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Monday, August 19, 2019
  • 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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  • Sunday, July 21, 2019 10:23 PM
    I was sitting on our back porch, enjoying my favorite libation, when I saw this headline:
    My initial reaction was to brush it off, just like I did the little pests that were at that very moment enjoying my Type O positive. The article had already gone viral. My guess is that good ol’ boys in places like Pine Bluff, Arkansas, got the bad news while standing around their favorite watering hole where, unfortunately, there is a lot of standing water. The guys were probably a little red-faced that they had never figured out this beer/mosquito connection. Of course, they were also red-faced before they found out about this beer/mosquito connection.
    The article is filled with data that establishes a profile for those people most likely to be bitten. For example, one scientist notes, “Pregnant women are hit on more than men.” This, by the way, is always a hot topic at ladies’ night at the Pine Bluff Bar and Laundromat.
    Much of this research was sponsored by the American Mosquito Control Association, whose motto includes: “We are dedicated to education…that results in the total suppression of mosquitoes.” Generally, I’m against any kind of suppression, but even a liberal like me can suck it up and admit this is all-out war. And it won’t be bloodless. 
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  • Friday, July 12, 2019 4:00 AM
    My wife asked to look through my smart phone to search for a photo we took on a recent vacation. “Do you ever delete any of these images?” she asked. “You have a lot of really weird stuff in here.”
    “Don’t erase anything!” I told her.
    The truth is that with my increasing age, I am becoming more forgetful, so I take pictures of almost everything. Mary Ellen and I agreed to go through my phone together and discard any unnecessary shots. She told me this would give me more memory, but she was referring to the phone, I am pretty sure.
    “Okay, Dick. Let’s begin with these first four. They are all pictures of your foot—your right foot—in the same position. Were you sending these to your podiatrist?”
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  • Friday, July 5, 2019 12:49 AM
    For Father’s Day, my son bought me one of those watches that tracks your daily number of steps, monitors your heartbeat, and I think it can you tell you the correct time, but I haven’t gotten that far in the directions. I’d like to “walk you through” what has happened since I received the gift. That’s probably not the appropriate expression, but I’m trying to trick my watch into thinking I’m actually exercising.
    In order for it to record steps, your arms have to swing back and forth. I spent half an hour in Kroger the other day pushing my cart, but it showed I had not taken a single step because my hands were grasping the cart’s handle. At one point I was so frustrated, I just started flapping my arms like a bird. The manager must have assumed I didn’t speak English because he led me over to where they roast the chickens.
    Since I received this present, several stories about the devices have been published, which have given me pause—which I can’t enjoy for very long because any prolonged period of inactivity sets off a little alarm. It’s a good thing I am a restless sleeper.
    A story in Prevention magazine said that the idea of 10,000 steps per day, the
    conventional goal often cited as a guideline, has no scientific basis. Apparently, someone just made this number up. It’s probably the same guy who made up eight glasses of water a day, and eight hours of sleep. I have always questioned the three-meals-a-day concept, so I’ve gone to five, which at least involves moving my right arm a lot more.
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  • Friday, May 31, 2019 1:22 AM
    My wife’s birthday is coming up in July and I was pleased to get an email today with the subject: WHAT WOMEN WANT. I’m a sucker for anything that might make me a better husband. According to the ad, they want Dr. Hess Udder Ointment, a concoction created over 100 years ago that makes your hands smooth and feet callus-free. For years, I thought being sensitive, considerate, and romantic was the key. This is how little I knew about the opposite sex.
    With a name like Udder Ointment, it should either be something you spread over that specific part of the bovine anatomy, or at the very least, it should come from the cow’s udder. For example: Vegetable oil comes from vegetables and baby oil is for babies. On the other hand, there’s Lucas Oil and Olive Oyl. I could make fun of both of those names, but I like my seats on the 40-yard line and I’d never antagonize a woman whose boyfriend has huge forearms.
    So how did they come up with this udderly ridiculous name? (I tried to resist that pun, but I am a weak person.) Dr. Hess introduced his original product to turn-of-the-twentieth-century farmers who lamented that their cows’ udders were extremely raw and chapped. The fact that the farmers’ wives and children were huddled next to the wood-burning stove, withered from the harsh Midwestern blizzards, was of little concern. But those chafed udders? How unsightly. Something needed to be done.
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  • Friday, May 24, 2019 3:11 AM
    Mother’s Day has come and gone and once again I bought my wife a lovely gift. Father’s Day is getting close, but Mary Ellen never gives me anything. She explains, “You’re not my father; you’re Brett’s father.”
    “But I always give you a gift for Mother’s Day!”
    “Come on, Dick. That’s a totally different situation.”
    This will be the 32nd year in a row I’ve fallen for that.
    I still have hope for this year to be different, so I’ve been skimming through the Father’s Day edition of the Hammacher Schlemmer gift catalog. I’m not sure what makes the Father’s Day edition any different from any other edition, but I must admit that a set of monogrammed lighted grilling tools seems like something every dad needs. Here are some other actual choices…
    The Campfire Beer Caramelizer: You heat this rod in a flame, dunk it in the beer, and it “caramelizes residual sugars, mellows the flavor and creates a rich creamy head.” That sounds smooth, but—and I’m no expert–doesn’t it make the beer warm? I can’t be the first person to ask this question.
    The Thin Kangaroo Leather Wallet: I’m sorry if this makes me appear callous, but it is ironic that the only animal that could actually carry a wallet, they made him into one.
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  • Friday, May 17, 2019 2:18 AM
    For almost 40 years I have shared with my wife the chores of loading and unloading the dishwasher. I’ve hated every single second of this responsibility. I'd rather clean the toilet with my toothbrush, poke a bees’ nest with a broom handle, or clean out the gutters with a teaspoon.
    Last week my wife informed me that I was now forever relieved of dishwasher duty. "Just scrape the dishes and stack them in the sink," she told me. “You're terrible at loading and it seems to get worse by the day. Ever wonder why when you unload the dishes in the morning, everything you flung into the machine willy-nilly has miraculously lined up perfectly in the appropriate slots? Who do you think did that?"
    "Well, it takes almost an hour to run a load of dishes and I hear a lot of odd noises, so I assumed a mechanical realignment was one of the wash cycles."
    "You just toss the dishes in, with no regard for how the jets spray. Why would you expect that to work?"
    "Mary Ellen, I load the dishwasher like I load our Maytag. I don't put socks in one part of the washing machine, then my pants in another. Why would I do that with cups and saucers?" 
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  • Friday, May 10, 2019 1:17 AM
    I hate to bore you with the health complaints of a 71-year-old, but I’m hopeful my experiences will help others. My story begins with a medical scare and a series of doctor appointments. So many, in fact, that the phlebotomist at my internist's office started welcoming me with "Oh, no, not you again!" which is not the kind of greeting I want at a lipid lab. By the way, all is fine.
    In the course of the diagnostic process, they scanned my brain. Inside the MRI, I felt like a cigar in its tube. During the hour-long procedure, I had a flashback to a high school trigonometry class where I also stared at a blank ceiling, listening to strange indecipherable sounds. At the hospital they give you a little buzzer to press if the experience becomes unbearable, a courtesy never afforded me by Mr. Lowenstein, my 12th grade math teacher.
    A nurse called the next day to say that after examining my brain scan, they were pleased to report they didn't find anything. Obviously this was good news, but did the test results have to be phrased quite that way?
    I visited a few specialists, each exam requiring that I have my blood pressure, height and weight rechecked.
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  • Friday, May 3, 2019 4:00 AM
    There are three things that make a marriage work. Unfortunately, nobody knows what they are. If push came to shove and I had to guess, I’d say no pushing or shoving would top the list.
    Mary Ellen and I will celebrate our 40th anniversary this year. We’ve been happily married for 37 years; the other two we were sharing a bathroom.
    Communication is vitally important. This is a typical conversation my wife and I have at the dinner table:
    “What are you doing tomorrow, Mary Ellen?”
    “Let’s see, I have my morning exercise class, then a haircut at two, and then book club after dinner. And you?”
    “I’m playing pickleball, then I’m shooting a TV segment and I’m going to write this week’s column.”
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  • Friday, April 26, 2019 4:00 AM
    I have watched with great interest over the years the increasing number of athletes who have used steroids and other body-enhancing drugs. As a writer, I am proud of my body (of work) that has not been tarnished by the use of any humor-enhancing or whimsy-producing substances.
    Other humor columnists, I am convinced, have on their shelves at home Milton Berle's Personal Jokebook, the 12-volume Complete Works of Henny Youngman and the Acapulco Gold of humor, Bob Hope's Greatest One-Liners (unabridged). My old friend, the late Soupy
    Sales, gave me a file with his 100 favorite jokes. I have been tempted to look at it, but I don’t want to be tempted to borrow from it.
    There have been periods in my life when I’ve wondered where my next joke would come from. I have sometimes found myself in a comic abyss. I used to hang around Barnes and Noble and Borders. I haunted Books-A-Million, where I knew I could buy funny cracks at a good price. At one point, I even loitered at a nearby Half Price Books, but you never know what you are buying at a place like that.
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  • Friday, April 19, 2019 4:00 AM
    I always dread the arrival of the monthly AARP magazine. My wife picks through it and confronts me with ways we should amend our current financial and medical approaches to life in our senior years . . . 
    “Listen to this, Dick: men over 50—that’s you since 1997–who eat fish just once a month are 30 percent less likely to have a heart attack and will live 10 years longer.”
    “Wow, now that is amazing! So, what’s for dinner?”
    “Turkey burgers. I don’t want to stink up the house. And consider this: chocolate is actually good for you. It says here that chocolate contains antioxidants and that it can prolong your life. But chocolate contains calories and fat that can cause obesity and heart disease. I guess it’s not all good news.”
    “Yes, Mary Ellen, that’s why they call it bittersweet chocolate. By the way, I read yesterday in the AARP magazine that the best place to put your money is in a CD that pays 7 percent. Why don’t we do that?”
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  • Friday, April 12, 2019 9:44 PM
    I’ve been trying to find recent photos of myself to post on Facebook that accurately reflect my current age. We got out some scrapbooks that featured shots of us during a few recent vacations.
    I found a really flattering one and I couldn’t help but comment to Mary Ellen that I thought I looked pretty good, maybe 10 years younger than my actual 72 years. My wife agreed completely, and then she skipped to the next photo from our cruise.
    “Who’s the old man gobbling down that giant sausage sandwich?” I asked.
    “That old man would be you, Dick.”
    “That can’t be me. That guy looks 85.”
    “You just didn’t take a very good picture that day.”
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  • Friday, April 5, 2019 4:00 AM
    For many years, I have neglected my hobbies. Sure, I like to read and work crossword puzzles, but these are not really hobbies. When my wife and I go on vacation we enjoy zip-lining, parasailing and windsurfing, but there is just so much of that you can watch before it gets very tiring.
    This year I made a New Year’s resolution to learn some new skills. I made it in March, which is odd because one of my other resolutions was not to procrastinate anymore. My goal was to have four new interests or activities that would fill the free time I now have since cutting back on my full-time job as a reporter.
    I’m taking a class in boxing. This is a weird thing for me to do because in 72 years I have never hit anyone and, as I told Aaron, my instructor, I have no plans to ever do that. For my entire life I have avoided any fisticuffs by successfully using my verbal skills to sidestep conflict. The course is one hour each week and I am doing it with my son. I’m glad I waited until Brett was an adult to share this experience, because no man wants to be decked by his seven-year-old kid. 
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