In My Day


Eleanor Roosevelt wrote a popular newspaper column for years entitled My Day.  My starchly conservative grandmother, Evelyn Hicks Boehner, would work in her kitchen and mutter “My Day.  MY day.  Who cares about her day?” 

I didn’t get it then, but I get it now. My grandmother’s day was every bit as important as Eleanor’s. I think of those things and how my own day has changed so dramatically over the past few decades.  I’m really not a “back in my day” sort of person.  I don’t want this collection of essays to become some maudlin  Forever Young  tear-jerker.  But maybe there is a time and place for comparing “in my day” to the current world.

I like some new things, you know.

It may surprise my close friends, but I enjoy young people with their unspoiled exuberance and energy.  I am secretly hopeful of their spirit, because they want to change the world and I remember when I wanted to do that.  I disguise my faith in them with the rough exterior of a curmudgeon.  It works well for me, keeping them at arm’s length so I can concentrate on saving the world.

There are plenty of new things I like.  Cell phones, for example, though I worry about people who seem to be addicted to them. A phone/calendar/reminder list/newspaper in my pocket is a convenience I enjoy, yet I often put mine down and walk away from it.  There is a part of me who misses the days when there was only one phone in the house and we didn’t answer it during suppertime.

I miss the news on television.  Every network promises us news and every day—all day—there are men and women on there telling us things, but this is not news.  Depending on the network, it’s a version of the truth, slanted to reflect a particular idiology.  Television journalism, in its infancy, was basically radio that you could watch.  It began as a fifteen minute public service with not-so-attractive guys reading real, hard news and trying to be un-biased.  Yes, they had one or two commercials, but it was a basic premise that if CBS lost the Colgate account, there would still be a news program the next day, and it wouldn’t prefer one toothpaste over another. That’s why we called it a public service.

Thinking that you’re getting unadulterated, un-manipulated information from today’s 24-hour news cycle is like walking into a Las Vegas casino assuming the odds are in your favor.  The only way to survive is with your eyes wide open and your hand on your wallet.  Today’s television news is not about truth.  It’s about pushing an agenda while making advertising money at the cost of our own unguarded innocence. We would do well to remember Benjamin Franklin’s admonition: “Believe none of what you hear and half of what you see.”  Today, in reality, one must decide which side of an argument he or she wants to hear, and then select the appropriate network.

Unbiased reporting is dead.  It died of a lingering sickness. The last time we saw real unbiased reporting was on November 22, 1963, and it lasted three days.  There wasn’t time to slant it; there was time only to tell what was happening.

I’m stepping off the “news soapbox” now, but think about this: of all the ndbsig2ews you learned yesterday, couldn’t you have learned it in thirty minutes from Walter Cronkite and then gone on to spend your time doing something pleasant?

This Coronavirus Thing


I haven’t written lately.  I don’t know if that begs an apology from me or if it was a relief to you.  I’ve been busy in my workshop for months, building all sorts of things and trying to perfect my Native American beadwork.  Each of them teaches me patience, but I’m a poor student.  I want to develop patience now.  That explains a lot, if you think about it.

I have tried not to sound off on things political.  It occurs to me that having a political opinion on social media changes no minds on the other side of the argument. Not one, not any time, not ever.  Seems like people change their minds when they’re of a mind to change and not one minute earlier.  And that makes my impatience flare up again.

But, politics aside, can we change a few things about how we think about this coronavirus?

I can’t watch the news without fifteen coronavirus stories clogging up my politics.  Readers, are you feeling a disconnect between what the experts are saying and how the media is playing it?

I talked with an old friend of mine who happens to be a very good doctor.  He is very familiar with coronavirus and has several patients suffering with it right here in our community.  Before you scream and tear off to find masks and flamethrowers, these are not Covid-19, the virus in question.  They’re in the same family—like your second cousins twice removed.  Corona viruses have been around for a while.  Only the new one, apparently, is newsworthy.

He pointed out to me that the regular old garden variety flu is killing far more people than CV.  I thought that was worth thinking about.  Why aren’t we seeing frightened media pundits describing the spread of the flu this season—about how many are currently infected and how many are dying?  And showing us one of those maps of the world with different colors of encroaching terror? 

Last week, a doctor who is on the front lines of the CV outbreak spoke calmly and matter-of-factly about the situation.  He said he’s likely to be infected and we ALL are likely to catch it, eventually, in one form or another.  According to this doctor and the most knowledgeable people on earth, about 98 per cent of us will survive in splendid fashion. Some of us will think we’ve caught a cold and get over it.  Many of us won’t realize we’ve got it at all.  It’s a serious matter for older people who have existing medical issues such as respiratory issues, diabetes, heart issues.  I’m one of those people, and I’m as concerned about Covid-19 as I am about the flu. Both of them could send me to a doctor and land me in the hospital.  Both could kill me.  But of course, I could also die from crossing the street without looking both ways, or from apoplexy after watching these wacko nutflakes on TV.

What we’re reading and hearing from the pundits is political.  Politics seldom deals in facts. Listen and read carefully; what the talking heads are saying is one thing.  What the experts are saying is almost entirely different. I call that a disconnect.

How many of us follow the rules for flu season?  Wash your hands.  Don’t touch your face.  If you don’t feel well, stay home.  Avoid contained crowds where you’re all breathing the same air.  If somebody sneezes, hold your breath and walk away.  My wife, Saint Mary, follows all these rules.  I don’t, and I’ve done pretty well for several decades.

My conversation with the doctor ended like this:


Me:  “So, basically, wash my hands and run away from sneezers?”

Dr:  “Actually, Dick….that’s precisely correct.”

Everybody calm down.  Don’t worry, be happy.  All will be well.

NFL: You Can’t Have It Both Ways


As a dyed-in-the-wool Chiefs fan, I have a problem.

Last fall, the Chiefs released running back Kareem Hunt.  A video released by TMZ showed Hunt in an altercation with a woman in a hotel.  We probably all formed an opinion of Kareem Hunt at that point.  Mine was that if it was a one-time incident, he had acted in a stupid and unthinking manner.  If it was indicative of his character—if he has a tendency to drink too much and kick at women—he should not play for the NFL.  He is a tremendously talented football player, but I agreed with the Chiefs; you behave like that, you’re off the team and you can go sell used cars instead of playing professional football.  I hated to lose Kareem Hunt, but it felt like the painfully right thing to do.

Hunt had been placed on the NFL Commissioner’s Exempt list prior to his release, prohibiting him from practicing and playing with the team.  So, as a clearly uneducated fan, I assumed the NFL would agree with the Chiefs organization and that, sadly, Kareem Hunt would disappear from the NFL.

But in February of 2019, Hunt was signed by the Cleveland Browns!  Due to the pending investigation from the NFL into the domestic violence allegations against him, Hunt was placed on the Commissioner’s Exempt list after signing his Cleveland contract. On March 15, 2019, the NFL announced that Hunt had been suspended for the first eight games of the 2019 season for violating the league’s personal conduct policy. He will be able to participate in all off-season workouts and all preseason games.  Following the announcement, Hunt was added to the Browns’ active roster.

I am not a football expert. I am just a guy who loves to watch a player with Hunt’s talent.  I don’t understand all the rules. After Hunt’s release from the Chiefs, my thought was “What a waste of talent.  But yeah, you’ve gotta let him go.”  Yet now, within months, he’s playing for the Cleveland Browns after a slap on the wrist from the league.

Something isn’t right here.  Not only is he playing in the NFL, but he’s playing for an opponent and the NFL has apparently set the cost of unacceptable behavior at eight games.  So the Kansas City Chiefs are rewarded for doing the right thing by moving a talented player to an opposing team.  Again, I don’t know the rules, but I don’t think the Chiefs are in the business of trying to get rid of their talent.

My opinion of Kareem Hunt hasn’t changed.  He is an athlete of tremendous talent who does not or cannot recognize appropriate behavior.  Tragically, he also apparently  doesn’t see the connection between inappropriate behavior and his responsibility as a role model for young people.  So I was sadly OK with all this until another team picked him up.

Again, I don’t know all the rules, but I know what’s right.  All the teams in the NFL should play from the same page.  We should all say “Kareem, it’s time for yodbsig2u to find a new career.”  Or, if we play by the NFL’s judgement, Kansas City should be entitled to the right of first refusal.  We didn’t kick him off the team; he literally kicked himself off.  It’s on the video. But if the NFL is saying he should play, then he should be playing for us.

Long Live Strunk and White


If you don’t like writing or reading, there’s no reason for you to continue with me today.  But, of course, if you don’t love doing those things, it’s not likely you’re seeing this at all.

In my college days, I was introduced to The Elements Of Style, by William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White.  In the years that followed, I broke every rule of language ever devised.  In the beginning, I broke the rules because I wasn’t aware of the rules and was simply unleashed onto any readers I might have had.  I do feel sorry for them.  In later years, with the early help of Strunk and White, at least I’m usually aware that I’ve done it.

What follows are some of Strunk and White’s pearls of wisdom.  Many of you may be familiar with them.  To the rest of you who simply love to read or write, I hope you love them as much as I have.  I break them only when I think you need me to break them.

“Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts. This requires not that the writer make all sentences short or avoid all detail and treat subjects only in outline, but that every word tell.”

“If you use a colloquialism or a slang word or phrase, simply use it; do not draw attention to it by enclosing it in quotation marks. To do so is to put on airs, as though you were inviting the reader to join you in a select society of those who know better.”

“Nauseous. Nauseated. The first means “sickening to contemplate”; the second means “sick at the stomach.” Do not, therefore, say, “I feel nauseous,” unless you are sure you have that effect on others.”

“Young writers often suppose that style is a garnish for the meat of prose, a sauce by which a dull dish is made palatable. Style has no such separate entity; it is nondetachable, unfilterable. The beginner should approach style warily, realizing that it is an expression of self, and should turn resolutely away from all devices that are popularly believed to indicate style — all mannerisms, tricks, adornments. The approach to style is by way of plainness, simplicity, orderliness, sincerity.”

“Place yourself in the background. Write in a way that draws the reader’s attention to the sense and substance of the writing, rather than to the mood and temper of the author. If the writing is solid and good, the mood and temper of the writer will eventually be revealed and not at the expense of the work.”

“Write with nouns and verbs, not with adjectives and adverbs. The adjective hasn’t been built that can pull a weak or inaccurate noun out of a tight place.”

“Overly, over muchly, much thusly…Do not dress words up by adding -ly to them, as though putting a hat on a horse.”

“The question of ear is vital. Only the writer whose ear is reliable is in a position to use bad grammar deliberately…”

“Clarity is not the prize in writing, nor is it always the principal mark of a good style… clarity can only be a virtue…Even to a writer who is being intentionally obscure or wild of tongue we can say, “Be obscure clearly…Be elliptical in a straightforward fashion!” Clarity, clarity, clarity…When you say something, make sure you have said it. The chances of your having said it are only fair.”

“To air one’s views gratuitously…is to imply that the demand for them is brisk…”

“The simile is a common device and a useful one, but similes coming in rapid fire, one right on top of another, are more distracting than illuminating. Readers need time to catch their breath; they can’t be expected to compare everything with something else, and no relief in sight. When you use metaphor, do not mix it up. That is, don’t start by calling something a swordfish and end by calling it an hourglass.”

“The writer will occasionally find it convenient or necessary to borrow from other languages. Some writers, however, from sheer exuberance or a desire to show off, sprinkle their work liberally with foreign expressions, with no regard for the reader’s comfort. It is a bad habit. Write in English.”

“No one can write decently who is distrustful of the reader’s intelligence, or whose attitude is patronizing.”

This concludes our lesson today from The Elements Of Style.  It may have taught no one anything, but it has reminded me of why I do this.

My Morning Joe


There is a routine, a regularity, a simplicity in my retired life. In my former existence, I often felt I was running here and there, doing this and that, solving a multitude of problems for myself and, perhaps, the world.

Today, the world appears to turn without my intervention and my own world is far smaller. Joe the Dog loves this about me. I arise early, sometimes four or five in the morning. After I’ve dressed and open the bedroom door, he’s sitting there, waiting, tail wagging. He knows that I will take the same path to the kitchen, that I’ll get a cup from the cupboard, fill it with coffee and walk to the refrigerator to get the creamer. He knows the routine so well that he will jump backwards on either side of the path he knows I’ll take to the refrigerator. He delights in this knowledge.

I am so happy that I’ve taught him where the refrigerator is. It was easy. I just jump backward like this and he does it every time.

 I will usually sit at my desk for a while, scanning the news and answering e-mails and texts. Joe is very patient about all of this.

He needs rest. He’s crawled into his little nest. I’ll give him some time.

 I usually can hear the newspaper being tossed onto my driveway. So does Joe, and his head comes up, looking at me. I stare at him.

Look at that. I think he heard it, too.

“Joe, you want to go get the paper?”

Yes! He’s learning to do this! I’ll reward him.

 Joe jumps up and races to the front door ahead of me.

Quick. Got to do this the moment he’s thinking about it, while he’s not distracted! 

I open the door and say “Get the paper.”

Hurry hurry. Out the door, along the sidewalk. Sidewalk. Down the steps. Down the steps. Where’s paper? There it is. Pick up paper. Oh, wait. Prance around, show the neighbors what I’ve done. They need to see what I’ve taught him. Up the steps. Up the steps. Sidewalk. Sidewalk. In the door.

 “OK, drop it. Drop it. Good boy. Good dog.” I give him his treat.

Good boy. I give him his treat.

 Joe can be annoying. We have tried to teach him that the tennis balls are his, and things like socks and dish towels are not. I will often notice him sitting at my office door with my sock in his mouth, staring at me. I get up to chastise him, but he runs to the back door and drops the sock, looking at me. I’ll use a little distraction so he doesn’t think it’s a game. I open the door for him and he runs out.

Good grief, I’ve got to go. Does he not understand that a dog can’t cross his legs? Sometimes the only way to get his attention is to pick up the damn sock and stare at him oh good Lord that feels good.

 I open the door to let Joe back in and lecture him about picking up socks.

Listen to that. Isn’t that cute? He’s making that noise again. I’d swear he’s trying to bark.

All I know is what I read in the newspapers. The governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general of Virginia are in trouble and freshmen congressmen are calling for defunding Homeland Security, while their friend Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez thinks we should be relying on attorneys rather than lawyers! (Don’t ask me; I’m just repeating what she said.)


But it appears that the world is turning without my considerable knowledge and assistance, while my own world is smaller than it used to be. And infinitely more satisfying. Right, Joe?

 Simple is best.  Less is more.


Requiem For A Season


Most of the world doesn’t know what it’s like to be a Kansas City Chiefs fan.  I’m going to to try to enlighten them. 

Over thirty years ago, the Kansas City Chiefs had completed another of their disastrous seasons.  I took the front page of the sports section from our local newspaper and taped it to our bedroom door.  It was intended as one of those trendy motivators for the next season.  “Remember how this felt,” and that sort of thing.  I don’t actually play for the Chiefs.  I have zero effect on their win/loss column.  But I sometimes think I am on the team and I suppose I felt like I was doing something.

The next year was every bit as disastrous, and I added another headline to the door.  And another and another, as the years went by.  My son Beau, who was a small boy at the time, said “Dad, when are you going to take those down?”  “When they win it all, son.  When they win it all.”

Beau is now 35 years old.  My bedroom door is covered with losing headlines.  “Defensive Debacle,”Chiefs Last In, First Out Of Playoffs,” “Chiefs Playoffs Hopes Disappear,” “Home Field Disadvantage,” “Crash And Burn,” “I Tried My Hardest (All Chiefs fans remember Lin Elliot),” “Titanic Meltdown,” Steel Suffering”.  The list goes on and on.  There isn’t a square inch of wood showing on either side of that door.  And I’ve just added “Tom And The Heartbreakers” to it.  I’m now on a second layer, covering up old heartache with new agony.

It’s not just the papered-over door.  In 1964, my dad took my brother and me to old Municipal Stadium in Kansas City to watch our new professional football team.  H. Roe Bartle, the mayor who negotiated their arrival and who was known to all as “Chief,” was, no doubt, pleased that they had shed their old name as the Dallas Texans and become the Kansas City Chiefs.  (At one point, they were to be the Kansas City Texans, which would have made no sense at all and thank God for H. Roe Bartle.)

I’ve been with them, in spirit, since then.

So this is not for Chiefs fans, but for all the others in the world.  Imagine, if you will, something close to fifty years of waiting, of “maybe,” of “almost” and “nearly”.  Imagine a season in which we are finally for real.  It’s not just a lucky season.  We’re for real.  Imagine this game against the Patriots.  For the championship.  Imagine the final two minutes of regulation play and being ahead 28 to 24.  And imagine the Chiefs intercepting Tom Brady.  We have the ball.  All that’s required is to use up the clock.  We’ve just beaten Tom Brady and the Patriots.  And we are headed back to the Super Bowl.  But wait.  What?  We have a penalty.  We don’t have the ball.  Tom Brady and the Patriots are picking our defense apart and we can’t stop them.  They score, they win, we lose.  If you can understand that, you can understand us.

Within minutes, the recriminations begin.  We lost because of a coin flip.  We lost because a phenomenal and outstanding defensive player lined up over the line of scrimmage.  The roaring mob wants Defensive Coordinator Bob Sutton’s head.  (I may or may not have screamed that in my living room) Within two days, Sutton’s head has rolled.  Thinking the worst of it was over, I turned on the television this morning and found that someone in the stadium was training a laser on Tom Brady’s eyes during the game.  Seriously?  Really?  You’re a danger to yourself and others. Do you want to win with a laser or with a football team? You should be banned from all NFL games for life.  Lasers do not win championships.  Defense does.

This essay will be dated rather quickly, because August is still in the calendar for 2019.  We will start again.  There are silver linings; this was not simply a lucky season.  We are for real.  We can get better faster if we own up to a few things and dispense with the thousand and one ridiculous reasons we lost.  We lost because we ddbsig2id not win.

Somewhere in this kingdom, the sun is shining bright.  “Start Me Up” is playing while the laser boys take flight.  Foxboro fans are laughing and New England children shout, but there is no joy in Arrowhead.  KC has struck out.

My door is still plastered with losing headlines.  Obi-Wan-Mahomie, tear down these newspapers.

Dealing With My Demons


Respected Readers, it has been some time since I’ve written to you, at least in this place. Many of you have asked me why I haven’t written. Oh, believe me, I have thought about writing, even sat down and begun the process. Let me tell you why I have not.

In the late fall of 2018, I was trying to digest the significance of the Kavanaugh hearings—the “trial” of Judge Brett Kavanaugh by the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee. I thought the actions of our Senators during that mindless display would be something we should all think about.   I’ll tell you a little secret. When I believe we ought to be angry about something, I often use angry words. But I promise you, they are considered angry words. I don’t write, speak or do anything else well when I’m angry. I try to wait until I’m calm, and consider very carefully any angry words that are needed. Each of you who knows me well will now be smiling, because we both know I’m not always successful at this. But I try, I really do.

So the reason I didn’t write was because I was still angry. When I tried to tackle a different subject, perhaps something light and humorous, I would return time and time again to the outrageous conduct of the United States Senate. I wouldn’t let it go. Then, of course, I got angry all over again. This was no writer’s block. It was a vapor lock. I simply kept overheating.

If any of you have ever known a subject that angered you months or years after it happened, you’ll know what I mean. Something that causes you to be unable to speak without anger. Something that causes you to bite your tongue so the wrong words don’t fly out.

It’s been several months, and the witch hunt of Judge Kavanaugh has ended, at least for now. We could easily hide this dark thing that happened with plenty of newer headlines. But it’s still back there; it still happened. The black mark on all of us in the fading days of 2018, when a group of United States Senators chose to ignore the principle of “innocent until proven guilty” in order to feather their own political beds with a sickening lack of character and competence. Mind you, those are my calm angry words.


Just yesterday, I took issue with some fellow Kansas City Chiefs fans about how we should approach the loss of the AFC Championship game. We can make excuses, or we can look at ourselves with an unblinking eye. We have the opportunity to examine our flaws and correct them. It is within our power to do this.

Perhaps that is the way we should consider the Kavanaugh travesty. Maybe we need that unblinking eye to correct our flaws, or, at least, to make the effort.

No Problem?


I had the perfect subject for today, and when I began researching the issue, I found that Bill Flanagan of CBS News has already taken the words out of my mouth. Or pen. Or keyboard. But I was determined to write about it anyway.

When did people (mostly young people) start thinking that “No problem” is a good substitute for “you’re welcome”? As Flanagan wrote: “Who spread that virus? The Taliban?”

Please listen to me, young people–and older people who apparently don’t get it. If it really wasn’t a problem, don’t try to make it sound as though it might have been. It’s infuriating, particularly with a paying customer. Or maybe just the older ones.

If I walk into an auto parts store and ask for a hamburger, they’re liable to look at me like I have six heads. If someone actually hands me a hamburger in there, I’m liable to give them a sincere “Thank you.” And if they said “No problem,” I would think it appropriate. That’s because it surely was a problem. But if I pay for my food at a supermarket and say “Thank you,” and the cashier says “No problem,” I would wonder why he or she thinks it might have been a problem. It’s a food store, for heaven’s sake. It’s where they sell food. And I’m paying for that food. If I thought it might have been a problem for them to sell me the food, I’d find a different supermarket. And why am I the one saying “Thank you” anyway? I just gave them two hundred and fifty dollars.

The other day, I sat in my car at a drive-through burger joint. I was on my worldwide mission of trying to convince these businesses that “Have a nice day” is no substitute for “Thank you.” The young man at the window handed me back my credit card and as I was attempting to put it back in my wallet from a seated position, he immediately thrust the bag of food at me (another thing their training geniuses ought to think about). I took it and sat there, waiting for the rare and elusive “Thank you.” Didn’t happen. I looked at him and said “Thank you?” (And yes, I proposed it as a question.) He looked at me and mumbled “No problem.” That threw me completely off my stated mission.  I said nothing and drove away. My lovely bride, Saint Mary, has convinced me that if I actually make it a problem, they’ll spit in my food.

Flanagan said it best: “To all the young people of the world: If you want to get good tips or just generally not infuriate older people, PLEASE, only say “No problem” when there is a reasonable expectation that the task you are performing might be problematic.”

If you have taken the time to help a little old lady across the street in heavy traffic, and she says “Thank you,” a “No problem” is appropriate. Even better under those circumstances is “You’re very welcome, it’s no problem.” That’s probably asking too much.

But if you work in Pizza Hut and a customer thanks you for selling her a pizza don’t say, “No problem.” She’s paying for the pizza!

Just say, “You’re welcome.”

It’s every bit as efficient. “You’re welcome” takes no more of your time than “No problem.” Both answers have the same number of syllables and only one of them doesn’t irritate older people with Mad Cow disease, like me.

Why don’t corporations and other businesses understand this? My theory is that they do.dbsig2 My theory says their market research has convinced them that, as more old people die and more young people have driving licenses, fewer and fewer people recognize or care about good and appropriate service. Maybe they should consider thanking people for spending their money and saying things like “You’re welcome” for about twenty more years. After that, no problem.


Just For Mike


I saw my good friend Mike the other day. He asked why I hadn’t published a column recently. I published two columns back-to-back on July 30 and July 31, so Mike is either right or wrong, depending on your definition of the word recently. I suppose I publish when a subject refuses to be dismissed. When I can’t get it out of my head, I perform an exorcism by putting it to paper. Mike and I had a very short discussion about the bitterness and hostility of political discourse today and we both mourned the loss of civility in those debates. So you see how these columns happen? Mike brought up something that I couldn’t dismiss.

I would describe Mike as liberal. I’m pretty sure he would describe me as conservative. We’ve had political discussions since we’ve known each other and not once have we resorted to fisticuffs or ad hominem attacks. I disagree with a lot of his socio-political opinions, yet I admire and respect him as a human being. He is a very human being, and he makes my world a better place.

Occasionally, I have a “guest writer” in this space. So maybe it’s time for me to state my opinion on a subject, then let Mike have his say. I suspect he’ll find the subject interesting.

We all want to protect our children. We all want them to grow to happy, healthy adulthood. Yet the conservative and liberal approaches to this goal are quite different. Bullying is a good example. The liberal slant seems to be an attempt to eradicate the bullies. Don’t know about you, but my sense of things is that bullies were around long before I got here and will be here long after I’m gone. My parents taught me how to deal with bullies, and fifty years later, I’m still good with their approach.

In this day and age, our children grow up and attend colleges and universities. The Wizard of Oz claims they go there to become great thinkers. But today, in this society with First Amendment rights to free speech, our institutions of higher learning provide “safe spaces” where our children are protected against words and ideas that may be uncomfortable. That sort of thinking seems to fly in the face of the traditional liberal position.  That sounds like “free speech for me, but not thee.”  It must be difficult to stimulate great thinking in a “safe space” where one would never experience an opposing view. Seems to me there wouldn’t be much to think about in there.

So the larger issue is this: We all want our children to be safe and healthy, but what is the best method of doing that? We often vaccinate our children against diseases. The principle involved is pretty straightforward: We put a small, weakened version of the dreaded disease inside them, and their bodies develop antibodies to kill it. Those antibodies hang around in there, making them less vulnerable to the real thing.

So, if we admit there is evil in the world, shouldn’t we prepare our children for evil by making sure they know it’s out there? Is that not wiser than rolling them in bubble wrap and kicking them out into a world we’ve told them is all goodness and light?  Wouldn’t it be wise to innoculate them?

Mike, it’s your turn. I promise to publish it. How about my inoculation theory? Give it your best shot!

An Echo In An Alternate Universe


I am a gadget guy. I always love the latest invention and I’m driven to possess it. For example, my house is full of Amazon Echo devices. I think there’s one in every room. Yes, I know that all those devices are listening to us and Big Brother could hear it. Truth be told, we don’t say very much in this house that is anarchistic or even interesting. If necessary, we point at the devices and whisper.

As a result of this new technology, I have multiple lamps and other devices currently ruled by Alexa. I can walk into the room and say “Alexa, turn on the fireplace lamp,” or “Alexa, what’s the weather outside?” Magically, the lamp lights or I hear about the weather. However, we’ve discovered some inherent problems with allowing voice-based technology into our home. Saint Mary, my lovely bride, can never remember what I named the fireplace lamp or any of the other handy gadgets. This creates an additional problem: if your home is all Alexa’d up and you can’t remember the names of your devices, there is no easy way, for example, to turn a lamp on or off. You’d have to unplug the lamp from the little smart plug thing, which I have inconveniently hidden on the top shelf of a ten foot bookcase. So you need the stepladder to turn off the light.

It’s frustrating for Saint Mary, on a lot of levels.  Not remembering the right names is exasperating.  And carrying that stepladder around all day isn’t helpful.  I hear her trying various names for various lamps and devices, usually unsuccessfully. One day she said to me, and you must imagine her tone, because it was pure malice whether she admits it or not, she said, “This is like being on a game show. And never winning.” I was so frightened that I gave her the secret word and the lamp came on.

She says I’ve spent far too much money on these things. She says if I would look at the checkbook and the budget, I wouldn’t buy them. And I explain that she’s absolutely right and I try not to look at the checkbook, so I don’t feel guilty. To her, it’s dollars and cents. To me, it’s cause and effect.

But she did make me think about something. Suppose there is an alternate universe, with an alternate history.

In that other reality, Thomas Edison patented the phonograph in 1878. The next year, he discovered a way to integrate the phonograph’s technology with the lightbulb, and patented a device that allowed people to turn the lightbulb on and off by speaking to it. He named the device Edison, and it was wildly popular. The Edison developed over the years, giving folks the weather and directing them to see movies, check the stock market, find menus for their meals, read or listen to books, ask what time it is, etc. It was a marvelous invention and it took over our lives.

Then, around 2010, Saint Mary, in her frustration, developed an electrical circuit-breaking device. Operated manually, it quickly shut off the electricity, or re-supplied it. This device could control the lightbulb by means of a pump handle located in the center of the room.  In a few short years, the Manual Electronic Circuit Disruptor had been improved, miniaturized and installed in the walls of most new homes. It’s simplicity and ease of use made it even more popular than the Edison. Most people simply called it The Switch.  People loved it, because they didn’t have to talk or remember names of things. They simply walked over and flipped the little lever on the wall.  They Switched.

When the patent expired, Mary sold her company for eighty billion dollars and stock options. And we were content because Mary could quickly turn a lamp on or off without remembering the names of inanimate objects and I had new gadgets all over the walls of our home.  We were insanely wealthy and I never again felt  guilty about impulse buying.

Life was good in that alternate world, but of course it never happened.  The End.

Alexa, turn off DB laptop.