I was walking to the train station with a friend. He mentioned that he is taking a course on Lucretius – the Roman poet and philosopher (99 B.C.-55 B.C.).   His previous course was on Cicero and the one before that on some unpronounceable Roman chap.  My friend went on talking about Lucretius and his publications on the nature of the universe and Epicureanism.  Sounded pretty neat.  I asked what he was taking next semester and he was not sure.  Maybe something on analytics or Euripides.  It was then I stuck my chin out. . . . .

I asked my friend if he had ever had a course on first aid.  He looked at me – “no.”  I asked if he’d ever taken a Heimlich Maneuver, CPR or AED course.  I got the same answer.  He asked me if I had done so and I recounted briefly my year-long course work on emergency medical response at Augustana College (see October 21, 2011) and my AED review (see June 12, 2014).   I said that over the years, this knowledge has come in handy.  On a few occasions very handy.

It’s great taking courses on Lucretius and Cicero though my personal bent might involve guitar lessons, bird study or a tutorial on card magic.  But lemme say this — acquiring knowledge on the subject of first aid (including AED, Heimlich, CPR) may someday prove to be more valuable than reading De Rerum Natura or Iphigenia at Aulis.  You never know when some southbound emergency will raise its ugly head. 


A “zarf” is one of those coffee cup sleeves that they slide up the cup to keep your pinkies from getting too hot. Every take out coffee cup has a zarf. Heaven help the coffee shop that doesn’t use one. Plaintiff’s lawyers would crawl out of their holes to sue. . . . .

Think of the coffee consumed and the zarfs, cups and tops that are bought, used and tossed. Into the trash. Think of all those trees. All the energy to produce millions (billions?) of zarfs.

Some months ago, I got a cup of coffee at Hannah’s Bretzel and carried it to my office. I finished and tossed the cup into the garbage.  I looked down.  And reached into the garbage, fished out the cup and slid off the zarf. And put it the bag I carry around. The next morning when I stopped for coffee, I pulled out my zarf and handed it to the chap behind the counter. He looked at it.   I said “I’m recycling the sleeve.” He smiled, went “ahhhh” and reused it. When I got up to my office and finished the coffee, I slid off the zarf and put it in my bag.

Would you believe that zarf has now lasted me about 6 weeks? That’s roughly 20 zarfs spared.  Saved.  I’m not sure if this makes any difference in the world but I’d bet if each of America’s 150 million coffee drinkers recycled one zarf once each month, the tree population would breathe a sigh of relief.

I Shoulda Known Better

My post – “Temperature Rising” – was pie in the sky. Unreasonable expectation.  The light is out. The candle is extinguished. The day is done. The season is over. The Cubs once again have flopped.  Badly. 

The high hopes had yawned and awakened. That sudden rocket red glare of enthusiasm that came with the October 5th game against the Pirates.  Air pumped into a long flat tire.  But the flame has been doused. Cold water. Ice water. I mean losing 4 games in a row?? Come ON.  My tear-stained TV Forecast now gathers dust on the television.  Knuckles drag on the ground.  A sad face greets the world.  The Cubs have done it again.  The goat is alive and well. 

BUT. . .  just wait ’til next year. . . .  

Temperature Rising

When I was a kid, I had major Cubs fever.  But I gave up on the Chicago Cubs years ago.  And that put the kibosh on baseball altogether.  I can honestly say that I have not watched or listened to a single baseball game in years.  I have not watched a single inning of baseball save when I would get my hair cut and some game would be on the tube.  If that happened, I would turn away from the screen.  And watch the hair fall from my head.  

The Cubs have been such a disappointment that I have not been able to bear the thought of them.  In the last few seasons – Scout’s Honor – I could not name one player on the roster.  

On Wednesday, October 7th, that changed.  A resurrection if you will.   The Cubs were up against the Pittsburgh Pirates in a one game, winner-take-all playoff.  It was a 7:08 pm starting time.  Why 7:08?  Think military time.  1908.  The last time the Cubs. . . .  Anyway, I thought what can it hurt.  So I had dinner, headed upstairs, piled pillows on the bed and turned on the t.v.  Kicked back.  And watched.  And miracle of miracles.  The Cubs won.  Now, I have watched or listened to four games in a row.  Last night the Cubs beat the Cards.  And my temperature is rising. . . . .

So when the NL playoffs begin, I will watch.  I am ready to be disappointed.  But I will hope.  And if the Cubs make it into the World Series, I will be watching.  I have heard that Jack Brickhouse, Lou Boudreau, Harry Caray, Vince Lloyd, Ron Santo, Jack Quinlan and Ernie Banks will have front row seats for all the games.  Oh and my idol – Hank Sauer (see 8/2/11)?   He’ll be in the Cubs dugout — ready to head to the outfield if needed. . . .       

Gun Control

Sure.  I believe in gun control.  Background checks.  No automatic weapons.  But does gun control do any good?  Chicago has the toughest gun laws in the nation.  And yet it has the worst gun carnage.  Why?  Part is gangs.  Part is poverty which some of our politicians enable.  Part is the sick glorification of violence in our society (see my post of 1/3/13).  And then there is the erosion of character, religion and destruction of values which is being forced on society by those who call themselves “progressives.”  So guns become the focus.  But how about some perspective on the issue?    

 In 2013, there were 11,208 gun-related homicides.  It’s terrible.    Outrageous.  Yet thanks to the ban on DDT in 1972 (DDT has been shown to have no negative effect on humans or the environment), nearly a million people in Africa die each year.  Does anyone care about them?   America has nearly 40,000 drug deaths each year.  Substance abuse adversely affects 1 in 3 households(!).  Yet our President says “ignore drug laws.”  Who cares?    In 2013, there were 480,000 smoking-related deaths.  Of those roughly 41,000 were due to second hand smoke.  That means spouses, children and co-workers were victims of the smokers.  But tobacco is taxed.  And it’s a matter of “choice.”  So it must be okay.  Except for the 41,000 victims of second hand smoke who didn’t have a choice.   Perspective is tough to ignore.  Depending on your politics. . . . . 

“Show Uhspekt”

My granddaughter (age 3 years 9 months) is going to a pre-school. And she’s learning all sorts of good things. Part of the protocol is teaching the children to show respect to others. That means no hitting, pushing, poking, touching or verbal abuse.  These are all good things for children to learn and for adults to keep in mind. 

Soooooo Donna and I are in the car with Eve in the back seat.  Donna’s shoulder muscles were sore (“oh my neck“) so I reached over and began rubbing.   Vigorously.    Suddenly Eve pipes up from her car seat and said sternly “Popi [that’s me] – show uhspekt.”  Huh?  I looked at her and she repeats “Popi – show uhspekt Noooo touching. . . . “   I took my hand off Donna’s shoulder and Donna gave me a narrow-eyed, thin-lipped smile like “that’ll show you, big guy.”    Eve gave a nod and went back to looking at her book.  “Show uhspekt” was Eve’s rendition of “show respect.”  Next time I get frisky, I know exactly what Donna’s gonna say. . . . . 

The Road to Character

In my post of January 26, 2012, I offered some of the great quotations on character.  When I was tutoring, each week I would put a quotation on a 3″ x 5″ card for the student(s).  Each related to character.  To me, the reading, writing and arithmetic are all important.  But developing character is just as (more?) important.  For students, friends, family, strangers and politicians. 

I just finished David Brooks wonderful work The Road to Character.  Brooks opens with reference to the end of World War II — a victory of epic proportion.  He observes that our parents and grandparents did not go around telling each other how great they were.  The collective impulse was to warn themselves against pride.  And self-glorification.  But Brooks observes that we have seen a shift in ensuing generations from a culture of humility to a culture of I am the center of the universe.  Brooks calls it “The Big Me.”  Fame and fortune used to rank low as life’s core ambitions.  Today, those goals have skyrocketed to the top.  And your government now censors the teaching of virtue, character and integrity in schools.

The word “sin” was the moral tug that helped remind us that life is a moral affair.  But as Brooks comments “When modern culture tries to replace ‘sin’ with ideas like error or insensitivity, or tries to banish words like ‘virtue’ ‘character’ ‘evil’ and ‘vice’, it doesn’t make life any less moral.  It just means that we have obscured the inescapable moral core of life with shallow language . . . and we become increasingly blind to the moral stakes of everyday life.”