Category Archives: 2018

Headlines Not Enough


There is so much news available these days that it becomes necessary to pick and choose what we read and watch.  Headlines are an excellent means of determining whether something is worth reading.  Sometimes, headlines spur my imagination to create what is surely a better story.

Here are some headlines from a news site, and my idea of what the stories should be about:

  1. “Original Civil War-era Lincoln letter up for sale.” It is the letter “W.”
  2. “Retro-electric Ford Mustang revealed in Russia.” Those radio-controlled cars are a lot of fun!  I’m glad Russia finally has them.
  3. “Cat gets caught in laundry vent; literally needs buttering up to get out.” That house was full of saturated cats.
  4. “Whataburger fan paints pastoral landscapes featuring iconic burger chain.” Instead of paints he used mustard, ketchup, and relish.
  5. “’Gilmore Girls’ house now serving lunch.” Unfortunately, the incessant jabbering of the Gilmores causes customers to throw up their hands and run away.
  6. “’Old Bay’ upset about ‘New Bae’ seasoning…” I’m sure the similarity is coincidental.  Like “Dr. Pepper” and “Mr. Pibb.”
  7. “Man banned from pub for bringing his pet ferrets…” He should have looked for a pub with a “Weasels Welcome” sign.
  8. “Dale Earnhardt once got Jeff Gordon out of a ticket.” It was a ticket to the opera, and Jeff really didn’t want to go.
  9. “Human heart left on SouthWest flight.” It was a flight to San Francisco, apparently.
  10. “Taco Bell adding $1 burritos to menu later this month.” Be forewarned that burrito means “little burro.”
  11. “KFC debuts fried chicken scented fire logs ahead of Christmas.” May I ask you, who doesn’t want their living room to smell like a Kentucky Fried Chicken store?
  12. “You can’t hide from Britain’s new ‘Long Ranger” traffic camera.” It just nabbed a guy in Montana for ten over the limit.
  13. “Bride wows guests with father-daughter dance on roller skates.” EMT’s wow guests with life-saving treatment after roller skating father landed awkwardly on table holding wedding cake, breaking three ribs and ruining two tiers.
  14. “Suspected burglar of Chinese restaurant trapped in grease vent for two days.” (Multiple choice) A: And an hour later he felt like getting trapped again.  B: The name of the restaurant, translated into English is “The Grease Trap.”  C: Somebody bring the buttered cat over here.

That’s enough, or perhaps too much.  I hope you’ll agree that none of the actual stories from these actual headlines would be as interesting as my made-up descriptions.  Feel free to come up with your own.


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Changes and Samenesses

As someone who just recently passed an age threshold, I’m perhaps a little too interested in changes and how things were in the past.  After all, looking backwards gets you nowhere, unless you’re looking backwards and walking forwards, in which case you will probably run into a tree, or something.

It sure isn’t difficult to think of big changes from even a dozen years ago.  The smart phone didn’t appear until 2007, after all.  Before that time an “app” was something the waiter tried to talk you into ordering before your meal.

Now millions and millions of us stare at smart phones for hours at a time – even while eating appetizers.  Parents ignore their children, children ignore their parents, and parents ignore each other, all for the sake of sending senseless texts and looking at videos of cats.

Scientists say our kids’ brains are being changed by all this screen time.  We’ll have to see if the changes are good or bad, I guess.  It’s hard to tell with kids.

It also seems that many more things are bad for us than in my childhood.  During that misspent youth I ate more sugar in a week than I now do in a year, and yet, I’m told I eat too much of it.

A healthy diet now consists of broccoli, carrots, and… well, that’s really about it.

The cars we drive have really changed.  Soon the driverless cars will be perfected, and people will be able to nap on their way to work in the morning.  By “perfected” I mean that they will stop running into things and running over people.

The outdated notion that people are either men or women seems to have been replaced by something else.  I’m not sure what today’s notion is, only that the words “sex” and “gender” are supposed to mean different things now, and people can choose their gender on a continuum between male and female.   Anyone predicting these ideas in 1970 would have been institutionalized.

Some things haven’t changed at all.  People still seek companionship and love.  We all want to be respected in some way, and respect is elusive.  We all look for our lives to have meaning, and that too is sometimes hard to grasp.

There’s a new year coming up, and we’ll have to wait and see what new changes await us, and what old standbys, like love, respect, and meaning, continue to be more important than most of the things we focus on.

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              Lots of words have more than one meaning.  One of those words, it occurs to me, is the word “bar.”

               Most of us, when we think about bars, probably think first of the places people go to relax, converse, and attain a modified mental state.  The piece of furniture over which the drinks are passed is called the bar by the bartender to the bar maids.  We have a lot of bars in Wisconsin and many of them are homes away from home for patrons.

               You can be barred from a bar if you cause trouble or can’t control yourself. 

               Candy bars are good, but not too good for us.  You could make a bar graph that compares the healthiness of different foods like candy bars and the foods you might find at a salad bar.

               When people become lawyers they need to pass the bar exam, and might become part of the American Bar Association, which is different than the tavern league.  If they lie cheat and steal, however, they may find themselves behind bars.

               When someone encourages better performance by making an example of their own excellent efforts they are said to be “raising the bar,” as in the high jump or pole vault.  On the other hand, if you are involved in a limbo dance contest, the objective is to lower the bar.

               It would be great to be spending time on a sand bar and to dig up a gold bar left by pirates long ago.  Maybe the pirate had a handlebar mustache.  You might celebrate by singing a few bars of a happy song.  Then you can get on your bike and grab the handlebars and rush home to share the good news.  You would be the luckiest person in the world, bar none.

               Some people refer to our nation’s flag as being the stars and bars.  Certain military ranks have insignia that are bars.  They’re like stripes, only made of metal.

               Some home theater systems have sound bars.  Television engineers make sure your picture is right by calibrating the color bars.  After lunch, they have ice cream bars.

               So, you see my point.  There are a lot of meanings and uses for the word bar.  I don’t know if this is useful information, but feel free to use it to win a bar bet.


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               I heard a song by a bluegrass group the other day.  The premise of the song was that the scars we carry, physical and emotional, are the evidence of our lives.  The singer reflected on some of his scars and how he got them, and what he learned in the process.

               Like anyone would, I think, I started thinking about the stories behind my scars.

               The two earliest scars I got, and still have, include one above my upper lip that was the result of getting hit there with a rock, thrown by another kid.  He and I, both about six years old, thought it was a good idea to throw stones at each other.  We learned that it was not a good idea.

               The second is a football shaped scar on my left foot which was the result of riding my tricycle without shoes on, in violation of one of Mom’s rules.  My foot slipped off the pedal and into the little tricycle spokes.  Lesson learned.

               A couple of years later I had a bicycle related incident involving a bumpy path and the crossbar on my bike making contact with a certain part of my body.  I can’t talk about that scar.

               Over the years many more scars were gathered.  There are two that I really cherish – one under my left eye that resulted from a tumble I took when our dog, Toby, greeted me with a little too much enthusiasm as I walked across the yard when he was young.  The other is from a scratch on my arm that I got from Toby during his last couple months with us.  We were playing, and he miscalculated how close I was.  I’m happy to have both of those.

               One I’m not that happy about is on my forehead, and it is the result of walking into a beam.  As a tall person I hit my head way too often, but this was the only one to leave a scar.

               Emotional scars?  We all have them, I guess.  Most of mine are because of missed opportunities to do the right thing, doing the wrong thing, or the people who aren’t here anymore who I miss.

               As the song points out – and I think it’s true – the people we become results from the healed injuries much more than from the joys.  It’s not easy to imagine that those wounds have an upside when they happen, but time and reflection shows that many of them do.

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Turkey Diary

With Thanksgiving behind us, it’s nice if the warm memories of time spent with friends and family lingers on.  If you prepared a really large turkey, the leftovers are probably also lingering on. 

It all comes from a fear of not having enough, and of not knowing how much 20 pounds of turkey really is.  Plus, this would have to be the year that nobody wanted to over-eat.

Here is the diary of one family’s battle to use up their turkey.

Day 1: A wonderfully prepared, golden brown turkey which everyone loved!  Definitely a victory.  Better than last year when the smoke didn’t clear until the night game was on.

Day 2: Turkey sandwiches with mayo and horseradish.  Very good.  Brings back memories of eating turkey sandwiches last year.  Isn’t nostalgia great?

Day 3:  Turkey tetrazzini.  Not bad, as far as casseroles go.  Turns out that tetrazzini is an American dish.  Don’t try to order it in Italy.  Who knew?

Day 4:  Turkey soup.  Good for a cold day.  Made enough soup for four more meals.  Turkey must be about gone.  I mean, it must be, right?

Day 5:  Oh dear God!  The turkey in the fridge has multiplied like fishes and loaves.  We haven’t made a dent!  So much turkey!

Day 6:  Turkey fondue.  Oh, that was a bad idea.  Damp cheese over dry poultry.  So much for the 70s.

Day 7:  Turkey hash.  Actually, the fondue was better.  Drowning it in gravy made it edible. 

Day 8:  Turkey salad sandwiches.  Very good, except that it tastes like turkey.  It’s wrong to waste food.  Waste not, want not, after all.  It must be just about gone.

Day 9:  Turkey stir-fry.  I don’t think China has any turkeys. 

Day 10: Accidentally threw out the rest of the turkey.  And, by accidentally, I mean on purpose.

Day 11: Woke up in a cold sweat during a dream about Thanksgiving with a kitchen full of turkeys.  Turkeys on platters, live turkeys walking around, turkeys wearing chef’s hats…

Day 12: Just ordered a 22-pound ham for Christmas.  That will be enough, won’t it? 

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Giving Thanks

(From Thanksgiving week)

       The Thanksgiving holiday is the time of year when we are officially thankful.  We even take off of work to be thankful, unless we’re working retail and getting things set-up for the day after Thanksgiving.

       At the same time as we’re supposed to be officially thankful, we traditionally get together with large family groups in order to consume large quantities of food, and in many families, alcohol, and watch football games.

       In many homes the actual official moment of thankfulness comes as everyone sits down at the table and/or children’s table.  Sometimes the head of the family says a prayer or a heartfelt expression of thankfulness.  Some families go around the table to let everyone express something for which they are grateful.

       These are both really nice traditions, but the expectations are sometimes greater than the reality.  My mom would take it upon herself to say something meaningful, and someone would snicker or make a quiet remark in fun, and the result would be tears.  You’d think there could be one time of the year when we wouldn’t joke around, but you’d be wrong.

       I think a day to be thankful is a really good idea.  We should be thankful every day, of course, and we probably are, even if we’re not really thinking about it as much as we should.

       Feeling gratitude turns out to make people happier.  A study done by Harvard Health says so.  Thinking you can’t be happy until you get everything you want is a recipe for being unhappy, but being grateful for what you have makes you feel good.

       If you’re sitting around the Thanksgiving table – even if nobody makes you tell why you’re thankful – it is a good time to take a moment to be grateful for being alive.  The physical and emotional aches and pains we suffer are all reminders that we have this amazing gift of life, and the opportunities to live it well. 

       Eating too much and watching football are all part of Thanksgiving, but to look around and appreciate what you have, and who you have in your life, might make the Thanksgiving experience more complete.   

       And Tums. Lots of Tums.

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               The word “museum” comes from Latin, and means a place of study.  The famous muses who inspire and frustrate artists are said to have hung out at museums, which were their shrines.

               There is surely a lot of beauty in the world and a lot of history to be derived from things around us.  But museums take beauty or history or science and focus it into one place for us to enjoy, learn, and put our everyday world into perspective.

               Our family has always included museums and historical sites in our vacations.  Now that our nest is empty we still explore those opportunities.  Last weekend we visited three such places in the Fox Valley, and had a pretty good time.

               Our first stop was at the Paine Art Center and Gardens in Oshkosh – my home town.  It is a mansion built by Mr. and Mrs. Nathan Paine, owners of a large lumber company back in the day, producing, among other things, doors.

They decide to build an English style mansion as a home and museum, but as the Great Depression hit, they determined that living there would be an affront to the thousands of unemployed workers.  After the depression, they completed the mansion strictly as a museum, furnished and adorned with the best of the best in art and design.

               There are also great English gardens, but not so much in November.  They have a big deal exhibit at Christmas based on The Nutcracker.  We saw the set-up, but it starts late this week.

               Then we went to the Bergstrom-Mahler Museum of Glass in Neenah.  Mrs.

Evangeline Bergstrom loved glass paperweights.  As the wife of the founder of the Bergstrom Paper Company she had the resources to acquire a lot of them, and they’re all at this museum on the Lake Winnebago shore that had been her home.

               In addition to the paperweights (which were dazzling, believe it or not) there is other glass art, including some whimsical pieces and some knock-outs. 

               The Mahler part of the museum is for Caroline and Ernst Mahler, originally from Vienna, who gave a substantial collection of Germanic glass to the museum.

               The next day we went to the EAA museum in Oshkosh.  We’ve been to a number of flight museums, including the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C., and this one compares favorably.  All sorts of military and private planes, along with many historical home-made planes are exhibited.  It is really something, and at 90 minutes away, it will be a great family outing.

               All three museums were great.  And, the Oshkosh Public Museum, which is kitty-corner from the Paine, is also very good if that sort of things is interesting to you.  You’ll make different sorts of memories than with a trip to an indoor water park, but you also won’t have water in your ears for the next week. 


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