Five Riddles

I remember “what’s black and white and red [phonetic] all over?”  Answer:  a newspaper.  The following are good 🙂

1. A murderer is condemned to death. He has to choose between three rooms. The first is full of raging fires, the second is full of assassins with loaded guns, and the third is full of lions that haven’t eaten in 3 years. Which room is safest for him?

2. A woman shoots her husband. Then she holds him under water for over 5 minutes. Finally, she hangs him. But 5 minutes later they both go out together and enjoy a wonderful dinner together. How can this be?   

3. What is black when you buy it, red when you use it, and gray when you throw it away ? 

4. Can you name three consecutive days without using the words Wednesday, Friday, or Sunday?  

5. This is an unusual paragraph. I’m curious as to just how quickly you can find out what is so unusual about it. It looks so ordinary and plain that you would think nothing was wrong with it. In fact, nothing is wrong with it! It is highly unusual though. Study it and think about it, but you still may not find anything odd. But if you work at it a bit, you might find out. Try to do so without any coaching!


1. The third room. Lions that haven’t eaten in three years are dead.  That one was easy, right?

2. The woman was a photographer. She shot a picture of her husband, developed it, and hung it up to dry (shot; held under water; and hung).

3. Charcoal, as it is used in barbecuing.

4. Sure you can name three consecutive days– yesterday, today, and tomorrow!

5. The letter “e” which is the most common letter used in the English language, does not appear even once in the paragraph.

The Chicago Cubs are Lutheran

Donna and I went to see Garrison Keillor at Ravinia. It’s perhaps our sixth time attending his live radio broadcast of “Prairie Home Companion.” His show is always – always – a treat. 

Mr. Keillor discusses the goings on in Lake Wobegon but he inevitably gets around to talking about Chicago, the North Shore, Illinois politics and such.  Last night was no different.  But last night he talked about the Chicago Cubs.  And he came to the divine conclusion that the Chicago Cubs’ failures over the last hundred years are due to the fact that they are (are you ready?) a Lutheran team. He went on.  And on.  And the audience loved it.  And collectively thought gosh maybe it’s true. . . .

In 1914, Wrigley Field (then known as Weeghman Park) was built on the grounds of the old Chicago Lutheran Theological Seminary.  Because Lutherans (who are in abundance in Lake Wobegon) are devoted to “service to others,” this mantra has seeped from the ground and stuck.  On the Cubs.  And the Chicago Cubs since 1914 have been the living embodiment of Lutheran theology — “in service to others.” Devoted to ending other teams losing streaks. Ending batting slumps. Lowering opposing pitchers E.R.A.’s. And so on. The Chicago Cubs failure to ever win a World Series while playing in Wrigley Field is not because of a Billy goat. Not because of poor management. Not because of poor players. It is because – they are Lutheran.  Having grown up as a Lutheran, I kinda see where he’s coming from . . . . .

Stevie Ray Vaughan

I play guitar. Have for years.   I often stick in a CD and play along (or try to) with Buddy Guy, Eddie Campbell, B.B. King, Eric Clapton, Bonnie Raitt and so many others. Lead or rhythm.  But the chap I’d like to play like is Stevie Ray Vaughan (1954-1990).  He was amazing.  I’d give my left arm to . . . . no – wait a minute. . .   

Stevie Ray was born and raised in Dallas, TX.  At age 7, he received a gift — a plastic guitar from a Sears catalog.  He liked music.  He tried to play drums.  Then sax.  But the guitar idea stuck.  And he got a real guitar and learned to play by listening to the greats above plus masters like Muddy Waters and Jimi Hendrix. His first public performance was at age 11 in a local Dallas talent contest.   And he realized – this is where it’s at.  “SRV” as he was known dropped out of high school and moved to Austin — to pursue his passion — music.  In 1977, the band Double Trouble was born.  And it soared – with SRV at the helm.  But  SRV developed an alcohol and cocaine habit while touring with Double Trouble.  His performance contracts called for two fifths of Crown Royal and a fifth of Smirnoff vodka.  His cocaine use jumped to 7 grams a day (together with the booze).  After a long stay in rehab, he returned to performing.  Stevie was spiritual, ascetic and sober.  And he went into high gear on producing some of his best music.   

But the music died on August 27, 1990.  Double Trouble opened for Eric Clapton at the Alpine Valley Music Theater in East Troy, Wisconsin.  After the show, the musicians boarded four helicopters bound for Chiciago.  SRV’s helicopter took off after midnight and crashed into a 1000 foot ski hill.  Killing all aboard.  It was everyone’s loss.   

Some of the best guitar work you’ll ever hear  is at  and nothing like “Pride and Joy” –

Tongue Twisters

The first tongue twisters that most kids of my generation learned was Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers.  A peck of pickled peppers Peter Piper picked.  If Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers, Where’s the peck of pickled peppers Peter Piper picked?” 

The two others that I remember well (and which to this day I can recite perfectly) are:  Rubber buggy bumpers” and “Sally sells sea shells by the sea shore.”  I was told to repeat them three times quickly and of course I remember them coming out “Rubber bubby mumpersRugger buddy buppersBuggy bubber bumpers.”  The “Sally” one came out equally bad. 

I haven’t given much thought to tongue twisters until a few weeks ago when someone challenged me to say “I slit a sheet, a sheet I slit, and on the slitted sheet I sit.”   Now that is not one for the faint of heart.  Especially if you have to say it while holding your tongue.   Fortunately this is one I learned from Donna early on (must be an East Coast thing) so I took a breath and spat it out.  Flawlessly.  Raised a few eyebrows that did. . . .  

If anyone gets bored, here are 549 tongue twisters  you can practice (see ).  And there are tongue twisters for children (which is probably a good educational tool) – see   Excuse me now as I wish to wash my Irish wristwatch. . . .


My granddaughter Eve’s favorite movie (the only one she has seen) is “Frozen” — the 3D animated fantasy produced by Disney in 2013. The movie was inspired by the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale — The Snow Queen.  Eve can’t wait to sit at the computer to watch the trailer of the movie — check out (21 million views on YouTube – of which I think 18 million of them are by Eve).  And she wakes up singing the classic songs “Do You Want to Build a Snowman?” and the Oscar winner “Let it Go” which was sung by Idina Menzel.   Donna’s favorite song is the one the Trolls sing about Olaf — Anna’s boyfriend — “He’s a Fixer Upper.”  Donna swears the song has no relevance to me but I do remember overhearing Donna tell a friend that I needed “a lot of work” when we got married.  (See ).  Me?  A “lot of work”? 

Eve also has books telling the story of Frozen.  In fact, she has two identical books.   I will read one to her and then she’ll ask me to read the other.  “It’s the same book” I say.  “Read, Popi” she responds seriously.  And hands me the book.  Okay.  I can do this. . . .



The chances are good that some of you will  one day save someone’s life by quick action and thoughtful response.  Or it may be your life that is saved . . . .

I get on the train each day and am confronted by a panel which announces the location of the “AED” unit (“Automated External Defibrillator”). I’ve seen this notice time and time again.  My eyes glaze over and I move to my seat.  In my post of October 21, 2011, I recounted that the best course I ever took in college was a year-long tutorial on advanced first aid (it has come in so handy over the years).  Thus, a few weeks ago, something clicked.  I should figure out what this “AED” thingee is.  So while having lunch at my desk – I logged onto a YouTube video which told the story of the AED (see ).  I may not – yet – be ready to use it but I’ve got a better idea now of what an AED does.  And how it works.  Hopefully, I will never need it.  I would suggest to those reading this post to spend 4 minutes and learn about the AED. 

And while you’re doing that, why not learn the Heimlich Maneuver?  I’ve done it twice – successfully.  See 

A baby choking?  See

How about CPR (“Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation”)?  See

Heavy bleeding?  See

If you watch all of these videos (if they don’t “link” just paste them in your browser), you will spend maybe 30 minutes.   It may be the most valuable 30 minutes you ever spend.  And someone – maybe you – will be eternally grateful.    



Teaching to the Test

“Teaching to the test” is an educational practice which focuses teachers on preparing students for standardized testing.  The practice is often considered unethical given that it forces teachers to limit curriculum to a fixed set of knowledge or facts.  There is a emphasis on excessive repetition of simple and isolated skills (“drill and kill“).  A student’s rote memorization then translates to a possible ability to “score” on a test but an inability to understand why answers are what they are. The big problem is that then students suffer – greatly – by losing out on creative and abstract thinking, general knowledge and general concepts.  Japan has been notorious for teaching to the test but their academic successes have been often attributed to longer and more school days (240 days versus less than 180 in the U.S.). 

So why do teachers “teach to the test”?  The answer is simple — because teachers are often themselves graded on this false metric of student success.  These skewed results then reduce the validity of standardized tests and create a incorrect profile of a student’s achievement.  What could be worse for our children?  For students?   The federal No Child Left Behind Act (2001) relies heavily on standardized testing.  It has been a failure for the most part and education in America continues its race to the bottom.  Frankly the problems seem to have begun when the U.S. Department of Education was established in 1980.  This Department has an annual budget of over $80 billion dollars (with 5,000 employees).  Maybe we should judge the DOE on the basis of its success.  And if it doesn’t measure up — abolish it.  I’ll bet the states could use that money far more wisely.  With a resulting uptick in educational success. . . .

Donald Sterling

Does anyone doubt that Donald Sterling is an idiot? Not just for making discriminatory comments but also (as we have learned) for his history of discrimination in real estate ventures.   The media has convicted him and the NBA has sentenced him – stripping him of ownership of his basketball team. Maybe this is deserved but I have to wonder about the process . . . .

Donald Sterling has done nothing illegal.  None of his players or employees have ever accused him of discrimination — or making racist comments.  But the media was quick to stir up public opinion and condemn him and the NBA followed in lockstep — ordering his property — the Los Angeles Clippers — forcibly sold.  Donald Sterling has not had much to say in his defense though the media remains apoplectic. 

I rarely agree with the American Civil Liberties Union but they have often said that the First Amendment was designed to protect offensive and unpopular speech.  If you can’t protect unpopular speech, then there is no Freedom of Speech as provided by the First Amendment to the Constitution (“. . . no laws . . .abridging the freedom of speech“).  Does it seem like Americans are losing that right of free speech?  Then there’s the 5th Amendment which states that “nor shall any person . . . .be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law.”  Was there due process here?  And then there is the 14th Amendment’s (section 1) restatement of that expectation.  And then there is the 6th Amendment’s right to a speedy trial. 

We may want to hold our collective noses over Donald Sterling’s nasty comments but should we suspend the Constitution to punish him?  Frankly the media would probably have looked the other way if he had shoplifted a can of coffee or punched out a well-deserving paparazzi.  But most journalists don’t care about justice.  As President Barack Obama said following the incident “When ignorant folks want to advertise their ignorance, you don’t really have to do anything.  You just let them talk.  And wait for them to fade away.


10,000 Steps

For our birthdays, Lauren & Trent presented Donna and me with our very own FITBIT’s. You know about this?

The FITBIT is a wireless thingee that you wear on your wrist. It is an “activity tracker” which records the number of steps you take, it monitors your calorie intake and expenditure, the amount of water you drink and your quality and quantity of sleep.  It also gives you a sharp electric jolt if you reach for a cookie.  JUST kidding about the cookie business.  The FITBIT is actually kinda cool.  I’ve learned that I have a lot of weighty matters on my mind while I sleep (it records time awake, restless and in deep sleep).  It gives me an electrical thumbs up when I reach 10,000 steps (about 5 miles).  And it tells me how many calories I’ve burned (as if I give a hoot). 

In an article titled “The Pedometer Test” by Tara Parker Pope (October 19, 2010), it said that Americans take about half as many steps per day than their counterparts around the world.  Australians log 9,695 steps per day.  Swiss – 9,650.  Japanese – 7,168.  American men take 5,340 and American women – 4,912.   Though Amish men average 18,000 steps per day and Amish women, 14,000.  So the FITBIT is a way to challenge yourself to go the extra mile.  Literally.    

The FITBIT is made by Fitbit, Inc. of San Francisco.  The cost is between $60 and $130.  And they are normally tethered to your Smartphone.  If you’re looking for a unique and quirky gift, this is probably one that will satisfy.