Friday, April 29, 2016

Cousin Connections and Common Wolcott History

In reviewing my wife’s family tree today, I noticed that one of the names on her tree was Hitchcock and that the family was from Connecticut. Since there is a Hitchcock Lake in Wolcott, I wondered if there was a connection. After a bit of research I was able to determine the following:

My wife’s connection was through Ester Hitchcock (1796-1874) who was the great-grandmother of her great-grandfather, Dennis Birley VanDeCar (VanDeCar being my wife’s maiden name). I was able to trace the heritage of Ester back five more generations to Matthias Hitchcock who was born in England in 1610.

Hitchcock Lake was named after Shelton Hitchcock (1822-?) who lived in that part of Wolcott and who had some significant land holdings. The original name of the lake was “Waterbury Reservoir.” The name change happened sometime between 1893 (when the name on official maps was still Waterbury Reservoir) and 1946 (when the USGS map had it named as Hitchcock Lake). The change probably was due to the fact that when the “Green Line” trolley began services to this area in 1913, the stop in the southern end of Wolcott was in an area known as Shelt’s because that was where Shelton had his home. (As an aside, Shelton Ave. also received its name from this same individual.) Shelton’s great*4-grandfather was the same Matthias Hitchcock who is referenced above – making him my wife’s 5th cousin (5 times removed).

My connection to Shelton is much closer than my wife’s. Shelton’s mother was Julia Frisbie (gee, where have we seen that name before in Wolcott history?), and his grandfather was Daniel Frisbie who is my great*4 grandfather. That makes Shelton my first cousin (4 times removed).

Thus, that means that my wife and I have yet another connection between our families and that that connection was established in Wolcott when her distant Hitchcock relative married my not-so-distant Frisbie relative. And we can both claim a relationship to a significant Wolcott resident whose name continues on through the name of one of the largest bodies of water in town (Cedar Lake is 150 acres, Scovill Reservoir is 121 acres, Hitchcock Lake is 110 acres).

Oh, the tangled web we weave!

Monday, April 25, 2016

Day 30 – One thing you’re excited for

Day 30 – One thing you’re excited for

As I get older and even more cognizant that there are a lot fewer years ahead of me on this earth than there are behind me, I get excited about the life that lies ahead – when I can shed this earthly body and all its limitations and spend my days with Jesus Christ.

I have accepted Him into my life unconditionally and have full assurance that I will spend eternity with Him. I have not earned this by what I’ve done for Him – certainly I am far from perfect – rather it is something that He has done for me!

And this seems like such a fitting topic to end this 30-day writing challenge – an opportunity for me to share my faith and write about what is the most important thing to me. I don’t do it enough and tend to let my actions speak instead. I hope that most people are quite aware that I am a Christian because of the things I do (or don’t do). But I don’t want to be someone who is annoying because they are so interested in presenting Christ that they forget to listen to the other person or to be aware of the body language of the people around them. But in trying to avoid this type of situation, I probably go too far the other way and forget that people need to hear the message of hope. I’ll shout it here so there is no doubt …


I’m not going to preach a sermon in this blog entry, but I’d like everyone to know that this life here on earth is not everything. There is an eternity beyond this and you have a choice about where you’ll get to spend it. Choose Christ – you’ll be glad you did.

And I’ll finish with this thought for those of you who may be doubters and who believe that once you die it’s all over and there is nothing more.

If you are right and I’m wrong – then I have lost nothing. In fact, I’ve still gained because I can face each day with a positive attitude.

But if I’m right and you’re wrong – then you have lost everything! Don’t make that mistake! Accept Him into your life. You won’t regret it.

Day 29 – The night of your 21st birthday

Day 29 – The night of your 21st birthday (if not yet 21, the last birthday you had)

I turned 21 on August 15, 1969. I had finished my undergraduate education two months prior (in just 3 years) and was preparing to return to start on my first Master’s degree in September. That summer I worked for Uniroyal at their Eastern Management Information Center (EMIC) in Naugatuck on a corporate funding model. My birthday that year fell on a Friday, so I was at home after work.

I’ve never been a big celebrator so had nothing particular planned. But 21 is somewhat of a big deal, so my mom made me a cake for the occasion. In pictures that she took (and which I have a copy of), the cake was decorated with white icing with blue for the words “Happy Birthday” on it. The cake itself was probably chocolate, which has always been a favorite. Twenty-one candles would have been a bit extravagant, so there were just three candles – two longer ones in blue (representing two decades) and one shorter one in white.

With nothing else planned for that evening, or even that weekend, it would have just been a quiet evening at home with the rest of the family. But that’s what always made birthdays and other celebrations anyway – being with family.

Day 28 – The word/phrase you use constantly

Day 28 – The word/phrase you use constantly

I suppose that this question is aimed at those younger folks who punctuate everything with “like” or something similar. As an older individual who was brought up to speak grammatically correct, this is not something that I, or anyone of my generation, is afflicted with.

However, like many people, I am afflicted with the me/myself/I syndrome, i.e. I often unintentionally speak about things from a personal perspective. While this is something that I try to avoid, it’s a habit that is difficult to break.

As an example, earlier this week I was speaking to someone who had recently taken a trip and had posted pictures of that trip on Facebook. I asked him about it and he shared many of the details of what he had seen. I had been in those places myself many years ago and could have easily began interjecting comments about my own experiences. But I specifically avoided doing so and as a result he continued to share and be quite excited about his experience. Thus, not only did he enjoy the conversation and react favorably to my interest in his experience, but I was able to learn some things about him that I might not have if I had started talking about my own experience visiting those same locations.

But even though I can point to situations like the above and realize the importance of focusing on the other individual instead of myself, it still requires a conscious effort to do so. I’m trying to get better and to do it more automatically, but it’s not easy.

Day 27 – What you wore today

Day 27 – What you wore today

Since the bulk of my days are spent taking care of some of our grandsons and they live in the same house as we do, I don’t have to spend much time worrying about what I wear. It needs to be comfortable, able to take the abuse that happens when young boys like to crawl on you, but also able to be worn when I do our carpool run in the afternoons.

Thus, my attire for Monday through Saturday is the same – jeans, a t-shirt, and the same pair of shoes every day. Instead of rotating, I usually wear the same pair of jeans until they are worn out (except for periodic washing of course). I have a large stock of t-shirts, many of which my wife got at Goodwill for $.50 each. And since I have problems with my right foot and have some specially made shoes to prevent future problems, I don’t change my shoes either.

Yes, I know, pretty boring. But it means that I can get dressed pretty quickly in the morning!

Day 26 – Things you’d say to an ex

Day 26 – Things you’d say to an ex

This is another one of those topics that I will have to take a pass on. I am married to my first love, to my only wife, and am committed to stay with her as my vows said, “until death do us part”. So I will never have an ex and won’t even spend the time thinking of what I’d say since the situation will never arise.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Day 25 – Four weird traits you have

Day 25 – Four weird traits you have

1 – I like to eat my M&M’s scientifically by color. I have a formula for deciding which one to eat next that is a product of how many of that color I had originally and how many I had left. The formula is L*L/O, i.e. the number left squared divided by the number I had originally. Let me illustrate. Assume I started with 3 red, 4 green, and 5 yellow (I’ll limit this example to just 3 colors but it expands to any numbers). Then at each stage I decide as follows:

RRR=3*3/3=3, GGGG=4*4/4=4, YYYYY=5*5/5=5, so I eat a yellow first
RRR=3*3/3=3, GGGG=4*4/4=4, YYYY=4*4/5=3.2, so I eat a green next
RRR=3*3/3=3, GGG=3*3/4=2.25, YYYY=4*4/5=3.2, so I eat a yellow
RRR=3*3/3=3, GGG=3*3/4=2.25, YYY=3*3/5=1.8, so I eat a red
RR=2*2/3=1.33, GGG=3*3/4=2.25, YYY=3*3/5=1.8, so I eat a green
RR=2*2/3=1.33, GG=2*2/4=1, YYY=3*3/5=1.8, so I eat a yellow
RR=2*2/3=1.33, GG=2*2/4=1, YY=2*2/5=.8, so I eat a red
R=1*1/3=.33, GG=2*2/4=1, YY=2*2/5=.8, so I eat a green
R=1*1/3=.33, G=1*1/4=.25, YY=2*2/5=.8, so I eat a yellow
R=1*1/3=.33, G=1*1/4=.25, Y=1*1/5=.2, so I eat my last red
G=1*1/4=.25, Y=1*1/5=.2, so I eat my last green
Y=1*1/5=.2, so I eat my last yellow

Total sequence = Y G Y R G Y R G Y R G Y

The end result is that I eat the ones I have the most of earlier but at the end you have the one you had the most of left so you eat that last as well. You also tend to have one of each left at the end unless the original counts are quite skewed. Yes, it sounds complicated, but it’s a way to keep my mind occupied and make the M&Ms last longer as well as it prevents Alzheimer’s from occurring.

2 – I have a geographic mind and tend to memorize places by a mental map. I have stated on many occasions that if you can take me some place for the first time, then I can take you there the next time by an entirely different route.

3 – I like to factor numbers. If I see an interesting number on a license plate or some other similar item, then I try to mentally break the number down into its factors. This is sometimes quite challenging to do, especially without being able to write anything down and while still paying attention to my driving.

4 – Did you know that the “random” lucky numbers on the little slip inside your “Chinese” fortune cookie are not really random? They are chosen so that you can perform mathematical operations on them (using each number no more than once) and come up with any number between 1 and 100? I’m 67, so if two of the numbers were 56 and 11, that’s pretty obvious. But what if four of the numbers were 45, 26, 24, and 11. Then you could construct a formula of 45+(11*(26-24)) = 45+(11*2) = 45+22 = 67. Sometimes you may actually need all six of the numbers given, but rest assured, your age can be found. Whenever my wife and I go to a Chinese restaurant and are given a fortune cookie, then I won’t discard the little slips of paper until I have constructed the formula for both my and her ages.

Day 24 – Something you miss

Day 24 – Something you miss

I miss having my parents around. For the past several years I have done a lot of research into my genealogy. Although my mother’s family has been well known and traced back to the origin of the family name 10 centuries ago, my father’s family tree has been relatively unknown. But I’ve now traced it back not only to as long ago as my mother’s family line, but for another eight hundred years before that. I’ve also done a lot of building out a descendant tree from my great-great-great-grandfather and have discovered and connected with many of my Russell relatives.

I think that all of that would be of great interest to my parents. But it’s all taken place since they passed away and I can no longer share it with them. I also would have loved to talk to them more about their experiences growing up. While I know the basics, there is also much that I don’t know. This is the reason why I decided to write my own autobiography – so my children and grandchildren know all the stories about myself in the level of detail that I wish I knew about my own ancestors.

But alas, now I am the “old man” in the family and those opportunities are no longer available to me. But I can at least do my part to pass what I do know so it is not lost in the future.

Day 23 – A family member you dislike

Day 23 – A family member you dislike

This is another one of those non-starter questions. Family is very important to me, so there are none who fall into this category. While there are some that I am closer to than others (primarily based on how much interaction I had with them growing up – which was based on geography), I can honestly say that the word “dislike” is not something that I would use about any of my relatives.

Day 22 – Your morning routine

Day 22 – Your morning routine

I’m a very planned and organized person. And since my major investment of time these days is helping take care of the grandsons who live with us, my morning routine is pretty much the same Monday through Friday.

Many of the things that some people do in the morning I choose to do the night before. Shower, shaving, changing my underwear are all evening activities. That means that since I nearly always am dressing in t-shirt and jeans, I’m already mostly dressed when I wake up.

I have an alarm on my phone set for 7:00am. It has a nice pleasant ring that wakes both my wife and I. I spend a few minutes talking to my wife, telling her I love her, giving a quick kiss or a snuggle before getting out of bed. Because of my preparations the night before, I just have to pull on my jeans and my shoes to be dressed (because of the foot problems I have been having I wear the same pair of customized shoes every day). Then it’s a quick stop in the bathroom which includes brushing my hair and I’m ready to greet the world.

I have a light breakfast of either toast or perhaps a donut, check my email and have a quick look at the news. Then I can be out the front door and up the stairs at the back of the garage to our daughter and son-in-law’s apartment at 7:30. They have both left for work by this time. So our further routine is to ensure that the oldest (who is in kindergarten) is up, dressed (his mom lays out his clothes the night before), my wife prepares his breakfast while I pack his lunch box and clean up the living room/play room of any toys that didn’t get put away from their playing the previous night. I then take him to his car pool at 8:00 and when I get back I’m ready for “work”, i.e. overseeing the other three grandboys for the day.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Day 21 – Your zodiac/horoscope and whether you think it fits you

Day 21 – Your zodiac/horoscope and whether you think it fits you

While I do know that I am technically a Leo because of my birthdate, I don’t think I’ve actually read a horoscope or any other such thing since I was in high school. As I can’t think of a good replacement topic in this line, I’m going to pass on this one.

Day 20 – Put your music player on shuffle and write the first 3 songs that play and what your initial thought is

Day 20 – Put your music player on shuffle and write the first 3 songs that play and what your initial thought is

I don’t have an iPod or any other such device, so cannot answer this directly, so let me write about something similar.

My favorite type of music is classical, with my other choices being jazz and religious. I used to have the first three buttons of the radio in my car set to different variations of WRTI (Philadelphia main transmitter, Mt. Pocono repeater, and Allentown repeater). Because of the topography that I mainly drove, I would need each at different locations – leaving my house and driving to Emmaus, I would start with button 1, switch to button 2 at Shimerville where the main transmitter started fading and using it all the way down the north face of South Mountain, then switching to button 3 once I reached Emmaus and could pick up the short range repeater in Allentown).

When I purchased my Subaru in January 2014, I started using satellite radio, specifically the classical music channel. That’s the only music I regularly listen to. My wife listens to Christian radio during the day, but she uses a portable headset so she can move around.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Day 19 – Five fears you have

Day 19 – Five fears you have

Vertigo – While I don’t have acrophobia, i.e. I am not afraid of heights, I do have a type of vertigo. If I am on a bridge or balcony and have something to hold on to I can easily manage and enjoy the view. But if there is no railing, or the railing is lower than my waist, then I get dizzy and have to step back away from the edge or even sit down so that I can get it back under control.

Disability – I have always been quite healthy and mobile, so I am not so much afraid of becoming disabled as unsure of how I would be able to handle it. I suppose I should take heart in the way I handled things when I had my heart attack and there was a high risk that I would not survive it. In that case I was actually quite calm. But the prospect of becoming disabled or dependent on others as I age is not something that I am looking forward to.

Failure of our children’s marriage and impact on our grandchildren – For the past several years my wife and I have been providing daily childcare for four of our grandchildren. There are a lot of potential unstable factors in our daughter’s marriage including medical issues and of course there are always uncertainties in life. If something were to happen to either of them, then my wife and I would have to be involved in caring for our grandsons even more than we are now. But we are not getting any younger, so I have concerns about how we would be able to deal with it.

Collapse of world order – The world is getting more and more unstable. Bombing events are no longer limited to the places involved in these conflicts, but there are rogue agents even among us and there is a lot of potential for events that could affect us directly. Plus there are now rogue states such as North Korea who seem intent on developing missile and nuclear technology that could upset things even more than individual agents. In this period of uncertainty, I fear for how we (and those around us) would react and manage their lives.

That’s only four of the requested five fears, but this has been negative enough that I’ll stop here.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Day 18 – Your favorite color and why

Day 18 – Your favorite color and why

Blue – I’m partial to the colors that look good on me. This does NOT include colors like Red, Pink, Black, etc. The palette that works best are the blues, greens, and browns. Of these three, I like blue the best. While most days you will find me in jeans and a t-shirt, if you look at the more dressy clothes in my closet, my two favorite slacks are green and brown and my two favorite dress shirts are both blue.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Day 17 – A quote you try to live by

Day 17 – A quote you try to live by

Matthew 19:26 – Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

This is the verse that finally broke through my sense of self-sufficiency and made me realize that I needed to turn my life over to God and depend on Him. As I stated in my autobiography, “Being a Christian … has shaped my life in ways too numerous to mention.” Since I have written much about this not only in my autobiography, but in many other blog entries, I just keep it short and sweet here.

Day 16 – Bullet your entire day

Day 16 – Bullet your entire day

I was at the NVA in Kansas City and a full day of various sessions

6:00 – Wake, dress
6:15 – sign on to wifi, update phone apps
6:30 – shave, etc
7:00 – breakfast
8:00-12:10 – NVA sessions
12:20 – lunch at Chinese takeout
1:45 – back to ballroom, more NVA sessions
6:30 – walk to Union station to see Pierpont restaurant, go out on freight yard bridge to watch trains
7:30 – supper with Jack and Jose’

10:20 – bed

Day 15 – Three pet peeves

Day 15 – Three pet peeves

Grammar – I grew up at a time when use of proper grammar was equated with being civilized and educated. But these days I continue to be appalled at the way that bad grammar (and spelling) is accepted. The “rules” that I learned are constantly being broken. One that particularly bothers me in the last several years is the verb “graduate”. This verb did not take an object. So, the form that I was taught was “I graduated”. And if you wanted to get more specific, then you could say, “I graduated from college,” again with no object but a prepositional phrase to make it more specific. And although this is still the proper form of that verb in every other English-speaking country, in the US the verb is now allowed to have an object, i.e. “I graduated college.” The Oxford English Dictionary labels this as “US informal,” but as a grammarian, I cringe whenever I hear it. This is but one example of the butchering of the language that peeves me

Distracted drivers – Although I own a phone that supports text messaging, I use it sparingly, and never while driving. But the number of drivers that I see using their phones while driving is upsetting. The percentage of accidents attributable to distracted driving continues to rise, but people continue to do it. And it’s not just texting. I have seen drivers putting on makeup (with the mirror blocking their view of the vehicle in front of them), reading a newspaper or book, painting their toenails(!), etc. Are people’s lives so busy that they need to constantly multitask and put the lives of themselves and others at risk?

Entitlements – I won’t go into a lot of detail here as much is written by others about the sense of entitlement that people have, especially in the US. From unemployment benefits to disability benefits to $15/hour wages – so many people have the expectation that the world owes them all the benefits that the rest of us have to work for. It seems that the major function of the government these days is to take money from anyone who has earned it, extract a fee for administering the program, and then giving these funds to those who haven’t earned it. I could go on and on with examples, but that would not serve any benefit, so I’ll just stop here.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Day 14 – Your life in 7 years

Day 14 – Your life in 7 years

This topic would have been a bit harder to write about as recently as 10 years ago. But with a combination of retirement and taking on the role of childcare provider for four grandchildren, there is quite a bit of stability for the next several years. Thus it’s easy to see myself doing exactly the same thing 7 years from now.

There are however a few caveats in that projection, some of them quite personal and others of broader impact. The most obvious personal one is any potential health problems – either my own or others in the family like my wife, my daughter and her family, etc. For example, if I had a major medical incident and were disabled and unable to help care for our grandchildren, my wife would have to concentrate on care for me and we would have to make other arrangements for care of the grandchildren. The same would be true if she had a major health problem. None of those are things that we expect – we try to eat healthy and stay physically in shape – but we are not in total control of our lives, so anything is possible.

There are other things outside of the immediate family that could impact us as well. The changing political climate and people apparently willing to protest violently when they are dissatisfied is troubling. And the international political situation always has a possibility of some “rouge” player causing an upheaval which could impact the economy of the US and other countries or even change the way that we may have to live. Possibilities are endless and the historical miniscule probability seems to be growing larger with each passing year.

But whatever the future holds, one thing is certain – that God is in ultimate control, not only my own life, but of the events of the world. And so I will continue to rely on Him each and every day.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Day 13 – Your commute to and from work/school/etc.

Day 13 – Your commute to and from work/school/etc.

Well, it’s been 45 years since I graduated from college and 9 years since I stopped working (at least at something that paid me, one never actually stops working). So I’ll instead comment on the changes in my commute over the 30+ years that I worked at Air Products.

We moved to PA in 1975, bought a piece of property in 1976, and moved into our current house in Zionsville in August of 1977. So from then until I retired in April of 2007 (nearly 30 years, this was the starting point of my commute. At Air Products, I worked for the first year or so in Emmaus, then a brief period in Trexlertown, then in Wescosville for a couple of years, then back in Trexlertown until my retirement. Since much of the route to Wescosville is the same as to Trexlertown, these comments about my commute cover that entire nearly 30 year period.

When we first moved to Zionsville, people would comment to us, “Why did you move way out there, people will never come see you.” But we were merely ahead of our time. My commute was out to Route 100/29, then down the hill on Route 100, bearing right on East Macungie Rd, and continuing on Brookside Rd. Then it was left on Lower Macungie Rd which ended right across the street from one of the gates into the Air Products complex. It was about 10 miles.

In the beginning there were almost no traffic lights. But as this end of the Lehigh Valley got more and more populated, they kept adding them. It’s hard to believe now, but even very busy intersections like Brookside Rd and Lower Macungie Rd used to be just stop signs on Lower Macungie Rd. The lights that were added over the years included those on Brookside at Buckeye Rd, at Sauerkraut Ln, and at Lower Macungie Rd, and those on Lower Macungie Rd at Dorney Printing, at East Texas Rd, at Krocks Rd, at LMMS, at Mill Rd, and at Church Ln. So even with the improvements in road surfaces and added lanes, the time for the commute continued to increase over the years with all the lights and all the added traffic.

Even so, the way I traveled was still considered a “back way” and had less traffic than for those commuting from Allentown along Hamilton Blvd. And toward the end it was still only a 15-20 minute drive. But in the years since I retired it has gotten worse. The wait during “rush hour” at the light in Shimerville has gotten longer and longer as has the amount of traffic on Lower Macungie Rd. I’m happy to be spending that time at home instead of in a car waiting at a light in the morning!

Monday, April 11, 2016

Day 12 – Two words/phrases that make you laugh

Day 12 – Two words/phrases that make you laugh

The first word that comes to mind is supercilious: only because it’s pronounced like “super silly-ous.” Not a word that shows up much in conversation or in writing any more. But it’s one that I always got a kick out of when I was a kid. It’s probably been several decades since I’ve heard anyone use it.

The other that amuses me, but for a totally different reason, is when I’m listening to someone who has just come back from another country and they make the statement that “under the surface, they’re just like us.” I don’t laugh out loud at this, but almost view it as a sad situation that the individual thinks that they have figured it all out when there is so much more to culture. Since I work with foreign exchange students and have visited a number of other countries, I am very much aware of all the things that are “under the surface” that help make up the culture that each of us has. Things like direct/indirect communication style, focus on past v. present v. future, attitudes toward ancestors, etc, etc. So I inwardly am laughing only because the person making that statement is so shallow in their analysis when there are things so much deeper that they haven’t taken into account – but they think they’ve got the whole thing figured out.

And one doesn’t have to go to another country to have this experience. I’m very conscious that there are so many aspects to culture in this country that I can’t appreciate – whether it’s the experience that a person with a different color skin has compared to me (see very current topics of what are being called “micro-aggressions”) or attitudes toward government or technology by those who are generationally different than I am. And even as aware of these aspects of culture as I am, I know there are lots of times that my perspective gets in my way of a better understanding of another’s position. So I need to laugh at myself from time to time as well as I make mistakes.

Day 11 – Your current relationship

Day 11 – Your current relationship; if single, discuss that too

I am married to my best friend and my first and only wife, Donna. In July we will be celebrating 45 years of marriage. Recently we have been talking about how it seems nearly impossible that we have been married that long. If just doesn’t seem possible that so many years have gone by and that now we are the “older folks” that we used to see around us.

Donna’s parents lived to celebrate their 60th anniversary and my father passed away just a few days before my parents would have celebrated their 60th. So we do have something to yet look forward to. But predicting how long we each will live is not something that is done lightly, so who knows how long we will live.

But back to the topic of my current relationship, I’m still very much in love with my wife and don’t see that our relationship is ever going to change. If I pass away first, then I will go to my grave still married to my wife. And if she passes away before I do, then I would not consider anyone else. She will always be my “first and only”.

I know that in these days of throw-away relationships, affairs, and multiple, consecutive partners, being married to the same person for so long is almost an anathema. But I’m pleased to say that a life-long commitment is very much possible. And much of the credit for it does not go to us, rather it’s that our primary relationship is first to God before it is to each other. We certainly have had our ups and downs, but by looking first to Him, that puts all else into perspective and He helps draw us back together whenever we have our differences.

So, in looking back to the original question, perhaps it is better answered that my current relationship is that I love God first. And with His guidance, I am then linked to my wife second. And that’s the true winning relationship!

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Day 10 – A fruit you dislike and why

Day 10 – A fruit you dislike and why

I’m not a real fan of grapefruit. Even though my father would have it in the morning sometimes when I was growing up, I just couldn’t eat it myself. Although I am not terribly fond of citrus fruits in general, I will have them, or at least their juice, from time to time. Orange juice is ok, lemon is fine for things like lemon cake, but there is no redeeming value to grapefruit. It’s too acidic for me, too sour in taste, and it’s something that I will only tolerate if needed to be polite in certain circumstances.

Having done a fair amount of international travel, I’ve had the opportunity to try some truly strange fruits in other countries. And I suppose that some of them I only had because they were rather unique – “sour balls” in Venezuela comes to mind. But grapefruit remains on my avoidance list.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Day 9 – Your feelings on ageism

Day 9 – Your feelings on ageism

Although the term ageism is not used nearly as often as similar stereotyping forms of discrimination such as sexism or racism, that does not mean that it is any less prevalent. Rather, I believe that the lack of serious conversation about it is more an indicator of how prevalent it is. And although the term could technically be used to discuss stereotyping toward any age group, in practice it nearly always is used to refer to prejudice toward “older people”.

As an example, if you were to ask a question of a younger person, say about some aspect of US History, and they didn’t know the answer, then you would probably say the issue was with their lack of exposure to the subject and blame our education system rather than blame the individual. But if you were to ask the same question of an older person, then you would chalk it up to a “senior moment” (if you were being polite or perhaps you were an older person yourself), or to “early onset dementia” if you were less polite.

As one who has recently become a member of the “older generation” since I have now passed the typical retirement age, I have an increasingly smaller amount of hair and what I have is nearly all white, I have also become increasingly aware of ageism. It doesn’t matter that I can still run circles around most people mentally (a trait that I have been blessed with), and that I am very widely read, I sense that those in the younger generation just classify me as one of those “older people” and they no longer look to me for advice as I’m presumed to either not have a knowledge of current issues.

Unfortunately, as long as we don’t talk about it in the same way that we do about racism, we just promote ageism because we are presuming that it’s true and we’ll never have any good solutions to it.

As one who deals quite frequently with various cultural stereotypes and generalizations in my work with exchange students, this is just another of the stereotypes that we should include in discussions of cultural issues. But it’s one that flies under the radar most of the time.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Day 8 – A book you love and one you didn’t

Day 8 – A book you love and one you didn’t

The first part of this question is easy – the book I love the most is the Bible. It’s one that I can read many times and keep coming back to as I learn more every time I read it. This year I’m reading it from cover-to-cover, something that I have done several times in the past. But rather than doing daily reading, or following some reading plan (as many in our church are doing this year), I’m reading in large blocks of time once a week or so. I only read when I have enough time to do either an entire book (or a large section of one for things like the Psalms). One of the things that I noted recently when reading in the Kings was a statement about a particular king, when it said of him that he died “to no one’s regret.” I thought, what a statement about someone’s life that he died in such a fashion. And thus what a challenge to me to make sure that is not something that anyone would say about me at the end of my life.

But about a book I didn’t love – I have to go back to my senior year of high school (1965-66). I was in the college prep group and was taking world literature. Our challenge for the year was to read as many books from a list that we were given as we could. Being the overachiever that I was, I read every one of the books (there were about 50 of them). They were of several genre, by authors from many countries, and include both short and long, plays and novels, older writings and fairly new ones. The one of the list that was absolutely the most boring book I have ever read was a biography of Queen Victoria. It was (appropriately) a black book of several hundred pages and covered the minutia of her long life. As instructed, I did read the entire thing, but it claimed a place in my memory of one that I would never read except under those circumstances for a class and certainly one that I did not love.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Day 7 – What tattoos you have and if they have meaning

Day 7 – What tattoos you have and if they have meaning

Well, this one is easy – I have no tattoos, and thus they have no meaning. But since this is a writing challenge, let me discourse on the subject of tattoos.

It’s not exactly a secret that I’m pretty conservative – as are many people of my generation. So my views on tattoos are also pretty conservative. I have no particular problem with the “discrete” use of tattoos for those who want to endure the pain of getting them. This would include ones such as ladies with an “ankle chain” or a small butterfly on the back of the shoulder or the small of the back, or for men the name of their wife or something else significant such as their military service on the upper arm. Most of these are not visible when the person is wearing clothing, except for beachwear or things like “muscle shirts”. It’s not for me, but I’m ok with others doing so.

But it’s the more recent trends of the large, highly visible, tattoos that I think are inappropriate. These include such ones as the “sleeve” which covers the entire arm from shoulder to wrist, or other large ones which cover portions of the body such as the upper torso and neck. There are also ones which are used to identify members of a gang, and highly colored ones which are meant for display. Also tattoos are now being placed on different parts of the body such as the face, ears, fingers and hands, etc. To my way of thinking, if one is dressed for work – whether formal or “business casual” – and the tattoo is showing, then it’s not appropriate.

This new tattoo trend is something that has only happened in the last 40 or so years and while it seems to be an acceptable form of “art” to the younger generations, I still say that “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” and these new forms, while they may be highly elaborate and “artistic” are not beautiful to me.

Day 6 – Someone who fascinates you and why

Day 6 – Someone who fascinates you and why

I have what I think is a rather unique answer to this question. Instead of a popular individual (e.g. a Hollywood celebrity), or a religions figure (e.g. the Dali Lama), if I had a chance to sit and talk with someone, I would choose King Bhumibol, the current king of Thailand.

King Bhumibol has been the head of Thailand since 1946, i.e. since before I was born, and at the advanced age of 88 is still the revered leader of Thailand. Pictures of him dominate most of the major intersections in central Thailand and it is a crime to speak unkindly about him.

If I had an opportunity to just sit down and talk with him for an extended period, I would want to know how he has continued to maintain his composure for so long. He is not a political figure in that he does not “rule” over his people, he does not make laws, etc. Even throughout all the recent turmoil in the country and the ousting of several individuals, he stays above the fray.

When he appears in public, he is always very neatly, but elaborately, dressed in white and gold (the color of his birth month is yellow, the reason for that being the dominant color in Thailand). He is very much loved by everyone. For several years now he has been in very poor health. And when he finally passes on, there will be a sense of great loss, especially as his son and heir (who is already in his early 60’s) is not viewed in the same way.

I think he would be a fascinating person to talk to – with his view of world history as a leader of a country for such a long period.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Day 5 – A place you would live, but have never visited

Day 5 – A place you would live, but have never visited

This is a tough question to answer, partly because I have had the opportunity to visit so many nice places during my life. But here are some of the criteria I would use.

First, I am not a fan of warmer climates – my theory is that you can always put more clothes on, but there is only so much you can take off. I dislike climates where you are always sweating, one of the reasons I have not considered moving to Florida upon retirement like so many do.

Second, while I had had some terrific times visiting countries where the standard of living is much less than the US, if I was going to live someplace I would like a standard of living that was at least somewhat reasonable, including access to some of the amenities that I have gotten used to.

Finally, I would want to live in a place where the people are fairly friendly and where I was not treated as a stranger during the time it took for me to adapt to the local customs (and the local language).

So, with those criteria in mind, I have a couple of places in mind that would suit me. But since the question is given as “place” in the singular, I am only allowed to choose one. Therefore, I think I will choose Switzerland.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Day 4 – Ten interesting facts about yourself

Day 4 – Ten interesting facts about yourself

1 – I could join Mensa if I wanted to. My SAT scores and IQ tests from high school qualify me, but I have no interest in joining.

2 – Although I still give my height at 6’2”, it’s now closer to 6’1”. My official height back many decades ago was 6’1-5/8”, which is rounded up to 6’2”. When I got an official check two years ago I was 6’1-1/4”. That’s actually pretty good as it means that I only lost 3/8” between the ages of 40 and 65 when the average is a full inch. But it does mean that I’m really not 6’2” any more. However, because I carry myself so well, 6’2” is a good measure to most people.

3 – For light reading, I usually read with my eyes travelling down the center of the page and taking in a whole line at a time. It only takes me two hours to read an average 200 page novel.

4 – One of my ancestors co-authored the Tyndale Bible in the 1500’s (when William Tyndale died he completed the translation). For this he was martyred.

5 – I paid for my college education by recapping truck tires for two summers.

6 – I have vertigo but not acrophobia. If there is a railing, I have no problem with being up high, but take away the railing and I’ll get dizzy and have to stay away from the edge.

7 – I developed my own spreadsheet to calculate my taxes about 20 years ago. I’m too cheap to buy TurboTax and my spreadsheet does all that I need anyway.

8 – I’m an Agatha Christie fan. I have a copy of every book that she’s written.

9 – I stopped watching network television (ABC/NBC/CBS) about 40 years ago – so long ago that I still don’t know “who shot J.R.” from the show Dallas. I have no regrets about this decision as there is so little of value on TV. I’ve also never watched the Oscars, the Emmys, CMT, or any of the other “star” award shows.

10 – I became a Christian in my late 20’s, and that is also a decision I’ve never regretted.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Day 3 - Your first love and first kiss

Day 3 - Your first love and first kiss; if separate, discuss both

I've already posted the story of my first kiss in another entry titled "Romance in the Air", so I'll just repeat that here as part of my answer.
In July of 1963 I would have been almost 15. There was a girl in the campground [where our family was staying in New Hampshire] around the same age and this was one of my first experiences with having romantic feelings toward a member of the opposite sex. I wasn’t much into girls otherwise. On the night of the 4th of July when we all went to the county fair to see the big bonfire, I asked my father for some money so I could spend the evening with this girl – her name was Marilyn (don’t ask me how such a detail came back to me last night, my mind stores the most amazing facts sometimes!) He gave me perhaps $5, enough for buying some fair food and trying a few of the arcades. In the dark later, sitting and watching the huge bonfire, it was also my first non-relative kiss! A memorable evening indeed. Unfortunately, she and her family left the campground the following day, but the memory stayed with me.

As far as my first love, I have to admit that my definition of "love" changed as I matured. In 2nd grade, I was "in love" with Annette Funicello of the Mouseketeers on TV and wrote my first poem about her. By the time I got to high school there were girls I was attracted to, but I didn't date anyone - even skipped my senior prom. In college I did date a few girls, but it was only dating and a little infatuation. But when I met the girl who became my wife, it was far deeper than any previous relationship. I began thinking about the person with whom I could see myself spending the rest of my life. There were only a few others who had even been considered in this light and they were mostly already matched with someone else, so were off limits, There was one other girl who I thought might be worthy of a life-long match, but I never even got around to dating her before I met Donna. 

So, in light of what I then classified as "love", I have only had one and here we are 46 years after first meeting and approaching 45 years of marriage together. Our love has only grown stronger over those years and I cannot envision myself ever married to anyone else. She is my one and only!

Friday, April 1, 2016

Day 2 - Your earliest memory

Day 2 - Your earliest memory

My mother was always amazed at the things that I remembered. I would bring things up in conversation that she had forgotten but that she could then confirm. I'm not sure of the exact age of my earliest memories, but as I was still in the wooden playpen that we had and my sister was still in the bouncy chair (metal frame, cloth seat) as she couldn't sit up by herself yet. That means that I was probably a little less than two years old. I have a number of related memories from this time frame and I'm not sure which is the earliest.

Our playpen was a heavy wooden one. It was painted (probably with lead-based paint!) a light blue-green color and folded up with a plywood base. I didn't have a lot of toys, but there were two that were favorites. One was my stuffed giraffe. Most kids had teddy bears, but I had a giraffe. He was probably 15-16" in height. The second was my "bus book". I was a very early reader and the bus book was cut in the shape of a bus with wheels fastened to the front cover so you could roll it along - making it both a book and a toy.

Speaking of books, my mother often related the story of how people would come over and I would be sitting in the corner with a book - not the little kids books, but something like one of the childcraft series that had been given to us when I was born. I was sitting very quietly and they would comment on how nicely I was playing with the book. My mother would respond, "Oh, he's  not playing with the book, he's reading it!" and the people would be astounded that I was actually reading at such a young age.

30-Day Writing Challenge - Day 1 - Five problems with social media


A friend of mine recently posted on Facebook a 30-Day Writing Challenge. I thought it would be interesting to participate in this and post something to my blog each day in the month of April. Each day will have a new topic.

Day 1 - Five problems with social media

1 - It lasts forever. While those who have lots of "friends" see things fly by and so the impact of what you write can be pretty fleeting, it does remain there essentially forever and cannot be recalled.

2 - You can't recall it once it's been released. Even those forms of social media which have been designed to disappear shortly after being viewed have been shown to be able to be compromised by taking screen shots, etc. If you change your mind later, it's already too late.

3 - It falsely puts all relationships at the same level. Research has shown that the number of "close" friends we have is not very large. But when I see people in Facebook who have hundreds, or even thousands, of "friends" it diminishes the value of the real friends that one has. I try to keep my friend list relatively short and to ignore all the suggestions of "friends of friends" that are recommended to me. I want to have a connection outside of Facebook that my friend list is a mirror of. I would like my friends to know that they are really valued, not that they are just one of a long list.

4 - It tempts you to share things that you would not typically share otherwise. I am very sparse when it comes to sharing pictures, but I see other individuals who share multiple pictures every day with all the myriads of people on their friend list. If these were actual photographs are they ones that you would carry around with you and share with practically everyone you meet?

5 - It often inappropriately elevates the importance of what you are sharing. I know that the great dinner you had was appealing, but I really don't care about the pictures you took of it. And I know that your kids are cute, but seeing what they look like at every week of their development gets a little old after a while.  How am I supposed to know what is really important to you amid all the other daily trivia that you are posting?