Welcome to my blog, or should I say to the ramblings of an old man. I doubt that my ramblings are of much value, but at least I have an opportunity to share them.  So, please be kind and humor me. If nothing else of value stands out in these thoughts, I hope that you at least sense the value I place on a daily walk with the Lord.  That walk is what has provided me with motivation and a sense of purpose throughout my lifetime.  My prayer is that you, too, are experiencing this direction and joy in daily living which is available to everyone who puts his trust in Christ.  So, thanks again for joining me.  Please don't go without leaving some comments here so I can get to know you better as our paths intersect today in this blog.

Friday, July 29, 2011

How Our Lives Change

Recently we were talking to somebody about their new baby and the remark was made that children really change the lives of their parents, sometimes more than anticipated. We discovered that almost a half century ago. Recently somebody sent me an interesting e-mail that listed some of these changes. I enjoyed it enough to share with you. Parents, enjoy!
BEFORE CHILDREN: I was thankful to have been born the USA, the most powerful free democracy in the world.
AFTER CHILDREN: I am thankful for Velcro tennis shoes. As well as saving valuable time, now I can hear the sound of my son taking off his shoes -- which gives me three extra seconds to activate the safety locks on the back seat windows right before he hurls them out of the car and onto the freeway.
BEFORE CHILDREN: I was thankful for the recycling program which will preserve our natural resources and prevent the overloading of landfills.
AFTER CHILDREN: I am thankful for swim diapers because every time my son wanders into water in plain disposables, he ends up wearing a blimp the size of, say, New Jersey, on his bottom.
BEFORE CHILDREN: I was thankful for fresh, organic vegetables.
AFTER CHILDREN: I am thankful for microwaveable macaroni and cheese -- without which my children would be surviving on about three bites of cereal and their own spit.
BEFORE CHILDREN: I was thankful for the opportunity to obtain a college education and have a higher quality of life than my ancestors.
AFTER CHILDREN: I am thankful to finish a complete thought without being interrupted.
BEFORE CHILDREN: I was thankful for holistic medicine and natural herbs.
AFTER CHILDREN: I am thankful for pediatric cough syrup guaranteed to "cause drowsiness" in young children.
BEFORE CHILDREN: I was thankful for the opportunity to vacation in exotic foreign countries so I could experience a different way of life in a new culture.
AFTER CHILDREN: I am thankful to have time to make it all the way down the driveway to get the mail.
BEFORE CHILDREN: I was thankful for the Moosewood Vegetarian cookbook.
AFTER CHILDREN: I am thankful for the Butterball turkey hot line.
BEFORE CHILDREN: I was thankful for a warm, cozy home to share with my loved ones.
AFTER CHILDREN: I am thankful for the lock on the bathroom door.
BEFORE CHILDREN: I was thankful for material objects like custom furniture, a nice car and trendy clothes.
AFTER CHILDREN: I am thankful when the baby spits up and misses my good shoes.
Yes, life does change when you have children.

Monday, July 25, 2011

They're Back!

They are back! The cicada killers are invading our lawn once again. Last year was the first that they appeared at our house and they really dug up the lawn in our backyard. I worked hard to replant grass and this year it looked back to normal once again. But now they are back. Most folks don't know what I am even talking about. So here is some information about this unusual wasp. Adult eastern cicada killer wasps are large, 0.6 to 2.0 in long, robust wasps with hairy, reddish and black areas on the thorax (middle part), and are black to reddish brown marked with light yellow stripes on the abdominal (rear) segments. The wings are brownish. Cicada killer females use their sting to paralyze their prey (cicadas) rather than to defend their nests. Adults feed on flower nectar and other plant sap exudates. Adults emerge in summer, typically beginning around late June or early July and continuing throughout the summer months. They are present in a given area for 60 to 75 days, until mid-September. The large females are commonly seen in mid-to-late summer skimming around lawns seeking good sites to dig burrows and searching shrubs and trees for cicadas. The males are more often seen in groups, vigorously challenging one another for position on the breeding aggregation from which they emerged, and generally pursuing anything that moves or flies within proximity. It is not unusual to see two or three male wasps locked together in midair combat, the aggregate adopting an erratic and uncontrolled flight path until one of the wasps breaks away Females may share a burrow, digging their own nest cells off the main tunnel. A burrow is 6 - 10 in. deep and about 1.2 in. wide. The female dislodges the soil with her jaws and pushes loose soil behind her as she backs out of the burrow using her hind legs, which are equipped with special spines that help her push the dirt behind her. The excess soil pushed out of the burrow forms a mound with a trench through it at the burrow entrance. After digging a nest chamber in the burrow, female cicada killers capture cicadas, paralyzing them with a sting; the cicadas then serve as food to rear their young. After paralyzing a cicada, the female wasp straddles it and takes off toward her burrow; this return flight to the burrow is difficult for the wasp because the cicada is often more than twice her weight. After putting the cicada in the nest cell, the female deposits an egg on the cicada and closes the cell with dirt. Male eggs are laid on a single cicada but female eggs are given two or sometimes three cicadas; this is because the female wasp is twice as large as the male and must have more food. New nest cells are dug as necessary off the main burrow tunnel and a single burrow may eventually have 10 to 20 cells. The egg hatches in one or two days, and the cicadas serve as food for the grub. The larvae complete their development in about 2 weeks. Overwintering occurs as a mature larva within an earth-coated cocoon. Pupation occurs in the nest cell in the spring and lasts 25 to 30 days. There is only one generation per year and no adults overwinter. It is an incredible creation of God - I just wish that we could view it somewhere other than in our yard. Apparently there is no practical way to kill them or get rid of them. We have checked with several experts and they don't have a solution except to put up with them - while they dig up our lawn. However we did find a site on the internet that suggested swatting them with a tennis racket or a baseball bat. However that just stuns them. You really then need to crush them with something hard to complete the job. So if you go by our house and see us taking our swings in the backyard, you know what we are doing. And it really is a great way to improve your coordination and get some exercise several times a day. Come on over and try it. We don't charge for this recreation.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Tragic News

Sometimes the news just makes you sick. Such was the case last Saturday when I read the front page story of a fatal auto crash near us. A family from Delaware County had come to Lancaster County to purchase a puppy. They were headed home when a drunk driver who was speeding tried to pass on a double line and crashed into them. A young woman and the puppy were killed instantly. One of the preteen children was critically injured. The drunk driver was not hurt. Police reported that he had previously been charged with a DUI and he was driving with a suspended license. That just makes me sick. It is probably good that I can't make the laws because I have no time at all for people who drink and drive. I think that if a person is charged with a DUI it should result in at least ten years in prison and permanent loss of their license. It seems to me that if we got serious about this problem, strong enforced laws would reduce and maybe even eliminate this problem. And if a DUI causes an accident it should be twenty years in prison. And if it results in a fatality it should be life in prison. And if a person is caught driving with a suspended license it should be permanent loss of license. Few will agree with me, but possibly the family in this accident might. It will be interesting to see how easy the courts treat this murderer. I guess DUI gets me upset since my mother was killed in an auto accident when a teenager hit my parents broadside. I don't know if he was drinking but I know that his parents quickly whisked him away from the scene and he was never tested. And he never suffered any serious consequences. On the other hand, we lost mother. With drinking and drugs so common and accepted today, one risks his life each time he enters an auto to go somewhere. I guess that it just is not politically correct for our laws and courts to come down hard on such offenses. But I just can't help but wonder how much safer we would be with strict laws that were enforced. There is one other sad side to this fatal accident. The police said that the young woman who was killed did not have her seat belt on and she was holding the dog. For the life of me, I can't understand why people, especially young people, won't buckle up. That too should be an offense. However, I guess the difference is that when you fail to buckle up you are risking your life. When you drive under the influence you are risking the lives of others. But such is life today. Keep safe!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Number Four

My son and his family recently returned from a trip of a lifetime. They spent several weeks in South Africa and Botswana hunting. For our grandkids it was the second time they've made this trip, while my son and his wife have been there several times. They have become good friends with the families that own the hunting ranches there. The main purpose of this trip was for my son to notch the fourth animal in what is known by hunters as the "Big Five" - the five most difficult animals in Africa to hunt on foot. Previously he had shot his lion. Later it was the Cape Buffalo which is considered by many to be the most dangerous animal to hunt. Many hunters have been killed attempting to hunt it. He had also shot his leopard which is considered to be the most difficult to hunt. If you are interested, you can read the diary of that hunt on my website, fbfawana.com. He might not ever get a chance to get fifth, the black rhinoceros, since licenses for that animal are not presently available. But this hunt was to get his African Elephant, which despite its size, is very difficult to hunt because it is very dangerous and most likely to charge you. It is extremely difficult to track because it can hide in the tall grasses and trees. But after nine days of hunting, he was able to shot a very large elephant with tusks that probably weighed more than 50 pounds each. His daughter was with him when this was done and she was even able to take some video of the event. Hopefully he'll write his diary of this hunt and if he does it will also appear on my website. After the kill, area villagers came and claimed all the meat. This was a big event for them. My grandson went for a zebra and he was successful. My granddaughter went for an impala and she shot that and a zebra. My daughter-in-law took hundreds of pictures. If you see any of them ask them about their experiences since they have many stories to tell. Ask them about how much "fun" it was to sleep out in the wilderness in tents with wild animals and snakes all around. We are just glad that they've returned safely. Folks often ask us where they've picked up this desire to hunt. I really don't know. However, I have been very successful as a hunter ... killing things around the house like spiders and ants as well as catching mice and even squirrels. Do you think that counts?

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Medical Visits

We don't qualify as experts on very much, but I do claim to be somewhat an authority on doctor visits. So far this year we have made 40 different visits to 13 different doctors, medical technicians, and dentists. I think that might be enough to claim that one is an authority. Doctor visits have changed. Today all records are being changed to computer records. Some of our doctors are now learning to type - they didn't take that course in high school or even medical school. But, concerning those records, we have learned to request all copies of tests and reports from specialists and we carry them in a folder to all our visits. With so many specialists who spend so little time with you, we are learning to take care of ourselves and our records. And that is an essential lesson for all to learn. But that isn't the main concern of this blog. When I was a child we went to Dr. Griswold. There weren't appointments. You just showed up and signed a list and they took you in the order of your name on the list. That meant you probably would sit and wait at least an hour and sometimes two or three hours to see the doctor. That was tough anytime, but especially when you had a fever or upset belly or worse yet, when you had a sick child. Of course he still did some home visits so if you were really ill you could wait at home until he could visit. Good old Dr. Heinbach in Selinsgrove was no different except that he probably didn't do home visits. But he did speed up notifications - he told my father-in-law that Dianne was pregnant before he told either of us. I guess that was pre-HIPA. Then came Dr. Bryson in Landisville. He was the first of our doctors who made and actually kept appointments. What a great change. Very short waiting times there. And since then all doctors that we know now use appointments. But there are often two major problems with appointments, waiting and waiting. The first "waiting" is waiting to get an appointment. Sometimes it is the same day, but if it is a specialist it might be a week, or a month, or two months or even in one case for me, six months. The second "waiting" is the waiting for the doctor to keep the appointment and actually see you. A few are very prompt. We have one who I like who is almost always on time. But he is on time because he doesn't spend much time with you. I don't mind that as long as he is able to help me. We have some where the wait is a little longer and then there are a few where you can still expect to wait an hour or more. Now that is where I have a major problem. I can only see three reasons that should happen - an emergency, a slow doctor, and poor scheduling procedures. This week I read on the website of a local practice that if you are 15 minutes late for your appointment it will need to be rescheduled and you may be charged for the missed appointment. We actually saw that happen in this practice when a lady was about 30 minutes late. Rather than try to work her in they suggested that she go to an urgent care facility. Now I understand that policy but I think the consumers should also have some protection. A few weeks ago we sat in that same practice for almost an hour past our appointment time just waiting to be seen. That should not happen. I think doctor's should have a policy that if a doctor is delayed more than 15 minutes by an emergency, waiting patients should be informed and given the opportunity to either reschedule or wait. Waiting patients deserve to know if this is happening. Second, if the doctor is more than 30 minutes late, without an emergency interruption, the waiting patient should not be billed for the visit. The practice should absorb the cost. After all, patients have responsibilities too and their time should be valued. If a doctor can't schedule properly and maintain his schedule properly, it should be at a cost to him. That should be a professional courtesy and practice. So another key lesson that I have learned is, since the doctor will probably be late, and maybe very late, carry something along to read. This is important because the Ladies Home Journal in the waiting room will probably be at least eight months old.

Monday, July 11, 2011

A Very Special Year

It was an interesting year ... Winston Churchill became Prime Minister of Great Britain ... nylon stockings went on sale in New York City ... the first successful helicopter flight was held in the United States ... Italy joined the war as a member of the Axis power and declared war on France and Great Britain ... German troops entered Paris and marched down the Champs-Elysées ... the Battle of Britain began as the German Luftwaffe bombed London ... the first peacetime draft in the United States was held ... Disney's Fantasia became number one as it premiered at the Broadway Theater in New York ... Tiffany & Co. moved to a larger store, the first completely air-conditioned store of any kind ... Near Pasadena, Calif. McDonald hamburger stands had its beginning in a drive-in opened by movie theater co-owners Richard and Maurice McDonald of Glendora ... Forrest E. Mars developed m&m's candies with the idea that candies could be eaten in the summer if they did not melt from the heat ... For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway was published ... the Cincinnati Reds won the World Series ... the radio show Abbott and Costello began as a summer replacement for Fred Allen ... The Adventures of Superman was introduced on Mutual Radio ... A quiz show, Double or Nothing, started on Mutual Radio and ran for 12 years with a top prize of $80 ... Singing cowboy Gene Autry's Melody Ranch was introduced on CBS radio and ran for 16 years ... the number 1 song was In The Mood by Glenn Miller, then Frenesi by Arthur Shaw, Only Forever by Bing Crosby, I'll Never Smile Again by Tommy Dorsey and When You Wish Upon a Star by Cliff Edwards ... and many future musicians were born such as Smokey Robinson, Rick Nelson, Tom Jones, Ringo Starr, and Dionne Warwick ... Franklin Roosevelt beat Wendell Wilkie for an unprecedented third term ... and in Sunbury, PA, on this day in that year, a beautiful baby girl was born to Glenn and Mary Bickle. They named her Dianne Lee (if she had been a boy her name would have been Barry Lee). She grew up to be a wonderful beautiful lady, devoted mother, and loving wife. And her positive Christian influence and testimony has impacted many besides her family. So today we say "Happy Birthday Dianne!"... now if you correctly guessed the year then you know how young she is. I'm not going to reveal that to you. But she looks ten years younger than she actually is. If you really want to know her age, just ask her. She isn't like many women in that she is willing to share her age. So please join with me today in wishing her a very happy birthday.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Stars and Stripes

One of my favorite activities on the Fourth of July is watching, on television, the fireworks and listening to the Boston Pops holiday concert from Boston. I often wished that I could go and actually be part of that exciting event, but now that I am older it is just much easier to dream about it and to watch it on television. I was a little disappointed this year in that television only showed an hour of the program and several of my favorite holiday numbers were not even televised. My favorite march is "Stars and Stripes" and the usual rendition by the Boston Pops is by far my favorite. I love the part by the piccolos and then the triumphant ending featuring the brass. As a former trombone player I imagine myself playing along with them. I first fell in love with this number when we played it in marching band many, many years ago in high school. And it has been my favorite march since then, The Fourth of July is just not complete for me until I hear it played once again. I have always enjoyed the music of the Boston Pops. When I was teaching I was very fortunate to be able to attend, almost annually, the national conventions of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics. I think over the years Dianne and I attended about 30 of these in most of the major cities in the United States and Canada. I was actually on the program as a speaker at several of these conventions. Much of the funding for these trips came from the Presidential Award that I was honored to win from President Reagan. Some funding came from my school district but most of it came out of our own pockets. They were special trips with tremendous in-service training for me as well as the exposure to many national textbook and supply companies. I was able to broker many special deals and discounts for my district at these events. But back to my major thought - one of my most remembered conventions was held in Boston. Special arrangements were made by the NCTM to hold a special concert just for convention guests by the Boston Pops in a large hotel ballroom. We arrived early to scout out the location and when the doors opened, we were able to sit in the fourth row, right behind the conductor. There we had an excellent view of the entire orchestra. Their concert was tremendous with a wide variety of numbers. Unfortunately, it did not include their signature number, "Stars and Stripes". At the end of the concert the gathering gave the orchestra a standing ovation and began to beg for an encore. Now I am normally a very quiet guy, but this time I couldn't resist. I yelled out "Stars and Stripes" and soon all those around me joined in the chant. And guess what? For an unplanned encore the Boston Pops struck up my favorite. It was an event and a night that I shall never forget. And I can hardly wait to hear them play it once again next July Fourth.
P.S. - Some day I'll share another great experience - hearing the Mormon Tabernacle Choir in person at a convention in Salt Lake City. But that time I was quiet and I behaved.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Ten Reasons Why Lititz Is A Special Town

I moved to Lititz when I was in fourth grade and I lived there until I got married, about 11 years later. My parents lived there about 60 years until dad recently died. As much as I would have liked to move back, it was never the Lord's will that this would happen. But as we returned last Friday for the annual Fourth of July parade, I realized again how great a town Lititz really is and how much I miss it. Here are my top ten reasons for saying that.

(1) It has great traditions - the Fourth of July parade is extra special as are other parades (Memorial Day, Halloween, etc.), the Candlelight Ceremony, fireworks, and especially the Trombone Choir and the Moravian traditions at Easter. It still maintains a community band (see picture).
(2) It has a rich history dating back well over 200 years. It was a key location in the Revolutionary War and even General Sutter who started the California Goldrush is buried there. Historical sights and markers can be seen throughout the town and very old tombstones can be found in the Moravian Cemetery.
(3) It has great architecture with many restored homes and buildings. It has many streets lined with houses with big front porches. Even the alleys are fun to explore with their old garages and apartments. I miss Sunday afternoon walks throughout the town.
(4) It has great facilities with excellent public and private schools, top notch athletic facilities, a community rec center and swimming pool, churches, a great library, museums, a wonderful park, retirement homes, and much more.
(5) It has a wonderful downtown with many small shops for antiques, specialty items, food, etc. and even an Inn. It is fun just to be able to walk around and explore. You can even stop to make a pretzel at the Sturgis Bakery.
(6) It has a religious heritage that was established by the early Moravians who settled there. While it is not immune to today's liberal agenda, the effects of this heritage are still seen in things like the Christmas Nativity display found in the town square each Christmas season. And few communities still allow churches to use chimes to broadcast hymns daily for the community to hear, but Lititz does.
(7) It has a weekly newspaper that covers the town news each week and promotes the community and school activities. I wrote for this paper for about six years while growing up and it is something special that few towns have been able to maintain in today's economy and technology.
(8) It has great community spirit. It may be hard to understand this unless you've lived there. But, Lititz folks support their local merchants, their community events and especially their athletic teams. Thousands turn out for their annual Craft Fair and Art Fair. I have now spent most of my life in a college community where such spirit does not exist and I really miss that. It is a special feeling.
(9) It has a chocolate factory and residents live with the daily smell of the chocolate. Many don't realize how special that is until they move away and miss that delicious smell. And Wilbur Buds just are a special treat.
(10) It is still my hometown. No matter how long I am gone from Lititz, memories of a great time in my life still frequent my thinking. I was blessed to be able to grow up there.

Now you might ask, why don't I move back. We never did move back because our present home was much more convenient to where I worked and and it is close to where we worship and serve. The one drawback to living in Lititz is the traffic, especially on 501. Sometimes it takes a long time to get in or out of this growing borough. Area highways have not kept up with the growth. We did seriously consider moving back when we had to sell my dad's house, but at this point it makes much more sense to stay here. Our next move will probably be to a retirement facility or to heaven. And as nice as Lititz is, it just doesn't compare to heaven.

Friday, July 1, 2011


I am running a one man campaign against two small issues that irritate me. I have mentioned one of them before, but since we are celebrating Independence Day I thought I'd share my approach to trying to get my independence from junk mail and advertisements. Everyday when I go to my mailbox I find that about 2/3 of it is junk (the other third are usually bills or J C Penney sales flyers for the greatest sale ever). It almost always includes an offer for a new credit card or an invitation to learn more about a medicare plan or an opportunity to buy insurance or borrow money. Many of these include postage paid, addressed return envelopes. So what I do is kindly write "No thank you" on the information, fold it all including the original envelope, stuff it in their return envelope, seal it with tape, and put it back in the mail. I feel that if they have the funds to send the offers to me, I should be "kind" enough to reply and decline, at their expense of course. And with all that is stuffed into the envelope I imagine that it may cost them more than normal to receive my reply. But that is just part of my campaign. I am also irritated when I go to read a magazine and all sorts of reply advertising cards fall out of the magazine - usually on to my lap or the floor. I now take those, which are also postage paid, "kindly" reply "no thank you" on the cards, and mail them back. After all if they really want me to react to their advertisements, why shouldn't I take the time to do so, again at their expense of course. Now I guess the junk mail is what is probably keeping the U.S. Postal System in business since most correspondence and even billing is now done electronically. So in returning all of these, I am helping to support the U.S. Postal Service, as every good American should want to do. I'm helping save jobs for my friend Mitch and for my local mail carrier. And that is a good cause. Now if you are bothered by junk mail or those irritating loose cards in magazines, maybe you might want to consider a campaign for independence from them as well. I don't know if I will ever achieve anything, but at least I am exercising one of the rights that I have as an American - freedom of speech. So shout it out - U S A ... U S A ... U S A ... U S A!