I have lunch at my desk nearly every day. And during that 20 to 30 minute break, I usually watch something that helps enlighten and develop my meager brain.  I may work on sign (or other) language skills (see post of 2/23/14).  Sometimes I take a continuing legal education course (I need at least 24 hours every two years).   Other times, I brush up on first aid know-how (see post of 6/12/14).  Lately, I’ve been listening to “TED Talks.”  

TED (Technology Entertainment Design) Talks was founded in 1984 as a Silicon Valley conference – which featured speakers on technology and design.  Since then, TED has blossomed into a free-viewing online educational network – on a host of topics.  TED’s slogan is “Ideas worth spreading.”  By November 2012, TED Talks had over one billion views.  

Live TED events are offered throughout North America, Europe and Asia.  But most of those who listen simply log in to http://www.ted.com and make a selection that suits their interest.  

TED speakers — who are carefully vetted —  are given a maximum of 18 minutes to make their pitch.  That fits perfectly into my midday nibble.   If you have 18 minutes to spare — you could not go wrong.  Listening to and learning from – TED. . . . . .

Christmas – 2016

For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given . . . . and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, the mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.   Isaiah 9:6

And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem (because he was of the house and lineage of David). To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.   Luke 2:4-7

Here we are again! Christmas 2016. Mercy – the days are often long but the years go fast. . . .

My best wishes to all of you for a Happy and Blessed Christmas, New Year and Holiday Season!!

A Last Minute Gift

Diogenes of Sinope (404-323 B.C.) was the Greek Cynic philosopher who is reported to have walked through the streets of Athens – lantern in hand – searching for an honest man.  I don’t recall him finding any.    

I took the day off yesterday – to search.  I didn’t have a lantern but I did have a credit card.  Searching.  For just the right gifts.  For Donna and for grab bag gifts for two young men in the family.  The grab bag gifts were tough.  What to get.  Socks?  A tie?  English Leather?  I wandered from store to store.  Credit card in hand.  Searching.  I found nothing.  And then (cue the trumpet) I walked into Brookstone.  And there it was.

Brookstone had a whole wall.  Of DRONES.  I know what you’re thinking – those big expensive buzzards that circle around and deliver packages.  Yes but. . . . these drones start at $29.99 for a small one.  Next stop $49.99 – for a drone with a camera.  And on up.  To the big boys.   I ended up with two of the lower price drones.  And last night – the $49.99 variety went over very well. 

I previously touted the Genome Project kits as excellent gifts for family (see 8/6/11 and 9/13/15).  I’ve done it and it’s amazing.  I continue to believe that it is not just a gift but a learning experience.  But if you’re looking for a quick score this Christmas, you may want to check out Brookstone’s selection of real drones.  Up in the air, Junior Birdman . . . . . 


What’s the only country in the world outside of the U.S. to have its capital named after an American President? Answer: Liberia (Monrovia)     What is the only country whose flag copies the American flag – but has only one star?  Answer:  Liberia.   What is the only country in Africa where the U.S. dollar is the national currency?  Answer:  Liberia.   What is the only country in Africa which has English as its national language?  Answer:  Liberia.  What African country frowns on “African” first names?  Answer:  Liberia.  What is the only African country to declare independence without a revolt or incursion by another country?  Answer:  Liberia. 

Liberia.  “Land of the Free.”  Was settled in 1822 by the American Colonization Society.  And populated by former slaves — who had left the United States in search of a better life.  James Monroe was a supporter of the ACS.  Hence Monrovia.  

During the 1950’s, Liberia enjoyed the world’s second-highest rate of economic growth.   But then things began to unravel.  From 1989 to 1995, a bloody civil war claimed more the 200,000 Liberian lives.  Since then, there have been sporadic uprisings though the country has been fairly stable since 2005. 

Liberia offers a “flag of convenience” — the second largest maritime registry in the world (behind Panama) allowing maritime vessels to register under the Liberian flag for business and tax purposes.  Corruption and crime are problems in Liberia but there is now one 18 hole golf course in Liberia — The Seaview Golf Club in Virginia, Montserrado County.  Thus Liberia is back on my bucket list . . . .   

My Favorite Trees

Has anyone ever asked you what your favorite tree is?  I didn’t think so. . . . .

I walk to and from the train station every day. And each day I pass the same trees. Elms, oaks and maples. And a few coniferous offerings — pine and spruce varieties.  But there are two trees – that stand out.  And gather my attention every day.   The first is a copper beech.  A beautiful, old, twisted thick-trunked tree with noble mien and stature.  It has the elephant hide bark and beautiful leaves in summer.  If I was 10 years old again, I’d be climbing it.  

It is the second tree though that has my greatest admiration.  It is a ginkgo.  One single ginkgo in my half mile walk.  The ginkgo is a rarity among trees as it dates back 270 million years.  Its leaf design is the symbol of the prefecture of Tokyo.  Male ginkgos develop cones and the female ginkgos sprout small flowers.  And extract of ginkgo is marketed as a dietary supplement for enhancing cognitive function (I buy it by the gallon).  And ginkgo nuts are edible.

The most amazing feature of the ginkgo is that in the fall, the tree loses its leaves all within the space of hours.  One day, I will walk by my “favorite tree” and it’s full of leaves.  The next day, the leaves are all lying in a thick, yellow, circular carpet around the base (see http://www.kwanten.home.xs4all.nl/leavesfall.htm ).   If one day I come back to this world as an animal – I’d want to be an eagle.  If I ever come back as a tree – I’d want to be a male ginkgo.  In a forest of female ginkgos.  Hellooo there good lookin’ . . . . . .

Old Dutch grape juice

When I was a State’s Attorney at 26th & California, Friday lunches and dinner when a jury was “out” were often enjoyed away from the Criminal Court Building.  States Attorneys, Public Defenders, judges, police officers and politicians would head over to the wonderful enclave of Italian restaurants at 23rd and Oakley.       

Those were the days. Marconi’s. La Fontanella. Febo’s. Toscana Bakery. And others. All offering wonderful fish, meat and pasta dishes.  A commodity sadly lacking from the menu of one restaurant was wine. Vino rosso. The restaurant did not have a liquor license and thus could not – technically – sell wine (or any other alcoholic beverage).

 But as stated on Febo’s menu – Un pranzo senza vino, e come un giorno senza sole (a day without wine is like a day without sunshine). So, to remedy the situation, this restaurant offered “Old Dutch grape juice.”  Yep.  If you wanted a glass of wine with lunch or dinner, you would look at the waitress and say “I will have some Old Dutch grape juice.”  The waitress would nod.  And disappear into the kitchen.  She’d fill an Old Dutch grape juice bottle to the brim.  With superb red wine from a keg in back. 

Now you’re probably asking if they ever got in trouble – no liquor license and all.  Answer?  Never.  Not with police, judges, lawyers and even Alderman (and occasionally the Mayor – Richard J.) all sitting there – asking for “Old Dutch grape juice” (har har hardy har har).  Toward the end of my stretch – the restaurant did get a liquor license.  But they still served Old Dutch.  For old time’s sake. . . .    

Golf – is 70% Mental and 30% Mental

The only time I ever took out a one-iron was to kill a tarantula. And I took a 7 to do that.  ~ Jim Murray

The only sure rule in golf is – he who has the fastest cart never has to play the bad lie.  ~ Mickey Mantle

Sex and golf are the two things you can enjoy even if you’re not good at them.   ~ Kevin Costner

After all these years, it’s still embarrassing for me to play on the American golf tour. Like the time I asked my caddie for a sand wedge and he came back ten minutes later with a ham on rye.
~ Chi Chi Rodriguez

Give me golf clubs, fresh air and a beautiful partner, and you can keep the clubs and the fresh air.  ~ Jack Benny

Professional golf is the only sport where, if you win 20% of the time, you’re the best.   ~ Jack Nicklaus

The only time my prayers are never answered is on the golf course.  ~ Billy Graham

If you watch a game, it’s fun. If you play at it, it’s recreation. If you work at it, it’s golf.   ~ Bob Hope

If you think it’s hard to meet new people, try picking up the wrong golf ball.   ~ Jack Lemmon

You can make a lot of money in this game. Just ask my ex-wives.
~ Lee Trevino


Do guys wear pajamas? It’s not a topic that I think about much.  The Wall Street Journal asked that question in an article dated August 12, 2015. The consensus was “some men do” but “they’re hard to find.”  This tracks an ABC News poll of 1,501 American adults which found that only 13% of men wore actual pajamas.  

I can see that after getting home from work – putting on a pair of pajamas might provide that demarcation between the work day and personal time.   It’s time to wind down, unlax, kick back.   When I get home from work, I don a pair of jeans that are standing up in the corner waiting for me (I don’t think they’ve been washed in years).  And a t-shirt.  Slippers.  For me, I have not had a pair of p.j.’s since I was in high school.  It’s usually been a pair of boxers or gym shorts and a maybe a t-shirt in winter.  Or nothing.  Depending on the circumstances. 

I have no context on whether guys who are reading this wear real pajamas.  Maybe you don’t want to admit it or maybe you want to shout it from the rooftops.  But I would be interested in an anonymous “yep” or “nope” — if you feel like sharing.   

Grilled Peanut Butter

(A favorite from December 20, 2012)

Did you ever have a special dish of your own creation added to a restaurant menu? I did.  Twice.  Here’s number one. . . . 

When I was at Augustana College, I was the quintessential night owl.  I would study (or play cards) until the wee hours. And often, as the second hand approached midnight, I and a few other guys would hitchhike (see 9/4/16) to the Round the Clock Restaurant in downtown Rock Island. And I would order a grilled peanut butter sandwich. With a dill pickle on the side. And a tall glass of milk. The interesting thing was that grilled peanut butter was not on the menu.

One evening at the Round the Clock, I had noticed a “peanut butter & jelly sandwich” on the menu. I was not about to order a PB & J sandwich, but it occurred to me that a grilled peanut butter sandwich might be just the ticket.  We slid into the booth and I ordered a “grilled peanut butter sandwich.” The waitress looked at me like I was a moon rock. I said “same as a grilled cheese but use peanut butter instead of cheese.” I felt like Jack Nicholson in the “Five Easy Pieces” diner scene. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6wtfNE4z6a8   The waitress walked away shaking her head. She used gestures to explain the order at the window to the kitchen.  And she pointed at the goofy-looking kid in the booth. 

After a few weeks of this, when I walked in the door, the waitress would give me that knowing look “grilled peanut butter“? she would ask. I’d nod and smile “yes ma’am.” A few months later, “Grilled Peanut Butter Sandwich” made its debut on the Round the Clock’s menu. And I became a legend.  At least in my own mind.