• Jul 14, Wake up New Jersey! How long will we sleep? (First blog entry)
  • Jul 24, New Jersey and Pennsylvania Underworld Figures Murders and Groundhogs
  • Aug 7, Selfish Driver!
  • Aug 17, Moving Day! Two friends just moved
  • Aug 23, Business Ethics 1.01 My new printer
  • Aug 27, Handcuffed Kids $ Parents
  • Sep 17, $600 savings for $3 What does it cost to fix a power car window?
  • Sep 20, Free Testimonial Finally, a Worthwhile Mass-Mailing!
  • Sep 29, Shipwrecked on Union Lake
  • Oct 3, Thank You H3! What I learned from a nit-picking fuss-pot
  • Oct 12, Wake-Up Call ! Alarm clocks
  • Oct 17, Here Come the Baby Boomers!
  • Nov 7, Telephone Privileges Customer Appreciation Day
  • Nov 24, Caged Animals SPCA double standards
  • Dec 5, No Christmas Tree?
  • Dec 25, Internet Radio A great Christmas present!


    July 14, 2007

    Wake up New Jersians!

    How long will we sit back and tolerate crooks that rob us blind?
    How long will we continue griping and complaining, yet do nothing?
    New Jersey is the most densely populated state, yet has the highest taxes, insurance rates and cost of living.

    New Jersey also has a high budget deficit.

    New Jersey casinos were opened back in 1978. Politicians promised this would lower taxes, but taxes continued to increase.
    One Governor after another has promised to cut excessive spending, eliminate corruption and cut taxation.
    So they got elected and promptly did the opposite of what they promised.
    They know of only one way to balance the budget and that is by raising taxes.

    Most citizens of NJ sigh and say, “Another election is coming.”
    The next elected government will be no different.
    That is not the answer.
    Many have left NJ or are planning to leave in order to escape the high taxes, corrupt politics and red tape.
    That is not a solution.

    Don’t leave New Jersey, LOVE IT!

    POLY= many
    TICKS= blood sucking insects
    POLITICS= A bunch of blood-sucking parasites!

    We need competent leaders, not greedy leeches!

    We must put intense pressure on the administration now in power to do what it promised.
    We can do it too! How? Here a few suggestions from me, but there are enough intelligent and inventive people in this state who can think of other ways to apply pressure on our politicians.

    1. Do all our buying and selling on the Internet or in Delaware, where there is no sales tax, but a balanced budget and surplus.
    2. We need to put detectives on the tails of politicians and document every false move they make.
    3. We must set up websites that publicize the corruption scandals and wasted money.
    4. We can write letters to newspapers, and if they refuse to publish them or twist the content, we can print our own newspaper.
    5. We need to come to the aid of those who are victims of government injustices and make their cases public.
    6. We can flood the mail boxes of politicians with protests.

    My suggestions for solving problems in American society.

    Uninsured motorists:
    In Western Europe, insurance companies are required to report lapsed insurance policies to the police, who pick up the plates. If the car can not be found, it is placed on a list that is distributed to all police officers. If the owner is caught driving without insurance he is stopped, fined and the tags confiscated. Under certain circumstances, his or her car and drivers license can be confiscated. There is no such thing as a legally registered uninsured car in Western Europe.

    A system of registration would take care of this problem. Every person living legally in America, citizen or not, should be required to obtain a residence permit as part of his personal documents. Anyone who does not have a residence permit would not be able to get a job, rent or purchase living quarters, buy and register a car or send children to school. This would also be required to obtain health care. This works in Europe; why not in America?

    All High School graduates should be required to speak at least two languages with relative fluency. American-born students could choose from many languages, but foreign born students would quite naturally choose to learn English. People in most other nations including a number of third world countries speak at least two languages with relative fluency. Why not Americans?

    Put a cap on what a lawyer can earn from lawsuits. A lawyer's earnings would still be higher than most other occupations.

    Violent Crimes:
    Courts hold tobacco companies accountable for their customers' health problems. Hollywood, video game producers, the networks and other producers or portrayers of violence should be held accountable as well. The same goes for promoting sexual perversity.

    Do away with income tax and property tax. Institute one uniform sales tax that is required of everyone, regardless of earnings. It would encourage people to save and everyone who spends would pay the same rate. If people don’t spend their money it remains untaxed. If money is not involved in a purchase (trade of equal value), there is no reason to tax it. This would also mean careful regulation of money transfers to other countries and instituting stiff penalties for illegal transactions.

    Rewards and penalties: This too has to do with taxes. In Europe, people who neglect to keep up their homes, store junk cars or old tires in their yards or don't clean wood lots of fallen trees (which can breed harmful insects), are warned to get their act together. If the warning goes unheeded, public workers do the cleaning and send the home owner a bill. If the owner refuses to pay, the property can be confiscated. In America, people get tax write-offs for allowing their property to go downhill. Europeans are offered government subsidies to improve their properties. Anything that improves energy efficiency is rewarded, but an American who does this gets a juicy property tax increase.

    Do you have any good ideas? Let's hear them!



    July 24, 2007

    More people are murdered in Philadelphia than any other US city, 352 so far this year. The City of Brotherly Love seems to have a problem.

    There is no need to forma a special study group. Just listen to the citizens of Philadelphia! Those closest to the scene are often best informed.

    Citizens are speaking out loudly, but yesterday, Mayor Street complained that citizens are not coming forth to witness against perpetrators of violent crimes. He says that he is determined to force citizens to come out and tell what they know. They obviously know more than they are telling, because you don't have to be afraid when you know nothing, and the people of Philadelphia are afraid. Very afraid!

    The people of Philadelphia don't trust the police. Just like everyone else in the city, the police don't want to get shot, but some do. The message of the underworld is clear: "Don't meddle in our business! And if you are a cop, do your business elsewhere!"

    The underworld obviously has the upper hand in Philadelphia.

    Governor Rendell has a great idea. Pump more money into the city so it can hire more policemen. In Iraq, it's called a "surge," and it has a better chance of succeeding there than in Philadelphia.

    Philadelphia Police Commissioner Sylvester Johnson claims that the city's murder problem is fundamentally a gun problem. Too many people have too many guns.

    It is not just the criminals who have guns. Citizens, who don't have body guards surrounding them like the politicians and who don't trust the police to protect them, also buy guns. Commissioner Johnson sees a problem here.

    I don't own a gun or I would be tempted to use it and illegally kill a groundhog that is destroying our garden and undermining the storage shed.

    Somehow Philadelphia's helplessness in reducing the number of murders reminds me of the groundhog problem here in South Jersey. Both Philadelphia and South Jersey have problems with dark figures of the underworld. Although the citizens would like to eliminate these underground critters, they are protected by the powers that be.

    Pennsylvanians love their two most famous groundhogs, but one of them comes out of its burrow only once a year and the other helps senior citizens every day.

    New Jersey groundhogs steal food from the gardens of hungry senior citizens who are desperately attempting to raise a few edible plants to keep grocery bills down so they can pay their property taxes. The Garden State may soon become the Gardenless State and the highest taxed property in the nation threatens to collapse into millions of groundhog burrows.

    New Jersey residents kill a few groundhogs that stray onto the road, but the ones in our gardens are protected.

    Politicians, environmentalists and wild animal lovers who live in cities where there are none, are very concerned about the welfare of fat groundhogs. But they don't care about senior citizens.

    I can't shoot them because I have neither a valid hunting license nor a gun, but that would be a waste of money. Even if I had both, I am not allowed to shoot them within sight of the house. Groundhogs know the law very well and stay close to home (theirs and mine are one and the same).

    Nor can I shoot or poison them. And the law prohibits me from sticking a vacuum cleaner hose down its burrow and hooking the other end to my car's exhaust pipe. I should at least be allowed to bash a hole in its scull and suck its brains out. We are allowed to do that to unborn humans, but not to groundhogs.

    I am not even permitted to trap them and set them free a few miles down the road. Like in the yard of some politician, environmentalist or wild animal lover.

    So what is the problem?

    It is the same problem we have everywhere else in America, but it is worse in Philadelphia and New Jersey. The problem lies in a bureaucratic and corrupt judicial system that penalizes hard-working, law-abiding, tax-paying citizens, but rewards and protects the bad guys. Even good police officers are tempted to become lousy ones. If they go after the big drug dealers, they become targets. There are plenty of little fish to pull in without endangering themselves and their families.

    We all know what lawyers are for. They defend the rights of criminals and free-loaders. Candidates for jury duty are asked if they have moral convictions and if they do, they are disqualified. Judges seem obsessed with recognizing technical errors in court proceedings when money-laden criminals with top-notch lawyers are involved.

    When most of us get ripped off by unethical business practices, scams and scoundrels, no one wants to hear about it. The police have more important business to attend to. There is not enough profit in it for a lawyer and even if you manage to get a hearing, it will either be appealed until it dies or settled out of court for a pittance that doesn't even cover your lawyer fees.

    After a lot of surfing on the Internet, I think I have found a solution to the groundhog problem in New Jersey. I understand that if you pee in the burrow of a groundhog every two or three days, it will look for a new home. Just make sure the neighbors are not looking. That could land you in court.

    Now it is up to the Philadelphians to see if that would work with criminals.

    ...with liberty and justice for all groundhogs and criminals.



    August 7, 2007


    We have all seen them and wondered how anyone can be so insensitive to others. It's "me, myself and I and nothing else matters."

    Today, I was traveling on a major highway, Route 40, approaching a crossing with a green light. An SUV decided to turn right against the red signal, which is legal if no one is coming. I had to brake hard to avoid hitting him. I tapped the horn (is that some sort of road rage?) to let him know how close he had come to causing an accident.

    Instead of apologizing or even ignoring my signal, he decided to show me who was boss by traveling at 40 mph for the next few miles. When he finally turned off, I noticed that he was puffing away on a cigar with two small children in the back seat.

    I know what he was thinking: "Selfish driver!"



    August 17, 2007

    Today we helped a friend move from the house that had been home since early childhood. Boxes of clothing, dishes, photo albums and all the furniture were loaded onto a truck and transported to the new home. The house now stands empty, but there are memories in every nook and cranny, that must be left behind. Leaving that house was not easy! There are times when personal belongings are not as important as cherished memories.

    Yesterday, we attended the funeral of a man who, together with his wife, served as a missionary in the Congo for many decades. He passed away shortly before his 90th birthday. He moved into his new home in heaven and didn't take any boxes or furniture with him. When he arrived in his new home, however, much of what he worked for and accumulated all his life was already there waiting for him. And more will follow. The officiating pastor at his funeral mentioned that this man of God had baptized 69 persons on one occasion. If the funeral had been held in Africa, there would have been standing room only! His message in Africa and his message to the nurses and doctors who cared for him was the same: "You must be born again!"




    August 23, 2007

    Have you noticed how ALL companies and businesses claim to have the best interests of their cherished customers above all others?

    They ALL have sales designed to save us money. ALWAYS! Even undertakers have special deals. Unlike the travel agency, which offers a "Fly Now - Pay Later" vacation, the undertaker offers a "Pay Now - Go Later" package. They say it will put your mind to rest before the rest of your body is laid to rest.

    But today, it's the manufacturers of printers that I would like to address. Since they aren't listening, I am posting it for the rest of the world to read.

    Until yesterday, I had a laser printer for black & white work and an ink jet printer for color jobs. They served me well for almost 5 years except that I had to pay for them over and over again. Factory toner cartridges cost nearly as much as the printers.

    No matter what their advertisements claim about customer satisfaction, manufacturers of printers primarily want our money. The stockholders and Board of Directors insist that the company get as much of it as possible. CEOs are paid salaries directly related to the success or lack of success in attaining this goal.

    The biggest hurdle printer manufacturers have to overcome, is the fact that buyers of printers want to save money. So, manufacturers offer printers at bargain prices, which use expensive ink. Everyone is happy for the life of the first ink cartridge. After that, they win and we lose.

    If I had a choice, I would choose a good printer for a reasonable price that uses reasonably-priced ink cartridges. But manufacturers don't get rich that way and there are not enough people like me to create a market. Most people prefer to live under the delusion that they are getting a bargain even if it costs them more.

    I did what most people in my position have done and bought generic printer cartridges online. I discovered that companies which sell cheap generic inks are also obsessed with getting my money. If their ink clogs my printer nozzles or dries up in the cartridge two years before the expiration date, they will exchange the cartridges for others of equal value and sell the ones you sent back to the next customer (like Wal-Mart did with the defective fluorescent tubes I returned).

    After five years of trying different inks with similar results, both the laser and inkjet printer got their fill of that diet and went on strike. This happened in perfect synchronization, so I know it was a printer conspiracy. I decided that if they are going to die together anyway, I might just as well get one printer that does both black & white and color. I headed for BestBuy because they had a special sale on the HP Color Laser Jet 2600n printer and I have a BestBuy Reward Zone card. As I said above, I had no choice.

    Unfortunately, this was not the end of my printer miseries.

    When I unpacked the printer, I noticed that the usual yellow tape that holds things in place for transport was missing. I carefully checked the box again and saw that there were two layers of cellophane tape on the bottom of the box. That is not a good sign! When I set up the printer and tried a test sheet, a message appeared telling me that I needed to replace the cyan cartridge. The manual said that I could "override" this setting, so I tried it and printed a "Supplies Report." The report stated that magenta was also nearly gone. The following day I packed the printer in its box and returned to the store.

    The lady at the service counter first tried to tell me that this was normal. They often print test sheets to make certain that a printer functions properly. I showed her the report that told how many copies had been printed and that two colors good for 2,000 copies were exhausted. I suggested that one of her colleagues probably has an HP 2600n Color Laser Jet Printer that needed ink. She condescended to let me exchange the printer. This time I got a new one and it works fine. I will be happy until one of the cartridges is empty and I have to pay $85 for a replacement. There are four cartridges, so that would be about $350 for the set!

    I paid only $299 for the printer with all the cartridges. Go figure!



    August 27, 2007

    People are rightfully upset about a drunken father in Philadelphia who chained his 13-year-old son to a bed with handcuffs. Here is the news clip in a nutshell:

    Friday night, August 24, police responded to the 2300 Block of Orthodox Street where they found a teen chained and handcuffed to his bed. The boy said he had been chained to the bed for a couple of days. Shortly after police arrived at the home, the boy's father, 42-year-old Russell Fisher, was placed in custody and charged with child endangerment. The father told police that he restrained his son in order to keep him out of trouble.

    Saturday afternoon, August 25, the same teenager was arrested together with buddies for vandalizing several cars and attempting to steal another.

    Now both father and son are restrained.


    This conflict has caused dissention throughout history and it still divides us. What is your position?

    First, I will ask simple questions that are easy to answer:

    Should force or restraints be used at all?

    Should laws be enforced?

    Is pain, suffering or discomfort ever permissible or advisable?

    If your reply to these questions is an emphatic "NO!" you may stop reading this and return to whatever you were doing before. If you were watching a football game or swatting a fly that was trying to land on your peanutbutter and jelly sandwich, your reply was false!

    If you could answer any of the questions affirmatively or were uncertain, try the next set of questions:

    If force is to be used in any way, what criteria should be considered in the enforcement?

    If laws are to be enforced, then by whom, under what conditions and how?

    If pain, suffering or discomfort is at times permissible or advisable, is there a limit? Where should the line be drawn?

    Because I am familiar with human nature, I know that very few readers took the time to answer the above questions. You probably continued reading, expecting me to come up with answers that you can either agree with or refute.

    Okay, I will see what I can do to meet those expectations. I will make a statement and you mark it "true" or "false."

    People should not do anything harmful or hurtful to anyone.

    People should be allowed to do whatever they please as long as it doesn't affect others negatively.

    Meting out punishment is solely the responsibility of designated government authorities (court system, police, military etc.)

    If you marked the first statement as true, then you are likely an atheistic pacifist. Atheistic pacifists reject all use of force for lack of credible guidelines. They are careful not to step on insects and refuse to wash for fear of harming bacteria. Most consider church and religion to be the "opium of the people."  They are quite vocal in their opposition to Americans fighting a war anywhere for any reason and oppose private possession of firearms. They are quick to defend the rights of convicted criminals and groundhogs, but fight for the “right to choose” (to kill and recycle unborn babies) and to parade their sexual orientation in the streets. Any expression of an opposing view is considered a "hate crime."

    If you marked the second statement as true, you are probably a hard-core humanist. That is just a nice-sounding word for "egoist." The humanist believes that he or she is the center of the universe around which everything revolves. The humanist dislikes restraints and insists on doing whatever he or she likes or whatever feels good. Out of necessity, the humanist admits that actions should not cause conflict with other humanists, but humanists see nothing wrong with offending or hurting those who have deeper convictions about right and wrong.

    If you marked the third statement as correct, you are sidestepping your responsibility as a member of the human race -- and this entire issue for that matter!

    Religious pacifists are divided. Some believe that God alone (or whatever authority they believe is ultimate) may enforce his law and punish transgressors. Other religious pacifists concede that it is permissible to defend their nation and family, but they refuse to retaliate with force if attacked personally. Both groups together constitute a small minority.

    The largest segment of our society is not pacifist, but motivated by a combination of prevailing humanistic and religious thought. Most believe in right and wrong and that "God" is the authority on what is good and what is evil. They believe that God is on their side, acting in their behalf and that they are on God's side acting in his behalf. Law enforcement and military service are seen as a “necessary evil.” It is interesting to note that conservative Christians are the most stalwart supporters of US military action in Iraq, and the staunchest proponents of the death penalty.

    We need to get back to the matter of handcuffed kids and parents.


    The atheist says that there are no naughty kids. They are only doing what comes naturally. If they get on his or her nerves, the atheist sends them over to the neighbor's house, or leaves them at home and goes to a dance.

    The humanist believes they will respond to love and pampering. There is a kernel of good in every child and you just need to nourish it. The kids get whatever they want until patience or the money runs out. Then humanist parents often apply the reciprocal principal. Parents also have needs and wishes. The kids better respect them -- or else!

    Most people use a system of rewards and deprivation to discipline their kids. Spanking the children or inflicting physical pain is no longer "in vogue." The humanist part of us will not allow that, nor does the law. If the promise of rewards doesn't work, parents resort to appeasing, bribing, threatening, denying of TV time or confinement to a bedroom. No parent of my acquaintance simply "turns the other cheek."

     Our kids are now grown and the grandchildren live 3000 to 8000 miles away, so I can safely say that we sometimes spanked our misbehaving children. Because our children learned early what "no" meant, spankings were rare. I preferred loving and coddling our kids, but sometimes felt obliged to make compromises.

    A couple of our acquaintance had two very unruly children. Several times, I requested the parents to try to keep them under control, but it was of no use. They would scold the kids, scream at them and call them unflattering names, but they didn’t believe in spanking them.

    In desperation, I called them aside and said that God created children with a generous portion of fat on their posteriors that was ideal for “rearing” unruly children. They were horrified and let me know that this was contrary to the teachings of Jesus who commands us to love one another. I then said that a firm swat on their behinds would sting for a while, but screaming at them and calling them names could injure them for life.

    I never asked how they managed it, but those kids soon learned to behave! I doubt if they handcuffed the kids to their beds.

    $600 OR $3


    September 17, 2007

    How to sell new cars

    The Buick Roadmaster station wagon is a great car (see my article about these wonderful cars), but it has one minor weakness. General Motors put cheap plastic sliders on the electric window channels, which break rather easily.

    When a window slider breaks, it is either raining cats and dogs, bitter cold or blazing hot. It is no fun driving in such weather with a window down. The wife's new perm can be ruined and thieves like parked cars with open windows. So Roadmaster owners head straight for the Buick dealership.

    The Parts Manager used to sell the sliders, but now he informs owners that they must buy the entire window mechanism for about $400. Installation will cost another $200.

    My Buick Roadmaster is 15 years old and the newest models are 10 years old. Owners look around the showroom at all those gleaming new cars that only cost a few hundred Dollars per month. The dealer is also gleaming. Either he sells a car or gets a pricey repair job. It's a win-win situation for him.

    Several times I replaced broken sliders myself, but when a driver's side window slider broke two weeks ago, I discovered this new development myself. Roadmaster owners don't like to part with their cars and I am no exception. I pondered the situation for a moment and came to two conclusions. 1) If a Roadmaster is traded in with only a broken window slider, it will NOT be junked. 2) If the dealer repairs the window, he will NOT install a $400 window mechanism.

    I did what I usually do of late when this sort of thing happens. I went on line. Other Buick Roadmaster owners are faced with the same problem, so I checked a User Forum. Sure enough, some clever Sherlock Holmes had done research and shared his findings with the rest of us.

    The replacement window mechanisms have nylon rollers instead of sliders, but they are otherwise identical to the original. If you order GM part number 9666748, you get a nylon roller that fits in the old window track and only costs $3. I bought a bag of 5 for $15. That should keep the Roadie running for another 100,000 miles.



    September 20, 2007

    Finally, a Worthwhile Mass-Mailing!

    I report on some negative things here, but this time I am giving a free testimonial for Gillette!

    I am one of those die-hards who insists that electric razors give inferior results.

    I am also a tightwad, so I always buy the cheapest products that give satisfactory results.

    I found that Bic razors were pretty good and cheap, so that is what I have used for years.

    Bic had two styles; one for light beards and another for heavy beards. The only difference seemed to be the lifespan of the razor. You could use a heavy duty razor on a light beard with the same results but they lasted much longer. Apparently too many people with light beards discovered this fact and that was not good for Bic business. You can no longer find the heavy duty variety in pharmacies.

    I was deliberating what to do about this when I got a free sample razor in the mail from Gillette.

    Have you noticed how many charities now send YOU money? They ask you for money and then send you a penny of nickel pasted to a card hoping to put you on a guilt trip.

    We get lots of catalogs and advertisements in the mail. It is very difficult to sort the wheat from the chaff. But hats off to Gilletti which took a gamble that I hope pays off.

    Gilletti came out with a new wet razor called the "Fusion" and mailed a free sample to millions of people across the nation. Considering the fact that many who received it use an electric razor, there might have been some hesitation. But I, for one, will gladly attest to the fact that the Fusion is really good and lasts! The handle is sturdy and attractive, but the replaceable end piece with five sharp blades is the best part. You get a very clean shave with not nicks or cuts for day after day after day. My sample razor lasted three weeks already and I am still getting a good shave.

    I am certain that someone will tell me that Gilletti supports some unethical cause and we should not buy their products. I have no knowledge of this, but believe in lauding the good things as well as condemning the bad stuff. Gilletti has a good product and believes in it enough to run a risk. As far as I am concerned, it paid off! I can heartilly recommend it to all the millions of dissatisfied Bic users.

    And I don't get paid a penny for this testimonial!



    September 29, 2007

    Thankfully no casualties!

    Today was the kind of day sailors dream about. Union Lake was a little rough for the fishermen but the stiff breeze made for great sailing. There was only one sailboat to be seen on the lake - mine!

    My dear wife helped me rig the boat but she saw a few whitecaps and decided to stay on shore.

    That proved to be a wise choice.

    After two tacks, I heard an unusual noise. I looked around and noticed a crack near the mast step. No water was entering but I decided to head for shore and check it out.

    Less than a minute passed and there was a loud bang! The bottom two feet of mast dropped through the floor and water came gushing in like a geyser.

    I am a good swimmer and the boat is unsinkable, but to be on the safe side, I put on my swim vest. In the short time that took, the boat had filled to the top.

    The oars threatened to abandon ship without waiting for the captain's orders, so I locked them up and they started a row. Have you ever tried to row a boat filled with water and its mast lying in the water? What a drag!

    My wife witnessed the mast going down from the distance but couldn't see if I was in the boat or the water. Just in that minute, two fishermen came to the ramp to launch their jon-boat and try some fishing. Verna asked them to please check on her husband and offered meals in a restaurant of their choice for my safe return.

    I don't know if they caught any fish but they can eat fish and steak in the Texas Roadhouse on their way home if they want!

    About two hours later, I picked up a dinghy that needs some work. My brother Dan gave it to brother Tim who gave it to me. He figured I needed the work!

    Verna has re-evaluated my worth at two hot dogs.



    October 3, 2007

    H3 was laid to rest yesterday after 82 productive years.

    Harold H. Hofmann, called H3 by friends, came to Elmer as a sailor boy in 1946. He had a blind date with the daughter of the local pharmacist and that led to engagement, marriage and making Elmer his home.

    H3 literally changed the face of Elmer, New Jersey.

    If you never heard of Elmer, you haven't missed much. A century ago, Elmer boasted a dozen factories, a busy railroad station and the largest potato market in the East. Today, Elmer is a sleepy little town of 1,200 people and if you blink your eyes while passing through, you could miss it entirely.

    Elmer has a few business establishments, including four pizzerias, but its modern hospital and medical clinics are well known throughout South Jersey.

    H3 had much to do with this development.

     I won't go into detail on all of H3's accomplishments, but will relate just one incident that changed the way I look at life.

    My father was a builder and I was his youngest carpenter. Back in the mid 50's, the Baptist Church was doing renovations in the basement. My father and I were of course there to help. So was H3.

    I was stapling electric wires onto studs for outlets and switches. H3 walked by and stopped. He said, "That wire has a twist in it."

    My mind was saying, "Are you some kind of nit-picking fuss-pot?"

    My mouth said, "It doesn't matter. This wall will be covered with plasterboard."

    H3 asked, "How much more time would it take to run that same wire without the twist?"

    "Perhaps a second longer," I replied.

    H3 said, "Think about it! Some day someone who rips this wall out will exclaim, "Look how neat they did this wiring!"

    "And it only took you a second longer."

    I determined to apply H3's philosophy in all that I did for the next half century and will continue to do so. 

    I am not telling you to do the same. I don't want you to think I am some kind of nit-picking fuss-pot.



    October 12, 2007 Blog

    Wake Up Call!

    Why can't manufacturers of clock radios do a survey to find out what kind of clock radios customers want -- and then make them?

    Nobody I know wants a radio that you have to tune by turning a knob, yet that is what most clock radios have. This method was standard on the earliest radios, but it has been quite a while since car radios were built with dialing knobs. Few home stereo systems have this feature, but manufacturers of clock radios seem to think that this is still the preferred method for sleepy people to tune their clock radios in the dark.

    The reason for this is certainly not due to a shortage of buttons. There are many buttons on most modern clock radios that only frustrate owners and motel occupants. To set the time, you press several buttons and hope they were the right ones. You probably forgot to set the AM button (as opposed to PM, not AM radio. That is another button!).

    Some buttons have arrows on them and you need to get out the owners manual to find out what they do. Most arrow buttons do several things depending on which other button is pressed simultaneously for more than two seconds.

    Buttons without arrows are usually labeled, but in very small print so you need to get out of bed, turn on a bright light that makes your wife grumble, and find your glasses without your glasses.

    There are snooze, sleep and snore buttons in case you can't or don't want to sleep well or at all. You can press buttons to choose radio, CD-player, MP3-player, birds singing or a waterfall. But in order to get a radio station of your choosing, you must turn that thin, furled wheel which has a slightly protruding edge sticking out of a slot somewhere in the radio housing.

    I finally found a clock radio on eBay that has several buttons where you can pre-set radio stations. It took me two hours to figure out how to set them and the alarm, but it actually worked -- until the next electric storm. The radio has a battery back-up so you don't need to re-set the time, but they forgot to back-up the station pre-sets.

    I have been combing yard sales, looking for one of those old-fashioned alarm clocks I had as a teenager. I hated the thing back then because it was so noisy and I didn't want to get up at 5 AM to milk cows. I had to wind it up every day, but it did the job and after all, why should I need a radio to wake up?   



    October 17, 2007

    Welcome Boomers!

    I heard in the news yesterday that the first official Baby Boomer is now on Social Security.

    We can expect the Social Security System to break down entirely as more and more Boomers get on board.

    Being born in 1938 and 1940 (my wife doesn’t read these blogs) makes us War Babies. War babies are indebted to the Boomers who paid for our Social Security. I want to repay a part of that debt by telling the Boomers what it is like to live on Social Security.

    Dear Baby Boomer,

    First of all, you need to sell your Beamer and buy a Beetle. The Beetle is not cheap but it uses less gas and needs fewer repairs. Also, Beetles are cool and driving them makes Boomers feel young again.

    Japanese cars are okay, but people who drive them are considered unpatriotic even though they are the only cars still made in the USA -- except for Beamers and Beetles. Most “American” cars are only put together here.

    No one seems to mind that everything else is made in China.

    The current US News & World Report gives sound advice to investors, Boomers in particular. Buy China stocks! China needs our money to buy American real estate.

    Unless you have invested in China stocks, you can no longer afford the Beamer and you need every penny of your Social Security check to pay your property taxes.

    Any other income you may have will go for medical needs, but don’t worry; you won’t starve to death. You can probably live a year on Boomer obesity and after that, there are Meals on Wheels and the South Jersey Food Bank.

    Just today, I received a nice Thanksgiving card from the South Jersey Food Bank:

    The South Jersey Food Bank writes:

    "Dear Mr. Ralph Harvey,

    "I'm writing you today about our 2007 Thanksgiving Appeal, perhaps the most important fundraising campaign we conduct all year.

    "Most people in South Jersey don't realize how many of their neighbors are struggling to feed themselves and their families. At this very special time of year, there is no greater blessing than helping those in need in our community.

    "The Hungry are young, innocent children who go to bed with empty, aching stomachs because their working-poor parents can't always afford to put food on the table. They are proud, elderly men and women who are barely surviving on fixed incomes, unable to afford both their medicine and meals. They are Americans who simply cannot make ends meet with the cost of living today.

    "A successful Thanksgiving Appeal will go a long way toward fighting the problem of hunger in South Jersey. A gift from you now of $25 or $35 will make it possible for us to provide more meals to your hungry neighbors. So please give as much as you can to the Food Bank of South Jersey today. Thank you."

    Inserted in my Thanksgiving card is a response card which gives me the choice of donating $25, $35, $50 or ($ Other) to the SJFB and this final appeal:

    "Mr. Harvey, your support is needed now more than ever so the Food Bank of South Jersey can help feed hungry children, seniors and families in South Jersey."

    I know that the SJFB has my address, because it was printed on the envelope. They have my name because it is mentioned twice in the card. The SJFB knows all about our needy neighbors and their starving children, but it apparently doesn't know that my wife and I are two of those "proud, elderly men and women who are barely surviving on fixed incomes, unable to afford both their medicine and meals." The card neglects to tell us how we can obtain our food package.

    Welcome Boomers! You now belong to that group of Americans who "simply cannot make ends meet with the cost of living today."

    You can expect to get many nice greeting cards like the one I just received. And if you are fortunate enough to live in South Jersey, your SJFB Thanksgiving food package may help compensate for the highest property taxes in the country.

    I can hardly wait to meet you at the Senior Center!



    November 7, 2007

    I think it is a good idea for businesses to have an occasional Customer Appreciation Day. On most days, they are obviously not appreciated. Only those with "Telephone Privilege" are appreciated.

    How often do you go to a store to buy something and need help? Probably quite often.

    And how many times have you had to wait for a clerk because the phone kept ringing and he or she was too busy answering it to take care of you?

    How often have you finally gotten the attention of a clerk when the phone rings and you have to wait until the caller is taken care of?

    People who call the store get priority over those of us who are physically present. They have "Telephone Privilege."

    These individuals are probably just comparing prices. If they want to buy something, they are too lazy to go to the store, so they call. And they usually want the store to deliver to their doorstep. People who have things delivered to their doorstep generally get a discount and don't have to pay until the end of the month.  "Telephone Privilege!"

    It doesn't work like that when I am trying to get through to some public servant or calling customer support. I have to wait and wait and wait...  I am forced to listen to elevator music interspersed by assurances that my business is important and that someone will get to me as soon as a line is free. Or an electronic voice tells me to push one button after another until my finger is sore.

    I walked out of an Advance Auto Parts Store today after waiting incredibly long for service while callers got immediate service. Today was definitely not Customer Appreciation Day.

    My Resolve

    From now on I am going to react differently when the clerk is talking on the phone while people are waiting for service. I am going to interrupt him and tell him what I want. If the clerk objects or tells me to wait, I will keep talking loudly until he gets desperate or angry. When he is finally listening, I will ask him why he sees nothing wrong with interrupting customers to answer a call, but thinks it is rude for customers to interrupt callers.

    He may chase me out of the store but I have at least delivered my message. That is better than giving in to telephone terrorists and walking out without putting up a fight.

    The AAP website says, "Outstanding customer service is out [sic] first priority. We’re here to solve problems, ask the right questions, and give sound advice. You'll find Advance Auto Parts Team Members eager to provide a helping hand."

    That is obviously meant for those with Telephone Privilege.

    Those with Telephone Privilege can have Advance Auto Parts all to themselves.



    November 24, 2007

    The Director of the local SPCA was a special guest on the radio last week. A number of listeners called in with questions or comments. One telephone conversation sticks out in my mind.

    The caller complained that the SPCA keeps cats and dogs in cages. This is cruel. Animals should have more freedom to move about and be allowed to socialize with each other.

    The spokesperson for the SPCA explained that keeping the dogs and cats in cages is necessary for the health of the animals. If just one of them has a contagious disease, soon all the animals could get it.

    I was about to call in with a comment, but the SPCA spokesperson responded with the same idea. She said that it is like in the schools. If a child comes to school with something contagious, other children could contract it.

    That was all I wanted to know. I had just wondered if they had a special preference for animals.

    If the SPCA should ever gain influence in our educational system, students would be kept in cages. For their own good.

    And if the SPCA gains influence in NASCAR, not just drivers, but spectators as well would be sitting in cages. Soon, football and baseball stadiums would be subject to the same rulings. In fact, churches and other places where large gatherings can be expected would also be subject to the caging policy.

    It would not be healthy for people to visit common restrooms, so cages would need to be cleaned and disinfected from time to time.

    Eating in a restaurant could also endanger the health of patrons, so meals would be delivered to the cages. The Pizza people have it right. Someone with rubber gloves would deliver the meals and take the money. Germs apparently don't stick to rubber gloves.

    If I remember correctly, it was the SPCA that was upset with chicken farmers for keeping hens in cages. I guess the farmers were just ahead of their time.



    December 5, 2007

    I received a letter last year from friends in Kansas City. It was about "stuff" and had to do with their move into a new home rather than Christmas. I changed the wording some to adapt what they wrote to this special season. Since this website is called "Ralph's Stuff," I thought it appropriate to post it.

    I wish everyone a joyous and blessed Christmas!


    Our home is nice but much too small for all our stuff! Company is coming and we need to clear off the tables and clear out the guest room! We need to get out our Christmas stuff to decorate our home and make room for a Christmas tree. And after Christmas, we must find room for the stuff we gave each other and got from others.

    We have to sort and pack stuff -- again! The closet is full of stuff, drawers are full of stuff, the attic, the basement and garage are stuffed. We have piles of small stuff, big stuff, handy stuff, junky stuff, cleaning stuff, medicine stuff, clothes stuff, outside stuff, inside stuff, and advertising stuff that wants us to buy more stuff.

    There’s stuff to make us feel better, stuff to make us smell better, stuff to make us look better, stuff to darken grey hair, stuff to rosy up cheeks, stuff to hang on our ears, stuff to paint on our nails. We have stuff to polish the car, stuff to display when our favorite sports team is winning, souvenir stuff and nostalgic stuff. There’s stuff to read, stuff to entertain us, stuff to cook with, stuff to eat with, and stuff for storing leftovers.

    There is stuff on top the TV, but not much good stuff and lots of bad stuff inside the TV. Hopefully, the bad stuff won’t find its way into our home.

    It is not easy to separate good stuff from bad stuff. We stuff the bad stuff in garbage bags and eventually take it to the dump where other people’s stuff winds up. Good stuff gets stuffed in closets, drawers and cabinets where it is easily accessible. Some stuff is put into boxes and stored for a rainy day or until we can decide whether it is good stuff or bad stuff.

    Where are we going to stuff all the stuff that’s too good to throw away yet taking up space needed for important stuff?

    Even when we travel, we need lots of stuff. When we visit friends, our hosts move their stuff, so we’ll have room for our stuff because there’s not enough room for our stuff and their stuff. It might be easier to use their stuff and leave our stuff at home with the rest of our stuff. I know a couple who visited an elderly lady who kept all sorts of printed stuff in her bathtub. They couldn’t bathe because the tub was stuffed full of old magazines. She kept lots of her stuff in little boxes, one of them labeled, “Bits of string, too short to be useful.”

    When I think of the other half of the world that doesn’t have much stuff, it makes me feel a little guilty – for a while at least. But then, I ask myself if stuff would make them happy when it only frustrates me!

    In church, we feast on spiritual stuffed turkey while false teachers and witch doctors stuff religious rites and superstitions down their necks. Our shelves are stuffed with rows of books, Bibles and commentaries, while they can’t even read the stuff.

    When we leave all our stuff and go to heaven, what happens to stuff down here won’t concern us anymore. Maybe stuff shouldn’t concern us so much now.

    Jesus, God’s Son owns everything, yet he didn’t have much stuff… no cradle, no wardrobe, no credit card, no Social Security number, no stuffed pillow to lay his head on. He borrowed other people’s stuff; a manger, donkey, an upper room, a tomb. Even the cross where he died rightfully belonged to someone else. I should have died there for all the bad stuff I’ve done.

    Remember what he said? “A man’s life consists not in the abundance of things [stuff] he possesses.”

    My prayer at this Christmas time:
    “Oh Lord, open my stuffed ears to your call, nay, your command, to go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creatures who have not yet heard. They’re taken up with stuff too, Lord. They think that stuff will make them happy or that religious stuff can save them: idols, prayer beads, penance, fasting, pilgrimages, alms, incense, candles, charms, magic, self-flagellations, even bloody sacrifices.

    “So many of your children think that they can impress the lost with their stuff. Or they think they can bribe the lost by promising them stuff. Enable me, o God, to cast away the surplus stuff that’s cluttering my life and fill my days with diligent service, my mind with the Word of life, my heart with gratitude, and my hands with your fullness. May the grace of heaven dwell in me so that others may see you in me and not just my stuff. May I convincingly show people the Way, the Truth and the Life that is Christ Jesus, my Lord. Amen!”

    Thank you John and Alice!





    December 22, 2007

    It has been more than 15 years since we had a Christmas tree in our home. Friends say that they can't envision Christmas without a tree. My sister asked if we had religious convictions about this tradition.  No, we have no special reason but somehow manage to celebrate the birth of Christ without a tree.

    Christmas was originally so natural with real twinkling stars, fresh hay, smelly animals and shepherds. Today, everything is so artificial.

    In my last blog, I wrote about all our stuff. I just can't warm up to the idea of more artificial stuff. We have electric lights on the trees in our yard, but they are all white. Multi-colored lights are pretty, but  they remind me more of commercial neon lights than of candles or stars in the sky. And all these blow-up snowmen and Santas that populate our neighborhood are in my opinion, tasteless! I warn visitors to this site on the opening page, that I am opinionated and not always politically correct!

    We lived in Austria for nearly four decades and always had a real tree. In America, most people have artificial trees. We had real candles on our tree, but in America these are considered hazardous and forbidden.

    Actually, electric lights are more dangerous. Candles burn only half an hour when people are watching on Christmas eve and again on Christmas day. The tree is freshly cut and the mostly edible decorations of candy, gingerbread and fruit are not flammable. A bucket of water is always nearby but seldom needed.

    There are many Christmas tree fires in America because the lights are left on for hours when no one is around. When plastic ornaments burn, they also produce poisonous gasses that can kill.

    After our second son graduated from college in America, he returned to Austria where he was born.  He rented an apartment near us, and we decided to celebrate Christmas with him. He had no money for decorations, so we gave him our tree trimmings. He soon married and started a family, so for the next ten years, we either celebrated with them or with our children in America.

    In 2002, we returned to America and bought a small retirement home. There is hardly room for all our stuff and we don't know where to put a tree. So we just decorate with a nativity my sister gave us, a ceramic tree inherited from my mother, a hundred Christmas cards from friends and relatives and artistic decorations of my wife. We have lit trees in the yard and wreaths on our doors and the fence.

    So, that is why we have no Christmas tree.

    Have a joyous and blessed Christmas with or without a tree!