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Can We Talk?

I went to Body Specs earlier this week for my regular 12:30 session. “I need to stop at 12:45 today,” I said. “I have a meeting.”

So Skip gave me a set that I finished right at 12:45. “You should just tell us ahead of time,” he said after I’d changed. “We can get you in earlier that way.”

I’d just assumed I’d have a short session instead. But he was right; with advance notice I’d have been able to get in my full session. Besides, it was common courtesy.

The next day after my workout, my wife called. “Did you tell Skip I needed to talk to him at my session today?” she asked. “Yes,” I said, “but Skip left early today. So you’ll have to wait until next time.”

“I wish you’d told me,” she said. She’d been caught in traffic and wouldn’t make her session on time, and was worried she’d lose her opportunity to consult with Skip. He wasn’t there anyway, but she hadn’t known.

Well, what goes around comes around. This afternoon I was setting up for Run Woodstock and noticed the recycling rolloffs I’d ordered hadn’t arrived. So I called the disposal company to check where they were. “The delivery was changed to Friday morning,” I was told.

It wasn’t the fault of the rep I’d worked with; he’d put “delivery Thursday” in the work order. The operations manager had changed the delivery day and time, probably to accommodate his other delivery commitments.

“I need to know these things,” I said, and confirmed they had my contact information on file. The rep agreed I should have been called.

What do you suppose is going on? It’s easier than ever to reach out and touch someone (any of my readers old enough to remember that slogan?). Today I called a co-worker in Costa Rica and five minutes later we were working through a shared document on our screens, each of us taking control when needed. Thousands of miles distance and two hours time difference? No big deal – standard practice.

And communication is increasing rapidly worldwide. Yet while use of social media and email are growing, mobile voice usage (i.e. phone calls) has been dropping since 2013. I’m as guilty as anyone else of this. As an introvert I’m more comfortable with exchanging emails, where I can take my time and compose messages carefully. Personal interactions like face-to-face meetings and phone calls are mentally draining.

Check out some interesting stats and graphics at this blog regarding how communication is growing, but voice communication is falling. (Image is from the blog.)

But nonverbal communication is by no means foolproof. There are times I’ve sent a business email and heard about it later because it was misinterpreted. “That should’ve been a phone call,” my boss will say. “Your tone of voice and manner of delivery would have made your meaning clear.” In part because of this I’m more tolerant of emails I receive that seem less than polite.

(Check out this article: 14 words and phrases you should not use in emails.)

I’m sure there’s some heavy duty, government-funded research going on that will reveal the enormous social damage being caused by Twitter and Snapchat, and how uncontrolled flame wars between spouses are spiking divorce rates. While I may not be able to preserve the American family all by myself, at least I can be better about calling people when needed.

And yet…as my wife and I drove home from a weekend up north, her phone rang. It was our daughter in Richmond and her wife. As much as we enjoy hearing from them, being a parent there’s always that little concern about an unexpected call from a faraway kid. But no worries this time. “I just called to say hey,” she said.

So there’s hope for the world after all.


Vote for Me! Vote for a Fit America!

I’m not running for President, but I have an agenda. One that the leading two candidates haven’t said a peep about, to my knowledge. This is an outrage. Why aren’t people talking about the issues that really count for something?

Unfortunately, I’m not sure any President would have the ability to implement the platform I describe below, despite its undoubted value. I’m thinking there would have to be a Supreme Overlord or the like to get it done. I humbly submit myself to take on this daunting task. I promise to be firm, yet benevolent.

I’m calling my campaign: “Make America Fit Again.”


Here’s how I get this country into shape, physically, economically, and emotionally.

1. More “honest” calorie counts and fat/sugar totals on snack food packages. Oh, the makers of the scrumptious-looking muffins below may be telling the truth on the labels, but look closely – one muffin is two servings. Who eats half a muffin?



2.  Corporate CEOs who enable unethical behavior to boost profits and rake in huge bonuses would be prosecuted and serve their time as stockers at Wal-Mart. Tote that cart! Lift that box! We’ll sweat out that sense of entitlement!

3 . Wide paved shoulders required on all paved roads, or a paved bike/multipurpose path alongside them. The streets should be safe for walkers, cyclists, and anyone else who prefers self-powered means of transportation.

4.  Mandatory martial arts or yoga & meditation classes for all school-age children, starting at age five. Imagine an entire generation with self-discipline, introspection, respect for everyone, and physical fitness. Who’d be left to start the wars?


5.  When a politician says something untrue during a debate, speech, or public appearance, a whistle goes off and they have to do 30 burpees before they can continue.

They'd be the two fittest people on the planet!

They’d be the two fittest people on the planet!

6 . “Diets” would be outlawed. As would “fat burning” supplements and all so-called weight loss miracles. Waste of money at best, dangerous at worst.

7.  Recycling and composting services throughout the country. And a nationwide 25-cent deposit law for all glass and aluminum containers. Stop throwing perfectly recyclable soda and beer cans in the trash – or, for Pete’s sake, on the ground.


From the “My San Antonio” blog.

8.  Minimum environmental sustainability taxes for individuals and corporations. Clean air, water, and land benefits everyone, and is worth the cost. What kind of planet do you want to leave your grandkids?

And just to round things off, two morality rules to piss off liberals and conservatives alike:

9.  When two people meet for the first time in the day, the first words out of their mouths must be something kind about the other person. After that, they can fight. If they still want to.

10.  When someone identifies a race, society, or religion and says, “they are the problem,” he or she has to live among “them” for a year.


Do you agree with my platform? Would it result in a fitter America? Let me know your thoughts. I may be seeking absolute power over everyone and everything, but that doesn’t mean I’m not open-minded. We can agree to disagree!

The only thing I haven’t worked out quite yet is how to become Supreme Overlord. I am a big fan of our Constitution, after all. I just wish more of our current politicians were, too.

Dysfunction, Dependence, and a Crime Against Hummus

Today, St. Patrick’s Day, was also a day of dysfunction. Having an active imagination and open mind, I’m perfectly willing to blame leprechauns. But whatever the cause, it was (in retrospect) a day filled with incidents that were both amusing and a bit disturbing.

Leprechaun meme

Seems like a reasonable misassumption.

Here are some of my experiences today. Draw your own conclusions.

1. The office email server was offline this morning. I could work on other things, but I felt a noticeable gap in my routine. I’m just so accustomed to checking emails first thing to help figure out what I need to get done. Whatever did I do in the morning before email was invented? Having trouble remembering.

2. Our refrigerator is failing, so an appliance tech came by to check it out. His findings: he can repair it (with no warranty), or we can buy a new refrigerator for not much more. Why? Because like too many things, refrigerators are not designed to be easily repairable. The “throwaway” attitude still rules our consumer society! Fortunately, there are signs of that changing.

3. I went to REI to buy some things for servicing our bikes. “The power’s out,” I was told by a greeter. But they were open, so I got the stuff, got in line, and waited. And waited. The young staff, trained and used to scanning barcodes and swiping credit cards, had almost no clue how to fill out sales receipts by hand. They had to write down all the little numbers on the barcodes and ask for the prices, then total it up.

Not bad for someone with so little practice in handwriting.

Not bad for someone with so little practice in handwriting.

Perhaps the funniest (tragic?) moment was when I paid. My total was $37.10 with tax, which I calculated in my head and laid out two $20 bills and a dime. The cashier picked them up. “Out of $40.10,” she said, then turned to a colleague. “You got a calculator handy?”

4. Next door to REI, the Whole Foods was closed, completely unable to deal with a power outage. This meant I had to drive to the other store across town to get my panini. And many traffic lights were out on the road. Predictably, there were some drivers who didn’t know to treat them as four-way stops, and either pushed their way through out of turn, or sat there frozen. Perhaps some of them are still there.

Power outage? Abandon ship! Women and chocolate first!!!

Power outage? ABANDON SHIP! Women and chocolate first!!!

5. Next, a stop at my new bank, which has a convenient office inside Meijer and has ATMs up north where we camp. I’d set up a new checking account online, which also created a savings account that I couldn’t cancel. So while funding the checking account, I asked if I could close the savings account. Here was the answer: “If we close it now, there will be a $25.00 fee. But if you don’t fund it, it will expire with no penalty.” In other words, it benefits me more to let it die of neglect than give it a quick, merciful end now. Does that make any sense to you?

And, finally:

Wider perspective, so you can appreciate the closeup.

Wider perspective, so you can appreciate the closeup.

6. I’d run these errands, along with a few more, right after my workout. They took longer than expected, and I arrived home starving. And when the tub of hummus I’d bought stubbornly refused to open, all the small frustrations took over in a childish act that turned out messy but amazing. I had no idea hummus was capable of such a wide dispersal pattern. Fortunately, enough remained in the tub that I could still have some.

Above the refrigerator? Really???

Above the refrigerator? Really???

None of the above annoyances were anything close to a real problem, but it can be hard to me to keep that in mind in the heat of the moment. Which means it’s even more important for me to keep things in perspective and be grateful for my blessings.

And I can stop being so smug when I hear that a half-inch of snow shuts down Atlanta or Dallas. All it took here was a power outage to mess up my day, and result in a terrible waste of good hummus. Don’t let this happen to you!

Yooper Humor

My trip back from the Minnesota Voyageur ultra took me through Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, a drive I haven’t made in quite some time. All I remember from my previous trip was a lot of trees and not much else along US-2.

My drive from the Duluth area to St. Ignace, then over the Mackinac Bridge and along M-22 to our campground in Empire, was pleasant and more relaxed than I’d expected. Traffic got heavier and more aggressive south of the bridge, but it sure beat hell out of going through Chicago.

It turns out that the U.P. actually has some people in it – and most of them don’t even dress like lumberjacks (*). Here are a few pictures of offbeat and/or amusing things I found along the way.

Honestly? Up here you have to tell people not to bring guns into a coffee shop? (This is actually in Duluth, but it's close enough.)

Honestly? Up here you have to tell people not to bring guns into a coffee shop? (This is actually in Duluth, but it’s close enough.)

Somebody pasted this on to make it look like "200 miles". Not true, as it turned out.

Somebody pasted this on to make it look like “200 miles”. Not true, as it turned out.

They have a sense of humor in Wakefield.

They have a sense of humor in Wakefield.

Also in Wakefield - Peter Toth's "Leading Mna" carving - from a single log.

Also in Wakefield – Peter Toth’s “Leading Man” carving – from a single log.

I'm not sure this is the kind of welcome message Michigan has in mind.

I’m not sure this is the kind of welcome message Michigan has in mind.

Escanaba (not in da moonlight). Much bigger city than I expected.

Escanaba (not in da moonlight). Much bigger city than I expected.

And finally, they even have their own chocolate! Not too bad.

And finally, they even have their own chocolate! Not too bad.


(*) – You might be aware that the Upper and Lower Peninsulas (Peninsulae?) have a friendly little rivalry going. For example, their name for us is “trolls” because we live “under the bridge”. For a humorous take on the differences between Yoopers and trolls, click here.