Mt. Vesuvius

Over Memorial Day weekend, Donna and I went up to Door County Wisconsin and stayed at a wonderful B&B in Sturgeon Bay – the Chanticleer Guest House. On Sunday afternoon, we went for lunch to a popular pizza spot in Fish Creek. We waited about 40 minutes and got a table. And sat down. It was shortly thereafter that Mt. Vesuvius erupted.

The folks at the next table paid their bill, got up and left. A wait staff person walked over with a spray bottle of bleach/cleanser and began spraying from way above the table. And spraying. And spraying. All over the table. The spray wafted over our food and the aroma stung eyes and quickly raised the alert levels for Donna from Defcon 5 to Defcon 1 (the Defcon folks would’ve been proud at Donna’s immediate and vigorous reaction).  Our onion ring appetizer was rendered unedible.  Our own table glistened with spray.  Eyes burned.  It was then that Mt. Vesuvius – aka Donna –  erupted for the first time since 79 A.D.  The server was chastened. The manager was called to the table.  And she apologized.  Profusely.  The enthusiastic “sprayer” came over and apologized as well.  And our meal was offered “on the house.”  I have rarely seen Donna complain.  About anything (except to me of course which is where she hones her skills).  But this was a major “over the top” exercise of sanitation.  The explanation was that the State of Wisconsin Department of Health requires that such sprays be used generously on tables.  I seriously doubt it.  I have been in many restaurants.  All over.  And I have never seen such requirement or obligation.  And I’ve never seen anyone drown a table in chemicals while someone sat two feet away.  Soaking a table with spray may be a reasonable exercise  at closing time or perhaps upon opening.  But while there are diners sitting at ground zero?  The scent of bleach and cleaning solution lay heavily in this restaurant.  Even with the windows open.  For those who like there food seasoned with ammonia, I’ve got just the place for you.  And if this turns out to be a new Wisconsin regulation, I’ve got just the state for you. . . . .  

The Rodeo

In my post of November 21, 2013, I mentioned how my parents had put me on a train bound for Denver when I was 10 years old. “Don’t get off ’til Denver” my father had said. And that was that. I was off to Skyline Ranch – a camp for boys in Estes Park.  Once at camp – after the homesick tears ended – I settled in pretty well.  Riding horses, hiking, swimming and shooting every day. 

The big day came when we all participated in a junior rodeo in Estes Park.  And I won.  I still have the trophy.  The events were pretty tame.  Barrel races.  Flat out races.  And then there was the potato race.  Each kid mounted his horse and got a spoon and potato.  The potato went in the spoon.   And you trotted toward the finish line.  If the potato fell, you had to dismount, pick it up, put it on the spoon and get back in the saddle.  I won the event.  No one told me I couldn’t put my thumb on the potato to hold it in place. 

Then there was the balloon pop.  Every kid had a balloon tied to his saddle.  And each got a sharpened 9 inch nail.  When the starting gun went off, everyone flurried into the mix.  Trying to pop the other kid’s balloon.  Once popped, you had to move out.  Well I figured I was toast if I got mixed up so I slung one leg over the saddle horn.  And waited.  When there were two boys left – going round and round stabbing and yelling – I said “giddup” and suddenly appeared.  And I popped their balloons.   I won that event too.   I won’t tell you how I won the barrel race. . . . .

I’m told that these instincts probably have helped me as a lawyer. 

Heart Healthy

Donna and I went to a restaurant the other night. The menu was bedecked with admonitions like:
LC – Low Cholestorol
HH – Heart Healthy
LS – Low Sodium
PF – Peanut Free  And so on

Wouldn’t it be refreshing to see legends like FFF for “Fat Fat Fat” or HS for “Heart Stopper” or LC for “Laden with Cholesterol” or MSS – “More Salt than Siberia.”  How about CG – “Calories Galore.”  I mean they put warnings on cigarettes (“you will die“) but the warnings on food rarely describe the destructive effects of salt and sugar and the artery-clogging and unbalanced nature of fast foods, red meats and genetically-modified foods.   

Burger King has – I kid you not – a “Triple Whopper with Cheese Meal” with fries and a Coke.  There are nearly 2,200 calorie and 2,300 mg of sodium in this “meal.”  Oh, plus 35 grams of saturated fat.  If you add a McDonalds large triple thick shake, you can tack on 1,160 calories.  Frankly, when I order the Triple Whopper, I ask for it with bacon and cheddar fries.  And finish with a giant piece of cheesecake.  And a cup of coffee with NutraSweet (certainly not sugar).  Now that’s living. . . . . 


Social Security

I’m not as dumb as I look.  But I have to confess that on the subject of Social Security, I’ve been like “duhhhhh.”  It’s just recently that I have started to give Social Security more than a passing glance.  And it’s like “Wow!”  While I have reached that magical “full retirement age” (for me – 66) where I can collect my full Social Security benefits and yet still work full time, I have decided to wait.  If I wait one year, I collect an added 8% annual benefit.  Waiting two years – another 8%.   Benefits go up 8% each year until age 70.  At that other magical age – 70 – there is no incentive to forestall collecting benefits. 

Now here’s something I didn’t know.   Donna has been collecting Social Security since age 63 since waiting – for her – would not mean much.  Now that we have reached age 66, she can collect benefits on my Social Security while I suspend collecting on my own.  That nearly doubles the monthly payout.  I could have actually applied for Social Security under Donna’s benefit but that would have delivered about $50 less per month than having Donna claim under mine.  And by waiting to collect on my own Social Security, the benefit continues to go up for Donna in the event I get hit by a bus while walking home from the train station.   Frankly the chances of that happening are not as great as me suddenly keeling over while sitting at the compute. . . . . (thud) . . . .  

The Rock Island Line

In 1845, the Chicago Rock Island Railroad began with a charter penned in the City of Rock Island, Illinois.  For 130 years, the Rock Island Line hummed and drummed across the landscape of America.  Until 1975 when a federal judge in Chicago ordered the famed railroad into bankruptcy.   On December 10, 1977, a one day auction was held in the old LaSalle Street Station in Chicago.  Tables, chairs, paintings, rolling stock and office supplies were sold off from the old railroad.  There were also several hundred “tote” boxes full of archives of the railroad.  All were filthy dirty and all were sealed.  Any bid was on the contents.  Sight unseen.  The local news touted that perhaps the boxes contained a letter of Abraham Lincoln or Stephen Douglas – both of whom worked for the railroad.  I was drawn – like a moth to flame – and I bought 45 boxes of “stuff” at $3.50 a box.  I crammed the boxes into the trunk and car interior of our Plymouth Valiant.  And drove home.  Donna thought I was nuts.  Until I opened the boxes. . . . 

There were hundreds of letters of U.S. Congressmen, Senators, Vice Presidents of the U.S., members of the U.S. Supreme Court, Chicago mayors.   There were Aldermen like “Bathhouse John” Coughlin and “Hinky Dink” Kenna.  And there were original letters of Clarence Darrow.   It was a trove of major value.  And I ended up selling most of the material to the University of Iowa.  For many times what I paid for it.  It was then I went on a three year quest – to acquire the rest of the defunct railroad’s archives.

After scores (hundreds?) of phone calls over three years, this squeaky wheel got the oil.  A gusher.  I was told the rest of the archives were housed in a 10 story, 100,000 square foot building at Polk & LaSalle.  No one had been in the building for 2 years.   “I’ll buy it” I said.  And did.  I bought the entire contents of the building for $500. They handed me the keys and it was mine.   The only hitch — I had to get it out in 4 weeks.  Within a few hours, I had the contents sold – to the Universities of Iowa and Oklahoma (Norman).  Iowa had first choice and Oklahoma got the remainder.  I walked alone through the 10 floors.  File cabinets.  Boxes of files.  Empty desks.  Coffee cups ringed with dried coffee.  A mausoleum.  Over the next few weeks, I orchestrated eight 48 foot over-the-road tractor trailers. Loading up the goodies.  I looked back, walked out and locked the door.     

I still have a few things from the RI.  A ceremonial spike.  A slice of track.  Oh – and yes – some old letters.  In 1997, I delivered a paper to the Chicago Literary Club.  Telling the whole story.  It’s online at  The Rock Island Line.  Was a mighty fine line.  And it was sure good to me. 

At Home

In Deborah Tannen’s classic work You Just Don’t Understand, she speaks of how men talk to “report” and women talk for “rapport.”  Well speaking of books, I just finished one that – guys – you will love.  It’s At Home by Bill Bryson.  It contains so many facts and factoids that I want to read it again.  Just to absorb more stuff to report on.   

It may sound boring but At Home takes you through the house room-by-room and explains just about everything.   Why did the kitchen develop?  Why is it called a “living room”?  What is the importance of ice?   How did bathing come into fashion?  Quick answer – it didn’t for a looooonnnng long time. . . . . Why are there bedrooms?   Bathrooms?  Why glass windows?   

Mister B devotes infinite – fascinating – detail to these and hundreds of other blips and tidbits of information.  From architecture, electricity, hygiene, food preservation and the daily life of eating, sleeping and trying to get more comfortable.  Guys, you can carry this book to cocktail parties and when other guys start spouting facts, you can pull this baby out and wow ’em.     

Income Inequality

I just read where Seattle Mariner second baseman Robinson Cano signed a $240 million 10 year deal.  This amounts to $24 million a year or $461,000 a week.  LeBron James makes nearly three times that — $59 million a year (with endorsements) and Kobe Bryant makes  $61 million a year (with endorsements).  The highest paid athletes are Tiger Woods $78 million a year and Roger Federer – $71 million a year.  Not bad gigs for shooting hoops, playing basketball or tennis or – still my beating heart – playing golf.  One difference among members of this group is that LeBron, Kobe and Robinson get paid their salaries regardless of their performance.  Robinson may bat .125 and drop every ball that comes to him.  And he’ll get paid.  Tiger and Roger?  They don’t get paid for tour events unless they win.          

When the CEO of a Fortune 500 company earns a few million dollars a year, many squeal that such compensation is unfair.  Yet what about the aforementioned athletes?  Or heaven knows the actors/actresses who bank tens of millions of dollars.  On one film.  We rarely hear complaints about earnings of those in the NFL, NBA or MLB or the Screen Actors Guild. 

If a CEO is performing – providing jobs for tens of thousands of workers and returning good profits for shareholders – is there a metric that suggests his/her contribution is worth more to America (to wit – the economy) than a second baseman who earns 10 times as much?   Most CEO’s – and managers – receive bonuses based on productivity — and success.  Just like in golf or tennis.  Some salaries and compensation arrangements are wayyyyy beyond reason.  But it seems to me that productivity and success are justifiable components for compensation for those at the upper levels.  Does a basketball player merit a million plus dollars a week?  And what do we do (if anything) with – or for – those at the other end of the comp spectrum?    One of the answers is providing, enhancing and streamlining job and educational opportunities.  Another is to consider measures set forth in my post of May 11, 2012.  What are other answers?   One is that I should have gone to Q School.  Heck.  Maybe I still can. . . .       

Feeling Down?

Men’s Journal (May 2014) had an interesting article on dealing with depression. When depressive episodes occur, it usually signals a drop in the body’s levels of serotonin.  Medications which counteract the effects of depression often contain tryptophan since tryptophan provide a natural boost in serotonin. 

There are – in fact – foods which are high in tryptophan such as cashews, spinach and game meat.  According to Dr. Andrew Saul, a therapeutic nutritionist and editor in chief of Orthomolecular Medicine News Service, two handfuls of cashews provide 1,000 to 2,000 milligrams of tryptophan which can work as well as prescription antidepressants.  The body converts tryptophan into serotonin which can enhance good mood, healthy sleep and feelings of sexual desire.  The high levels of Vitamin B6 in cashews may also help stabilize mood.  Five ounces of cashews (157 calories per ounce) can provide a middle aged man with his daily intake of magnesium (low levels of magnesium can trigger mild depression). 

Bottom line — there’s not a lot of downside to chowing down some cashews.  With breakfast.  Lunch.  Dinner.  Or as a snack.  You’ll feel good about it.  🙂

Just Turn it Off

In my post of 9/6/12, I expressed some sketicism of “global warming” as promoted by politicians.  The trumpets of global warming are designed to make rich and accrue power for those who promote it.   Did you know that federal grants which question global warming are refused?  Did you know that there is no metric as to what aspect of global warming is due to natural causation and what due to man?  It’s not allowed for discussion.  Some science. . . .

Notwithstanding, in my very first post, I said we should be vigorous in protecting our precious environment.   I share the same objectives (conservation, recycling, renewable energy).  But I view the problem in a different way.  Global warming advocates say we should do these things because of global warming.  I say we should do these things because they are right.  In my prior post, I offered a watchword (my trademark) for conserving water and energy.  Just Turn it Off!   This simple phrase can make a difference and provide a 4 word education on conservation.  I mean what’s not to like?            

Let’s take water — We can’t live without it.  And there’s only so much of it on our planet.  Thus it is natural that we would want to conserve our precious supply of fresh water, use it sparingly and keep it potable. Yet most of the water that enters our homes literally goes down the drain.  So what can the average person do to conserve fresh water and to preserve this valuable commodity for future generations?  “Just turn it off.” 

By turning off the water when it is not in use, you save gallons of fresh water every day.  If every person in America saved one gallon of fresh water daily (the average shower uses 8 gallons), that translates to a savings of hundreds of millions of gallons of fresh water.  For your children.  Grandchildren. What can you do to help?  “Just turn it off.” 

● When taking a shower, turn on the water, get wet and then “Just turn it off.” Soap down while the water is off. Frankly you will probably get cleaner than if the water just continues pouring down the drain.

●  When shaving, turn off the water.  And rinse the razor as needed.

●  When rinsing dishes, reduce pressure or turn it off for each item.

●  Wash full loads of laundry. 

Post any comments on conserving water or energy!  And. . . . . Just turn it off!