John Wooden

Every once in a while a person comes along who cuts a wide swath. And makes a big difference in the lives of others. To me, John Wooden (1910-2010) was one of those special people.  Wooden was the winningest basketball coach (UCLA) in NCAA history – winning 10 national titles in a 12 year period. Coach Wooden was known for his short, simple inspirational messages which helped players succeed in basketball but more importantly in life.  

I’ve previously had posts on the virtue of character (e.g. 1/26/12).  The words of Coach Wooden fit right in.

Make each day your masterpiece.

Never cease trying to be the best you can be.  That is in your power.

Young people need role models, not critics.

Never mistake activity for achievement.

Today is the only day.  Yesterday is gone.

Never measure yourself by what you have accomplished – but by what you should have accomplished with your ability.

The main ingredient of stardom is the rest of the team.

You can’t live a perfect day without doing something for someone who will never be able to repay you.  

Seek opportunities to show you care.  The smallest gestures often make the biggest difference.   

Interestingly, Coach Wooden never mentioned “winning” to his players.  He always stressed effort.  Doing one’s best was key. . . .    

Thump my what??

We all know the value of humor (see July 29, 2011 and April 3, 2014). 

Humor can be so important in the healing process that Denise — a delightful oncology nurse in Lake County, Illinois, started a “Humor Exchange” for patients.   This monthly get together is designed to encourage people who have health issues — to start laughing.   And keep laughing.  More and more studies confirm that laughter provides a smorgasbord of physiological benefits:  increases the “Natural Killer” (NK) cell and lymphocyte count (important immune responses in the fight against cancer); decreases stress hormones; increases immune cells (“T” cells); lowers blood pressure; works your abs; release endorphins; and essentially makes you smile.  And snort. . . .

At a recent conference, Denise recently learned of another healthy technique (that sounds pretty funny).  It’s called “thumping the thymus.”  The thymus gland — which is responsible for “T” cells and immunity — lies beneath the sternum.  A person pats their sternum for a few minutes and feels better.  And enlists a potential for improving immunity.  Don’t take my word for it.  There are articles galore on this subject (see e.g. ).  So go ahead.  Thump your thymus.  What’ve you got to lose?  And while your at it . . . . laugh.   


Orange You Wonderful?

Readers of “Renaissance Hombre” know that I enjoy cooking.   Sunday night, I decided, I will make a dinner for my whole family that is memorable. . . . .  I think I did.  

I toddled off to Whole Foods and wandered around.  Looking for inspiration.  There were foods of many colors.  Red.  Green.  Yellow.  And Orange.  Orange.   Hmmmm . . . .  My eyes narrowed.   What if I prepare a dinner where everything is orange – or a close facsimile.   I’m sure my granddaughters would love it.   So I seized on crab and salmon cakes and chicken strips for the main course.   Orange‘ish.  With an orange remoulade sauce.  For the accompaniment, I chose organic carrots, diced sweet potato and shaved butternut squash.  Orange.   Which I sauteed over a low heat in olive oil for about 45 minutes (and then caramelized with some Maine maple syrup).  I chopped up a cantelope and sliced a mango for “sides.”  There were orange corn chips in a bowl on the table.  Dessert was an – orange – Talenti caramel and sea salt gelato.  Though in deference to the chef, the wine was a Cannonball cabernet.  No orange juice. . . . .  

There were leftovers.  And I did the dishes.   As a result, I scored points big time.  Ding ding ding ding (see e.g. 5/16/12; 5/18/12; et al).   The best compliment was when I asked my granddaughters what they wanted for dinner tomorrow night.  They yelled “Orange!”  


Act Your Age. . . .

[A summer repeat from July 20, 2013]

Every once in awhile, I hear the admonition “act your age.”  Or sometimes it’s “how old are you?”  So I take the lampshade off my head or take out my novelty buck teeth and act contrite.  

ÜberBukk Teef

I just finished (for the second time) Bob Rotella’s classic book – Golf is Not a Game of Perfect.   Among other things, Dr. Bob talks about golf and age.   He mentions Paul Runyan (1908-2002), the great PGA champ and master golf instructor.  Paul was active in golf (and other things) well into his 80’s.  According to Rotella, Paul and his wife Bernice embodied the old Satchel Paige aphorism about age.  Someone once asked Satchel (who was in his 40’s before segregation ended and he made it to the Major Leagues) if he could still pitch at his “advanced age.” Paige replied “How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you was?”  Wow. . . . .    

I’d seen that quote before but this time when I read it, it resonated a wee bit more.  I don’t feel my age.   I don’t feel much different than I did when I was 25 or so.  Apart from a few aches and pains.  For many, age is a state of mind.  As Bernard Baruch, the great financier, once wrote — “I will never be an old man.  To me, old age is always 15 years older than I am.”  Amen. . . .


The Quran

[A third – natural – segue.  This from June 21, 2015]

I previously described my journeys through the Old Testament (6/11/12) and New Testament (11/10/13).   Given our trip to the Middle East, I read the Quran.  All 114 suras (chapters).  The Quran is intended to be read in Arabic (26:195) but my copy was in English.  Whew. . . .  

The Quran has an Old Testament attitude (some is pretty dark) with frequent repetition of theme.  Yet there are numerous theological similarities with Judeo-Christian texts.  The cast of characters, the prophets and the stories are similar.  The commands (believe, do good works, charity, pray) are comparable.  There are parallels in God’s (or Allah’s) warning to his people (re heaven/hell).  Jesus (Isa) plays a prominent role as a Messiah.  Mary (Maryam) is the only woman mentioned by name in the Quran (she has her own sura – 19).  At the risk of oversimplification, I discerned three fundamental areas of disagreement between Islam and Christianity.  First, the Quran denies that God had a son (Jesus).  Hence the repudiation of the Trinity.  He simply said “Be” and Jesus was conceived (19:35).   Second, there is the overarching theme that Mohammed wrote the Quran over 23 years after receiving the Word of God through the Archangel Gabriel (see 1/30/12 and 3/26/12).  Third, the Quran – and thus Muslims – consider Islam to be a “perfection” of Judaism and Christianity.  Islam is deemed the true religion . . . .   

Notwithstanding, Jews, Christians and Sabians are considered “People of the Book” — and thus related in the Faith.  Whether you call Him God, Jehovah or Allah; whether you worship on Friday, Saturday or Sunday; whether you say “Pax vobiscum”Peace be with you“Shalom” or “As-Salamu alaikum” the three Abrahamic religions have similar roots and much in common.  So I have to wonder — why all the misunderstanding, strife, violence and hatred?      

The New Testament

[A logical segue – a summer repeat from November 11, 2013]

In my post of June 11, 2012, I talked about reading the Old Testament.  I referenced some favorite verses therein (especially a quote from my father of the bride speech at Lauren’s wedding).  I just finished reading the New Testament.  Again.  Quite a trip.  The Gospels are interesting and inspiring as they have been forever.  But there are some verses which I just had to write down.  Because sometimes one needs “special” inspiration.   

I Timothy 5:23 gives sage counsel:  “Drink no longer water but a little wine for thy stomach’s sake. . . .”    So who doesn’t feel obliged to have a nice cab now and then? 

I Timothy 4:8 admonishes that “. . . bodily training is of some value.”  So I (sigh) feel the push to go to the fitness center a few times a week.

Which leads to the whole reason for a personal trainer.  I mean it’s right there in Hebrews 12:12 “Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees. . . .” 

But seriously, there is one chapter I discovered on a gray day in 1969.  I Corinthians 3.  For me, much of Christianity seems to distill in these 23 verses.  The words are old friends.  I find peace.  Calm.  And faith.   

The Old Testament

[A summer repeat – from June 11, 2012]

I just finished reading the Old Testament (also called the Tanakh).  Took me about 15 months (between other books).  What a journey.   Powerful.  Occasionally inscrutable.  Sometime scary. But also encouraging.  I did not come upon any Old Testament comedians though the word “laugh” does appear 96 times in 93 verses. . . .

There was a lot to relish in this literary endeavor.  Here are a few favorite verses:

Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with all thy might.”   Ecclesiastes 9:10.  I keep this on a 3″ x 5″ card.

Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying ‘who shall I send?  Who will go for us?’ and I said ‘here am I.  Send me.'”  Isaiah 6:8.  This one too. . . .

Isaiah 9:5 and 6 provides the refrain from Handel’s “Messiah.”   And Isaiah 40:1 and 2 gives the opening lines of Handel’s masterpiece.   

Isaiah 40:4 and 5 offer famous lines from Martin Luther King’s “I have a Dream” speech.

There is Psalm 17:8 which I quoted in my Father of the Bride speech at my daughter’s wedding:  “She will always be the apple of my eye and in the shadow of my wings.” 

And of course there’s Proverbs 17:28 — “Even a fool when he holdeth his peace is counted wise.  And he that shutteth his lips is deemed a man of understanding.”   This passage tracks my father’s not-entirely-Biblical counsel when I was young “better to keep your mouth shut and have people think you’re a fool, than to open your mouth and have them know you’re a fool.”   

FedEx (circa 1860)

It was the FedEx of 1860.  It was called “The Pony Express.”   

Two centuries ago, it would take weeks for the United States Post Office (started in 1775 with Benjamin Franklin as the first Postmaster General) to deliver the mail.  Going cross country?  It might take months. . . . .

The need for a fast mail route was prompted by California’s soaring population, commercial prominence and statehood in 1850.  Delivering the mail – with more speed – became essential.  In 1859, three men in the freight business opened a mail route that became known as the Central Overland California & Pikes Peak Express Company.  On April 3, 1860, the operation began — literally running mail on horseback from St. Joseph, MO to Sacramento.  The company set up 157 stations – roughly 5 to 25 miles apart – on the 1,900 mile journey.  The operation became known as “The Pony Express.”  Each of the 120 riders (all – under 19 years of age and weighing less than 125 pounds) was presented with an inscribed Bible and required to sign an oath.  No profanity, no intoxicating liquors, no fighting, and commitment to honesty, duty and God.    

The riders would gallop day and night — changing horses every 10 to 15 miles and passing the 20 pound mail pouch (called a “mochila”) to a new rider every 75 to 100 miles.  The Pony Express worked well.  For a few months. 

But as with all things, time caught up.  The transcontinental railroad opened, telegraph lines soon connnected east and west – and the Civil War began in April 1861.  In October 1861, the Pony Express made its last delivery.  There’s not much left of the Pony Express save for a few stations (the Hollenberg Station in Hanover, KS is the only one remaining in its original location).  And there are Pony Express stamps and envelope cancellations.  Got one?  They’re worth mucho.     

How Can You Eat that Stuff?

De gustibus non est disputandum is a favorite phrase of mine (I know – “get a life RH“). It means “in matters of taste, there can be no disputes.”  We all have different tastes – in food, activities, temperature, friends, work, politics and other things.  Your “taste” in food may be way out of my wheelhouse but that doesn’t make it wrong.  Or right.  It’s just your taste.  

I love spaghetti carbonara with lean bacon, pancetta and peas.  I crave avocados (see 8/20/13) and smoked salmon.  You may hate the stuff (you poor soul) but – hey brother – de gustibus non est disputandum.  

I know a lot of folks swear by soft shell crabs.  But what is tasty about chewing on shards of broken plastic?   I never order and rarely consume corned beef and cabbage.  On occasions when it has been served to me, I will nibble a piece of cabbage and bury the rest under a roll.  And pat my stomach “delicious!”   Ribs?  I mean what’s the point?  

I’m not afraid to try new things.  I’ve eaten worms, brains, innards and goat tongue – often in business settings.  But when given the choice?  I’ll tee up something I like.  Or tolerate.  What’s your most unfavorite foods?