Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Football Fanaticism and Voting Out the Preacher

I have been entertained recently by the events surrounding the departure of coach Jimbo Fisher from Florida State University. Whereas he was the Seminole sweetheart at the beginning of the year he was the devil in blue jeans these past few weeks. I have not ever seen a man free fall so quickly through job security that would have made the Ceasars envious. However it has always seemed to me that the fan base here in Tallahassee has always been a bit fickle if not mean spirited surrounding football.

I will offer up one piece of evidence. That would be the departure of Bobby Bowden, my neighbor and iconic coach of the Seminoles from 1976-2009. This man was successful by any measure. He took FSU from a struggling 0-11 season and turned them into a football program that owned the decade of the '90's. He led the Seminoles to 2 national championships and 12 ACC championships. His lifetime record was 377-129-4. He is one of the winningest football coaches in history. The field at Doak is named after him. He has a statue out in front of the stadium. However, as you recall, the fans turned on him at the end of his football career like a pack of hyenas. He asked for one more year to coach at the end. Many believed that he should have been granted that if for no other reason than the fact that he was Bobby Bowden The boosters, fans and most of the administration denied him the one more year. For what reason? He had gotten old. If they had run him off because he was black, female or transgendered the university would now be called Bobby Bowden University with many buildings bearing the name of his attorney. However, he had gotten old and as we all know there is no defined EEO criteria for that. I don't believe that anyone has successfully won many age discrimination law suits so far to date.

I recall coming here from Alabama in 1972. I went to a lot of football games out at the stadium. There was a small grandstand that might have held 7,500 fans on a good day. The Seminoles were ranked in the top 20 by UPI and AP polling. After a bunch of losses I remember being in the stands and being overcome by the fact that the fans stood and collectively booed the team as they came off the field. I was shocked. I don't recall ever having seen that before in college football. I don't suppose,  based on that experience, that I should have been surprised at the current events.

Now to be fair to Seminole nation I don't think that they are a whole lot different than most other fan bases around the country in the final analysis. Heck, I like to see the Seminoles win and would count myself as a fan. I declare myself to be a Bama-nole. My 'Bama devotion supercedes my FSU devotion. Heck I paid a lot of money to educate 2 of my 3 children there. The other wanted to leave town for a while and went to Gainesville to become a Gator. I also like to see them win.

It should be noted that following Bear Bryant's 27 year run at Alabama there were 8 coaches succeeding him, none of whom could fill the Bear's shoes sufficiently. Ray Perkins lasted 3 years followed by Bill Curry who was a wonderful person and a pretty danged good coach. He only went 2 years before someone parked a moving van in front of his house. Gene Stallings went for 6 years and produced a national champion in '92. He also got us placed on the NCAA death sentence for recruiting violations. From 1996 to 2006 winning was pretty scarce at Alabama. We went through 4 coaches in that run of 10 years: DuBose, Franchione ( who left to go to Texas A&M), Price who never called the first play but had fun with hookers in Florida at a coaching meeting, and then Mike Shula. I liked Mike Shula but he could not beat Auburn so that ended his days there. Then in 2007 Nick Saban, after telling the Miami Dolphins that he was their coach for life, agreed to coach at Alabama. Enter the new dynasty of Alabama football.

The simple fact is that college football has become a big soap opera. That fact has been abetted by the 24/7 talking heads on half a dozen networks who stir the pot as things develop. Most everyone has a team. As a devotee they all feel that they have a say in how the football program is run. Everyone from the CEO of Nike to Joe Sixpack feel obligated to comment on the ups and downs of their respective teams. Don't believe me? Watch the Paul Finebaum show for 15 minutes or until you become physically ill and listen to the people who call in. I think Finebaum is a great analyst however when he opens the phone lines for all the alcoholics and mental patients to start calling in the program immediately falls into an advertisement for what I am saying in this Blog. Everyone has an opinion of some sort related to their team.

I had a friend of mine invite me to attend church many years ago. It was a baptist church. I advised my friend that I was not baptist but was a mormon. I did not think I would be welcome at their church meeting. He said for me not to worry about that. They were meeting that night to vote out the preacher and all that I needed to do was raise my hand when he and his wife did. The preacher had stepped on too many toes at the last meeting and he needed to be gone.

People feel a right of entitlement after they have invested time and money into a focus of their interest. I think that is a little of what is in play with the fan uprisings in football and people who go to church. I am not sure if there have been any doctoral thesis pursuits on that subject. I find it somewhat entertaining and fun to watch. I guess sort of like a reality television show or a soap opera.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Lightning rods, Antioxidants and Radon Levels

Lets talk about radon and its implication on selling homes. Every home buyer has the right to inspect the property they are purchasing. Most home inspectors are geared towards inspecting the plumbing, electric, hvac, appliances and the roof. The first four on this list are referred to as warranted items. They have implication with home insurers. If you are getting a loan you certainly must have all these items in proper working condition to obtain property insurance.

There are some home inspectors that stress the importance of getting the home inspected for radon levels. Some of these inspectors also will advise you that they are licensed to mitigate radon levels. I would suggest that you turn away from such offers. You do not want the same person who discovered the problem, repairing the problem. That, at a bare minimum, represents a conflict of interest, in my opinion.

Radon is a naturally occurring substance that emanates from the earth's crust. It is perfectly innocuous until you build a structure over it and encapsulate the gas under a roof. It is measurable and the inspectors do a good job of convincing you that it puts you at risk. Anything over 4.0 Picocuries per liter of air is considered to be high. The mitigation process involves drilling your slab and putting in some sort of apparatus that uses PVC pipes and fans to vent the radon out of your home. The cost can run into the thousands. of dollars.

I was raised in southern West Virginia. I spent much of my early life living in an old farm house that was built in the late 1800's. I recall several drummers coming by our place and pitching my father on the benefits of lightning rods. The Consumer Price Index was at its inception in those days so dollars then compared to dollars now put the modern cost to install at thousands. I never understood the process nor the science behind it. I do know that Benjamin Franklin discovered electricity by playing with lightning. I also remember learning along the way that no one has ever really defined electricity. It can only be defined by what it does. I only recall that the sale of lightning rods has always been on the edge of science and been subject to many congressional investigations.

I do remember that a neighbor of ours installed lightning rods and I was awakened one evening after a severe thunder storm. My mother was standing out on the front porch watching the neighbor's home burning to the ground, lightning rods and all.

A few years ago I had an acquaintance ask me to stop by his office. He had something that he wanted to show me. I did so. There sitting on his desk was a little apparatus that looked sort of like a glucometer. He told me to put my finger in to the little hole allowing that. I did so. He pressed a button and a number appeared on the screen and a little piece of tape printed the number out. He presented the tape to me and advised me that my antioxidant level was low. The accepted norm was 10,000 and mine was at 7,500. He then advised me that I should be on a regimen of the vitamins that he sold that would build up my antioxidants and do something with the free radicals floating around in my blood stream. The Utah based company he got these magic elixirs from had a whole line of vitamins that would fix me up.

I said hold on for just a moment. What does that number mean? He responded with what do you mean what does it mean? I said well if you take my blood pressure you will get  numbers that represent millimeters of mercury over baseline telling me that I have high systolic and diastolic pressure or normal pressure. The mean is 120/80. If you take a drop of my blood and measure the clotting time you will get a number representing clotting time ( PTT). Normal is 21 seconds. So what is this apparatus measuring and how? He just shook his head and answered a phone call. I left wondering how much money I could make selling Nuskin products.

If you look at the websites for The American Cancer Society and The American Lung Association they will mention that radon is the second leading cause of cancer. They also point out that radon is associated with about 20,000 deaths each year. Smoking cigarettes causes 480,000 deaths per year. If you divide 350 million citizens into the radon group you get an incidence rate of .000057. That would amount to 5.7 deaths per 100,000 people. Smoking would cause 136.8 deaths per 100,000. Putting all that into perspective tobacco smoking causes 24 times the deaths of radon.

Now please tell me what the radon level is at the place where you work?  What is it at that school you send your child to? What is it where you go to church?

If it  is an issue to you then you should exercise your options to measure it and act upon it. I had a client who is a cancer researcher at our local university. When I mentioned to him in the buyers disclosure about radon he looked at me and smiled and squelched a belly laugh. He ordered some test kits for about $2 apiece through a scientific company he used and tested the home himself. I cannot remember the levels but he signed the paperwork and moved into the home. That was almost 20 years ago.

As with all consumer issues a good dose of caveat emptor is a good way to proceed.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Some call it sexual harassment ( Repost from 2011)

When Eve told Adam why she ate the apple she explained that she was beguiled by the serpent and he influenced her to make an unwise choice. So called Lucifer, the son of the morning star, must have had powers of suggestion, some sort of compelling appeal, charisma. He used those along with his other talents to change the course of creation. To this day this sort of influence continues all across the network of humanity.

A little third grade boy gives up his favorite dessert from his lunchbox to a little third grade girl for no other reason than she influenced him with some sort of fascination with her personna and appearance.

Some years ago the corporation where I worked for thirty years required that I attend a conference that was dedicated to sexual harrassment in the work place. I spent a week in a luxury hotel listening to a team of hired specialists that represented a hired consultant organization that had developed training on this subject. I was required to sign a document that stated that if I ever became aware of any sort of sexual harrassment in the workplace that I had a singular responsibility to report it to our human resources department.

Why do you suppose that they would go to all that expense and effort to lay down such a footprint on the conduct of business? The answer is clear and concise. There had been many instances of supervisors intimidating female workers into embarrassing situations that surrounded their jobs and the security of their jobs. Some had filed law suits successfully and had received large awards for having had to endure these unsolicited advances. Once a person had attended one of these seminars they were locked into a dangerous place. An off color joke, a ride in a car unchaperoned with a person of the opposite gender or a compliment on appearance could land you in some hot water. The female person only had to raise the spectrum of impropriety. If they threatened a lawsuit the corporation was safe because they had held a work shop on the issue. You see Mr. John Doe attended our workshop and agreed that he would abstain from such tomfoolery. Here is his written affadavit that he would eschew such a practice. You can go after Mr. Doe, who incidentally doesn't work here anymore, but you cannot pursue us because we have done all that is necessary.

The roll out on all this over the years has been interesting. Did it curtail fooling around in the work place? Not hardly. To me it seemed like it put the whole work place into absolute role reversal. It was always presumed that the more aggressive male workers were the culprits. I have personally seen that it seemed to make women much more bold. They seemed to become more aggressive. Not only in their new supervisory positions but in their speech and actions. It seemed to me that whereas males were on alert as to anything that they said and did might be interpreted as sexual harrassment, women went just the opposite direction.

I have been out of the workplace for almost ten years. I work by myself and have not thought much about all that until the headlines of this morning and Mr. Cain's predicament brought it back to my mind. In the court of the people's minds, the accusation has only to be raised and the perpetrator is considered guilty. Mr. Cain is most likely guilty of repeating a joke delivered in bad taste. If you are the boss, welcome to the world of sensitivity of the female mind. "Why, I was appalled by his comments. I was made to feel diminished, small, an object of lust and derision." I have been in the presence of females who have unabashedly told a joke or made a comment to which they have no accountability. If you were a man and went to human resources reporting that you were sexually harrassed by a female co-worker you would be laughed out of the office. Yet we all know it goes on and have experienced it at one level or another.

At the heart of all this is the tort system that protects some of us and throws the rest of us under the bus. The same book I read the stuff about Lucifer and Eve I also read a quote about lawyers and hypocrites. And so it goes in this fallen, ever worsening world that we live in. You just have to wonder what is next?

Friday, October 27, 2017

Supplanting one Plant for Another

I am fascinated that our government has awakened another crisis in America. The opiate crisis.
I turned on the news this morning to see our Attorney General, my former class mate, speaking on this subject. I am intrigued with the concept.

The poppy is as old as mankind. You remember it had a starring role in the movie The Wizard of Oz. It was the beautiful field full of them that put Dorothy, and her traveling companions, out like the proverbial light. That way the wicked witch and her flying monkeys could harvest them all and carry them back to her evil castle where they were to meet their end.

The substance that mankind became so enamored with early on was opium extracted from the seed of the poppy plant ( Papaveraceous ). In the 18th century laudanum opium was mixed with alcohol and a lot of citizens sat on the front porches in America sipping their little lives away. Early in the 19th century Laudanum's little brother was born, Morphine. It came along just in a nick of time to address the numerous incidents of pain associated with cannon and rifle ball injuries associated with the Civil War. Make that the War between the States. My wife always corrects me and tells me that there is nothing "civil" about war.

Nonetheless morphine, named after the Greek god of dreams, Morpheus, eased the pain of many confederate and union soldiers. Unfortunately, just as welcome as they had been to taking it they found that quitting it was more troublesome. Thus addiction to narcotics was born. It was thought during that period that perhaps if physicians injected it into the patient the addiction would be less if it bypassed the GI tract. The hypodermic needle invented for that purpose only served to get recipients blood levels and relief much quicker and the addiction was to become more intense than ever.

Codeine was isolated in 1830 and was quite useful for relieving cough as well as pain. The Brits, early adapters in most all things, drove usage to alarming levels. Their government sent ships to the coast of China in 1839 in an attempt to curtail the exporting of opium and thus incurred the first "opium war." In 1874 chemists tried to make a less addicting form of morphine and came up with a product named heroin. We all know where that led us.

My interest in this subject decries the fact that I was involved in the distribution of many of these products. I worked for a pharmaceutical company by the name of Endo Laboratories. Our flagship products were, at the time I went to work for them in 1972,  Hycodan ( hydrocodone ), Percodan
 ( oxycodone ), Numorphan ( oxymorphan ). Endo was purchased by the DuPont company and I retired with them in 2002. So that is 30 years that I went about and promoted the usage of these products. Percocet came along in the early 1980's. I carried samples around in the trunk of my car during that time of the hydrocodone products. Nowadays, I would be shot in the head and dumped in the river if certain people knew I had that stuff in the trunk of my car.

So what is my point? Here it is, simply stated. I remember discussing these products with the prescribing physicians I called on. " Dr. I would like to discuss the relative merits of using Percodan in your patients with severe pain." The response of the physician was usually, "I am afraid of using that product for fear of causing addiction in my patient." The company line was " Dr., we respect your position. However, you have a greater responsibility to treat your patient for pain. Nothing does it better than Percodan." Continuing, " When your patient is in severe pain they trust you to relieve it. This product does that better that anything else out there, excepting the needle. Treat the pain. Get your patient well and wean them off the product. They will love you for it." When I got out of the business Percodan, Percocet, Oxycontin, Codeine, Hydrocodone was a multi-billion  dollar market.

Now we come to an Opiate crisis. Whose fault is it? Is it the prescriber? Is it the dispensing personnel, ie: pharmacist? Is it the manufacturing science, pharmaceutical companies? Is it the drug dealer who shoots somebody in the head to get supplies and then sells them on the black market? Is there ever a point at which the patient, end user is responsible?

Is it a crisis because America has turned to something else to help us escape our depressing world? The God of dreams has stolen our dreams. We seek the euphoria that comes with the next fix. This situation is a mess. There will be billions of dollars in TV ads with snappy slogans. Ad companies and grassroots, advocacy professionals will pocket a huge portion of those billions. We will lose the battle. People will become more addicted as we move along.

Think of the juxtapositional cross roads we find our selves at today. It used to be that the plant we most feared was one that produced TCH, Marijuana. Nowadays, state by state, we have accepted the role of that plant to cure our pain, our depression, our glaucoma, etc. The innocent little poppy plant will now take a back seat to the more promising marijauna plant. And round and round we go.

Was it the prophet Isaiah who lived roughly 2000 years ago that foretold that one day "good would be bad and bad would be good." ? I tell you from my vantage point we are there.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Trying to understand college football

I am a big college football fan. I love the SEC. I live in Tallahassee so I have a healthy respect for the ACC. I tend to be an FSU baseball fan in the spring and summer holding season tickets to the Seminoles, Howser stadium. With football it is the Crimson Tide of Alabama. I attended classes there and lived in Montgomery Alabama for 10 years. I earned my degree from Huntingdon College a small liberal arts school in Montgomery. If you happen to live in Alabama you must choose to be an Auburn fan or an Alabama fan. I chose the Crimson Tide and had mixed feelings of warmth and appreciation for the Auburn Tiger, War Eagles. I like the Florida Gators having sent my youngest child there. My wife is a Brigham Young University alumnus so, of course, her allegiance is to the Georgia Bulldogs. In other words we just love college football, like so many other Americans, and I would spend every spare moment watching games, analysis and repeat games during the season. If you are a southern football team then you have my attention.

I have to admit that I struggle to understand the more's of the coaches, fans, administrators when it comes to the deportment and character of their programs. News comes out of Oxford, Mississippi that Hugh Freeze has resigned under extreme pressure from league officials  The story is ongoing and developing. It seems that we have a violation of team ethics by Freeze having used a university issued cell phone to order, pick one: Pizza, an Uber ride or kinky sex from an escort service. Whatever the case the right reverend poobahs of the University and the league ain't having any of it. Raising their noble chins and speaking in hushed tones before the press they report that Coach Freeze had to go.

Now let me take you back a few years to an event that happened right here in our home town of Tallahassee, Florida. It was 2013. The story develops concerning a very talented football player, one Jameus "Famous" Winston. This player was all world. Not only in football but also in baseball. The rumor had it that the head he-coon of the Alabama Crimson Tide wanted Winston so bad that he was drooling. Jimbo Fisher of FSU out foxed the old he-coon by telling Winston that he would be allowed to play baseball at FSU. Not so at Alabama. Saban, in fitting regard to his dictatorial style, insisted that he play football only. Therefore I got to watch Jameus pitch relief at FSU and throw out runners at home plate while leading the 'Noles to a national football championship in 2013.

Now, consider the juxtaposition of the application of more's, standards, ethics however you want to slice the scenarios concerning this players conduct. Word comes that he had raped a student at FSU. A huge investigation resulting in charges comes rolling down the pike in Tallahassee. A very nationally focused trial occupies the sports news seemingly forever. The girl was a willing participant in the sex? She was brutally raped by a huge athlete? She was setting him up for a later pay day by her switching a consensual encounter to an alleged rape? As we know he was exonerated by a state attorney who was a big 'Noles fan. This young man was involved in Saturday night activity that goes on at any campus housing in any university setting all over the country. He just happened to be a national figure and the poor little fellow was victimized by the mean old press and the competition all over the country. We all know the rest of the story. He won the national championship in football and the Heisman and now counts his money, or what is left of it, after settling with the girl he allegedly raped back on the FSU campus in their civil law suit.

I just don't get it. In the SEC a coach gets fired for a one minute call to a Tampa escort service. Back in the ACC this Winston fellow does not miss a single down while being accused of a brutal crime. Not only does the ACC and FSU turn their backs on the situation the Heisman club awards their trophy to this player when there were countless nominees who had much less slimy resume's. Surely we have given up on there being any semblance of character in the awarding of the Heisman long ago with Cam Newton at Auburn.

Is there any more glaring of a double standard anywhere else? Yet we anticipate the kickoff of the season like we do the second coming. There is not a huge gap between watching college football and the Game of Thrones is there. Could it be that it is entertainment with total abandonment to the cause of ethics, morality and good taste? Could it be that it only matters that our team wins and wins often?

Roll Tide and pass the popcorn.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Mr. I'm Sorry But That Beard is Nasty

I am struggling to remain a fan of Major League baseball. I was mad at them for a very long time after their last strike. I just cannot get over a bunch of primadonnas who go on strike when they are already making millions of dollars . Forget the poor slob who cannot take his family out to the ball game because he cannot afford the $500 it takes to secure tickets, parking, hot dogs, peanuts and cracker jacks. I'm sorry that is just flat out wrong. On top of it all every team has to have a brand new updated park, i.e. the sorry Atlanta Braves. They finish dead last in their division in 2016 and what is their punishment? A brand new, state of the art baseball facility named Sun Trust stadium. On top of that they often look to tax dollars to supplement those construction moves. This is the collective group of geniuses who dealt Craig Kimbrell, to the San Diego Padres. Kimbrell is without debate the very best closer in the game. He was then and he is most certainly now. What is he a 5 time All Star? He now closes for the Boston Red Sox who may well be on their way to another post season appearance  on his 100 mph fastball. They are certainly hanging tough with the Orioles and the Yankees in that division within this very young season.

I digress however. What I mostly want to complain about, especially in MLB, are those scruffy, ridiculous, insane, disgusting, nasty, unhealthy, unwholesome looking BEARDS. It has gotten beyond unprofessional. There seems to be a contest out there as to who can do the best Alley Oop impression. What on earth has happened to our boys of summer? It used to be that managers would levy fines to players who did anything that brought the character of the game down. Nowadays not only has management turned a blind eye to this disappointing trend they seem to have embraced it. A clean shave conveys to most of us in this culture of middle America a crispness in personna. The professional in the well fitted suit with a nice tie to match and shoes that are shined and a nice conservative haircut with a close shave portrays a certain level of couth in my vernacular. If I wanted to hang out with people who are able to tie their beards behind their heads along with a pony tail in order to eat a meal I would travel to Afghanistan and hang out with the Taliban.

Can you just imagine being the HR chief in charge of recruiting, interviewing and hiring personnel these days? You want to hire a customer service manager at a big department store. You line up 50 people to interview and here they come. Males and females in the mix. The females sport countless tattoos and piercings in wierd places. These are most like covered up strategically during the interview. 3 of every 4 guys is sporting a beard and perhaps a pony tail. Throw in ear rings and tattoos on these guys and the choice becomes very simple in my world. Give me someone with a conservative haircut, clean shaven and no tatts and nose rings. He has got the job 100% of the time in my world.

Remember back to when we were young and the game of the week was brought to us by Gillette? I can almost hear that jingle. "To look sharp, and feel sharp too...................." The rest of it ran out to the conclusion that you could accomplish this image by going out and buying a Gillette razor and using the Dad-Blamed thing. What has our world come to? I still love baseball and am drawn to it in the summer time. When there is a baseball game on I am in heaven. I love watching Heidi Watney on Quick Pitch every morning and catching up on what has gone on all across the various leagues.

I guess I am just in a bad mood because I never could grow a decent beard. I have too much Hispanic in me to be terribly hirsute. But I gotta tell you. MLB has become a Petri dish for bacteria and micro organisms living in many of those beards they so proudly wear. How do they ever wash those things? I'll just bet the dugouts smell like a shed full of wet goats as a result of all that wet hair.

I guess I will hang on and continue to follow my teams. But, I am telling you. The day that Heidi Watney comes out wearing a full beard to give me the happenings of baseball on Quick Pitch, I am done.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Hitch hiking with the American Express card

Today I post about Uber. This is an intriguing phenomenon. It can be considered a major disruption. Whereas the internal combustion engine automobile was a major disruption in public conveyence so is the development of the Uber ride. I remember when I first heard of it I thought "no way is that going to last". Somewhere along the way a piece of legislation or a new regulation is going to shut that puppy down. Not so. It is more popular than ever and the company is a $10 billion dollar success story. The taxicab industry has been relegated to the back seat and are barely casting a shadow anymore.

I remember back about 25 years ago. I had a day meeting in Hoffman Estates, Illinois. That is about 20  miles from O'hare airport. I flew out of Tallahassee into O'hare. Got in by 9:00 AM CST and hailed a cab. As I got in I said Hoffman Estates and I noticed a smile from the driver. I then immediately said " How Much ?" The answer: $ 75.00 ONE WAY. I then said " Pull over." I go to the National rental car desk where I was a member of the Emerald club. Do you have a car? How much? $39 for the entire day, unlimited miles. Now I am not a math genius but I determined that I was saving my company considerable denero by renting that car. At least $100, plus I provided 3 people rides back to O'hare.

The taxi industry has its own greed and abuse of the consuming public to blame for the Uber movement. You can literally save yourself 50% of the local transportation cost by using the Uber system. It has even garnered competition nowadays so it is here to stay until the next disruption, driverless autos.

It all is made possible by an App that was designed by some genius that anyone can download and become a user and or a driver. Any driver keeps 75% of the fare. The money moves via your credit card so it is basically a cashless system.

You have to ride with a stranger in a strange car. However, does that not apply to most cab drivers who, some say, are potentially part time terrorists? It also makes me think back to how I got around in Jacksonville, FL. when I was a young teenager. My mother would give me money for the bus to come home from school however, I could play pinball and get some gum in a local store with that money. So how did I get home? I walked out and stuck out my thumb along Beach Boulevard and hitch hiked my way. True I got picked up by some weird people with weird motives but I survived to make this post.

The Fifth Dimension sang about living on the American Express card. Uber is hitch hiking on the American Express card.................Visa, Master Card, Discover.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

My Lucky Penny

Several years ago I was pumping my own gas in the Circle K convenience store location in my subdivision. While engaged in this mundane task I looked down at my feet and saw a penny. I am still cheap enough to stoop and pick up any and all coinage. As I examined this penny I noted that it was a 1946 plain. It even had the little wheat tails on it that we no longer see on pennies. Nowadays they have some sort of shield on the back of them.

Now there is another significant date that fell within the year of 1946. If you guessed that would be my birthday then you would have guessed correctly. I was born on May 27 in that exact year. I have not ever been overtly superstitious. But this event struck me with some sort of relevance. I decided that this was a special totem that had fallen from another era into my possession. I claimed the penny and dubbed it my lucky penny.

Now when you have the clumsiness and scatter brained tendencies that have always afflicted me, the logical question is how am I going to keep track of this special penny? I decided that one thing I have not ever lost is my drivers license. So I found some scotch tape and taped my lucky penny on the face of my drivers license. I made sure that it did not cover up any vital information on the license. I was asked occasionally by an airline agent or others what the penny was and I would give them a quick response and be on my way. They were assured of my identity, deemed me a little weird but I moved on down the road of life undetained. Never would I have guessed that this lucky penny would pay off handsomely for me in later years.

On December 5, 1995 I was on my way home from Pensacola having been on a business trip. Anyone who has ever driven that stretch of highway knows that it is the most boring drive on the entire planet. I was hastening home on this particular day to join my family around the dinner table in a birthday celebration for my middle child Beth. It was her birthday. I was making good time when all of a sudden I came to a halt. I was 4 miles from my exit to home. I-10 looked like a parking lot with some sort of untoward event having occurred in front of me. I was stuck. It was a few years before I purchased my first cell phone so no capability of calling and letting the family know of my whereabouts.

I sat there and contemplated my options. I had just passed under US highway 27. It was possible for me to access my home by that route. Lo and behold I noticed that some of the people in front of me were driving across the median and then across I-10 Westbound and up the ramp, accessing Monroe St. Processing this for a bit and assessing the relative safety aspect of this action I determined that was what I needed to do. I eased across the median watched for a break in the traffic and accelerated up the ramp. Half way up the median the blue lights went off to my rear.

I immediately pulled over and waited for the law enforcement officer to come to my car. A state trooper appeared and asked for my license and registration. I handed both to him through the window. He studied them and asked me why I decided to cross the median and drive up the ramp. I explained that I was late to a birthday dinner for my daughter. Everyone else was doing it so I decided to go along with the crowd. He told me that I just happened to be unlucky enough to do it in front of him. He then asked, " What is this penny taped across your drivers license.?" I responded with " Oh, that is my lucky penny." In light of his recent declaration I paused to think about the irony in that statement. He looked at me and I looked at him and we both broke out laughing.

He handed me my license and said Mr. Vass have a good evening, be safe and don't do that again. I then went on my merry way. I then realized that my lucky penny had just saved me several dollars in fines. Indeed, it had done its job. I still carry it today.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Religious Burning

When I was a boy I lived in a remote part of southern West Virginia. The little community I lived in was referred to as Hillsdale. Hillsdale was the site of the Hillsdale Presbyterian church. I happened to live right across the street from the church so, I was asked by the head Deacon, Mr Siebold, to build a fire in two old pot bellied stoves a couple of hours before the 20 or so parishioners assembled to listen to Reverend Shiflett, our circuit riding minister.

The old church was pretty typical of most churches that dotted the landscape of this area of the Appalachians. They looked very much like barns with a steeple on top. Later in life I would hear the term shotgun houses. The term referred to very simple looking homes that were occupied by the lower realm of society who could not afford better. The term applied meant that you could open the front door and the back door and stand in one or the other and fire a shotgun through the house and not hit anything. Well, the term applied to this old shotgun church. Heaven only knows what the vintage of this old place might have been. At that time it could have been 50+ years old. A virtual tinderbox.

This was approximately 60 years ago from where I currently stand in my sojourn through mortality. I remember what a great weight of responsibility I felt in the assignment to build those fires. There was ample kindling wood and kerosene that was stored right there in the church. Also plenty of coal to fuel the stoves with after the initial fire was set. I was being paid 75 cents every Sunday that I performed this task.

By the time I got those two stoves going in time for the Sunday school attendees to sit around, their underbellies would be red hot. That was the nature of an old iron, pot bellied stove. To me it was terrifying. I was convinced that the fire could get away from me easily. I envisioned a headline in the Watchtower of Union, West Virginia, our little regional newspaper, Local kid burns down the Presbyterian church in Hillsdale. 

I sweated bullets over that little job I had. It was pure angst that I felt every Sunday, November through April, when I was called on to build those fires and prepare the building for the preaching and teaching of the gospel.

I ultimately ended up having a career in sales with a huge, global company. I even lobbied the legislatures in 3 southern states toiling over issue after issue that came along that could have impacted our business by millions of dollars. I felt the heat in those assignments. However, I never felt more heat than I did as a ten year old lad building those fires there in the Hillsdale Presbyterian church on those frosty cold West Virginia mornings.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Groundhogs Day (Repost from February 2, 2012)

Happy Groundhogs Day to all my friends, relatives and the other two people who might follow my BLOG. I just watched Punxsutawney Phil's prediction from Gobblers Knob in Pennsylvania. They held the chubby little fellow up and took him to his podium where the President of the Punxsutawney Phil club via his magical cane deciphered for us what Phil's prediction was. Today it was for 6 more weeks of winter predicated on the length of shadows cast about on the Knob and of course, Phil’s own shadow.

One of my favorite movies, starring one of my favorite actors, Bill Murray, is Groundhogs Day. Of course the plot is a train of recurring days that are just alike in every detail. I sort of feel like the election cycle we are in is sort of a Groundhog’s day. Every day we hear the same stuff, almost verbatim, from the same candidates.

In place of the President of the Punxsutawney Phil club on Gobblers Knobb, Pennsylvania we have the ever present news media to interpret what the candidate is really saying. The left media takes whatever the right says out of context and vice versa. Ergo the final product we have going into our ears is about as reliable as the same pronouncement we had from Phil this morning. America has largely given up thinking for themselves and judging by their own shadows the remaining days of winter or who is right in the Presidential posturing. We have our own “Phil” prognosticator be their name, Beck, Limbaugh, Krauthammer, Malkin, Palin, Coulter, Hannity, etc.

It is enough to drive you mad as the meteorologist played by Bill Murray in the movie. Let me give you some advice. Stop listening to all of them. Get yourself a good book and read it. Watch C-Span. It is so boring it will coagulate your blood but it truly is fair and balanced. That is except for the crazy people who call in on the open lines who all have anger issues, dementia and just downright mean spiritedness.

So for those of you who believe that a groundhog can predict the weather, get a life. I used to shoot those things back on our farm in West Virginia. They are very destructive to pasture land and golf courses ( reference another Bill Murray movie “Caddy Shack’). For those of you who think all the talking heads have any more insight than you do about who needs to be President, rethink that issue. Determine who has the tool sets to fix the economy, keep us safe and lead the country and vote. Forget all the vindictive chatter that America likes to feed on. You will be better off.