Details We Don’t Need to Hear

June 30, 2009

In the last few weeks, the entertainment world has lost some true luminaries.

First it was Ed McMahon, then Farrah Fawcett, followed by Michael Jackson and Billy Mays. Three out of the four were easily classified as ‘natural’ although it would be nice if someday cancer can be removed from the list of natural causes.

Billy Mays grew up in McKees Rocks (a few miles from Pittsburgh) which was within ten miles of Crafton Heights – where I called home. Our age difference ensured that we never had an opportunity to meet while we were both living in Pittsburgh. That’s a shame because he seemed to be a real likable fellow.

All four of these celebrities lived busy stress-filled lives. While I have no way of knowing for sure, they all may have used some substance – prescription drugs, street drugs, or alcohol – to unwind from their daily grinds. However, it seems that Michael Jackson is the only one who abused those substances.

People might get upset with such comments, but when the nanny of his children tells reporters that one of her duties was to pump Michael’s stomach when he’d taken an overdose of drugs, we have to recognize that he was an habitual abuser.

But wait! The Reverends Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton are already in front of the cameras – they simply cannot pass up a good photo opportunity – praising the man for all he did for popular music. When asked about Michael’s problems, they quickly point the finger of accusation at Elvis Presley. (It’s interesting that they didn’t show up in Memphis or wherever to help Elvis’ family plan his funeral.)

The “someone else has done something worse” tactic is used all too often by people who refuse to admit that their ‘hero’ could do anything wrong. The same happened when Bill Clinton finally acknowledged what he was doing with Monica. His defenders, rather than saying “that was wrong” pointed the finger at Richard Nixon.

Defenders of Richard Nixon are quick to point the finger at Franklin Roosevelt – after all, didn’t he die while spending a quiet weekend with his mistress?

Why can’t people simply say, “What he did was absolutely wrong.” And leave it at that. No ‘buts’ about it. Yes, the man was a tremendous entertainer, however, he sent the wrong message to many of our youth. Drugs and deviant behavior are fine as long as you’re a super star! Is that what we want our children to grow up believing?

But Wait! There’s more! If you act now, you’ll realize I’m paying tribute to the guy who convinced my step-daughter and my bride that laundry isn’t truly clean unless Oxi-Clean is put in with the regular soap.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to get back to work on the kitchen.

Progress isn’t Always Obvious

June 29, 2009
The 'basic' desired result

The 'basic' desired result

Our (I use the term ‘our’ tactfully here – it was really my bride’s idea… make that ‘insistence’!)… our goal is to put ceramic tiles between the counter top and the bottom of the wall cabinets.

Following the advice of my bride’s hairdresser (I never even bothered to search the Internet for other ideas and methods) we have glued the tiles onto boards that are similar to peg board without the holes. They are now lying in wait on every flat surface in the kitchen and breakfast room.

This section will go to the right of the sink

This section will go to the right of the sink

The only windows in the kitchen are above the sink. Neither my bride nor I liked the existing window frames. So, before we could measure and cut the boards, I had to install new window frames.

The new window frames

The new window frames

Of course, to do the frames, we had to re-borrow our son-in-law’s miter saw. I thought we were done with it after we finished the crown molding on the wall cabinets. Silly me!

Two more sections waiting for the next step

Two more sections waiting for the next step

The thinner of two sections will go under the windows. The other fits under the microwave. Please take note of the precision cutting along the notched side of that section.

To make that cut, I called a friend, Donnie Culver, who is in the home construction business, and asked to borrow his tile saw. He, of course, said ‘Yes” IF I could come and pick it up. I then started calling other friends and relatives who owned pick-up trucks.

After having no luck, I drove over to Donnie’s office in my 1999 Mitsubishi. After some effort, we managed to get the saw into my trunk. I returned home without any major difficulties.

However, upon arriving home, I realized I had to get the saw out of the trunk as soon as possible. My Mitsubishi needs a new battery and being unable to close the trunk meant the trunk light would be on all night.

The saw probably weighs more than a hundred pounds and is very awkward to lift.

The saw is what you see

The saw is what you see

The saw sits atop a trough that is filled with water. The water is sprayed on the tiles as they are being cut. The estimate of weight I gave is with the trough empty. I assure you I will get the water out before I try to move it again.

After getting the saw home, I struggled to get it out of my trunk and into a wheel barrel. I then put it in the garage overnight while I went off to choir practice.

The next morning, I wheeled the saw up to our deck. It was then I discovered I had managed to get the saw wedged into the wheel barrel. Eventually I was able to work it loose and get it out. I then literally rolled the saw up the steps and onto the platform shown in the photo.

That platform is a wooden box in which we keep our soft drinks. Therefore, I had to go to the store and buy more soft drinks… there’s no way we can currently get into that wooden box.

Another section waiting its turn

Another section waiting its turn

The next step is to apply the grouting. Believe it or not, we will use cake decorating funnels to fill the cracks between each tile. The reason we’re taking this approach is to protect the integrity (translate to ‘beauty’) of each individual block. Some of the tiles have a number of holes that add something – I’m not artistic enough to say more than that. If we were to simply spread the grout over the tiles, those holes would be filled with grout. We don’t want that. Therefore, we will act like cake decorators and squeeze the grout into the appropriate slots and nowhere else.

With luck, that will be finished within the next day or so. Then, we will use liquid nail to attach the boards (and attached tiles) to the walls. We will then make adjustments to the holes I’ve cut for the electrical outlets.

A WORD OF WARNING: Some things have to be learned from experience. Be sure to turn off the electrical power prior to messing with electrical outlets. I, without thinking, grabbed one such outlet as I was preparing to put a section up against the wall to make sure it fit properly. Needless to say, I grabbed the outlet in such a way that I was touching two of the screws used to attach the wires. For a moment our two, we had one more electrical appliance in our kitchen.

Fortunately, I was wearing rubber soled shoes and was not grounded in any other way. All I got was a slight buzzing sensation.

Another section-in-waiting

Another section-in-waiting

After everything is on the wall and the electrical outlets are properly aligned, we’ll paint on the sealer. Then we can replace the electrical outlet plates and be ‘almost’ finished.

I say ‘almost’ because Lu wants to dapple them with various colors of paint to make them blend in with the colors of the tiles. (This advice did not come from her hairdresser, but one of her fellow employees at the hospital.)

When you’re gluing things, you often have times when you can do nothing but wait for the glue to dry. I can watch such things all day! But not my bride. This is what she did while waiting for the glue to dry.

Our freshly painted front porch

Our freshly painted front porch

This is great! Today I can watch the paint dry!

Getting Closer

June 28, 2009

With any luck, we’ll have all the ceramic tiles in place today. Then we can apply the grouting.

By tomorrow, we’ll be able to begin putting everything in place between the counters and wall cabinets. After that, the sealer will be applied and the kitchen will finally be done.

And yet… I have a feeling my bride will find something else that needs to be done.

Well, time to get on our way to church. This afternoon may find us painting the front porch and cutting the grass… in addition to the grouting.

There’s a lot of maintenance work that goes into owning a home, but I’ll gladly take it over apartment living in a heartbeat.

Too Many Projects – Too Little Time

June 27, 2009

Today began with an 8:00 a.m. meeting at the church. Being the host, I arrived around 7:20 and started the coffee.

That meeting ended near 11:00 a.m. and I arrived home in time to learn that my son is still planning on holding his belated birthday party today. We’ll have to leave here around 4:00 to get there on time.

In the meantime, we are gluing ceramic tiles to thin boards prior to applying the grouting. In the next day or two we’ll glue those pieces to the walls between our kitchen counter-tops and the wall cabinets. Then, we’ll add the sealer.

We’re also painting the front porch and applying wood sealer to our side porch. We sealed the deck a couple of weeks ago.

In the next week or so, I need to contact four musical groups and arrange for them to appear at our Lutherans of Forsyth County picnic scheduled for August 15th.

In my spare time, I will put the finishing touches on my Power Point presentation to encourage our congregation to buy into the scrip program so we can begin chipping away at our mortgage and other debts.

I’m really looking forward to our old fashioned picnic. But I guess that other stuff has to be done as well.

Michael Jackson’s Band Wagon

June 26, 2009

If you don’t mind, I’d rather toss Michael under the band wagon.

For many of us, yesterday’s bigger loss was the death of Farrah Fawcett who finally lost her three year battle with cancer. Even with her tremendous suffering, Farrah had the courage to put together a documentary of her struggle to demonstrate the importance of not giving up.

And what was Michael Jackson doing during the last three years? I really don’t know and I obviously don’t care. After the repeated accusations of child molestation, the plastic surgeries to make him look more like Liz Taylor, and his many other idiotic actions, I got tired of hearing his name.

In many ways, I feel sorrier for Michael than I do for Farrah. Farrah was battling a physical enemy. Michael’s enemies were mostly in his own mind.

When the Jackson Five first came on the scene in the late 60’s, I was a big fan of the young Michael Jackson. As time progressed and his musical style changed, I lost interest. Perhaps that was my fault for getting old. I quit listening to rock and roll music as it evolved toward what it is today. Somewhere along the line, I switched to country music which, today, is more reminiscent to the rock and roll of my youth. With country music, a story is told and I can understand the lyrics. (That’s how I know a story is told.)

The young Mr. Jackson was very good looking. There was absolutely nothing wrong with his appearance. But then his skin began to get lighter and his nose turned into something you’d expect to see on a Caucasian. In truth, it makes me wonder what his body looked like. How far down his neck did the doctors go when they turned his skin lighter?

Enjoying cookies and milk and sleeping with little boys. I don’t care how much of a Michael Jackson fan you are – that is beyond weird. It makes me wonder what sort of demons shared that body with the fabulous entertainer.

Yes. I called him a fabulous entertainer. While I didn’t care for his music, millions of other folks disagreed with me. They loved his concerts.

During the last American Idol, I thought sure Adam Lambert would win because, of all the other contestants, he was the best entertainer. He seemed to be a natural on the stage… just as Michael Jackson was.

Kris Allen is a very talented young man, but he doesn’t have the stage presence of Adam Lambert. I think Adam lost because most Americans thought sure he was going to win. So, they either didn’t bother to vote, or they voted for Kris to make it close.

I think a similar thing happened when Bill Clinton beat George Bush. Everyone was sure Bush would win, so many voted for Ross Perot… so that Bush wouldn’t win by a landslide.

Oops! I strayed off the original topic. My apologies.

Getting back to Michael, I always hate to see a person die before his or her time, but I can’t help wondering how much Michael’s demons contributed to his demise. In a way, he’s been fighting his own form of cancer for most of his life. Maybe that explains his weird behavior.

Numerous personalities have stated that most of us will long remember where we were and what we were doing when we heard the news of Michael’s death. Some likened it to the death of Elvis Presley – another performer I didn’t really care for. Some even went so far as to compare it to the death of John F. Kennedy.

Sorry. That takes it too far. Both entertainers were extremely popular with their fan base, but the assassination of a United States President is more than a little different.

I have no idea of what I was doing on the day of Elvis’ death. I couldn’t even tell you the year he died let alone the month and day. Soon I’ll be in the same situation with Michael’s death (as well as Farrah’s), but I’ll never be that way when it comes to JFK.

I was a sophomore at Edinboro State Teachers College on November 22, 1963. I was at my off-campus housing when I heard JFK had been shot. I then walked into town where I got the word that he had died.

Come to think of it, it’s a bit troublesome that our culture puts more emphasis on the lives of entertainers than on politicians. No wonder our government is so screwed up.

A Message to Enablers

June 25, 2009

I’ve been listening to Hawaiian music on a streaming web site called The and a number of the songs they played were by Israel Kamakawiwo’ole – better known as IZ.

As you can tell from the video, IZ was morbidly obese. For his later appearances, he needed a fork-lift to get him on stage. He finally came to his senses and went on a diet. Unfortunately, it was too late and he died of a heart attack.

I learned about IZ following our trip to Hawaii a few years ago. I heard his voice on a recording at the airport as we were awaiting our flight back to the mainland. After getting home, I went out and bought one of his recordings. That’s when I learned that this man with the beautiful singing voices was no longer with us.

I am a fan of the ‘educational’ cable channels – The History Channel, The Discovery Channel, The Learning Channel, and so forth. There have been numerous shows centering on morbidly obese individuals. These folks are so far beyond ‘fat’ that it defies comprehension.

Most of the individuals have been bedridden for years. They cannot get out of bed to get food, or to attend to bathroom functions. That means that someone else must do those things for them.

I can understand serving someone his or her meals in bed. I wouldn’t hesitate to do that for someone who was suffering from some sort of illness. However, I would draw the line at helping with bowel movements and voiding of the bladder.

If I had a child or significant other who couldn’t toilet him or her self because of a weight problem, the chow line would stop until that problem went away.

Obviously, if my loved one was suffering from the effects of a stroke, accident, or something else – other than obesity – I’d overcome my distaste for wiping an adult’s butt. But if that person needs help simply because he or she is too heavy to make the trip to the bathroom, it is time for a crash diet.

I may sound heartless, but consider the alternative.

These morbidly obese individuals didn’t get that way without the help of someone. Perhaps those someones are people who need to be needed – mothers who can’t let go, or mothers who won’t let go.

Is enabling someone to grow to a thousand pounds or more really a sign of love? Not in my book.

I am overweight to the point of being obese. But I can still take my two hundred and eighty pounds to the bathroom when I need to go. Unfortunately, I can also carry myself to the dinner table.

But I guarantee you that I will not become morbidly obese to the point that someone else must toilet me.

We’ve lost IZ. We don’t need to lose any more talented people because someone is willing to jump in and help them kill themselves.

If you are an enabler of any kind, step back and take a good hard look at the situation. Are you really doing someone a favor? Or are you helping someone commit suicide?

Now that I’ve got that off my chest, I’m going to picture myself on a beach in Hawaii and concentrate on the hula dancers.

I want to go back to my little grass shack

I want to go back to my little grass shack

Another Busy Day

June 24, 2009

Not much time to add anything today.

My bride is chomping at the bit to finish the kitchen.

Yes. I thought it was finished weeks ago, but she thought ceramic tiles would make it look much nicer. It will give it a ‘richer’ look considering how much those tiles, the adhesive, the grouting, the stain finish, and the hours of labor will cost.

Of course, we can’t do the tile until we put proper frames around the windows.

At this point, we are in the process of borrowing two saws – one to cut tile and one to cut miter joints.

We still have work to do outside, but the threat of afternoon thunder showers gives me a good excuse to leave the paint cans in the garage.


I find it interesting that I occasionally write something about the madmen of the world and the political climate of the U.S. in relationship to Iran and North Korea… and yet most of the people who visit my blog are more interested in Kennywood Park and the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Go figure!

This Chain is Made for Yanking

June 23, 2009

I’ve come to believe that Kim Jong-il is crazy like a fox, and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is simply a stupid figurehead who is good at ruffling feathers.

I also believe that the United States has finally reached a point of impotence – it can do nothing without being criticized. Actually, the United States of American is criticized the most when it does do nothing.

Let’s start with North Korea. Korea was an independent country at one time. Then it was taken over by Japan and held until the end of World War II, at which time it was split (very much like Germany) with the northern half controlled by Russia and the southern half controlled by the United States.

It must be noted that the Korean people were never consulted about this move. Considering they were a captive audience to WW II, it seems rather unjust that they should have to endure continued domination. By 1950, the cold war between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. had ‘heated’ up and Korea became a ‘playing’ field for the two super powers to test each other’s will.

The U.S. never called the conflict a ‘war’; it was a ‘policing action’ or a ‘conflict’, but not a war. (Try explaining that to the many families who lost loved ones in the conflict.)

By 1953, the two sides (numerous nations were involved – once again it appears that the people of Korea were simply a captive audience) agreed to a truce. The borders were left as they were when the country was initially divided. Nobody won. Korea lost the most.

South Korea, following the model of American capitalism, thrived. North Korea, following the model of Soviet socialism, did the opposite. Frequent famines were ignored by the leaders. Whatever resources the nation had were used to strengthen a military to protect them from the aggressors to the south… the Koreans who wanted no more part in a war not of their making.

The current leader has been in power far too long. He has done nothing to better the lives of his subjects and yet they treat him like a god. Is their fear so great that they must bow down and honor him?

A few months ago I watched a TV show about doctors who traveled to North Korea and operated on people with terrible medical problems. After they had been cured by the foreign doctors, they gave thanks to Kim Jong-il. Go figure!

In all honesty, I do have to give credit to Kim Jong-il. His country could easily be wiped off the face of the earth by China, the United States, and a number of other countries. So, what does he do? He threatens to destroy the otehr countries… and takes particular aim at South Korea – the one country that wouldn’t be able to annihilate his army.

And what do the super powers do? They get him to sign treaties (that he totally ignores) in exchange for enough food to feed his people for a year or two. When his people start going hungry again, he starts his threats again.

He is now threatening to fire a missile toward Hawaii. He has also sent out a ship with a reputation of carrying weapons and materials for nuclear weapons and dares the United States to stop it. He says anything we do to stop his current plans will be seen as an act of aggression at which point he was destroy U.S. cities.

How many of you remember Peter Sellers in a movie called, “The Mouse that Roared”?

Now, if the U.S. stops the ships, boards it, and finds nothing more than medical supplies, President Obama has egg on his face. And I’ll bet Kim Jong-il doesn’t destroy a single city. He’ll just yell and scream about the ugly Americans.

And if he fires the missile in the direction of Hawaii and we destroy it, he’ll say it was a communications satellite and insist we pay reparations.

And if we do nothing, he gains power in the eyes of his people.

Like I said, we have been made impotent. Regardless of what we say or do, we can be seen as the arrogant aggressor.

As for Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the recent election (try not to laugh) demonstrated that he has no power whatsoever. He is simply following orders. The real power in that country belongs to the guy in the white beard… and he ain’t no Santa Claus. He’s just another wild-eyed religious radical.

Notice I did call him an Islamic radical. From what I’ve seen, all religious radicals are basically the same… regardless of the religion.

So, these minor despots will continue to yank the chain of Uncle Sam simply because the United States is powerless to stop them.

A Finestkind Fathers Day

June 22, 2009

The Hawkeye Pierce portrayed in the series of M*A*S*H books was fond of saying “Finestkind” when he found something particularly to his liking. After a splendid weekend visiting family and friends and having family come visit us… all I can say is, Finestkind!

Emma - the birthday girl

Emma - the birthday girl

Dominic and Anna sharing the fun

Dominic and Anna sharing the fun

Zack with Grandpa

Zack with Grandpa

Nick & Mary Sarge - 50 years of wedded bliss

Nick & Mary Sarge - 50 years of wedded bliss

Mr & Mrs Wayne Coppins - Parents to be

Mr & Mrs Wayne Coppins - Parents to be



Gifts from grandaughters

Gifts from grandaughters

I failed to take pictures of Alexis, Ariana, Landon, and Liam, but I’m not going to overlook their visits. I was especially touched by the gifts given me by Alexis and Ariana. Not included in this photo is the Tinkerbell book given to me by Ariana.

Gifts from the heart are so much better than store bought stuff.

To me, these gifts are the finestkind!

Father’s Day

June 21, 2009

A few years ago a friend, Bill Keeling, delivered a Father’s Day sermon. His basic message was that fathers are human and they make mistakes. He encouraged his listeners to forgive their fathers.

I was hoping my children were listening. Then, it hit me!

There were many things about my own father that I resented. Dad died in 1974 so there was no way I could call him to say “I love you”.

I sat there with tears in my eyes, and forgave my father the best I could.

If your father needs forgiveness, don’t wait until it is too late. Take the time to call him and tell him you love him.

I assure you it will be the best present he will ever receive.