Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Four more weeks

And now, the end is near, and now I face, the final curtain.

On this curling season anyhow.

The Detroit Curling Club is teasing me with a possible four game season after the end of the 2016-2017 curling season. They tell me that even I can play in such a proposed season. I tell them that I could play in two.

Let's do this. Let's play into April, as Saskatchewan plays.

Let's play. Though it will delay my golf season, let's play. That's curling.

Let's play.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Characters at the Old Barn

We've had our share of characters come through the Old Barn. I've described some in detail and a few in passing but I haven't really mentioned the bulk of them. Here are a few glimpses of other notables who have stepped through the door. They'll be more later I promise.

There was California. I never did learn his actual name nor why he was nicknamed for the state. What I do remember is that he sounded exactly like Huckleberry Hound. You could hear him singing My Darling Clementine like he owned it. If you heard his voice from behind a screen you'd swear it was the guy who voiced that bluish Hanna-Barbera hound dog.

Speaking of voices, there was a guy who sounded exactly like Eeyore, the woeful donkey from Winnie the Pooh. Eeyore's main complaint was that he could never get a girlfriend. "Who'd want to date a guy who does what I do (clean sewers) for a living?" he often lamented in that dullish monotone. Then he found a girlfriend. He told us about it one day, in exactly the manner Eeyore would have. "I got me a girlfriend. Now I have to paint her kitchen."

Grandpa Joe christened one guy 'Cash' Adams. Mr. Adams would walk into the door and Joe would say, "There's Cash Adams. He gets cash and pays cash." Grandpa explained to me that he wasn't sure he could trust the guy so he came up with the moniker to embarrass him from asking for credit. Apparently it worked.

I'll end today with Mr. Clean. I don't know that anyone called him that to his face as he was a muscular, mountain of a man. But he always wore a white t-shirt and had a big gold earring in his ear. Yes, he looked just like the guy on the bottle of cleaning fluid.

There's many more believe me. This is simply to peak your interest.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

The book cover lie

They say you can't judge a book by its cover. Then why bother to put a cover on one?

Well, to entice folks to buy it. That's why there will be photos or a painting or fancy script on a book's cover. Writers and editors and publishers want the cover to sway your judgment.

So, then, the axiom actually means nothing useful. Why employ it?

So that you might feel guilty when you judge something on appearance. I'll go out on a limb and say this usually involves something that would generally bring contempt upon itself.

Think about the next time you are blithely told that you can't judge.

Friday, February 24, 2017


Life has been kinda weird lately.

Well, it's not life, it's me. I'm dealing with a wave of sentimentality which has, quite frankly, left me wondering.

I see my children moving beyond my sphere of influence. It leaves me with an odd mix of pride and loss. They're supposed to move on. That's the goal; that's how it works. I knew that going in to the family game. And I do not regret it. Still, it is genuinely absurd, in a fashion, as I find it actually happening. They're still my kids. In some part of me, they'll always be the small people I had a catch with, read stories to.

I'm at a trade show in Indianapolis. I first came to this show with my father years ago. I go now on my own. I can't help feel but that I'm stepping on his toes. He did this, not me. This was what he did, not what I do. The friends I have here are, and they are very good friends to me all of whom I cherish, all great and wonderful people I say with no little honor, his friends. They are mine I feel almost by default, because they were his. They are mine too, I say with emphasis, because we share a bond and know each other on our own, for myriad reasons. Maybe I feel that I inherited them. That's okay. If that connection, Pops to me to them, makes them my friends, I like it. They're still my friends.

I see, as shallow as this is going to sound, my curling career slowing to a close. I've throw a lot of stones in the last thirty five years. I've played with great folks in two great curling clubs. This year I've felt physically the best ever when thrownin' them stones. The legs, they hold me up. Yet I see the end, the light at the end of the tunnel. I'm not going to play for too many more years. You gotta know when to fold. That time ain't too far off for me. I know this.

If I could enunciate my feelings best right this minute, they are that I can't escape the thought that I am opening the last door to my future. I have turned the page to the last chapter of my life. I am staring at the autumn of my years. Don't worry: I have had no premonitions of doom, no insights that I am soon done. I think I have some time left. Still, the page has been turned.

I look forward to living that last chapter.

I need new wire cutters

Customers, they are the most important part of any sales business. They can be (they ordinarily are) the best thing about sales, and at times the worst. At other times they can be downright odd and unusual, and even slightly disgusting. Disturbing, really.

I remember one guy who sat down while I was welding an end on his drain snake cable. He asked for a pair of wire cutters. So I gave him one, and commenced upon the repair.

He began unlacing his boots. I didn't think much about that; I really only barely noticed it and dismissed it immediately, almost without thought. He was probably just tightening or adjusting the boots, right?

Pulling enough steel cable out of his machine so as to be able to work with it, I ground the end flat and secured it in my bench vice. After screwing in a fitting and tacking a weld to ensure it would stay, I shut off my torch and turned to tell him his repair was done. But my voice caught in my throat. He had his boots off and was trimming his toenails with my wire cutters. Talk about being a little too comfortable in your surroundings.

I said nothing. I turned back to my workbench and began tinkering with another repair. Eventually the man said, "Well, what do I owe you?"

'A new set of wire cutters', I should have said. Instead I just stammered something like, uh, ten bucks.

It was surely overreaction, for they were only wire cutters and had been used to cut far dirtier things than someone's toenails. In fact, that idea by itself added to my disgust at what he had done. But after the man left I picked the tool up with a pair of pliers and threw it away. I replaced them with a new pair that afternoon. I simply didn't want to use them after that incident, and boiling work tools (if you're not a surgeon) seems stupid.

To this day I cringe at the idea of someone arbitrarily trimming his toenails with my tools in my workshop. I mean, really? Why would it even occur to anyone to do that?

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Check this out Pops

Hey Pops, how are you today?

I'm here in Indianapolis for the WWETT trade show and let me tell you, the thing which would most impress you is not the show.

I rented a van to bring the machines and what all, and get this: it has a rear camera which displays a picture right in the rearview mirror! It's cool. It looks you have nothing but a regular old rearview. Then you go to back up and there's a picture of what's behind you. It has lines to help guide you too. Wow!

Not that us Cosgriffs need it of course. We've backed our share of welders into place with perfection without fancy technology. But it's pretty neat just the same. I think you'd like it.

Anyway, I'm going to meet the guys for breakfast and then the show starts at 9. Wish us luck!

Until next time,


Wednesday, February 22, 2017

We've found more worlds where there might be life!

NASA is today supposed to make a jarring announcement about other worlds and the possibility of life on them. Okay, I suppose. But I am not terribly impressed at the idea.

I will go on the record as saying that I don't believe that there is other intelligent life, indeed that there is not any life at all, elsewhere in the galaxy. That is not etched in stone, for if the universe is huge and expanding as we're told then other life is admittedly not out of the question. Still, that old saw, what with the sprawling and expanding nature of the universe there must be intelligent life besides our own, isn't really a convincing argument. Space and time do not automatically mean that other life forms can or must have developed.

For starters, our immediately experience is that nothing else is there. We've found no hard and fast evidence of life in the local planets and solar systems, nor have we discovered anything notable in what other worlds have been identified elsewhere. It would be more logical at this point to assume that the more worlds without life, the less likely that there are in fact worlds with it. Further, why is it so outlandish to think that maybe, just maybe, we were touched by the Divine for a very singular purpose? Perhaps, only perhaps, I will allow, the rest of creation is here simply for our marvel, to appreciate the immensity of the Supreme Being? There is certainly no law of physics which states there must be life out there somewhere.

Yet if there is, it isn't as though such a find would alter what should be our proper view of things. If there are intelligent aliens, they would have been created by the same God. They would face the same issues which we do: seeing to their needs, their daily bread, and considering their responsibilities to their fellow creatures and to whomever else exists. In short, postulating alien life is interesting as an academic device. But would any such discoveries be, dare I say (I do so love puns), Earth shattering?

Of course not. So keep looking, if that's you life's work, and I will readily concede the error if proved wrong. But don't make it too much of a mission. There's an awful lot here on our world which could be as rewarding. Indeed, if you want to get to know others and make lives better, there's plenty of them around here for your entertainment.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Presidents' Day 2017

Today is Presidents' Day. It is a holiday that I am not fond of, for a variety of reasons.

I'm nowhere near convinced that all Presidents deserve honor. If nothing else, I don't see where Washington and Millard Fillmore are on the same plane. Beyond that, some just weren't good presidents. There aren't particularly good reasons to remember some of those guys.

Then too (as I've lamented frequently) I don't like the whole Monday Holiday Law. What honor are we showing the honorable when we shunt them around to our satisfaction? Not much that I can see.

To be fair, Presidents' Day officially is George Washington's Birthday, so I take some solace in that. Still, I can't help but feel that, as with many holidays, it's become kinda shallow. An excuse for sales if you will. I'm just not into that.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

The horse thief

Me old granddad insisted it was true, and who am I to argue with me old granddad?

We get called Cosgrove a lot. We do. It's a natural enough occurrence. The name, she's close to Cosgriff, but Cosgrove being a bit more common, folks gravitate towards it. We get that. But we resent it too. Cosgrove, you see, he stole horses. A horse thief he was. A scoundrel if there ever were one.

Me granddad, he told a tale of the family which dated back to the old sod, to County Tipperary. Why the Irish be so concerned with not merely bein' Irish (who'd not want to be Irish, I ask ya) but with bein' Irish down to the county, well, there's a certain sophistication to that which most of the world cannot understand, their not bein' Irish and all.

So the tale goes, real short here, is that in years gone by we were Cosgroves. Real, true Cosgroves. Then one of them old relatives, he decides that making an honest livin' did nothing to suit him. Dishonesty was his call. Dishonest beyond covetin' someone's property but actually absconding with it. In his case, their horses.

That were bad. Real bad. Folks needed their horses, they did, for plowin' and travelin' and gettin' into minor mischief well short of horse thievin'. That could not be tolerated.

You could not be associated with such foul people and keep your good name. So you change your name, make a good new one. With us, it was to Cosgriff. Cause we could not in no way be associated with a horse thief.

Me granddad insisted it were true. Who I am to doubt such a tale?

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Never mind the denomination

It's all about the Benjamins, the saying goes. The Benjamins are cool, yes. But so are the Georges, the Abrahams, and the Andrews. Money comes like religion: by denomination. I have been paid by several denominations, often in a nice mix. Sometimes those payments have been a bit unusual.

Yesterday a customer's order came to $140.00. He said, "I hope you like change," and paid me in all five dollar bills. Yep, 28 Lincolns. Another time on a $470.00 tab a guy from Canada gave me 47 tens. He said it was what they gave him at the currency exchange. Hey, I don't care. It all spends.

But about 40 years ago Pops was paid off in the most unusual way I've seen so far. For a $1900 dollar machine he was paid with 1890 singles and a ten dollar bill. Yessir, One Thousand Eight Hundred Ninety dollar bills. The customer owned several laundry mats and most of income was dollar bills, from change to run the washers and dryers to buying the single load boxes of detergent from the self service machines. He lived on singles.

Pops didn't even bother to count it. The stack was impressive enough that he took the guy at his word. And it all spent.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Canadian Lines

Street, avenue, road, highway, bypass, lane, boulevard. These are all common addendums to our various roadways. Main Street, Grand Boulevard, the Alaska Highway; you get it. In Canada, they've improved on this. They also have concessions and, my personal favorite, lines. For example, when you cross into Windsor, Ontario via the Ambassador Bridge out of Detroit, you land on Huron Church Road which becomes in a few miles, Huron Line.

I've seen many of those. At different places in Ontario you have the Michigan Line, the Wallace Line, the Renaud Line and so forth. But my favorite is just before you arrive at the little town of Forest, Ontario. They have, I am not making this up, the Chalk Line.

Here I thought that was only for detective stories.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

A little bit of everything

February is almost anything month. Of course all months are these days, as everyone it seems tries to get this or that cause which is precious to them somehow highlighted. To be sure, I'm not saying that any of this is wrong. But it does seem to have, perhaps, the tendency for all these causes to be drowned out in the din of competing virtues.

In February, the big ones still get their due. Valentine's Day has been around awhile, as have Washington and Lincoln's Birthdays (boiled down to a bland President's Day as it is) and Black History Month. Nothing really wrong with any of that. Then Groundhog Day has cut a niche for itself in February 2, though it's an admittedly tongue in cheek, uh, holiday. It's all in good fun.

But can these more established ritual dates compete with the likes of Create a Vacuum Day? Or how about Ferris Wheel Day? Then there's what may be my favorite, Do a Grouch a Favor Day. It's February 16; I expect many favors.

If you're so inclined, you can view a fuller list of February remembrances here: http://www.holidayinsights.com/moreholidays/february.htm

Why read the list? Because who would want to miss Hoodie Hoo Day, or Public Sleeping Day?

Yet my favorite February day could actually be today: Eat Ice Cream For Breakfast Day. So I'm off to breakfast. So long!

But get your kites ready. Kite Flying Day is coming up. Honest.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Valentine's Day 2017

Today is Valentine's Day. It was once St. Valentine's Day. But as with all secularized religious holidays, we have to drop the saint in order to be politically correct. And, of course, to use it for commercial purposes without hurting anyone's feelings. That might drive down sales, you know.

What we have here is another instance of the broader society wanting to ignore religion while still wishing to use it for its own selfish will. It is a rather galling practice, yet one which simply cannot be ignored and, to be fair, isn't entirely wrong. Still, I find it aggravating and just a bit insulting that Christians are generally expected to leave their religious attitudes at the door while nonetheless allowing them to be used for economic gain when the secularists want it. Further, and this surely applies even outside of religious considerations, I wonder why anyone ought to let society dictate when they should show generosity and kindness to their loved ones. Shouldn't we be doing that all the time? Why must it only be done only on the capitalist's schedule? A good man is kind and generous day in and day out. Or at least he should be, and while expecting no added obligations when society may want him to help fill their coffers.

So I am not discouraging a general kindness towards others. I simply don't like the dual attitude towards religious belief which Christmas, Easter, and now lesser days such as Valetine's Day now are expected to display. It is as though society feels that it can use religion when and as it wants to, but wants to stifle religious sentiment when it runs counter to what the people want.

In the end, I don't like it. It's disrespectful and that's that. God should never be used as a trumpet for Hallmark.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Saturday rambling

What to say on a Saturday...

Technology really is great. I just spent a half hour messaging back and forth with a friend in the Philippines, in real time. I never imagined something like that would ever be possible in my lifetime. The Philippines were at one time just some islands half a world away. Now they're right on my desktop computer.

Rest in peace Mike Ilitch. I hated that you closed Detroit's Tiger Stadium but I loved your commitment to Detroit. Thank you.

An old customer came into the old barn yesterday. We reminisced on old times and old friends. We talked about Pops and how well he treated people. We talked about a few mundane things like drain snakes; does anyone else even know what a Spartan 71 is? We lamented the aging process. I'm damned glad he came by.

I wish I was curling today. Although there's still about eight weeks left to the season I see the end coming. I haven't had my best season performance wise, but physically I haven't felt so comfortable in years. Amazing what getting into half decent shape does for ya, ain't it?

The WWETT (look it up; I'm not your mother) is in ten days or so. I get to spend four days in Indianapolis and see folks that I only see there. Indy's a great town: it seems bigger every time I'm there, which is often. I really can't wait to get back.

Curling makes lifelong friends. I hadn't curled in Forest, Ontario in about five years until last Wednesday and had three locals come up to me and ask, "How are you, Marty?" Curlers remember curlers. Other than Kate's friend Elaine that is. I'll explain that later.

Since most folks have stopped reading by now, I'll stop writing. So long!

Friday, February 10, 2017

NSA aren't the only ones watching you

Well. I'm returning from Windsor last night after my Thursday night curling league. And I cleared customs more easily than I cleared the toll booth, which is where you pay the Ambassador Bridge toll between Detroit and Windsor after the Department of Homeland Security has graciously allowed you to return to your own country. I should have been scott free by then, right?

I offer the toll to the toll taker. She doesn't take it. Staring at me, she asks, "You're the curling guy, aren't you?"

"Uh, I curl, yes", I respond uncertainly.

"You're the coach. You're Mike," she says, with a certain triumph in her voice.

I did not correct her that I am often the skip. I instead corrected her, "Um, Marty".

"What? No. I have you down as Mike." She began then to look over some papers in front of her.

"Uhhh, you take notes on the people who pay you tolls?"

"Sure. I like to know who they are, so I can talk to them friendly".

That's okay, I guess. I in truth remembered her myself, and knew her as gregarious and friendly. I really believed her questioning to be innocent enough. Only not enough to take notes about. "You're not Mike?" she asks.

"No, honestly."

"Then you have a twin you can frame for a crime."

So all I have to say is, Mike, who and where are you? Just in case I have to pull off grand larceny and need a fall guy.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Vanity, surgery, and the too big pickup

We all have our quirks, those habits, beliefs, and wants which kinda defy logic if you think about for a minute. A customer I was dealing with this morning drove up in a huge, double rear wheeled pickup this morning. The bed sat (I'm guessing but sure I'm close) 3 1/2 or 4 feet off the ground. It looked impressive, I admit, and he confided that it was exactly what he wanted in a work truck.

He had a large drain machine in the bed of it. When I say large, I mean in the 250 pound range. Which meant we both had a struggle unloading it. Even with two guys, setting 250 pounds on the ground from more than half our own heights (more than that, I assure you) was a challenge. A few minutes later as I did the quick repair, he told me he would be off for several months beginning next week as he was to have back surgery. "It's all from handling that big machine," he half whined.

I asked him whether part of the problem was having to lift the damn thing so high. Maybe he needs to get a smaller truck easier to load or an electric hoist of some type, I said. "Hoists are too expensive, and that's my baby. I can't get rid of her." So you'd rather settle for back surgery and months of recuperation?

The repair finished, I helped him get the unit back onto his pickup. I wished him well on his surgery. But I just can't grasp the mentality that you have to have everything you want exactly as you want it even when it defies common sense. Especially when it makes such a claim on your health, and by extension your livelihood.

Ah well. People is people.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

A funny thing happened on the way to the classroom

Teaching adult education for twenty odd years was fun, and occasionally rewarding. Yet certain moments are bound to stand out. I will never forget the two funniest incidents I have ever had in a classroom.

While grading a short essay for an Economics course, the student was asked the difference between stocks and bonds. In an obvious yet hilarious cut and paste off the Internet (a practice we frowned upon of course and graded accordingly), the answer began: "Stocks were medieval devices of public humiliation and torture." It went on to explain, in some, ah, fascinating detail, the exact nature of certain forms of torture. Reading this challenged my attempts to stay calm and professional, to not laugh out loud at my desk in a room full of students. I had no trouble keeping control until the last sentence: "Bonds are government issued interest bearing securities."

Well, the student was half right in his answer, and I was able to keep my professional wits. Barely.

On another occasion, I had an English assignment to grade. With that one, I did go on to completely lose my composure in peals of laughter which I tried valiantly to hide but to no avail. I had to leave the room for ten minutes initially, hiding in an empty teacher's lounge while leaving the other instructor (there were two of us at all times in our teaching arrangement) to lament my having abandoned him. Luckily it was a slow night.

The assignment was to make comparisons in the form of analogies. The first prompt read: "Tom's car was old." Expected responses were along the lines of, 'Tom's car was older than baseball.' Instead I was treated to, "Tom's car was older than a dead frog."

I was okay at first; I stifled my giggles, although it took it a few seconds of tongue biting to maintain myself. But I was good.

The next prompt was, 'Abby was hungry.' Harmless enough. Until I read the student's offering.

"Abby was very hungry, like a sad clown who had fell off his bike."

I immediately roared uncontrollably. Shawn, the other teacher, asked what was up. Giving him the paper I replied between guffaws, "Read the first two sentences and I'll be back in a few minutes."

On my return, finally beyond any wild laughter, the first thing Shawn said was, "I can see why you didn't give credit for the first analogy. The frog may not have been dead that long."

I returned after another twenty minutes. Good times.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

The religion of Mr. Lewis

If it isn't obvious enough by now, I am a huge fan of Mr. C. S. Lewis. My wife found a copy of The Screwtape Letters at a garage sale almost 30 years ago: I read it and was hooked. As is my usual habit when I discover an author I like, I proceeded to seek out and read all of his books.

I haven't quite made it. Not being particularly interested I have never read any of his books in his academic specialty, Medieval and Renaissance literature. And two of his books, Dymer and Spirits in Bondage, being published early on in his career and before his reconversion to Christianity, well, I haven't honestly looked very hard for them. I have read a passage from Dymer and it sounds interesting, though.

I cannot begin to tell you enough about a later edition of Screwtape which includes the addendum Screwtape Proposes a Toast. As it happens he was addressing American education, and was dead on in his assessment. I have used his arguments there quite often in my dealings with, ahem, modern educators.

The Abolition of Man may be the best work of nonfiction outside of the Bible. Mr. Lewis' defense of the doctrine of objective knowledge is far more fantastic and profound than the small book in which he delivers it. In short, I adore the man, and must credit him to a great degree in cementing my belief in God.

Yet there is a skeleton in the closet which most of his admirers, Catholic and Protestant alike, tend to downplay or ignore. And that is his refusal to make pronouncements about certain particulars of Christian doctrine. He asserts that he is not enough of a theologian to do so.

I am not aware that one must be a theologian in order to understand most theology. I understand, as a Catholic, that the consecrated host is really the Body of Christ. Lewis famously says in regards to this that Christ's directive is, take, eat, not take, understand. I say with all due respect that he rather begs the question. Why would God not want us to understand? Wouldn't we want that closer relationship with Him?

Much of it can be linked to the psychology of Mr. Lewis I'm sure. Dr. Joseph Pearce wrote a very good book called C. S. Lewis and the Church of Rome which deals with the issue of why Lewis never became Catholic as he certainly was very close to it. Dr. Pearce's answer was, essentially, because of Lewis' background and his Ulster stubbornness (he was from Northern Ireland).

I would have to agree. And I don't mean that without sympathy: sometimes, and I say this with absolutely no disrespect intended, invincible ignorance gets in our way. Lewis may not have had the capacity to take that next step; it's the same as I think of my dear maternal grandfather who, though he came to accept and respect my father's Catholicism, could not be expected to easily let go of his Southern Baptist background. Thankfully, God will accept us on those terms, if the situation is real and sincere, and not an intentional blindness.

That question, can anybody get to Heaven?, used to plague me yet now I can accept it. But even in that light, we still must address our skeletons as honestly and openly as we can. C. S. Lewis did what he could with what he had, and has accomplished with it a far sight more than anything most of us have managed. So he perhaps could not take that last step towards full Christianity. How many of us can? It is an area in which we must be supremely grateful for God's mercy.

Monday, February 6, 2017

White chips, white lips

I love salt and vinegar potato chips. They make your lips pucker in such a delightful way, and are another reason I love Canada. I discovered them there. I also love sports. One day the twain did meet, though not necessarily in the best way.

My oldest son was about two and a half years old, and I was trying to watch the Stanley Cup playoffs. Being a momentarily bad dad, I did not want a distraction. So I sat in my recliner eating salt and vinegar potato chips as I was also supposed to be watching Charlie.

He played with his toys as I watched the TV. Regularly, he would toddle to my perch, and I would give him a couple chips or let him grab some from the bag I held on my lap, to keep him at bay. It was a divine match. We both got what we wanted; he could play, and I could watch hockey. Cool beans.

After an hour or so of this, Charlie, again, toddled to my recliner for more chips. And I gave him more. Only this time I turned to look at him. And his lips were white. White as sheets, white as ghosts. And it occurred to me that the vinegar was causing that.

So I let him have two more chips and I put the bag away, hoping his mother would not notice the change in his facial anatomy (thankfully no, as his lips had returned to normal by the time she was home). But I think he likes, or did like, salt and vinegar chips himself. I wonder if he still might.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Improving your license plate bingo score

We've all played license plate bingo, right? When you're on a long road trip you try to see how many license plates you can spot from how many different states. On one trip when my family was young we saw plates from 47 states (we missed only Alaska, Hawaii, and Delaware) and 7 provinces of Canada. It's fun!

Now that I'm on the road a lot I play the game myself. I've notice some things which might help you do even better when you play license plate bingo. It all begins with paying attention to the trucks on the highway.

To begin with, you'll get Maine and Oklahoma rather easily. For whatever reason, probably registration fees I presume, an awful lot of truck trailers are plated either Maine or Oklahoma. While Oklahoma may be fairly easy to spot on cars, Maine isn't, being small and tucked away in the far northeast of the US. With this tip, it's an easy gain of one relatively hard to find state.

It's also easier to find various plates if you look for the name of the truck line. If a truck trailer is blue (although it may be white) and says WERNER, it's plated in Nebraska. If the trailer is white and says SAIA, it's from Louisiana. Heartland Express trucks are plated Mississippi. It works every time: see those trucks, you gain three states.

This works for Canadian provinces too. If a trailer says 'Moe's Trucking' it will have an Ontario plate. With Bourassa or Normandin, the plate will be Quebec. Spot Bison Trucking and you'll gain Manitoba. These work every time too.

And that's how you can gain several states or provinces easily when you play license plate bingo. But one more caveat. If at the top center of a plate you see spelled out U-T-A-H, all in capital letters, it's from Utah.

Now go play the game and enjoy these easy and exciting tips.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Watching new curlers

I arrived at the curling club early yesterday, and there were a bunch of new curlers on the ice. Let me tell you, man, they were awful.

Most shots were either too heavy and went beyond the scoring area, or house, or were too light and not anywhere close to scoring. They were lining up to sweep around two-thirds of the way down the ice, so that very often they would have to slide back to the stone to sweep it, overshoot the rock and then have to slide forward towards it. They threw wrong handles, they gave wrong signals, they swept too much on many rocks and too little on others.

But despite all that, I admired their enthusiasm. They were laughing and pointing and teasing each other. They were going, oh, so close, on the almost made shots then were absolutely giddy when someone, anyone, did make a shot. You might have thought they'd won a million bucks. They were having a great time.

I think that might be the best way to discover curling. Give the new players some basic instruction, then get out of the way and let them have fun with it. That might just be how you get newbies excited about playing more and learning the details along the way.

I was told that this same group would be coming out at the same time for the next six weeks. I enjoyed myself so much just watching them that I may just go early again next week.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Joe and the oranges

Grandpa Joe swore quite a bit. Most of it was rather tame compared to what we hear these days, however, and it consisted mostly of 'Aw Hell' which by his inflection could express anything from mild distaste to complete disgust. If he really thought you were full of it, he said, "Ain't that a crock of stuff." Yes, stuff, he said, not even using the obvious expletive in the plainly obvious context. In great distress he was bellow, "No, no, no, Hell, no", with a profound and almost indescribable emphasis on Hell, drawing the word out as though he had to force it from his lungs. But those stories are for another time.

Joe was rough and difficult to deal with, yet he had a soft side. Once when out and about with someone, I don't recall who he was just this minute so I'll call him Cloyce just to give him a name, Joe asked Cloyce if he wanted a soda pop. Told yes, they found a store, parked, and went headed towards the door. Cloyce remembered a street urchin, a sad and frail little boy sitting over to the side with his knees tucked into his body, trying to stave off the chill in the air.

They went into the store. Cloyce went to the refrigerated aisle and grabbed a bottle of pop. Realizing next that Joe was not with him, he found him trolling a stack of bagged oranges. You know how they would bag oranges in those mesh bags, right? Orange mesh bags, I suppose to blend with the oranges. Joe took one, then got a drink for himself, and they went to the checkout and paid. So he wants oranges, Cloyce thought.

When they were outside, Joe went over to the urchin and tossed him the oranges. Cloyce said the boy looked up at Joe in surprise and joy and said, "Mister, when you dies, I hope you goes straight to Heaven." Joe replied ironically, but in a quiet voice, "Aw Hell". It was perhaps the only time and manner in which such words could sound humble.

So Aw Hell can mean a lot of things. You just have to have the right emphasis. Joe was a master of that.