Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Kong Versus Sears Lawnmower

Kong is a brand of dog toy, among other things they make balls – note the ball on the lawnmower.

No doubt they call their firm Kong because of King Kong, not to be confused with Hong Hong, or Hong Kong, or Honolulu.

Now we know about dog toys because we’ve had some of the all-time great chewers in our home. Darby, our Shepherd – Lab who is now in Narnia, could take a couch to pieces in seconds, chewed a bathroom vanity, and could have probably stopped a semi-truck in its tracks in her youth. Lily, our sweet Border Collie knows a thing or two about deconstruction too, she could probably get a tenured professorship at an Ivy League College. (Sorry, that was a pun that few (any?) will get, but hey, it’s my blog and I get to be goofy once in a long long while).

Anyway, I came home from work a couple of weeks ago and Vickie told me that when she was cutting the grass that she ran over Lily’s Kong ball; or should I say, “ball by Kong”? There was no damage to the ball, but the lawnmower had problems after the encounter. She was worried that she’d bent the shaft because from that point on in cutting the grass she had to lift the back end of the mower for it to go.

Upon inspection I found that the shaft was fine, the blade was fine, what wasn’t fine was the mowing deck – Kong had bent the steel deck, torn it backwards so that part of it was catching the ground! No wonder the poor wife had to lift the rear up to make it go.

With the help of Channel Locks I did some body work and the mower is serviceable.

I’m not kidding when I say that there is not a mark on that ball – Kong came through the match with not a scratch – and it almost took our lawnmower completely out.

A couple of days ago when I was cutting the grass and saw Kong on the lawn I put it on the porch – I wasn’t taking any chances.

If you need a tough toy for your dog…or your toddler…I recommend Kong!

Monday, August 30, 2010

Exclusive Photo of Ty Cobb

With apologies to non-baseball fans…

Ty Cobb had the highest lifetime batting average of any major league player in the “Modern Era”, .367. By all accounts he wasn’t a pleasant person; in fact it seems he was downright mean.

I have acquired a rare photo of Cobb which purports to be the only one of him engaging in humor – telling corny jokes. I’m not sure what I’ll get for it on EBay – but thought I’d let you see it before I put it up for auction.

Oh no, this isn’t it. Let me try again.
Nope –wrong one…sorry. I’ll try again.

Give me one more chance…here…I think I’ve got it!


Saturday, August 28, 2010

Can You Find Roger Clemens?

Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa, and Mark McGuire – where are they in our lives? Can you find them in your heart?

“No,” you say. Are you sure?

Even if you are not a baseball or sports fan, you may have heard or read that Roger Clemens has legal problems because it is alleged that he lied to Congress under oath, a deed frowned upon by the population on The Hill.

Clemens was the recipient of the Cy Young Award, given to the best pitcher in each league, a number of times. That is the highest award a pitcher can receive. Sosa and McGuire drew people to baseball parks by putting on a seemingly amazing display of homerun hitting. (There is also another baseball player who later broke McGuire’s record, but my opinion is that he was so obvious in his use of “enhancing substances” that he does not belong in this reflection.)

While these players were breaking records, making millions, and receiving standing ovations all was not as it appeared – for their records were not their own, their accomplishments not their own accomplishments – they were using performance-enhancing substances. Their deeds and awards were illegitimate. We, and more importantly they, will never know what they really could have accomplished.

On the other hand, the day-to-day baseball player who played every game clean of foreign substance but who didn’t make headlines, who wasn’t on talk shows, who didn’t make millions in advertising endorsements; that player knows what he himself actually did and he need not second guess himself in terms of playing the game clean and honestly – at least as honestly as possible in a game that encourages the stealing of bases.

Paul writes to Timothy, “…if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not win the prize unless he competes according to the rules.”

Clemens won prizes, but did he really? Where are those prizes now? They may be in his trophy case, but the luster is gone and no polish can remove the tarnish.

But what about us? When Jesus greeted Nathaniel He said, “Behold an Israelite in whom is no guile.” Can Jesus say that about me? Can He say it about you?

Roger Clemens used substances to enhance his performance, to make himself better than he really was. Do we employ ruses and devices to make ourselves appear other than who we are? Do we present tainted testimony to the world and to heaven? Are there trophies in our lives, despite their glistening appearance, that we know are tarnished?

Our economic system is largely based on appearance – marketing it is termed – substance matters little, inducement to purchase is everything. Our political system pays spin doctors more than real doctors are often paid – healing public opinion is of more value than healing a broken body.

Analyzing spin and often applauding it has become a national sport, and it has given us all a license to lie, cheat and steal – we do not tell the truth, we rationalize it away; we cheat whenever we fraudulently represent anything, including ourselves, as other than it is; and we steal when we take that which is not ours – the truth – and pervert it and twist it to our own ends.

What is there in my life that is not what it appears to be? What is there in your life that is not what it appears to be?

Roger Clemens can be a good reminder to us all that one day all will be revealed – better to deal with it today before God.

“Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Yahweh, my rock and my Redeemer,” Psalm 19:14.

“Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me and know my anxious thoughts; and see if there be any hurtful way in me, and lead me in the everlasting way,” Psalm 139:24

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

What’s A Little Radiation?

A couple of weeks ago I was chatting with friends my age and we got to talking about fallout shelters and air-raid drills when we were growing up. They were a part of life because you never knew when the Soviet Bear was going to drop The Bomb and we’d all have mushrooms for dinner.

The local air-raid siren would go off and if we were in school we’d crawl under our desks, if we were at home Mom would get us into the basement and cover us with blankets. Those who could afford it had fallout shelters installed in their backyards – photo above. I’m not sure that small wood elementary school desks would be much help against the Bear’s Bomb, nor do I think Mom’s well-intentioned blankets would have provided significant protection – but hey, let’s not go out without a fight.

I remember a Twilight Zone episode (I think it was the Twilight Zone) when during a nuclear war a man locked himself in his fallout shelter with a time-lock that wouldn’t open for a few years. He was so smug; he was going to survive and his neighbors weren’t – problem was…he had all that canned food…but no can opener. Oh well…the best laid plans…

Back to the above conversation; one of my friends shared that the whole nuclear war thing with the air - raid drills and basements and school desks really frightened her. I don’t know that I was freaked-out frightened, but it wasn’t the most cheery way to spend 15 or 20 minutes, under your school desk contemplating a mushroom cloud. No wonder some of us went nuts in the 1960’s – I mean, think about it. Enough is enough – the adults spend a few years of our young lives reminding us that The Bomb could come at any moment and then they wonder what the heck happened when hedonistic nihilism becomes the order of the day – and besides that, I suppose if evolution is true and we are the products of time plus matter plus chance that nothing matters anyway.

Last night Vickie said to me, in effect, “It’s amazing that the Cold War ended. It’s amazing that the Berlin War came down.” I replied, “Yes it is, it is amazing.”

I suspect you would have had to have lived in the Cold War, and grown up in the Cold War, to really know how amazing the end of that war was – few, if any, of us ever thought we’d see the Berlin War come down peacefully.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Shoes and Feet and Radiation from a Bygone Era

I wanted to write about Nifty Notebooks but couldn’t find a photo. Do you remember Nifty Notebooks? Rather than having the rings on the side there were, as I remember, posts at the top of the notebook and you purchased perforated paper that you inserted into the holes. The problem was that they didn’t catch on with teachers. They would have been great for me, being left-handed, but no teacher-approval no notebook. I have no idea how long they lasted, more of a novelty than anything.

Then there were Tom McCan Snap Jack shoes. I had a pair of them as a kid. No laces, just pull the level back, insert foot, and hope when you close the lever that the tongue of the shoe doesn’t dig into your skin. I guess it saved parents the task of tying shoe laces. Adults had them too, some boots may still have them, but this is a kid’s memory I’m sharing – and I only had one pair.

Jackie Jensen, a neighbor, got to fooling around with his Snap Jack pair during recess one day and got his finger caught in the mechanism. I don’t know…don’t ask me how…he was always doing things like that. He was off to the nurse, it’s a wonder they didn’t call the fire department.

Speaking of shoes; shoe stores used to have fluoroscopes to X-ray your feet when getting fitted for shoes – I know it sounds nuts today but it’s the truth – photos below. I remember looking at my feet via the fluoroscope. Finally someone figured out that radiation isn’t all that good for you, unless you’re leftovers in a microwave oven, but even then watch out for the hot plastic…but I digress.

I read that a shoe store in W.VA. was still using a fluoroscope into the 1980’s when someone told them the FDA had banned the things years ago – they donated it to a museum. I wonder how many folks my age are walking around with radiated feet? No wonder I keep setting the security detectors off – I’m a walking Three Mile Island.

Go figure – here we were all worried about The Bomb and having air raid drills at school and home, and all the time our parents are shooting radiation through our little bodies so that we can get fitted for a pair of shoes…duh…is anyone home in Ozzie and Harriet Land?


Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Yellow Fly Paper – III

A little over a week ago we had a selective storm in the Richmond, VA area. It was selective in that it didn’t treat every area the same. At the office where I work, west of Richmond, it was like the tornado in the Wizard of Oz, at any moment I expected to see a pleasant-looking gal riding through the air on her bicycle laughing that she had my little dog.

Yet, on my 35-mile drive home there was little evidence of a severe storm for most of the way. I later found out that only five miles from our home there was severe damage – with a tree splitting one house in half.

At our place a lightening strike blew out the transformer on the utility pole, knocking out our electric service and frying our air conditioning system. Since we are on a well this also affected our water supply. Joy, joy, joy! At any rate, that’s how James says we should view these things in the first chapter of his NT letter.

Now you may be asking what this has to do with yellow fly paper ribbons – I’m surprised you haven’t guessed. Here’s a hint:

A couple of days after the storm I was talking with a coworker about her commute home the evening of the storm. Because the area around our office had many traffic lights disabled, traffic – which on a good day can be challenging – was especially bad. She talked about how rude people were, not allowing others to pull into traffic, blocking them from doing so, faces with scowls on them; you get the picture.

What does this have to do with yellow fly paper?

It doesn’t take much to remove civil constraint from society. Just make us uncomfortable, just deprive us of traffic lights, and let us show you what we can do. So much of the way we live is nothing more than submission to the police power of government and the veneer of society – a veneer easily pulled away. We are, after all, a soft people. We are morally soft, we are physically soft, and it doesn’t take much for us to justify rudeness and worse.

I don’t think you can have much social veneer with fly paper in your house; so I’m not sure that we are all that better off without yellow fly paper. I mean, who are we kidding anyway?

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Yellow Fly Paper – II

Uncle Jake and Aunt Freda lived in three houses that I recall; the first two had yellow fly paper. They also had exterior asphalt siding that was made to look like brick.


This is not the pattern that Uncle Jake’s houses had, but maybe it helps you get the idea – what you’re looking at is really asphalt single siding.

While Uncle Jake worked for a local town, he also raised corn, hogs, and had a cow or two and chickens. I recall going out to his place with my Dad on hog butchering day. I don’t recall much about hog butchering, but I do remember huge cauldrons of boiling water – did they put the butchered hogs in them? I don’t know, it’s just one of those childhood images without much detail.

On one visit to Uncle Jake’s my cousin Franklin and I got into a sling-shot battle with my brother Bill and Franklin’s brother Tuck. The thing about this particular sling-shot battle, for we had more than one during my boyhood, was that Bill and Tuck pined Franklin and me down in the hog pen. I still can see us peering through the slats in the hog pen, trying to figure out how to get a shot off against the opposition. Thankfully the hogs were in a docile mood that day – otherwise we would have found ourselves between the sling-shot rocks and the hog place.

There were always woods in proximity to Uncle Jake’s houses and we used to explore the woods on every visit. We’d climb trees and rocks and just enjoy the outdoors. The first two houses had outhouses, which were a novelty to a suburban boy; they also had outdoor water pumps operated by hand. The third house had indoor plumbing – no novelty there.

In the woods around the second house where Uncle Jake and Aunt Freda lived were a cluster of huge boulders that we called, The Big Rocks; has an original ring to it don’t you think? Climbing The Big Rocks was always part of a visit’s itinerary. On one visit as we neared the base of the biggest of The Big Rocks one of us shouted, “Snake!” Off we went, running for the house as fast as our legs could carry us. I guess we thought it might be a centipede snake capable of doing 60 miles per hour and that we’d be caught and swallowed at any moment.

The thing is, I don’t recall actually seeing a snake. Not that there wasn’t one, but even if there had been a snake it couldn’t have caught us – yet we ran. Of course we were kids, and the idea of a faster-than-lightening snake introduced adventure into our day; but I wonder how often adults holler, “Snake!”, and then act the same way minus the adventure?

If the news media didn’t holler “snake!” everyday who would watch it? If Rush Limbaugh and company, whether from the right or the left, didn’t holler “snake!” everyday who would listen? If some “Christian” radio networks and preachers didn’t yell, “snake!”, who would send their money?

If politicians didn’t look at their opponents and scream “snake!” they might have to actually think about exercising thoughtful leadership rather than invoking fear and visceral reactions.

How often do we run from things we don’t see but believe because someone else has hollered “snake!”? Once our imaginations grab hold of the equivalent of a snake they are loath to let it go. But if we would examine the snake maybe it wouldn’t be a threat after all. Maybe it wouldn’t even be there; if there maybe it wouldn’t be the threat we are told that it is.

It’s amazing that God has managed to hold this world together for so long considering all the snakes we are told threaten our existence. It’s downright incredible that Christ has been able to maintain and protect His Church in the face of all the dire threats that we are told will soon destroy the Church. How did we manage to make it for so long? Snakes here and snakes there – what’s one to do?

In the Gospel of John Jesus says, “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; so that whoever believes in Him will have eternal life,” John 3:14 – 15. This is a reference to Numbers 14:1 – 9 in which the people of Israel complain against God and Yahweh sends fiery serpents among the people.

“Then Yahweh said to Moses, Make a fiery serpent, and set it on a standard; and it shall come about, that everyone who is bitten, when he looks at it, he will live.”

Could it be that when there are indeed snakes among us, whether of our own doing or not, that the main thing is to keep the main thing as the main thing – looking to Jesus Christ and Him alone for salvation and wholeness? Folks hawk substitutes for Jesus, I’m sure I’ve done it myself; good Christian folk hawking substitutes for Jesus, good-looking substitutes, good substitutes, but substitutes nonetheless.

God hasn’t called us to live lives of shouting “snake!” or lives of running from snakes, real or imagined; He has called us to live life in intimate relationship with His Son, Jesus Christ. We can live in that relationship because Jesus was lifted up on a Cross, becoming sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

“And Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on a standard; and it came about, that if a serpent bit any man, when he looked to the bronze serpent, he lived,” Numbers 21:9. 

Monday, August 9, 2010

Yellow Fly Paper

My anxiety was relieved this morning when I found that they still manufacture fly paper ribbons, and not just any fly paper ribbons, but yellow fly paper ribbons. I write “manufacture” when for all I know they are selling from ancient stock. I wonder how long fly paper lasts in the box before it goes bad? I wonder if it has a “Best used by” date?

You see it occurred to me that perhaps no one has written recently about yellow fly paper. When is the last time you read about yellow fly paper ribbons? When is the last time you meditated on the subject? When is the last time you gave (or received) yellow fly paper as a gift?

There is something homey about yellow fly paper, something nostalgic, something…well…something about a time before houses were built so tightly that they poison their inhabitants with toxic interior air. A house that breathes just enough to let a fly inside, now that’s a house one can live in.

Yellow fly paper streaming across the kitchen ceiling like crape paper at a party. The difference is that fly paper ribbons serve two purposes, they evoke a festive atmosphere and they catch flies.

I don’t know if this is true or not, but I’m told by reliable sources that after the movie, The Fly, was released that sales of fly paper ribbons increased eight-fold. Then there was the time that a manufacturer of fly paper released one million flies with little tags on their wings; if you captured one of the flies with the manufacturer’s fly paper you received a year’s worth of fly paper and disinfectant soap – plus a photo book of Disneyland autographed by Mickey Mouse.

Then there was the advertising campaign in which Kermit the Frog hawked another brand of fly paper, “If you can’t get them live, then get them with Honeysuckle Fly Paper – they taste soooo good. Also available in 30 other flavors for the frog with discriminating taste.”

We didn’t have fly paper in our home, but Uncle Jake and Aunt Freda had it in their home out in Loudoun County, VA. I wonder how many homes in Loudoun County have fly paper today? I wonder if builders in Loudoun County include fly paper in the amenity package of their homes? I wonder if they offer designer fly paper? Come to think of it, why is it that Southern Living doesn’t run an article on fly paper? Or what about Martha Stewart coming out with a line of decorative and scented fly paper? What about a fly paper of the month club in which you receive a new color and scent every month?

To be continued….stick with it….