Saturday, March 31, 2012

A Lion and A Lamb


An English proverb says "March comes in like a Lion and goes out like a Lamb."  Or vice versa as it may apply.

With the weather we're experiencing here in Michigan's Thumb region the last few day, it is definitely a Lion kinda ending to the month's end.

If my memory is correct (and at my age, who knows) I vaguely recall escaping Traverse City during a 15 inch snow fall that caused power outages and road closings -- at the beginning of the month.  Hmmm.

But where did the Lion and Lamb saying come from?

The phrase has its origins with the constellations Leo, the Lion, and Aries, the ram or lamb. It has to do with the relative positions of these constellations in the sky at the beginning and end of the month. Someone adopted the saying for weather predictions and it became weatherlore.

BareNakedBill is not only fun, but educational as well!

Read all the BareNakedBill blog posts at: BareNakedBill.blogspot.com

Friday, March 30, 2012

Graham Crackers

Why is crunching on graham crackers so comforting? There's just something about the flavor and texture of them that I love.  

I can eat them plain or with peanut butter.  Sometimes spread a thin layer of creamy butter and make a little sandwich.

Honey Maid is my brand choice. Don't ask me why, but they just have a taste I enjoy the most.

The graham cracker was developed in 1829 in Bound Brook, New Jersey, by Presbyterian minister Sylvester Graham. A real graham cracker is made with graham flour, a combination of fine-ground white flour and coarse-ground wheat bran and germ.

Graham crackers are often used for making s'mores and pie.

The Graham cracker was originally marketed as "Dr. Graham's Honey Buckets," a health food as part of the Graham Diet, a regimen to suppress what Rev. Graham considered unhealthy carnal urges, the source of many maladies according to Graham.

Reverend Graham would often lecture on "self-abuse" as it was commonly called at the time. One of his many theories was that one could curb one's sexual appetite by eating bland foods. Another man who held this belief was Dr. John Harvey Oswald, the inventor of the corn flakes cereal.

Funny reasons for inventing a food we all enjoy today.


Thursday, March 29, 2012

WTH?

My new printer sitting on the front porch.
Thanks USP! Good thing I don't have thieves for neighbors.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Say NO to Hate!

The other day I was listening to talk radio and they played a clip of Cee Lo Green, a judge on NBC's The Voice, commenting to a question about what he thought fellow-judge Adam Levine new celebrity fragrance should smell like.

Watch for yourself (you can skip the ad by clicking the the graphic in the lower right 5 seconds after it starts playing):

I'm not sure if Mr. Cee Lo was trying to be funny or if he's just stupid, but his remarks were totally anti-Semitic.

Why is no one enraged?  If the tables were turned and Levine used the N-word to describe Green's fragrance, the world would stop turning with outcry of racist remarks.

Hate is hate is hate no matter how it's dished up.

A stereotype is a popular belief about specific types of individuals. Stereotypes are standardized and simplified conceptions of people based on some prior assumptions. Another name for stereotyping is bias. A bias is a tendency, most of which are good -- like knowing to eat food instead of paper clips, but sometimes stereotyping can turn into discrimination if we misinterpret a bias and act upon it in a negative manner.

When we begin to believe the stereotypes, we're in trouble. Cops sit around eating doughnuts, blacks are good athletes, gay men have AIDS, obese people are slobs -- these and all other stereotypes, when believed, become an untrue-fact that can breed hate.

Hitler used the term "smelly Jews."

Cee Lo Green's comment about Adam Levine wasn't funny, but it was certainly stupid. With all the biased, stereotyped hatred this black man has certainly faced, he should have known better.

Check out all of the BareNakedBill Blog posts at: http://barenakedbill.blogspot.com/

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

TUESDAY TALLY: Favorite Foods

Here's the Tuesday Tally of Favorite Foods my Mom would make:
  1. Cubed steak smothered in mushroom (soup) gravy.
  2. Potato soup made like my grandma Esch: mashed potatoes thinned with milk and butter. My brother Chuck remembers the soup served with sizzle steaks in time for Bonanza on Sunday night.
  3. Turkey with stuffing (think Thanksgiving!).
  4. Fried Chicken... Totally artery clogging! Whole chicken pieces (there was no such thing as boneless chicken) rolled in flour and dropped into a pan of hot oil with butter.
  5. Cheeseburgers... fried in a cast iron pan so the outsides were slightly crisp and the insides were juicy. This pan was also used to fry eggs in bacon grease.
  6. Spaghetti. Don't ask for the recipe, you'll just scratch your head and say, "are you serious?"
  7. Chicken Noodle Soup with chicken gizzards. I used to pick out the gizzards.
So things you would never see on this list are: beef tongue and heart. I just had to mention that for my dad and brothers.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Absolutely Fabulous!

I’ve never really understood British humour (British spelling).

During my collage days in the early 80s, Benny Hill was all the rage.  What a snoozefest!

Aside from shows on TV in the U.S. that are adaptations of sitcoms across the pond (The Office!), we American’s don’t get much exposure to what makes the Brits laugh unless we tune into PBS or BBC-America.

One exception to my BBC-viewing lack of interest is the cult-classic: Absolutely Fabulous or AbFab as it’s known by its fans.

Edina "Eddy" Monsoon and Patsy Stone are a pair of high-powered career women on the London fashion scene: Eddy runs her own PR firm, and Patsy holds a sinecure position at a top British fashion magazine. The two women use their considerable financial resources to indulge in a life revolving around alcohol, recreational drugs, and chasing the latest fads in an attempt to maintain their youth and recapture their glory days as mods in Swinging London. The partnership is largely driven by Patsy, who functions as both codependent and enabler to Eddy. Their lifestyle inevitably leads to a variety of personal crises, which are invariably taken care of by Eddy's young daughter, Saffron, whose constant abuse at the hands of Eddy and Patsy has left her a bitter, cynical teenager (and now twenty-something woman just released from prison) who nonetheless continues to care for her mother out of a sense of unconditional love.

While the dialog may not make you laugh, the subtle references and odd turn of events mesmerize me. Over the course of several seasons, Patsy’s beehive hairdo continued to get taller.

I watched a few of the most recent episodes.  And while I sat watching the idiotic adventures of Eddy and Patsy, I had no idea why I continued to watch.

Maybe I’m starting to understand what makes the Brits laugh.

View all the BNB blog posts at: barenakedbill.blogspot.com

Sunday, March 25, 2012

New Feature: "What The Heck?"

Today marks the beginning of a new BNB feature called "What The Heck?" where I'll share a photo or two for your enjoyment.  I won't be sharing much detail, but I encourage you to log on to the BNB blog site and added your own caption.  Come on!  It will be fun.

 BNB BNB BNB BNB BNB BNB BNB BNB BNB BNB BNB BNB BNB BNB BNB BNB BNB BNB BNB


Marlette, Michigan; March 20, 2012

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Plastic Cards

Some of the 60+ cards in my stack.
Are you overloaded with cards?

I have more cotton-picking rewards, points, membership, gift and credit cards than I really ever need. Over 60 at last count.

No, I don't keep them all in my wallet.

Some of the cards I never use and I'm not sure why I signed up for them. Probably to get a discount on purchases or maybe a free gift.

Some of the cards in the pile were from businesses that are long gone and the cards have been shredded. Others where given to me as gifts -- to businesses I never walk into -- and I had forgotten I had them in my possession.

Then there are the special cards: my key card to the Eagles Club and my Nexus card that allows me a 'fast pass' type border crossing between the U.S. and Canada.

A few of these cards are from hotels and I'm gathering points for future use. Unfortunately the cards are imprinted with the corporate brand and I have no idea what hotel chain they represent.

For now, I'll organize all the cards in a wallet of their own and keep in somewhere handy in my truck.  Maybe I'll remember to use them once in a while.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Originality Is Dead

Nothing new can come from this movie.
There are no new ideas.  I've made this statement many times.  And I'll repeat it yet again: THERE ARE NO NEW IDEAS!  At least not when it comes to the movies.

What's with all the remakes and sequels YEARS later?

Case in point: American Reunion.  This movies a third installment in the American Pie series that started in 1999.  It was funny, but not worthy of a sequel back then.  But the movie executives thought American Pie II would be a good idea a couple years later.

It wasn't.

There's been talk about remaking the classic Wizard of Oz.  While the technology of today would enhance the production, I can't image an updated version.

I'm sure Judy Garland is rolling in her grave at the very thought.

I feel bad that movie makers have used up every premise and idea for the big screen. I often sit in a theater and say to myself, "This movie was really good when it was called..." because it reminds me of another movie I've seen.

My friend Bill Murphy is a screenwriter.  Hopefully he's cranking out plots and storylines that are new and refreshing.

I'll keep you posted.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Pay It Forward

There was an elderly woman in front of me as I was walking up to the entrance doors at Speedway on Sunday. She was moving slowly, using a four-pronged cane and carrying a homemade cup carrier held together with duct tape.

She smiled and said, "Nice Truck," to a man sitting in a pickup with bright paint and fancy pinstripes.

As she opened the door, she saw me and offered to hold the door.

"Thanks. After you," I replied.

She walked in ahead of me and then turned, with a smile on her face and asked, "Did you see that HOT truck out there?"

"I did.  It's pretty fancy."  I wanted to laugh at her calling it hot.  What a sweet, happy woman.

She walked over to the cappuccino machine as I grabbed my customary iced tea. She carefully place one, then two large 'caps' into her homemade carrier -- a necessity for her since she walked with the cane.

I was at the register while she was putting on the lids, and I told the clerk I wanted to pay for the woman's beverages.

The clerk said, "That's nice."  I told her the woman seemed like a very nice lady.

As I left the store, I saw a van parked in the handicapped space. There was an elderly man in the passenger seat.  Probably her husband.  She was in the store, on a sunny Sunday afternoon, buying a sweet drink to share with her spouse.

I smiled knowing she had no idea who I was or why I paid for her cappuccinos. I felt warm hoping she'd be flattered. It made my day to practice random kindness.

Pay it forward... it feels wonderful!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Biker Bill


BIKER BILL - Total geek with the helmet.
This amazing weather created a yearning to hit the trails on my bike.  Yeah, I'm a biker!  Biker Bill!


Okay, it's not a Harley... I love riding my bicycle.

There's just something about hopping on and going for a spin, especially when the sky is clear, the sun is warm and the breeze is refreshing.

I have a couple friends who refuse to ride bike with me because I wear a helmet when I ride.

Apparently they've never seen someone with a closed head injury.

So why do I wear a helmet?  Why should YOU?

Here's a summary of US statistics available from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration: Traffic Safety Facts - 2009 Data (the most recent I could find.)
  • 630 bicyclists died on US roads in 2009 (718 in 2008, 1,003 in 1975)
  • 74 were 14 or younger, a reduction of 58 per cent from the 178 killed in 2000.
  • Bicyclist deaths represented 2 per cent of all 2009 traffic fatalities.51,000 bicyclists were injured in traffic in 2009 (Up sharply from 43,000 in 2007)
  • One-seventh of the cyclists killed were between 5 and 15 years old.
  • Average age of a bicyclist killed on US roads: 41Average age of a bicyclist injured on US roads: 31
  • Fatal crashes typically were urban (69%) and not at intersections (64%).
Sunday I was riding my bike and as I entered an intersection -- where I had a green light -- a driver in a car decided to make a right turn in front of me.  Thankfully I saw her coming AND she saw me or else I would have been hit.

So, if you're embarrassed to ride your bike with me wearing a helmet -- GET OVER IT!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

You can feel it in the air

Signs of Spring, from left: mum plant poking through
the garden soil and a young maple tree budding out.
AH!  Spring is here.

No, really, it's here!  According to The Old Farmer's Almanac, it arrived in the Northern Hemisphere at 1:14 am (EDT) this morning.

I think it's a day early this year.  I suspect the earlier than usual arrive had something to do with the extra day we added to our calendars back in February.

Regardless of when or why, we're enjoying the early arrival of Spring here in Michigan Thumb.

A few days over the past 10 days, when the weather has reached over 70 degrees, I've been lucky enough to wear shorts and a t-shirts after work. The time change has added to the enjoyment of the warmer weather by offering use daylight until well after 7:30 pm.

Yet this unseasonable weather is odd enough that many people talk about what's to come. They're not saying the "S" word, but they're talking about snow.

I would expect at least one snow storm before we see Spring here to stay.

But I don't care, a foot of snow at the end of March will be gone in just a few days.  That, for me, is tolerable.

For now, I'll run around in shorts and start organizing my camping gear and open the windows to air out the house.

Spring is here... You can feel it in the air.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Team Esch

TEAM ESCH: Matthew, Lisa, Cindy and Jeremy.
Wow!  We're had some great warmer-than-normal weather here in Michigan, with temps pushing into (and past) the high-70s.

Yesterday was a perfect day for the St. Patrick's Day parade in Bay City (Michigan). I've seen this parade step off with snow coming down.  Or worse, snow with freezing rain, and other nasty winter weather.

Before the big parade, the Bay City Runner's Club sponsors a 5K Run/Walk.  This year, Team Esch, consisting of Matthew, Lisa, Cindy and Jeremy, participated.  I was poised to join them, but didn't have cash for the $25 registration fee.

I guess I'm the only person on the planet who uses a card for the majority of monetary transactions. I guess I should try to get into the habit of carrying cash again.  But it seems to disappear without knowledge of where the evaporation occurred.

Anyway, when they said I needed cash, I said, "screw it" (well what I said means screw it) and joined Team Esch in the waiting area.  I don't think my back would have held out anyway.

We discussed how long it should take and Jeremy had some handicapping formula he was going to use to level the playing field between he and his younger brother. It had something to do with him being three-and-a-half years older than Matthew, so thought he would get three-and-a-half minutes per mile run.

Okay... 3.1 miles in 5K, times 3.5 minutes per mile... carry the one, divide by...  Does anyway have a calculator?

I don't know.  I think if Jeremy finished 10 minutes or less than Matthew, they'd be pretty even. And if he beat his younger brother, I would have bought him dinner at Lucky's Steakhouse.  (I should have offered that bet!)

As I said, it was a great day for a race. The temperature at race time was just below 70.

Are you curious about the guy's results?  Hmmm. Seems like a good blog topic for another day.  LOL

No, I won't do that.

Matthew ran the 3.1 miles in 28 minutes (9.03 minute mile); while Jeremy ran it in 34 minutes (10.96 minute mile).  Awesome times for guys who do not run on a regular basis.

I'm in on the next 5K!

For reader who don't know my family, Matthew and Jeremy are my nephews. Lisa and Cindy are their wives & my nieces.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Irish Foods

If you ask nearly anyone for a Irish food, they'll probably scratch their heads and then reply "Corned Beef and Cabbage."  The alternative answer is "potatoes."

If you've ever cooked corned beef -- I mean really cooked it, not reheated it from a vacuum packed bag -- you know it's nothing but work!  You need to brine the fresh beef brisket for a week to 10 days.  Then, if you want it to be amazingly delicious, you slow roast it for several hours before you slice it for a mile high sandwich.

That is why I don't cook it.  Well that and the fact that I don't really care for corned been all that much.

So instead of sharing a recipe for corned beef and cabbage, I'll share another Irish food: Soda Bread.

Delicous, like all breads, warm from the oven with a thin layer of butter.

Enjoy!

Authentic Irish Soda Bread
Easy 4 ingredient recipe

Note: Traditional Irish Soda Bread does not have raisins or sugar; it was basic bread that the peasants ate with every meal. The bread with the raisins and sugar is dessert bread reserved for special occasions and it is called "Spotted Dog" or "Railway Cake."

Ingredients 
   4 cups of unbleached all purpose flour 
   1 teaspoon of baking soda
   1 teaspoon of salt
   14 ounces of Buttermilk

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. Grease a Dutch oven and preheat it in the 425 degree oven for about 15 minutes, while you prepare the dough.

In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda and salt. Make a well in the center and slowly pour in the buttermilk, incorporating it into the dry ingredients with a wooden spoon a little at a time.

Once you have it all mixed together into sticky dough, turn it out onto a floured cutting board and knead lightly (too much kneading will make the gas escape).

Form the dough into a ball and flatten slightly into a disc shape. Dip a sharp knife in flour and cut an X mark across the top of the dough.

Place the dough into the preheated Dutch oven, cover with the lid and bake for 30 minutes.

Remove the lid and bake another 15 minutes.

Remove from the oven and enjoy.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

St. Patrick's Day

An Irish Prayer
St. Patrick
May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind always be at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
and rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of His hand.


I think we've all heard or read this prayer somewhere.  It's usually scrawled over the doorway in every Irish Pub in America.  Some people have it on a sign over the fireplace, others in picture frames on the wall.

When we read it, we think of the Irish, and St. Patrick.

Saint Patrick's Day (Irish: Lá Fhéile Pádraig (The Festival of Patrick) is celebrated on March 17 as both a cultural and religious. It commemorates Saint Patrick and the arrival of Christianity in Ireland. It is observed by the Catholic Church, the Anglican Communion (especially the Church of Ireland), the Eastern Orthodox Church and Lutheran Church.

Saint Patrick's Day was made an official feast day in the early seventeenth century, and has gradually become a celebration of Irish culture in general. The day is generally characterized by wearing of green attire and the lifting of Lenten restrictions on eating, and drinking alcohol.

Today, St. Patrick's Day is probably the most widely celebrated saint's day in the world.

Here is a prayer from St. Patrick's breastplate:

Christ be with me
Christ before me
Christ behind me
Christ in me
Christ beneath me
Christ above me
Christ on my right
Christ on my left
Christ where I lie
Christ where I sit
Christ where I arise
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me
Christ in the mouth of every man who speaks of me
Christ in every eye that sees me
Christ in every ear that hears me Salvation is of the Lord.





Friday, March 16, 2012

Heaven's Scent

Scents play a big part in our lives. We can easily identify and relate to fresh brewed coffee.

If you close your eyes and think of a Folger's coffee commercial, you can almost smell that fresh brewed aroma wafting through your nose.  That is the satisfying image the Folger's marketing staff wants you to enjoy.

And who doesn't love the smell of bacon in the morning, popcorn at the theater or fresh baked bread.
Some scents are not so pleasing... Garlic or onions, to some, is awful.  Cigarette smoke is another.

Our brains have a wonderful way to allow certain scents to trigger a flood of memories that we had stored way back in the back of our heads.

When I was growing up there was always a pillow on the living room sofa. When my dad came home from the day's work, he'd give me mother a kiss and hand her the newspaper.  She would then "stretch out" on the sofa and read the paper while dinner simmered on the stove and dad changed out of his work clothes.

From time to time, especially if I didn't feel well, I'd lay on that sofa as well, with my head on that pillow.  It had a scent -- my mother's scent.  There was something about it. It made me feel warm and safe. Like the bond of the scent between a mother lion and her cub, my mother's scent let me know she was there.

My mother has been gone for several years, but from time to time, my nose catches her scent. Because the scent that I thought was hers alone, she bought in a bottle.

It's called Tabu.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Ouch

Humans tend to really abuse their bodies. Perhaps not intentionally, but just by the work we do or the lives we live.

I'm finding the older I get the more aches and pains seems to be part of my daily life.  It's getting damn annoying.

More annoying is the pain in my left shoulder that, nearly every night, wakes me.  The pain is similar to what I remember feeling on the right side a few years ago.

One of my nephews tells me I'm practically a doctor, so I'll diagnose this myself...  Rotator Cuff Tear.

That's when the tendon that attaches at the top of the shoulder and help guide the arm in one of its many miraculous motions, gets torn. It causes pain with and/or a loss of motion.

Yeah, I'm experiencing both.  <sigh>

I think I screwed it up one night lifting a rather heavy patient into the back of the ambulance.

I'm seeing the orthopedic surgeon today where he'll order x-rays and do a physical exam that will hurt like a bee-atch. My hope is that he'll decide to skip the obligatory (and often useless) physical therapy that the insurance companies prefer to spend money on first.

It's my hope that he'll move right onto any MRI for a complete diagnosis and we can get surgery scheduled so I can get on with my life.

I've been done this road before: Arm in a sling for month, then weeks of physical therapy. Three to five pound lifting limits for months.

The right arm was done in mid-February.  I was worried I wouldn't be able to go camping by Memorial Day.  I went back to the ambulance in October.

It's a long haul, but if I need surgery, let's get going!

I just realize the blog will need to be typed one-handed for a while. :-(

I'll keep you posted.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

NEW BIGGER SIZE!

If you're a snack-grabber (that's an official marketing term*), then you've probably noticed how snack bags were getting smaller and smaller while holding the price at 99cents.

Not too long ago the snack manufacturers realized that a 99cent price tag for under an ounce of their product was really pushing the marketing limits.  I'm sure some of us were buying two bags to get a real taste of those snack chips.

And the "New Bigger Size" was reborn.  I say reborn, because a few years ago, this new size was THE size of snack chips.

As the costs of product went up, the contents of the bag went down. The physical size of the bag remained pretty much the same.

So what you're paying for is actually the bag, not the product.

Here's a video that sums up my feelings pretty well.

video
Not much I can do about it, except whine about it in a blog.  ;-) 

*Don't believe everything you read in a blog.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Tuesday Tally: Great Things About Detroit


Some of you are going to tell me I'm crazy, but I love Detroit!  Yeah, there are some areas I won't go and others where I'd drive on a flat tire to get out of rather than stop.

But I still love Detroit.  The city really does have much to offer.

So here's my Tuesday Tally about Detroit.

  1. Detroit Sports Fans.  Whether it's the Tigers, Red Wings, Pistons or Lions, Detroit sports fans are loyal and unlike any others.
  2. Lafayette Coney Island. If you've never had a coney dog at Lafayette Coney Island you've missed a true experience.  It's even more fun at 3 am.  ;-)
  3. Eastern Market. This long-standing farmer's market is a wonderful place to pick up fresh produce and other food items at great price.
  4. Greektown. I'm not talking the casino, its presence has actually taken away from the area.
  5. Astoria Bakery.  While you're in Greektown, pick up some baklava or other sweet treat that will blow your mind.
  6. Detroit Zoo.  Technically not in the City of Detroit, the Detroit Zoo is one of the best zoos in the country.  But then, any zoo is always a lot of fun.
  7. Detroit Symphony Orchestra. I'm not sure where to begin to speak about the DSO. Top quality musicians in a city many think lacks culture.  Check them out and judge for yourself.
  8. Detroit Institute of Arts. An amazing collection of art that rivals that of much larger cities, the DIA is a fun way to spend a day in Detroit.
  9. Fisher Theater, Fox Theater, Masonic Temple and Detroit Opera House. There's plenty of theater events all within a very small area of Detroit, sometimes referred to as the 'Theater District.' These old buildings are classics with their ornate features.
  10. Thanksgiving Day Parade. Produced by The Parade Co., this annual event, in my opinion, is much better and more thrilling than the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City.
I could add much more to this list if I started adding places and events in Metro Detroit -- that is outside the city boundaries.  But not now. Not with this list.

For now, this is my Tally of just a few of Detroit's Gems.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Movie Critique: Act of Valor

An unprecedented blend of real-life heroism and original filmmaking, Act of Valor stars a group of active-duty Navy SEALs in a powerful story of contemporary global anti-terrorism. Inspired by true events, the film combines stunning combat sequences, up-to-the minute battlefield technology and heart-pumping emotion for the ultimate action adventure. Act of Valor takes audiences deep into the secretive world of the most elite, highly trained group of warriors in the modern world. When the rescue of a kidnapped CIA operative leads to the discovery of a deadly terrorist plot against the U.S., a team of SEALs is dispatched on a worldwide manhunt. As the valiant men of Bandito Platoon race to stop a coordinated attack that could kill and wound thousands of American civilians, they must balance their commitment to country, team and their families back home. Each time they accomplish their mission...
Stars: AMERICAN HEROS!

WOW... I'm not sure where to begin with this Movie Critique.

First, let me say I rated this movie at four and a half popcorn buckets because I thought there were some animated scenes and dialogue. It just didn't seem to flow.

But the storyline is very real with some very real-life terror threats. At times, I was holding my breath and could feel my heart beating in my chest.

There was something about the movie that will grab you. I don't want to reveal the plot or outcome, but there is one important fact to note: the main player in this movie about U.S. Navy Seals stars real-life Navy Seals.

That explains the unpolished acting from time to time.

I knew it was a remarkable flick when I noticed that the entire audience sat silent as the credits rolled. I could sniffling around me as I wiped tears from my eyes.

I certainly wasn't crying because of the movie.  No, I was crying because this movie tells the story of the men and woman who are willing to die for you and I without regard for themselves.

Truly, ad Act of Valor.






FOUR AND A HALF POPCORN BUCKETS (0 to 5 Rating)
Screened on Sunday, March 11, 2012 at Bad Axe Theater, Bad Axe, MI

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Test Blog Guinea Pigs

I don't have a topic for today's blog, so I'm going make you a Guinea Pig.  I'm sorry, but I promise it really won't be painful.

I'm sort of exploring some of the many "blogger" features that can be used to create this daily post.  Some of my friends have asked me questions and wondered if I would teach them how to blog.

I'm still learning the software, but as I master it's functions, I'll be happy to share it with anyone.

As for teaching someone how to blog... that's another story.

First, you gotta want to write.  You don't have to be good out of the gate. Time and practice will make a difference.

At least that's what I tell myself. I've been writing -- some days more than others -- for over for nearly 35 years.  I think most of the stuff I write sucks, but I'm not getting paid for it so it doesn't matter.  I hope when my writing counts, it's does the job I expect it to do.

I've gotten off topic here.  This a a test blog because I typed it on my cell phone, and emailed the content along with this photo (from my phone) to super-secret blogger.com email address.  The software automatically formats it and prepares it for posting.

I could post it immediately, but I don't.  Instead I save it as a draft for scheduling when I'm near a computer.

So Guinea Pigs... that wasn't painful, was it?

Saturday, March 10, 2012

You turn your back for one minute...

The BNB "Dashboard."
I'm a creature of habit.  I like order and routine.  I function better when I know the game plan.

That's not to say that I can't deal with the unusual or unexpected.  But I prefer not to get a curve ball when I least expect it.

I turned my back on BNB for just a minute (okay it was a few days) and when I returned to make some entries, I  found that (POOF!) all my drafts appeared to be missing.

For those of you that don't write blogs, let me explain.

I don't need to sit down at the keyboard each morning and crank out the information you read, just in time to publish it at 6 am...  Instead, I can crank out one or 21 posts and schedule them accordingly.  This simplifies life when I'm traveling or know I won't have time to sit at the keyboard.

All the blog posts that I create are there, in blog purgatory, awaiting their fate.  Those unposted blogs are know as (what else) drafts.

So, back to my point of being a create of habit.

When I get a topic idea for the blog, I log on and make a few quick notes to be saved for time when my creative juices are flowing.

At this writing I have approximately 30 topics in pre-publication draft mode.

When I last logged onto blogger, when I clicked on the "Posts" link, a sub-menu would appear listing selections that included "All," "Draft," and "Published."

Today, there seemed to be an unexpected change when "All" was my only choice.  Thankfully, the drafts were intact, and mixed among the published posts in the date-order they were created.

<Sigh>  What a nightmare.  Or so I thought.

As I tried to navigate around the blogger site, I had difficulties.  So I rebooted the computer, and went to the kitchen for a glass of juice.

Upon returning, I found that all the magic I love about blogger had returned to the normal semblance.

You know, you turn your back for one minute...

Friday, March 9, 2012

Five Important Life Lessons

I didn't write this piece, but I found the lessons very profound and worth sharing with others.
1. First Important Lesson - "Know The Cleaning Lady"

During my second month of college, our professor gave us a pop quiz. I was a conscientious student and had breezed through the questions, until I read the last one: "What is the first name of the woman who cleans the school?"

Surely this was some kind of joke. I had seen the cleaning woman several times. She was tall, dark-haired and in her 50s, but how would I know her name? I handed in my paper, leaving the last question blank. Just before class ended, one student asked if the last question would count toward our quiz grade.

"Absolutely," said the professor. "In your careers, you will meet many people. All are significant. They deserve your attention and care, even if all you do is smile and say "hello."

I've never forgotten that lesson. I also learned her name was Dorothy.


2. Second Important Lesson - "Pickup In The Rain"


One night, at 11:30 p.m., an older African American woman was standing on the side of an Alabama highway trying to endure a lashing rainstorm. Her car had broken down and she desperately needed a ride. Soaking wet, she decided to flag down the next car.

A young white man stopped to help her, generally unheard of in those conflict-filled 1960s. The man took her to safety, helped her get assistance and put her into a taxicab.

She seemed to be in a big hurry, but wrote down his address and thanked him. Seven days went by and a knock came on the man's door. To his surprise, a giant console color TV was delivered to his home.

A special note was attached. It read: "Thank you so much for assisting me on the highway the other night. The rain drenched not only my clothes, but also my spirits. Then you came along. Because of you, I was able to make it to my dying husband's bedside just before he passed away. God bless you for helping me and unselfishly serving others."

Sincerely, Mrs. Nat King Cole.


3. Third Important Lesson - "Remember Those Who Serve"

In the days when an ice cream sundae cost much less, a 10 year-old boy entered a hotel coffee shop and sat at a table. A waitress put a glass of water in front of him. "How much is an ice cream sundae?" he asked. "50¢," replied the waitress.

The little boy pulled his hand out of his pocket and studied the coins in it.

"Well, how much is a plain dish of ice cream?" he inquired. By now more people were waiting for a table and the waitress was growing impatient. "35¢!" she brusquely replied.

The little boy again counted his coins. "I'll have the plain ice cream," he said. The waitress brought the ice cream, put the bill on the table and walked away. The boy finished the ice cream, paid the cashier and left.

When the waitress came back, she began to cry as she wiped down the table. There, placed neatly beside the empty dish, were two nickels and five pennies. You see, he couldn't have the sundae, because he had to have enough left to leave her a tip.


4. Fourth Important Lesson - "The Obstacles In Our Path"

In ancient times, a King had a boulder placed on a roadway. Then he hid himself and watched to see if anyone would remove the huge rock. Some of the king's wealthiest merchants and courtiers came by and simply walked around it. Many loudly blamed the King for not keeping the roads clear, but none did anything about getting the stone out of the way.

Then a peasant came along carrying a load of vegetables. Upon approaching the boulder, the peasant laid down his burden and tried to move the stone to the side of the road. After much pushing and straining, he finally succeeded. After the peasant picked up his load of vegetables, he noticed a purse lying in the road where the boulder had been. The purse contained many gold coins and a note from the King indicating that the gold was for the person who removed the boulder from the roadway. The peasant learned what many of us never understand - "Every obstacle presents an opportunity to improve our condition."


5. Fifth Important Lesson - "Giving When It Counts"

Many years ago, when I worked as a volunteer at a hospital, I got to know a little girl named Liz who was suffering from a rare and serious disease. Her only chance of recovery appeared to be a blood transfusion from her 5-year-old brother, who had miraculously survived the same disease and had developed the antibodies needed to combat the illness. The doctor explained the situation to her little brother, and asked the little boy if he would be willing to give his blood to his sister. I saw him hesitate for only a moment before taking a deep breath and saying, "Yes, I'll do it if it will save her."

As the transfusion progressed, he lay in bed next to his sister and smiled, as we all did, seeing the color returning to her cheeks. Then his face grew pale and his smile faded. He looked up at the doctor and asked with a trembling voice, "Will I start to die right away?".

Being young, the little boy had misunderstood the doctor; he thought he was going to have to give his sister all of his blood in order to save her.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

230 lb. Invisible Man

I've come to the conclusion that I'm a 230 lb. Invisible Man.  Which, to me, seems to be quite a feat.

Over the course of the past three or four months, I've been repeatedly amazed at how many retail workers have ignored me while I've been shopping in their establishments.  I don't mean an "oh, I'm sorry, is someone waiting on you?" pass over... I'm talking an all out "If I don't make eye contact you don't exist and I won't have to wait on you!" total blowoff.

One example is a three separate visits to a long-established shop known where some Brothers, who think they're Saints, sell Nuts and chocolates.  They call their shop a House! (Get the picture?).  So I go into this shop and the young clerks are standing behind the counter chatting with each other, tirelessly working at avoiding eye contact as I walk by.

I make my way to the bulk chocolates - which they need to weigh for me - and wait.  Hmmm.  La la la. Dee dee dee.  I keep looking their way, but the three of them keep up the conversation.  I'm sure they were talking about saving the fat guy's life by not selling him those fattening chocolate cover peanut clusters!

Then my internal countdown clock kicks in: ten, nine, eight (wait on me!), seven, six, five (are you serious?), four, three, two, one, DING! I'm out the door.

And no, I didn't get a "have a nice day," as I was leaving either.

Maybe that's why I enjoy going into my local Subway shop.  No matter how many people are in line, one of the sandwich makers (do they have a special name?) will always say, "Welcome to Subway! We'll right with you."

I don't feel like a 230 lb. invisible man there.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

GRRRRR!

Please forgive me if this blog post is totally disjointed and off the wall. I'm so damn frustrated right now I could scream!

Confused. Dazed. Outraged. Depressed. There are so many emotions going on in my mind right now.  Perhaps that's what makes it more difficult is having all the out-of-control emotions boil to the top without control on my part.

I once worked for a woman who said, "I can sit on a mountain, but not on a tack." This is a mountain and I plan on moving it!  I doubt it will go peacefully, but nonetheless, it will go!

My head is pounding and my arms feel heavy.  My chest is tight and I feel short of breath.  All classic signs of a heart attack.  But I know better.  It's anxiety caused by stress. Some self-induced, some situational-induced.

Maybe if I screamed... or cried.  I certainly can't laugh.

I'm not going to go into the problem right now.  You know, change the name, protect the innocent.  But everyone would know the players anyway.

So for now, I'll pray, and meditate and work relaxation exercises.

And keep writing my blog.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Tuesday Tally: Before you get a driver's license

A couple weeks ago I pulled into a parking lot and parked a space over from two cars with open hoods.  Beside the vehicles were two younger ladies and a young man.

The young man, probably 17 or 18 years old, was attempting to attach jumper cables to one of the batteries.  He looked like he was struggling to figure out how to make the connection.

As I exited my truck, I noticed neither car was running. So I casually asked, "Do you need some help?" They replied with, "No thanks, we can get it."

When I came back, the hoods of both vehicles were still up and all three were sitting inside one of the cars, which was running.

I guess they were charging the battery.

If they had the time to sit and wait, more power to them.

But it made me think: You shouldn't be able to get a driver's license until you can:
I'm sure there are many more items to add to this list, but it's a start.  How many of these tasks can you perform?

Monday, March 5, 2012

The Price of Health

Sticker shock is something you get when you think you know the price of a item and it turns out to be much more.  Maybe it's more about what you're willing to play versus the selling price.

I'm fortunate -- and spoiled -- by the healthcare coverage I have at work. For the most part, I don't have to worry about the price tag on being well.

From time to time, in an effort to reduce the nearly annual 30% increase in insurance premiums, the company modifies the plan without reducing the coverage. It's little things like self-insuring co-pays.

During our annual benefit meeting last fall, we were told about our Healthcare Savings Account.  This is an actual savings account at the bank with funds for our healthcare.

I think HSA is also part of Obamacare.

We were also informed to expect sticker shock when it comes to our prescription medications. Beginning January 1, we began playing 100% of the medication cost, until our deductible is reached.

Okay, doesn't sound so bad, right?

Now I'm not one to take a lot of meds. An occasional antibiotic or anti-inflammatory, something for my "getting older" aches and pains. Nothing on a regular basis.

Sticker shock doesn't begin to describe my reaction to the cost of a prescription reorder I considered making last week.  What used to cost me $120 for a three month supply will now be $738!

Thankfully it's ordered "PRN."  That stands for pro re nata, meaning take as needed. I don't need it often.

Regardless of how often I take it, it's a ridiculous price and I'll be checking with my doctor to see if there's something else I can take.

I don't know how people who are not covered by insurance could pay those prices for life-saving medication.

For me, it's been a valuable lesson in the price of health. 


Sunday, March 4, 2012

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow

12th floor view from
Grand Traverse Resort
Wow!  Last Thursday evening I traveled to Traverse City (Michigan) for a EMS Instructor conference.  The trip was uneventful and the evening was quiet.  Friday was filled with training sessions and talk about "the storm" that was brewing.  I heard one report about "up to 15 inches."

I'm writing this Saturday night. Because I'm just getting home and I'm tired, this blog post is going to be short and sweet.

Friday evening the Meijer store parking lot was full as the snow as falling to the ground.  By 8 pm I was holed up in my Travelodge motel room with a comfy bed, plenty of TV channels on the cable and free WiFi for internet browsing.

By morning, I was faced with the need to brush eight-plus inches of heavy, wet snow.  The sky was overcast with more snow falling.

Thankfully the roads were plowed and I was able to get home safely.
Cars buried under a blanket of wet, heavy snow.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Don't worry... BE HAPPY!

Why are are most people never happy with their looks and have this crazy need to either disguise or drastically change their appearance?

Now before I get up on my soapbox, I'll offer this disclaimer: I had gastric-bypass surgery nearly nine years ago.  Yes, it changed my looks -- and my life.  However, I had the surgery more so for health reasons than to change my appearance.  I have an extensive family history of heart disease and diabetes. In addition, I was suffering with joint and back problems as well as other physical ailments. I knew I had to do something when, as an paramedic, I was responding to an auto accident and I had trouble kneeling down next to a patient lying on the road.

And yes, my weight also caused emotional distress.

Which brings me back to my original question:  Why are are most people never happy with their looks and have this crazy need to either disguise or drastically change their appearance?

The answer? Probably the bombardment of messages we get from family and friends and total strangers. Movies and TV shows are loaded with negative references to self-image as well as "look-at-me-I-am-perfect-so-be-like-me" images as well. Mass marketing and general media shape our self-opinion and esteem.

Male anorexia (starvation) is becoming as common in boys and young men as it has been for the female population.  People are literally dying to look good.

But the problem isn't just about weight.

People are the butt of many jokes if they have a big nose, ears that stick out a little more than others, cleft lip, protruding "buck" teeth, amblyopia (that's a lazy eye)... the list goes on and on.

Really, it's no wonder we can't be happy with ourselves.

Thankfully I learned a long time ago, I don't give a sh!t what anyone thinks of me.

Friday, March 2, 2012

I should know better

Sometimes we make choices that seem smart at the time, but then we realize that they really are not so smart after all. For the fleeting moment you react on impulse and then... you get what you deserve.

My case in point: I wanted to make enlargements of a couple photos I had played around with to create a collage.  Nothing earth shattering, just somethings I wanted for Monday morning.

I stopped by the local pharmacy to use their self-serve kiosk. As luck would have it, the USB port on the machine wasn't working. Okay, no big deal. I could wait until I get to the city and stop by Meijer.*

Then the lightbulb came on. Walmart! I could just zip over there, run in, make the prints and be back home in a half hour.

No such luck.

I check out the kiosks, stepping up to one with and "Instant Prints" sign on top and touch the start key on the screen.

I load my prints, thinking 8x10s would be great.  Whoa, not at nearly $5.00 each.  Okay, so I'll get 5x7s.

How do I delete the 8x10s?  What the heck?  GRRRRRR.  Start over.  (sigh)

So I load the prints, again, and move along in the process.  For some reason the damn machine wants to crop my photos.  Ah, there's a no crop choice.

Finally, after about 15 minutes of fooling around, I hit the print button, which triggers a receipt from the kiosk. I can retrieve my photos from another machine.

The next machine has a barcode scanner on top, so I scan my receipt and the display says that I'm No. 5 in the que and my prints will be available in about 32 minutes.

WHAT is instant about a 32 minute wait?  Apparently the young couple at another machine were printing every photo they've ever taken in their 20-something lives.

I am not amused.  Waiting is not my strong suit when I'm already annoyed.

Thankfully, it only took about 29 minutes for my prints to be ready.  Ready with edges cropped off even with the "No Crop" option.

As I go to the counter for the clerk to give me a price tag, and ask why the machine cropped my photos when I chose "No Crop."

"The photos all have some cropping," the clerk replies, "otherwise there would be a white board on  the edges."

The preview had white edges!  (sigh)

Wait, this is Walmart. Yeah, you can kick me in the azz.  I'm an idiot.

I should know better... I got exactly what I deserved.

*Meijer is a department store chain based in Grand Rapids, MI with stores in the Midwest.


Thursday, March 1, 2012

Made Up Words

Former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin once used the word "Refudiate" and became the butt of jokes for weeks.  The bigger joke was her Shakespeare liked to coin new words comment after the fact.

She also said that English is a living language. That is the truth!

What reminded me about her gaff was my recent Zweiback Pie blog post where I used the phrase "creamy-custardy." Custardy isn't a word, yet most people would understand the meaning.

How can that be?

Think about it. Where do words come from?

Words are a mix and match, mishmash of other words that become commonly understood by others.

Not long ago, words and phrases like internet, email, web browser and bandwidth were nearly unheard from the mouth of everyday people.

Do you know where the word "Blog" originates?  It's a weB LOG.

Yes, the English language is a living language. Morphing and everchanging into something new and exciting.

And that's a fact you can't refudiate.