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Wednesday, December 11, 2019
  • 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:
    LAST THREE MONTHS ¬– NEIGHBOR COMPARISON
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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.
    THE 10-MINUTE SMART PHONE SANITIZER
    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.
    THE SILENT SQUEAKING DOG TOYS
    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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  • Sunday, July 21, 2019 10:23 PM
    I was sitting on our back porch, enjoying my favorite libation, when I saw this headline:
    MOSQUITOES PREFER BEER DRINKERS
    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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