Thursday, June 23, 2011

Women confuse me

Beer I understand.

Sharon recently bought the t-shirt shown below for me at a store in Frankenmuth, Michigan. Every time that I wear it, I get a lot of smiles, and usually quite a few “I like your t-shirt” comments.

If you’ve been married for a while, you eventually figure out that you and your mate actually agree on a lot of things, but there are still going to be differences on our respective perception of reality.

Shortly after returning from China, I bought “Why Men Don’t Listen, and Why Women Can’t Read Maps” from The book was written by a married couple (Barbara and Allan Pease) and was originally published in the year 2000. If you click on the appropriate tabs at the link below, you can read all 253 pages online:

are you sure we’re compatible?

It’s actually a pretty funny book, and I wish that I had read it YEARS ago. After I had finished reading it for the first time, the thought occurred to me that it was fairly amazing that we are able to live with each other at all. In the final analysis, both genders often have different ideas on various topics. The secret to success, however, is realizing that NEITHER side is wrong in their opinion - just different.

There have been LOTS of books written about how to deal with the opposite gender, and it seems that the vast majority of magazines and songs have the same theme. It’s literally impossible to explain the chemical reaction that causes one person to “fall in love” with another person. The late Dusty Springfield explained, probably better than most people, that there’s isn’t much logic to physical attraction:

son of a preacher man

Sharon is a member of The First Wives Club. Unlike Newt Gingrich, however, I haven’t traded her in for a newer model. Like him or not, “Old Newt” has managed to come up with the most creative explanation of any politician for his past infidelities:

"There's no question at times in my life, partially driven by how passionately I felt about this country, that I worked too hard and things happened in my life that were not appropriate."

I have to admit that there have been times when my wife has driven me crazy, and she can also say the same about me. Not long after we moved into our current location, I bought the wrong kind of lima beans at the store, and she didn’t talk to me for three days afterward. What drives HER crazy is that I can never seem to put away the knives, utensils, and glasses away in the right spot after they've been washed.

We’ve been through a lot of good times together, and we’ve also endured a lot of hardships. As we’ve gotten older, we’re no longer the handsome young couple that we were in 1972. I’ve gotten shorter and balder and grayer, and Sharon can no longer fit into a size six dress. One of my favorite comic strips is “Pickles”, because I can very easily relate to a lot of their everyday conversations:


After nearly 4 decades of marriage, though, I think I’ve finally hit upon the secret to a long and happy marriage: laughter. If you laugh often, and heartily, with your mate, life becomes a whole lot easier, and you manage to stay friends even if your brains aren’t wired the same.

Now that I think I’ve got women figured out, I’ve discovered that BEER is getting more confusing, and you can read about THAT topic at the link below:

I’ve been Goosed!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Beatles, bobbles, and blogs

I recently had the pleasure of meeting Jim Higley at The Book Stall in Winnetka, Illinois. Jim is an interesting guy, and his personal story can be an inspiration to all of us.

Although you can (and should) read more of his background at his website, the quick summary is that he managed to turn personal tragedy (a bout with cancer) into a totally new career.

The daily journal that he wrote for his three children as he recovered from cancer eventually became a book, which he titled, “ Bobblehead Dad: 25 Life Lessons I Forgot I Knew”, which will be released on Father’s Day.

As he started the process of getting his book published, he discovered that it wasn’t an easy thing to do if you weren’t already a well known author or public figure. It turns out that there are a LOT of people who are following the dream that The Beatles sang about a long time ago:

I want to be a paperback writer

The net result is that there are 2000 books published EVERY DAY in this country. There are a number of organizations that can help you get published (my hometown has a group called Evanston Writers Workshop), but if you don’t have a unique message (or a unique “platform”) you’d better stick with your day job.

In January of 2010, Jim discovered blogging. Although there are several free sites that you can use to publish your thoughts on line, the one created by Google ( seems to be the easiest to use. In addition to his own blog, Jim also became a regular contributor to TribLocal (Chicago Tribune’s online blog), and now writes a weekly column for the site.

When Jim started his research on blogging, he discovered that blogs cover a WIDE variety of topics. For example, there’s a blog site devoted primarily to beetles in Arizona

Even Jesus has a blog site, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. The most accurate estimate of the numbers of blogs in existence is 185,000,000. However, since that estimate is from February of 2008, it’s safe to say that there are probably closer to 250,000,000 in existence around the world today.

My introduction into blogging came about due to the fact that I sold a Nissan Armada to a young lady in the fall of 2008. Once we discovered that we had a mutual interest in writing, she published about a dozen or so of my articles on her site before I figured out how to branch out on my own. Subsequently, I’ve published a few articles written by other people on MY site, and I also have contributed to another site that was set up by some old friends in Minnesota.

As Jim mentioned this past Sunday, there’s no set formula for a blog. If you want to use it as a daily journal, that’s perfectly acceptable. Our neighbor up the street went on a three month humanitarian trip to India earlier this year, and put down his daily thoughts on HIS blog.

Since most people seem to have a need to express themselves, online publishing (via blogging) can be a lot of fun. Because he is a regular contributor to TribLocal, Jim has roughly 2,000,000 “followers”. Even if you never get THAT famous, the joy of being read by people around the world (most of whom you’ll never meet) is an experience that will always bring a smile to your face.

To truly understand the future of blogging, as well as the future of newspapers, it’s vitally important to consider events of the past.

William Randolph Hearst entered the publishing business in 1887, when he took control of the San Francisco Examiner from his father, George Hearst. Ultimately, he controlled 28 newspapers in America. Oddly enough, he never made much money from that industry, but it became a very useful platform for expanding into other areas.,

What set Hearst apart from other newspaper publishers at the time was his expansion into non-traditional areas of publication. He was the first media figure to expand into magazines, radio, newsreels at movie theatres, and television, and his life story makes fascinating reading.

Although William Randolph Hearst is no longer with us, he has a modern day counterpart in the person of Philip Anschutz, a Denver-based billionaire business owner.

In 2004, he bought Hearst’s flagship newspaper, the San Franciso Examiner, as well as the rights to use the name., He also started, which is strictly an online newspaper. At the end of 2008, the newspaper offered local and national news in 60 markets in America.

Denver-based was relaunched on April 14 of 2008, and immediately started looking for bloggers (known as examiners) to contribute to its site. Like newspaper reporters, the contributors are experts in their particular field, but are paid in a substantially different way than traditional reporters are. For one thing, they all have other full time jobs that they devote most of their time to.

Traditional newspapers aren’t going away any time soon, but they are going to continue to change in fairly dramatic fashion. One of my favorite newspapers, The New York Times, was the first newspaper to charge people to view its online version, and I’m happy to report that I am now a paid subscriber to a service that I used to get absolutely free.

If you’re VERY interested in starting your own blog, the
2011 national convention
of “Netroots Nation” and “RightOnline” is being held this week in Minneapolis. The main topics of discussion will be the current and future roles of bloggers and online journalism, as well as print and broadcast media.

As a general rule, I like to write in quiet surroundings, and rarely listen to music while I’m typing. However, if YOU like to write while listening to music, you’ll write A LOT faster if you’re listening to Rock and Roll music.

Happy writing !

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Let's get naked

Last year, when our daughter told us that she was going to participate in Chicago’s World Naked Bike Ride, I’ll have to admit that it made me a little nervous. She was quick to explain (fortunately) that she was part of the security team for the event, and would be fully clothed for the entire ride. She and the other members of the security team were there largely to ensure that the group of riders stayed together and kept moving.

The first Naked Bike Ride was held in Zaragosa, Spain in 2002. Its stated purpose was (1) to protest oil dependency and (2) celebrating the power and individuality of the human body. Over the years, the message has been simplified, and now focuses on cycling advocacy.

Naked Bike Rides are now held in 74 cities in 17 countries.

The dress code for the event is “bare as you dare”. Although nudity is encouraged for the event, it is not mandatory. Costumes, art bikes, and body art are also encouraged, since they add to the festive nature of the ride.

The policing of the event varies according to local laws. In many locations, the local police support and facilitate the event, For most locations, the local police force is more neutral, and simply monitors the action. There HAVE been a handful of arrests for “indecent exposure” , but the penalties exacted were very minor.

If you don’t mind being naked in public, there are no shortage of places to do so legally in the NAFTA countries, as well as in at least 30 other countries around the world. Surprisingly, the second largest clothing-optional beach in North America is in Canada, at a place called Wreck Beach (in British Columbia), which gets over 100,000 visitors a year.

Apart from the fact that there IS a party atmosphere to The Naked Bike Ride, the true purpose of the ride is to convey a serious message. As a society, we rely too heavily on our automobiles for our transportation needs. Nearly 90% of the commuting in America is by car, and 77% of those cars only have one passenger. I sell cars for a living, but I wouldn’t mind if more people walked or rode their bikes to work.

I haven’t owned a car for more than 7 years, and that’s also true for both of our children. Our son was seriously injured on his bicycle about 5 years ago when a woman carelessly opened her car door directly in his path, which caused the loss of his job, and a trip to the hospital. As a result, the three of us are more open to "alternative transportation" than a lot of people, and we're also concerned about biker's rights.

Most states in America have at least one organization that advocates cycling. In Chicago, the most prominent ones are the Active Transportation Alliance (formerly the Chicago Bicycle Federation) and Chain Link

The next Naked Bicycle Ride in Chicago is this coming Saturday, June 11. If you’d like to participate, or learn more about it, just click on the link below:

Martha, I’ve got goose bumps

If you’re not able to make the event, the link below will allow you to view the event that was held in London last year:

England Swings

To quote Humphrey Bogart, “here’s looking at you, kid”.

If you’re not interested in participating at all, that’s all right, ma

Enjoy the ride !!

Saturday, June 4, 2011

You've got mail !

When I was in basic training at Fort Bragg, North Carolina in 1970, one of the few things that I looked forward to every day (other then cleaning my rifle and polishing my boots) was the daily mail call.

Getting a hand written letter from one of my friends or relatives back home was a welcome relief from those long marches, and was one of those precious few moments when the drill sergeant left you alone for some “personal time”.

Although it seems like most of our communication with each other is either by email or texting, the fact remains that there are still an awful lot of personal letters that are being mailed in America today. In the first quarter of 2010, there were 8,143,988 letters mailed, which was a 7.2% decrease from the same period in 2009.

In the 10 year period from 1998 to 2008, First Class mail volume declined 29%, in large part due to the increased use of the internet. At the end of 2009, the 286 million cell phone users in America were sending an AVERAGE of 152.7 billion text messages per month.

The United States Postal Service operates the largest civilian vehicle fleet in the world (over 216,000 vehicles) and has the second largest number of civilian employees in the United States (596,000), second only to Wal-Mart. Due to its large fixed costs, and its declining revenue, the United States Postal Service lost $8.1 billion dollars in 2010.

I recently received a HAND WRITTEN LETTER and a photograph from my sister in California, and it brought to mind the good feeling that I got back in basic training when I got an unexpected letter from home. In addition to the letter and picture, she also included an article that she had clipped from the L.A. Times about online dating.

In the last half of the 19th century, about the ONLY way for all those miners and railroad workers in the western frontier to find mates was by mail, and all those educated women from the East coast became known as “mail order brides”. Surprisingly, mail order brides still exist today, but it seems like an awful lot of them are from Russia or the other former Communist bloc countries.

Although modern technology hasn’t made dating any easier, at least it offers more and better opportunities. There are DOZENS of online dating service. Both of our kids have used a few of them, but have had the best luck so far with “plenty of fish”.

Another interesting benefit is that online communication can sometimes overcome real life adversarial relationships, as exemplified by Tom Hanks in Meg Ryan in the 1998 movie,“You’ve Got Mail”. You still need to exercise caution and good sense, since those 14 year old girls in a hotel room usually turn out to be members of the local police department.

Even though communication by letter seems antiquated, it’s appeal comes from the fact that it is perceived by different senses than the communications we receive electronically. A letter is both tactile and visual, and can also be olfactory (if perfumed properly). An email is visual, but can also be auditory. If you’re not sure what those adjectives mean, you can look them up in your on-line dictionary.

If you still have one, you can also learn their meaning from your PRINTED dictionary. When I was a kid, our dictionary of choice was Funk & Wagnalls.. Sadly, the company went out of business in 1997, depriving future generations of parents the opportunity to tell their children to “look it up in your Funk and Wagnalls”.

Printed dictionaries have been around for a LONG time. The University of Chicago recently completed a 21 volume dictionary
of the language of ancient Mesopotamia and and its Babylonian and Assyrian dialects. Although the languages have not been spoken for 2000 years, they've been preserved on clay tablets, and painstakingly translated over the centuries. You can buy the full set for $1995, but it can also be downloaded - for free.

Although its unlikely that mail service will ever stop completely, it’s not impossible to envision that situation coming about. No company can continue to operate indefinitely if it’s hemorrhaging billions of dollars every year.

When my dad was a mail carrier, the Parcel Post was a big part of postal deliveries, but a large chunk of that business is now done by UPS, a company that’s been around longer than most people realize.

Western Union introduced the telegram in 1851, but discontinued them on January 27, 2006 due to declining volume. By late 2005, only 20,000 telegrams were being sent each year, a significant drop from the early decades of the 20th century. In England, the peak year for telegrams was 1913, when an astonishing 82,000,000 telegrams were sent.

The final advantage of sending letters through the mail is that when open up your mailbox, you won’t hear this slightly annoying disembodied voice talking to you:

“you’ve got mail!”