, but model Carol Alt was pictured on cover of the Swimsuit edition of SI and when I read that she was engaged to marry hockey player Ron Greshner of the New York Rangers, I one-folded the cover and tucked in a wedding congratulations card and sent it to the couple c/o the New York Rangers. A couple of weeks later, the cover came back with a nice, crisp autograph of Ms Alt. And I was happy.
On average, I’ll send out 15 to 20 letters a week, mostly to baseball players and almost all to baseball players who have retired or left the game. Active players rarely sign TTM because they’re really busy during the season plus they can appear at Sports Card and Memorabilia shows and make some extra money.
I’ve got 18 letters going out this week, but not until Tuesday because the Post Office is closed for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. A 19th will be a birthday card to an active player whose birthday was just a couple of days ago. And I’ll be anxiously awaiting to see if my creativity is rewarded. Again.

God has a purpose for us, but sometimes we can’t see it

Today’s Date: January 18, 2020
Today’s Birthday: Kevin Costner, children’s author AA Milne.
Today’s Special: There are 328 people named “Abcde” in the United States.
Today’s Weather: Woke up to about 4” of snow, but temp still reached 36 before it started raining.
Today’s Topic: Getting mentally geared up for Sunday worship

I had some thoughts about another topic, but earlier I was reading our Group Bible Study book with a chapter that focuses on supplication. At one point in that chapter, the author talks about the difference between praying and begging, but after she explained her self, I kind of thought they seemed a lot alike.
When we ask God for something, it’s a sort of begging, same as the guy who stands on a street corner holding a sign asking for money or food. The basic difference, I think I understand, is that we “beg” with humility and the knowledge that even while God answers, it might not be the answer we want. The guy on the corner, meanwhile, expects you to be sympathetic and compassionate toward him and will kind of give you a dirty look when you don’t give him what he wants. But then you feel you’re guilty of NOT being kind and compassionate which Jesus tells you/us to do. What thing I DID learn in a hurry, though, was that you don’t want to make eye contact with the guy on the corner. Hoo boy.

Anyway, Isaiah, in chapter 58, tells us there’s some really good things that are going to happen to us someday and we just gotta be ready:

7 Share your food with the hungry, and give shelter to the homeless. Give clothes to those who need them, and do not hide from relatives who need your help.
8“Then your salvation will come like the dawn, and your wounds will quickly heal. Your godliness will lead you forward, and the glory of the Lord will protect you from behind.
9Then when you call, the Lord will answer. ‘Yes, I am here,’ he will quickly reply. “Remove the heavy yoke of oppression. Stop pointing your finger and spreading vicious rumors!
10Feed the hungry, and help those in trouble. Then your light will shine out from the darkness, and the darkness around you will be as bright as noon.
11The Lord will guide you continually, giving you water when you are dry and restoring your strength. You will be like a well-watered garden, like an ever-flowing spring.
12Some of you will rebuild the deserted ruins of your cities. Then you will be known as a rebuilder of walls and a restorer of homes.
13“Keep the Sabbath day holy. Don’t pursue your own interests on that day, but enjoy the Sabbath and speak of it with delight as the Lord’s holy day. Honor the Sabbath in everything you do on that day, and don’t follow your own desires or talk idly.
14Then the Lord will be your delight. I will give you great honor and satisfy you with the inheritance I promised to your ancestor Jacob. I, the Lord, have spoken!”

When grown man talk, its not always lockerroom chatter

Today’s Date: January 17, 2020
Today’s Birthdays: Michelle Obama, Betty White, Benjamin Franklin
Today’s Special: Benjamin Franklin is a member of the International Swimming Hall of Fame.
Today’s Weather: Started sunny, clouded over in the afternoon and the temps fell after a high of 29.
Today’s Topic: Things older guys talk about with no women present

After our work was finished and most of our coworkers had left for the day, three of us “oldies” were in the company break room chatting about how work went that day — I’m a driver for an auto auction company, in case you didn’t know — how soon it would be before our wives called us to find out when we were coming home, what we were going to eat for lunch … you know, general things like that. But nothing we talked about was anything we wouldn’t talk about in front of our wives or, for that matter, any of our female coworkers.
When you get to be our age, over 60, the talk of fast cars and what exercises we’re focusing on and the dumb (or cool) things our children have done is long gone. Now we talk about aches and pains, what we can and cannot eat and, in this instance, whether or not it’s a good idea to get another dog when we’re this old.
But most of our conversation was “medical” and it centered around a couple of moles one guy had and a few skin tags another guy had and some skin tags that I’ve got. I had like 30 or 40 of them snipped off a number of years ago, but the P.A. missed freezing one and it hurt like, well, like cutting a piece of skin off the tip of your finger.
We pretty much agreed that when our wives see something on our bodies that worries them, it should worry us, even though we’ve brought up that concern to our doctors and to a man, they said, “Oh, it’s nothing to worry about.” Which, in turn, makes our spouses worry even more because they thing the doctor is just being lazy and in a hurry to get to the next patient.
That I keep my appointments for my annual physical and actually go to the Emergency Care unit when I feel something not right about me or my body is a huge improvement, in my mate’s eyes, over what I was like 20 years ago. But then, 20 years ago I wasn’t such a mess physically with my weight, my heart and my, ahem, skin tags.
The bottom line, we agreed, is that we should relish the attention our wives give us and we should be thankful that they and the doctors care enough about us to GIVE US that attention. After all, in the words of my 13-year old grandson who wasn’t 13 when he said this, “You don’t want to wake up dead, do you?”