Roy's Blog

As can be seen in other parts of the web site, I like to write about things I find interesting/important. All of those things that interest me are not all significant enough to warrant a full essay; therefore, I've decided to create a Blog for myself. It will not be like most blogs in that I'm not using any blog software. If you want to comment/argue/disagree with anything in the blog (or anywhere else in my web site) just send me an email and if I deem it appropriate, I will post it. Be aware, I do not believe commercials are appropriate, nor language that isn't PG. (Okay, I'm a prude - but I'm an old prude!) That being said, I'd love to hear your comments especially if you disagree. By understanding why you disagree, perhaps I will see the errors in my thinking.

A word of warning before going on regarding proof reading: if you read any of the following you will soon be asking, “Doesn’t he proof read this stuff?” The answer is yes I do proof read it and that is why there are so many errors. You see when I proof read my own work, I see what I meant not necessarily what shows up. Sometimes when I reread things weeks later, I will catch some of the errors and correct them. Until then, my apologies!

Date Posted: Thursday, April 1, 2021

General Area: Sports        

Title: Cubs Opener

It’s opening day for the 2021, and the Cubs are off to a typical start – lousy!

Typical because Cubs’ pitching stunk! Cubs pitchers walked 11 batters as opposed to the Cubs’ walking 4 times. Can someone tell me the last time the Cubs’ system developed a good picture? I can remember a couple but if I say their names it will only reveal how old I am. Is it time to evaluate the process and personal who are selecting and developing pitching?

Of course, the hitters weren’t much better. Since the Cubs only got two hits, (Rizzo was the only starter with a hit) we won’t spend a lot of time on it other than to point out Pittsburgh had the worst record in the National League last year. They struck out 10 times – terrible right? The Cubs struck out 13 times. Do you think the powers that be will ever realize that nothing good ever comes from a strike out?

Oh well, maybe Hank Sauer will come up in the 9th and hit a grand slam . . . or strike out.

Date Posted: Sunday, January 24, 2021

General Area: Politics  

Title: Conspiracy Theories

When I was working as a metallurgist in foundries, there were those times when things went south and we in management were left to try to figure out what was happening. Obviously, these problems were complex because if they weren’t, we would have just fixed them and moved on. If a problem required more than a couple meetings to resolve, it was common for someone on the team to suggest somebody sabotaging the operation. (I should point out, labor relations in foundries are not always amicable. Not always terrible, but not always the greatest either.)  It didn’t take too many times of that happening for me to realize if someone was smart enough to sabotage the operation in such a way that we couldn’t figure out how, what or why, they should be doing our jobs because they were a lot smarter than we were.

I can’t help think the same thing with all the conspiracy theories that are tossed about. If I can’t figure out and prove who, what, or how something has happened, maybe there isn’t a conspiracy or maybe they're far smarter than we are and they should be in charge.

Date Posted: Thursday, December 10, 2020

General Area: Politics  

Title: What’s with the polls?

I just read an article saying Trump’s approval rating was much higher than I thought. I read the article and a poll conducted by some organization I’d never heard of came up with the results. The article was written in such a way that I couldn’t determine if the results were believable or not. While I question the validity of this poll or (at least) the interpretation of the results of this poll. It brought up two things I’d like you to consider.

  1. All polls are not equal.

I’ve been involved with a few surveys in my professional career. In doing so, I learned some tricks that can be used to get the answers you want – assuming you don’t want to really find out what people are thinking. You can phrase questions in such a way that leads the response. (Are you looking forward to paying more taxes? Is anyone going to answer that positively even though they want the government to improve some particular thing?) Another easier option is you can ask the questions to people you have a pretty good idea will answer the way you want. (If you ask a question about abortion to people coming out of a Roman Catholic Church, I’d expect you’d get different results than you would if you ask the same questions to people coming out of a night club.)

  1. There’s not much talk about why the polls have been missing so badly in the last two presidential elections.

According to the polls I saw Clinton was supposed to have won handily in 2016 and Biden was supposed to have creamed Trump in 2020. (Of course, Trump claims his polls showed that he won.) In all three of these cases, the polls were wrong – Trump didn’t win in 2020, while Biden did win in 2020, I wouldn’t classify it as a creaming, and Trump did win in 2016.

I don’t believe most polls deliberately slant their results by asking leading questions or cherry picking who they are asking, but the accuracy of their predictions isn’t there anymore. What’s the problem? Is it there are more and more people like my wife and I who refuse to answer polls? (Are we who won’t answer of enough similar thinking to really screw up the polling?)

Until someone looks at the problem in polling, I’m going to look at poll results as filler material for news programs.


Date Posted: Wednesday, December 2, 2020

General Area: Covid

Title: If you think you can’t be told what to wear, try this.

I was watching the news last night and they were showing people commenting about an edict to wear masks. One guy came to the microphone and asked, “When did I give up the right to decide what I need to wear?”

According to the way I look at it, that right was given up long before I was born. If you don’t believe me try taking all your clothes off and walk down main street. I think you’ll find out there are laws about what needs to be worn.

Date Posted: Sunday, November 29, 2020

General Area: Religion      

Title: Have We Been Doing Wrong for All These Years?

I listened to a sermon this morning that made me question whether we’ve been doing it wrong all these years. After an opening prayer asking God to help us with all the problems we’re experiencing – Covid, racism, political unrest, etc., the minister launched into the lessons. The Old Testament lesson was some prophet who was pleading for God to help with some problem or another. That’s when I got lost - again. It’s a shame, I know ministers spend a lot of time preparing their sermons, but so frequently I hear something early in the sermon/service that gets me thinking. Unfortunately, once I get thinking about something, that usually means I’m gone until I hear an amen.

This time I got lost on the thought that here we are thousands of years later, and we’re still begging for help from God. I must wonder if God isn’t amazed we haven’t learned yet. We keep asking for help when I think we’re expected to help ourselves! It’s what I was taught as a kid - always ask God for help. It seems that’s the same message being sent out even in the old testament.

The particular point that got me was the minister asking God for help with Covid. I’m optimistic God has already provided help for that problem with promising vaccines. No, I don’t think God whispered the answers in the ears of the scientists. I believe people made in the image of God made decisions and worked extraordinarily hard using God’s natural laws to come up with the vaccines.

Yes, there are miraculous cures. Things happen that can’t be explained with our current understanding of science; however, I can’t believe those are really God’s direct involvement. I don’t believe God saves a child because a congregation prays hard any more than I believe God doesn’t save another child because their congregation doesn’t pray hard enough.

I suppose I don’t have a problem with praying for help as we’ve done through the centuries; however, I really believe God would prefer us actually working on our problems rather than merely praying about them. Knowing what to do is frequently extremely hard especially with big problems. I think doing something small in cases like that will provide more mental ease than merely worrying about it.

Date Posted: Saturday, November 14, 2020

General Area: General

Title: New Essay

To anyone who may be interested, I just posted a new essay Root Cause about not getting frustrated by not being able to solve problems that have been around forever.

Date Posted: Sunday, November 1, 2020

General Area: People       

Title: How Do You React?

I just read an opinion piece in a newsletter I receive that I believe was grossly wrong. My initial reaction was to write the author and “straighten her thinking out.” After a few minutes stewing, I decided her mind was most likely made up and any attempt to “straighten” her thinking would be useless. So, I shook my head and moved on.

In thinking more about it, I realized this has become my normal mode of operation. If I believe someone’s mind is made up about something I believe is wrong, I don’t bother to argue with them. I didn’t use to be that way. I can remember times as a teen when if a person said something strongly, I’d take the other viewpoint just for fun, even if I believed the person to be right. That has diminished to the point that now if someone states the world is flat with enough conviction, I won’t argue with them.

Don’t misunderstand, I won’t start believing the world is flat. It’s just that so many times people stating something like that cannot be moved by logic (or at least the logic I use). On the other hand, if the question about the flatness of the world is expressed with some degree of uncertainty, I happily explain my logic to refute the contention.

Should I argue more even when the speaker sounds so certain? Maybe. As Bertrand Russell said, “The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts.” On the other hand, there’s another well-known saying “The only fool bigger than the person who knows it all is the person who argues with him.”

Your thoughts?

 Date Posted: Wednesday, September 16, 2020

General Area: Education

Title: What’s the Purpose

Okay, I’ll admit to not being a big fan of college sports. I went to an “institute of higher learning” without a football team and living off campus made going to other sports events impractical. That didn’t set me up to be passionate about college sports. Sure, I’ve enjoyed watching my share of NCAA basketball and football games, but it was not something that “made” my week or even day.

Now we are hearing how important college sports are, especially from the larger schools. How much money is being lost because they are shut down this fall. It makes me wonder once again what is the purpose of these institutes of higher learning? It appears that one of their functions is to provide entertainment in the way of college athletics. I wonder how many deans/presidents/councilors of these institutions would be willing to agree that is one of their primary functions. It certainly isn’t something I would have listed as one of their duties.

When I hear about all the money involved, I also must wonder about the payment of the student athletes. If they are bringing in all that money, are they being compensated fairly?

 Date Posted: Sunday, September 6, 2020

General Area: Politics  

Title: Presidential Debates

I just read a headline indicating some people feel Trump will win the presidential debate. In my mind the presidential debates have already been lost because they have lost all significance.

There are those political junkies who cannot wait for the debates in the election cycle. They find them fascinating and, I guess, meaningful. Unlike them. I look at the debates as a time when regular TV programing will be disrupted by people ignoring the questions they have been asked in order to tell everyone once again what they have been spieling in 30 second commercials for the last month.

I will continue my reaction of the last few elections to the presidential debates: hope there is something on the cable networks or pop in a DVR. That will be what happens until they start asking and making the candidates respond to the questions that are logical for voters to care about.

What are those questions? There are only two and they depend on whether the candidate is an incumbent or trying to win the office for the first time.

If the candidate is the incumbent, the question is: “What have you done during your term that would make me want to vote for you again?”

 If the candidate is not the incumbent, the question is: “What will be your priorities to accomplish if you are elected?”

Answers to those simple questions I believe would be meaningful to voters and something I’d like to hear.

Date Posted: Tuesday, August 25, 2020

General Area: Racism

Title: Is there systemic racism?

I’m having a hard time seeing systemic racism. (I do believe there is racism.) To me, systemic racism means there are rules/laws that are racist. I’m not aware of any, but if that is the case, the solution is simple: identify the problem laws/rules and get them changed.

If you define systemic racism as something else, then you are talking about something a whole lot more complex and far harder to fix. (I don’t call that systemic racism. I simply call it racism.)

I can see where people could claim “systemic racism” when the boss is a racist and only hires only racists. However, it’s my understanding that is against the law. So, the answer is to enforce the laws.  

If we use my definition it isn’t systemic racism but simply racism the answers aren’t easy. However, I really don’t believe there is as much racism as the headlines indicate. I look at my neighborhood now as compared to my childhood neighborhood. As neighborhoods go, I’d say they’re comparable with maybe an economic edge given to my current one. As far as racism goes I couldn’t tell you how many miles away the closest person of color lived when I was a kid, but I’d guess it was more than 5. In my current neighborhood we have people of color living on our block. Obviously, I believe housing racism has diminished. Certainly not gone but diminished.

What I don’t think has diminished is the systemic suppression of the economically challenged. Of course, there are more people of color among the economically challenged. Which I believe is why so many people believe the problem is racism; however, I believe calling it racism diverts attention away from the root cause.

People have been trying to assist the economically challenged for years; however, I don’t think I’ll get an argument saying what has been tried hasn’t worked. What we need to do is come up with some different answers. Generally, the way to get different answers is to ask different people or to listen to people you’ve been ignoring previously.

Date Posted: Monday, August 10, 2020

General Area: General

Title: Arrests Aren’t Enough

About the same time as I was getting an email from the Chicago Tribune this morning telling me about the riots on Michigan Avenue, I received my digital copy of the Chicago Tribune with the headline “Foxx drops cases at high rate.” (In case you are not familiar with Chicago/Illinois politics, Foxx refers to Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx.) Shortly thereafter I read the headline from a CNN report. “Chicago police arrest more than 100 people after shootout and looting downtown.”

In my mind (and I believe most logical minds) the impact of the CNN headline is diminished significantly by the one relating that the State’s Attorney will most likely drop the charges of the arrests.

It makes sense! Why should someone follow rules, if they are not going to suffer consequences for not following them? If you break the window of the jewelry store and grab something, what’s going to happen? You might get away scot free with the loot. You might get caught by the police. If you get caught by the police you’ll most likely lose the loot and spend the night in jail, but if the case is dropped, where’s the risk-reward come in?

I just finished listening to a Great Course titled “Thinking Like An Economist: A Guide to Rational Decisions” by Prof Randall Bartlett. (I highly recommend the course!) My interpretation of what was in the course was that decisions should be made by evaluating the risk and reward of what is being considered. From the scenario above the risk of a night in jail plus the loss of my own self esteem even if the case gets dropped makes the risk certainly outweigh the reward for me. I wonder how many others would look at the balance of risk and reward that way.

Date Posted: Wednesday, June 24, 2020

General Area: Sports        

Title: Baseball is Back – If you can call it baseball.

The virus certainly has taken its toll on how we are living, especially us older types who are more vulnerable. We can’t go out to dinner and it’s been months since we any real sports. Today they announced when baseball would be back.

Then they ruined it by telling us there would be DHs all the time, and extra innings start with a runner on second. Not the baseball I love.

I understand baseballs’ need to improve their product but these changes detract from the sport. Maybe electronic balls and strikes would have been a better answer.

 Date Posted: Sunday, May 10, 2020

General Area: Zoom Meetings

Title: Your Computer’s Microphone Is Better Than You Think

I imagine this posting won’t apply to any younger persons using Zoom, but this old curmudgeon has a couple of tips for those not as familiar with Zoom.

  1. Back Off

One of the things I’ve noticed among some is they have their camera set too close. Believe it or not, I don’t think most people think being able to count your nose hairs adds to the conversation. Zoom does provide you with your own image. Take a peek at it. If you only see part of your face, either back off or move the camera back.

  1. Keep Your Hands Off

If you follow the first of these recommendations, the second one will be easier to follow. Especially when Zoom is being used in the “grid” mode, movements in any of the screens is distracting. Set your camera up and then leave it alone.

Like I said, this is easier to follow when your device is not that close. It seems the people who have the camera too close also like to keep on adjusting it.

  1. Learn How to Mute Your Microphone

Finally, your microphone is far more sensitive than many think it is. We’ve been in meetings where two people were sharing a screen and one received a telephone call. They politely went off screen but not far enough away so that the rest of the participants couldn’t hear bits and pieces of the entire conversation. It wasn’t helpful to the meeting.

There’s no doubt Zoom and other programs like it are helping make quarantining easier, but a few lessons like the above will even make it better.


Date Posted: Tuesday, April 21, 2020

General Area: Racism

Title: Follow Up      

It appears the readership of this blog is even less than I thought. No one responded to the question below. Since I was really curious, I decided to pursue the matter further. There’s a gentleman Jim Williams on our CBS affiliate who is the anchor on the weekend and is Black/African American. I decided to see what would happen if I asked him. I’ve written government officials a couple of times with less than stellar results. The responses, if they came at all, were not timely and generally it was hard to determine if they were really responding to the question I asked or not.

Anyway, I wrote him explaining who I am and included a copy of the segment of the blog asking the question. He responded in less than an hour. His response was:

Hi Mr. Lobenhofer—

Thanks for writing. I don’t think the headline is racist. Acknowledging the disproportionate impact Covid 19 has had on African Americans (or another group) is important.  It helps us understand how the virus spreads and the underlying conditions that make it more lethal.

And looking at the big picture, public policy experts can shape how lawmakers direct resources to the most vulnerable among us.

Be safe!


From the response, it’s obvious he doesn’t think the Tribune headline is racist. It also doesn’t seem to me, he feels it would beneficial to quit blaming race instead of blaming the economic status.

Oh well, it’s not the first time I was told I was wrong.


Date Posted: Thursday, April 9, 2020

General Area: Racism

Title: Is this Racist or Not

A recent headline of an article in the Chicago Tribune was “African Americans six times more likely than whites to die from COVID-19, statistics show

As an old white man, I wonder if that title is racist. You see for some time I’ve wondered if many of the dire things attributed to “Blacks” or “African Americans” should really be attributed to “the poor.” I tend to think the greater incarceration rate, some of the higher disease rates, the higher percentage on food stamps and the like is more about income than the color of skin or the area of their ancestors.

I think most everyone understands how history has led to more African Americans being economically disadvantaged. So, what’s the big deal about labeling “African American” or “Black” instead of “poor” or “economically disadvantaged?” To me, the difference is one label calls attention to something that can’t be changed and really isn’t a cause. There isn’t anything that can be done about being black or coming from African ancestry, and I’ll bet the African Americans who have fought there way out of poverty aren’t six times more likely to die from coronavirus than their white counterparts.

On the other hand, if we acknowledge poverty as the cause there’s a chance something could be done. As far as I know, there has always been poverty. That means we don’t have a very good track record of solving this problem, but until we do recognize it as the cause of many, many problems, we have no chance of solving it.

Then again, these just may be the thoughts of an old white man who doesn’t think he’s prejudiced but may be.

Date Posted: Tuesday, February 25, 2020

General Area: Entertainment      

Title: Late Night Reruns

I’ll admit to being a CBS family. It seems our default channel when watching TV is CBS. It isn’t like the channel selector doesn’t work, but we liked the local CBS news as well as numerous other programs on CBS.

While not having been a late night talk show fans for some time, Stephen Colbert’s apparent dislike for Trump fit in with our way of thinking. Unfortunately for CBS we are back to not being late night talk show fans.

There are a few reasons. The first and my biggest frustration is the number of repeats they use. (By the way, does anyone else find the announcement “live, on tape” rather absurd?) The promo for a program tells me there is an interesting guest scheduled who I enjoyed the last time they were on. About 5 minutes into the monologue, I realize it is the program where I enjoyed the guest umpteen weeks before. I’m going to show my age again and wonder what happened to the idea of the guest hosts Jack Parr had when he was off? At least, it wasn’t more repeats than live shows – even if they were on tape.

Another problem I am seeing is that Mr. Colbert condemns Trump for being a bully and mocking his adversaries. We too dislike bullying and mocking; however, I’d suggest Mr. Colbert look in a mirror. He appears to be doing the same thing to these old eyes.

Finally, I have already indicated I don’t like Trump but there has to be something good (or at least not bad) he’s done. By only talking the negative, they’re giving credibility to Trump’s contention of the bias media. I suppose if Colbert came up with something good Trump did, I’d be waiting for the zinger at the end.

But that’s not a problem any longer. We have found the channel selector works, and even with the number of channels we have if there isn’t anything on, there’s the off switch and a book beside me.


Date Posted: Thursday, February 20, 2020

General Area: General     

Title: Hypocrisy

I just looked eye to eye with a hypocrite. The bad part of that is that I was looking in a mirror.

Let me explain. I was listening to the news recently and heard how much tickets to an upcoming event at the United Center cost. I forget who the headliner was but it was a singer.

I got to thinking who I would pay that much to see. (Remember with my aversion to crowds, when it comes to going to places like the United Center, my thoughts generally run towards how much you’d have to pay me to go.) The only name I came up with was Nat King Cole. Since he died in 1965, it’s not too likely the concert would happen, but before that came into my thinking, I had already rejected the idea. For the price of a ticket like that I could most likely buy a copy of every song he ever recorded, listen to them over and over, and not listen to someone next to me drowning him out by singing along.

That of course led me to thinking about the money people “waste” going to concerts like that.

That was when I looked in the mirror. There was the guy who purports to believe we all have freedom of choice, the guy who has spent far too much on photography equipment, and on tours.

So, if you want to go to concerts and pay scads of money to be with all those people, it’s fine with me. (As if you really needed my approval!) It’s your choice. My only request is to not be critical of how I spend my money!

Now, isn’t that a lot less hypocritical.

Date Posted: Saturday, February 15, 2020

General Area: General

Title: Whose Job Is The Easiest?

 We have all dealt with it in our own areas. The easiest job is always the other guy’s. My background is in the foundry industry (liquid metal into shapes). The person who knew the most about what was wrong with the metal was the guy responsible for the mold material. Conversely, the metallurgist always knew what was wrong with the molding material. Everyone knows that to find out how to best run a business! All you have to do is visit the closest pub around closing time. It’s a way of life. I guess my writings are an example of this, since I never write on stuff where I consider myself an expert: could be because I don’t consider myself an expert in anything.

What has my knickers in a knot is the way the different branches of our government have decided they know better than the other. I’m not going off on our president’s shenanigans. Instead I’m wondering about the prosecutors deciding what they are going to prosecute and what they are not. I agree the idea of filling jails with petty criminals is not good, but are the prosecutors supposed to be making that decision? Isn’t the legislative branch supposed to decide what the laws should be?  If the jails are getting filled with petty criminals, change the laws: not which laws to enforce.

It’s not just the prosecutors. The next time you’re going down the highway at the expected 5 to 10 over the speed limit and a car zooms past, instead of wondering why the cops don’t nail him think about why you aren’t getting nailed. In talking to the police about this, the major reason is judges typically throw out everything under ten miles over. Why not change the speed limits?

A long time ago, I read a quote by someone I considered well known about maintaining quality in manufacturing.[i] In essence the quote said an unenforced rule weakens all rules. In thinking about it, it makes sense. If I don’t have to follow that rule, why should I follow this one? I think the same thinking applies to laws. The purpose of the quote was to get quality people to maintain their rules and keep only pertinent ones. Perhaps our legislatures should think about the same thing!

[i] I’d really love to find that exact quote. If you know it, I’d appreciate it if you would send it to me!

Date Posted: Wednesday, February 12, 2020

General Area: Sports        

Title: How Many Tries

From reading the paper, I see the Chicago Bulls are once again proving how strong they are by supporting the entire league. (That’s what the guy on the bottom does, isn’t it? They hold up all those above.) I know this from reading the paper because a few years back I gave up watching the Bulls. It was when they let Thibodeau go after getting the Bulls to the playoffs for a few years after missing for years before that. In my opinion, the Bulls weren’t going anywhere as long the people making the decisions were allowed to continue making the decisions.


The Bulls are still on the bottom and, I imagine, gearing up for yet another rebuild. I wonder how many more rebuilds this management team gets to try.


I do give credit to the owner of the Bulls for not micromanaging and firing the decision makers after the first bad season, but wonder how many tries they get.


Don’t think my “wonders” stay in sports. I watched organizations flounder for years without seeming to get closer and yet the decision makers stay in place. These organizations weren’t limited to profit making endeavors like the Bulls. In fact, I see it more frequently in non-profits – churches losing attendance year after year, clubs with dropping enrollment, the examples go on and on.


Let’s face you and I don’t have any say about how many tries the Bulls decision makers get and we have very little to say about what happens with the profit making organizations, but for some of the smaller organizations we do have a say. The next time there is an election for the decision makers in one of the organizations you believe in how about asking if you giving “them” another try or is it time for a change?  

Date Posted: Saturday, January 25, 2020

General Area: Planning

Title: Where are you going?

I’m someone who likes to know where I’m going. The trouble with that is in order to know where I’m going I need to know where I want to go. Oh, I know many “places” I would like to go (whale watching in Baja), “things” I want to do (write a book), and things I want to “be” (40 years younger, 100 pounds lighter). But, then my practically kicks in. I know at our age Pam and I could not handle getting in and out of the boats for whale watching, no one would be interested in a book that I’d write, and clocks don’t run backward for me to be 40 again.

The trouble with the practicality kicking in is that it takes away where I want to go and thereby where I am going. The challenge I guess is to come up with where I want to go that’s practical.

Date Posted: Monday, December 23, 2019

General Area: TV Ads

Title: Christmas Presents

I started doing a little checking this year. It has bugged me for a number of years. Each year at Christmas time we see all sorts of car company commercials asking to give their vehicle as a Christmas present. I’m 80 years old and am told we our economically upper middle class and I have never known anyone who has given or received a car as a Christmas present.

So far I’ve talked to about five people about my age and no one has heard of anyone getting or giving a car. Makes me wonder who the ads are for. If you know of anyone who has got or given a car for Christmas, I’d really like to hear about it.

Date Posted: Sunday, December 15, 2019

General Area: General

Title: Lemmings      

We had a guest minister at our church recently who seemed to be extolling the wisdom of being Presbyterian. (It is a Presbyterian church. So it wasn’t like any conversions were being attempted.) I couldn’t help but think how out of step I am with the rest of the world.

I attend that church for basically one reason. I normally find the messages from the pulpit meaningful and beneficial. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that my wife grew up Presbyterian, also likes the messages as well, and we have become friends with people who also attend. But, my attendance is NOT because it is Presbyterian church. In fact, there were a few years with a different minister in charge when I quit attending because I was not receiving benefit from the messages from the pulpit. Even before that, I dropped my membership because I disagree with the implementation of some of the “rules” of Presbyterianism.

And that is where I think I’m out of step with the rest of the world. It appears to me much of the world thinks you join an organization and you are morally obligated to support whatever the majority (or the leaders) of the organization say. I don’t think that is right, proper, or the way things should be. I believe individuals need to think logically for themselves, not to blindly follow what a bunch of others say.

Churches are not the especially the first example of this type of thinking that jumps to my mind. To me, it seems the prime example of this lemming type thinking is in our political parties. Currently there seems to be a Republican way and a Democratic way and never the twain shall meet. Again, I don’t consider myself either. As is allowed in Illinois, I may vote in either primary and thus become either or registered Democrat or Republican. I change because there may be a specific candidate I really want to support or oppose.

I can’t believe some of the things seemingly supported by entire parties. I see things proposed by Democrats and Republicans that my simple logic says are dumb. The flaws are pointed out by the other party but never acknowledged by anyone in the proposing party. I could site all sorts of examples, but this piece isn’t about politics. It’s about people using their own logic and not blindly following leaderships, majorities, or traditions.

Another example are unions. Don’t get me wrong, I think unions are essential but union rules or traditions should be examined by the individual members and modified as needed. Living in the Chicago area, the Chicago Police Union has been brought to mind on numerous occasions. Officers lying about the actions of other officers because of the “blue code” is so hypocritical. Is it any wonder there is an animosity between the police and some neighborhoods? Again, don’t get me wrong, the police have a tough job and need support, but there needs to be action taken when a wrong doer is wearing gang colors or blue.

Even closer to home, my wife was a school teacher. She’d come home telling me about some teacher who wasn’t cutting it for some reason or other. I’d ask the simple question, “Why don’t they get rid of them? The answer was always the same – “Have you ever seen the process to get rid of a teacher?” After the first couple of times asking the question and getting the answer, I did look and the process is daunting. But membership seems willing to put up with far less than ideal teachers rather than voicing the need to modify the process.

I can go on and on but I think I’ve made my point. Just because the Presbytery says something doesn’t make it right. Just because your political party or union says something doesn’t make it right. Use your own mind for evaluating whether it is what YOU believe is right. Remember the saying “Sometimes the majority only means that all the fools are on the same side.”


Date Posted: Saturday, November 16, 2019

General Area: General

Title: Justice?

Roger Stone was convicted yesterday of lying to the congress and other crimes. The picture under the headline showed him getting in a car leaving the court. (In case you are not aware, Roger Stone is a wealthy supporter of Donald Trump.)

If, instead of the wealthy Roger Stone, it had been a poor felon accused of shoplifting, there would not be a picture of him getting in a car. If there was any picture, it would be of him being put into handcuffs and led off to jail. Who is most likely to flee before sentencing, the shoplifter who may have trouble getting together bus fare home, or the millionaire who has a private jet?

That doesn’t seem like justice to me, it sounds like the justice system being biased to the wealthy. The shoplifter might have had a freshman public defender talking on his behalf while Mr. Stone most likely had the best attorneys money could buy. With that information and knowing they both were found guilty, who are you most confident is really guilty?

Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a tirade against friends of Donald Trump. A few years ago the same lack of justice appeared to me in the way Jessie Jackson Jr. and his wife were treated by the justice system. As you may recall, both were convicted of wrong doing and sentenced to jail time. Their jail time was scheduled so their children would not be left without a free parent. Once one of them had completed their time, the other served theirs. Certainly the justice system was accommodating. Can you picture the same thing happening if it were a husband and wife shoplifting team? I can’t. (By the way, the length of time between conviction and the first beginning to serve time was considerable by my recollection.) I felt like jail time was being arranged for when it was convenient for the Jacksons.  

The “justice” system is stacked in favor of the rich. They can know the people who can many times make things “go away” and they can afford the lawyers and investigators to look for loop-holes. Does the justice system also need to make punishment of the convicted wrong doers at the convenience of the guilty?

Date Posted: Tuesday, October 22, 2019

General Area: Photography

Title: Criticism & Competition

I received Hank Erdmann’s Blog about addressing “criticism” recently. As my contacts with Hank’s efforts have been highly positive, I read his blogs carefully when he sends them. (If you’re interested, you can be put on his mailing list by asking at I’ve attended classes taught by Hank, been at meetings where he has provided critiques of work, and have observed many of his photographs. HE KNOWS WHAT HE’S TALKING ABOUT! If you ever have the opportunity to take one of his classes or attend one of his talks, I certainly recommend it. I haven’t been on one of his shoots, but I’ve heard great things about them as well.

In this latest blog, he points out some of the dangers of having photographs critiqued by some judges – and mentions some of the benefits.

I’m afraid I lean more toward the danger side. I’ve entered many competitions at the local level and have even judged a few such competitions. I no longer do either.

Hank points out much can be learned from critiques from knowledgeable photographers, that is exactly why I shouldn’t be doing judging and/or critiquing. I certainly don’t consider myself knowledgeable. Judging at local competitions is generally done by people outside of the local organization and, therefore, of completely unknown qualifications to do such judging and/or critiquing.

There’s another problem with my judging and critiquing – and I think with many others who do the judging. I am biased. I like nature and animals. Portraits of people and pictures of architecture typically don’t do anything for me. If you show me a portrait of a middle aged semi attractive woman that is wonderfully lit, perfectly focused in the right areas and soft in the right areas, I would most likely say it is nice and give it an above average score. If the picture was of an animal (or maybe a beautiful young women) my rating would most likely be higher. On the other hand, if the picture is something avant- garde, I wouldn’t give a good score. (I’m a Remington type person as opposed to Picasso.) That’s not fair to the photographer and part of the reason I don’t judge.

My colleagues have often commented that a bias towards landscape photography exists in in our area. Pictures of animals, portraits, architecture, and others don’t score as well in our opinion as the landscape photos. Not fair? I suppose not, but it’s the way it is. If life was fair I’d be young, rich, and good looking.

So the judging isn’t fair, what’s the problem? That’s the way it is. The problem is what it does to the neophyte without the self-confidence to see through the bias. My colleagues and I have watched long enough to not let it affect our work that much. We know the bias that exists and how to react to it. But, the young person bringing their first competition attempts are liable to throw up their hands and give up photography when they can’t figure out why their efforts aren’t rewarded.

I guess the answer is to find someone with the capabilities of Hank to give your attempts critiques, otherwise learn to critique your own work. I believe learning to critique your own work is not only one of the most rewarding things you can learn in photography, it’s one of the hardest.  Anyone who knows me, knows I’m not very disciplined, (If you need confirmation ask Pam) and critiquing requires discipline. Critiquing your work involves looking at all you photos and not just asking whether you like it or not but why. It’s pretty easy to scan through your day’s shots and decide if there’s anything worthwhile. It’s not that easy to really look at the shots and say what you could have done to make it better. And, what I find is even harder to look at a picture I like and try to define why I like it. You might also try critiquing pictures you see in magazines or other places. (I tend to get more where I have to figure why I like than when I just look at my own.)

Once you do this self-critiquing for some time, you’ll start to see a pattern of not only what mistakes you continually make but also what you really like in your photography. It will lead to better photographs. (However, if you’re like me, you won’t think so. What will happen is that you’ll get pickier, but others will think you’re getting better.)

Date Posted: Saturday, October 5, 2019

General Area: General Thoughts

Title: Do It

Why is it so much easier to say “I’m going to do …” than it is “I’m doing …”?

Date Posted: Monday, September 23, 2019

General Area: Major League Baseball

Title: Who’s to Blame?

According to the rumors it appears Joe Maddon will not be the manager of the Cubs in 2020. Now, I like Joe! What Cub fan wouldn’t like the manager who brought the first world championship to the team in 100 years? Don’t get me wrong. I haven’t agreed with all of his decisions throughout his tenure. At times, I think he has played “his” favorites instead of those who would have provided more positive results, but every baseball fan feels that way about his/her team’s manager. It appears Joe has gone from the toast of the city in 2016 to not being adequate to manage in 2020.

I have a hard time buying that. I can understand players’ skills diminishing once they pass a certain age and playing them would be detrimental to the team. I suppose there is a time when a manager’s mental acuity diminishes to the point where they are no longer as sharp as they once were and a replacement is needed. Is that the case with Joe and why the Cubs didn’t do well in 2019? I do remember one of the prognosticators picking the Cubs to be in 4th or 5th place at the end of the season before the season started. Since it looks like they’ll end up in 3rd, Joe got them in a better place than expected.

One of the things I feel is the problem is the “help” we have been getting from the trades and free agents we’ve been bringing in, particularly in the pitching area. In 2019, after struggling in 2018, we had a number of changes in the pitching area – a new pitching coach and numerous new relievers. Yet, towards the end of the season, if we weren’t leading by double digits by the late inning we fans knew we were in trouble. Did Joe make the decisions as to who was being brought in? Obviously he was in each particular game, but was he responsible for who was available to select from? If not, perhaps one should look at how those decisions were being made.

I understand the frustration with having one of the highest payrolls and not making the playoffs; however, instead of focusing the attention on the manager dealing with all that high priced help, perhaps some attention should be given as to how it is decided where all that money is being spent!

Date Posted: Friday, September 13, 2019

General Area: Education   

Title: Tell ‘em why!

Because of my son and his wife being out-of-town, Pam and I went to our grandson’s “back-to-school night”. He’s in middle school and it was one of those things where you followed the student’s schedule. In each class period the teacher then told you about what was going on in their class and the expectations for the students.

As I had a recent conversation with someone who was expounding about the waste of time learning algebra was, I noted the complete absence of any mention by the teacher of explaining why they were learning algebra. I use algebra all the time and had told the person questioning about the need for algebra. He hadn’t seen the connection of when he was using algebra to its being algebra.

This morning I mentioned this to my grandson, and he agreed with me. He had no problem seeing the value of algebra, but struggled with the value of geometry. I wasn’t too much help on that matter as I had struggled with the same questions of the value of memorizing theorems postulates and axioms, but I did point out some of the values of learning analytical geometry.

He then went on to question the value of some of the things he was being required to learn in English. Again, I must confess I never saw much value in learning how to dissect sentences and some things like that. That might explain why I don’t think I could dissect a sentence properly if I had to. And don’t get me started on poetry. I know there are those people who really love it, but I’m definitely not in that group.

I guess my point is there are many of us in the world who struggle learning concepts that we don’t understand why we are learning them. So, if you’re teaching something, you might want to include “WHY” in your lesson plans. It might give your students more of a reason to apply themselves than just a grade.

Date Posted: Sunday, September 8, 2019

General Area: Sports

Title: Football Celebrations

I am an old curmudgeon but I am growing to hate athletes’ celebrations. In particular the football celebrations.  

Don’t get me wrong, I can understand a team celebrating like mad when they win a game! If it’s the first win in 20 tries, it’s certainly something to celebrate. If a win brings a team into a better position, again, certainly something to celebrate.

What drives me up the wall are the celebrations of individual plays by the players. The guy that celebrates a tackle when his team is losing by a bunch, to me is ridiculous. More so the latest trend for defenses having choreographed celebrations of turnovers even when they’re losing. Maybe if they worked as hard on their defense as their celebrations they wouldn’t be losing.

I guess my problem is I grew up when the response to a good play was “act like you’ve been there before.” After all celebrations are usually saved for special occasions. Aren’t these celebrations saying, “Hey, look at me, I finally did what I was supposed to have been doing all along!”?

Date Posted:Friday, August 30, 2019

General Area: College Costs

Title: Why do colleges cost so much?

I graduated from the Illinois Institute of Technology in 1961 as a metallurgical engineer. I was immediately hired and started my career working for $7200 a year. It was at the time a very good salary.

Lately I’ve been hearing about engineers coming out of college getting $50-60,000 to start. My experience with these graduates has been they aren’t worth much at all and yet they get that much. In fairness, as I look back on my career, I wasn’t worth much when I started, either. I decided to see if those numbers were true and did some searching on the web. I found the average starting salary for a University of Missouri metallurgical engineer to be $60,437[i].

Of course, in 1961 I was paying about $.25 for a gallon of gas. To be fair, I should look at the effect of inflation plays in this “outrageous” salary. I found a web site[ii] to calculate that kind of thing and was embarrassed to find by $7200 is the same as $61,782.98 today. Maybe those young guys aren’t as overpaid as I thought.

That led my weird mind to wonder if all the complaints I’ve heard about the cost of college were just a matter of inflation. I remember my first year at IIT the tuition was somewhere between $800 and $900. (I didn’t worry room and board because I was a “cruddy street car student” – I lived at home.) Since that was 1957, using the inflation calculator in today’s money it’s between $7,304.51 and $8,217.58. I then checked to see what IIT’s tuition is today. According to their web site[iii] it is $47,480. I guess the complaints about the high cost of colleges are factual.

I wonder where all that money is going?






Date Posted: Saturday, August 24, 2019

General Area: Sports

Title: The electronic strike zone can’t come soon enough for me.

 I suppose I won’t live long enough to see it, but I can’t wait for until the calling of balls and strikes are done electronically in the major leagues.

I’ve heard some say it’s a bad idea, because it takes the “human element” out of the game. To that I ask, are the umpires the important part of the human element or should it be the baseball players? I’ve just watched a ball game where the umpire called strike one on a 3-0 count that was further outside than one of the previous pitches. It seems if the count is 3-0 the next pitch is a strike as long as it’s in the county. Conversely, on a 0-2 count, the next pitch is a ball unless the batter swings and misses. Why? Because that’s what usually happens.

The arbitrariness of the umpires diminishes the capabilities of the hitters who are good at discerning strikes and similarly they diminish the skills of the pitchers who can “paint the edges.” The only baseball skill I’ve heard that would be diminished by the electronic strike zone is the catcher’s ability to “frame the pitch” – in other words, the skill of being able to fool the umpire.

Below is a link to an interesting article on how poorly the umpires did in 2018.