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, April 26, 2013

Guy Talk

I often here husbands and wives say that they don't understand what their spouse is saying or even more importantly, thinking.  I recently found a "Men's Thesaurus" that tries to explain what men mean.  So maybe this will help your marriage, if you need help.  1.  "IT'S A GUY THING"  Translated: "There is no rational thought pattern connected with it, and you have no chance at all of making it logical."  2. "CAN I HELP WITH DINNER?" Translated: "Why isn't it already on the table?"    3. "IT WOULD TAKE TOO LONG TO EXPLAIN" Translated: "I have no idea how it works."   4. "TAKE A BREAK, HONEY. YOU'RE WORKING TOO HARD." Translated: "I can't hear the game over the vacuum cleaner."   5. "THAT'S INTERESTING, DEAR." Translated: "Are you still talking?"   6. "YOU KNOW HOW BAD MY MEMORY IS." Translated: "I remember the theme song to 'F Troop,' the address of the first girl I ever kissed, and the vehicle identification number of every car I've ever owned... but I forgot your birthday."   7. "OH, DON'T FUSS -- I JUST CUT MYSELF. IT'S NO BIG DEAL." Translated: "I have actually severed a limb but will bleed to death before I admit that I'm hurt."   8. "HEY, I'VE GOT MY REASONS FOR WHAT I'M DOING." Translated: "And I sure hope I think of some pretty soon."   9. "I CAN'T FIND IT." Translated: "It didn't fall into my outstretched hands, so I'm completely clueless."   10. "WHAT DID I DO THIS TIME?" Translated: "What did you catch me at?"   11. "I HEARD YOU." Translated: "I haven't the foggiest clue what you just said and am hoping desperately that I can fake it well enough so that you don't spend the next three days yelling at me."   12. "YOU KNOW I COULD NEVER LOVE ANYONE ELSE." Translated: "I am used to the way you yell at me and realize it could be worse."   13. "YOU LOOK TERRIFIC." Translated: "Oh, please don't try on one more outfit. I'm starving."   14. "I'M NOT LOST. I KNOW EXACTLY WHERE WE ARE." Translated: "No one will ever see us alive again."    15. "WE SHARE THE HOUSEWORK." Translated: "I make the messes; she cleans them up."    16. "UH HUH," "SURE, HONEY," OR "YES, DEAR"  Translated: Absolutely nothing. It's a conditioned response.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

More Things I Miss

People often ask me if I miss being a teacher.  It has been ten years now since I retired and in many ways those 39 years now seem like a different lifetime.  I don't miss the many meetings, the standardized testing, the reports to be filed, the teacher observations to be completed, the budget prep and hearings, the state mandates, the required wasted in-service programs, some of the staff relationships and the piles of paperwork.  However I do miss the classroom interaction with older teens and the relationships with some of the staff, especially the elementary teachers.  I miss the technology training, the opening days of a new semester and, believe it or not, parent nights.  One of the things that I do miss the most are the annual math bowls that I started and ran for our elementary schools.  For about 15 years I prepared questions and led three math competitions annually for fourth, fifth and sixth graders.  Each of the elementary schools would send teams of three to compete for trophies.  I would prepare three segments – the first was a written skills test, the second featured one-minute challenging problems and the third was a speed competition in which points were awarded for just the first, second and third place teams to solve the problem correctly.  I prepared very challenging problems and it was exciting to see these teams work together to solve them.  But the part of the bowls I often enjoyed the most was the time before the quiz began when I would challenge and teach the kids with some new type of problem situation.  Often they were in game formats that produced some unusual results.  So, since I miss the fun of that challenge, I will give you one to consider.  Hopefully you'll give it a try.  Here goes.  First, write the month number of your birthday.  Multiply it by five.  Now add seven.  Multiply that by four.  Now add 13.  Multiply that by 5.  Add the day number of your birthday.  Finally, subtract 205.  Now do you recognize the digits in your answer (hint – think of your birthday)?  If not, better go back and check your arithmetic.  Did you get it correct?  Did you do it without a calculator or can't you do arithmetic with just paper and pencil and your brain anymore?  If you have it correct, then congratulations to you.  Now you are ready for a math bowl.  Next question, can you set up and explain this problem algebraically?  I would show the kids how to do that.  How about setting it up on a spreadsheet – a gold star if you can do that.  Oh how I do miss teaching things like this.  Now humor me, wasn't that fun?

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Won't You Hire Some Competent Help!

I guess I am still puzzled by some customer service today.  With so many people out of work, can't companies find enough qualified folks to provide timely service?   Are the people who are hired that incompetent or don't they really care about how they treat their customers?  In the past I've related a number of bad experiences that  I have had in trying to get service - but here are a few more recent ones.  Now I guess I understand why it takes about eight weeks for my wife to get an appointment with a surgeon  - surgeons are limited and in demand.  But I order a pair of diabetic shoes every year from Foot & Ankle Associates of Lancaster.  Now maybe I can understand why it might take six weeks for them to arrive.  But then I need an appointment to try them on and pick them up.  These are the very same shoes I've ordered for the past four years - no changes.  But it will be five more weeks until I can have a 10 minute appointment to do this - five more weeks!  Now this isn't surgery - a clerk or a nurse could do this. Hire a person rather than make your customers wait so long. So I canceled the order with them and went to Foot Solutions in York.  They should have my shoes in less than two weeks and I don't need an appointment to pick them up.  Then try to get an appointment to get your contracted air conditioner annual checkup done - how about the end of June until a service call can be scheduled.  Hire another technician if you are backed up that far.  Oh yes, when I received my bill from Leffler's for my annual ac contract, I was shocked to see that it had gone up 48%!  I called to inquire about this and was told that information had been sent out to me about the increase and I must have missed it.  It was my fault. I discovered that they did have a less expensive plan so - since she said that I didn't read my mail - I humbly asked to have copies of both plans sent to me so I could review them.  When the mailing arrived I found that she had only sent information about the expensive plan.  So I called and this time I did get a helpful rep.  She said that I probably didn't get notified of the changes since it was done by e-mail and they don't have my e-mail address.  She said that because of this, they would give me the more expensive plan this year at the price of the less expensive plan.  Now that is great customer service.  And then there were two other companies I dealt with in the last few weeks.  The one told me my work would be done within 24 hours - the first job was done five days later and the second three days later - maybe they are using different clocks ... or calendars.  The other company called and told me that the work would be done that afternoon - it was finally done two days later.  Not enough help?   Incompetent or dishonest?  You are only a customer?  Not sure.   Oh yes, of course there is still the matter of our car accident on January 8.   The lady who hit us is still lying about what happened and we will probably lose since it is now her word against ours.  We have been promised from the beginning that Liberty Mutual would keep us informed, but since the first week all contacts have been made by us, none from them.  We were also told that arbitration would be held April 1 - maybe that was an April Fool's Day joke since we still have not heard anything about that.  Well I could share more stories, but that is enough for now.  I guess we just need to adjust to these times when integrity, pride, and competence might be a thing of the past.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Thinking Of Retirement?

So often folks tell us that they look forward to being retired. They dream of no work, constant travel and sitting on beaches.  And I must agree that some parts of retirement are nice, if you can afford it.  Unfortunately, too many people don't measure the costs before they make that big decision.  Now, let me explain.  I am not complaining.  I am so fortunate that the Lord has blessed us.  We can still live on our retirement.  But I see so many others who can't.  And I understand why.  I have been retired now for ten years.  In that time I have never received an increase in my pension and I never will.  My social security has increased but so has medicare and that has wiped out most of my increases.  In fact, I have exactly $38 more a month to spend now than I did ten years ago.  Now where has that $38 gone?  Well my heating oil has gone from $1.259 to $3.949 in that time or about $180 more a month.  Gasoline has gone from $1.15 a gallon to the $3.75 it cost me this week.  When I retired I spent $2,216 a year for medical insurance.  This year it is costing me $8,400 with Obama Care.  Thank you President Obama for "reducing" my costs. I wish he wouldn't care so much about us in the middle class - his care is killing us. Today I bought a pound of coffee for $8.00 a pound that cost $2.66 a pound when I retired.  We still pay for a lawn service which now costs me $293 a year, or $24 a month more than ten years ago.  Maybe that is where my $38 more a month has gone.  But the lawn care is still my choice.  Oh yes, one more example, my school and county taxes are now $883 more than ten years ago and that is just about $74 more per month.  So how does a retiree make it go?  Maybe he makes good investments.  Guess again!  In school I taught the Rule of 72 which can be used to approximate the number of years that it takes for an investment with complex interest to double.  Back in the Carter years it was something like 72/12 = 6 years.  Not too bad for a retiree.  When I retired it was about 72/5 = 14.4 years and that is a little tougher, but still possible for some.  Today it is worse than 72/1 = 72+ years.  Impossible, unless maybe you are a child.  Now getting back to my opening statements, I am not complaining.  It is a challenge, but the Lord is good and we are adjusting.  But for many seniors it is becoming an almost impossible challenge and nobody really seems to care, except them.  Now, unfortunately, many are struggling in this terrible economy, especially families.  And I don't see things getting any better.  If you are close to retiring, be very careful and think and pray long about it.  Retirement may become a thing of the past in the years ahead.  If you have the means, be more aware of the needs of those around you.  We may need to help many more out.  And churches and their benevolence committees need to become more aware of senior needs and begin to help them with basic living needs.  That is what Christ would want us to do.  Personally, I think things will get much worse.  I think soon we'll see more civil disobedience and even riots.  Politicians will do nothing and maybe there is nothing that they could do now that we are so deep in debt.  The hope here on earth is for the church to become more active until the final help and relief appears with the return of Christ.  That is our ultimate hope and retirement.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Happy Birthday

I passed that prime
number many decades ago
I guess I should be excited - today is my birthday.  Last week several folks reminded me of that as if it should be a very special event for me.  Without their reminders I probably wouldn't have even thought about it.  For me birthdays are usually just the same as any other day in the year. I've had plenty of them. We don't make a fuss about them.  Maybe we'll go out for dinner somewhere, but I can't say that I enjoy buffets or big expensive meals.  There never has been anything very special about my birthdays. At least I can't remember anything special. I imagine that my parents were quite excited when I was born - actually on a Palm Sunday.  And I'm sure that my grandparents on my dad's side were excited because I was the first grandchild and I am told that my aunts and uncles shared in spoiling me.  And the first couple birthdays were probably exciting, but I don't remember them.  In fact, I can't say that I recall any birthday.  Now the early excitement was probably dampened by the fact that war was raging around the world when I was born. People were probably worried and afraid.  I tried to search the internet for any significant events that happened on the day that I was born and all I could find were stories about the war.  On this day the Germans launched a joint attack on Greece and Yugoslavia, intending to invade and control both countries.  And that was about it.  Oh yes, Philip Austin, an American comedian-actor, Barbara Ann Roles, an American figure skater, and Louis Shelton, an American guitarist, were all born that day.  But who are they?  I found a newspaper that advertised Easter coats for $10.95 to $29.50, and Easter suits for $10.95 to $22.50.  And you could have one of those suits or coats cleaned for 49 cents.  And you could have had a new rubber heel placed on your shoe for 19 cents.  But that is all I could find about my birth day.  Even the hospital that I was born in, in Sunbury, was eventually replaced by a school.  So I can't even go and see where I was born.  And the parsonage that was my first home was completely remodeled and no longer looks at all like it did then.  But even though the places are gone and the war overshadowed everything else that day, I still have many great memories, not of birthdays, but  of many years of exciting times, good family, good friends, good health and a faithful God.  And what more could I want?  And so another day passes on and life moves on. I don't feel any older or different. I guess the only thing significant about this birthday is that I am now the product of five prime numbers old!  And should I reach my next birthday I will once again be a prime number old, just like I was yesterday. I guess it will be good to be in "my prime" again.  Now isn't that interesting and exciting?  Not!

Monday, April 1, 2013

April 1

April 1 is a day which I won't ever forget, for many reasons.  First, this year it is the day that Channing Mauger, the 17 year old grandson of my college roommate and closest friend, Jim Herrold, was buried.  Channing has joined his grandmother and grandfather in heaven after a tragic two months of unexpected suffering.  He was an excellent high school long distance runner at Oley Valley.  He would have been valedictorian of his graduating class.  He was accepted at Bucknell University and Cornell University.  He seemed to be in perfect health.  Then suddenly he became very ill and ended up in Children's Hospital in Philadelphia where he was a patient for nearly two months.  They found that his blood counts, especially his platelets, were extremely poor and, as a result, mold became his enemy.  It was determined that he would need a bone marrow transplant.  Later his liver and kidneys would need to be replaced.  He was put into a coma for over a month in hopes that his body would heal.  But on March 26 the Lord took him home while his family surrounded him singing hymns and praise songs.  He passed quietly to his new home.  His body, which was just a rental, was buried April 1.  This day was also the birthday of my mother-in-law.  Folks enjoy mother-in-law jokes, but I would never joke about her,  She was a special lady who loved and served the Lord.  She was an excellent mother who reared two wonderful Christian daughters.  She went through some very difficult times and learned how to prosper with very limited money and means.  She knew how to work hard.  And I will never forget her and what she meant to me.  If she were still living she would be 99 on this April 1 birthday. And April 1 was also the day, many years ago, that we buried Dianne's grandmother.  He was a very rainy day and a muddy event at the cemetery. But I also remember this day for the fun I have had over the years with April Fool's Day pranks.  When I was teaching, every few years I would teach "L'ooflirpa's Theorem", a fake theorem, that included a few mathematically incorrect steps.  My students would play the "student game", taking notes, shaking their heads in agreement and accepting whatever I said. The next day I would explain to them the fallacy of the proof.  I was amazed at how easy it was to fool them.   In fact, one year I even found some students still trying to apply this false theorem on a final exam - then I realized that I may have been too good at teaching this false lesson.  But for many years I have annually sent out a fake e-mail on April 1.  After stating my case, I would ask folks to click on a link for more information.  The link would take them to a page that would say "April Fools!".  Some years this has been a major success.  In one case we announced that we were making a quick and unexpected move to Florida.  We had folks in tears and there was even a meeting called to consider how we would be replaced in Awana. Too bad they didn't use the link I provided. Another successful one was telling folks that I had accidentally sent a "l'ooflirpa virus" and that their computers would be infected unless they went to a special site.  Several folks were upset and worried. Again, too bad that they didn't use the link I had provided.  Then there was the announcement that Taco Bell had purchased the naming rights to the Liberty Bell and were going to call it the Taco Bell.  This upset many folks, including some home school teachers who didn't check the link.  Now I do face some challenges with these pranks.  They are getting harder to do because many folks now expect them and look for them.  It is also harder to come up with ideas that are believable.   Finally, many folks just accept them and don't take the time to use the link which I ask them to use.  But I guess that if you read it on the internet or in an e-mail it must be true.  Right?  I think Abe Lincoln said that .... or maybe it was Joe Biden.  So I think the day of my April Fool's Day e-mails may be be over .... April Fools to you!

Key Tax Changes Coming

In case you haven't heard, the Senate and House may be reaching a budget compromise that could have a definite impact upon both giving to churches and your personal taxes.  They are about to announce tax changes that would eliminate income tax deductions on all contributions, medical expenses, and mortgage expenses.  And those who don't take these deductions will be hit with a 10% surcharge on their normal income taxes to balance out the impact.  And an even bigger impact on taxpayers is that these rules will be made retroactive to your 2012 tax returns.  All taxpayers will be required to submit an amended 2012 form with their 2013 tax forms and pay the additional tax due at that time.  That gives you a year to save the money for the new tax.  The Democrats are supporting it because of the extra revenue it will bring and the large impact on large wage earners.  The Republicans are supporting it because some tax "loopholes" are being eliminated and because the extra taxes raised are to be used to reduce the national debt.  Obama is expected to approve this compromise.  But while it will have an impact on large wage earners, it will also have a major impact on giving to churches and charities and will cost all of us at least several hundred dollars more in taxes.  There is still time for you to protest these probable changes by completing a quick opinion survey which can be found at  this link, TAX CHANGES where you can also learn more about the proposed bill, what it will cost you, and what else can be done to stop it from becoming law.  I would recommend that you go there right now and vote your opinion.  You could still have an impact on these proposed changes.  Maybe it is time for another Boston Tea Party!