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Monday, December 10, 2018
  • Friday, December 7, 2018 4:00 AM
    Last week, I continued my tradition of lampooning the annual Hammacher Schlemmer Christmas gift catalog. This week, I’ve looked back on some 300 items and pick my favorites from the past 15 years. Some are still available in the current collection . . . still more are in garage sales.
    THE GORILLA IN THE ROOM: This is a 96-inch inflatable PVC gorilla for those people who love the expression “That's the 800-pound gorilla in the room.” Sure, this might be a funny conversation piece the first time your friends see it, but it will quickly become the 19-pound gorilla on eBay.
    THE 36-IN-ONE POCKET TOOL: This Swiss Army knife includes scissors, nail file, pen, bottle opener, and screwdriver, to name just a few components. Out in time for Christmas will be the French Army Knife, with 36 different corkscrews. 
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  • Friday, November 30, 2018 4:00 AM
    Our recent move has been very stressful. Not the financing, the inspections, or the packing and unpacking—those were easy. I have spent a lot of sleepless nights worrying about whether I’d receive my Christmas edition of the Hammacher Schlemmer gift catalog. The Post Office doesn’t always forward bulk mail, but fortunately someone changed my name to RESIDENT and it came right on time. Here are a few of my favorite gifts from this year’s HS holiday publication:
    THE BETTER MONEY CLIP 
    First of all, I want the best money clip, not a just better one. Come to think of it, I don’t want a money clip at all. HS says it holds 50 bills and 12 credit cards. Isn’t that just a wallet…without leather?
    THE BEST NOSE HAIR TRIMMER
    HS says their panel of experts lauded its “smooth trimming.” How do you gather a panel like that? How much experience do you need with nose trimmers to make you an expert? The description also says that the trimmer is easier to clean with a removable head. If you have a removable head, I bet it is also easier to clean your ears.
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  • Friday, November 23, 2018 4:00 AM
    “You need to go to the doctor and have your hearing tested,” said my wife. “I’ve told you that a hundred times.” 
    “I only remembered 60,” but maybe I didn’t hear the other 40 suggestions. She claims I have been in complete denial about this for several years.
    I decided to take a hearing test online. Participating in any test or medical questionnaire on the Web is always a mistake. Recently, I was not feeling well so I entered my symptoms: headache, fatigue, and dizziness. In seconds, I was provided 23 reasons I should be dead.
    At one hearing test site, I was instructed to wear headphones and sit in a quiet room—which was easy enough. All the rooms in my house are very quiet, even the laundry room when I am doing the wash. Hmmm, that is a little peculiar, isn’t it?
    When the test began, I was prompted to watch for a flashing light, then click on a green button if I heard a sound. I didn’t hear very much, but I clicked every single time because I started to realize this was just a scam to sell me a hearing aid, which I clearly don’t need. Sure enough, they called me 10 minutes after I finished.
    “Mr. Wolfsie, thank you for your selection of the Republic Hearing Company.”
    “Wait, the election? Isn’t that over? And I’m not a Republican: I’m a registered Democrat.”
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  • Friday, November 16, 2018 4:00 AM
    A neuroscientist at the University of California was posting photos of everything he ate on his Facebook page. The expression “feed your face,” took on a new meaning. This professor claimed that revealing your food choices to the world will motivate you to eat better.
    Dr. Garcia included daytime snacks, late-night raids of the fridge, and even the doughnuts he had stuffed in his glove compartment. He had uploaded 9,000 pictures onto his Mac, which included a few dozen Big Macs, I might add. 
    I’m not sure this is a totally new idea. Unlike the good doctor, I’ve been uploading meals and then downloading them onto my dress shirts for more than 60 years. It is not uncommon for people to ask me about certain food choices I have posted on my clothing for all my friends to see . . .
    “Looks delicious, Dick. Wasn’t that the special at the Olive Garden last week?”
    “Been to a ball game, Dick? I recognize the mustard.”
    People are always imposing a visual record of their lives on others. I’m tired of friends showing me their pets on their cell phones. In fact, I’d rather see a serving of French fries than a French poodle. An adorable pic of your granddaughter on her new trike isn’t nearly as interesting to me as a snapshot of a slab of smoky ribs. If it helps, I’ll even go, “Awww, how cute.”
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  • Friday, November 9, 2018 4:00 AM
    We are blessed with a beautiful forest behind our new home. The problem is that the trees need a bit of trimming, and that means I need to get out the chainsaw, a device I am only familiar with because of R-rated movies.
    I had a chainsaw at our old house but found it to be a very inefficient tool. I took it back to the dealer and I told him it took me hours to cut down one little limb. “Let me give it a try,” said the clerk, and then he pulled the cord.
    VAROOM!
    “Geez, what’s that loud noise?” I asked him. “It never did that before.”
    “Look, Mr. Wolfsie, I once saw you walk into a plate glass window on your morning TV segment. You are not the kind of person who should mess with power tools.”
    I’m actually very good with power tools. I have never once had a problem starting my lawn mower. I did have one accident, though. I almost broke my nose when I tripped over the extension cord to my weed wacker.
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  • Friday, November 2, 2018 4:00 AM
    I just read on AOL that coffee first thing in the morning is bad for you. Hard to believe, isn’t it? No, not the coffee part, the fact that I still have AOL. Apparently, you mess with your internal clock when you drink java on an empty stomach. Coffee decreases your cortisol levels (which keeps you alert). So a lot of times that morning cup of coffee can backfire and make you feel sleepier and grumpier. Has no one noticed this in 400 years?
    Here’s another piece of medical advice. A woman who keeps quiet during an argument with her husband is four times more likely to die from heart disease. This study was originally published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, a publication I don’t read—but that’s okay because I’m sure my cardiologist saw it in USA Today.
    So, I want to understand this last one. If I argue with my wife, I’m a boorish brute and a sexist. But if she wants to argue with me, she’ll live longer. My wife and I have argued about some odd stuff over the years. “Argue” is probably a bad choice of words, because Mary Ellen always reads this column before it’s published and she doesn’t want me to tell people we ever argue. She fears the public will assume we don’t get along. For example, we talked the other day about how to price the sale of our old home. Our voices got louder, and we got very frustrated with each other. I lost the argument, but Mary Ellen wants me to simply say I got creamed in a friendly discussion.
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  • Friday, October 26, 2018 4:00 AM
    While I was visiting family on the East Coast, my sister took me to a bagel shop knowing that the treats in this classic tiny New York City fixture would soon be throwing a party for my mouth (to quote the great Mel Brooks). When I stepped inside the deli it was clear that I was witnessing a phenomenon I had never encountered before. People weren’t eating traditional bagels—those rings of hockey-puck-shaped dough that have been boiled and then baked to a perfect brownish sheen. Instead they were eating something called a flagel, also known as a Shmagel. Shmagel/flagel, whatever. They looked delicious.
    So, what are they? Well, they are bagels that have been shmooshed (in Yiddish you would never say something as boring as “flattened”) into the size of 45 rpm records before being baked. One flagel or shmagel (a combination of the words either flattened and bagel or smashed and bagel) might not always fill up your stomach, but it pretty much fills up your plate.
    Techniques for tackling the treat seemed to differ throughout the restaurant. Some diners spread the cream cheese over the top; others tried to slice the flagel the normal way, a risky maneuver given that flagels are half the height and twice the diameter of bagels. Some people were also putting the belly lox on top, right over the onions or poppy seeds, or any of the 22 varieties.
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  • Thursday, October 18, 2018 10:08 PM
    Mary Ellen and I decided today to make a reservation somewhere for New Year’s Eve. I usually wait a bit longer to make this important decision. Last year I waited until December 31. That may seem like last minute, but I did leave a voice message first thing that morning.
    I called one restaurant and they were still planning the menu. The manager said: “Please call back after November 1, but don’t wait too long. Some loser called last year on New Year’s Eve morning.”
    Just for fun, the other night my wife and I sat down and tried to see if we could remember what we did every New Year’s Eve since we were married in 1980. We went backwards from 2017 and we were doing surprisingly well until we hit 2000.
    “Dick, wasn’t that when we went to French Lick to celebrate the Millennium?”
    “No, the Millennium was technically 2001. Didn’t I explain that to you?”
    “I think you are wrong about that and I refuse to have this argument every thousand years. What did we do in ’99, Dick?”
    “Wasn’t that the year we took your sister to dinner?”
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  • Thursday, October 4, 2018 10:12 PM
    We have a great fix-it guy. His name is Randy. If your name is Randy, there is some kind of unwritten law that you must become a handyman. Handy Randy has a lot to live up to. Our last handyman died 13 years ago this month. It’s taken us that long to find a replacement for Steve. And a replacement for the missing hallway floor tile, and the bathroom faucet handle, and the bulb for the refrigerator.
    Here’s a memory of Steve from 2005.
    When Steve comes over, we sit and chat about his kids and his grandkids. Then he gets around to his infirmities and then his wife's cousins who are overstaying their visit. Then what's new at the temple. And finally, how things are going at his regular job—which, interestingly, is just talking to people on the phone about their problems. And he's not a therapist: he's an acoustical engineer.
    Then it's time for a little lunch. We talk about the history of smoked salmon, the relative merits of a Kosher hot dog, and the debate about yellow vs. brown mustard.
    Then we start talking about his granddaughter, Amanda, again. Apparently she is a very good talker for only two years old. This trait must run in the family.
    After about an hour, I do something that is a bit rude. I ask Steve about actually fixing something. Like the door that won't close properly.
    "Steve, sorry to interrupt, but can we talk about fixing the hinge on the front door?"
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  • Friday, September 28, 2018 4:00 AM
    While opening boxes after our move to our new home, I found several stacks of old news articles, many sent by friends, plus some cut out by me and saved. I am always looking for ideas for my TV segment and newspaper columns. I found one clipping that bears repeating, about how much time people spend kissing.
    In this article, no experts are quoted. There is no scientific polling, no international study referenced. But the people from a well-known breath mint/gum company claim the average person spends 20,000 minutes in his or her lifetime kissing. Again, this is simply an average. Your smooching may vary, depending on whether you attend a lot of Greek weddings or have more than 15 grandchildren.
    I'm not an overly competitive person, but I do believe in keeping up with Joneses, who, by the way, are our newlywed neighbors down the street. However, the Fettermans next door have been married 40 years, so these folks may represent a more realistic goal for me.
    I assume I've been rolling along at an acceptable rate up until now, but I’m going to increase my output so my obit can read: “Exceeded the standard kissing time by 2,000 minutes.” Even my harshest critics would be forced to concede that when it came to lips, I was successful at putting two and two together.
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  • Friday, September 21, 2018 4:00 AM
    “What’s in here?” I asked Mary Ellen as I started to open still another carton the movers had deposited in the lower level of our new home.
    “What does it say on the box?” she asked.
    “It just says STUFF,” I said.
    “Well, that sounds like your kind of labeling system, Dick. A few years ago when we got new carpet, you did the packing alphabetically. The cat ended up in the same box as the computer.”
    Before she finished her sentence, I realized this was not a box from our current move, but a box still unopened from two moves ago in 1985. I apparently hadn’t missed whatever was in it for almost 35 years. Anything called “stuff” couldn’t be that important, anyway.
    Inside, I found a huge stack of assorted business cards—hundreds of them. I saw it as a good chance to relive old memories, to recall people I hadn’t thought about in decades. On the top of the pile was:
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  • Friday, September 14, 2018 4:00 AM
    My sister has just returned from a vacation in Iceland. She hit some popular night clubs and talked with several women about the singles scene in that exotic land.
    Apparently, the biggest issue men have when hooking up with women in Iceland is not that the ladies are frigid. The men can be a little frosty themselves—but temperature is relative. The problem is that the person they meet at the Moose Antler Pub could actually be a relative. 
    Here’s why: Iceland is the home of only about 320,000 people with a lineage that has been documented over the past 1,000 years. Generally, people don’t move away from Iceland. (Why would they? And give up the best reindeer barbeque in the world?) Not a lot of people summer in Iceland, largely because summer lasts about four hours. As a result, swinging singles often end up together not realizing that some of their ancestors were once actually swinging from the same family tree. Most Icelanders hail from a group of ninth-century Viking settlers whose descendants are still on the island, except those who went to Hollywood to make Capital One commercials. 
    Wedding planners and family reunion organizers compete for the same guests. Online dating services in Iceland try hard to match people who enjoy spectator sports, hunting, and moonlight walks, and whenever possible, have different grandparents.
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  • Friday, August 31, 2018 4:00 AM
    How would you like to save $15,000—or $14,722.50 to be exact?
    Just buy the annual Entertainment book, chock-full of good deals, brimming with coupons, awash in discounts. For a cheap person like me, it’s a godsend.
    For many years, my wife counseled me not to pay the $25.00 for the publication. It was her contention that we’d never use the coupons—and if we did, we’d either go on the wrong night or end up at the wrong place, or the coupon would have expired. I consider this user error and decided that with proper management of my discounts, the result would be monumental savings. So back in June I said…
    “Here’s the plan, Mary Ellen. For the next few months we are going to go to every place in this book, all 569 of them. Think of the money we’ll save. Think of the fun we’ll have. It will be like a second honeymoon, only this time we’ll get two one-topping pizzas for the price of one…as long as we buy a liter of Pepsi and we don’t have it delivered.”
    With that, I laid out on the kitchen table an elaborate chart detailing the itinerary—our cost-saving journey through Central Indiana. My wife was not impressed. “I don’t mind dinner at the DQ, but do we have to play a game of Laser Tag the same night?”
    “First of all, it’s not one game, it’s two. It’s the second game that’s free. How many times do I have to explain this to you?”
    “According to this, Dick, you want to get up early Sunday morning and go duckpin bowling.”
    “Yes! Where’s your sense of adventure?”
    “I just think we’ll be tuckered out from the two hours of paintball on Saturday night.”
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  • Friday, August 24, 2018 4:00 AM
    Surveys show that most people hate at least one part of their body. I’m not happy with my ears, for example. I think they stick out more than they should. My wife says I’m crazy and to be that obsessed with my own looks makes me appear very elfish. I hope she meant selfish.
    Every morning when I shave, I tilt my head down to look at my receding hairline. For a long time people asked me if I was losing my hair. I wasn’t, really. I knew exactly where it was: in the sink. About 25 years ago, I had a hair transplant. A hair transplant is sort of like what happens when a person dies. “He’s gone to a better place,” people say. That’s the same with my hair. I don’t have more hair, but what I had, the doctor put in a better place.
    While looking in the mirror over the weekend, I noticed a chin that I had not been aware of before. I was happy with the two I already had. Fortunately, that morning I saw something advertised on TV that gave me hope. Called The Miracle Neck Slimmer, it’s a device they claim was created by a world-renowned physiotherapist. I was all ears.
    At first, I thought the contraption was a scam, but they said that the manufacturer guarantees a 68 percent reduction in neck wrinkles. I have achieved similar results by simply slinging my head back and looking straight up at the ceiling. The results are temporary, of course, and I have slammed into several doors, but it does work. Well, I think it works. It’s hard to look in the mirror in that position.
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  • Friday, August 17, 2018 4:00 AM
    Mary Ellen and I were relaxing on our back deck and after swatting a few mosquitoes, I said, “You know, sweetheart, we should look into screening in this area.”
    “Yes, Dick, you’ve been saying that every year for the past 25 years. Not only that, but we are moving, remember?”
    A few minutes later I mentioned how quickly the summer passes once the July 4 weekend is over.
    “You say that every year around this time.”
    I also remarked that the neighbors don’t grill out as often as we do. Apparently I had made this observation before. Several times.
    Suddenly, I felt this great pressure on me. After 39 years, I didn’t have a single new thought to offer. I had always taken great pride in my snappy repartee, but those days were clearly over. Several seconds of uneasy silence followed. Mary Ellen finally spoke…
    “When it gets this hot, I think about cutting my hair shorter.”
    “Where have I heard that before?” I asked.
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