The Taste Test

Donna and I are frequent happy hosts for our granddaughters (ages 3 and 6).  It’s “a sleepover at Nonni & Popi’s.”  It’s usually a Saturday evening. Which means Japanese food (which they love) or pizza.  And a “movie night.”  Last Saturday, it was “The Lion King.”  It’s always a delight.  Sunday morning it’s up and off to Church and Sunday School and then – shhhhhhhhhdo NOT tell our daughter — we go to McDonald’s for lunch.  Then on the drive home, we “get lost” allowing our granddaughters to guide the car (“left” “right” “straight”) until we have no clue (wink wink) where we are.

One of the activities that I will often employ for a Saturday afternoon or Sunday morning is the “Taste Test.” I prepare by purchasing various Knudsen’s organic juices (cherry, blueberry, pomegranate, grape, apple, or whatever). And we sit at the table with 3 or 4 little Solo cups each with a splash of different juice.  We then taste the offerings. And try to discern what it is we are drinking.  And what our preferences are.  And why.  Pomegranate juice always prompts a wrinkled nose.  We’ve done the same with different fruits and (yuck) vegetables — with eyes closed.  There is no tiring of the taste test.  It is always fun and our granddaughters never know just what Popi has on the menu 🙂 

The N.R.A.

When I was a kid, my father sent me down to the local creek to shoot rats.  Big Norway rats.  I used a BB gun or a single shot .22 loaded with CB shorts.  When I was 14, I was on staff at a Boy Scout camp in Wisconsin.  I got on the school bus for the ride up north with my knapsack and my Stevens Model 416 .22 caliber bolt action rifle.  Plus two boxes of ammunition.  Art T. brought pistols to camp since he was on a pistol team back home.  Since we arrived on Sunday, we put our guns under our bunks and on Monday checked them in to the rifle range for the duration of the summer.  No one ever thought of doing something violent or hurtful to another person.  Many of the boys were junior members of the NRA.  I was for a couple years.  But never since. 

I believe that folks who want guns for hunting, target shooting or protection should have them.  But I am not a fan of semi-automatic weapons, bump stocks, massive clips or military-style weapons.  They are not necessary.  Nor are they contemplated by the Second Amendment.  The NRA is no more.  It is not the National Rifle Association.  It is now the National Assault Rifle Association.  Maybe the National Bump Stock Association.  The current NRA seems to care little about the gun violence that suffocates our nation.  Instead, they preach the same sermon that most weapons should be legal.  With little limitation.  Easy on the background checks.  As we all know, some NRA members crave automatic weapons.  And bazookas.  And RPG’s.  “Pry my cold dead fingers. . . . .”   

But one should at least understand the NRA’s position since there are those on the other side who believe that by confiscating all weapons, violence will come to an end.  And then there are some who proclaim that even those who are mentally ill and prone to violence cannot be forced to take meds or have institutional treatment unless the individual agrees.  That’s just ducky.   Toxic agendas.  Toxic results.

With such extreme positions – competing for legitimacy – it is tough to find common ground.  And common sense.  We need to do something.  But sanity and compromise seem to have gone out the window.  

Thread the Needle

Did your mother have a sewing machine? Mine did. Once a month or so, my mother would pull out the Singer sewing machine and darn socks, ripped underwear and replace buttons.  She would sew patches on my ripped jeans and I was ready to go.  Sewing was part of everyday life.  I learned the basics of sewing.  My grandmother would sometimes ask me to “thread the needle” for her since her eyesight was not too keen.  So I would kiss the thread and do the job. 

Today though – it seems that sewing (as I remember it) has gone the way of the rotary telephone.  In my house, we don’t sew ripped socks anymore (they go in a donation bin).   When something needs sewing, we take it to the local cleaners and they do the job for a few dollars.  I still carry one of those matchbook-sized sewing kits (a few needles and some thread) when I travel but in the years I’ve carted it along – I don’t think I’ve ever used it (except once using a needle to remove a sliver). 

The Huffington Post had an article (October 17, 2014) that said millenials don’t know how to sew, do laundry or even take care of their clothes.  They also don’t know how to cook (Marketwatch); figure out tire pressure; handle finances; do routine first aid; or . . . . quite a few things.   I am thinking about quitting the legal profession and opening a gas station with a laundry service, fast food counter and a medical clinic.  With Wi-Fi . . . . . . 


I just learned that a good friend of mine — a lawyer — had a heart attack.  He almost died.   He was standing at the elevator with a bunch of other lawyers.  And he collapsed.  None of the lawyers knew how to use the AED unit parked on the wall — since none had attended their firm-sponsored AED course.  Fortunately a staff person who had taken the firm’s AED course — came out and helped save his life.  

How many of you have taken AED training?  Heimlich training?  CPR?  First aid?  I have discussed this topic in the past but I believe it’s always time for a renewed kick in your caboose. . . . . 

In my post of October 21, 2011, I recounted that the best course I ever took in college was a year-long program on advanced/Civil Defense first aid training.  It has come in very handy over the years.  Thus, a few years ago when I looked at the AED sign on the train heading to my office, something clicked.  I oughta 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 now have a better idea now of what an AED does.  And how it works.  I would urge those reading this post to spend 4 minutes to learn about the AED.

And while you’re at it, 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

Rescue breathing?  See  

If you watch all of these videos (if they don’t “link” just paste them in your browser), you will spend about 40 minutes. But it may be the most valuable 40 minutes you ever spend.  Someone – maybe you – will be eternally grateful.

Watermelon Salad

Over the last year or so, I have noticed that some of the more trendy restaurants are adding or even featuring seedless watermelon in salads. I have never been a watermelon fan since I swallowed a large black seed as a kid — and thought life is over.   That fearful memory has stayed with me.  Until recently.

In late August, Donna and I spent a few days in New Buffalo, Michigan — hardly a place one would expect to have a Damascus Road conversion.  But it happened.   At the Bentwood Tavern.  We ordered the arugula and beet salad.  And I fell in love.  Consider — arugula, small beets (of different variety), pumpkin seeds and seedless watermelon.  Diced.  With a white balsamic and olive oil dressing.   I ate it.  I enjoyed it.  Truth be told — I could’ve made a meal of it. 

In Santa Barbara, CA some weeks ago, we had lunch at a popular restaurant where I ordered the watermelon salad.   My expectations rose then fell.  The meal was outstanding though the watermelon salad was a rectangular cut of watermelon on a bed of lettuce.  Little else.  Very disappointing.   But we moved on to San Francisco and Rose Pistola where dinner started with a roasted beet salad with pomegranates, ricotta salata cheese, a 12 year aged Balsamic and light olive oil and  . . . watermelon.  I was actually tempted to order another beet and watermelon salad for dessert.  However the other member of my party insisted on something chocolate.   That we could share.  Chivalrous to the end, I capitulated.  Chocolate. . . . . I mean when you can have watermelon??      


Who remembers Carlos?  I’m talking Carlos Ilich Ramírez Sánchez.  Carlos was born in Venezuela in 1949.  Despite his mother’s desire for him to have a Christian name, his father – José – named him “Ilyich” after Vladimir Ilyich Lenin.  Two siblings were named “Vladimir” and “Lenin.”  Young Carlos joined the youth movement of the Communist Party in Caracas but his parents soon divorced and his mother moved the family to London.   It was there that Carlos began to really move.  In the wrong direction . . . . .

The “Carlos” of whom I speak is “Carlos the Jackal.”  Carlos volunteered for the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and was given extensive guerrilla training.  Carlos gained a reputation as a killer. And he became an assassin for the PFLP.  He was involved in many killings, bombings and attacks.  In 1975, he was detained in Yugoslavia, flown to Baghdad and settled in Aden where he founded his own “Organization of Armed Struggle.”  Carlos connected with the Stasi (East German police) and planned numerous attacks from a safe house in East Berlin. 

Carlos was finally arrested in 1994 by French DST operatives. He was tried and convicted of numerous offenses and sentenced to life in prison.  Carlos the Jackal is today incarcerated in Clairvaux Prison where he converted to Islam, married his lawyer, and published a series of works including Revolutionary Islam which explains and defends violence in class conflict.

If there is something vaguely familiar about this story, it may be that the life of Carlos the Jackal was inspiration for Frederick Forsyth’s 1971 classic – The Day of the Jackal (the movie debuted in 1973).  Want a great book?  Movie?  Four stars. . . . .         

Girl Scouts

In my post of July 13, 2017, I referenced an article calling the Eagle Scout rank the “PhD of Boyhood.”  In my post of May 14, 2017, I observed that being an Eagle Scout was likely the sine qua non — that got me to where I am today. It got me into college (it certainly wasn’t my grades or last minute application to Augustana College).  As a result of squeaking into college (on academic probation), I met Donna. Had Lauren. Two granddaughters. Got a great job.  Yadda yadda

In my post of October 6, 2013, I opined that no one should be allowed to become a politician unless they were an Eagle Scout, or the Girl Scout equivalent  — or shared the values thereof.   That eliminates nearly all Democrats, a lot of Republicans and Donald Trump.   

So how do I feel about having girls becoming Eagle Scouts?  I think it’s great.  It is a wonderful idea.   While I prefer that this achievement be accomplished under the auspices of the Girl Scouts of America, if it’s done through the Boy Scouts, so be it.  What is important – is to develop a universe of young women who achieve the Eagle Scout rank (by meeting all of the challenging requirements and living up to the values).  It would be a major plus for them.  And for America.   Democrat or Republican, I would want them to run for office.  And win.