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Wednesday, January 29, 2020
  • Prevention magazine almost prevented us from leaving
    Thursday, January 23, 2020 8:20 PM
    My wife is planning our 40th anniversary vacation to Iceland. She anticipates all potential problems. That’s why she made me re-read an article from Prevention magazine, which several years ago scared me so much I wanted to cancel our 25th anniversary trip to Germany.
    TRAVELER’S DIARRHEA: In this section we learn that seven out of ten travelers experience this, which is why requests for aisle seats outnumber those for window seats on most overseas flights. An infectious disease specialist says, “Many people have been de-railed by this problem.” I am sure even more have been de-planed and de-boated.
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  • Tuesdays with Auri
    Friday, January 3, 2020 2:43 AM
    It began with a simple phone call to my friend Auri, a computer geek I asked to help me with my successful website, which right now is attracting up to three visitors a month. To have a strong online presence, you have to spend several hours a day using social media, like Facebooking, tweeting, and updating your blog. This means cutting yourself off from the outside world. But that’s the price you pay for being social.
    Auri and I decided we would meet in a few days for coffee. I got out my trusty mini legal pad and wrote down the time and date. Then I put a sticky note on my bathroom mirror. At my age, I know I will see it there several times the night before, reminding me of that early morning obligation. This system seldom fails, although one day I accidentally grabbed a list from the previous day and started repeating everything on it. I’m glad I have an honest barber.
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  • Friday, December 20, 2019 4:00 AM
    This week I’m sharing one of my favorite holiday columns that I wrote several years ago.
    No one is better at returning presents than my wife; some would say it’s a gift. The only year I rivaled her was 2009. Mary Ellen checked out two novels from the library that I wanted to read. She thought it was a waste of money to actually buy the books. She wrapped them and gave them to me for Christmas. I returned both of them. 
    I don’t have a gift-giving knack. I am not a very good listener, which explains why three years ago I got my wife an Irish Setter for Christmas when what she wanted was an Irish sweater. For a few months prior to our 25th anniversary, she began humming the tune “I Love Paris in the Springtime.” So I got her the sheet music. I thought she would get a kick out of knowing the words. She wasn’t pleased.
    This year, my wife’s unhappiness with my gift selection takes the cake. Yes, she’ll take the cake and then return it to the bakery the next morning. For the first time in our marriage, Mary Ellen has chosen to return something before she’s even opened it—a decision she made by simply observing the package under the tree. It was a Keurig Coffee Maker, the one with the compact individual containers that brew one cup at a time. We have been using a standard Black and Decker coffeemaker, but I don’t like to drink liquids from an appliance made by the same people who manufacture my weed whacker. That’s not the way I want to get my buzz in the morning.
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  • Friday, December 13, 2019 4:00 AM
    I have been writing this weekly column, in one paper or another, for 20 years. Every year I have to come up with a new angle about Christmas. I looked over the past two decades and picked my two favorites. Like any column, the basic premise is always true with a little exaggeration thrown in to make it more entertaining. But this one is 100% true, which is why I want to share it again.
    This story began several years ago when the UPS truck pulled up to the curb at our house and we wondered what Brown was going to do for us. We saw the driver struggle with a huge carton the size of a big-screen TV. He maneuvered it to the front porch and left it leaning against the door. I went outside to look at it.
    “Who’s it for?” Mary Ellen asked.
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  • Friday, December 6, 2019 12:52 AM
    I’d like to celebrate some of the special people I interviewed while doing my weekend segments on WISH-TV in 2019.
    Gregg Bell is 90 and still practices dentistry and is director of that department at Logansport State Hospital. But wait, there’s more! In 1953 Bell won the Olympic gold medal in long jumping, in Melbourne, Australia. When I interviewed him, I asked to him to show me the 26-feet, 5.2-inch distance that won him first place. Greg eyeballed the floor and walked it off within a quarter of an inch.
    Gary Varvel is one of the few remaining nationally syndicated political cartoonists in the country. He is now retired from the Indianapolis Star but offers his work from his website. Gary invited me to his home to see how, with the help of a high-tech software program, he creates his award-winning drawings. I seldom agreed with Gary politically, but there is no arguing with his creativity. He also did a caricature of me. I love caricatures. I don’t seem to get any older in them.
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  • Friday, November 15, 2019 4:00 AM
    I obsess about how my lawn compares to others on my block. I noticed some bare spots this past summer, so I addressed the issue on a trip to a local nursery. Then at the Labor Day get-together, people were discussing Joe’s yard, which was suffering from the same problem. I thought, there, but for the grace of sod, go I. (That was a long way to travel for a joke, I know.)
    Now I have a new challenge to obsess over. It began with a letter from my electric company. The envelope looked like it contained my monthly utility bill, but the contents were far more ominous. The page was titled:
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  • Friday, November 1, 2019 4:00 AM
    My proofreader, Heidi, left me a voicemail. A text transcription showed up below the notification. The message read: “Hi. I sent your proofed column back, but I haven’t heard from you. I wanted to make sure you received it. Love you!”
    Over the 20 years we’ve worked together, Heidi has left countless messages on my voicemail. They sometimes start out with “Love you” but then end this way:
    …to quit being so redundant.
    …to get a new proofreader.
    …to stop calling me before noon.
    No, this time it just said “LOVE YOU!”
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  • Friday, October 25, 2019 4:00 AM
    Below are some of the items from the new fall Hammacher Schlemmer gift catalog. This 171-year-old company offers a lifetime guarantee on their products, but for the life of me, I can’t figure out how they come up with these ideas.
    According to HS, the average cell phone has more germs than a public restroom. It’s probably true. I leave my phone in a public restroom several times a week. Their gadget disinfects your phone with a germicidal light. Don’t worry, you can still make dirty phone calls.
    Now your dog can play with his squeaky toy and you don’t have to go batty listening to it—since only your pooch can hear it. And you never have to replace his toy, because you’ll never know when it’s broken.
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  • Friday, October 18, 2019 4:00 AM
    Dog’s best friend has died. Indianapolis Veterinarian Gary Sampson, for almost 20 years, helped pet owners all over the tri-state area deal with miscreant dogs and cats that frustrated, baffled and even terrorized their owners. Veterinarians who were either stumped by a particular problem or hadn’t the time to deal with, referred to Dr. Sampson.
    Gary never met a dog he didn’t like. Truth is he seldom even met most of the animals he treated. His business model was based on a detailed questionnaire filled out by the owner, followed by a lengthy phone conversation. His philosophy was simple: If your dog is doing bad things, YOU have to change YOUR behavior. Put simply, the human was his patient.
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  • Friday, October 11, 2019 4:00 AM
    Brett, Mary Ellen and I just returned from a fabulous vacation in Peru (South America, not Indiana). We first flew to Miami (Florida, not Ohio) where we had a 13-hour layover, which is more like a sleepover, but without jammies and a blankie. What do you do for 13 hours at the Miami International Airport? I wanted to just wander around and explore, but with my sense of direction I was afraid I’d get lost. I didn’t want to be MIA at MIA.
    To help pass the time, I decided to do a little exercising, because jumping-jacks at Gate 6 at midnight seemed like totally appropriate behavior. My most innovative workout was to walk on the moving walkway in the opposite direction, simulating my treadmill at home. I was doing well until this really attractive flight attendant walked by and I sling-shot backwards into an Auntie Anne’s pretzel stand.
    By the time we boarded at 2:00 a.m., I had walked just under 20,000 steps, nearly double my usual daily 10,000. “I’m proud I surpassed my goal,” I told my wife. 
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  • Friday, August 30, 2019 12:02 AM
    I’ve been doing it wrong for about 65 years, making the same mistake more than 24,000 times. You’ve probably been doing it wrong, too. I’m not talking about how you brush your teeth or shovel snow or make your bed. 
    This revelation came to me as a result of watching a TED Talk, those cool short videos online where you can learn about everything from Chaos Theory to the life of a sloth. This particular TED Talk by Terry Moore is a fascinating look at the correct way to tie your shoes. He demonstrates pretty convincingly that the worldwide epidemic of laces becoming untied can be solved by a simple adjustment to how we loop our knots. It took me a few tries to do it correctly, but trust me, he’s right on the money. By the way, a frozen mummy from 3300 BC was found wearing the first recorded shoelaces. They were untied. He tripped and fell off a glacier.
    I have been plagued by loose laces my whole life. People are always saying to me, “Do you know your shoe is untied?” Actually, I usually do. But around the time I turned 70, I decided I wasn’t reaching all the way down there unless both shoes required my immediate attention.
    I came across this TED Talk as a result of googling the word “shoelaces,” hoping to find some replacements for a pair of casual shoes I owned. Instead of traditional laces, these shoes came with a new contrivance called Lock Laces, which are loops of elastic that are woven through the eyelets and never need to be tied. You simply pull the shoe on and it tightens up automatically.
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  • Friday, August 23, 2019 4:00 AM
    Mary Ellen and I just returned from a trip to San Francisco with our friends the Murphys. The last time we were in California was 40 years ago on our honeymoon, but we weren’t going to let one bad experience prevent us from giving The Golden State another try. 
    On this vacation, we stayed at a very old hotel, which you would think would be a good choice for four kinda old people. After all, we got a senior discount on the room, and a dinner menu with early-bird senior specials. Why then, I wondered, did we end up with a bathtub that would be a challenge for a 20-year-old Olympic pole vaulter? 
    The tub was probably in that bathroom since the early 1900s, a time in our history when the average lifespan was 47 years, unless someone never took a bath or shower and then could probably make it to 60 without breaking his neck. 
    This ancient relic, known as a claw foot tub, had sides that were three feet high, and there were no railings or rubber bathmats to reduce the chance of slipping when entering or exiting the combination tub/shower. This freaked out my wife.
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  • Friday, August 2, 2019 4:00 AM
    Mary Ellen and I have been taking short walks around the neighborhood after dinner. It’s relaxing, romantic and good exercise…but I can’t afford it anymore.
    You see, my wife is always looking for ways to fine-tune and improve our new house, hoping to spruce up the landscape—maybe by adding a blue spruce, just like the one she saw next door at the Fabershams’ house. 
    The other night, I jotted down every single detail that caught Mary Ellen’s eye, every item and home improvement on other people’s houses that she fancied as possibilities for our place. Then I did a quick online search for approximate costs. Your prices may vary.
    “Oh, look!” she said as we walked out the door, “the Robinsons are screening in their porch. We should do that so we can sit outside and not be bothered by mosquitoes.” ($4,200)
    As we circled the block she noticed that the Medcalfs had a fully enclosed glass sunroom. “That’s even better, Dick. We could sit out there in the winter, have dinner and watch the snow falling.” ($6,700)
    A couple of blocks later…
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  • Friday, July 26, 2019 4:00 AM
    My wife went on a two-week vacation without me. Hmmm, maybe that’s redundant.
    The last morning before she came home, Mary Ellen called me to say that she wouldn’t arrive until very late that evening. I had already planned to spend the day at home to catch up on some work, write a few columns, arrange the next TV segment, prepare some speeches, and maybe take a couple of two-hour naps.
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  • Sunday, July 21, 2019 10:24 PM
    This week I want to tackle the subject of generic vs. name brand medications. There are a number of reasons this topic is important. First of all, medications in general are becoming prohibitively expensive for many patients. Insurance companies are also pressuring patients and physicians to prescribe generics whenever possible to reduce health care costs which is usually a good thing with some exceptions.
    I receive many questions about generics in the office. People want to know why every medication doesn’t have a generic substitute and if not, how long will it be until one is available. They also want to know if they are safe and effective.
    First let me describe what generic and name brand drugs are. Generic drugs are chemical compounds that have never received patent protection or the patent on the name brand drug has expired. In contrast, name brand drugs are protected by a patent, meaning no other companies can produce or sell that particular drug. 
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