Five Riddles

[A repeat from June 29, 2014]   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.

Why Are You Here?

[While we’re talking about being pulled over – let me offer a repeat from November 5, 2015.  And “No” I don’t have any more stories to share about being stopped by police] 

Some years ago, I was asked to make a presentation to the Mexican Corporate Bar Association – ANADE (Asociacion Nacional de Abogados de Empresa) at their annual meeting in Aguascalientes, Mexico. Donna and I flew in to Mexico City International Airport and rented a car – Budget – for the 270 mile drive. 

We pulled out of the Budget lot over the angled ground spikes and headed out onto the street.  I adjusted the rear view mirror and noticed that a police car had pulled in behind me — about 100 yards back.  Hmmmmm. . . .    I kept driving.  Carefully.  After a mile or so, the police car put on its flashers and pulled me over.  I got out of the car and held up my license.  An officer got out, adjusting his Sam Brown belt and walked up.  “You almost hit a car back there.”  Bull.  After some discussion in Spanish (I suggested contacting the Embassy), he looked at me quizzically and asked “why are you here?”  And I told him I was giving a speech to the Asociacion Nacional de Abogados de Empresa.  He turned, waved and said “just be careful.”  He got in his car and drove away. 

Why are you here?   I think about these words.  In my heart, I believe that each one of us is “here” for some purpose.  I love a quote of Albert Schweitzer – “The purpose of human life is to serve, and to show compassion and the will to help others.”  Then again, there’s the quote of W.H.Auden – “We are all here on earth to help others; what on earth the others are here for, I don’t know.”     

True Confession

(While we’re talking about being pulled over by the police – let me offer a repeat from 8/16/2011 – which still chokes me up)  Shortly after passing the Illinois bar exam, Donna and I flew to Portland, Oregon, to visit my aunt and uncle and their family. One weekend, we rented a car and drove south into the hinterlands of Oregon.

Upon leaving a small town, I saw some birds on the road ahead. I announced to Donna in my best John Wayne voice “watch this” and I stomped on the accelerator. The car sped up 80, 90, 100 . . . Donna is shouting at me to slow down but – hey – I’m 25 and macho. As I approached the birds, they looked up and casually flew off.  I rocketed over the carrion they’d been chewing on (“Guess I showed them“). About that time, I looked in the rear view mirror and was surprised to see a car behind us. A police car. #&X@*!  I pulled over and stopped. And got a ticket. 108 in a 65 zone.  #&X@*!

What was worse was that I was required to appear in court at a time I was to appear before the Character & Fitness Committee of the Illinois Bar (“sorry fellows – I have a court date“). Donna was silent.  Stewing.  At the next town, I stopped. The judge’s name was on the ticket.  So I . . . called the local police station from a pay phone:

Scott: Hello? Officer, I’m trying to reach Judge ____ . Can you call him and ask him to please call me?

Officer: It’s Sunday.

Scott: I know but it’s important (I gave him the pay phone number).

Officer: I’ll see (Click).

I waited for 30 minutes. The sun was setting. Quiet. Birds chirping their evening hymms. Then the pay phone rang.

Scott: This is Scott Petersen (I figured that was better than “hullo”).

Judge:  This is Judge ___ . You wanted me to call (sounds of splashing and children in the background)

Scott: Your Honor, I’m from Chicago. I (explained how I had) just graduated from law school and passed the bar. I was just pulled over by two officers for speeding – 108 in a 65 zone. I am guilty.  But I am supposed to appear in your court and I am also supposed to appear before the Character & Fitness Committee of the Bar at the same time. I was wondering. . . .

Judge: Just a minute (long silence). All right, Mister Petersen. Raise your right hand. Repeat after me. “I promise that I will never speed again.”

Scott: I will never speed again.

Judge: I want you to promise. I want you to swear to me. . .

Scott: (I raised my hand in the phone booth) I swear. . . I swear. . . I will never speed again.

Judge: Send me your ticket. Mark it “personal.” Remember Mister Petersen – you promised me. (Click)  It was a “not guilty” over the phone.  No fine.

The Judge could have said “tough kid – you show up or else.” But he didn’t. The lesson therefore became all the more powerful.  Seriously.  And since then, I have never taken a car much beyond the speed limit. When tempted, I am always tugged back to a fall day in 1972. . . . when I made a promise. . . .

I Can Top That

My cousin Jack is a structural virologist – with a PhD and a laboratory at the Scripps Institute in La Jolla, California.  He began his career as a professor of biology at Purdue.   Jack read my post “Do You Play Golf” and responded beginning with an “I can top that.”  I read his response. And thought – wow – he did – “top” my post.  Up until now, my “posts” have been of my own creation and authorship. But Jack’s response is so special (and “topping”). I thought you would enjoy . . . . .

Okay Scott, I can top that. It is 1993 and I am on sabbatical in La Jolla, CA.  It is May and my son, Aaron, is finishing his third year at Dayton University.  He needs a car.  Mary and I are only using one car in California because I ride my bike to work.  So we need to get a car back to Indiana for Aaron.  However, I am supposed to be in Japan a week later.  I tell anyone who will listen that I can get the car back to West Lafayette in two days and still leave from Chicago to be in Tokyo for my meeting.   

So – I leave La Jolla at 3 a.m. on a Wednesday morning.  The goal is to be in Amarillo, Texas, the first night (1000 miles) and West Lafayette the second (another 1000 miles).  All is on schedule.  I am on Interstate 40 cruising into Amarillo at about 9 p.m.  I am passing a truck at about 70 mph in a 55 mph zone (mind you – this is 1993).  I see a police car in my review mirror with lights flashing.  I stop. 

The officer comes to the window and asks if I know how fast I am going.  I said 70 when I saw his lights.  He observed that my speedometer was working well.  He asked where I came from.  I responded San Diego.  He looked mildly sympathetic.  Then he asked where I was going.  I said tomorrow I was hoping to be in West Lafayette, Indiana.  He asked what I did in West Lafayette and I responded that I was a professor of biology at Purdue University.  He looked at me – paused – and asked “what is the difference between a eukaryotic cell and a prokaryotic cell.”  I asked if he wanted the long answer or the short.  He said the short was fine.  I said a eukaryotic cell has a nucleus and a prokaryotic cell does not. He smiled and said that “I think we will handle this with a warning.” He walked back to his car and drove off.  I got the car to West Lafayette and I made it to my meeting in Tokyo!

[Printed with permission of my cousin Jack]

Do You Play Golf?

[A repeat from March 19, 2017]  Years ago, when I was a States Attorney, I played golf with 7 other guys. Every Saturday morning for several years.  From April to October – we played at Cog Hill. Number 4. Dubsdread. Reserved tee times.  6:30 a.m. or so depending on sunrise.   Second and third foursomes off the tee — usually after Larry Lujack and a group from his radio staff.   

Since I lived in Wilmette, this meant traversing 45 miles to Lemont. Every Saturday morn.  To arrive by 5:45 a.m.  Thus, each Saturday, I was up at 4:00.  Showered, dressed and on the road by 4:30 a.m.

When I left my house, I would not waste time.  If you get my drift.  I gunned the car when I left the driveway and by the time I hit Lake Street, I was doing maybe 50.  In a 30 zone.   Never a soul on the highway.  Except one morning when in the black of night, way back, I saw the flicker of Mars lights moving swiftly in my direction.  #%&X!.  I slowed.  Stopped.  Got out of the car and stood there.  Holding up my license.  A police squadrol ground to a stop and an officer got out.  I was wearing khaki shorts, flip flops and a golf shirt so I didn’t look like much of a threat.  “Do you know how fast you were going?” he asked as he approached.   I handed him my license.  “Yes sir – I do.  I was going too fast.”  And then I offered “Are you a golfer?”  He looked at me.  “Yeah.  Why?”  I responded “I live back there.”  I turned and pointed.  “Every Saturday morning, I play golf at Cog Hill in Lemont.  We tee off in about an hour.  And I confess that I sometimes go faster than I should when I leave my house.”  

The officer looked at me.  Chewing on my comment.   “Well most Saturdays, I’m sitting right back [he turned and pointed] there. Keeping an eye on things.  Do me a favor.  Go the speed limit from now on.”  And he handed me back my license.  “Hit ’em straight” he said.  And walked back to his cruiser.  


[Last Sunday, October 27th, my Op Ed was published in the print and online editions of the Chicago Tribune on the “Perspectives” page.  I thought you might enjoy reading it]

Watch when little children play. They don’t care if the other children are black, white or Asian. There is no concern if they are German, Mexican, Pakistani or Canadian. It matters not if they are Christian, Jewish, Muslim or Hindu. The children play. In innocence.  It is perhaps instructive that all faith and non-faith traditions ascribe a quality of “innocence” to children. 

The question is:  are we “better” having grown up?  Are adults “superior” to children in their ability to interact with others?   Why — as adults — do we lose that precious gift of innocence?   

Perhaps there is a message to be learned — that we as adults ought maintain some level of innocence toward our human being, regardless of perceived differences.   When we see the violence and hatred and enmity being cast about – from local town halls to international dealings – one has to wonder if the children of the world shouldn’t be in charge.  

Let’s Talk Tilapia. . . . .

I made dinner last weekend.  Baked tilapia, mashed potatoes and my own creation of sauteed bella mushrooms and carrots.  Ciao Bella key lime graham sorbet with fresh mango for dessert.

Tilapia does not have the omega-3 star power of some other fish, but it is good, healthy and relatively free from the chemicals that plague the larger fish.  I marinated two tilapia filets in olive oil (tilapia is a somewhat porous fish), then rolled them in finely-grated romano and Italian bread crumbs.  I sauteed (in olive oil) for about 2 minutes a side, then baked in a 400 degree oven for 10 minutes.  Perfecto!  

The mashed potatoes were the small, white organic potatoes.  Washed and peeled only for “eyes.”  Boil for 15 minutes (or until tender) then mashed in 1/4 stick of butter, a few ounces of garlic cheddar cheese and a little low fat milk.  Salt, pepper and a little garlic powder.  Mercy! 

I also got two stringers of organic carrots.  Washed, peeled and then cut in small pieces.  I added chopped Bella mushrooms (carefully washed).  I put the mix in a fry pan and sauteed with olive oil, some tarragon, salt and pepper.   I added some honey (see post of  November 19, 2011) to caramelize and add flavor.  I covered the pan and stirred often to keep the mix from burning.  Once the carrots were al dente, it was done.   

A wee bit of wine (Liberty School cabernet) was the perfect accompaniment.  It doesn’t get any better.  And the points rolled in . . . . (see posts of May 6 and 8, 2012).