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M.A.G.A.: Making America Go Awry

April 1, 2019

The past two years have been great fodder for comedians like Stephen Colbert and shows like Saturday Night Live. For those of us who enjoy satire the past two years have been the mother lode. I have written several poems and blogs about the chaos our current president has caused and also some about current issues. Some of these were tongue-in-cheek, some serious.

I have put some of my best, and some new material, in a book by the same title as this blog. The description is–

MakingAmericaGoAwryTwitter  Ever wonder what Trump will put in his letter to his successor?

Are you ready for the New Pledge of Allegiance?

Did God put Trump in office? Is Democracy dead?

With a mix of humor and some facts, this collection looks at the last two years and the political upheaval our nation has faced.

The intention is to make you laugh, possibly weep, and hopefully think.

You can grab a copy from Amazon

Let me know what you think!.

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Why I Play Golf

July 9, 2018

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One of the funniest comedy routines I have ever heard is Robin Williams explaining the origins of golf.  If you have never listened to it, take a moment and do, then come back. Even the name Golf is funny. Legend says that originally it meant, Gentlemen Only, Ladies Forbidden. Some believe it came about because all the other four-letter words were taken. If you have ever played, you can relate. The actual origin is a bit more complex and likely came from a word meaning “club”. In any event, to play golf, you need a sense of humor.

There is a story about JC Penney, that when he would interview prospective managers, he would do so over lunch. If they salted their food before tasting it, he would not hire them. If I were to be in a position to hire someone, I would play a round of golf with them. I can think of nothing better as a test of one’s temperament. If you have ever watched the pros play, you have heard four-letter words even from them.

A few years back a friend and I played and being only two they put us with another player. When we got to the third hole, a long par four, it was backed up because someone had a heart attack about halfway down the fairway. The medics were there already. The guy with us starting cussing and telling the people ahead of us to go ahead and tee off, they could just play around the medics. At that point, my friend and I excused ourselves and said we would play another time. Golf can bring out the best or the worst in people.

969070_10151720270399131_1279878903_nGolf requires patience, concentration, honesty, and above all else it is humbling. Over the years I have been lucky enough to have two holes in one, but I have also caught two of my drives off the tee. The first hole in one was the first hole at Sunnyvale Gardens, a par 3, 155 yards. The second at Deep Cliff in Cupertino, a par three, 120 yards. The first drive that I caught was when the ball hit a tree and came straight back, the second hit a fence rail and came back. The point of me telling you this is golf can be rewarding and extremely frustrating.

What I like most about it, is it is an individual sport. Anyone can play it, it is a leveler of differences in age, athletic ability, and gender. People who are good at other sports can either be good or bad at golf. Like any sport, it does take practice, but even then most of us are mediocre at best. Just when you think you have mastered it, you watch your ball disappear into water, or grass so high you will never find it.

Playing eighteen holes usually takes about four hours. That is four hours of being out in fresh air, getting some exercise, and spending time with your spouse and friends. Some people think that golf is expensive. This is only partially true. Yes, you can spend a lot of money on equipment and courses like Pebble Beach, but you can also spend less than say a ski trip to the mountains. And best of all, in California at least, you can play pretty much year round.

The game is a metaphor for life. You do your best, the results are not always good, but no matter where the ball lands, you have the potential of what the next shot will bring. They say golf is eighty percent mental and twenty percent skill. Golf and life are more about one’s attitude than anything else. Both require a positive mindset if you are going to enjoy either.

I started this with Robin Williams and to end, I offer another hilarious view of golf.  The majority of us will never be at the level of Tiger Woods or any of the professional golfers, so all we can do is hope to play bad golf well. Leslie Nielsen made a film about just that.

So keep your head down, count all your strokes, and enjoy life, even if you never play the game of golf.

 

The Great Tea Adventure!

July 2, 2018

cg49VTy4hZQjJYpFj93W7RU9HJW3YQ_iwVae8j6PHTEiCGMgl2YdCF9xUfZN0DmdgRHK2w=s170To my surprise, after over fifty years of drinking coffee, I was able to kick the coffee habit and switch to green tea. Coffee used to be my kick-start every day. We had an electric pot that I could preset, so that every morning a fresh pot was ready when we got out of bed. My habit was to drink a few cups at home and continue drinking at work until 9 am.

I drank my coffee strong and black, buying ground beans that were a combination of expresso and dark Colombian roast. Guests in our home would always comment on how strong our coffee was. I tried once before to quit, but the intensity of the headaches that followed were too much, I gave in.  This time I weaned myself slowly, decreasing the amount each day until I switched completely to green tea.

5666EB8A-ABC4-E28A-4C90-94D0F94436E6-5278We buy Yogi Pure Green Tea now and I don’t miss coffee. If we go out for breakfast we bring tea bags and the temptation to have coffee has disappeared. While we originally bought our tea at places like Whole Foods, I discovered a better price through Amazon. We could buy six boxes, and being Prime members received our order in two days.

At least that was until my last order. For whatever reason, the order was filled by ProDepot and not direct from Amazon. The order was placed on June 11 and since this was not Prime, the shipping estimate was for the week of the 23rd. This was not a problem as we had a couple boxes left. The week of the 23rd came and went and still no tea. We ran out, but I luckily our local store carries it.  We then received a new estimate of delivery of July 5th.

This was nuts! I contacted the seller and said why is this taking so long, only to get a reply that said that was how I had ordered. What? My first thought was maybe they were making each teabag by hand, handcrafted especially for me in China, boxed in the Philippines, and shipped by row boat into San Francisco where the package would be transferred to a delivery service using bicycles to ride down Highway 1 to our house.

The truth became even stranger. According to the shipping information, the package of green tea was on its way via FedEx from the ProDepot facility in Michigan. Having a tracking number, I was now able to follow the progress of the package and here is where things got weird.

The package supposedly left ProDepot on June 12 but did not arrive at the first shipping point until June 22. The first shipping point was in Livonia, Michigan. Why did it take ten days to start the journey, who knows? Did shipping and receiving at ProDepot print a shipping label and forget to give it to FedEx? Did the employees decide to drink the tea and had to refill the order when the new stock arrived? Did the FedEx driver leave the package on his truck behind his seat under his winter coat he hadn’t used since the last snow? Whatever, this was not the strangest part of the tea’s journey.

The package left Livonia at 10:21 pm on the 22nd and arrived at the next stop at 1:21 am on the 23rd in Perrysburg, Ohio. Now according to Google Maps this is a one hour nineteen minute drive, it took three hours. Maybe Gilligan was driving the truck.

At 8:12 am on the 23rd the package left Perrysburg and arrived in New Berlin, Wisconsin on the 25th at 5:58 pm. I guess the drivers don’t work on the weekends as this is about a five hour drive.

Here is where things get even stranger. Originally, as I tracked this package it left Wisconsin, went back to Illinois, then to Kansas, to Texas, to New Mexico, and finally to California. Why in the world it went back to Illinois, I have no idea. Now, when I look at the history, it shows it left Wisconsin on the 26th, arriving in Sacramento, California on the 29th, and delivered to me on the 30th. Why the history changed from the day to day tracking I have no clue other than to assume it was fake news.

We did receive the package on the 30th at least. So it took nineteen days to get green tea from Michigan to California. Needless to say, I won’t be ordering from ProDepot again and if I do order from Amazon, I will make sure it is coming from them direct and not a secondary source.

What a headache! Almost makes me wish I had a cup of coffee!

I Wasn’t Supposed To Be Left Handed!

February 17, 2018

Fathers often see themselves in their sons. Hoping the son can be what the father wanted but never became. While my dad was good at baseball, he played for recreation. In me, he saw the potential of going beyond the sandlot.

His vision was for me to be a pitcher. He also knew that left handed pitchers have an advantage. They not only have a natural curve, but can throw to first base faster to catch a runner off the bag. So he made sure that I am left handed.

It wasn’t that long ago teachers, parents, and society felt there was something wrong with being left handed and many potential lefties were turned into righties.  After all 85-90 per cent of people are right handed, let’s make the kid go with the flow. Not my dad.

To his dismay, I was terrible at baseball. I have to give him E for effort as he tried his best to turn me into a Sandy Koufax. We would go out on the front lawn and play catch. After warming me up, he would get into a catcher’s stance and tell me to fire away. Some of my pitches were close enough for him to catch, but after about five or six going over his head or left/right, he would throw his glove down and go back in the house.

59635_10151202356794235_1349089457_nStill, he had high hopes. When spring came and I was old enough for little league, he had me try out and even agreed to coach the team. What he forgot to tell me was that pitchers in a real game pitch off a mound. My front yard was flat. None of my try out pitches made it to home plate, unless you discount the first bounce.

Deciding pitching was not my forte’, and being the only left-hander on the team, they put me at first base. The only problem with that is the first basemen needs to be able to catch throws to first. My catching ability was a hair better than my pitching, but after letting too many runners find second base, my days of playing in the infield were over.

So into the outfield I went. Now the outfield is a cool place, you are out there in your area with no one to bother you and you can contemplate the meaning of life. Unfortunately, every once in a while a batter from the opposing team would hit a ball far enough to head my way. If it was on the ground, no problem, my dad had taught me to drop in front if it and not let it shoot through my legs. But at times a good hitter would hit a fly ball high and in my direction.

There must be a gene missing in my DNA, the one that lets your eye track a ball in the air well enough so you have an idea where it is coming down. I could see the ball against the sky and would wait for it to come down, only to find myself about thirty feet from where it landed behind me. Now when I missed a ball playing first, the worst thing was the runner got to second or maybe third. Missing a ball in the outfield, scrambling back to get it, and throwing to the second baseman, usually meant someone would be crossing home plate.

So after my pitching career ended, my first base stint was over, and my outfielding skills were apparent, my dad found a position for me that I could handle. The nice thing about warming the bench was being able to yell at the other team’s pitcher, rattling his cage. Thanks to my dad, and my early training, I have always been really good at rattling cages.

If left alone, would I have been left handed? I will never know. I throw left handed, write, shoot pool, and bowl left-handed. But I bat and golf right-handed. I am left eye  dominant. Give me a pair of scissors and I can’t cut with either hand. So who knows?

One thing I do is write with my left hand like a right-hander. By that I mean I don’t bend my left hand as if I am writing upside down like a lot of left handed people. This is because I learned early on to do the opposite when instructed. So when the teacher said everyone turn your paper so the top is to the left, I went right. Many lefties didn’t and so had to bend their wrists to write across the page. Only problem is my writing is so bad even I have a hard time reading it.

The only time being a leftie was an issue was when I was in the Army. You guessed it. I found myself saluting with my left hand. After being dressed down several times by officers, I did manage to break that habit. They did not like my explanation that if the salute was originally meant to show no weapon in one’s hand, it made sense for me to salute left handed as that is where I would carry a weapon. Even in the Army, I couldn’t help but rattle a few cages.

Was I meant to be left-handed? Who knows. I do know I must be left brained because I hear people say I am not in my right mind.

 

 

It is a good thing Jesus resurrected!

September 22, 2017

gaugeDue to the racist, immoral, misogynistic, arrogant, deranged man currently posing as the President of the United States, the majority of his advisory councils have quit. Councils were disbanded because of people quitting and of course, #45 tried to take credit for the disbanding, after the fact. While several councils have dissolved there is one that remains, that for me is the most puzzling, the Faith Advisory Council. This is an informal group of ministers that give advice to presidents on the moral compass of the nation.

Pick just about any one thing #45 has said or stands for and that would be reason enough for the ministers to walk away. But alas it seems, at least so far, they are hanging in there. Since nothing he does seems to awaken the moral backbone within these ministers, maybe a reminder from the book they hold above all else will.

Let us start with Psalm 1:1 – Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, (NIV).

Any part of that verse taken to heart would tell a believer to stay far away from the orange haired one. But ironically, if you use the King James version of the first part that says, “Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly,” you even have the word counsel which makes it very clear in this case.

Not enough yet! Okay, let us go back to the beginning. Genesis 1:26-27 (NLT)

 26 Then God said, “Let us make human beings in our image, to be like us. They will reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, the livestock, all the wild animals on the earth, and the small animals that scurry along the ground.”

27 So God created human beings in his own image.
    In the image of God he created them;
    male and female he created them.

The next verse says, “and He blessed them.” He blessed all human beings, not just the white ones. So if we are all God’s creation, and blessed, how can ministers sit with a man that spouts white supremacy, supports hate groups and refuses to oppose oppressors?

Actually this one is not all that surprising as the evangelical community was fairly silent in the sixties when the battle for civil rights was taking place.

Okay, still on the council. Let us bring out the big guns. Words from Christ’s lips.

Matthew 23:25-

25Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence.” (ESV)

What is keeping these “men of God” from leaving the table. They may proclaim morality on the outside, and as Johnnie Moore, former vice president of Liberty University, said, their job is to give advice to the White House, not take it. That sounds good on the surface, but how many are on this council because of the prestige of sitting next to the President of the United States? Or in this case, the president of a small minority of the country.

Seeing #45 surrounded by clergy, head bowed in prayer, acting as though he has even an ounce of morals, should be repulsive to anyone with an ounce of faith.

Oh, I see we still have some hangers on. Okay, the next big gun Matthew 6:24.

“No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.” (NAS)

The word mammon, here translated as wealth, is from the Aramaic mamona, meaning profit, wealth, money. Who represents wealth or profit more than #45. Yes, technically the members are not serving #45, but they are in that they are providing an air of legitimacy to his presidential performance.

One of the basic requirements of a shepherd is to know the difference between a wolf and a sheep, and especially a wolf in sheep’s clothing. In my opinion, #45 has pulled the wool over the eyes of any minister willing to still sit on the Faith Advisory Council.

 

A Couple of Small Tweaks Can Mean Awesome Service!

May 9, 2017

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Being a server in a restaurant is not an easy job. J.Q. Public can be demanding, infuriating, and downright rude. While the majority of people may be pleasant, a server needs a tough skin to keep that smile on their face at all times.

Having said that, there are a couple of things servers can do to take a night out from good to awesome, at least in this writer’s opinion. Admittedly, some of what I am about to say may not apply to every eating establishment, but imagine how awesome even a Sizzler might be if servers there followed these simple ideas.

The first has to do with the wine. Yes, I just eliminated more than a few places to eat but bear with me. Every server should be trained in how to open a bottle of wine, it is not that hard. It is painful watching a server struggle with such a simple task, often ending up with a broken cork. I blame management for this one, all they need to do is have a server open a few with them and voila!, mission accomplished. Once the bottle is open and someone has tasted it, pour some in each glass, but if it is white two things to remember. First, white wine has been chilled and pouring too much in a glass means that it will warm before consumed, so pour less than you would with red. Second, since it is chilled it will need a cooler, and here is a simple trick to make that experience better. Most servers put ice in a bucket bring it to the table and try to force the bottle into the ice. The problem is the bottle is now sitting on ice, not in ice. The trick is to use less ice, add a small amount of water, then the bottle sits down in the iced water and stays cool.

The second idea for taking an evening out from okay to great is pacing. If I order a salad and an entree, I want to be finished with the salad before the entree appears. Having had too many negative experiences with this one, I tend to order my salad and after finishing it, order my entree. A good restaurant will have the pacing down so this is not an issue but a good server should be the fail safe here. If I want to be rushed I can go to a fast food joint, but in a restaurant I want to be able to enjoy the great food they prepare.

The last point is a simple one, listen to the customer. This, for me, is usually when it is time for dessert. My wife does not eat dessert, she does not have a sweet tooth, she has no problem watching me but she does not eat dessert. So when I order a dessert and say she does not want one, don’t bring two forks and say just in case. Because then I have a pissed off wife and you just lost part of a tip.

Which brings me to the last point, tipping. If the service is bad, I leave zero tip. I was told once by a restaurant manager that this is the best way to communicate dissatisfaction. Leaving a small tip just implies one is a cheapskate and the point is lost. If the service is good but you brought two forks I will probably leave you fifteen percent. If the service is good, if you paced things correctly, then I use my special formula for tipping. It goes like this. Let’s say the bill is $132.00. I round to the next highest whole number that is easily multiplied, in this case $140.00. I take ten percent of that, which would be $14, then I double that, which would be $28, divide that amount by two, which is $14, and add the $14 to $28, resulting in $42. Astute mathematicians will realize what I just did. $42 is thirty percent of $140.00. Some might think this is over tipping. While some restaurants do pay servers better than others, not all do. Also, I have no problem acknowledging a job well done.

So my basic point here is that while serving is a hard job, sometimes thankless, it only takes a few tweaks to make it an awesome and rewarding experience for both you and the customer.

Bon Appetit

Side note: As a Scotch drinker who likes it neat, I am surprised at how this term is so misunderstood. Neat is simply “a single, unmixed liquor served without being chilled and without any water, ice, or other mixer.” As a server, I realize you are not a bartender, but for us Scotch drinkers, please learn this term or at least if you hear it, ask the bartender before showing up with a glass of Scotch violated by water or ice or God forbid both.

 

A Minor Pet Peeve

March 25, 2017

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There are many things to enjoy in life, and some that just get under your skin. Keeping a positive attitude makes each day go smoother. It makes the day more fun and leads to a good night’s sleep. Most days are like that, at least for me, but occasionally a small thing can be just enough to make me question the intelligence of the human race. Long ago, I failed to be surprised by the things that people do, but still have to shake my head at times.

One of my minor pet peeves is going up to a cashier to make a purchase and having them ask, “Did you find everything you were looking for?” On the surface this is a legitimate question.

Except for two things. First, asking the question implies I am too stupid to have sought out help in finding what I may have been looking for. But second, and more important, is what the cashier does when I answer the question.

If I say, “Yes I did”, we both go on with our day and no one has been hurt. If I say, “No I did not, you were out of so and so, or you don’t seem to carry so and so”, it is the response that sends me over the edge. Usually it is, “Oh sorry”, and that is the end of it. If that is the response, then why ask me in the first place?

A better answer would be, “Oh let me make a note so I can tell the manager”, or “Did you want to speak to our manager?” At least give a response that implies some kind of action will be taken.

My most recent experience with this was at our local #Ace hardware store. I went in looking for a spring door hinge and a Kidde smoke alarm. The hinge was easy but they did not carry the brand of smoke alarm I was looking for. Okay, no big deal, I knew I could get it online (which is a future blog).

At the register, the cashier asked if I had found everything. I told her no, they did not have type of smoke alarm I wanted. Her response was, oh. Being used to getting this as an answer would have been ok except for two things.

One, I had been looking in the store for the alarms and after a time ran into a worker and asked where they were. The response was gruff and I felt like I had asked for their first born. Second, and this was the kicker, at the cashier after the caring concern for not having the product, I was asked if I had an Ace rewards card. I said yes and gave her my phone number, part of which is six-one-two. She punched my number in the register and said it didn’t come up. She asked for my name and zip and with those found me in the system. She then said, it didn’t come up because my number was six-twelve.

I’ll let that sink in for a second.

I couldn’t help myself, so I said, “Wouldn’t that be the same as six-one-two?” She looked at me as if I were stupid and proceeded to ring me up for the hinge. So with these three events, I would say my experience was not up to expectations, and I left the store asking myself, did she just say what I thought she said?

I have been in stores and have asked clerks if they can check into carrying certain items, and have had great responses. They either pass the word or get the manager who then is very accommodating and the next time I shop, there is the product. Sometimes they say they can’t get the product and that is fine.

Bottom line, if you’re going to ask if I have found everything, at least make some attempt at caring if the answer is, No!