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 <><