Nature vs. Nurture

Our children.  Magical.  Incipient.  Can do. . . . whatever

Each child is born – and blessed – with certain inherent natural proclivities.  Nature.  A quirky combination of genetics and heredity that suggest that this child could become a stellar musician or physicist or linguist or actor.  But how often do you hear about parents who say “I played football so my Johnny is gonna play football – whether he likes it or not.”   Or “my daughter will go to Yale” or “my boy will be a doctor [or banker or business person]” or “my son will not play with toy soldiers.”  Or “My daughter will go into the family business making widgets.” 

Guiding a child to learn broadly and to have varied experiences is positive.  It is a big plus to learn.   But efforts to “steer” or worse yet “order” a child into this school, that profession, this sport or my business is not only hurtful, it may be badly counterproductive.  It can mean that little Johnny – while a violin virtuoso in the making – is actually discouraged from such pursuits (a la “Billy Elliot”) in order to pursue what mom or dad want.  Or it can mean encouraging – nurturing –  a child to reach their full – grand – amazing potential.  Sunlight.  Water.  And optimal growing conditions for life . . . .     

Donna’s Favorite Meal

A few years ago while having dinner with Donna, she mentioned that her favorite meal as a little girl was meat loaf, fresh beets and mashed potatoes.  Ever the quick-witted spouse, I made a mental note.   A few weeks later on a Sunday, I shopped at Fresh Market and secured the “fixings” for the “favorite meal.”  Then I went home, donned my red “Mister Excitement” apron and put on the eye of the tiger.  Iron Chef Petersen . . . . Grrrr. . . . . .  

The beets are straigtforward – clip the long stems, wash and boil for 25 to 50 minutes depending on size.  Remove, peel and slice (yes, they will be HOT!). 

Then a small bag of organic yellow (or red) potatoes.  Boil for 30 minutes then mash into 1/4 stick of butter, a splash of skim milk and about 5 ounces of chopped garlic cheddar cheese.  Salt, garlic powder and pepper.  Mercy! 

The meat loaf is tricky.  I always chop a Vidalia onion and grill the pieces in olive oil.  Roll that into 2 pounds of ground round (lean).  Add an egg or two, 3/4 cup of Italian bread crumbs, 1/2 cup of barbecue sauce, salt, pepper and garlic powder (Donna suggests adding onion soup mix), shape and bake for an hour at 350.  A rack is probably better than a meat loaf pan to drain juice.

While the meat loaf is arguably a work in progress, I score major points with this meal every time I make it (which is more and more often).  Love those points. . . .    

Leg Cramps – Part II

My last post on Leg Cramps prompted numerous comments.  One cure – from my old friend Jim – had me saying “no wayyyy“:

I have a much easier solution . . . . You simply put a small bar of soap in a pocket or hold on to it.   That’s it.   It’s weird but I have used this for years.  You can even place some small bars under your sheets.    I prefer to keep some of the bars in my nightstand so they are readily available in case of a cramp.  If I get a cramp I reach into my nightstand drawer, grab a bar of the soap and the cramp is gone within about 10 seconds.  It has never failed to work.   My doctor confirmed that he had heard of this working, but I know of no scientific evidence as to why.”

Soap.  Puh-lease. 

However, investigative reporter that I am, I delved into this “remedy.”  There are many articles on this subject.  Soap – a remedy for leg cramps.  Even the ever-suspicious Snopes refers to the cure as “undetermined” –    If you Google +”leg cramps” +”bar of soap” you will get more than 30,000 records.  +soap yields over 2 million(!).   One theory is that soap is heavy in sodium chloride – which can be inhaled.    

Sure – I’m a skeptic.  But you know what?  I’m gonna put a bar of soap by the bed. . . . .

Leg Cramps

And while we’re on the subject of first aid . . . .

Both Donna and I have experienced nocturnal leg cramps or spasms.  Back of the leg.  Very painful.  So what can you do?

In order to treat leg cramps, it is advantageous to know the cause of such cramps.   From my research, I gather that dehydration, low potassium, low sodium, low calcium and underlying muscle injury are major contributors to leg cramps.  When I have experienced leg cramps, I rub the area vigorously, apply ice, drink a V-8 juice (high in sodium and potassium) and have a few glasses of water.  Know what?  The cramp goes away.* 

The last time this happened I had played golf all day without stops.  Walking.  No water.  Had a bit of lunch and a little ice tea and no other hydration.  Then we went out in the evening.  A wee bit of red wine.  No water.  Come nighttime, there was little inspiration to guzzle a few glasses of water or V-8 at bedtime.  Then at midnight – KA-BOOM!  Leg cramp.  My RX worked perfectly. 

*My comments here are not medical advice.  Always talk to a medical professional for issues like this.

First Aid

One of the best courses I ever took in college was a year-long (two semester) course in first aid.*  We started with the American Red Cross beginning course, moved on to the intermediate course, then moved into advanced.  We concluded the second semester with the Civil Defense Emergency Responder course which included clear instruction on a wide variety of serious emergency medical situations. 

When I signed up for the course I thought “I’m an Eagle Scout.  This will be a snap.”  Truth be told – it wasn’t as easy as I thought.  My point is that it is of great value — and could save a life — knowing how to deal with medical emergencies.  You will learn that the first response to any emergency is to call “911” or call your medical professional.   But when that’s not possible or help is delayed, know CPR.  Know the Heimlich Maneuver.  Know how to quickly respond to bleeding, pain, fever, and trauma.  Know the basics.  And perhaps know a little more.  All it takes is that one day – that one moment – when everyone stands around.  And you answer the call.      

*My best high school course was typing.

A Poem


























By Scott Petersen

As originally published in the Journal of the American Bar Association (January 1978)          

Pet Peeves

We all have them.  Pet peeves. 

Pet peeves are specific irritating behaviors of others which get under our skin and annoy. . . .  The term “peevish” is derived from the Middle English term “pevish” (can be “peevish”) which means “spiteful,” “ornery” or “ill-tempered.”   Use of the noun “peeve” is of fairly recent origin — dating to about 1908.  The term “pet peeve” was first used in print in 1919.   Use of “pet” simply refers to “favorite.”  

I don’t have many pet peeves (what are yours??) but those I have make me X%#!@* ornery and peevish:

1.  Bicycle riders who think they own the road.  GET OVER AND RIDE SINGLE FILE OR RIDE A STATIONARY BIKE!  

2.  People who drive slowly in the passing land.  GET OVER IN THE RIGHT LANE!

3.  People who talk loudly on cell phones on the train (“And how is my little dumpling today?  Woogy woogy sweetums!   Let me tell you about my day. . . blah blah“).  HANG UP, TALK SOFTLY OR GO IN THE VESTIBULE! 

4.  People who are late (see post of October 2).  SHOW UP ON TIME!

5.  Anyone who disagrees with my supreme – and inimitable – and usually flawless – logic and wisdom.      

Feed The Dream

One of our great friends, Sandy Haggart, began doing medical mission trips to the Central America some years ago.  Fluent in Spanish, Sandy enjoyed the opportunity to share her language skill while serving the poorest of the poor.   Ten years ago, she visited Guatemala – and experienced a Damascus Road conversion. 

In spite of astonishing poverty, Sandy found the people of Guatemala to be hopeful and appreciative of even the smallest of courtesies.  As a result, in 2004, Sandy started a not-for-profit organization called “Feed the Dream” (  The mission of Feed the Dream is to improve the health and quality of life for children and women of child-bearing age in Guatemala through nutrition, clean water and counseling.   A charitable service that began in one village in 2004, Feed the Dream  has grown to an outreach that today serves 18 villages (1,400 people) daily in the most remote and poverty-stricken areas of Guatemala.  Feed the Dream gives no “handouts.”   This is a partnership with the indigenous people of Guatemala to better themselves and their neighbors.   

What touches me especially about Feed the Dream is that Sandy and her all-volunteer Board of Directors provide “boots on the ground” — traveling to Guatemala several times a year often for weeks at a time.  Wouldn’t it be nice if each of us could leave some legacy of making this troubled world a better place?   


Think you know how to pronounce words of the English language?  Pronounce this — Ghoti

No, it’s not “Goh-tee.”  Nor is it “Gah-tee.”  Or even “Gah-hoe-tee.”  It is pronounced. . . . are you ready. . . “FISH.” 

The term “Ghoti” is a contrived word which was crafted to point out the idiosyncracies in the spelling of English words.  Often attributed to George Bernard Shaw, the term actually has an early published reference (1874) citing an 1855 letter of one William Ollier.   Now – are you ready to learn why “Ghoti” is pronounced “Fish”? 

GH – as in “enough

O – as in “women”

TI – as in “nation”

Ta dahhhhhh. . . .  FISH.   James Joyce subtly references the word in Finnegan’s Wake (“Gee each owe tea eye smells fish“).  And in the Klingon language of Star Trek, “Ghoti” means “fish.”   There is no time like the present to present this post.   I just had to subject you to the subject of this post. . . . (and there’s so much more where that came from . . . . ). 


During the French Revolution, 3 noblemen – a priest, a lawyer and an engineer – were condemned to die on the guillotine.   As noblemen, they were afforded one last courtesy – of choosing whether to die face up – or face down – on the guillotine. 

The priest was led up the steps where the black-hooded executioner stood.   “How do you wish to die, face up or face down,” said the executioner.  The priest thought, looked up and said “I wish to die face up – so I may see the heavens one last time and meet my maker face to face.”  With that the priest was put into the guillotine and the executioner pulled the rope.  The heavy blade fell swiftly – but an inch above the priest’s throat, the blade stopped.  It was jammed.  Under French law, if someone was spared death on the guillotine, he was a free man so the blade was raised and the priest walked away — free.  

Then the lawyer was led up the wooden steps.  “How do you wish to die – face up or face down?”   The lawyer quickly looked up and said “Ohhhh I too want to die face up to see the heavens one last time and meet my maker face to face.”  The lawyer was put into the guillotine and the executioner pulled the cord.   Whoosh!  Down went the blade but just over the lawyer’s throat, the blade came to a screeching halt.  And of course under French law, being spared death on the guillotine meant the lawyer was a free man. 

Then the engineer was led up – “How do you wish to die, face up or face down.”  The engineer looked up and said “I too. . . want. . . to die . . . .face up to . . . HEY!  I think I see your problem up there!”