Friday, August 18, 2017

Black Lives Matter

I struggle to write this post.
My thoughts are such a jumble as the emotions of anger and frustration overwhelm the desire to be orderly and eloquent. Parts of my brain are screaming while other parts are silent and without words. I don't want to ramble from one random topic to another, but I fear that if I don't start somewhere, I will wait too long to capture the moment and appeal to the indignation of others that feel the same types of emotions.

I have been surprised and disgusted by some of the posts and comments that are on social media. I get that most white people don't have any understanding of their own privilege, but that is not an excuse to turn deaf ears to those that are oppressed. Their oppression is not a figment of their imagination. It is real.

Maybe that's a good place to begin.
Black Lives Matter

Black Lives Matter is not a hate group or a movement that discriminates against whites or any other race or ethnic group. It is a movement to create an awareness (among whites) that blacks are disproportionately targeted and killed by law enforcement and that black deaths are not pursued and prosecuted at the same rate as white deaths. It does not mean that cop lives or white lives matter less. It calls attention to black lives that are largely ignored by others.

The response of "All lives matter" or "Blue lives matter" ignores the reality of the disparate treatment of black lives. I know that is difficult for white people to understand so let me give you an example.

We get group tickets to a baseball game. Twenty of us go to the game and sit together. Our tickets include a hotdog and soda. Everybody gets a dog and a large drink in one of those large plastic souvenir cups, but your drink comes in a large disposable paper cup.
You say, "I want a plastic cup."
The response is, "We all want a plastic cup."

Do you see how that tells the truth but does nothing to address the inequality?
It completely ignores your issue.
As a matter of fact, it kind of puts you down for asking for fair treatment.
That is exactly what "All lives matter" says to those that are trying to bring awareness to an injustice. It says that your injustice doesn't matter to anybody but you.

Listening to others -- actually listening to them -- is the beginning of understanding. We need to put ourselves in their place and hear with their ears, see with their eyes, feel with their heart. When we get to that place, listen to what we have said and know the frustration they know. Even though we mean no harm, our indifference does contribute to the continuing injustice.

If you can get to that place of understanding, it will give you a different perspective on a lot of things -- including the Confederate flag and Confederate statues.
But that's a rant for another day...

John <><

Monday, August 14, 2017

We could all use some Good News!

I was blessed yesterday to be able to teach the Bible study for Hopedale's Youth group last night.
The opportunity came due to our Youth Pastor needing to be out of town for some personal family business.

Since my current Bible reading is in the Old Testament Book of Genesis, it seemed natural to go there for my study. I find it interesting that many feel the Old Testament isn't really relevant to our lives today. In a way, it's not. For instructions on how to live as a follower of Jesus, the New Testament is where to look. But the story of salvation is several millennia in the making and is found in the Old Book.

Story Time with Pastor John came from the old covenant that God made with Abram in Genesis 15, in hopes to convey the need for our salvation through a Savior and the difference in the covenant of the Old Testament and the New Covenant found in Jesus.

As is often the case, I don't really know how well the lesson was received and will (hopefully) get some feedback in the coming days. I was getting such feedback about last weeks evening message yesterday.

The opportunity to share was a good way to end a weekend filled with not such great news.
It makes me want to start the week by sharing some Good News --

(Yep, you guess it...)
God loves you!
Jesus died for you!

Have a Good News kind of week!

John <><

Saturday, August 12, 2017

First sadness; then anger.

I had a good day today.
We spent most of the day with friends at the Route 66 Festival in Springfield MO -- The Birthplace of US 66. There were a great number of old cars and trucks and a large area dedicated to motorcycles. There were several music venues and many food and drink vendors.

Although I was aware of the events that were taking place in Charlottesville and the potential for violence, It was pretty much out of my thoughts throughout the day. After we left the festival, Chris and I had a nice dinner out. By the time we got home, the Cardinals were in the 2nd inning. I grabbed my computer and a good cigar and headed out to the deck to watch the game and enjoy my smoke.

While watching the game on the laptop, I began to scroll through my news feed on my phone.
As saddened as I was to hear of what took place in Charlottesville, I was even more saddened by the response and non-response by many politicians and religious leaders. Some comments on posts that did speak out against the hatred and violence were downright disgusting.

Every political leader
No, make that every citizen of this country needs to stand up and condemn the racist, white nationalist bullsh*t that is being spread by this movement. There is no alt-right. It's time to quit giving it a name that sounds like they are sane people of a different political belief. They are racists. They hate anything and anyone that is different from them. They want to take this country by force. They spew hatred, bring violence and blame others for their lack of ingenuity and intelligence.
Their leaders know what to say (and what not to say) to inspire hatred and followship; all the while acting as if they, themselves are innocent.

There is no place for such racist thinking in our society.
There is no defense for anyone that does not stand against such hatred.
There can be no neutrality on this issue.
Not from politicians.
Not from clergy.
Not from responsible citizens.

There will be no more silence from Out of My Hat.
While I don't plan on daily political rants; neither will I avoid them as I have in the past. If that's too much for you, I would suggest moving on.
Yes, I am angry! Most of you that read this are not the objects of my anger, but there are a few ...

I will call out racism, hatred and stupidity when I see it.
You should, too.

John <><

Self Esteem Boost for #45

It's been reported that President Trump has a folder delivered to him (twice each day) with pages of positive things the news media has said about him.

You wouldn't expect the guy sitting in the White House to need a self esteem boost. Maybe that's why I'm sitting here in my simple home in Ozark MO, typing a silly blog on my laptop -- I've never hired anyone to look for positive comments about me!

I suppose that would be a full-time job! I'm content to not have anybody know about me, much less write or publish something good about me. How is it that a guy that was elected President of the United States of America has to be told how great he is?

Maybe we need to recruit Hans and Franz from the old SNL shows to come by twice a day and

Or Senator Franken of MN could send him some Stuart Smalley clips -- "You're good enough. You're smart enough. And doggone it, people like you!"

Would that help him feel better about himself?

Even though it's reported that White House staffers have dubbed the folder the propaganda folder, Stephen Colbert is quick to point out that propaganda is supposed to convince the masses to love the leader, not convince the leader to love himself!

Sheesh ... when can we get a grown up in the White House?

Sorry for the rant.
John <><

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

Making God Look Bad Makes Us Look Bad

A Southern Baptist Pastor that delivered a message on the morning of President Trump's inauguration has said that God wants President Trump to "take out" Kim Jong Un of North Korea.

Geez! I'm not sure who looks worse after a statement like that -- God or the loud mouth jerk that claims to speak for him. I've really had enough of self serving, self-righteous, self-proclaimed Christians spewing false teachings in the name of little g - god!

Those that know me understand that I mean no irreverence to the God of the universe, but rather make the claim that the self-serving god of these false teachers is not the God of the Bible.
While I do believe that God calls on us to expound on the scriptures, I also believe that he calls on us to do so in a way that can be verified by the scriptures. I don't say that Jeffress isn't speaking for God because I disagree with him. I say it because his words disagree with the Bible.

I will give him the leeway to say that the Bible does say that all authority on earth is given by God and that the President has limited authority when it comes to war and putting our nation at risk (Congress has the ultimate say so in declaring war), but I don't think that God has confided in Pastor Jeffress that it is a part of His plan to have President Trump take out North Korea and put us at war.
And I don't think that most Christians or most Southern Baptists feel that way, either.

A clear example of the old saying -- Better to remain silent and thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt.

John <><

Monday, August 07, 2017

Monday, Monday ... no big deal

That's right, folks. It 's just another day in the life of a retired guy.
But this particular day is a little bit different and it is fitting that it falls on a Monday.

Typically, Sundays are good days. I spend many Sundays away from my home church of Hopedale and am often found preaching at one of the many rural churches of Southwest Missouri or traveling home from a weekend event somewhere.
Yesterday, I was home.

Sunday mornings at home mean I get to sit in with the Hopedale Youth group and be a part of their Sunday morning Bible study. It also means that I get to worship with great friends and hear one of the best preachers I know deliver his weekly sermon. By noon, I have to say that I was having a very good Sunday. God spoke to me through His people, His pastor, and His Word.

Yesterday afternoon was not a typical Sunday afternoon of napping and watching baseball. Yesterday afternoon was a day to celebrate the life of one of our church members and to offer condolences to his family.
Any Sunday with two morning service and an evening service can be physically taxing for a pastor that takes such responsibilities seriously. Add in a memorial/funeral service and some personal physical issues and it can quickly become too much.
I sensed that this might be one of those days for my pastor and asked if there was anything I could do to help. He asked if I might have a sermon in my pocket that I could use to fill in for him for the evening service.
What kind of preacher would I be if I couldn't talk about our Lord and Savior on short notice? I ended up preaching last night's service.

There are days or weeks that make you pause to think about just how fleeting life can be. In the past week, two men of our church (both much younger than me) lost their fathers (both younger than my dad). The second funeral will be this afternoon, but due to the distance (only an hour away) and our schedule we will be unable to make it.
Oddly enough, as people talked about Bill (yesterday's service) -- the life he lived as a father, husband, friend, child of God -- it wasn't my own dad I was thinking of. I was wondering what people will say of me at my funeral. I was even wondering who might show up for my funeral!

I imagine that most of the people that will be there, will be there as friends of Chris and the kids to give comfort and support to them. I somehow doubt that I will have had the impact on as many lives as Bill had. I don't expect that people will say bad things about me -- that would be in pretty poor taste. But what if people were free to say what they really thought and felt?
What would they say about me?
What would they say about you?

We are blessed with today. We should make it a day that makes a difference for somebody. I know that I will not be the out-going-talk-to-anyone-and-everyone kind of guy that Bill was. But that doesn't mean that I can't do something to encourage or strengthen someone ... today!

If you could prepare your funeral service ... for next week:
Whom would you invite?
What would they say about you?
How will you be remembered?
And by whom?

Hopefully, I'll have lots more time and can work on changing some of those answers.

John <><

Wednesday, August 02, 2017

Road Trip (Going solo)!

I'm just beginning to make plans for a late summer road trip on the motorcycle. The outbound destination is to visit my brother in Vermont, but truthfully,  it's as much about the long ride as it is about the destination.
I have yet to get into the habit of making stops along the way. I'm usually happy to be on the road. For this 3,500 mile trip, I'll need to be more aware of places to stop and things to experience.

I have a few ideas of places I'd like to travel through along the way, but still need to work out a suitable plan. A few things on my list of potential stops:

Chicago (to see the kids)
Cleveland Indians baseball (they're in Cleveland on my outbound journey)
Pittsburgh for UFC Fight Night (this would be on the homeward journey)
A wide swing through Portland ME and Providence RI just to add a few more states to the trip.
Springfield VA for lunch with blogging friend
Deals Gap NC to ride the Tail of the Dragon (318 curves in 11 miles)
Return route through Louisville KY (again to add another state)
Cicero IN for an overnight visit at my sister's home.

Obviously, I am not going to be able to make all of the stops or detours for the sake of checking states off my traveled through list. Although Cleveland works well for being on the way, it isn't really where I want to stop for the night (it would be a pretty short travel day) and so I need to figure out how to secure my travel pack while I watch a ballgame.
A detour through Louisville would mean skipping the overnight at my sister's place near Indianapolis. Actually, Louisville isn't a detour if I make the run to ride the dragon.

For now, everything is just an idea or thought of what might be. I wouldn't mind stopping in NYC but since I know I won't have much time and I'll be on the motorcycle I think I'll pass this trip. The UFC Fight Night isn't a great card so even though I'd love to see it, it isn't a really big deal. I've also considered bypassing Cleveland to travel on the Canadian side of the lake and visit our friends near Toronto.

A few days visiting with my brother at his lake cabin will be a nice break to the motorcycle travels. I'm looking forward to a little kayaking, a good visit and the serenity of the lake setting.

If anyone has thoughts or suggestions, feel free to comment. I expect to be on the road beginning around the 6th or 7th of September and back around the 19th or so. I am enjoying checking out the possibilities and looking at the map to see where the road might take me.

John <><

Tuesday, August 01, 2017

Thoughts on UFC 214

I didn't get to watch most of UFC 214 because of our family reunion. I did see the main event, the decision of the co-main event and video of the other fights.
As far as the actual fights go, I guess I don't have much to say.

There has been some pretty strong criticism of Tyron Woodley, the winner and still champion of the welterweight division. The UFC President feels strongly that it is the job of the fighters to bring exciting fights that put butts in the seats and sell PPV subscriptions. The Chosen One (T Woodley) figures it's his job to do whatever is necessary to win. I know that Saturday night's fight was a slow moving, 25 minute event, but the champ retained his title. I'm hoping that the champ will continue to remain classy in spite of the derogatory comments by the UFC.
If the UFC doesn't want to promote the champ, perhaps they can do just as well (financially) by promoting the fight or the challenger. After all, if making money is the object, does it really matter which fighter is the draw in a fight?
I think letting Woodley defend his belt in his hometown of St. Louis would be a good draw and he can defend it against the guy that he defeated to win it! I believe that he would show that he is capable of doing whatever it takes to win.

In the main event, the challenger Jon Jones regained his title by defeating Daniel Cormier (DC).
The two have had quite the rivalry over the years that has done damage to each of their reputations in my opinion. Jones has not been the kind of champion or athlete that you would want for a role model for your own kids. Whether DC's smack talk and out of the octagon interviews were a part of the pre-fight hype or not, I feel they have diminished his reputation as a person, as well.
In the end, Jones had some very good things to say about his opponent and DC acknowledged Jones' talent as a fighter (he always has).

I know that much of the pre-fight garbage is to get people to buy tickets or increase the viewing audience size, but the UFC has become like the WWE in that regard. I enjoy watching a good fight for the fight, and good fighters for their skill in the octagon rather than for their loud mouths and trash talking. I actually prefer fighters that show respect for their opponents and exhibit the kind of sportsmanship that we were taught when I was growing up. Maybe that's just a part of being old and a curmudgeon-in-training...

In any case, it is now time for the post fight evaluations. Perhaps DC will decide it's time to retire and continue with his career as a fight analyst with Fox. Jones is calling out Brock Lesnar in hopes of a big payday super fight.
UFC President Dana White has changed his mind about giving the winner of the Woodley/Maia fight a bout with returning superstar GSP and said that GSP will fight middleweight champ Micheal Bisping at a future date. The Bisping/GSP fight is another one of those fights that is about making money for the organization rather than letting the top contenders fight for the belt. Bisping has yet to defend his belt against a real contender -- but at least he has the mouth to talk a good fight. He is a veteran of the octagon and a good fighter but he'd rather tell you about it than demonstrate it and the UFC knows he's more valuable to keep as champ than to have him lose the belt to a less outspoken champion.

And yet, I still watch and enjoy the fights.
Just thinking out loud, so to speak...

John <><

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Off Limit Topics

How often do you have certain friend groups or gatherings where you have to set limits on topics for discussions?

I'm  sure that we all have friends with whom we have disagreements over certain topics (politics comes to mind) and it is best to avoid discussing if the friendship is to remain intact. Such is often the case in a large diverse family gathering such as mine.

Most of my siblings and nieces and nephews got to gather and visit together yesterday. We will be joined by our cousins and their kids later today.
I know that for our part of the family, Mom has set politics as an off limits subject. I'm not sure if there are any others, nor am I sure of how well limits will be obeyed. My guess is that there will be several well guarded conversations and that any confrontational discussions will be avoided.

Baseball rivalries such as the Cardinals and Cubs are fair game and I expect to be on the wrong side of those conversations (for a change). Personally, I wouldn't mind a few religious discussions, but those are unlikely and can be as divisive and politics. (Truthfully, I don't mind a good political discussion when cool heads prevail and it remains a discussion.)
I think the trick to any discussion is to be respectful of differing opinions and refrain from making general statements like  -- All you liberals ..., Conservatives always say ..., Evangelicals want ..., Catholics are so ..., The Cubs stink -- well, you get the idea.

Mostly, we'll be catching up on each others lives. I am enjoying the conversations around the lives and livelihoods of the young adults in the group. It is exciting to hear their stories and see how they are dealing with life, love and adulthood.

I hope that you have a grand weekend and that your conversations are filled with mutual respect for one another, even though your viewpoints may differ.

John <><

Friday, July 28, 2017

If only it were a novel...

If somebody wrote a novel about an administration and legislature that was as inept and bizarre as what we have in place, it would be deemed too unbelievable to be true!

The new head of communications for the White House calls a reporter and goes on a profanity filled rant about the White House staff and makes allegations that FBI agents have made illegal or inappropriate comments to him about on going investigations. This is the professional that is going to set the tone for communication out of the White House?

The GOP Senate can't come up with a bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act that will please 50 of its members, so they decide to punt the ball to the GOP House that has already passed a bill that won't pass in the Senate by drafting a piece of garbage that is a bad piece of legislation that they don't really want to become law. The idea is that they can move to conference where the two pieces of legislation can be worked into one passable bill, but the House always has the option of just accepting the Senate's poor legislation just the way it is.

The POTUS goes to a Boy Scout event and gives a highly inappropriate campaign speech and urges them to boo a former POTUS. His speech receives so much criticism that the leaders of the Boy Scouts have to issue an apology for having the President come address their assembly.

This same POTUS tweets a policy change for our military and says he consulted with military leaders before coming to his decision -- except the announcement came as a complete surprise to them and they say they were never consulted!

The POTUS also continues to berate his own Attorney General and says he should have never appointed him.

Bills have been introduced in Congress to keep the POTUS from firing the independent counsel that his Attorney General appointed to investigate the possible meddling of our elections by a foreign power.

Legislators are now calling for violence against members of their own party that are standing up to party leadership and doing what they feel best serves their constituents.

And all of this is becoming the new normal.
People are afraid (or at least unwilling) to speak out against the bad behavior of those they supported for office. Republican legislators fear reprisals from the party and so remain silent. Evangelical and religious leader continue to remain silent about very un-Christlike behavior because admitting they were wrong about their support means that they never really heard from God about how they should vote and they were just sinfully manipulating people to follow their own personal (or corporate) agendas.

Unfortunately it's not a made up story.
It's real.
It's sad.
And it's downright scary!

John <><

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Travel Weekend!

Yes, I know it's only Thursday, but the weekend begins early for us retired guys.
In a short while we'll be on the road towards Central Illinois for a family reunion. I think there will be lots of cousins and grand-cousins and even some great grand cousins (isn't that easier to understand than all of that 1st cousin, second cousin stuff?).

With many of us that have moved away from our Central Illinois home, it isn't often that we get to see each other. I honestly don't know most of the grand-cousins and great grand-cousins. One of the few blessings from Facebook and other social media networks has been the ability to connect with distant family members. There is a cousin (grand-cousin) of my mom's from the Philippines that will be there, too! Everyone else is from my dad's side of the family.

It's a lazy, dreary morning in the Ozarks. We had planned on a mid-morning departure, but since there is no hurry and it seemed like a good morning to sleep in -- we did. As a matter of fact, Chris is still snoozing while I enjoy my coffee and my blog.

My parents now live in Metamora IL where the Rohman side of the family grew up. I remember Sundays at the Rohman home and many nights crashing on the enclosed front porch after some post season high school football games (their HS, not ours). We are expecting members from the Rohman clan (my dad's sister's family) and from the Dunlap IL Hills (my dad's brother's family). It should be a grand time.

We'll arrive sometime tonight (it's about 7.5 hours of road time) and most of the family will be in tomorrow afternoon or evening. Saturday is the big gathering and I'm sure that the other families may be planning smaller family gatherings as well. I know that we are.

It's too bad that we will be in the cage (that's the biker term for car) rather than riding the motorcycle, but Chris is a non-rider and we'd have to pull a trailer for luggage.
Wow! That'll be 5 days without taking a ride! I might have to go for a long ride when we get back on Monday evening. As it stands, I'm less than 100 miles from 7,000 miles on the bike since March 1st. Maybe I'll get that on the 31st for the 7K in 5 months.

There will be no magic show at the reunion this year as I still have to rebuild and replace the things I lost a few weeks ago. There are many talented family members to provide entertainment for us, though. And it would be good to see somebody other than Uncle John with his lame magic show.

I have a selection of Nicaraguan cigars packed for the few cigar smokers in group. It is always a joy to be able to share a good smoke with someone that appreciates a good cigar. I have recently become a fan of the Nicaraguans and hope to convert others, as well. I have four different Nicaraguan cigars that I'm bringing and am currently out of a fifth one that I like.

So -- in spite of the fact that I'll be many hours in a car for the weekend, I plan on a very enjoyable time. I hope that your weekend will be a good one, also.

John <><

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Thoughts on the UFC

I know that not many of my readers are MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) fight fans. It shows in the number of hits on my posts that deal with the fights.
No worries. Just move long.

None-the-less it is a UFC Fight Night and as I watch the post fight show, a few thoughts come to mind.

I think the UFC has changed in a major way since its big sale not long ago. The money has really become more of a factor in making fights than pairing top contenders. The UFC is becoming a circus like the fake wrestling circuit and some of the top fighters are leaving for other fight organizations.
There are several champions that haven't defended their belts against top contenders and are seeking big money super fights, instead. Top challengers are left in limbo or the UFC comes up with meaningless Interim Championships in an effort to satisfy the fans with main events that don't really satisfy anyone.

As a part of the fighter hype, the UFC and Fox have decided to put fighters on the broadcast desk and have greatly diminished the quality of their shows. The former fighters, Brian Stann and Kenny Florian have transitioned into quality broadcasters. Brian Stann is often octagon side and adds a great deal to the call of the fights. Kenny Florian is usually on the desk and brings a fighters perspetive to the pre-fight and post-fight shows.
Of the active fighters, Tyron Woodley is shaping up to be a great broadcaster/analyst. Of all the active fighters, he alone seems able to recognize that he is at the desk as an analyst and journalist and is able to set aside the champion fighter that is about self-talk and self-promotion. Dominic Cruz is a close second and I really do prefer to have him octagon side rather than at the desk. His fight knowledge is excellent and he adds so much to the actual calling of the fight.

Other active fighters that share time at the desk have no business as journalists. Daniel Cormier and Michael Bisping are both great fighters, but they use too much of their broadcast time to talk about themselves more than to do the job of broadcasting and are more of the circus that the UFC has become.

The professional journalists, Karyn Bryant and Megan Olivi do an excellent job of interviewing athletes and keeping things on track. I'm always amazed at how you never really know which fighter Megan Olivi favors as she is always professional and positive as she conducts both pre-fight and post-fight interviews or hosts fighter Q&As.
Karyn Bryant not only anchors the Fox and UFC desks, but has an MMA podcast with her husband Wade Eck and fighter Alan Jouban. Although she has taken criticism from some uniformed listeners on twitter, she is one of the most well informed MMA journalists around.

I think that both Megan and Karyn have to deal with the fact that their journalistic abilities are often overlooked because they both happen to be super attractive women working in a male dominated sport.
Women's MMA is becoming more popular, but true to our sexist culture--even in fighting, the pretty women seen to get more promotion than the best fighters. I guess it's still about money -- selling PPV subscriptions and putting butts in the seats.

Next Saturday night's PPV fight card is a great card, maybe the best card of the year. I don't know how much (if any) of it I'll get to see as we have our family reunion next weekend. There are three belts on the line and two of the above mentioned fighter/broadcasters will be defending their titles. Maybe I'll at least get to see the last two fights ... maybe not.

I do enjoy watching the fights and learning about the fighting techniques used by the various fighters. I like watching competing styles and seeing fighters adapt to their situations.

Those are a few of my thoughts.
That's my rant.

John <><

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Oh, I'm Goin' for a Ride...

I'm getting a bit of a late start for my ride today. Late -- in that it's later than I was planning on, but when you have all day and you sleep until you're finished, I'm pretty much right on schedule!

For now, I'm at the local Starbucks inside of the Ozark Price Cutter grocery store. Here, again, I'm noticing a slimmer clientele than the general public. It's not as obvious as it was in the stand alone store, but still significant. I may have to start working out if I make this a regular habit.

I'm on my way scout out a place for viewing the eclipse next month. I'm thinking that I'll end up with around 500 miles for the day. It'll be hot and humid before the day is over, but it is July in the Ozarks!
I'm taking the long way, just because I can and I have no schedule to keep. Chris is in Denver this weekend for her annual sisters' weekend.

I rarely stop for pictures or conversation on my rides; I'm happiest when I'm just cruising along.
I managed a 100 mile evening ride yesterday and will top 22,000 miles for the 16+ months that I've owned this light cruising '06 Vulcan 900.

It is a bit of an exercise in patience to sit and enjoy my coffee and get a light breakfast before getting on the road. The coffee is a necessary evil and the breakfast will keep me from stopping for a junk food snack a little later.
But I'm like a little kid when it comes to riding and I am really looking forward to the day. I should be home in time to watch the UFC fights this afternoon while enjoying a cigar from my humidor and deciding which cigars to bring as gifts for next weekend's family reunion.

Coffee's finished and it's time to hit the road.
Here's a song that pops into my head when I'm looking forward to going for a ride. There isn't a verse for a motorcycle. Perhaps one of you would care to write one for me.
And a bike goes "Vroom, vroom!"

John <><

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Morning coffee...

I decided to take my morning coffee at the Starbucks on S Campbell in Springfield this morning.  I did finish off the iced coffee in the 'fridge with a little cream and chocolate before taking a shower and getting on the road. It's a beautiful morning for a ride, but will be much hotter later in the day.
Of course, the heat doesn't bother me too much and I often ride on hot, sunny days.

Starbucks is really buzzing with activity this morning. As always, there are a few people with laptops or tablets out, but there are many more people that have chosen this as their morning meeting place and are talking -- some with loud voices and great animation.
For me, it's kind of like being around people without having to interact with anyone. That may just be an introvert's way of feeling connected to humanity without having to actually deal with people.

Just an observation --
I've never really thought of coffee as a health food or part of a healthy lifestyle, but the demographic of people making their way through Starbucks is definitely more fit and more slender than the general population of Southwest Missouri.

Sorry about the mental interruption.
Now, where was I?
Oh yeah...

I've actually noticed that I tend to let people slide when it comes to most things nowadays. I don't know if my patience has grown or my expectations of humanity have diminished. I suspect it's the latter. It may be that I've finally realized that getting mad only serves to hurt me and really doesn't matter to anyone else. Being thought of as the grumpy old man isn't exactly something that appeals to me. I'm not sure that it bothers me a great deal, but ... well, you know...

I used to watch morning cable news shows while drinking my coffee at home. Since we dropped our cable contract and picked up SlingTV, I've been doing more reading for news. I think I'm spending less time on the computer and on my phone apps. Maybe not, but it feels like it. Sometime ago, I disabled most notifications to my phone and that has helped. A guy can only watch so many funny pet videos or read so much political crap before really trashing his mind.

I think I'll finish my coffee (venti 5-shot Americano) and hit the road.
Be safe out there.
And watch for us retired guys on our motorcycles!

John <><

Monday, July 17, 2017

Almost Too Late ...

Last week I wrote a post about seeing an old friend that was dying of esophageal cancer. I'm guessing that if you are reading today, you are one of my few regular readers. If you are not, here is the link to that post.

You'll notice that the date on that post is Wednesday, July 12.
My friend Joe went on to be with his Savior on Thursday, July 13.

I almost missed the opportunity to visit with him and tell him that I loved him one last time.

I'm a little numb right now; not really knowing what to feel. I had planned on visiting with him again.
It seems weird and a little cold to say I'm happy for him.
But I am.

The end came pretty quickly and he was spared much of the suffering that he was dreading to face. For those of us that share the faith that God loves us and Jesus died for us, he is most certainly in a much better place.
I expect that I will help his wife pack up and sell his magic stuff sometime in the coming days. I am looking forward to the memories that will bring to mind. I'm glad that I will get to do it after having visited with him rather than wishing I had made the time for that.

This is just another reminder to make a contact with someone that is (or was in the past) important to you.

John <><

Thursday, July 13, 2017


A bonus blog because I just remembered that is palindrome week.
Yes, every day is a palindrome beginning with 7 10 17 and ending with 7 19 17.

So, in honor of palindrome week, here is one of my favorite Weird Al songs -- Bob

John <><

Mayweather vs McGregor

I'm guessing that most of the readers of Out of My Hat are not big MMA (mixed martial arts) or boxing fans. Much of the world is unaware of the big mixed sport super fight that is scheduled for next month, and yet there is much hype in the MMA world. I'm not much of a follower of boxing, but it seems that this is much less of a deal in the boxing world.

Here's my take on the fight...
It's a moneymaker -- for the fighters (that stand to make more than $100 million each), for Showtime (that will air the PPV event), for the promoters and anyone connected to the fight and the UFC that is hosting the fight in their new Las Vegas arena.
I can't fault either fighter for taking the fight. It's estimated (based on the PPV sales) that they may make as much as $300-400 MILLION when it's all said and done.
But I still think it's a joke.

First it needs to be said that it is a boxing match.
It will be the very first boxing match for Conor McGregor.
The Notorious One (McGregor) is, without a doubt, one of the greatest MMA fighters of all time. He is the only UFC Champion to hold belts in two different weight classes at the same time. You can say what you want about his loud mouthed, trash talking ways, but the guy backs it up in the octagon.
And it was McGregor that called out Mayweather, boxing's GOAT.

Here's the thing...
If McGregor wins, how much bragging can a 28 year old man at the physical peak of his combat sport career do over beating a guy that he called out of retirement from his combat sport career?

There are those that say that there is no way that Mac wins; that he won't be able to beat Mayweather at boxing. Others lean on Mac's one punch knockout power and say that he KOs the boxing great.
I don't know how it will go and I know that I won't be buying the PPV.
I'm kind of leaning towards pulling for the old (40) guy.

I know that 40 isn't old in the grand scheme of things, but in a boxer's career ...?
And Mayweather, (retired for the second time), hasn't fought in over two years.

I guess I don't see -- I beat the world's greatest boxer of all time two years after he retired for the second time -- as much of a brag.
Of course, win or lose -- I made over $100 MILLION -- is a pretty significant boast!

Anyway...just my simple man's take on it.

John <><

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Important Things; Important People

There isn't much about my life that I consider to be significant. In the grand scheme of things, there are few people that are impacted by John on a regular basis and fewer still that would notice if I were no longer around. This isn't meant to be a self deprecating kind of post; it's just the way it is.

A little over a week ago, I received a call from the wife of an old magic friend. She called to tell me that her husband is selling all of his magic stuff -- books, videos, cabinets, and lots of effects.
He is dying of cancer.

It had been a number of years since I've seen my old friend. We used to meet for breakfast at a location that is about halfway between us -- 45 minutes drive from his house, 45 minutes from mine. Usually, it was after I had worked a mid-shift. I'd meet him for breakfast and then drive home and sleep.

He's about the same age as my dad and he used to call me "son" most of the time.

I stopped by to visit him last week.
He is frail and on oxygen, but was is good spirits and we had a nice visit. At one point, I asked him how he was doing.
He said, "John, I have had a good life and God has blessed me. Well, you know -- God has blessed you, too. I'm at peace with this. Everybody dies, ... but I'm not looking forward to what's ahead."

Yeah, it kind of made my problems seem small.

When I left, I hugged him and told him I love him. And I meant it.
But I wonder how that really comes across.
How is it that I can tell him I love him and mean it when I've managed to let life intervene and push our friendship to the side?
How can a friend have a diagnosis of stage 4 esophageal cancer for 8 months and I don't even know about it?

I get that I can only know what I've been told and that relationships have two sides, but how is it that we let distance determine how we interact when we have so much technology geared at keeping us connected. I've often said that I am a man that has few friends. Joe has been one of them. I need to be more focused on how I stay connected to the people that are important and to the things that matter most.

If there is someone that has mattered in your life but you've lost touch with them, why not reach out and make a connection today. Just a "Thinking of you" text is all it will take. Send them a link to this post and say, "Let's not let this happen to us."

I'll let you go now.
You have old friends to contact.
Tell them: "God loves you ... and so do I!"

John <><

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Morning Ride

It's not often that I'm up before the sun, but I'm out for an early morning ride as I go on an exploration to find my lost gear. I've got a couple of hours to get there and want to be able to look before it gets too hot as the day will be mid 90's with Missouri's normal humidity.

I am a little surprised that I still managed the early wake up without an alarm. I guess the internal body clock is still functioning well when it needs to.

My plan is to stop on the way out of town for some coffee at Starbucks before getting on the road, but I don't plan on taking my new laptop since I would have to leave it with the bike for an extended period of time. I can lock the motorcycle and have an alarm for it, but I don't have locking saddlebags.

Since I have endured enough in the way of loss recently, I'll leave my new laptop at home.
After pricing some of the magic stuff for replacement, I have some additional incentive to find my stuff. Accumulating things over time is much easier than buying it all at once!

If you have a few prayers or good fortune to send my way, I am in need of all the help I can get!

In any case, the day will not be wasted as I will at least get to enjoy a couple hundred miles of riding.

Be well,
John <><

Sunday, July 09, 2017

A Beautiful Sunday Morning in the Ozarks

It looks like another hot, sunny day in the Ozarks -- perfect for a morning motorcycle ride to church!
I'll be back at First Baptist Chadwick this morning.

This morning I'll be sharing from the story of the minor prophet Jonah.
Jonah's story comes to mind since we (or at least I) often need to be reminded to get out of God's way and let God be God. Whether we get judgmental about ow we think God should treat others or we decide that we can handle situations just fine on our own, we (again I) tend to take credit for the work done through us or make excuses for not doing the work the way we are directed to do it.

In spite of some interesting set backs this past week, it turned out to be a pretty good week. I'm (slowly) learning to trust myself less and rely on God more when things happen that could be perceived as major setbacks.
On my way to Grand Oaks camp this past week, I lost my pack off the back of my motorcycle. I didn't realize it until I was almost to my destination. I backtracked to the last place I knew I had it (gas stop 75 miles back on the highway) and began to look in the ditches for my stuff. The only thing I found were the table stands for my magic stuff -- no backpack, no magic case, no bedroll.


And I was still booked to do a magic show in a few hours, a hundred miles away from where I was!
I made a stop at a nearby Walmart and picked up a few things -- soap, toothpaste, toothbrush, some clothes. ... and some items with which I could put together a magic show!

The show was simple and only used everyday props that you can buy at your local supermarket -- ropes, cards, rubber bands, paper clips, napkins, etc.
The message was also simple (it always is) -- God loves you. Jesus died for you.

There is a part of me that really hates going to kids' camps. This night was to be the last night of camp. In the morning, the kids would be leaving for their homes. If this camp was typical of most camps (and I'm sure it was), there were many kids that were going back to some pretty crappy situations. For far too many kids, camp is much more than a week of fun -- it is an escape from life.
Sometimes, the week that we get them for camp or the one or two hours they spend in our churches each week are the only times they feel like somebody loves them.

Losing my stuff would be a poor excuse to miss an opportunity to share God's love with a group of young people. In the end, the method is far less important than the message. And the messenger is just that -- a simple servant with a message from the King.

The response was pretty good. There were lots of kids that spoke with cabin counselors after the evening program and I received some positive feedback from the camp directors and other adults.
It's pretty humbling to have to substitute your professional props with simple stuff and incredibly amazing to watch God work with simple tools and simple people.  We can get pretty full of ourselves and think that we are doing so well at what we do that we forget about the great God we serve.

As often as you can, share the simple message:
God loves you.
Jesus died for you.

John <><

Sunday, July 02, 2017

God loves you. Jesus died for you.

As many of you know, it has become a common practice for me to make this challenge in every church where I preach:
Find one person this week and share this simple message:

God loves you.
Jesus died for you.

I'll be back to the same church next week and I look forward to hearing the stories of those that accepted the challenge. To be fair, I'm also a part of the challenge.

I've found that my contacts with people have greatly diminished over the past couple of years. There are many days when the only person I have any contact with is my wife, Chris. This week I'll be spending more time on the road as I make my way to and from Grand Oaks Camp for another kids' camp.

Since the idea behind the challenge is to share the Good News with people that may not have heard it before, church people don't count. And to be fair to the others, I don't consider that preaching or presenting a program at camp counts as fulfilling the challenge on my part.
I no longer have co-workers and I talk to very few people during the week. This (as always) will prove to be challenging; but I guess that's the point, isn't it?

One of the downfalls of the church is that we often tend to stay to ourselves and focus our social circles inward. Mingling with the great unwashed is often frowned upon by other members of the church and we worry about what members will think. At some point, we need to be more concerned with the eternal status of those outside of the church than with the opinions of those within the church.

The week has begun and the challenge is on.
Anyone of you is welcome to join us.
Just find one person in the coming week that needs to hear the simple message:
God loves you.
Jesus died for you.

At your 4th of July gathering, tell someone that you accepted a challenge from a blog you read. Tell them the challenge is to share a simple message with one person and you have chosen them as the lucky person. Then tell them -- God loves you. Jesus died for you.

I don't know where the conversation may take you. If you get to a point where you're stuck, just ask them to come to church with you. Invite them to "Come and see" for themselves.
If you need some help, you can send them my way. My contact info is in the About Me (full web version) section.

John <><

Friday, June 30, 2017

June ends; Here comes July!

It is weird the way my ministry opportunities seem to come and go.

I know that it doesn't seem to be the normal thing for the majority of churches to plan far into the future. Half way through May and the only thing on my summer schedule was a day camp on June 3rd, two days of Bible Stories with Pastor John on the 6th & 7th, and an overnight camp on 16th and 17th.
That was it ... for the summer!

Then came a job for both children's camp and youth camp (two shows) in Northern Missouri last Tuesday night (the 27th with travel home on the 28th), a different children's camp (same location) next Thursday night (with a Friday morning breakfast meeting with a different church pastor about a fall event before heading home), and Sunday morning preaching at a local church on the 2nd and 9th!


Honestly, I'm grateful for the opportunities that come my way -- especially the preaching opportunities. I actually had to turn down a church because I was already booked this Sunday!
So now June ends and July is only scheduled through the 9th. I'm kind of wondering what the second half of the month will hold and if I'll be getting any back to school gigs for August. I guess I'll have to wait and see.

In any case, I'll be making the challenge to share the Good News:

God loves you.
Jesus died for you.

John <><

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Giving Thanks, Camps and other stuff...

It has been way too long since I have done a Thursdays are for Thanksgiving post so I thought that today would be a good day to get back in the habit!

Today I am thankful that God uses me in spite of myself!
When I examine John with a critical eye, I don't think I find the kind of guy that I would send several hours away or to multiple camps each summer to tell kids and young people about the love of a great and magnificent God.
And for the life of me, I can't understand why He does!
I don't even really like kids. (Here's a post from 11 years ago that talks about that!)

In over 15+ years I've been in too many children's camp to remember. I've done preschool day camps, 1st and 2nd graders in overnight camps, family camps, boys' camps, girls' camps, large camps and small camps. I've been to camps where I know almost all of the kids and I've been to camps where I haven't known anyone. I've been to camps where the joyous spirit of God's love permeates everything and I've been to camps where there were so many kids that really needed someone to love them that it broke even my hard heart.

I honestly don't get it.
How (or why) God uses a curmudgeonly, old guy to speak to sometimes tender, sometimes bratty little kids is beyond me. I don't get how a large group of young kids will sit quietly on a hard concrete floor and pay close attention to every word I'm saying and yet be unable to stay focused while others are speaking.

When it's not my time to speak or perform, I often retreat to my room or else force myself to be present with the kids. Truthfully, kids make me a bit uncomfortable.

It seems weird to be thankful for something that I would choose not to do.
I know that I could say "no" when churches call, but at some point I fear I would have to explain my refusal to serve to God. I'm afraid I already have enough 'splainin' to do and don't want to have to add this to the list!

Besides, there have been many blessings along the way.
I marvel at the adults that are blessed with the capacity to truly love kids!
I am constantly amazed by young people (youth kids and young adults) that pitch in and make these camps successful events. Over the years, I have been blessed to witness kids grow in their faith and become young adults that choose to live for Jesus.

And so I am thankful for the ministry that I have been given.
I often wish that I could travel with our church's mission teams, but those summer mission trips usually fall during camp season. Next week will find me at my fifth different camp of the summer.
From camp pastor to storyteller to entertainer...
This is my mission field.
And I am thankful.

John <><

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Social Media Friends vs Real Friends

I ran into an old friend at the grocery store yesterday.
It was I guy that I had shared ministry with at a children's camp many years ago. He now pastors a small church in a nearby community.

It was nice catching up with him.

He is one of the hundreds of Facebook friends that I dropped at some time in the past. Perhaps we'll reconnect on social media. I still follow his church page, so I get to see a little of what is happening in the ministry part of his life.

I'm really happy not having people that I see on a regular basis as Facebook friends. I think that we should have normal conversations and relationships OFF of our phones and computers whenever we can. I like using social media to keep in touch with family and friends that I don't get to converse with or relate to on a more natural level.

In a sense, that's opposite of what you might expect from a self-proclaimed introvert. I don't think that real relationships are a problem and I don't really mind exposing myself (so to speak) to people that I know well and am interested in knowing better.

Let's face it--for the most part, social media relationships are not real relationships. Most of the people I follow on Instagram and Twitter I have never met (and probably never will meet) in person. For many of them, I am just a fan of their work or craft and somehow benefit from their posts or just enjoy their pictures and comments. Sure, there are many that I would like to meet and it would be cool to have a famous friend or two, but that isn't really the introverted John that you all have come to know through this blog and social media.

I'm actually more interested in meeting the people that read this blog and write their own personal blogs more than I am in meeting many of the people that follow on various forms of social media. I've been using Facebook much less than I used to and may find that trend to continue. In fact, I may find myself using all forms of social media less and just trying to work and being more social on a personal level.

Wait! Did I just write what I think I wrote?
It made more sense in my head than what it looks like and sounds like when I read it out loud.
This is going to take some effort!

I'd write more but the day awaits and I guess I'll have to interact with a few people along the way.
I'll try to be nice.

John <><

Friday, June 23, 2017

Heading to Northern Missouri

Sometimes it's just a little weird the way things happen.

This past spring I was thinking that it has been a few years since I've been to Grand Oaks Assembly for a camp. Then a month or so ago I got an email inquiring about my availability for a camp at the end of June. I'll be there next Tuesday (6/27) night to share The Message in Magic with both their children's camp and their youth camp.

Then yesterday I received a second call (from a different association's children's camp) about coming up for a night for their camp on July 6.

From not being up there for more than four years to being there twice in just nine days!

Now to figure out how to pack my magic show on to the motorcycle for the 4 hour ride!

John <><

Thursday, June 22, 2017

A Not-so Handyman

It's been about a week since my last post and life goes on. I skipped the road trip to KC for yesterday's ballgame and took care of mowing an overgrown lawn instead. I'm sure I'll make the trip before the summer is over.

I think that I've previously mentioned that I'm not much of a do-it-yourselfer, handyman kind of guy. When it comes to physically working on things around the home or car (and now, motorcycle), my philosophy has always been -- They paid me well to do the job I knew how to do; I should be willing to pay someone else well to do the job they know how to do!

That said, I did decide to undertake the job of replacing some of the vinyl siding on the north side of our house that had been damaged by a leaf fire that got out of control. The damage wasn't enough to be covered by insurance (we carry too high of a deductible) and I figured that I could manage a few pieces of siding.

Naturally, it turned into a much bigger job than expected. The double-4 siding that is on the house wasn't an exact match to the replacement siding and it became necessary to replace each entire row rather than just the damaged pieces. The color is a spot on match but the part where the siding bends to make the 4/4 lap was a little off and left a bit of a gap where two different pieces met. That meant having to order more siding and leaving the job half finished until the order came in.
No problem for an easy going retired guy, right?

Well, it wouldn't have been a problem if that was the only problem. The overall width of the new pieces was also just a little bit off -- not enough to really notice in one row, but fifteen rows later it was an inch and a half or so difference (two story side of the house)!
So again, the project remains unfinished. It isn't very noticeable, but there is an entire row of siding that isn't locked into the row beneath it. I'll have to wait until I can get an extension ladder and then move each remaining row up so that it interlocks with the row beneath it and then trim the top row.
Did I mention that I'm not much of a do-it-yourselfer, handyman kind of guy?

Ah well...
life goes on and my minuscule problems go unnoticed by the rest of the world.

On the bright side --
Summer has officially arrived!
I don't suppose that is a really significant thing. The summer solstice is just another day for most people, but I generally take notice of such celestial events. I'm not sure why other than I think it's cool that there is a precise order to the universe. It's almost as if it was designed that way!

I hope that you have an enjoyable summer!

John <><

Friday, June 16, 2017

A Baseball Blessing

It turns out that the one game the Cardinals won in their four game series with the Brewers was the game that I attended!

It was a warm day (95f, 35c), but a beautiful day for baseball and a long ride on the motorcycle.
I picked up a good seat via Stub Hub and was in the 11th row near the left field foul pole. (Why is it called the foul pole when it's in fair territory?)

I enjoyed my pregame meal of a ballpark dog with sauerkraut, grilled onions and mustard and settled in for the game. (The 'kraut and mustard are under the dog)

There was a young man seated behind me that reminded me of my son, Aaron. He was very up on the Cardinals' farm system, 40-man roster, player stats, etc. It reminded me of going to ball games with Aaron. We talked for several innings before I needed to get up and walk around a bit. I was sitting in the hot sun and wearing black, heavy denim jeans (for the motorcycle ride) and was starting to bake a bit.

The game wasn't well attended as it was a midweek day game that was added to the schedule to make up for a previous rain out. Still, there were many families with young kids at the park and the ice cream and cotton candy vendors were probably doing nearly as well as the beer vendors.
I made my way around the stadium, pausing to watch the game as standing room in shaded areas allowed. By the time I made it back to my seat, the shadows were hitting the top row of my section so I decided to park it there and wait an inning for the shade to cover me.

I'm glad that I got to see a winner.
The team pretty much stunk in the remaining games of the series.

I made my way back to my motorcycle. Because of construction, I couldn't get back on the Interstate where I normally do and decided to take the city streets to meet Mike at Ted Drewe's. We had a nice visit while enjoying frozen custard along the iconic Old Route 66.

I have to say that I really like the coolness of the Kevlar mesh riding shirt over the vented textile motorcycle jacket. The Draggin' shirt is like a big sweater and is plenty warm when you're not moving, but allows great airflow when riding.
At 95 degrees, it's going to be hot no matter what. You're on a hot concrete slab and sitting on top of a hot engine. There's nothing about moving through 95 degree wind that is going to really cool you off. I like having the long sleeves to keep the direct sun off my arms and I ordered the yellow shirt because I figured it would be cooler and more visible than the black one.

It was a good day!
I stop more often when it's that hot and try to stay hydrated. It was an hour past sunset when I got home and my helmet and goggles were covered with small bugs.

I've noticed the Royals have a midweek day game against the Red Sox on the 21st.
Might be time for another road trip!

John <><

Thursday, June 15, 2017

The Brutal Life of a Retired Guy

Today is cleaning day.
Not for me, for the lady that comes to clean our house.

I know. I'm retired and should clean my own house. Unfortunately (or maybe not so unfortunately), Chris isn't satisfied with my overall cleaning skills, so prefers to have somebody else come in every couple of weeks to get the big clean. 

I vacate the house during cleaning hours so I am currently enjoying a coffee at Starbucks and using their free wi-fi. I have my phone, earbuds, and Chromebook so I'm good for as long as necessary. The morning rains have passed on to the east and I will probably skip the wi-fi after a short bit and hit the road on the motorcycle for a couple of hours. 
I wonder where I'll stop for lunch ... ?
I grabbed a cigar before I left the house. I may find a quiet place to stop and enjoy a leisurely smoke.

I'll need to get home in time to have dinner on before Chris gets home, but that will be easy. 
We have a couple of grilled bbq pork chops that I took out of the freezer. I think I'll make a little glaze with honey and fresh pineapple and heat them up in a cast iron skillet. And I'm thinking sliced sweet potatoes, skillet fried with bacon, spinach (from the garden) and touch of honey (or maybe brown sugar) and some sea salt.

I still need to write about kids' camp and my road trip to St Louis, but I suppose that can wait for another day. I should have some moments to write Friday night and Saturday. I'll be at Intro to Camping on Baptist Hill. Although I'll be at the camp overnight, I expect the kids will be in their cabins long before I'm ready to call it a night. I'll be able to watch the end of the baseball game, read, or write. I also expect some free time on Saturday, but will have to wait and see what is going on. 

In any case, you can see that the retired life is pretty taxing. I don't have as much time to just sit and read as I thought I was going to have. I have several books on the Kindle app on my phone, but rarely make the time to read. I generally have my Chromebook within easy reach, but rarely make the time to write. 
It could be that I'm just lazy ... nah.

Well, maybe...

John <><

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Morning notes

Just a quick post before hitting the road this morning.
I'll be riding the highways this 13th day of June. As I type, I'm coming up to the minute when I was born 57 years ago today. On most days, I don't feel 57. And I won't feel old today as I am cruising on my Vulcan.

I'm treating myself to a day game in St. Louis. It's a make up game from an earlier rain out so I scored a good seat at a decent price. I'm pretty sure the day will include a hot dog with grilled onions and kraut and I plan to meet fellow blogger, Mike, for Ted Drewe's after the game.

It looks like the day is going to be plenty warm so I am happy to have my new Kevlar shirt to wear. If you're out and about today, look out for motorcycles.

Be well
John <><

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Keeping My Cool on the Highway (summer road trip!)

Summer is nearly upon us and the northern hemisphere is heating up. Missouri is expecting temps in the 90s (mid 30s Celsius) next week. Of course, it's mid June.

I got an early birthday present for riding during hot weather -- a kevlar mesh, long sleeved overshirt. Even though my textile jacket is vented and not too uncomfortable while riding in the 90s, it is black and hot is hot. I don't think about it too much when riding on the highway, but it becomes instantly hot when coming to a stop!
Think about it -- mid 90s, black jacket, on asphalt or concrete, and sitting on top of a hot running engine! I get sweaty just thinking about it!

I wore the kevlar shirt this past week and it is a little weird riding without the jacket. I feel a little exposed. It does have double material in the elbows and shoulders, but no padding like the jacket. I suppose that wearing the protective shirt rather than a full jacket puts me on the outside of the All The Gear, All The Time (ATTATG) philosophy, but I think that I'm going to give it a go during days when the temperature gets close to 90 or above.

I am planning a day trip to St Louis for an afternoon ballgame on Tuesday the 13th. Although a post-game stop at Ted Drewe's is tempting, it'll put me into heavier traffic until I clear the metropolitan area and I really don't care for riding in heavy, fast moving traffic. I'll play it by ear and see how it looks. Realistically speaking, it will probably depend more on how badly I want to indulge in Ted Drewe's than it will on what the traffic looks like!

I'll leave early enough that I'll have time for lunch downtown before the game and I should be able to get a few miles of walking in after riding for about 250 miles.
It also looks like the Royals have a day game against the Red Sox the following week, so I may have to consider making another all day trip. After all, is there really such a thing as too much baseball or too much motorcycle riding?

Watch out for us bikers out there! I had a truck pull out right in front of me this past week. Fortunately, I was watching him and just had a feeling that he was going to start across in front of me without looking so I was prepared to stop hard.
I got the eyes wide I'm sorry look, but that wouldn't have helped much in a couple of feet!

John <><

Saturday, June 03, 2017

Jesus is my friend

Jesus is my friend is the theme for Day camp at Baptist Hill. Day camp is for our youngest campers. They are preschool age.

During this morning's "Meet the staff" portion of the day, the Camp Manager and summer staff introduced themselves to the kids and parents and told a little about what they would be doing for the day.

Typically, the summer staff doesn't do a lot of the daily activities for camps that come here. The summer staff is the worker group for the camp grounds, not for the individual groups that come to camp. Day Camp and Intro to Camping are the two exceptions where they are the leaders for Bible study, music, and crafts.

When it was my turn to introduce myself and tell a little bit about my part at Baptist Hill, I wanted the kids to know that this is a place where they can come for many years. For these little ones, this is their first exposure to Baptist Hill. I told them that I have been coming to kids camps long enough that I have now done weddings for some of the kids that came to camp as children!

"That means he's really old!" was what I heard from one of the summer staff!

Yeah, some days that's how I feel.
But not today!

I sat in on the first session of Bible story time, but decided against visiting the craft and music sessions. I am enjoying sitting in the sun, sipping a soda, and listening to the sounds of nature as I share these thoughts with you and get ready for our worship time. Looking at the little kids and their parents makes me realize that I am probably older than some of their grandparents. I suppose that from their perspectives, I am really old.
I guess I can live with that.

I had a nice ride out to camp this morning -- 50 rural miles on the motorcycle with classic rock on my helmet radio. That's a pretty good way to start any day and just what I needed to prepare myself for a day with a bunch of kids. I'll probably need a longer ride to help me get my mind right afterwards!
Some days it takes a lot of curves to get my mind straightened out. This might be one of them!

Jesus is my friend
Something for adults to be reminded of, as well!

John <><

Friday, June 02, 2017

Camp Time!

It is that time of year!
Tomorrow will find me at Baptist Hill Assembly camp grounds for the annual Day Camp!
Day camp is a one day event for the youngest campers of the season. These youngsters are way too little for most children's camps and are too young to overnight without their parents, but have this day to begin their experiences at Baptist Hill.

In a couple of weeks (June 16-17), I'll be back to Baptist Hill for Intro to Camping. Intro to Camping is an overnight (Fri-Sat) camp for kids that are just one or two years away from the week long children's camp. They get a little more of the camp experience (including a night in the cabins) before coming for a week long camp.

Monday morning I have a magic show planned for our church's daycare, Wee Hope. While I'm performing for the kids of Wee Hope, our kids from 3rd -8th grade will be getting ready to leave for Tricounty Baptist Association Children and Jr High camps. I'll be dropping in on them next Wednesday and Thursday for Bible Stories with Pastor John.
As an added bonus to the coming camp days, I get to preach at a small church on Sunday morning!

It's just under 50 miles (one way) to the camp grounds and just over 50 miles (round trip) to the church where I'll preaching, so I'll get the added bonus of getting to ride a few hundred miles on the motorcycle in the coming week.
Funny thing about motorcycle mileage -- it always seems to be farther coming home. Sometimes it takes me an hour longer on the way home! (especially when there are rural roads to ride!)

Today will be a nice day and I may get a few miles in before finding a place to watch the Cards/Cubs afternoon baseball game. Both teams have been playing below their talent level recently. Hopefully the rivalry will inspire better play over the weekend.

Time to get busy!
Have a great weekend,

John <><

Thursday, June 01, 2017

Meeting Cousins from Down Under

Thanks to the technology of Facebook and the internet, I have been able to connect with several of my cousins that live in Australia. Like my mother's family (my family), my Tita Elsa'a (Aunt Elsa, mom's sister) family is rather large by today's standards. I don't know if all of the cousins are on Facebook as I have only connected with a few of them. Melanie, the oldest of the second cousins, popped into Messenger yesterday and we had a nice chat. She has offered to help me sort out who belongs to whom in my Aussie family.
I'm so glad that she reached out via Messenger. The brief chat really made my day!

I've been trying to make more connections through the "people you may know" section of Facebook as I see familiar names from my Down Under family, but I don't want to appear as the creepy old uncle making unwanted contacts with younger cousins, particularly the young women of the family. As a rule, I don't make friend request to younger people -- family or not. I have some family members in the States that I am not friends with on social media simply because they have not asked.

Last week, I did connect with one of the 2nd cousins, Carmen. We chatted for a bit and I performed a little long distance magic for her via Messenger. It was fun.

My two sisters have made trips to the Philippines or to Australia and have been able to meet cousins from my mom's side of the family. That is still on my list.

I suppose I need to use the available technology more often to keep in touch with family, both foreign and here at home. There really isn't a good excuse for not doing so. I send more text messages back and forth to my youngest brother than to the other siblings. I need to check in on the others more often than I have been doing.

My encouragement for the day is that you make a connection with someone you love. Drop a note via text or say hello via some form of social media.

Be well,
John <><

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

A few thoughts on politics...

There have been many mornings when I've started (or at least thought about starting) to write a political post, but then I decided that it just doesn't feel like a good way to start the day. Then, rather than writing something else, I just don't write anything at all.
I suppose that is why I have posted so few times in recent months.

Today I decided that perhaps the best therapy will be to go ahead and post a few thoughts. Maybe writing some things down will begin to lift the oppression that has kept me from writing and let me move on.

While there is certainly much to be said of the administration and all of the drama that surrounds it, I think I will choose to ignore the scandal and the divisiveness that is coming from the White House and move on to the two Houses of our Congress.

I'm really wondering when these people will understand that there is going to have to be some working together if they are going to fulfill their role in governance. For years, the Democrats cried about the majority Republicans that acted as obstructionist to everything President Obama wanted to pass. Now it is the Republicans that see the minority Democrats as the ones causing the seemingly endless gridlock.
When the extremes rule the parties, nothing gets accomplished. Even within the parties there are constant intimidation tactics and power struggles between competing factions.

Let's just look at healthcare --
Healthcare takes up a huge portion of our national budget -- ONE SIXTH, and yet the divisions over how it should be managed is divided along party lines and further divided within the Republican party (and to a lesser degree, the Democrats).

That means that within every representatives state and district, there are people that will be both helped and hurt by the decisions they make. Why can't they come together to maximize the number of people being helped and minimize the number of people being hurt?
From the chair in my modest living room, it seems like the simple answer to that question is that the hurting people don't have any money to send them to buy their votes and the corporations that seek to profit from their votes have lots of money to send.

And healthcare is just one of the many important issues that is on the Congressional agenda.

As the current minority party, the Democrats have no choice but to work with Republicans to pass legislation. Without 60 votes in the Senate, Senate Republicans need to find some common ground with Democrats to pass legislation. Until they realize this, it really doesn't matter what distractions come out of the White House as far as legislation is concerned. Do Nothing will continue to be the status of our nation's legislative branch of government.

I'm going to need a long ride to relax and re-center my mind on more important things like burgers on the grill and the struggling St Louis Cardinals -- but that's another rant!

John <><

Monday, May 29, 2017

My Memorial Day

It is Memorial Day in the USA.

Memorial Day is a day that is set aside to honor those that have given their lives in service of our nation. It has been said that Memorial Day is a day of observation, not a day of celebration.
Many veterans recognize that this is not their day; it is a day to honor the ones that didn't make it home.
I think that we should also remember the ones that made it home, but are a part of the 22 veteran suicides per day.

To the family and friends of these fallen heroes, you have the gratitude and sympathy of this humble citizen.

It is customary to use the holiday weekend to give summer an unofficial kickoff.
Although the celestial beginning of summer is still three weeks away, this is the weekend when swimming pools open, lakes will be crowded, and many bbq grills will be fired up.

No special plans for us as Chris is working today.
During my career as an air traffic controller, there were many holidays that I was working while others enjoyed holiday time off. Today there is little difference from one day to the next. One of my senior cousins fed me this little bit of information as I entered retirement -- You don't get days off in retirement.

He was right.
I guess if I am to take a day off from retirement, I'll have to get a job.

While Chris is working today, I think I'll take a nice ride on the motorcycle.
I also need to take care of a couple of household chemistry projects in mixing some homemade weed killer and some mosquito repellent for the lawn.
The weed killer is made up of white vinegar, salt and a little bit of dish soap.
The lawn spray mosquito repellent is made up of cheap beer, blue mouthwash and epsom salt.
I've not tried either yet, so I'll let you know how well they work.

During your holiday activities, take time to remember.

John <><

Friday, May 26, 2017

Good day for a lunch run

I had originally planned on a lunch run to St Louis on Thursday but decided to use the nice day to to finish some yard work around the house. The original forecast was for rain on Friday (today), but it turned out to be a great day for a ride.

I needed to make a quick stop in Springfield before getting out on the road. I really had no idea where I was going to end up. Heading west out of Springfield I found myself on a portion of Historic Rte 66 and decided to stay with it. It went from a four lane highway down to two lanes and then it was just a paved country road. The section in Springfield still had some of the old buildings that housed business -- motels, restaurants, gas stations. As I rode through the more rural areas, most of the old buildings were abandoned and in varying states of disrepair.

I was westbound on Hwy 96. As I crossed Hwy 39one intersection, I saw a sign for the Hanger Kafe with an arrow pointing north. As I cruised through the intersection, I thought that I should have turned and tried it out for lunch.
No worries. A few miles down the road I was coming up to another crossing highway and recognized another sign for the Hanger Kafe. I made the turn and rode about four or five miles before being directed back to the east for a couple of miles and then saw the drive for the restaurant.

As you may have guessed, it is in an old airfield hanger. There is still a small functioning airstrip and a sky diving business. Although the restaurant is pretty small, it was packed for lunch. I overheard one guy on his phone. He told his wife, "I'm not really sure where I am. I'm at a little restaurant in the middle of nowhere."
Yep. That's right where I was, too!

I'm a sucker for a good tenderloin sandwich so when I saw it on the menu I had to ask about it.

Me: Tell me about your tenderloin sandwich.
Waitress: We're kinda famous for it. It's about this big (as she gestured with her hands).
Me: I'm in!

She hadn't indicated that it would be a monster tenderloin and that was fine. I didn't need a monster sandwich for lunch. I was slightly more than the diameter of the bun one way and about twice that the other way.

Under the sandwich was a thick slice of onion that matched the size of the bun, a smaller tomato slice, several pickle chips and leaf of lettuce. The tenderloin itself was thick and tasty and worth going back for another one on another day!
I skipped dessert. The list on the white board said -- carrot cake, pumpkin pie, blackberry cobbler, and mixed berry pie.
Yum. Pretty tempting.

I took a more scenic way home and ended up with 122.5 miles for my lunch run.

I'm going to call it a good day!

John <><

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Cutting the Cord ... well, the cable.

Yes, it is that time.
We are joining the multitudes that have cut the cable!
Our local cable media monopoly is Suddenlink. We have them for both internet service and our cable TV package, and the cost has gotten out of hand. Interestingly enough, Suddenlink's retention department had lots of incentives (including a lower price for our current package) to keep us to stay with them.
Too late!

In the end, we increased our internet speed and dumped the cable.
We also now have a streaming plan with Sling TV. The increased speed and Sling TV will be about 60% of what we've been paying for slower internet and cable. Plus I get to take it with me and can watch on my phone anytime.

In truth, other than sports, I don't watch a lot of TV.
I mean, it's often on, but I'm not really watching. I enjoy some old series reruns, but it isn't like I really need to watch them. The channels that Chris usually watches are available on our base package with Sling, but I'll be giving up all of the ESPN channels. I could add them, but most of the Cardinals' and Blues' games are on Fox Sports Midwest.
And I think the a la carte menu will work well if I want to add them for a big game.

There are a few other channels that I won't have, plus some that I gain. Overall, I doubt I'll see a big change in my TV habits. I am looking forward to the savings in the budget!

It's a small step in simplifying things.

John <><

Saturday, May 20, 2017

More thoughts from the highway

There are very few stretches of flat, straight roads through northern Arkansas. When encountering a sign like this one ... makes me stop and think.

Most signs for a hill are the picture type of signs.

And these are the signs I'd been seeing on my way to Memphis.
Encountering HILL made me wonder -- Is this an old sign that hasn't been replaced or is this hill going to be longer or steeper than the ones I've been riding?

It turned out that it was most likely the first as the hill was pretty typical for the Ozarks of northern Arkansas.

But it did get me to thinking...
Why don't we see signs that warn us of going uphill?
A Google image search will show that there are such signs, but I'm not sure that I've ever really seen one. I know that there are slow lanes for trucks on many uphill climbs, and signs that instruct slower traffic to keep to the right on uphill grades, but I don't recall a sign picturing a car or truck going uphill.
Maybe I just haven't been paying attention and those signs have gone unnoticed because they have little effect on me.

Just a thought...

John <><

Friday, May 19, 2017

Thoughts from the highway...

It is spring and the sounds of baseball are in the air!
Last weekend, I was sitting on our deck and could hear the sounds of parents and kids playing wiffle ball. Our back yard has enough trees that I couldn't see them, but it was fun listening to them and knowing that they were having a great time. They played until well past the time when they could see well and the sun was past the horizon.

In looking for summer rides, I decided that I needed to take in a Cardinals' AAA game. On Tuesday, I rode the 285 miles (one way) to Autozone Park in Memphis to watch a Memphis Redbirds' day game. It was a little before sunrise as I started my day and just after sunset (total of 575 miles) when I arrived back at home.

I guess such long rides are not too common for most bikers as I get plenty of comments on different motorcycle forums when I post about them. Since I'm still pretty new at riding, I guess I just don't know any better and didn't realize that most people are just weekend riders and use their motorcycles more for recreation than for transportation.

I have to say that I wasn't too impressed with the Memphis ballpark. Maybe it's just that Springfield's Hammons' Field is an exceptional minor league park. Although it was a very nice ballpark, I was disappointed with the concessions and the overall atmosphere of a minor league game was missing. The between innings, on field entertainment was weak and ... well, not so entertaining. The stadium staff would do well to visit the AA team and see how minor league baseball can be!
It seems odd to be commenting on the parts of the game that aren't really baseball related because my thing is generally the game. I rarely pay attention to the extras on the field or on the scoreboard displays, but it seemed odd that it was so evident that there was something missing from the experience.

I stopped at a roadside BBQ place in West Memphis. I guess it was a local chain (although it looked like it might be an independent shop). Overall, it was average at best. Oh well.
I stopped for gas just west of Jonesboro and spent some time talking to another retired biker. He was on his way from Utah to North Carolina! He had spent the night close to Springfield MO and was getting ready to call it a day at around 300 miles. I think that he was taking his time, staying off the interstate highways and stopping at sights along the way. Other than the allergies (mold is killer after all the rains and flooding), he seemed to really enjoy the Ozarks.

I have to admit that I rarely look for points of interest as I ride. I'm usually just enjoying the ride. As I crossed into Arkansas I did stop long enough at Mammoth Springs State Park to take a picture and enjoy the view before getting back on the road to make it to Memphis before game time. I suppose I should stop more often, see the sights, connect with locals, ...
...or not.

If what I enjoy is riding, why not just ride?
Of course, it is stopping that would give me something to write about...


Until next trip, those are my thoughts from the highway...
John <><

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Writing on politics

From time to time I have considered writing some political post and then reconsidered and decided against it. In today's political insanity, anything I write about that happened yesterday is already old news and there is something deserving of more attention that has happened or is about to happen.

One of the things that I think about is -- How are we going change Congress to the point of being able to function as it was designed to function?
And which comes first -- does America have to become less party oriented to change Congress or does Congress become more interested in the good of the country and less party loyal?

As it is now, the system isn't working and won't work with our current Congress.
If I keep it close to home, my Congressman is a do nothing, suck up to the party kind of guy. He ran on the platform of changing Washington and has won because he is the Republican candidate for the district and the district will always vote for the Republican candidate, and he will do whatever the party leadership tells him to do. He never has a town hall meeting and really doesn't care what his constituents think.

Winston Churchill once said that America will do the right thing -- after they've tried everything else!
Hopefully, that time will come soon.

John <><

Monday, May 15, 2017

Motorcycle to Memphis!

It is a beautiful morning in the Ozarks and today is shaping up to be a warm (mid 80s, 30 for you Celsius folks) and sunny day.

Tomorrow will have a few clouds, but will have about the same temperature.
And tomorrow's weather is of some significance to me because I am planning on riding a few miles to take in a baseball game.
I have been to see the St Louis Cardinals in St Louis and I have seen their low A team the Peoria Chiefs and their AA team that is here in Springfield MO. Tomorrow I am going to see their AAA team, the Memphis Redbirds. Like the Springfield Cardinals, the Memphis team has early day games while school is still in session and local schools have end of year field trips to the ballgame. The early start will allow me time to make it home before it is late into the night.

According to Google Maps, it is 283 miles from my home to the ballpark and should take just under 5 hours. I'll stick to the quickest route for the ride there, but may take a more scenic route on the way home. Depending on the length of the game, traffic and the route I decide to take, I should be home by 9pm and will have traveled around 600 miles. If the ballpark has some Memphis BBQ, I may have to skip the ballpark dog...nah, I'll just have to have both!
Ten hours on the motorcycle and a AAA baseball game sounds like a pretty good day!
With any luck, I'll be able to find the St Louis game on my helmet radio for part of the ride home. That would be a bonus!

On Thursday night, I'll be at the Springfield Cardinals' game (Buck brat night) with a group of guys from church.
Hmmm...should I try for the Wednesday night game in St Louis?
Maybe I'll stay close to home and hit the last weekday day game for the Springfield team on Wednesday and just watch the St Louis team on TV. And no, it's not too much baseball.

Have a grand week!
That's my plan.
(This retirement gig is brutal!)

John <><