Saturday, June 24, 2017

The "You Oughta" Club

June 14, 2017

I’m thinking of starting a new club. Every time I get together with friends or family, somebody says to somebody else, “You oughta…”

Even when the advice is good, though, people rarely take it. We say, “I just needed to vent.”  

I think we should start a “You Oughta” Club. Every week or month we can check in and see if anybody has taken that first step. (Like, “I looked up that career online, and there’s nothing that disqualifies me from doing it.”) Then we could encourage that person, or get encouragement ourselves, to take our “You Oughtas” a step further. Who knows how far we could get?

Yep. I oughta start a club.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Let's Work on that Hypocrisy

June 23, 2017

St. Louis passed a law raising the minimum wage for the city; the Missouri legislature immediately passed a bill banning local minimum wages, so that they could overturn it.

Funny how the people who think that one parent should stay home with the children instead of working make it very difficult for that to happen.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Show Me the Birthday Cake

June 22, 2017

The city of Meridian, Idaho was mulling a new city ordinance regulating home-based businesses. One provision that got people’s attention concerned limiting the number of attendees at parties for selling products like Scentsy or jewelry, to avoid disrupting traffic in the neighborhoods.

That raised a number of questions: How would they enforce it? Would neighbors call in with complaints? Would a city official come by to hand out a summons? Suppose someone were actually having a baby shower or a birthday party or a Superbowl party? Would they have to have a cake and party streamers, or Superbowl snacks, to prove their innocence?

Then I started thinking about how the people who actually were selling products could have specially designed cabinets to thwart the inspectors: One minute the wares are on display, the next minute they’re completely hidden. A cake would be prominently displayed and, if you were feeling particularly bold, you could hand the inspector a cupcake with a tiny baby bottle on it. (It would help this subterfuge if you had an obviously pregnant woman at the party.)

The ordinance may need some work…

Monday, June 19, 2017

A Long Trail

June 19, 2017

On an episode of “The Golden Girls” a character remarked that she hadn’t seen the comic strip “Apartment 3-G” in 28 years. Sophia replied, “I’ll catch you up. It’s later that same day…”

Well, I’ve been reading “Mark Trail”. Mark is being held hostage by a bank robber while doing one of his nature research gigs. He got on the plane on April 5th. Today, June 19, police contact his wife who says—and I am not making this up—“He flew out this morning…”

So for real—it’s later that same day…

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Twitter-verse? Try the Morse-verse

May 29, 2017

If you blame Twitter for putting lots of useless trivia into the world (I don’t. Before there was Twitter, there was Yahoo!), think again.

According to an article the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, telegraph operators way back in the 1800s could pretty much do the same thing, using Morse code. They had their own shorthand for talking to each other, just like we have for texting and Twitter—they would type “GM” for “Good Morning”, “SFD” for “Stop for dinner”, etc.

When a message was transmitted, everybody along the line could hear it, and could join in the conversation—like a chat room. Operators played chess and checkers using Morse code, and often became long-distance friends, without ever meeting. And the 1891 issue of Atlantic Monthly griped about the trivialities being shared and inflicted upon society.

Who knew?

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

A Long and Varied History

May 29, 2017

There was an article in yesterday’s Post-Dispatch about a St. Louis mansion that hosted the first recorded cocktail party, in 1917. Seven years later the property was sold to the Catholic Church. Since then, seven archbishops have lived there, and Pope John Paul II stayed there in 1999. Since John Paul II has been canonized, that means the place that held the first cocktail party has also housed a saint.

Holy Cocktail Party, Batman!

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Not a Marvel-ous Movie

May 30, 2017

“Guardians of the Galaxy 2”:

An unfocused mess, with language not suitable for children.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Home Improvement or Self-Improvement: Choose One

May 25, 2017

For the record, 

Home improvement projects and resolutions to cut back on swearing don’t mix.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Special Exhibit, Special People

May 22, 2017

When I went to a special exhibit at the botanical garden the other day, lots of people were taking pictures. Most of the people took pictures from the path, despite the limitations that imposed on their photography, but one couple actually stood in a plant bed to get their masterpieces. They weren’t quick about it, either—they had pretty much settled in for the duration. Eventually I decided to take a picture of them for my collection of curiosities.

Surprisingly, when I pointed my camera at them they packed up and moved off right smartly. Maybe they were afraid I was collecting evidence so somebody could slap a fine on them.

What a nice thought.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Time for the Commute

May 19, 2017

(This entry first appeared on Jan. 23, 2010, under the heading Miscellaneous. But I think a lot of people could use the reminder.)

November 4, 2008

Today I tested a scientific theory: That changing lanes in traffic really doesn’t get you that much farther ahead. (I didn’t set out to test it, I was just running late.)

It may not make much difference in a traffic jam on the highway, but on regular streets it can mean the difference between getting through a light or sitting still for 2 minutes.

 My conclusion: If I don’t piddle around so that I leave late, I won’t have to worry about it.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Had Enough of Church Work? Find Harmony

May 11, 2017

If you’ve ever been connected with church work—as a pastor, a worship leader, a committee member, or in any other way—you know just how frustrating it can be. (This applies to synagogues, mosques, and all other religious congregations as well.)

If you’re ready to throw in the towel, grab a book from the “Harmony” series by Philip Gulley; he makes the frustration hilarious. You’ll probably recognize people from your own place of worship in his fictional congregation.

So pull up a chair and have a read. You won’t feel so alone.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Mother's Day

May 14, 2017

I would like to have written a moving tribute to my mom in honor of Mother’s Day, but that didn’t pan out. But I will tell you some things about her.

She raised us to believe that every person, regardless of race, gender, or religion, is as worthy of our respect as any other. That is one of the most priceless gifts a parent can give a child.

She didn’t believe that being female meant you wouldn’t be good at any particular career. Women didn’t have to be nurses, they could be doctors. If any of us had wanted to be an engineer, she’d have cheered us on.

She worked her way through college.

She said that college was about getting an education, not choosing a career path.

She wanted to be an FBI agent. When she wrote to the agency asking about opportunities, she received a letter from J. Edgar Hoover thanking her for her interest, but saying that women could not be FBI agents. She could have applied for a secretarial position but, even though she was proficient at typing and shorthand, that didn’t appeal to her as a career choice, so she passed.

She was elected Director of Civil Defense in a small town because nobody was running for the office, so she wrote her own name in on the ballot. She got the only vote, and won the position.

After she retired she moved to a different state so she could go back to school and get her Master’s Degree in creative writing.

Those are just some of the things about Mom that I think are cool.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Communing with Nature

May 11, 2017

The other night I was sitting outside, and a wasp kept dive-bombing me. I assume it was a territory issue.

I shooed it away a couple of times, but it kept coming back.

So I said, “Stop it, or I’m going to get the wasp spray.” 

It left.

It’s good to commune with nature.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Suburban Blight

May 10, 2017

When I took walks in Idaho, I’d see ducklings, or California quail with their impossibly cute babies. In suburban St. Louis I see…shrubbery.

Lots of shrubbery. Big shrubbery. Shrubs that no doubt started out small and cute (the subdivision landscaper’s go-to move), but are growing unchecked in front of lots of houses.

Some people trim and shape the bushes, but nobody keeps them small. They just keep letting them get bigger, to the point where they’re not even decorative anymore. It looks like their houses are being swallowed by the things. I passed one house and said, “Get—a—chainsaw!”

No real reason to write this; I just think it’s time we stopped setting ourselves up to be the next sci-fi horror flick. (“The Shrubbery That Ate Suburbia.”)

The Next Fashion Fad

May 10, 2017

The other day I was on a long phone call. I’m an inveterate doodler when I’m on the phone, but there was no paper handy. Eventually I noticed I was doodling on my jeans! (Fortunately they were the paint-spattered ones I keep for home projects.)

Then I thought: Ripped jeans, muddy jeans…Why not Doodle Jeans? Maybe I can start a new craze.

Let me see if I can get Nordstrom’s on the line…

Monday, May 8, 2017

Two Is Better Than One?

May 6, 2017

Developers want to install a 90-foot Ferris wheel on Delmar Boulevard in St. Louis. Because Delmar’s not crowded enough already.

And because the 200-foot wheel planned for Union Station isn’t enough for one city?

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Slow Learners

May 6, 2017

Penn State officials are shocked, saddened and dismayed at the death of a student as a result of a fraternity hazing. Hazing deaths are so rare and unexpected…

Seriously, this death was so horrific that it boggles the mind. When are colleges going to realize once and for all that turning a blind eye to fraternity excesses will not end well?

But Penn State is cracking down: New rules involve a ban on liquor, kegs, and daylong parties.

In addition, only ten Greek parties with alcohol are allowed per semester instead of 45.


A Golden Opportunity

May 7, 2017

Nordstrom’s is selling jeans with fake mud for $425.

Neiman Marcus is selling beat-up sneakers for $1,425.

I’m going to have a garage sale and put the ratty stuff in a special Designer Section.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Is There a (Spin) Doctor in the House?

May 3, 2017

St. Louis is getting pretty famous for its gun violence, but this incident was unusual enough to grab everyone’s attention: a woman watching a ball game at Busch stadium was grazed by a bullet fired outside the stadium.

Not to worry: Police think it was just somebody firing into the air, no malice intended.

I can see the tourism board scrambling to deal with this one:

St. Louis—Loaded with Fun!

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

What's In a Name?

May 3, 2017

Not much, apparently.

Lots of schools are closed in the St. Louis area because of flooding—including a preschool called Noah’s Ark.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Why I Want To Be President

April 29, 2017

Because after I leave office I can make a ton of money giving speeches.

Monday, April 24, 2017

It Was News to Them

April 24, 2017

Fox News fired Roger Ailes for sexual harassment, after years of complaints. Then its parent company “investigated” sexual harassment allegations against Bill O’Reilly.

Ya gotta wonder about a news organization that doesn’t notice it’s been paying millions over the past few years to settle sexual harassment claims brought by its own workers against its star performer.

How much investigating did they have to do?

Friday, April 21, 2017

Maybe They Were Excellent Communicators

April 18, 2017

When I see how often people who speak the same language misunderstand each other,

I’m starting to think that God making people speak different languages at Babel may have been overkill.

Left to themselves, they probably would have messed up the tower just fine.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

The Perils of Being Short-Waisted

I actually started this post over a year ago, but thought it was too self-indulgent. But spring-clothes shopping has brought it all back to me. So here goes.

January 26, 2016

Being short-waisted is quite the challenge. Chairs are never high enough, it’s hard to see over the steering wheel, and the arms on office chairs make it tough on your shoulders, because your arms are at an awkward angle as you work. Every time I eat at a restaurant, I feel like asking for a booster seat.

And the clothing issues! You can find a shirt that fits perfectly in a regular size, except for being too long. If you go to that same size in petite, the shirt is not only shorter, but tighter. It’s like clothing manufacturers think a Size 8 Petite means Size 8-Minus. So you end up buying the shirt in a larger size anyway, and it still swims on you—it’s just shorter.

And forget buying dresses. If the dress is sleeveless you could pull up the dress at the shoulders; but since that never really works, you always have to wear a jacket to hide the alteration. And if the dress has sleeves—forget it.

Maybe I’ll start a new trend: The pinking-shears look. Since I’m not handy at alterations, I’ll just whack off the bottoms of the shirts with pinking shears and hope that it’s true that the fabric won’t ravel.

And even if it does, what the heck. I’ll just say that it’s supposed to look that way.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Do It Badly, Start a Trend

April 2, 2017

Have you ever frosted a round cake and been aggravated because the sides had less frosting than they should have, and the cake showed through?

Well, stress no more!

Those geniuses at turning negatives into positives have done it again. The latest trend in cake-decorating is Naked or Semi-Naked Cakes. The idea is that, since it’s often hard to frost the sides of a cake, you just leave them mostly bare. And now it’s so chic that people are paying extra for the look, even on wedding cakes!

Artistically challenged people can take comfort in the fact that their shortcomings could set the next fashion.

So, if you do it badly, do it boldly. You’ll be cutting-edge in no time.

Friday, April 7, 2017

I Like the Phrasing

April 5, 2017

Kansas City, MO has reduced the sentence for possession of small amounts of marijuana. Instead of a fine up to $500 and possible jail time, offenders are now liable for a $25 fine and no jail time.

So it’s still not legal; but as a DJ on WARH put it, it's less illegal.

Okey dokey.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

EZ Does It

April 5, 2017

Federal Tax form 1040EZ is one page long.

The instruction booklet is 46 pages.

(Adjusting for tax tables and the introduction, there are still 25 pages of instructions.)

Monday, April 3, 2017

(Dis)Loyalty Cards

March 31, 2017

So, about those loyalty cards you sign up for, the ones that let you earn points or instant discounts when you give the store your card or your phone number:

I couldn’t remember what phone number I had at a certain store (old home, cell, new home), so I gave the new number. None of the names that came up was mine, although I did recognize one because we keep getting collection calls for her. (We get collection calls for several people. Apparently this number was issued to a lot of different people who skipped out on bills.)

I picked a name at random, figuring I could get the instant discount and she could get the points; and I’m darned if we didn’t start getting collection calls for that person, too!

Two points:

1. Apparently the loyalty only goes one way. The store is giving out your info to all and sundry.

2. If you plan to go on the lam, don’t use your cell number as the phone number for your loyalty card. You’ll save yourself a lot of collection calls.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

One Lawn's Weed is Another Lawn's Low-Maintenance Plant

April 2, 2017

Does anybody else go to pull up those weedy purple flowers from the lawn and think, “Actually, they’re kind of pretty. And they never need watering…”

And turn around and go back inside?

It's Keeping the Socks Company

April 2, 2017

Every spring, my dandelion digger disappears.

I have a feeling it’s with all those socks that disappear from the laundry.

Friday, March 31, 2017

How Badly Do You Want That Cookie?

March 30, 2017

According to Bloomberg News, Amazon is trying to convince General Mills and the makers of Oreos (among other companies) to bypass stores like Walmart and Target (I don’t know about other grocery chains) and move to online sales.

Amazon is also working on perfecting its one-hour delivery, so snack junkies wouldn’t have to wait too long for their fix.

I don’t think I’ve ever wanted a snack so badly that I’d order it online. They’re mostly impulse buys for me; if I don’t see them, I don’t think about them.

But a hardened Oreo-phile might think that having some delivered would be just the way to go.

I’m curious as to where the larger amount of snack sales would come from: People who have to see them to buy them, or people who just crave them.

Stay tuned.

Signs of Life

March 31, 2017

When I read that astronauts had patched up the space station after a piece of cloth shielding had floated away, I thought about who might encounter that piece of cloth someday, and what they’d make of it. Then I started to wonder:

If there is life elsewhere in space, where’s the junk?

Presumably, if they’re sophisticated enough to travel from other solar systems or galaxies, they know enough by now to pick up their trash.

But in the early days, they may have left a lot of junk in space, just like we're doing.

So where is it? Will it float our way eventually? Will THAT be our first indication of life on other planets?

Maybe It's Not Too Late

March 23, 2017

In “Can I Get a Do-over?” (October 13, 2014), I said that I should have been adventurous early in life, and worried about paying off the bills later, when I wouldn’t mind sitting at a desk job.

Seems like some people are putting a different spin on that attitude. An article in the Post-Dispatch says that according to data given to, about 73% of American consumers had outstanding debt when they were reported dead. The average amount of debt was over $12,000 (not counting mortgage debt).

Maybe I should start living in the fast lane.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Sometimes Simple Solutions Really ARE the Best

March 15, 2017

I am often amused at the contortions that businesses or associations go through to increase their membership. They take surveys, analyze data, and concentrate their efforts on the completely wrong aspects of their offerings in order to woo the public. (Remember “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom”? It took the comic relief parts of “Raiders of the Lost Ark”, gave them center billing to the point of slapstick, and expected us to enjoy them. And threw in Kate Capshaw’s incessant screaming just to irritate the audience further.)

Here are some simple suggestions for some of you. If you don’t believe me, ask other people whose livelihoods don’t depend on saying what you want to hear.

Oscars Show: You keep amping up the glitz to gain viewers. If you really want more people to watch, cut acceptance speeches to 30 seconds. And stop trying to have presenters be witty—or write them better routines.

Churches: You want to increase or retain membership? Keep your services and your sermons short. Church people laugh when I say that; but if they’d heard the members of their own congregations talk freely, the way I hear them, they might actually take this sensible suggestion seriously.

Clothing stores: Please remember that there is a segment of the population that wants to dress somewhere between “Spring Chicken” and “Grandmother of the Bride.” You want to know why nobody buys your clothes? Look at them.

There are lots more examples I could give, but these will do to go on with.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

He's Rewriting the Book

March 25, 2017

Some people gleefully say that the failure to pass a replacement health care plan is a sign that Donald Trump’s presidency is going down in flames.

Conventional wisdom would make you think so. But nothing about DT’s political life has worked the way that people in the know said it would.

I’m wondering if this won’t make him fight harder to get his next project, whatever it might be, passed.