Ralph Higgins

Ralph Higgins
color pencil sketch by Gayle Higgins

Quotes I Like

“Everyone is a genius, but if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”

-Albert Einstein


Monday, December 20, 2010

"Out, damn'd spot! Out, I say!"

The above words sound like a frustrated dog owner sending his Dalmatian out of the house. But we all know it’s a quote from “Macbeth,” Shakespeare’s shortest tragedy.

You might know that Olivia de Havilland is an Academy Award winning actress and the sister of Joan Fontaine, also an actress. Olivia de Havilland played Melanie in “Gone with the Wind”, and starred in other major films.

But you might not know that she and her sister, Joan Fontaine, both went to Los Gatos High School. Miss de Havilland was an honor student at Los Gatos High School in the early 30’s and gave up a college scholarship to go into acting.

If you were lucky you may have met her at the 100 year celebration in Los Gatos or on some other occasion. But I had the honor of meeting this wonderful woman when I was attending Los Gatos University Avenue Elementary School. I think I was in the seventh grade. That was my big acting break. I was a star. Yeah…riiiight.

Miss de Havilland was directing a stage production of Macbeth at the high school auditorium and, because I played the trumpet, I was “conscripted” to dress in tight pants, the traditional dress of the period for my particular character, and play a fanfare on my trumpet to open the play.

I want to make it clear that the play was the only time in my life I ever wore those tights; you know…those Tinkerbelle things or Robin Hood pants or whatever they are…Honest! And I made sure that on my entrance I walked like John Wayne. It’s a little tough to picture John Wayne in tights as depicted by a 13 year old, but I tried my best.

I had to walk into the auditorium, along with a drummer from the school, and play some kind of a trumpet call and then announce the arrival of a particular king. That was it. That was all I did. They just needed a horn blower with skinny legs. I was also in a crowd scene on stage, mumbling inaudible words or raising my fist in protest or whatever the scene required. It was a memorable experience and it was actually fun, except for those funny pants.

At the time I didn’t realize what an honor it was to be associated with a production directed by Olivia de Havilland, even though all I did was make some noise on my trumpet. I didn’t even know who she was back then.

Now when my wife and I are watching a movie or movie previews and Olivia de Havilland is mentioned, I always say, very casually of course, “Did I ever tell you that I was directed by Olivia when I did Shakespeare…?”

It’s become a standing joke between us and now when her name comes up I don’t even have to make the announcement. My wife immediately says, “Yes. I know. I know. You were directed by Olivia de Havilland and you’re world famous. And you’ll probably get an academy award for wearing leotards when you were thirteen and blowing your stupid horn.”

It’s easy to train a wife. You just use repetition.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Got Sand?

"If you put the federal government in charge of the Sahara Desert , in five years there’d be a shortage of sand.”  
                                                                                                                                                                -  Milton Friedman

The above quote by Milton Friedman should be plastered on every TV screen each time anything related to politics or government is discussed. California is bankrupt. I think Iceland was first country to go BK, but Greece, Spain and most of the countries in Western Europe are teetering.

The only socialist or communist nation that seems to be moving in a positive direction is China, but the reason for that is that they’ve incorporated a form of capitalism into their economic system. Yet our leaders want us to follow the example of the failed systems of Europe. They want us to line up for rationed health care, as per England, Canada, Sweden, etc. They want to spend more than we have.

Ever wonder why?

Let’s say you had a vision of a one world government, a single currency and a universal set of laws. Obviously it wouldn’t work as long as there was a single super power with military and economic superiority, based on a philosophy of individual rights and freedom. The playing field would have to be leveled and freedoms removed, right?

So how is that done? How about Cap & Trade, transferring wealth from the U. S. to third world countries. How about the manipulation of currency and devaluing the dollar? How about turning a once strong country into a debtor nation? How about boosting labor costs to the point that industry is forced to leave the U. S. to survive, leaving service-related jobs to fill the vacuum with very limited production capacity? How about creating total dependency on government, the elimination of guns, control over the free market, etc.?

Anyway, boys and girls, our country is in trouble. In fact, I think we are witnessing the death rattles of western civilization. The hypothetical scenarios I read about in the 60’s have become reality. It’s been a long time coming, but the required economic catalyst is finally here and the slide has begun.

Sorry for being negative this morning, but the joy of Christmas seems to be in blaring juxtaposition to world events and it’s sometimes difficult to put things in a realistic perspective. But it can be done.

You can still have a good Christmas if you focus on what the celebration really represents. If you believe that the Deity made a visit to our planet in human form, these worldly problems pale in comparison to the magnitude and the ramifications of that singular event in human history. That’s the key.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Stop the Beano

Global warming is killing us up here in the mountains. Since scientist say that bovine flatulence contributes to the problem, I wonder if our brilliant leaders will divert some of their financial aid to our foreign enemies to providing the cattle industry with beano for their cows or simply raise more taxes. I say let the cows pass gas. We need global warming in Quincy.

We’re freezing our butts off up here. I wish Al Gore and his minions would pray to their gods of earth, wind and fire, or whatever they worship, and see if they can divert some sunshine our way. (When I wrote for A&M Records I arranged the music of a group by that name)

We had roughly three feet of snow during Thanksgiving, which kept us from our planned Thanksgiving celebration with our kids and grandkids. We have another trip planned next week, but that too will be contingent on the weather. The black ice in the canyon is the real culprit here.

I see a lot of blue people up here in the mountains and I’m not sure if they’re blue because of the cold or because they buy this climate change B.S. and are holding their breath to avoid emitting carbon dioxide thus causing global warming. I suggest breathing and breathing heavily to turn up the heat.

My dog normally likes the snow, but not when it’s so deep he disappears and literally has to swim out of it. Let's play a game of, "Find the dog."

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Early Go Carts

When I was a kid we spent as little time indoors as possible and only came home when my dad whistled. This is a short story about one of the things we did for fun and how my training of my younger brother helped him develop the skills needed as a commercial pilot.

Back in the days shortly after the invention of the wheel and many years prior to machines that run on fossil fuel, we would build wooden carts. These were the ancestors of the modern go-cart. After a number of random genetic mutations cars eventually appeared, but they had to start somewhere.

Our carts were designed with wheels, a plank to sit on and a wooden box, if you wanted a deluxe model. A sturdy two-by-four with ropes was the front axle and steering device. Best of all – there were no seat belt or safety devices of any kind. We had a stripped-down model and we always crashed, but that was the fun of it.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

My daughters like to read stories of my childhood, so here's a quick one.

I was talking to an old friend recently who says he woke up in the middle of the night laughing about a trick Dick Whitaker and I played on someone back when we were kids. He thought it was funny, but it could have had severe consequences. He dreamt about this 60 years after the event, but as you age things from long, long ago pop into your mind despite the fact that you can’t find your wallet and can’t remember what you did yesterday.

When I was a kid I had an old army M1 training rifle. It wasn’t real, but during WWII they used these for training soldiers, saving the real ones for the war effort. Years later I carried a real one. This mock M1 looked real and on this particular occasion Dick and I had the brilliant idea of putting a firecracker in the barrel of the gun and…Well, here’s what happened.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Where's My Coffee?

Another week of bachelor-hood is coming to an end. I’m ½ hour from leaving to pick Gayle up from the Reno airport. Last month she was gone for a week and this month another week. This time she went to Portland to visit her best friend. I think these breaks are good for her. Being stuck in Greenhorn and the Quincy area might have some pluses, but in terms of social activities it’s like trying to rally the residents of a convalescent home for a pick-up game of basketball.

At least this time she didn’t leave notes all over the house with instruction on how to feed the cats their medicine and reminders to turn off the coffee, although I did find two notes, but I forgot to read them. (I just read one stuck on the front door re: “turn off oven, lock door”, and something else…can’t remember the third instruction) She didn’t even have all my coffee in the right amount already in the filters ready to drop in the pot. I guess she thinks I’m old enough to fend for myself now. Makes me feel like a big boy.

Gayle always leaves a card for me hidden where I’ll find it after she’s gone. I get a kick out of that. Sometimes on my pillow. Sometimes in the refrigerator and once on the toilet. There’s no significance to the toilet thing, except that she knows that sooner or later I’ll make a visit. Frankly, I like all of that.

Gotta get to the airport. More later.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Church without Walls

Back in the 50's there was a great comic strip called “Rick O’Shay”. It was my favorite comic strip. “Hipshot”, who was a rough gunslinger, would ride his horse to the top of a mountain on Easter and Christmas, take off his hat while gazing out at the mountains, and pray. I guess I identify with Hipshot.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Church Without Walls

I’ve had theological questions since I was a kid. They bubbled to the surface when I was in college taking courses from professors who openly admitted their intent to destroy any semblance of theism in their students. This was particularly prevalent when psychology was a major. It didn’t work on me.

My analytical process continues to this day, but the rock of my belief system has not altered much. Superfluous questions that can never be answered have been discarded leaving me with a few solid pillars that underpin my belief system.

I have yet to find a church that sees things the way I do, so I’ve resigned myself to what I call my church without walls. I go to church every day... or at least most days. That’s when I walk in the woods with my dog. In my church there are no babies crying, no people singing off tune to inane songs led by young guitar players from garage bands and hyper-kinetic drummers. No social cliques. No long sermons.

In the forest there’s peace, there’s a stillness and solitude that refreshes my spirit, while my dog runs blissfully seeking a new spot to leave his business card. That’s my church and that’s where I communicate, reflect, pray, and think.

Even more profound is the evening service when I can sit on my deck and stare into the heavens. There’s no ambient light here in Greenhorn Ranch and my property backs to the forest, so the sky is clear and one gets the impression that there are actually more stars in the sky in the mountains than there are in the city.

That’s it. That’s my sermon for today. I think I’ve finally found my church.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

"Come on Baby, Light My Fire"

I’m not sure if I was a bad kid, if I was just mischievous or if I became demented prematurely, but I was just thinking of what it was like to be raised in a large church with a bunch of buddies who were crazy.

If my dad had known what was going on behind the scenes I wouldn’t have lived to experience the true and indisputable insanity of puberty. My dad was a quiet and spiritual man with an Irish temper and the physical prowess to back it up. I loved and respected my father as I did my “Italian” mother, who was both protector and consigliere for her two sons. There were times when she would go to bat for us even when we were guilty as sin. My parents were a good team. They understood the “good cop, bad cop” routine.

I have many, many friends to this day that I have known from when we were kids in the church. But church was more than fire and brimstone for some of us. We were the pre-teen dingbats who were allowed to sit together in the back row, as long as we didn’t start a fire or a fight.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

A Proclamation of Temporary Emancipation

I admit to being remiss in updating my blog, but I tend to forget I have a blog. And I’m still not sure of the purpose of posting my ramblings, but I also admit that I enjoy typing nonsense that comes off the top of my head after a gin and tonic. So what comes off the top of my head this morning without a gin and tonic?

The most obvious is that Gayle is gone for a week. She is taking care of her two grandsons while her daughter is on vacation. She combines her obligation with visits with her close friends in Discovery Bay, where we once had a home on the water and she is evidently having a good time. So what’s it like for me in a relatively empty house?

Sunday, September 5, 2010


The Bible says that God created man in his image. Not to be outdone, man insists on creating God or his gods in man’s image. It’s been going on since primitive times, although looking at our culture, if you drop out technology you may wonder if we aren’t still “primitive.” After all, some people still worship trees and rocks.

“Anthropomorphism”, is not a new word for anyone, but it is interesting how it is applied in various cultures. Anthropomorphism involves attributing human characteristics to gods, animals, objects, etc. An entire book could be written on Greek and Roman gods and other polytheistic cultures and the images they worshipped, but even today most people have an image of God that includes many human characteristics.

Most mature folks today would reject the idea that God is an old guy with white hair and a long white beard, sitting on a cloud; his piercing eyes watching to see if you got up at night, snuck into the kitchen and ate the last piece of pizza. But we still apply human emotions and personality traits to God. It must be in our nature.

Carl Jung, the Swiss psychiatrist, might say it’s an archetype from our ancestral past or Freud might consider God as a “father image”. Whatever we think God is or isn’t doesn’t in any way alter who or what He is in reality, but that’s not what got me thinking about this anthropomorphic thing. It was my dog.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Mother Nature Takes Over

Sometimes when the children make a mess, Mother Nature has to step in and clean it up.

The recent oil gusher in the gulf is a case where the children decided that it was safer for the environment to drill for oil way, way out at sea than, say, to drill in a desolate area of Alaska like Anwar, where there might be less damage to the environment. Evidently it makes more sense to go far out to sea, where the ocean is rough and currents are strong, and find a spot where it’s a mile down before you hit the ocean floor and drill there. Makes a lot of sense, doesn’t it?

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Who's Keeping Score?

Eighteen years! Holy cow! That’s longer than some people have been alive. But compared to many of my friends, it’s not very long at all. Oh yes…I’m talking about Gayle’s and my anniversary. Of course, this was not the first marriage for either of us, but the rule is that past marriages don’t count in the total score, so I guess our kids won’t have to worry about a golden anniversary party for us. Actually, neither of us can believe we made it this long.

They say that married men live longer than single men. Maybe it just seems longer. But it would be interesting to examine the reasons men walk off the stage first and the role of marriage in the process. Could it be that our wives won’t let us die as long as there’s garbage to take out and a leaky faucet to fix? But despite their efforts, we men check out first. 

My dad enjoyed his retirement villa, which was loaded with widows. Dad was Joe Cool and dapper at almost 90 years old; a true inspiration to my brother Tom and me. Tom says that if Dad spotted a woman he liked in the cafeteria, he would hit her metal chair with his cane. And he would hit it hard. When old ladies are startled they make a “hooting” sound. In one pass through the cafeteria Dad turned the place into what sounded like a horse barn full of owls with Tourette syndrome. He evidently had a lot of favorites.

Gayle and I had a great dinner tonight at a rustic lodge located high in the mountains and on the bank of a beautiful lake. It was fantastic. Great environment. Excellent food. And an unbelievable view of the lake and surrounding mountains. There are several places like this hidden away in these hills. Most have cabins with reservations years in advance with unique lodges and good food.

It was a beautiful trip to and from, although I almost hit one deer, five squirrels and a partridge in a pear tree. Up here in the Sierras you worry more about animals than traffic, so I drive like an old guy.

Time to wind down and get back in training for another year. Gayle is yelling that I forgot to bring the garbage can back in. That should give me another week or two. I’m keeping two leaky faucets as back-ups. As long as something is broken, Gayle will keep feeding me.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Grubs, Bugs, and Chianti

Since I write for the Green Business Chamber, which goes to chambers of commerce and businesses across the country, I find myself walking the fence between a conscientious and reasonable concern for the environment and the radical environmentalists with their global warming hysteria. I have to be careful not to offend the latter while holding to reasonable conservation practices. Sometimes it’s a delicate balance. I love nature and I have no tolerance for polluters, but I’m not ready to eliminate back yard barbeques yet.

I don’t believe that man has the ability to cause global climate change, nor do I believe that the blue people who hold their breath to cut down on carbon dioxide are saving the planet. I think the sun has a say in the whole thing and the carbon footprint of a volcanic eruption can quickly destroy all the environmental benefits of carpooling, riding bikes to work and turning off lights. I think some of these folks go overboard.

I’ve mentioned the celebrity who claimed she only uses one square of toilet paper. After that admission, sadly her social life went to pot. Then there was the scientist who hooked a large plastic container to his cow to measure bovine flatulence, i.e. “gas”. Unfortunately a cowhand lit a cigarette and blew up the cow, the scientist, ten chickens and a pig. And we have the morons who decided to burn corn for fuel, resulting in tremendous negative impacts on the environment, as well as causing Mexicans to turn from eating corn tortillas and beans to French bread and Brie.

Sunday, July 25, 2010


I either heard or read the following story about Jack Bogle, who founded Vanguard, the large mutual fund company that also handles other financial products.

A news reporter stated, “Vanguard is a not-for-profit company. If you had organized it differently, you’d be a billionaire today. Any regrets?”

Jack Bogle’s answer is profound and I am reminded of his wisdom continually. Bogle said, “I read this story recently: There’s a big cocktail party on Martha’s Vineyard. Someone comes up to this writer, I think it was Joseph Heller, author of ‘Catch-22’, and says, ‘Joe, see that guy over there? He’s a hedge fund manager and he made more money yesterday than you made on all the books you have ever published.’ Heller pauses and says, ‘Yeah, but I have something he’ll never have. I have enough.’”

We all know people who will never have ‘enough’, no matter how much money they have or how many ‘things’ they own. There are others who think they have a right to more than they have. If you can accept the fact that you have ‘enough’ that is a positive step in starving an insatiable appetite for more or for dealing with financial loss.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Never Judge a Book by its Cover

I’ve learned not to judge people by first impressions. This lesson has been reinforced many times in my life. I’ll mention only three instances that I use as reminders.

I was in the doctor’s waiting room with several patients waiting to be blessed by the appearance of a lady in white to announce my audience with the doctor. An elderly black man sat across from me. By his clothes he appeared to be indigent as he sat quietly starring at the floor. Floors get stared at a lot in waiting rooms.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Sunset in America?

“When small men cast large shadows, the sun is about to set.”

This is a quote from a Chinese writer that applies to our country today. There are many large shadows darkening the landscape of the U. S. today and our citizens, as well as international leaders around the globe, sense that the sun is setting on a once great nation.

Our founders were giants like George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Samuel Adams, Ben Franklin and other men of stature, intelligence and integrity. Compare these men to our current magnificent administration - Barack Obama, Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, Janet Napolitano, Eric Holder, et al. What a contrast!

After looking at our leadership, consider the shadows that are rapidly creeping into every crevice of our lives, replacing our freedom with control by an inept government.

How did we get to this point? Is the voting public this ignorant? Is the course we are on as a nation due to incompetence or is there an international agenda? If those in power are not as stupid and unqualified as they seem to be, what else could account for our slide?

You can’t have a one-world government as long as there is one superpower still standing. Could that be the purpose of bringing down the U. S.? To level the playing field, as our “leader” implies. Is our “leader” the puppet master or the puppet? Is there a “Wizard of Oz” behind the curtain?

Are those currently in positions of power really the best our country has to offer? Really?? Small men are indeed casting large shadows.

Is the sun setting on America?

Sunday, June 27, 2010

There Could Never Be Another Ewe

You may remember that classic tune, “There could never be another you.” It’s a romantic concept, but is it true? Dolly the sheep was a Ewe and scientists evidently cloned her, so there was another “ewe.” (Sorry…)

This whole cloning thing presents questions. I was shocked when we took a family portrait to see a definite resemblance in every person in the photo. What was particularly disturbing is the fact that even my daughter’s husbands had the bizarre genetic mutation…and they aren’t even related to us by blood. Check out the photo. It’s pretty scary. My youngest grandson Joshua, also known as “Animal”, bears a striking resemblance to Adolph Hitler with glasses. That’s terrifying.

This brings us to the questions: Could there ever be another human being exactly like you? In my case, would the world really want another me? My wife thinks there are too many of me now.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Extrapolating From a Basketball

I was a high school teacher at one time and some kid left a basketball in the middle of the basketball court. The gym was empty and quiet and the ball sat motionless on the floor. While the ball might have been motionless, it created mental motion inside my skull.

I started thinking…what if that basketball incorporated our entire universe – our earth, all the stars, planets, space, dark holes, anti-matter, Jay Leno jokes and my daughter’s pasta recipe? What if everything we could imagine, invent, or test using the scientific method was packed inside that ball. Our total existence; including our mental capabilities and scientific potential - what if it all could exist within that basketball?

Monday, June 21, 2010

How To Feel Old

If you still think you’re thirty years old, spend a week with your grandkids. But, frankly, it’s well worth it.

I’ve attached a couple of photos of two of our grandsons, Luke and Seth, on a quad. Manroop Singh is our friend and the owner of the vehicle. He’s the one bent over working on something and is the same age as Luke. The old guy in the background is me. One thing about being a grandfather is that you can let the teenagers work on their own machines while you oversee things and pretend that you know what they’re doing.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Everyone rides Harleys. So I ride Triumphs.

The sun has finally come out in Quincy. After snow even in June, it’s time to start riding my trusty Triumph motorcycle. I’ve taken some short jaunts between storms, but we are heading into the second week of June and it’s motorcycle time in the beautiful Sierra Mountains.

Here’s a shot of the newer of my Triumph motorcycles in our driveway in Discovery Bay. I also have a 1969 Triumph, which is identical to the one I bought in Denmark and rode through Europe in 1969. Someday maybe I’ll write something about that trip. I lived on that bike for weeks on end traveling through nine countries, including Yugoslavia when Tito ran the place.

Ahhh, to be young again. But even old guys ride motorcycles, as the photo proves.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Do You Have The Time?

“Time began with the world – or after it.” Judaeus said that sometime in the first century (Philo Judaeus. 20 B.C.– 40 A.D.). What does that mean?

Well, according to Albert Einstein and his Theory of Relativity, it means that “If matter and its motion disappeared there would no longer be any space or time.” So prior to the existence of matter - the physical universe - there was no time.

I always think of it as holding a pencil between my thumb and forefinger and thinking of that pencil as “time.” It has a beginning and it has an end. The space around the pencil is eternity. People think in terms of concepts like “eternity” as being an extension of that pencil far into the future. The pencil goes on and on endlessly. This is the notion that time extends for ever, but that isn’t the case. In a timeless world there is no future. There is only "now."

Time has a beginning and it may very well have an end. So our existence, our universe and time itself is like the pencil floating in a vast sea timelessness.

Time could actually be an aberration. It may only exist in the physical universe. It may only be a factor in our existence. If there is a God, he must exist outside of space and time. Outside of our reality and our limitations. You wouldn’t find Mozart in one of his symphonies, for example, or God within his creation. But that’s another subject. The point is that a Creator would exist outside our time/space continuum.

Remember…you can’t have space or time without matter and motion. “Eternity” is not an extension of time. It is the absence of time.

It’s an interesting concept and one that has always fascinated me. It’s cud for rumination.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Embarrassing Teenage Moments

I keep forgetting to update my blog, so I thought maybe this time I’d get personal and divulge some of the most embarrassing things that happened to me as a kid. Like most of my writing, this is off the top of my head.

The earliest thing I can now recall is when I was in elementary school and had a favorite shirt. My folks didn’t have a lot of money and my poor little brother ended up with some of my clothes as he grew. But I did have a favorite shirt. I can still picture it. It had blue and white vertical stripes.

Evidently I wore it daily for at least a week until a pretty girl boldly asked me if that was the only shirt I had. You know…I honestly didn’t think of it until just now, but that girl may have been my wife. She’s blunt and would say something like that. We did go all through school together, although we didn’t meet again and marry until sometime in our fifties. Yep. It could have been her. But now she’s buys my shirts, so she can’t complain. I hate shopping.

Another embarrassing moment was on a first date. I was always shy with girls as a kid and so awkward that my first date with a good looking girl at a drive-in movie was torture. I was determined to kiss this girl, but every time she turned to me, I turned my head in the opposite direction and pretended to look out the window. I don’t think I kissed her until about thirty years later at a class reunion.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Hug a Tree

Back in 1947 a Norwegian explorer and writer named Thor Heyerdahl built a raft called the “Kon-Tiki”. He sailed for over 100 days across the Pacific Ocean and made a documentary in 1951. I saw the film and one particular point that he made never left my memory. He said that not a day went by that he didn’t encounter trash floating in the water. This was over a half century ago and pollution of the ocean was well on its way even back then. Frankly, I found that upsetting enough that I have never forgotten it.

More recently scientists have discovered a floating island of trash in the Pacific ocean estimated to be somewhere in size between Texas and the continental United States. This mass of trash consists primarily of plastic, which doesn’t biodegrade. It photo degrades and does breakdown into smaller particles, but it never actually “goes away.” Plastic kills sea life and even when broken down into small particles it is passed through various forms of sea life and eventually to fish that we eat. Evidence indicates that there may be a connection to various health problems in humans as a result.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Is Laughter the Best Medicine?

Years ago there was a story about a guy who had a terminal disease, but determined to cure himself through laughter. His name is Norman Cousins. He was the editor of Saturday Review for 30 years and wrote a book entitled, “Anatomy of an Illness.” He spent his days watching Laurel and Hardy movies and other comedy films that made him laugh. The amazing thing is that he was healed and he credits his healing to laughter. Look up Norman Cousins on the internet.

The Maryland Medical Center found that laughing is almost as effective as exercise for improving arterial health. So when you go to the gym, find a comfortable chair and watch the sweat hogs pumping iron and popping hemorrhoids, the fat guys trying to tie their shoes and the young gong-ho beginners throwing a subtle flex and sucking in their gut while glancing furtively and seemingly inconspicuously in the mirror as they walk by. Just don’t let anyone see you laugh. That’s the tricky part.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Well I'll Be A Monkey's Uncle

Darwin’s Theory of Evolution has become part of the conventional wisdom of western culture, but I must be stupid because there are things about that theory that make no sense to me. George Orwell said that one has to belong to the intelligentsia to believe things that an ordinary man would be a fool to believe. Maybe it’s good to be ordinary.

I was reminded recently of how complex yet vulnerable our physical bodies are. If something inside us isn’t working perfectly, it can kill us. But according to evolution all these intricacies happened by chance, gradually changing over millions of years, through trial and error.

Here are a few things that I don’t understand. I don’t understand how a creature could breathe before its lungs were fully developed and working perfectly. How about a primitive amphibian bumping into things for ten thousand years before his eyes began to focus? What organ in my body could I live without because it wasn’t fully evolved? Doesn’t everything need to be in place and working perfectly for me to stay alive?

Monday, March 29, 2010

Who's In Control?

From subtle symbolism to outright brainwashing, the techniques used to control people have always fascinated me. Our last election proves that if we are not a nation of sheep, we’re well on our way. Marketing experts know this and they are experts at pulling money out of your wallet or pushing votes in the booth.

Ads on TV use symbols and images to elicit subliminal connections to sell products. Retailers even study the traffic patterns of shoppers; which way most people turn when entering a store and how to move you through aisles of temptation in your journey to the most popular products. Naturally the higher priced items are displayed at eye level. Books could and probably have been written on marketing techniques. Speaking of books, bookstores will turn a book so that the full cover is displayed if a favorable deal has been struck with the publisher while only the spine is displayed on others.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

One Infamous Fig

Mark Twain said that the source of all humor is sorrow. But sometimes humor is just the manifestation of a twisted mind. And sometimes it’s just fun.

It was my first day home after a prostatectomy (surgical removal of the prostate gland). I only spent one night in the hospital and I was home. I felt great. The surgeon used a technique that was new at that time called, the DaVinci Surgical System. It’s less invasive and can avoid damaging nerves. Anyway, my kids and grandkids came over to see me and have a barbeque.

They were all surprised at how spry and unaffected I was. I tried to explain that the operation was a snap and the whole thing was no big deal. In fact, I said, “The medical lab gave me permission to take my prostate home to show my family.”

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Call Me On My Cell Phone

When I was a kid, back when dinosaurs roamed the earth, I remember a black wall phone with no dial. Operators would respond to an open line with, “Number please.” And with party lines, which were common, someone would usually interrupt a conversation asking, “Can I use the line? This is Millie down the street. By the way, it’s not true that I can walk with a glass of water balanced on my rear end without spilling a drop.”

As kids we would tie two tin cans together with a string and talk into the can while the other guy put the can up to his ear. It actually worked and Millie couldn’t hear our conversations.

Monday, March 15, 2010

"I Animal!"

For those without grandchildren, this piece might be meaningless. And even those with ‘normal’, mild mannered grandkids might not be able to relate to the exploits of my youngest grandson, referred to by his grandfather as ‘Animal.’ This kid is three years old, but could pass for a 30-year-old troll with an attitude.

I spent Saturday at my daughter’s home, so I can confirm the fact that Animal has yet to be incarcerated. He remains at home under supervision while wearing a tracking device. He is definitely a danger to himself and to others. It’s been suggested that he be sedated, put in a straight jacket and tossed into a padded cell with pastel colors and soft music. But nobody listens to me.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Tree Forts and Rubber Guns

I don’t see kids running through open fields anymore and I haven’t seen a kid build a fort in years. I guess there aren’t many open fields anymore and parents are afraid to let their kids out of their sight. What a sad commentary on our culture.

If a kid tried to build a fort today he’d be required to have a building permit, an environmental report, a variance of some sort, a union contract, liability insurance, workers comp, and about thirty additional permits and clearances. HUD, OSHA, EPA and County Planning are just a few of the folks who would be looking over the kids shoulders as he digs his foxhole and reinforces it with scrap plywood, covering it with branches for camouflage. That building project would be red tagged before the kid got the roof on and the little sucker would be fined or hauled off due to numerous code violations. I don’t think it’s much fun to be a kid nowadays.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

They Can Kill Us, But They Can't Eat Us!

“They can kill us, but they can’t eat us. It’s against the law.” Those words are attributed to Private Lattie Tipton as spoken to Audie Murphy in the heat of battle during the Second World War.

Audie Murphy was the most decorated soldier to come out of that war. Unfortunately, his buddy Tipton was killed shortly after making that famous statement. For some reason, those words offer a strange consolation during trials and tribulations and when things get bad, you may hear someone say, “Don’t worry…they can kill you, but they can’t eat you.”

Personally I don’t find much consolation in that expression. The fact is that they probably can eat us, but maybe not all at once. And it probably is against the law…at least while food prices stay below home prices. But food prices are moving up rapidly and real estate has plummeted, so we might not have much time.

Where Have All the Fields Gone?

There’s a lot of nostalgia for those good old days of the fifties. And for good reason. They were great days. Can you honestly think of a better time to be a kid than the 50’s? I can’t and I lived it.

I grew up in the town of Los Gatos in northern California. Nestle up against protective shield of the Santa Cruz Mountains, Los Gatos was small and friendly with what has been described as the best climate in the world. It’s a great place to live.

The railroad played a role in the development of the town and when I was a kid we used to run after the train and jump on a box car ladder for a wild ride to Santa Cruz and a day at the beach. We prayed that we’d be lucky enough to hop a train and get back before anyone missed us. And we also prayed that we wouldn’t get hurt when we jumped off as the train approached the station. We had to pick a soft spot to land.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Keep Your Wife Out of the Garage

(Warning: The following is based on a true story. It could happen in a garage near you.)

My Wife: “When are you going to clean out this garage? Look at this mess!”

Me: “I’ll get to it. I’m just looking for something out here.”

Wife: “It’s all junk. What’s this metal thing?

Me: “I don’t know, but I’m going to save it. I may need it sometime.”

Wife: “When was the last time you needed it? You don’t even know what it is.

Me: “It looks important and if I toss it I’ll probably wish I had it the day after I toss it.”

Wife: “When you die, the kids are just going to throw all this stuff out. You should do them a favor and get rid of it all now. The garage is supposed to be for cars.”