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.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Be Careful What You Think

          Things aren't always the way we think they are.  This certainly is illustrated by the following story which somebody sent to me.  Enjoy!
          A young Marine and his commanding officer board a train headed to a recruiting mission.  They can find no place to sit except for two seats right across the aisle from a young woman and her grandmother. After a while, it is obvious that the young woman and the young Marine are interested in each other because they are giving each other "looks."  
         Soon the train passes into a tunnel and it is pitch black. There is a sound of the smack of a kiss followed by the sound of the smack of a slap. When the train emerges from the tunnel, the four sit there without saying a word. 
         The grandmother is thinking to herself: "It was very brash for that young Marine to kiss my granddaughter, but I'm glad she slapped him." 
         The commanding officer is sitting there thinking:  "I didn't think the young Marine was brave enough to kiss the girl, but I sure wish she hadn't missed him when she slapped and hit me!" 
          The young woman was sitting and thinking:  "I'm glad the Marine kissed me, but I wish my grandmother had not slapped him!" 
          The young Marine sat there with a satisfied smile on his face.  He thought to himself:  "Life is good.  When does a guy have the chance to kiss a beautiful girl and slap his commanding officer all at the same time?!"

Saturday, August 20, 2016

The Little Things

          If you are like me, you tend to be thankful for the big things that happen in your life.  But there are so many "little" things that aren't really little, but we routinely accept them and take them for granted. We tend not to think about these things until they go wrong or are missing.
          For example, you need to go somewhere and your car starts.  We come to expect that and don't think about saying "thank you Lord!".  But if it doesn't start that creates a problem and we may begin to pray that it might start or for wisdom to get help.  The same thing happens when we drive hundreds of miles without a breakdown.  Today we just expect that.  But, then, suddenly, ...
          We drive around town and take trips, safely, without even thinking about it.  And yet many are injured or even killed in auto accidents, often even close to home.  We always pray before taking long trips, but seldom think about doing that for short ones.
         Now we have a well, not public water as most folks do today.  Hundreds of times a day the pump provides us with water to meet our every need.  And we never think about it until the day that the pump wears out.  Then we have no water to drink, wash or even flush our toilets.  Then we think about the well and begin to pray.  And even if you don't have a well, I think most of us just take water for granted. We use it throughout the day without much thought, maybe until there is a drought.
          And while talking about pumps, we have water problems in our basement and a sump pump is necessary to protect the things in our basement.  And it normally does its job, until the pump burns out or the electricity goes off. Then we need to scramble to get the buckets to try to keep ahead of the water by hand.  And believe me that has happened to us a few times.
          Speaking about electricity, how we take that for granted until a storm cuts it off.  Then we really miss it and all sorts of problems can result, such as rotting food in our refrigerators and freezers.  And those appliances we also take for granted until they suddenly go bad and we either hustle to replace them and protect the contents or we lose it all.  Do we ever stop to be thankful for electricity or for vital appliances when they operate daily as expected?
          In the winter, when the temperature drops below freezing, and the cold winds are blowing, we really depend upon our furnace to keep us warm and comfortable.  And even though we may have repair contracts, being out of heat, even for several hours, can be very difficult.
          Then, when I wake up to several feet of snow, I am thrilled when my snow blower starts, and,fortunately, most times it has.   But I should be thankful for that.  I'm no longer able to shovel and it is difficult and even dangerous to be snowbound without any help.
          There are just so many things we take for granted every day.  What about our freedom to worship, to travel, to select from vast supplies of food, to work, to go to school, to vote, to read what we want, to use the internet, to express ourselves, and on and on and on?   There seems to be no limit to the small, but important things, that we take for granted and seldom express our thanks for them.
          Now what made me think about this?  Actually, the excessive heat that we have been living with in recent weeks.  I am so thankful for air conditioning.  As I mentioned in a previous blog, (June 29), we did recently lose our ac for about 24 hours.  But it wasn't too hot then.  We would have really suffered if our ac had decided to take an unexpected  vacation in the last few weeks.  Thankfully it didn't.
          Thank you, Lord, for the blessing of so many "little" things that I so often take for granted.  And, thank you, that all things are under your control.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

August Traditions

          There are some things that you can always count on when August rolls around ... for example, hot and humid weather, thunderstorms, football practice, fresh corn, tomatoes, back to school sales, zinnias and sunflowers.  Daylight begins to decrease and hints of fall begin to appear.
           But a few things can change. Enjoying my crop of ripe tomatoes has become a thing of the past, even though I had enjoyed this for decades.  If you  are a regular reader of my blogs you might recall that last year I gave up digging a plot and growing loads of great tomatoes - it just became too much work for me (June 2015).  So instead I tried using special growing boxes which cost me a small fortune.  But all my tomatoes developed a rot and we had none to eat (July 2015).  What a disappointment.
          So I contacted the company that sold me these growing boxes and they said I had to add another chemical which they sold to me.  I tried it once again with just three plants.  The results were the same, although we did salvage two to eat.  I contacted the company again and they said that I need to add several more things.  I said forget it.  You've gotten my hard earned money twice. In the future the local garden stands will get my money.  So I guess my new August tradition will be buying tomatoes someone else has grown.

          Then there are some summer events which I wish wouldn't happen.  One of these is the annual return of the cicadas.   And they are back.  And along with them come the cicada killers which seem to have adopted our yard (Aug 2013).  They dig tunnels to bury their captured cicadas and these make our backyard look like a battle ground.  And they have also appeared again although they don't seem to be quite as numerous this year.  They are interesting to observe but they are destructive.  I just wish they would choose somebody else's yard to attack.
          But this August one of my favorite things has returned.  It comes back every four years - the Olympics.  And we are enjoying the action  Thanks to NBC almost all of the events can be watched on television, from morning to night.
          So far I have especially enjoyed the women's gymnastics.  The U.S. women had probably the best team ever and they whipped everybody else.  Each member was spectacular and one has to wonder how these women can jump and twist and tumble as they do.   It takes all that I can do just to get out of my chair when they are done.
           Suprisingly I have also enjoyed the hockey probably because the team trained just a few miles from here and one of the players came from the high school  (Penn Manor) where I taught and another came from the one where I went to high school (Warwick).  I never have enjoyed hockey, but this has been exciting to watch. The blue field makes it more interesting because you can now follow the ball.  These girls are very skilled and well trained. I don't know how far they will go, but I hope they can at least earn a medal.
          Volleyball has always been one of my favorite sports.  There have been many exciting matches so far with some tough ones still ahead.  But I really like the beach volleyball.  That is a demanding sport which is very challenging to play and fun to watch.  I also enjoy the basketball although since most of the players for most of the teams are professionals it does detract a little from my interest.
         And of course there is the swimming.  I'm not a big swimming fan but it is easy to get caught up in all the hype that is involved in these events, especially when they involve Michael Phelps.  The events have been filled with close finishes and record smashing performances.  And I find these events amazing because I can barely float, let alone do all these different strokes without drowning.
          Then there is diving, soccer, judo, fencing, rugby, golf, tennis, archery, biking and many more events which I guess are interesting to some but don't rank too high in my interest.  I do miss softball and I understand that they are bringing that back - in four years.
          However, the Olympics don't really start for me until this weekend when track and field finally begin.  To me this is the most exciting part of the Olympics, maybe because I coached and judged these events for many years.  So let the excitement begin!
          I guess the other thing that I like about August is the anticipation of what comes next - the Fall with football, especially Penn State football, cooler temperature and beautiful Fall leaves.  Bring it on, I am ready!

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Fast-Food Restaurants

          Believe it or not, I remember well the days when there weren't fast food restaurants anywhere around us ... with the exception of a Dairy Queen where as teens we liked to hang out and enjoy a snack.  A McDonalds finally opened in the Lancaster area and was very successful.  I recall when I was attending Susquehanna University I wished that I had the money to open one on the busy stretch between Selinsgrove and Sunbury where there were none.  If I had made that investment then I'd probably be very rich today for now that stretch is packed with such places to eat.
          But which one do you think is the most popular today?   Many would probably guess McDonald's since they can be found in almost every town, coast to coast.  But I was surprised to find that they placed at the bottom of the annual American Customer Satisfaction index report for limited-service (fast-food and fast-casual) restaurants.  The chain also scored lower than any restaurant in the full-service category.
          The only positive for the chain may be that while it came in last place, as it did in 2015, it did improve its score. In 2015 McDonald's nabbed a 67 on the 100-point scale, down 6% from the previous year. This year the fast-food company climbed to a 69 -- still bad enough to earn the least-liked restaurant title -- but up 3% over the year before.
           "Fast casual restaurants like Panera Bread are raising the bar on quality, and we're seeing higher quality industry wide, which is driving the boost in customer satisfaction," ACSI Managing Director David VanAmburg told The Motley Fool in an email. "McDonald's has long been the face of fast food, and it's more challenging for a company with such a massive footprint to change with the times. They're fighting brand fatigue, but seem to have found some traction with their all-day breakfast."
         "Americans are now spending more money dining out than shopping for groceries," ACSI Chairman Claes Fornell said in a press release. "Fast food restaurants appear to be capitalizing on this trend more than full-service restaurants, maintaining the lower prices and speedy service that has long defined the industry, while also appealing to health-conscious consumers via more diverse offerings and higher-quality ingredients."  
          Now guess who had and kept the number one ranking - Chick-fil-A, my favorite.  Their rating was 87,  Second was Papa John's - 82, 3. Little Caesars and Panera Bread - 81, 5. Arby's, Dunkin' Donuts and Subway - 80, 8. Chipotle Mexican Grill, Domino's  and KFC - 78, 11. Pizza Hut - 77, 12. Burger King - 76, 13. Starbucks and Taco Bell - 75, 15. Jack in the Box - 74, and 16. McDonald's - 69.   The ACSI report is based on 4,786 customer surveys collected in March 2016.  
          Now this group isn't the only one that surveys folks about their preferences.  USA Today recently did a similar survey.   Here are its top ten.  1. Chick-fil-A,  2. Chipotle Mexican Grill,  3. Panera Bread,  4. Papa John's,  5. Pizza Hut,  6. Dunkin'' Donuts,  7. Subway,  8. Domino's Pizza,  9. Little Caesars,   10. Starbucks.  Notice the ones that are missing from their top ten.
           Sometimes customer service and food are responsible for the larger profits.  Chick-fil-A made the biggest profit last year at $2.85 million.  This is despite the fact that they are closed on Sundays, have faced protests and boycotts from liberals, and have fewer stores that many popular chains.
          Then, again, sometimes poor customer service and food can still produce large profits.  McDonald's, despite their poor rankings, had the third highest profit at $2.5 million.  But then compare how many more restaurants they operate coast to coast.  And who was second in profits?  You'll probably never guess it - Krispy Kreme Doughnuts at $2.57 million.  A Krispy Kreme doughnut would taste so good right now, but they are no longer on my "heart healthy" diet.
           Well I concur with the satisfaction ratings.  We love Chick-fil-A and stop there whenever we are close to one - in Reading or Nazareth when we travel to Pinebrook or in Ocean City, Md, when we are on vacation.  At home we often travel 30 minutes to York to eat at one.   We used to eat at Wendy's most Sundays, but as a result of some very bad service we don't frequent there anymore.  Arby's and Burger King still get some business from us, although we really shouldn't be eating much of their food anymore.  But who really keeps to a strict diet?
          Incidentally, my second favorite, Culvers, didn't appear on these lists, probably because I think it is only located in the midwest.  It's a great store, with a good menu and employees who are kind and helpful.  It is our favorite place to eat when we travel to Wisconsin.  I would love it if they would move east.  Then it would be a toss-up between them and Chick-fil-A.  But maybe it could be Chick-fil-A during the week and Culvers on Sundays.  Now that would be a great plan.