Saturday, May 10, 2014

Sharing the Benefits of Being an ‘Old Toot’

Good Day World!                                     
I’m enjoying being an old toot (aka old coot) since I became eligible a few years ago.

In case you wonder about the difference between an old coot and an old toot, the latter has a better sense of humor. I’ve already seen one of the benefits derived from my relatively new status.

I forgot I was wearing red house slippers the other day when I went to the supermarket, and it didn’t bother me! There was a time when I would have been so embarrassed I would never have entered that store again for fear someone working there might remember seeing me wear them.

You know what people think when they see an old toot shuffling around in his bedroom slippers; “Who let that old fool out of the house in his slippers?” Or, “Look at that guy. That’s never going to happen to  me!”

But now I don’t care what people think. So what if I’m wearing slippers in public? It’s better than forgetting to wear my pants in public. Even old toots can’t get away with that.

Unless they live in  San Francisco, where it’s legal to walk around without pants or anything else on in public. They have nude activists who constantly campaign for nudity. People like "Nude Woody", Tortuga, Gypsy Taub, and "Naked Marvin” are part of the landscape.

Just the idea of a bunch of old coots/toots walking around in their birthday suits makes me shudder. It must be hell on tourism where they hang out.

Old toots do have limits. At least some of us do. I count on my wife to notice if I’m missing a piece of clothing or something drastic like that when going out of the house. Little things do get past her occasionally, like slippers, or shirts on backward, but she’s normally a reliable backup. She is much younger than I and assures me that she will never join the old toot’s club.

She doesn’t know what she’s missing. If she joins the club she won’t have to worry if her hair changes color and is streaked with sneaky silver strands. There’s no need to impress anyone when you‘re an old toot.

My days of  trying to look good for every female on the planet are gone, and with them the many vanities that younger people have about their appearance. In other words I’m a slob. Not really, my wife wouldn’t allow that, but I have that certain disheveled look old toots get.

I have my lap dog, a precious pug named Molly, further securing my old toot credentials. I mumble to myself (you couldn’t call it talking) when writing. I resist new technological innovations just because. I don’t slide down the stair railing anymore.

If you asked me about any of the current musicians I would say something like, “They don’t make music like the Led Zeppelin anymore,” or “You call that music?” Old toots and coots simply don’t listen to music newer than the 70s era.

It’s taken me years of study to become an old toot and now I’m reaping the benefits. I can communicate with other old toots I don’t even know who remember the Rat Pack with Frank Sinatra,  Sammy Davis Jr., Dean Martin, Peter Lawford and Joey Bishop.

I don’t like being called a Baby Boomer. I’m more comfortable with old toot. There are no expectations for old toots. Baby boomers had a lot of high hopes. Many  wonder if they sold out to “the man,” and why they failed to change the world into one big utopia.

I don’t suffer any past remorse’s crammed with social expectations at this point in my life. As Popeye once said, “I yam who I yam.” And that’s an old toot happy to be grazing on books that can be held by hand, or newspapers that leave ink on my fingers.

I don’t mind being around other old toots for a little while. But too many in one room becomes a challenge for my one operating ear (with the help of a hearing aide).

By the way, old toots (like coots) tend to be hard of hearing. My wife’s hearing is so acute I almost believe her when she says she’s is not going to be an old toot, or coot.

I realize not everyone wants to be an old toot. Some people would rather be known as active seniors, or elder statesmen. Something that rings with more dignity. Something that indicates they’re still vital and not nearing an ungraceful senility.

In the end, it’s all about individual style as we hit a certain age. On the boardwalk of life, I’m proudly stumbling along on bad knees, confident that I’m an old toot who’ll always have plenty of like-minded company.

If you find yourself belching and passing gas at the same time when walking you could well be on the way to becoming an old toot yourself!

Time for me to walk on down the road…

Friday, May 9, 2014

Overheard: A conversation about climate/global warming

                                                 Good Day World!

Overheard at Mom & Pop’s Café USA:

First diner - “Climate change catastrophes are becoming common nowadays.”

Second diner: “Oh no! Here we go with the liberal global warming conspiracies!

Story on open newspaper between the two diners:

The first six months of 2012 accounted for the warmest January-through-June period on record for the contiguous U.S., the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced.”

First diner - “Who said global warming? I try not to use that term because your conservative hackles flare up every time I do. I’m just saying climate changes are obvious right now.” 

Second diner - “Of course they are. The earth’s climate goes through continual changes. It has since the start. We‘re in a lousy phase right now, that’s all.”

Same story on open newspaper between the two diners:

“Climate models indicate the hot temperatures are not expected to ease anytime soon. ‘It looks like it’s going to stay above normal, for much of the remainder of the summer,’ said Jon Gottschalck at NOAA's Climate Prediction Center.”

First diner - “Okay. What about the U.S. National Academy of Sciences claim that
Climate change is occurring, most likely increasing global average surface temperatures worldwide about 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit over the past century?”

Second diner - “Sounds like change at that rate won’t make a difference to mankind for at least another thousand years.”

Same story on open newspaper between the two diners:

“In 2011, the U.S National Academy of Sciences concluded in a final report on U.S. global warming effects that ‘Climate change is occurring, and very likely caused primarily by the emission of greenhouse gases from human activities, and poses significant risks.’"

First diner - “Can we at least agree that the recent climate changes in our country have been devastating, and that manmade pollution contributed to it?”

Second diner - “I have to admit that was something when that derecho (editor’s note: a pattern of thunderstorms racing in a straight line)  struck Washington in June of 2013. I was hoping a few Democratic Congressmen might get swept up… no seriously, playing the Al Gore card isn’t going to get it.”

Another open newspaper between the two diners:

At least 30 deaths were blamed on the heat, including nine in Maryland and 10 in Chicago, mostly among the elderly. Three elderly people found dead in their houses in Ohio had heart disease, but died of high temperatures in homes lacking power because of recent outages, officials said. Heat was also cited as a factor in three deaths in Wisconsin, two in Tennessee and three in Pennsylvania.”

First diner - “Had to get that partisan shot in didn’t ya George? This climate change business is no laughing matter. We should be looking at ways to prepare for what’s happening to our environment right now and in the future.”

Second diner - “Are you aware that some climate scientists, such as Georgia Tech's Judith Curry, dismiss connections between global warming and U.S. heat waves? She says on her website, Climate Etc. ‘We saw these kinds of heat waves in the 1930s, and those were definitely not caused by greenhouse gases.’ I don't think what we are seeing this summer is outside the range of natural variability for the past century."

Another open newspaper between the diners:

June's derecho, that unleashed 80 mph winds that knocked out power for millions from Ohio to Virginia, has been seen as a consequence of global warming. ‘Derechos don't happen very often, but with heat waves more common under climate projections, they would most likely increase in frequency and severity,’ says forest ecologist Chris Peterson of the University of Georgia in Athens. He pointed to likely extreme-weather effects on forests in a 2000 study.”

First diner - “Looks like we aren’t going to solve anything today George. I gotta go to work now. See ya tomorrow…”

Second diner - I guess not Pete. We can take this conversation up again. Same time. Same place. It’s your turn to buy, though!”

Until the great partisan debate about the reason for rising world temperatures is set aside and actions taken, we might as well join George and Pete at Mom and Pop’s Café USA.

Meanwhile a White House climate change report unveils dire warning, calls for action.

Time for me to walk on down the road…

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Get Lesson Plans for What You Want to Know on Learnist

Good Day World!

You feel like learning something but you’d rather avoid a Wikipedia binge on knowledge you never knew you wanted.

Next time try Learnist – a user-curated library of beautifully organized, though utterly random knowledge. See my board on How to Create Landscapes Using Watercolors.

Learnist topics span tons of categories and cover everything from how to make a living as a freelancer to conquering food cravings and beyond. Users curate boards of knowledge in a Pinterest-like fashion using sources from the Web. You can even design syllabi by grouping articles together.

Peruse thousands of lessons for free or indulge in premium content from experts like Olivia Wilde and Gus Van Sant at just $0.99 a pop.

Learnist isn’t without the oddities that make Wikipedia fun. Articles on taking perfect selfies and my board on why people eat dirt will entertain any dilettante or idle browser.

Sure, you may still binge on Learnist. But at least you’ll emerge equipped to solve a Rubik’s Cube.

article via Netted By The Webbys

Time for me to walk on down the road…

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Social Experiments, Thieves, and Six Degrees of Separation

Good Day World!

I wonder what would happen if I walked into a fancy jewelry store, tried on an expensive watch, decided I liked it, and walked out the door with it like Lindsay Lohan who stole a necklace from a fancy jewelry store a few years back?

A jury let her off of course, with a slap on her hand. As for me? I’d still be rotting in jail on grand theft charges if I tried that little trick. Heck, I couldn’t afford one of her lawyers (even for an hour), and my defense team would probably look like the “Whose Who?” of struggling public defenders in Southern Oregon.

I’m picking on Lohan because she’s been down this path before. Poor little rich girl caught stealing stuff. Gets old after a while don’t you think? Then I got to thinking (uh oh!) and wondered if she was conducting some sort of “social experiment?”

I read about one teenager in Southfield, Michigan, who claimed he was conducting a “social experiment” when he robbed a comic book store. According to WJBK-TV in Detroit, the teenager didn’t want money.

He wanted a detailed list of collector merchandise and threatened to use a realistic-looking homemade bomb. Here’s where it gets weirder; the clerk was stubborn and didn’t meet his demands. Then the robber relented and paid cash for the few items on the list  the clerk did have!

When he was arrested (you knew that was coming), he told the authorities that the whole thing was just a “social experiment.” Isn’t that interesting? I doubt if he contacted Lohan’s lawyers however, unless he was the son of an oil baron or Congressman.

Now where were we? Oh yeah. Social experiments. In a controversial social experiment that happened four years ago in New York City, the city denied part of it’s homeless population any assistance for two years. They wanted to see if their $23 million program, called “Homebase” was helping the people for whom it was intended.

Sounds cold doesn’t it? Perhaps clinical is a better word. In medical testing it’s long been the standard to give drug treatment to one group while another, the control group, goes without. You can read more about that social experiment at

Have you heard of Stanley Milgram, a social psychologist most noted for his controversial study “the Milgram Experiment” in the 1960s during his professorship at Yale? You might look him up for further enlightenment on the subject.

He was influenced by the events of the Nazi Holocaust and carried out an experiment to  demonstrate the relationship between obedience and authority. Shortly after the obedience experiment, Milgram conducted the small-world experiment (the source of the six degrees of separation concept) while at Harvard.

Particularly poignant to me, is the song American Pie which documents the period of 1959 to 1970 in the "10 years we've been on our own" of the third verse. Coming near the end of a turbulent era, American Pie spoke to the grand social experiments of the 1960s, which eventually collapsed under the weight of realities.

And, in 1970, as I sweated in the jungles of Vietnam,  I knew the world back home was rapidly changing. My peers in the States now looked at me and my comrades as the enemy. My generation didn’t lead the country into a new Age of Aquarius where love ruled.

The really sad part is there is no going back to those innocent times when America’s youth thought they could change the world with the power of love. Turned out, peace and love demanded a price. Harsher for some than others. We all paid it in different ways.

My final observation to share with you is that life is an ongoing social experiment, constantly evolving and challenging us to be happy.

The lyrics “Bye bye, Miss American Pie” still bring tears to my eyes.

Time for me to walk on down the road…

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Why Is it So Much Fun to Be Afraid?

     Good Day World!

I’m fascinated by predators like lions, sharks, and lawyers. Stories about rats creep me out, but I continue to read them.

I’ve got a hunch there are others like myself who get a perverse thrill from shuddering in terror for entertainment.

Why else would authors like Stephen King be so popular? I remember watching the original black & white movie Frankenstein on late night television in 1960.

Like most 10-year olds, I had an active imagination and couldn’t go to sleep afterwards. I nervously waited for the sun to rise, listening and waiting for Frankenstein to appear. I was sure he was lurking outside my room.

For some reason I thought no monster would dare appear during the day. I knew that was the case with werewolves and vampires, and just assumed Frankenstein was a nocturnal monster as well.

Look at roller coasters. They’re all about scaring us witless. The combination of speed, sudden turns, and gravity defying dives nearly always produces screams of sheer terror from riders. Yet afterward, when the world stops spinning and stomachs stop churning, they get back in line for another go!

I’ll never forget my first Zombie movie. It was October 1968, and my best friend Tom (later to become my brother-in-law) and I went to a drive-in theater to see “The Night of the Living Dead.”

For those of you who remember going to drive-in movies back then, the food was terrible. Probably the worst, but most popular item, was pizza. It was like eating cardboard with tomato sauce and cheese smeared frugally on top. We ordered one that night.

Ten minutes into the movie we stopped eating our pizza. Miraculously, our appetites disappeared as we watched people chewing on other people. By today’s standards the movie was tame. At the time, it was considered groundbreaking gore on the big screen and paved the way for countless other Zombie movies. Look at their popularity now.

Talking about scary movies, who can forget when “The Exorcist” came out in 1973? I can still see that disturbing image of demon possessed Linda Blair twisting her head completely around and snarling at the camera.

People liked being terrified by the Exorcist so much it reaped 10 academy award nominations and was the first horror movie ever up for Best Picture. “The Sting” won that year.

I totally blame the movie “Jaws” (1975), for my fear of sharks. Prior to the movie I thought nothing of swimming at Huntington Beach, Redondo Beach, and numerous other beaches in Southern California. Haven’t been in the ocean since 1975.

I don’t care if the movie happened on the East Coast. We have plenty of Great White Sharks on the northern coast of California. There’s been more than one incident when I lived in Humboldt County of someone being attacked by a Great White while surfing in the frigid waters.

So why do I like being scared for entertainment? I have no idea. I know I’m not alone, however. Fear sells. Write about the world ending or a Zombie invasion of downtown Keokuk, Iowa,  and it’ll sell.
Of course, you’re going to have a lot of competition because countless others are also dreaming up terrifying global scenarios to scare our pants off.

I read somewhere that because man has no dinosaurs chasing him around anymore, he misses that primal instinct of running for his life from something that wants him for dinner.

In other words, we need an adrenaline rush. People love visiting with lions or tigers while safely separated from their teeth and claws. The same goes for shark aquariums. Watching those cold eyes search for prey sends shudders up our spines.

I think the most feared predators in our society today are lawyers. They look like you and me on the outside, but beneath those suits lurk soulless predators going for our money in court cases.

I’m only half-kidding here. Few things can scare people more than knowing their rival in a lawsuit has a high-powered (translation: unscrupulous) lawyer.

How many times have you wondered if someone escaped justice by using a “good lawyer” (translation: one who is famous and wins every time)? That’s scary.

Here’s an interesting thought; is our fascination with wanting to be scared an evolutionary social flaw that contributes to the violence in our violent society?

Time for me to walk on down the road…

Monday, May 5, 2014

Some Enlightening Things About Lightning Strikes

Good Day World! 

May lightning strike you if you don’t tell the truth!

That old phrase/threat went through my mind when I watched a video of lighting strikes in South Charlotte recently. Oddly, I also recall when the Pope resigned Feb. 2013, and lightning struck the Vatican on the same day!

The key to not getting hit by lightning is to avoid being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Before you hand me a cookie and tell me to go away with that seemingly stupid observation, let me explain:
It doesn’t matter where you stand, what you wear or carry, the best thing to do is to avoid the locations where lightning can strike.

Does that sound better?

For example, anywhere outdoors or in unprotected structures. Let’s say you’re somewhere outside where there are no buildings to hide in. A car (with a hard top of course) will protect you. A direct strike to your car will flow through the frame of the vehicle and usually jump over or through the tires to reach ground.

Note I said usually. If you happen to be unlucky enough to touch the metal frame with your arm (or other body part) it could ruin your day. Especially if you don’t get out of the vehicle and check it out. Fuel can be ignited by a strike and cause a fire or explosion.

Did you know it’s relatively rare for people to die from a lightning strike? Mary Ann Cooper, a professor of medicine at the University of Chicago, estimates that nine out of 10 people survive!

As a matter of fact there are so many survivors they’ve formed an organization: The Lightning Strike and Electric Shock Survivors. It’s even international. If you want to read some startling stories, look that group up. Many of them have been zapped more than once.

Make no mistake however, the small percent who do die adds up. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), an estimated 24,000 people are killed worldwide each year.

Over the last 21 years, the United States averaged 51 lightning strike fatalities, according to NOAA, placing them second behind floods for weather killings. That should be eye-opening news for us all. Don’t underestimate them.

Mankind has always been fascinated with lightning, generally attributing it to angry gods. The Greeks had Zeus whose habit of throwing lightning bolts at people made him feared among his believers.

The Aztecs had a god, Tlaloc, who, depending on his mood, could bring beneficial rain or killer lightning bolts, flood, and disease.

In Slavic mythology, the highest god of the pantheon was Perun, the god of thunder and lightning. There are more, but lack of space doesn’t permit their inclusion.

I’ve got a couple of medical terms dealing with lightning I bet you never heard of: Keraunomedicine (study of lightning casualties and associated treatments), and Keraunopathy (the study of effects of lightning on the human body).

Illuminating as all of this information may be, being struck by lightning is not something most people worry about. That is unless you’re a statistic and this information comes too late for you!

For those of you who don’t think about being struck by lighting…bravo. There are lots of other

things to be more concerned about, I’m sure. Like where your next meal is coming from or if you can find a babysitter so you and your spouse can go out for a romantic dinner.

Forgive me for being so flippant about a subject that strikes terror into some people. Sometimes I can’t help myself.

I’ve never been struck by lightning (knock on wood!) nor have I ever met anyone who was. Like most of you, I’ve heard and read a lot of lightning strike stories, however.

One of my favorites is Frankenstein. Who can forget that tense moment when Dr. Frankenstein opened up the ceiling of his lab to allow a bolt of lightning to bring his monster to life?

Zap!He’s alive! He’s alive! He’s alive!”

Time for me to walk on down the road…

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Why I’m nice to people who serve me food

Good Day World!

Why isn’t there a national holiday for food servers?

If there is please don’t share it with me and ruin this column!

There should be. They don’t get paid anywhere near what politicians and others do for serving the public. Yet, what would we do without them? Stand in a line at restaurants and place our order with an overworked cook?

Waiters and waitresses lead challenging lives. Anyone who has ever tried serving food knows this to be true. No surveys need to be taken. There are a lot of mean jerks out there! Some folks feel so entitled they treat the waiter/waitress like donkey dung. They criticize their server’s every move and do petty things like sending steaks back because they “don‘t look right.”

This is not a wise thing to do. You can only humiliate and antagonize someone for so long before expecting retaliation. Think about what they can do to that steak with vicious delight? It’s not a pretty picture.

I’d like to think most people have enough sense not to mess with waiters and waitresses. After all, they handle your food. This somewhat intimate exchange comes with expectations that your food hasn’t been tampered with, and your server’s wash their hands after going to the bathroom.

It’s a two-way street. Be nice to them, and they’ll be nice to you. So why would anyone risk revenge? I’d write a book if I had the answer, but the short story is there are an incredible number of rude people in this world who do not think before engaging their mouths. It’s true, and I’m sure you have seen plenty of examples.

In making my argument for a national holiday, I would like to include various types of food servers, such as those in fast food restaurants staffed with pimpled teenagers and seniors who are unable to retire. They get treated to drive-by rude encounters in addition to counter customers complaining there wasn’t enough salt in the French fries.

Perhaps you’ve seen a movie about how fast food servers strike back at the public for perceived mistreatment. Maybe you’ve read a story or two about “luggie burgers” and much worse. That happens and a lot more. I’ve heard of hamburgers batted around on the floor like a hockey pucks and then served to unwitting customers.

I’ve seen firsthand what can happen to food if you torment your waiter or waitress. You should also be aware they have many devious ways of getting back at you if you treat them badly. It isn’t always your food they mess with, sometimes it’s your head.

Here’s one first hand example: my wife and I were treated to dinner by an old high school buddy, Larry, at an Italian restaurant in downtown Eureka a number of years ago. Larry, was messing with the waiter. He had fun bugging the waiter who tried to smile, but obviously had a hard time maintaining his grin.

I sensed something was up when Larry handed him his credit card to pay the bill. The waiter came back smiling and said it was no good!

You should have seen Larry. He sent that waiter back twice with the same results and  grew more mortified each moment. I finally stepped in and paid the bill. After we left, Larry practically frothed at the mouth (luckily I was driving) and asked me to pull over to a local bank with ATMs out front.

He stormed over to the ATM and for a tense moment it looked like his card wouldn’t work again, but then it started spitting money out. He slowly walked back to the car, coming to the painful  conclusion the waiter had messed with him big time. His embarrassment was complete.

The moral of the story is simple; don’t screw with someone serving your food. They have many ways to return the favor.

Personally, I have nothing but respect (even if it is born from the abject fear of my food being tampered with) for waiters and fast food servers. I always smile and say “Thank you,” even if I get the wrong order! I always leave tips.

Food servers are not paid enough for what they have to endure. I was once almost a food server while in high school.

I worked at an all-you-can eat smorgasbord after school, busing tables. I recall the psycho cook doing unspeakable thing to the salads and gravies. Needless to say I never ate anything there.

After a while, I couldn’t stand it any longer and moved on to another menial job that didn’t involve working with the public.

What’s that? How about rude food servers?

Not right now my friend, that’s the stuff of another column. Right now we need to show our appreciate for waiters, waitresses, and fast food servers somehow. If not a national holiday, then how about how we treat them well every day of the year? 

Time for me to walk on down the road…

Blog Break Until Presidential Election is Over

I finally hit the wall today. I can't think of what to say about all of the madness going on in this country right now. I'm a writer...