It’s pretty much the norm around my house to combine as many errands as possible into a single trip, and then to grossly underestimate the time it will take to achieve each one. Extra points for failing to achieve most of them, as well. Today was a bit like that. I even got to go to two different post offices to fail a single task at both. Bonus round!

But I had a better day than the guy (or gal) who ran into the light pole at the supermarket. As far as I could tell, it was a simple accident–no crime committed. But maybe the driver was DUI or unlicensed or violating parole… But that would usually be signalled by an entire herd of police vehicles, so I’m back to simple accident. No one arrested; no suspect to apprehend.

Police vehicle on scene of single car accident earlier this evening.

If there had been, though, especially if the crime were particularly newsworthy, then the criminal may have to experience what is called the “Perp Walk”. We see this all the time, but we may not realize it’s set up this way. When a suspect (“perp” makes it sound like we’ve already decided they’re guilty) is being transported from the court building, for example, to another facility, such as the jail, the media is sometimes alerted. In fact, if there is enough interest, the pathway is extended to make room for more reporters and cameras. So when you see a suspect trying to hide his face as the police walk him from a building to the back seat of a patrol car, or someone more like John Gotti, who dressed up in a suit and tie for the occasions, remember that it’s a staged event.

Speaking of staged events, I have to admit to a bit of a twist in my story. Since this week’s random word is “apprehend”, I had decided to get a picture of police cars at the courthouse, which is on my way to the Post Office. There were no police cars at the courthouse at that time, so no picture. But in pursuit of my other failed errands, I came across the police SUV in the parking lot at the store. So, that picture ended up being my only success. That really is a bonus.


I recently saw a TEDx talk by John Gray, the author of Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus. It was a reminder that there are very many things most women have in common, and men don’t, and vice versa. There is actually an amazing example in a YouTube video (I’ll post the link at the bottom), which addresses women’s desire to be listened to, and men’s desire to fix things. Many couples clash on this, as in the video.

As it turns out, my own wife tends to jump to the solution, even when I’m just venting. She’s also much more driven by competition than I am, etc. We challenge some of the stereotypes, if not the rules. This gives us the chance to have our own, unique clashes. None of these are the subject of this post, however.

So, one generally female characteristic that I’ve observed relates to how to manage what I’ll call lotion overdeal. Hand lotion, suntan lotion, bug repellant lotion–whatever, when more comes out than what you need, what do you do with the overdeal, or extra? Women often offer it to a friend or to their husband. Men don’t usually do this. They might not even accept the overdeal from their wives. This is just the way men are; don’t try to understand the rational.

Lotion overdeal

Years ago, my wife and I attended a “one-man-play” (a/k/a monologue) called Defending the Caveman, in which Rob Becker explained many differences between adult men and women as the result of girls growing up with girls and boys growing up with boys. By the time we’re old enough to be interested in each other, our expectations are pretty firm, and men act like they would act with other men, and women with other women. Thus, your husband doesn’t compliment (or notice) your new clothes. And your wife will never understand why it’s inappropriate for you to hold her purse in the mall while she walks off to the restroom.

As for lotion overdeal, women can continue sharing it with other women, and they will all be happy and well moisturized. Men, however may engage the side of a chair or the inside of a shirt. But the very best option would be to pat a friend on the back, “Hey man, how you been?” Just like when we were kids.

By the way, let me know in the comments about something you find different between the way men and women respond to things. I’d love to hear about it. Or maybe you disagree. Tell me.

“Mars brain, Venus brain” TEDx Talk
“It’s Not About the Nail”
“Defending the Caveman”


During a trip to a gourmet grocery store the other day, I spent a little time in the cheese aisle. In the end, I only picked up some Jarlsberg Swiss cheese and some hard, Italian cheese which may or may not be blue, but I liked the description. It turns out that the blue-or-not cheese is as good as the description had promised, and the Jarlsberg is as good as it ever is, and possibly the best cheese on earth.

The problem with cheese is that it challenges my sense of self-control. Let me make sure my point is clear that this is a problem with cheese, not with me. People talk about “death by chocolate”, but if I had a free supply of Jarlsberg for life, “death by cheese” would actually appear in my obituary.

Jarlsberg cheese showing the rind with grooves

As with most cheese, Swiss cheese has a rind, and my Jarlsberg has a very thin plastic one with little grooves. So we’ll call it a sulcate rind, since sulcate means having long, narrow grooves or channels, though the word seems to be most commonly used in biology (like plant stems and hooves).

Interestingly, there is such a thing as a sulcata tortoise (a/k/a African spurred tortoise), which makes a decent pet, as tortoises go. It has concentric grooves in the patterns of its shell, which is how it got its name. If you want to know more about having one as a pet, you can join over one-half million others who have watched the YouTube video(s) about it. I’ll post a URL at the end.

But if you want a sulcata tortiose as a pet, remember that it will grow to be pretty big and heavy. And it’s not at all soft and cuddly (two dogs are on my lap as I type this). Plus, it will outlive you. They can live to be 70+ years old. So, if I were to get one now, it could likely come to my funeral. My obituary already says “death by cheese”; I don’t need to add, “survived by Crush, the tortoise”.

Pet Sulcata care instructions video:


We found out an interesting fact about a friend of ours, recently. It turns out that although he is fully committed to obeying the law, he is not a fan of obeying rules. Opposite of that, in fact. I’m not sure that’s how he would word it, though. Because obedience is basically doing what an authority says to do. But if he’s not recognizing an authority, it’s just someone’s suggestion, not really a rule at all.

This week, our “word” is really an abbreviation… for obedient. We generally think of children, students or servants as being obedient or not. Maybe even wives, if anyone still promises to “love, honor and obey”. And of course, we obey the appropriate government agents, such as police, soldiers, tax collectors, etc. The Ten Commandments, representing God’s law, is another “must obey” example–maybe the most basic.

An obedient child with his obedient soldiers.

Following rules without a recognized authority is just compliance, or acquiescence, for the “Pirates of the Carribbean” fans. I think most of the people I know would be either compliant and obedient, or neither. The friend mentioned earlier is a bit of an exception, and there is probably an explanation that I may never hear. And, of course, there are the folks with the “Question Authority” buttons and stickers. While that is intended to suggest that folks in authority aren’t always right, in practice is simply seems to be disregard for authority in general, especially when you don’t like them or what they say.

As for the abbreviation for obedient, obdt, we really haven’t been using it much recently. And by recently, I mean since the Victorian Era, or maybe even colonial times. Naturally, it would only be in writing, not in speech, so it could show up in a letter, right before the signature. Something like, “Your obdt. servant,” which would sound familiar to fans of the musical, “Hamilton”.

A final reference to close out this topic is the famous obedience experiment from the 1960’s at Yale by psychologist Stanley Milgram. Volunteers were convinced they were giving stronger and stronger electrical shocks to students each time they gave an incorrect answer. There really wasn’t anybody getting the shock, but the volunteers were convinced that there was, yet most of them continued to flip the switches all the way up to 450 volts. They obeyed, even though they thought it was wrong, simply out of obedience to authority. Sometimes, we really do need to question authority, but no buttons or bumper stickers, please.


Plattensee is the German name for Lake Balaton in Hungary. At almost 50 miles long, it is the largest lake in Central Europe. Although it is a freshwater lake, it’s size gets it the nickname, “Hungarian Sea”. Plattensee translates into English as “flat lake”. But that’s better than the Hungarian name, which basically means “swamp” or “sink hole”.

The north shore is wine country, and the deeper part of the lake, and the southern shore is where the bulk of the resort towns are. The shallower water makes it a better location for families with small children. And my favorite fact about the lake, and especially since today’s word is the Lake’s German name, is that during the Cold War, East Germans and West Germans could both visit, allowing families separated by the Berlin Wall to visit together. How cool is that?

Skyline of Fonyód, a resort town on the southern shore of the Plattensee lake.
By Nobli – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

My own experience with a house on a lake was a mixed bag. Our property was very steep, which usually means that the water is deep. But 150 steps down to the water means 150 steps back up from the water. So don’t forget your towel or fishing rod. But a little relaxing on the dock, swimming on a hot day, or an easy kayak trip makes it hard to remember all those steps. It also works better for visiting with friends. “Come visit us” is a nice invitation, but gets a boost when you add “at the lake”.

I think our record number of overnight guests was over 30. When it’s 90 degrees out, it’s easy to talk all the kids into sleeping on the basement carpet, leaving the beds for the adults. But you do have to be sure the couples know where they’re all sleeping, and you can’t change the plan after anyone goes to bed. Just putting that out there because it might have happened…

Deep or not, there is a special attraction that most of us have toward the water. So many vacations center around bodies of water. I’m not trying to downplay the joy of having a desert house (I’m talking to you, Las Vegas), I’m just saying that a lake house, a beach house, or a cabin by the river just has a certain magic that is peaceful even to just think about. It might even be better if it’s on the shores of Central Europe’s biggest sink hole.


Before the breakup of the Soviet Union, when the news media frequently reported that the world’s greatest fear was a US vs. USSR nuclear war to end all wars, and all life on earth (except cockroaches), a friend visited Moscow. When he returned, he was a bit of a celebrity, and was required to tell about his trip at pretty much every opportunity. The thing he found most unexpected, as it turns out, was how well the Russian people treated him.

He was treated as an honored guest. Like an old friend they’d been missing. They were truly kind to him, happy to spend time with him, and sad to see him leave. It was quite a contrast to the expectations of boiling hatred and animosity for which he had braced himself. Although the Russian people who he met were very much Russians, they were not at all his enemies.

Qishm (Qeshm) photo found by a friend searching the Internet in Farsi

It is hard to separate a foreign government from the people in that nation. In fact, it is often hard to view a foreign nation as something other than a simple description defined by the encyclopedia or the press. So it may be poor or rich, dirty or pristine, hostile or friendly, barren or beautiful, but it cannot be all of those. And yet, most nations have a bit of each. There are many destinations where tourists and aid workers are seated on the same flights.

Certainly in recent years, it would be a challenge for most Americans to view Iran through a lens clear of the headlines. Qishm (or Kishm, or most commonly, Qeshm) is the name of the capital city (and the county) of an island by the same name off the southern coast of Iran. It is the largest island in Iran, and is a hotspot for ecotourism. There is also an underground military facility where submarines can be stored.

I suspect that the majority of the 110K or so Iranians who live on the island just consider it home. And the tourists and guests who come are customers and visitors. The locals probably don’t see themselves as players in an international power struggle or fodder for the press. I wouldn’t be surprised if they’d love to just sit down for a strong cup of coffee and talk about the weather. Which sounds good to me.


The Greeks (and Romans after them) had what I think is a pretty amusing set of deities. In fact, I’m pretty sure at least some of the stories were intended to be sarcastic and/or sacreligious. The objects of Greek worship were hardly heros of moral strength and piety. No, the opposite of that.

It seems like just about every god and goddess had an affair or two with the spouse of another diety, if not a human. For example, Ares seduced Aphrodites (Mrs. Hephaistos), producing at least two children. Ares went on to kill the son of Poseidon, who had raped Ares’ daughter. There was so much mischief and trickery that these folks could have run for Congress.

And as though the salacious stories and bizarre antics are not entertaining enough, it’s like a puzzle put together by a maniac. There are four wind gods, because you aparently can’t get one god to blow in more than one direction (sometimes there’s a fifth god who controls the other four). And there is Hypnos, the god of sleep, owning half our lives, and who worked with Morpheus, the god of dreams (more familiar as the red pill/blue pill guy from The Matrix), who might have eventually become the Sandman…

Some family members with a fake statue of a Roman goddess in Las Vegas (c. 2015)

But it really gets going when you get to the major gods, who have so many unrelated responsibilities, they were probably assigned using a dart board and a blindfold. Apollo is the god of the bow, who directed the arrow that fatally struck Achilles heal. And he is the god of music, or at least the lyre, and won musical competitions against both Marsyas with his flute and Pan with his pipes. His father is Zeus, and his mother is Leto, who was not Mrs. Zeus…

While the aforementioned Ares is the god of plain old war, Athena is the goddess of just or strategic war. But she is also the goddess of arts and crafts, and of wisdom and mathematics. Her mother was Metis, whose name means wisdom or craft, of all things. Metis was actually the wife of Zeus, Athena’s father. That may seem almost boring for a Greek diety, but stay with me.

Due to a threatening prophecy, Zeus feared the children of Metis, so he tricked her into turning into a fly, which he then ate. But she was already pregnant with Athena, and while inside Zeus, Metis noisily hammered out a helmet and made a robe for Athena, who was born from Zeus’s head, fully grown, armed, and armored. Athena went on to invent the flute which was played by Marsyas, and assisted Hercules, Achilles (oops), and Jason (of Argonaut fame). And that Trojan horse was actually her idea.


Happy New Year. By now many have begun their exercise programs, diets, and various other self-improvement routines. Although they are unlikely to make it through an entire one twelfth of the year, they are warriors in January. “We”, I should say. As much fun as we make of “them” for making and breaking their resolutions, it is something in which almost all of us participate. So we make fun of us.

In truth, it only makes sense that we start something and stop it. We’re constantly doing and undoing things. We get dressed, then we get undressed. We pack, then we unpack. We get dirty, then we get clean. Get up; sit down. Exercise; pig out… Ok, sometimes I skip the exercise. My son once worked on the “Event Staff”, though I’m not sure he ever got the t-shirt. He spent most of his time putting up the stage, or setting up tables and chairs, or whatever, then taking them down, rinse, repeat.

Road and fence wending their way down the mountain.

Not only are we starting and quitting our resolutions this month, but many of us are also taking down our Christmas decorations, or whatever holiday we started decorating for as soon as we woke from our Thanksgiving nap. It’s as though we can’t just do something; we have to undo something, too. Maybe that’s part of the yin-yang idea. Day and night, man and woman, young and old, cops and robbers….

In any case, our path may be in a direction, but it’s not so much a straight line. It’s three steps forward, two steps back. It’s punctuated by many side trips to investigate one shiny object after another. We wend our way through life. We’re going in a direction, but not directly, and typically not quickly. We are impacted by the wind blowing us one way or the other, but hopefully not getting turned around or blown completely off course.

One more thing about losing interest in our New Year’s resolutions before we even make it through January: we can undo the undo. We don’t even have to wait for another new year or new decade (so don’t try that excuse). Every tomorrow is Happy New Day. Start again.


Years ago, Jimmy Fallon was expanding his career from SNL to movies, and starred in a movie opposite Queen Latifah called “Taxi”. With lots of car chase scenes and pileups, it was a bit of a pun from the critic, Mark Deming, who said that “Taxi was Jimmy Fallon’s first big-screen vehicle after leaving…Saturday Night Live.”

That is the only instance I could remember where the word “vehicle” was used in that way, but I found that critic Robert Koehler also used it to reference the origial French movie that Fallon’s Taxi was based on, calling it a “Luc Besson vehicle” (Koehler didn’t like either movie). I’m not sure which reference came first, but Deming’s was the one stuck in my head for 15 years or so…

A vehicle in our driveway on a very cold day.

The movie itself was actually successful at the box office, but pretty universally panned by the critics. I’m really not sure why critics insist on expecting a masterpiece from recent SNL graduates, or on panning movies that consumers enjoy. Fallon certainly has become very successful, and constantly displays his comedic and musical talents as the latest host of The Tonight Show. It’s also interesting to me that he continues to impress with his celebrity impersonations (expecially the musical ones), since that is actually how he started out, and how he auditioned for SNL.

I’m not sure if anyone thinks his Taxi movie helped his career, though I’m sure it paid some bills, and maybe it got him exposure to an audience beyond SNL. But in fairness to at least two critics, it was definitely “a medium for the expression or achievement of something”, which is the definition of vehicle that would fit this use. Of course, a vehicle is also something that transports, such as a taxi. It could also be something that transmits a disease, such as a contaminated dish, or something that delivers a drug, pigment, or other material, such as the inactive ingredients in cough syrup carrying the active ingredients.

So, today is the first day of a new year; will 2020 be your vehicle to greater things? Will you use your 366 days (yes, it’s a leap year) to full advantage? My wish for you is for great success in the box office, and that you ignore the critics who tear you down to build themselves up. Happy New Year.


Here it is Christmas Eve, 2019. Merry Christmas to you all. I wish for you all of the joy and truth of the real meaning of Christmas.

In the meantime, we watch Elf again. We shop and shop and shop. We eat too many wonderful treats. My wife and I took our two youngest children (they’re 20) to New York City for a few days. Aside from a small amount of siteseeing and the Brooklyn Tabernacle Christmas show, it was mostly a shopping, eating and walking trip. Did you know that the original Gimbals building is where the Manhattan Mall now is. That is also the final stop of the PATH train from New Jersey (33rd and 6th).

A glass ornament with tree lights in the back and a white poinsettia in the front, at Longwood Gardens.

We’re back home now, and I was reminded today of the Silver Bells line, “…even stoplights blink a bright red and green…” Because I was driving through town. On my way to the store. Too many traffic lights. Fortunately, our town has not gone completely crazy, and the one “superstore” that was still open was busy but not terribly crowded.

We did make cookies, though it was from a mix. There were some minor adjustments made, but no scratch cookies this year (so far). The egg nog is from scratch, as it must be. There will be spiral ham and smoked duck tomorrow. Also, apple cider made with Dad the other day.

With all the gifts and foods and travel, the expenses are adding up for us as well as for just about everyone in the Christmas loop. It makes me wonder if I’m still a nonborrower if I put everything on credit cards. I really don’t want to be in debt over the seasonal requirements. That would create a different context for the red and green–red for the debt zone, and green for the stacks of cash needed to get back to black. Nope. Not gonna do that.

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