The Old Woman Who Wanted to Be a Pilot

Little girl dreaming of becoming a pilot

I would like to tell you a story that led me to a principle that I have used over and over again in my life.  The story begins in 1979.  I had just received my M.S. degree in Counseling from the University of Wisconsin – Stout.  I began applying for jobs where I could use my degree.  I also took the Wisconsin test for state employment. 

I did well on the state employment test and after an interview process, I was hired by what was then the Department of Industry, Labor and Human Relations (DILHR) as a Manpower Counselor 2.  I was officially a counselor in the Work Incentive Program (WIN).  I would be in charge of the WIN Program as well as a number of other programs including, Labor Education Advancement Program (LEAP), Indochinese Refugee Assistance Program (IRAP) and the Job Training Partnership Act (JTPA).  I would have offices in two counties.  One office was in Ellsworth, Wisconsin in Pierce County.  The other office was in Hudson, Wisconsin in St. Croix County.  I was then living in River Falls, Wisconsin which was almost dead center between my two offices. 


Each day my job consisted of basically trying to help people find employment.  Depending on their ages, genders, skill levels and aptitudes, I had a variety of resources to help them find a job.  Some of my resources included, employer incentives, apprenticeship training, on-the-job-training, education benefits and a variety of tools to help my clients gain the needed skills to find and seek employment.  I also had a large data base of employment openings that were furnished daily by the head office in Madison, Wisconsin.   

My counseling program at Stout was led by a grand educator named Evelyn Rimel.  She was dedicated to the counseling program and would do anything she could to help her students learn the skills they needed to become good counselors.  Dr. Rimel was born in September 1911 and died in August 2009 one month shy of her 98th birthday.  She was a remarkable woman.  The following poem which she wrote expresses her ideas and goals in life.  She was 42 years old when she wrote this poem and numerous people will vouch for her devotion to this vision.

aac54f3a-b1b5-11de-9fb3-001cc4c03286.imageI’d like to think when life is done,

That I had filled a needed post;

That here and there I’d paid my fare,

With more than idle talk or boast;

 That I had taken gifts divine,

The breath of life and womanhood mine,

And tried to use them, then and now,

In service to my fellow man.

Evelyn received many awards during her lifetime.  When she died she was the oldest living and longest-serving member of the American Association of University Women, a national organization to which she belonged for more than 75 years.

Evelyn was the prime mover in the counseling program at Stout and no one who was accepted into the program could ignore her influence on what they would learn.  For instance, employment and school counselors are taught to use many tests such as the GATB, SATB, Kuder Richardson and Strong Campbell to help profile job applicants and identify their strengths and weaknesses.  Dr. Rimel would hear nothing about weaknesses.  She told us that these tests were only pointers and not conclusive evidence of what someone could or could not do.  I still remember what Evelyn said but at the time it seemed very theoretical.  I would not learn the real meaning of her message until I met this client who came into my life a year or so later.


The year was 1980 and I was in my office in Hudson when an older woman came in to see me.  She asked if I could help her find a job.  I was 34 years old at the time and it was early in the year 1980.  The economy was not doing so well, and it was difficult to find decent paying employment in our area.  I asked her to take a seat and how could I help her?  She told me that her name was Margaret and that her husband had recently passed away.  They had raised four children and she had been a stay-at-home mom.  She had no schooling or formal training beyond high school.  She was 68 years old and did not have enough money to live on.  She needed to find a job to supplement her social security income. 

FYC.adviser.0020-16x9-1-1024x576I asked her if she had any idea what she could do.  She replied that she did not.  I suggested that she take an employment aptitude test to see what kinds of work she might find interesting.  It was all very theoretical to me, but I could not imagine what kind of work I could find for her in the local area that would pay enough for her to live on.  She did not have any current job experience and no goals for a career.  The aptitude test was simply an effort to do something even though I did not believe that I could help her much.

She agreed to take the test which I then administered.  When she had finished the test, I told her that I would need to have the test scored.  We setup an appointment for the following week to meet again.  I sent the test in to be scored and the results came back before our next appointment.  When I reviewed the results, I was incredibly surprised.  I even laughed at the findings of the test.  The test showed Margaret’s highest aptitude to be that of an airline pilot.  I laughed because in 1980 there were few women finding employment in the commercial airline industry as a pilot and even fewer who were 68 years of age.  Not to mention, a woman with no prior flight experience or military experience.  Back in the 80’s, many commercial airline pilots came from the ranks of retired or former military pilots. 

I chalked Margaret’s results up to a curious irregularity in the testing results or an anomaly that could probably not be explained.  I was not willing to put any credence into the test and totally ignored Evelyn’s caveat about using employment tests as pointers and not as conclusive evidence.  When Margaret arrived at my office for her appointment we sat down to discuss her results and what our next steps might be.  I started the conversation off by a dismissal of the test findings.   “Margaret, these tests are frequently not accurate.  This test showed your number one aptitude to be that of an airline pilot.”  She looked down at the floor and then up at me.  Speaking directly into my face, she solemnly said, “When I was a little girl, I wanted to be an airline pilot, but my parents and teachers all told me it was impossible.  Girls could never be commercial airline pilots.”    


I don’t really remember the rest of the conversation that day or whether or not I ever found a good job for Margaret.  What I do remember and will never forgot was my narrow mindedness and smugness.  I had totally written off the possibility that Margaret could ever be an airline pilot. 


I mentioned at the start of this story that I gained a principle from this episode that I have used the rest of my life.  The principle was this:  I would never ever tell anyone, client, student, relative or friend that they could not do something or be something.  From Margaret, I realized that one of the things that holds us back are other people who tell us what we can or cannot do.  I have previously told the story of my spouse Karen who was advised by her high school guidance counselor that she could never be a nurse because of her low science aptitude scores.  Karen ignored this “helpful” advice and spent over 55 years in the medical field as a registered nurse and nurse manager. 

 “Love what you do and do what you love. Don’t listen to anyone else who tells you not to do it.  You do what you want, what you love.  Imagination should be the center of your life.”  —Ray Bradbury.


Leading Economist Talks about China America Relations – Dr. Jeffrey Sachs


Is China really the enemy, or are we just creating self-fulfilling prophecies? If you want to hear the truth about China from a leading economist who has been involved in China since 1981, you need to listen to this video discussion. Dr. Sachs presents his views on why China should not be seen as the enemy and why almost all the politicians both Dems and Republicans are misguided. I have not heard it stated so clearly as Dr. Sachs puts it but it is time Americans realize that reality is not what our so called political leaders are telling us.

Sex from a Seventy Five Year Old Perspective


Before you read any further, ask yourself this question.  Can a White Elderly American male say anything generic about sex?  To be quite clear, can I say anything relevant for women and men of color?  Can I say anything about sex that will resonate with women and men of other cultures like China, Indonesia, the Mid-East, or Indigenous peoples over the vast globe?  Will my thoughts on sex have any meaning for GLBTQ people?  Can I speak words of wisdom that will have any importance for those of Generation X, Y and Z?


When a writer starts talking about a subject, they start from a viewpoint that is uniquely their own.  It can be no other way.  That is what makes writing so interesting and variable.  No two people will see life exactly the same way or tell exactly the same story.  Martin Luther said, “Here I stand, I can do no other.”  A writer must have grit or ice in their veins to attempt to say anything at all.  No matter where I stand, someone will say, “You are a heretic.”

Let this tome be my heresy about sex.  Bury me with a stake through my heart if you do not like what I have to say.  I don’t have much more time to say it anyway.  Those who are offended can write their own scribbles to debunk my thoughts and theories.  To paraphrase Old Abe, the world will little remember nor long care about my ideas here.  It would be nothing but cowardice to forego one’s opinions because they might be misunderstood.  Nevertheless, I pray as the song goes “Oh Lord, please don’t let me be TOOO misunderstood.”


Sex is one of the most beautiful things in the world.  It has an appeal that goes beyond the aesthetic.  Sex is both an individual and group activity that entails five key elements.  The physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, and financial elements frame the actual conduct or act of sex.  My emotions, my physical abilities, my mental state, my spiritual beliefs and even my financial capacity will determine the breath and depth of my sexual activities.  But there is a great deal more that governs how sex is controlled in any society.


Sex can be seen as a vast continent.  The continent is divided into two major regions.  There is the Region of Permissions and the Region of Prohibitions.  Each of these regions has three seasons.  There is some overlap between each season but also some significant differences.

One season is cultural.  This season brings influences to sex based on traditions and beliefs about what sex should be like, who we should have sex with and how sex may be performed.  There is the political season.  This season establishes the legality of sex.  Who may have sex, where they may have sex and when they may have sex.  Finally, there is the religious season.  This season defines who may have sex but further informs a purpose for sex.  Sex within the religious sphere is generally assumed to be permissible when associated with procreation.

Sex may take place between a man and a woman, between multiple men and one woman, between multiple women and one man, between multiple men and multiple women, between a man and a man or between a woman and a woman and any other multiple combinations thereof.

Couple_Bed_1296x728-header-1-1296x728Some of you are already thinking that this description has gone too far.  The reality of sexual practices throughout the world would astound most individuals.  There are those who believe that some sex is right, and some sex is wrong.  If there is a right and wrong when it comes to sex, the question is not easily answered.  The seasons of sex, the regions of sex and the individual capabilities all noted above will determine what is considered right and wrong sex.

In the following blogs, I will discuss my views on sex pursuant to the following areas:

  • The Region of Permissions and the Region of Prohibitions
  • The Season of Religion
  • The Season of Politics
  • The Season of Culture
  • The physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, and financial elements affecting sex.


Who am I to talk about sex?  What qualifications give me the right to discuss the multitudinous varieties of sex in the world?  An old White guy who has been married twice.  A man who has had several but not really that many sex partners.  I read that Wilt Chamberlain had been to bed with over 20,000 women.  A man who when he was younger did not understand women very well and probably still does not.  A man of limited variety when it comes to cultural and ethnic relationships with women.  A straight guy who has had no interest in gay relationships.  These are my obvious limitations.  I suspect I have others that I am unaware of.

sex in pandemicOn the other hand, I read widely.  I think a great deal about things and what constitutes right and wrong.  I have been to 34 countries.  I am old enough to have seen many things that work and many things that do not work.  I have had friends from many cultural and ethnic backgrounds.  I am not unduly influenced by religious, cultural, or even some legal restrictions governing sex.  As for the legal aspects, I believe in the protection of young children from pedophiles and other exploiters.  However, I have long believed in the right of people to choose their sex partners regardless of ethnic background.

The anti-miscegenation laws that were passed by some states were racist laws that enforced racial segregation for marriage and intimate relationships by criminalizing interracial marriage and sometimes also sex between members of different races.  I abhor such infringements on the individual rights of people based on racist xenophobic and bigoted concepts of what is right and wrong.

In 1975, I received my B.S. degree in Health Education.  I also received a license to teach this subject in grades 1 to 12.  What I did not realize at the time was the resistance to teaching Health Education in most schools.  Many parents and even schools associated Health Education with Sex Education.  In 1975, Sex Education was a highly contentious subject.  Twenty years later in 1994 Joycelyn Elders was forced to retire from her post as U.S. Surgeon General after she said that masturbation “is part of human sexuality and perhaps should be taught.”


Sex is both the most popular subject in the world and the most taboo subject.  We will look at some of these issues when we discuss permissions and prohibitions in my next blog.  Today there are more sex education classes taught then when I received my degree forty-five years ago, but the subject is still something educators must tread lightly on.  A recent article in the New York Times discusses a progressive educator who resigned her position due to parent criticism concerning her teachings.  “A Private-School Sex Educator Defends Her Methods.”

“Twenty-eight states require that abstinence be stressed in sex education classes, and six states require that only negative information be provided on homosexuality, according to the Guttmacher Institute.”


Here I sit in the middle of one of the so-called most advanced countries in the world, and we have roughly one half of our nation that thinks abstinence is the key to sex education.  As an educator who continues to be a teacher in high schools in Arizona, I can only shake my head in disbelief.  We live in perhaps the most highly sexualized nation in the world and yet we act as though our children will practice abstinence until they are married.  One could not think of a more bizarre case of denial.

“Many Indian schools provide no sex education, leaving it to parents to talk to their children about sex and relationships. But often they are unsure what to say, sex coach Pallavi Barnwal tells the BBC’s Megha Mohan.”   —  ‘Indians don’t talk about sex – so I help them’

Americans are not alone in denial when it comes to sex.  As far as I can see, sex has what could be called mysterious parameters in every country that I have been to and many that I have only read or heard about second hand.  What is it about sex that makes it so popular and yet also so taboo?  The psychologist Wilhelm Reich had one theory which I will discuss later but it is one among many competing theories.

Next Blog:  The Region of Permissions and the Region of Prohibitions

The Joy of Eating or Why I Never Met a Food That I Did Not Like


Mexican food, Chinese food, Thai food, French food, Mid-Eastern food, Indian food, I have never met a food I did not like.  From street venders with their push carts to five-star gourmet restaurants with sommeliers in tuxedos, I have eaten food fit for the gods.  When Karen and I travel we love to explore markets and discover new foods to cook.

We love purchasing foods in foreign markets that we cannot recognize and taking them back to our abode to cook.  Cooking our own foods has gifted our palates with some wonderful tastes that I could not begin to describe.  I still do not know what some of the things we ate were, but I am alive to tell this story.

nintchdbpict000307002046I have met people who say, “I never eat Mexican food.”  They say this as though it were some badge of honor.  I want to ask what type of Mexican food do they not eat?  Does their exclusion of Mexican food extend to deserts like fried ice cream or drinks like Tequila or is it simply tacos and burritos that they do not eat?  I have met people who say, “I never eat fish.”  I usually ask them why and I often hear the reply “they taste too fishy.”  I want to ask them if they ever eat meat that tastes too meaty, but instead I usually ask them if their antipathy extends to crustaceans, mollusks, and cephalopods.  I can see the disapproval in my spouse’s eyes when I pursue this line of questioning.

Other people tell me that they never eat from street vendors.  The reasoning I hear most often is that you can’t trust the food since you do not know where it came from.  This is a really funny reason since I feel the same way about grocery stores, but I will give you ten to one odds they eat food from grocery stores.


The lowly potato is one of my favorite foods.  Simply slice a potato and fry it in a little olive oil.  Place it between two slices of harvest bread with a dash of mayonnaise and you have a taste treat that you will never forget.  I love tripe and when I was young my mother would cook tripe (cow stomach) in a big pot of spaghetti sauce.  You eat the tripe and sauce in a bowl and dip Italian bread into the sauce with the tripe.  I get hungry just thinking about it.

download (1)menudo-a-classic-mexican__85101.1588116574After exploring the vast variety of Mexican foods, I discovered that the tasty and hearty Menudo soup is chock full of tripe.  Many Latinos as well as Gringos in the Southwest will not eat Menudo.  Several years ago, after I started dating Karen, I was introduced to Lutefisk.  At first I found the texture somewhat off putting.  Over time, by adding butter or cream sauce I discovered the joy of eating Lutefisk around the holidays.  It is a Scandinavian tradition in homes much like Menudo is in Mexican homes.  Paradoxically, many Scandinavians loath Lutefisk.  The derivation of such foods leads many to disavow them.  I confess to the same attitude towards an Italian dish known as Pasta a Fagioli which my mother loved to make.  I left home swearing to never eat any again.

Show_2_Pasta_e_Fagioli-4-e1494876950597Some of these low-cost and nutritious peasant foods have become quite popular now as people look back to their early roots.  An example of such a food dish is the Italian Pasta e Fagioli which I mentioned earlier.  This is a dish comprised of beans and macaroni.  Beans and macaroni form a “whole protein” which means you get all the amino acids you need without having to eat meat.  A protein is considered “complete” when it has the nine essential amino acids in somewhat equal amounts.  Almost every country in the world has some staple food items that provide whole protein.  In poorer cultures, livestock was valued for its ability to help farm crops and produce milk.  In places like India, livestock was made sacred as a way to prevent killing a valuable resource.  Cows were more valuable alive than they were dead.

why-we-should-eat-insects-infographic-3A few years ago, at the annual Gustavus Adolphus Nobel Conference the subject was on food production.  A number of experts claimed that the day will come when we will no longer be able to afford a practice so barbaric and wasteful as to slaughter animals for meat eating.  There is an abundance of insects on this earth that could provide an almost endless low-cost supply of protein and minerals to our diets.  Most people respond to thoughts about eating insects with something like “I could never eat bugs.”  My retort is “well you don’t eat bloody chickens or bloody cows do you?”  The insects would be processed, and they would provide a grain that could be used in various ways like we use wheat or corn meal.  I get blank stares.


In the future, you may go into a grocery store and have a choice of “ground insect burgers.”  You can choose from spider burgers, cock-roach burgers, ant burgers and termite burgers.  Today there is a daily special on worm-burgers.  Bees are off the menu and are a protected species due to their value for crop pollination, but wasps are selling at premium prices.  Nothing tastes as good as a wasp-loaf with a little tomato sauce on top.

Bon Appetit

You Are Never So Alone as When You Stand Out


Give me the Fortitude to challenge injustice,

The Courage to stand up for those who are weaker than I am,

The Boldness to do what is right when no one else seems to care,

The Determination in the face of criticism and mockery,

The Firmness to stand my ground when I am abandoned and alone,

The Tenacity to ignore insults and attacks on my character,

The Grit to fight the battle until I can fight no more.

The Ability to believe in myself when no one else does.


The human race is a history of high spots and low spots.  A history of happiness, joy, love, and compassion.  It is also a history of injustice, murder, racism, and cruelty.  When we look back at the past, we see villains and heroes.  The villains are those who exploited and oppressed others.  The heroes are those men and women who stood up for the downtrodden.  The courageous few who stood up when the majority stood down.  Those who had the gumption to endure ostracism and worse because they would not abandon morality and righteousness.

Many years ago, Martin Niemöller (1892–1984) wrote the following prophetic words:

First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out— because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

Being faced with injustice poses a difficult choice for many of us.  If it were simply a choice behind a high road and a low road, it would be easy.  But life is seldom black and white.  The choice is often much more difficult.  It can be a choice between being alone or standing with the anonymity of the crowd.  No one wants to stand out.  There is a saying in Japan that the “nail that sticks up, gets hammered down.”  It is the same with every other culture.  The world is moved by the adage to “not make waves.”

Chinese Activist Blocks Column of Tanks

A few years ago, I fought a battle with the town to fire the library director or else to put him back to work.  He had been accused of pedophilia and suspended from his job with pay.  Wisconsin is an employment-at-will state and I could see no reason that a poor small-town library needed to pay a salary to someone who was now suspended from his job.  I went to the library board and eventually to the town council to challenge this decision.  Either fire him I said or put him back to work until he has been tried by a court of his peers.  Both boards told me the same thing.  A lawyer that the city hired advised against such a move due to the potential of a lawsuit.  Lawyers all over this country use the possibility of a lawsuit as a scare tactic to do nothing.

At first, I had support from others in my battle with these boards.  Eventually, one by one they all dropped out.  “We have to live in this town, and we don’t want to make waves.”  I continued what had become a lonely battle.  Doubts and recriminations daily filled my mind and heart.  I was disappointed by the lack of support I was receiving.  I felt deserted by friends who I thought shared my ideas of right and wrong.  I was told by the city council that I should not attend any more of their meetings.  I was persona non-gratis.

I toyed with the idea of giving up.  I wanted at least one other person who could help me justify my crusade.  “Why should I care about the library if no one else does?”  Instead of giving up, I amplified my efforts.  I threatened to send a flyer out to every citizen in Frederic during Frederic Family Days.   My flyer was carefully worded to show the cowardice of the City Council and the costs to the Frederic taxpayer due to this cowardice.  Within three days of the council receiving a copy of my flyer, they fired the former library director.  Because of their spinelessness, they had kept him on the payroll for nearly nine months while he fled to Mississippi.  A few months later he was convicted of pedophilia and sentenced to jail.

I did not like the role I played in this battle.  I would have preferred that someone else had taken up the gauntlet.  However, no one wanted it.  I am no hero.  I question myself every day.  I am always wondering if this decision or that decision is the right one.  I lack the self-confidence to assert that I am right and that you are wrong.  How can I be certain that I am right?  What if I am not?

a76ce78ebb5a097bfdd284a75347259bI look around me today and I do not understand the world.  I do not understand the decisions that our leaders make.  It seems we have a moral disease.  The symptoms of this disease are short-term thinking and greed.  Arizona is suffering from an unprecedented drought and heat wave.  The water levels in both the Central Arizona Project and aquifers are dangerously low.  Yet when asked to cut back water usage by 3.8 percent, the golf course owners in Phoenix created an association to oppose such a “drastic” cut.  Their counter proposal was for a 1.6 percent cut in water usage.  The Governor of Arizona was the keynote speaker for the associations kick off meeting.  Am I crazy?  Do you believe this?  Are golf courses more important than drinking water and water for farm crops?

If you dare to stand against the greed that has taken root in our society, you are an anti-capitalistic liberal communist left-wing radical.  What passes for dialogue in politics today are theatrical stunts, public attacks, name calling and vows to never compromise.  Our legislative bodies have been corrupted by men and women who are only motivated by avarice and power.  We are beyond truth and reason.  Words like reconciliation, harmony and accord no longer have any meaning.  Nothing gets done as each side digs its heels in and votes strictly according to party-line.  Instead of asking what is good for the USA, politicians only ask, “What is good for my party?”


The man or woman who stands out is a person of courage.  It takes guts to stand up and speak out.  It is much easier to do nothing.  Sgt. Shultz used to say, “I hear nothing, I see nothing.”  It may be comforting to go through life hearing and seeing nothing but at what cost to the world?

Do you think the world needs to be changed?  It all starts with us.  Gandhi said, “Be the change you want to see.”

Stand up, speak out, put yourself on the line.  If not you, then who? 


What does the 4th of July really mean?

Happy Family Standing On The Hill And Watching The Fireworks

happy family standing on the hill and watching the fireworks

Happy 4th of July! The 1st of July is the 182nd day of the year. As you watch the fireworks tonight, consider that today is now the 185th day of the year. This probably will make little or no difference to your enjoyment of the display you go to see.  Each year, the fireworks displays seem to be longer and more spectacular.  The loud explosions, dazzling sparkles and bright flashes of color contrasting with the grey smoke really bring home to me the vision that drove Francis Scott Key to write the “Star Spangled Banner.”

O! Say can you see by the dawn’s early light,
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming,
Whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight,
O’er the ramparts we watched, were so gallantly streaming?
And the rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there;
O! say does that star-spangled banner yet wave,
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

The American Flag, the 4th of July, The Declaration of Independence and the “Bombs” we know are still bursting around our soldiers tonight are more than just images of a unique US Brand. They are more than just symbols of our heritage. They are down payments on a legacy that is part of our fundamental American values. Our Forefathers created a system of government that was based on the belief that all men (and eventually this included women and African Americans) were entitled to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. This was the most positive, uplifting and life affirming message the world had ever known. It became the great American experiment. The only other country to ever come close to America in creating an entirely new life affirming belief system for its citizens was Greece. Sadly, the Greek experiment failed to continue but its message has helped to form a foundation for every other experiment in democracy the world over.

There are those who argue that the “ascendancy” of the American experiment is over. It is opined that just like Rome, France, Great Britain and many other empires, America is on the downside of its greatness. China, India, Japan and Brazil are noted as possible successors. Perhaps from a military or economic view this will be true. But taken from the perspective of the belief system that under-girds America, there are no countries that are even close. We do not always practice what we preach. Moreover, in many areas of life, we seem to have lost our way. Our politicians are often guided more by party politics than by what is good for the American people.

As you enjoy your barbecue, your picnics and your fireworks today, rest assured, the core of the American experiment, the ideology that has brought and continues to bring millions of immigrants to the shores of America will ring forever through the halls of history. The world will never forget that someday and in some place called America, there were a people who lived, worked, fought and died for the belief that “we”, the people, including the rich, the poor and all minorities have a set of inalienable rights.

As long as we practice and believe in this message for all people, we will remain a great nation. We will remain a nation that is great in spirit and great in heart. As long as we care more about others than we do ourselves, our Nation will be a spiritual and moral beacon to the oppressed and downtrodden of the world. Greatness cannot be measured in economic and monetary measures. Measure the greatness of a people by the greatness of their message. By that standard, America is the greatest nation that has ever existed.

Time for Questions: 

Do you believe in the American Vision? Do you believe it is for all people, or just for Americans? When was the last time you actually read the Declaration of Independence? Do you know the difference between Patriotism and Jingoism?

Life is just beginning.

The advancement and diffusion of knowledge is the only guardian of true liberty.”
James Madison

What’s So Funny Today?


On Tuesday, my writing class suggested that for the next class we should all write something funny.  I left the class and started to rack my brains for something funny to write about.  I even thought about rewriting one of my other blogs.  However, I have a goal to come up with at least one original writing each week.  The thought of rewriting an earlier blog seemed like cheating.  After a fruitless mental search, I was willing to sacrifice creativity for humor.  But not one of my 900 or so blogs struck me as funny and something that I could rewrite.  I would have to come up with a new idea.

41Ug6TO4iwLI remembered from many years ago, a leader at a support group that I belonged to advised me that I should have more humor in my life.  I asked him “Do you know any good books about getting more humor in one’s life.”  He laughed, “You can’t read about humor, you have to do it.”  The thought has often struck me over the years that it is one thing to read about things, it is another thing to do them.  Could it be, I am just a writer and not a doer?  Was it still possible that I needed more humor in my life.  Maybe a clown I am not?

I brought the subject up to my spouse Karen and she reassured me that I am often very funny.  I know that I can be very sarcastic.  Like the time that I told the woman sitting on the plane next to me that maybe the human race was going to be extinct soon like many other species.  Why did she think that we had any superior reason to inhabit the earth when many other species have already perished?  “Climate change” I told her “Proves that we cannot take care of the earth.”  She gave me a truly angry look and went back to reading her book.  I suppose she was reading some tome about “How we can save our planet in nine days or less.”  I doubt that she thought I was funny.

Over the last four years, I have laughed often about Donald Trump, Republicans, Trumpists, Trump sycophants, climate change deniers, power hungry politicians, greedy lawyers and lying real estate developers.  My top three lying groups include the aforementioned individuals.  Can you guess which are my top three?  My laughing at these groups has come from my incredulity at the things they say and do.  I could never have thought that there was so much stupidity in the human race.  Is stupidity funny?  Does laughing at stupidity give one a sense of humor or a sense of sadness?

A few hours after my writing class this week, I was stricken with some type of intestinal gas attack.  It was very painful and not very funny.  I did find some humor in this attack which I would like to share with you.  I think this might be a genuine bit of humor, but I want to know if you find it funny.  If so, I will consider this writing effort a success.  It might prove that I can find humor in my life even if it be in strange places.

gallbladder-painA year ago, (June 2020) almost to the day, I had a sharp pain in my chest.  I fell to the floor and passed out.  I know that this is not very funny but stay with me and I will get to the funny part.  I promise.  Karen thought I was having a heart attack and she called 911.  They came, attached an IV to my arm and I had my first ever ambulance ride to the emergency clinic in St. Croix Falls.  After a blood test, an Ultra Sound, an X-Ray, and a CAT Scan, they decided that I had a Gall Bladder problem.  Three hours later, I was sent home with an appointment for the next day back at the hospital to see a doctor.

I arrived for my appointment and was met by a doctor who told me that I needed to have my Gall Bladder removed.  Now, I am not against surgery, but I have often advised and written on the perils of rushing surgery.  I have spoken my thoughts many times about the hasty and frequently unneeded surgeries that the medical profession pushes on a naïve public.  Thus, I argued about the need for surgery.

My point was that they did not know what caused the Gall Bladder attack.  They had no evidence (since the Gall Bladder was too swollen to see anything) if I still had any potentially dangerous Gall Stones waiting to attack me again.  I suggested a second Ultra Sound in a few weeks when the swelling had subsided.  I was curtly advised by the doctor that they could not do another one and that either I got the surgery or not.  The surgeon was available the next day.  I decided not and left the room.

Subsequently, I was advised by friend and foe alike that Gall Bladder surgery is a breeze and I had nothing to fear.  “You don’t really need your Gall Bladder.”  Disdaining all this well-intentioned advice, I stuck with my decision to keep my Gall Bladder.  The coming year went by event free except for the Covid 19 Epidemic.  Nothing funny about that.

As I mentioned earlier, just after my weekly writers’ class, I started to get gas in my chest and a pain in my lower right side.  I sometimes get gas pains after eating but I had not eaten anything in several hours and the pain was not in my abdomen but more in my chest.  It was just under my right ribs exactly where the Gall Bladder pain was one year ago.  It continued to increase.


By 11:30 PM, it was apparent that I was not going to be able to sleep so following some advice I read on the Internet, I grabbed a hot ginger tea and went for a walk.  I was accompanied by Karen who wanted to make sure she was around if I passed out again.  Going for a walk in Frederic Wisconsin at Midnight was very surreal.  We met only one other person.  It was a local police officer accompanied by a canine companion.  The dog acted as though we had just robbed the First National Bank of Frederic.  The police officer pulled him closer and announced that his dog was often suspicious of strangers.  I suppose an old lady and old guy out at midnight would constitute “suspicious” strangers.  We continued our walk.

I felt somewhat better by the time we got back home.  I laid down and the pain started to come back.  In a short while, it hurt too much for me to find any sleep.  I sat up and tried to read but could not concentrate.  I tried to think of something funny but still had no luck.  Funny would not come.  Eventually, I managed a long night of quite restless sleep.  When I woke the next morning, we called the local clinic for an appointment.  They gave me an appointment at 11 AM that same morning at the Frederic Clinic in town.

frederickI saw a Physician Assistant at the clinic.  He was polite and thoughtful.  He gave me some rudimentary tests.  A little prodding and touching here and there.  He then advised me to go to the Emergency Department at the St. Croix Medical Center.  He said the Frederic Clinic was not equipped to do the more complicated tests that I would need and that I should get these tests done immediately..  He suggested that it might be time to get rid of the unneeded and problematic Gall Bladder.  I was quite ready to agree.  I had managed to keep my Gall Bladder for almost 75 years.  It had a good run, and perhaps it was time for it to retire.


Karen and I drove down to the St. Croix Medical Center, parked our truck, and walked into the Emergency Department.  They greeted us very warmly and after the usual administrative stuff and a brief wait we were ushered into a patient room.  A friendly doctor came into the room.  A few brief introductions and then he listened as I informed him about my past history with this Gall Bladder.  I conceded that I was ready to have my Gall Bladder removed. They could get the 37,000 dollars that Medicare reimburses for such a procedure.

He nodded wisely and then described the tests that he wanted to have done.  These included several blood tests and an Ultra-Sound.  Unlike the previous doctor from a year ago, he did not seem anxious to remove my Gall Bladder.  He concluded with, “Let’s wait and see what the tests show.”

57171431-cartoon-wise-old-doctor-gestures-and-emotions-After a short wait, I was brought by wheel chair into another room.  I laid down on yet another bed.  A new nurse (or was it a technician) came into the room.  I assumed that she was going to perform the test.  Someone else brought the apparatus for conducting the Ultra Sound into the room and left.  The nurse or Ultra-Sound Technician started to poke and prod me with a rod connected to the machine.  This increased my burping considerably and went on for longer than I had remembered a year ago.  I guess they wanted to be really sure this time that I needed my Gall Bladder removed.  I was resigned to this eventuality.

After the test was over, I rested in bed for about ten minutes before the friendly doctor I had seen earlier came back to see me.  He had a big smile on his face.  I figured for sure that he was thinking about his share of the 37,000-dollar operation that he was about to perform.  As they say at comedy shows, “Give it up for the Doctor.”  Or as my mom used to say, “Every dog has its day.”

“Well,” he started “your Gall Bladder looks great.  No evidence of swelling or gall stones.”  I could not believe my ears.  Was I hearing him correctly?  Something stopped me from asking if he was kidding or trying to be funny.  He looked profoundly serious.  Could they have made a mistake?  Did they really want me to keep this Gall Bladder for another 75 years?  What about the 37,000 dollars?  No surgery?  “Nope, just go home and take some Maalox and you will be fine.”  He then apprised me of the fact that I had some fat on my liver and that I should watch my fat intake more.  I wondered if he had any advice on how to get rid of a fatty liver.  How about surgery, I was tempted to ask but decided against it.

Do you see the humor here or the funny part?  It strikes me as exceedingly funny.  First they want to take my Gall Bladder and I refuse to give it.  A year later and I want them to take my Gall Bladder and they don’t want to take it.  Should I call it the “Miracle of Peake Street and the Cured Gall Bladder?”  Would it start my qualification as a saint in the Catholic Church?  Old guy goes from faulty useless Gall Bladder to healthy like new better than ever Gall Bladder?  I think some of the official Catholic saints had less going for them than this.

Well, as Porky Pig said “Th-th-th-that’s all folks!”


When We Get Back to Normal!


When we get back to normal.  When everything is like it used to be.  When things are like they were in the good old days.  The good old days when things were normal.  Happy days when father knew best, and bad kids were expelled from school for chewing gum.

But we are not normal now.  We are in a quandary for normal.  We pray for normal.  We look around each corner for normal.  But we cannot find normal.  We talk about the new normal but even that is a myth.  We are now post-normal.  We have never been normal, and we probably will never be normal.


First smog in the sixties.  Then water pollution in the seventies.  Globalization in the eighties.  A new century with mega storms, wildfires, water shortages, power outages and unprecedented heat spells.  If normal was not elusive enough, in 2020 we get a virus that to date has killed almost 4 million people worldwide.  A little bug that is about 50 nm in size.  A nanometer is one billionth of a meter.  You could put 20 million corona virus side to side and still have room left over on a yardstick.  Has anybody ever asked a coronavirus when things will return to normal?

Just on the outside chance that we do get back to normal, what will it look like?  A vision please, for without a vision, it is said that people will perish.

women-taking-em-back-to-the-kitchen-vi-cine-center-51302934When we get back to normal, two parent families will again reign supreme.  Mom will stay home to cook, while dad goes to work.  There will be no trans-people.  Girls will stick to cheerleading and let the boys play the sports.  Contraceptives will be banned, and no one will dream of getting an abortion.  Priests and ministers will be male, and gay people will disappear.  Everyone in America will go back to being good Christians.

When we get back to normal, people will die of natural causes like alcoholism and tobacco smoking.  Viruses will become a thing of the past as huge walls setup around our borders will prevent any bugs from infecting Americans.  Health care will be readily available to rich people and make certain that the wealthier you are the longer you will live.  Poor people will do the shitty jobs in America and die earlier since they will not be able to afford quality health care.

When we get back to normal, Black people, Latinos, Native Americans, and Asian/Pacific Island people will be put into their place so that White people can rule again without challenge.  Only White people will be able to hold office.  Police forces will be given more power to dispense arbitrary justice in minority communities thereby ensuring that minorities do not get too uppity.  White people will be allowed to immigrate to the USA but people from other countries will be given strict orders to stay home.


When we get back to normal, we will double the size of the defense budget and start a war someplace so that we can test our new arsenals out.  We will try to select enemies who are too weak to really put up much fight.  Our military will be the pride of America, and no one will have the audacity to stand up to it.  Drones will eliminate American casualties and reporters will be prohibited from counting enemy dead.

When we get back to normal, schools will be places where children are taught patriotism and how to fit into the workplace.  Colleges will establish quotas limiting the number of minorities who can enter.  Businesses will be given more tax breaks so that the rich can become richer.  We will spread a great deal of propaganda emphasizing the theory of trickle down.  Poor people will be persuaded to be patient until unfathomable wealth eventually comes down to them.

top five risks

When we get back to normal, scientists, Intellectuals, democrats, anti-gun people, liberals, writers, reporters, and teachers espousing critical thinking will be shunned.  Anyone promoting facts and logic over emotions and intuition will be silenced by fines or stiff jail sentences.


I forgot to add that the Ten Commandments, Confederate Flag, and statues of Confederate heroes will be taken out of storage and placed on the lawn of every state capital in the USA.  Laws will be passed to make sure that people stand for the Flag and kneel for the Cross.  Of course, that is if things get back to normal again.

Do you still want things to get back to normal again?

The Fear of Aging or the Aging of Fear


Have you noticed that some of your friends are less bold than they used to be?  The older people get, the more things they seem to be afraid of.  Some people are afraid of aging, but many more people exhibit what I call the “Aging of Fear.”  Wise people tell us that fear is natural and healthy, but it can also be unnatural and unhealthy.  The healthiness of fear depends on two things.

First, how realistic are your fears?  The reality of fear can be thought of as a form of risk analysis.  We all conduct our lives with an intuitive analysis of the risks that our behaviors either entail or might entail.  Frequently, these risks are distorted by emotions and perceptions.  If I live in Wisconsin, I should be more worried about bee stings or a tick bite than a shark attack or a tiger eating me.  It would be unrealistic to worry about things that are less likely to happen.  Surprisingly, many people are more afraid of things that have a low-risk potential than things that have a higher risk potential.  (What’s the Risk?)

bearsafety_3_1Second, what are you going to do about your fears?  Fear is an adaptive mechanism.  It helps to keep you alive.  If you are in the woods and walking down a trail and see a large bear or cougar coming towards you, it is quite healthy to have some degree of fear.  But fear alone is not going to save your life.  If you are paralyzed with fear you may just be eaten.  Fear is an alarm.  An alarm sounds to wake us up.  The next step is to do something.  Doing something is a risky effort with no guarantee of success.  Sadly, there are few guaranties in life, but the evidence seems to suggest that doing nothing is worse than doing something.  This is where forethought and preparedness come in.  One of my favorite quotes is by the Roman philosopher Seneca (died 65 CE) who once said that “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.”


People who think ahead and try to identify potential negative consequences of their actions have a better chance of survival than people who do not plan ahead.  The Titanic is a great example of poor planning brought on by hubris.  They were so confident that the spotter in the Crows Nest did not even have a pair of binoculars.  In chess, a good player looks at lines of play to see what might happen given any particular move on their part.  Strategic thinking entails looking into the future to see how our behaviors or actions will play out.  If I do this, what might happen?  The more we look into the future the greater the odds become in our favor for getting the results we want.  It is of course impossible to identify every conceivable consequence either intended or not of our actions.  Life is frequently about dealing with unintended consequences but there is little doubt that the Boy Scout motto of “Be Prepared” has a lot going for it.

young man looking at an older himself in the mirror

The “Aging of Fear” is what I see in so many people who grow more and more afraid of life with each passing day.  I have friends who will not travel anymore.  Some of my friends are afraid to travel by plane.  Some have purchased concealed carry permits to protect themselves against an unknown assailant.  Every day more and more people in America seem afraid of something.  There are efforts to protect ourselves as we get older that make sense.  I have given up motorcycling.  Most of the people I used to ride with have also given the hobby up.  Falling off a motorcycle at the age of 75 or older will likely bring many more injuries to the human body than falling off the same motorcycle at the age of 25.  Anybody over sixty getting up on a roof in winter needs to have their head examined.  Older bodies are not as resilient as younger bodies.

Knowing when to hold them and when to fold them is one of the secrets of growing older gracefully and living a long and healthy life.  But planning for unintended consequences is equally as important.  There is a balance here that we need to find, adjust, and continually readjust as we get older.  It is a not a static effort that you do today and that is the end of it.  Each day requires rethinking and readjusting what we can do and what we should do.  The conscious reflective activity is crucial.  Without an intelligent appraisal of life, fear can put us in an early coffin.


The coffin might be our bed or our home or our neighborhood.  A coffin is a metaphor for a set of boundaries.  The realism of our boundaries is vital.  Too many boundaries and we are not living but too few and our lives can be cut short much sooner than then they need to be.  One of my favorite motorcycle aphorisms was “If I ride like there is no tomorrow, there won’t be.”  I would tell myself this each time I got in the saddle of my Yamaha Super Sport R1 and went for a ride.

downloadDylan Thomas said, “Do not go gentle into that good night.” I don’t know about the raging part of his poem.  I prefer thinking about my life as I get older and not raging.  But he makes a good point.  It is all too easy to give up on life as we age.  We can live in memories of what we used to do, or we can find new activities and new levels to pursue old activities at.  For instance, I may not have the stamina to play tennis or racquet ball anymore, but I can still play pickleball or go for a short ride on my bicycle.  I used to do six-minute miles in road races.  My personal best was 38.48 on a 10K.  The race I ran for Frederic Family days this year on June 12, 2021, I averaged 10.14 per mile for a 5k.  Quite a bit off of my pace from years ago but I still got my t-shirt.  I run for t-shirts these days and not trophies.


To conclude.  Don’t let aging or fear rob you of living.  Well thought out days with lots of contingency plans can help you to continue to live a full and happy life.  Look around you for the 80, 90 and even 100-year-old elders who are still out there enjoying life.  What keeps them ticking is not giving up but meeting each day as a challenge to live life to the fullest.

Title:  Historic Match between Good Guy from the West and Evil Guy from the East


Just for the hell of it, I am going to comment on the historic Biden Putin summit.  Everyone else in the world has given their take on this historic moment in US and Russian history, so why not me?  I can sound as knowledgeable about Biden and Putin as any of the commentators who have commented on this situation.  Think of me as a commentator commenting on the commentators who commented about the historic Biden Putin summit.  I should add that if you have not already noticed, just about every commentator commenting on this summit mentioned it as a “historic” summit.

In case you do not know the definition of historic, it has something to do with something that someone might potentially put into a history book or perhaps something that Hollywood will make a movie out of.  If I were to make a film out of this historic summit, it would go something like this.


Two leaders from hostile countries meet to divide up the world or at least agree on who is screwing things up in the world.  The leader from the evil country denies everything while the leader from the great and good and very morale country warns the evil leader of the consequences of not being a better leader.  The good leader is in the blue trunks while the evil leader is in the red trunks.  The match consists of three one-hour rounds with a ten-minute restroom break between rounds. The breaks are to allow commentators to send their commentaries to their offices.


Joe Biden:  President of the USA

Vladimir Putin:  Evil Dictator from Russia

Sycophants:  Both countries brought along dozens of elected officials to witness the match

Commentators:  Just about anyone who could buy, forge, or obtain a press pass


Joe Biden, Vladimir Putin

Joe came out of his corner with a quick handshake which threw his opponent for a momentary loss.  Commentators scored it 1-0 for Biden.  Vladimir recovered quickly and met Joe’s handshake with a bone crushing shake of his own.  Joe smiled and they both took their seats.  Commentators gave Joe another point since they like him better.  The score was now 2-0 for Biden.


Numerous subjects were dealt with in the next three hours.  Despite the pre-game name calling by Biden, the opponents settled into a polite routine with no grandstanding or insults.  As expected Biden threw a “dissidents jab” at Putin who responded with a “January 6th insurgency jab.”  Biden called the comparison ridiculous which most commentators agreed on.  Biden scored another point making it 3-0 for Joe.

Joe threw a right cross nailing Vladimir with warnings about any more hacking.  Vladimir blocked the punch and denied everything.  Commentators were split since Joe did not provide any evidence and Putin seemed so confident that nothing could be pinned on Russian hackers.  Call it 1 for Joe and 1 for Putin.  The score after round 2 was 4-1 in favor of Biden.


Both leaders came out in round three with Putin clearly shaken up and worried about the bad press he was getting from a less than stellar effort.  It was clear that Putin had underestimated Sleepy Joe and had not trained well for this match.  Nevertheless, Putin scored early in round three with some nice comments about his opponent that Joe rolled with.  Commentators gave Putin a point since Joe should have side stepped these compliments instead of accepting them.  Joe was clearly surprised.  The final score after round three was 4-2 in favor of Joe.


Post-Game commentary tended to judge the match a win for Biden due to his early domination of the bout and self-confidence.  However, many commentators had it as a draw since Putin made no concessions and gave nothing away.  There were no major knockdowns and depending on one’s viewpoint nothing was really decided.

Stay tuned for a sequel to this historic match, in which both opponents will meet again for another historic showdown.

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