In my posts of 10/10 and 10/15/2012, I mentioned that my 10 to 12 year old buds and I made really cool rockets with match heads and Black Cat firecrackers – broken open to carefully pour out and use the fulmenite of mercury powder. We would similarly make bombs and cannons with such materials. We learned about Molotov cocktails from the Hungarian Revolution (1956) so we made them with pop bottles, gasoline and a rag stuffed in the opening.  We’d light them and pitch them into the creek by my house while six foreheads and twelve eyes peered over the edge.  Waves of intense heat rolled above us while the bumblebee sound of glass and rock shards buzzed over our heads.  Occasional ka-booms would rip through the neighborhood to the grand delight of our “gang” – and much to the irritation of our mothers who would yell out the window “Harold – you go find your hand and sew it back on” [slam].

Halloween was always a special treat.  For tricks. However, the tricks though were far more benign since they involved adults.  Thus our creative and cautious natures sprang forth.  Most aggressive was setting fire to a paper bag full of dog poop on someone’s front stoop. Then ringing the doorbell (and watching – hands over our mouths – as Mr. Foy stomped it out).  Or just ringing doorbells.  I remember calling my friend Darryl M. on the telephone. I mistakenly dialed CLearbrook 3 – 75_ _.  A woman answered and I asked for Darryl.  The woman went ballistic (maybe she’d had calls for Darryl before).  She went on and on – and I was fascinated!  CLearbrook 3-75_ _.  I memorized the number which I remember to this day.  I went over to Darryl’s and together we called the number.  Our ears pressed against the receiver.   “Hello?”  “Hello is [snicker] Darryl there?”  “X%@&!!@&*#!”  Oh my socks and shoes the woman used every word I had learned never to use – and then some.  We shared the number with other friends.  I’m sure the number was spread far and wide.  “Hello is Darryl there?”  In these simple days before caller ID, we could call with impunity.  And learn many new words in the process.   I am sorry – today – for doing such impish things.  But there’s a 10 year old boy somewhere in my core that still wears a smile . . . . . 

Personal Trainers

I have old sports injuries and arthritis. Knees. Ankles. Feet. So I went to see Doctor Bob – a good friend and orthopedic surgeon – a few weeks ago for some ideas. While physical therapy was mentioned, one thing that came through loud and clear was that I should do “strenthening exercises.” He said a personal trainer might be helpful – to concentrate on strengthening my wobbly legs. 

Over the years, I’ve exercised two or three times a week.  I do the elliptical (on which I sometimes fall asleep).  A few weight machines and some situps.  I consider myself in okay shape.  I’ve seen others at the fitness center walking around with a personal trainer, but for me?  Harrumph!   What for?  After all, I know how to use the elliptical.  Then again Doctor Bob said to “strengthen.”

The health club where I belong had a “buy 6 get 7” offer for personal training sessions. So I signed up. I’ve had two sessions so far. And in this short time, I have come to realize that I have muscles I never knew I had.   My body is going “what is he doing to me?”  My muscles are deep in conference “let’s cramp up” “no – let’s sprain.  That’ll show him” . . . . .

I’m accustomed to lifting weights.  Nothing heroic.  Up down (or down up) ten times or so and that’s it.  Move on to another machine.   My trainer, Marta, smiles and puts the weight on 20 pounds.  I think to myself 20 poundsAre you kidding me?   But I go along.  And after three minutes my muscles are screaming for mercy.  Sweat pours from my brow.  My body is going to Defcon 1.  Why?  Because instead of “up down up down” Marta says “up – and hold.”  After 10 seconds, my arms are quivering.   Then it’s “down.”   “Slowly.”  “And not all the way.”  Three sets of ten.   In two sessions (with some workouts in between), my knees are feeling better.  Maybe a wee bit stronger.  Lately when the elliptical gives me that longing “come hither” look, I snort, turn my head and walk on by. . . . .


According to an article in Politico, not one of our leaders (Congress/Senate) read the Affordable Health Care bill. Neither did Mr. Obama.

The Obamacare legislation was written mainly by congressional and agency staffers (many fresh out of college) who were given different areas of the bill to address. They’d sit around a table going “how ’bout if we. . . .” and the “idea” was put into the bill. So you have a health care bill which was written by young people who never had a real job, never met a payroll and had little experience as to how the real world functions.  The bill was not read by anyone.  And now many in both parties admit it won’t work.  Unions which trumpeted the legislation five years ago now revile it and demand repeal.  Businesses are cutting back employee hours (to under 30) to avoid compliance with the bill.  Or employees are being let go.  Mr. Obama has “delayed” implementation for some businesses.  And now, the signup website doesn’t work.  According to a Forbes magazine study, the Affordable Health Care Act will cost the average family of 4 an additional $7,000+ in health care costs annually.  There are 20,212 pages in the bill.  complete with tens of thousands of new required medical codes  (which will cost doctors billions).  “Bitten” by a duck?  One code.  “Struck” by a duck?  Another code (see W6161X(A).    “Bumped” by a turkey?  Sorry – that’s a separate code.  Contact with excreta of a parrot?   Doctors must use yet another code (see http://www.icd10data.com/ICD10CM/Codes/V00-Y99/W50-W64/W61-)     Second time it’s happened?  Different codes entirely.  Nancy Pelosi so tellingly announced  “we have to pass the bill so you can know what’s in it”  (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hV-05TLiiLU ).  Mercy!  Do Americans deserve this? 

There have been articles about how America’s health care system is not all that bad  to begin with since everyone – even the poor – have immediate access to treatment for illness or injury. In Canada, Sweden, the UK or other socialized medicine countries, health care is rationed (in Canada doctors get in big trouble if they serve more than their strict quota of patients).  You need an MRI?  Wait for 6 months. Need a hip replacement?  18 months out.  In the UK, if you’re over 70 you may not receive kidney dialysis or certain other treatments. No wonder so many foreigners come to the U.S. for treatment. . . . . .  Sure, we need a better system.  But the optimal way to have created a health care system would be to have it crafted – carefully – by a consortium of doctors, insurance executives, lawyers, politicians (if we must), business people and laymen.   And for goodness sake people – make it simple.   Do we need separate medical codes for duck bites, turkey pecks and getting sick from parrot poop?     

We have this universe of extremely well-schooled people who are breathtakingly uneducated. Remember — never confuse schooling with education.  Most everyone in Washington is pretty well-schooled – but most are breathtakingly uneducated.   And guess who loses.

The 1000 Pound Man

The heaviest person in the world weighs 1,076 pounds. He is about 5 feet 8 inches “tall.” The regulation National Hockey League goal is 6 feet by 4 feet.   You see where I’m going?? 

I have long felt that the Chicago Blackhawks could win the Stanley Cup every year by simply recruiting the largest people in the world to be the goalie.  You upholster them in padding, mask and protective gear, give them a stick and stuff them into the goal and let them take a nap. Every shot on goal would simply bounce off the goalie. Defense would become a thing of the past. The goalie would go into the history books and the Blackhawks would win the Stanley Cup every year.

The only “hitch” would be that other teams might start recruiting similarly-endowed goalies.  Games would typically end 0 to 0.  Shootouts in overtime could go on for years . . . .

The “Big Lesson”

In my prior post on “College,” I mentioned a “big lesson” from Dr. Erickson.  I spoke of this lesson in a paper delivered to the Chicago Literary Club on April 2, 2007 (see www.chilit.org).

September.  Freshman year. My second or third week of college.  On academic probation.  Dr. Erickson was teaching a course in political science. I had been slouched in my chair, probably doodling and not paying much attention to the class. Suddenly, I heard my name “Mister Petersen.”  It was Dr. Erickson asking me to answer a question. With considerable ease, I looked up and offered “I’m not prepared” and I went back to whatever it was I was doing.

Dr. Erickson padded over and stood by my seat. “Stand up,” he said. I looked up. “Stand up,” he repeated. So I stood up.

Mister Petersen, so you’re not prepared?  Well, let me tell you – if you’re not prepared to answer a simple question, you will probably not be prepared to answer the tough ones. You’re not prepared today so I would bet, Mister Petersen, that you will not be prepared tomorrow either.  Perhaps you don’t care.  And if that’s the case, I feel sorry for you.”

The sweat began trickling down my neck. And he went on.

Mister Petersen, you have two choices in life. To try and be prepared for what needs to be done. Or not.

Dr. Erickson finished his comments and from that day forward, I was never again unprepared for his class (duhhh – I’m not as dumb as I look).  I was generally quick to raise my hand and I was usually ready with an answer.  Others in the class had learned a lesson that day too (at my expense).  I ended up getting a “C” in the class and I took four more courses from Dr. Erickson (A’s and B’s).  Poly Sci became my major and he was my faculty advisor.  No – I didn’t whine because he badgered me.  I was truly grateful for the lesson.   More kids should have such lessons (or perhaps the one I posted on November 23, 2011) . . . .   


When I was 16, well into my senior year of high school, I went to see my guidance counselor – Floyd Hillman.  Mr. Hillman told me (the words are etched in my brain) “I think I can get you a job as an assistant plumber.”  I sat.  And wanted to cry.  I didn’t want to be an assistant plumber.  And I left.  Sad about my impending future.  But a few of my friends were talking about “college.”  College sounded pretty good. 

My father never finished high school and my mother never went to college.  So we never talked much about college.  I would finish high school and then go to work.  Even so, I went home and mentioned “college” to my father.  “College?” he said.  “The only guy I know who went to college was Bill Swanson.”  He looked at me.  “You wanna go to college??”  I nodded — having little clue as to what that meant. . . .

We went to see Mr. Swanson.  He said “I went to Augustana College.  Maybe I could get you an interview.”  My dad said “you want that?” and I nodded. . . . not entirely sure what that meant.  My parents and I drove out to Rock Island, Illinois — home of Augustana College — and I had an interview with Mr. Hemming, the Director of Admissions.  It was April or May — around the time of high school graduation.  Mr. Hemming said that the class was full.  And my grades were not great.  But he liked that I was an Eagle Scout so he would find a spot for me.  He said I could be admitted on academic probation.  But if I didn’t have a “C” average first semester, I was out.  So I signed on.  A few months later, I was in college.  My first semester – of 6 courses, I had 5 “C’s” and one “B” (in swimming).  I was in.  The second youngest freshman in my class (I’d skipped 2d grade).

My 45th reunion was this weekend at Augustana.  I went.  First time in 35 years.  I owe Stanley Erickson for a big lesson and Dean Ribbick for things that go unsaid.  And I owe Augustana College for taking a flyer on a just turned 17 year old kid with mediocre grades.  I was given a chance.   It was great to be back.  See old friends.  My fraternity brothers.  And visit. . . my college.           

Scoring Points – Part III

In my posts of May 6 and May 8, 2012, I relate how my amazing cooking prowess gets me points with the ladies. Uhmmm . . . make that “Lady” – singular. Well I did it again. . . .

Saturday night, Donna and I were babysitting for Eve so I volunteered to make dinner.  I stopped at Whole Foods and patrolled the aisles — seeking inspiration.  And then KA-BOOM — it hit me.  I bought two 8 ounce (1-1/2″) prime filets, some organic white potatoes, a monstrous yellow onion, some Hass avocados, limes and cilantro.  I’ll bet you can see what’s coming. . . .

For the potatoes, I stuck to my classic hash brown/roasted potato recipe (see post of September 10, 2013).  This time I used real garlic powder (instead of garlic salt).  I then made a guacamole side dish with two mooshed avocados, finely chopped cilantro and the juice of one or two (if you like it tangy) limes.  I fired up the grill for the filet.  Seared for 2-1/2 minutes on high then flipped them and timed about 10 minutes on medium (M-M-M) heat.  The filets were perfect.  Medium,  Light pink inside.

I poured a really fine Ghost Pines 2010 cabernet sauvignon to wash it all down and concluded the meal with a Ciao Bella sorbet.   The guacamole was a perfect vegetable accompaniment to the filet.  In fact, I simply took bites of both.  It was Mardi Gras in your mouth. . . .  

What really got the pointmeter doing loops was – are you ready?  I did the dishes (cue the fist pump). 

Eagle Scout Politicians – Revisited

I have never repeated a post.  Until now.   I look with disgust on those who occupy the House, the Senate and the White House.   I and most Americans like to throw all of the bums out and replace them.  I think we ought replace them with Eagle Scouts (or the Girl Scout equivalent).  On September 11, 2011, my post was on that precise topic.  It bears repeat at this time of national urgency.   

(9/11/11) – I am an Eagle Scout. I grew up with – and was inculcated with – the Scout Oath: “On my honor, I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout Law. To help other people at all times. To keep myself physically strong, mentally awake and morally straight.” The Scout Law added further obligation: “A Scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent.” All of the Eagle Scouts I know continue to try and live their lives according to these solemn oaths though Donna doesn’t always feel I’m obedient when she asks me to take the garbage out or clean the garage. I’m not real cheerful about that stuff either. . . .

When I see the gridlock in Washington, it seems too bad we don’t have more Eagle Scouts (or the Girl Scout equivalent) running the country. I would wager that Democratic and Republican Eagle Scouts would get along a far sight better and work a lot more diligently than the parade of horrors found in Washington today. They would sing campfire songs while drinking beer at the Old Ebbitt Grill.  They would hike to the office with backpacks doing good deeds along the way.  And most importantly, they would take seriously – very seriously – their duty to this great country, their obligation to be thrifty and the promise to “help other people at all times.”

Call a Toe Truck!

You want to know what hurts like you know what? Break a toe.

A few weeks ago, I broke the little toe on my right foot. I walked into an iron stool that Donna has in our bathroom that (AHEM) had not been put back where it belonged. The pain was excruciating. And of course leave it to our schedule to be leaving for Park City, Utah, the next day. Yes – I played golf and went hiking. All with a toe – and later all of my toes – turning the color of spoiled blueberries.   I Googled “broken toe” and learned that there’s not much you can do other than keep them taped together, keep them elevated and put ice on them.  If the bone is sticking through the skin, then a visit to your doctor may be in order.  A broken big toe can be serious as it’s needed for balance.  The others are just there — keeping the others company.    

After three weeks of hobbling around, I did opt to go to the doc who said my little toe bones were smooshed.  He confirmed that there’s not much to do other than keep my toes taped together.  That’s a bit of a challenge since my little toe and the one next to it don’t get along all that well . . . . .