Monday, November 24, 2008

A Time for Thanksgiving 2008

This year, Thanksgiving has a deeper meaning for me… not only because I’m still here, but also because my many blessings seem richer and fuller. Regular readers know that, a few months ago, I survived brain surgery to remove a malignant tumor which had begun to affect my communication skills. For the time being, I’ve been given a clean bill of health.

While certainly I’m thankful for many of the same things as most other Americans – the price of gas is finally coming down; though the economy is struggling, we’ve still got plenty to eat; and we have just witnessed one of the greatest changes of regimes in American history, but its happening without bloodshed or violence, in an orderly way that would not be possible in most nations – I’m also thankful every day that somehow, I seem to have beaten the odds on cancer, not once, but twice.

As I was preparing to write my weekly column, I glanced back to my Thanksgiving message from a year ago, and I realized that I’m still thankful for the very same things… except perhaps more so. And those words from a year ago – before I had any idea of the challenges I would face this year – suddenly appeared more meaningful and poignant.

So I decided to dust off my Thanksgiving column for 2007 and make it my Thanksgiving column for 2008… with a little touching up.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Let me tell you about a few of the things for which I am personally thankful:

First, I’m thankful that – this holiday season – I’m not in the middle of one of my months-long Weight Loss Contests. True, I’m currently a big fat giant hippo-pig-whale, but Thanksgiving is just a really inconvenient time for a diet.

I’m thankful for my Mom & Dad. I was blessed with good ones. To paraphrase Lincoln, all that I am, I owe to my mom and dad. Dad’s no longer with us, and that leaves Mom to shoulder the blame alone. But she never complains.

I’m thankful for my wife and kids. Again, I’m blessed with good ones. Two sons and a daughter who make me proud, and a wonderful wife who puts up with me… which surprises me! And I’m thankful for the rest of my family. Altogether, they not only provide me with comfort and joy, but also with a high degree of entertainment value. (It’s actually better than TV – somewhere between Reality TV, Day of Our Lives, Dr. Phil, and The Beverly Hillbillies.)

I’m thankful for our Democracy. Even though my personal choice didn’t win, I’m thankful that the process of electing our president worked. And I’m really, really thankful that politics is over for the year, and for another few months or so before it cranks up again.

I’m thankful for my friends. I have a lot of ‘em, and I know they’re true friends. Sometimes, you’re not sure if a person is a true friend… or just interested in your money. Fortunately for me, I never have to question whether my friends or genuine or not.

Which reminds me…

I’m thankful to be free of the burdens and responsibilities of great financial wealth. (That’s what is sometimes referred to as “taking lemons and making lemonade”.)

I’m thankful to be 54 years old. There are those who didn’t think I’d last this long. By all rights, I probably shouldn’t have.

I’m thankful to live in South Carolina. It’s a great place to live. Now, I know we’re ranked last in the nation in education, health care, income, and lots of other things… and I suppose that should make me less happy to live here. But, somehow, it’s still a great place to live. Statistics or not… I wouldn’t live anywhere else!

I’m thankful for the people I work with: co-workers, associates, clients, employees, suppliers. Lots of good people -- better than I deserve -- hard workers who care about their performance, and generally try to do the right things. They make me look good… at least for a while, until I come along and do something to mess things up.

I’m thankful for my health. Looking at me from a distance, you wouldn’t think I’d be that thankful, given the condition I’m in (and from up close, you’d be even more surprised.) But, in the big picture, as old and out-of-shape as I might be, I’m healthy. I can see and hear, I can walk and talk… and there are lots of people in the world who can’t do those things. So, yes, I’m thankful for my health, as feeble as that may be.

I’m thankful Steve Spurrier is our Head Ball Coach. He’s a great coach. It really gives me hope for next year, even while our Gamecocks are tumbling like drunken sailor down a flight of stairs in a snowstorm. I believe in Steve. Things will get better.

I’m thankful for my readers… especially those of you who have made it this far into my column. You’ve probably already had to jump from the front page to a page somewhere near the back of the newspaper, and it may have taken a lot of time and effort to find the right page. To top that off, if you’re a regular reader, you probably know that my columns tend to run a little long, and sometimes start to fade near the end. Plus, you undoubtedly know that they are usually just random thoughts hastily strung together a few minutes before weekly my deadline, typically with not much rhyme or reason, and very little literary, entertainment, or informational value… and yet, YOU are still here reading…. and for that, I am thankful… and surprised.

I’m thankful for electricity. I think electricity is a good thing, and it’s taken for granted. I take it for granted, too. And I’m not really that passionate about being thankful for it, but I was thinking… there will be thousands of columns like this written this week about “Things I’m Thankful For” … and nobody else will mention electricity. So I thought I would.

I’m thankful for Random Thought Patterns. Without them, I would not have been able to write this column every week for almost a year.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving, and a Joyous Holiday Season.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Thankful for Clemson

It’s that time of year again: late November… that time we set aside each year for counting our many blessings, and wishing utter disaster and despair upon our instate college football rival, Clemson (or Carolina, depending on which way your bread is buttered).

This year -- as a Carolina fan -- I am especially thankful that we only have to play Clemson next week, instead of facing the likes of the Florida Gators again, after they were so inhospitable as to hang half-a-hundred on us last week.

During this time of year, one of the favorite pastimes in the Pimento State becomes the telling of Carolina and Clemson jokes. We love ‘em.

I actually consider myself somewhat of an expert in the art of telling Clemson jokes, since I once published a special newspaper – Gamecock Fever – which was pretty-much dedicated to printing good-natured Clemson jokes. To be fair, we also printed an occasional Carolina joke – which all too often was the score of the previous week’s game… sorta like this week!

Needless to say, we collected a lot of Clemson jokes – and originated a good many, too – during the 15 years we published Gamecock Fever (except for one year when we forgot).

I figure it’s time to dust off some of those jokes this week because, frankly, we USC fans would like to quickly change the subject from the drubbing we took in The Swamp last Saturday.

Thank goodness for Clempson jokes!
Q: How do you get a Clempson graduate off your front porch?
A: Pay him for the pizza.
Q: What is a Clempson P.H.D.?
A: A Post Hole Digger.
Q: What's a Clempson CPA?
A: Cow Pasture Alumni
Q: How does a Clempson girl break up with her boyfriend?
A: She sends him a John Deere letter?
Q: Why did the Lowcountry end up with Hurricane Hugo, and the Upstate end up with Clempson?
A: Because the Lowcountry got first choice.
Q: What's the best thing ever to come out of Clempson?
A: I-85.
Q: What do you call a Clempson girl hitch-hiking?
A: Stranded!
Q: What's the National Pastime of Poland?
A: Telling Clempson jokes!
Q: Did you hear about the Clempson javelin thrower?
A: He elected to receive!
Q: Where can you find most Clempson fans between 8 and 11?
A: The third grade!
Q: What is the best birth control for a Clempson girl?
A: Her looks.
Q: Why do Clempson fans stare at containers of orange juice?
A: Because the label says "concentrate".
Q: Did you hear about the Clempson fans carpool?
A: They meet at the game.
Q: What does an average Clempson football player get on his S.A.T. test?
A: Drool.
Q: What do you call a Clempson graduate who lives in a $450,000 house?
A: A butler.
Q: How do you address a Clempson student wearing a three-piece suit?
A: "Will the defendant please rise."
Q: How many Clempson fans does it take to screw in a light bulb?
A: Ten. One to screw in the bulb, & nine to stand around talking about how good the old bulb was.
Q: How many Clempson residents does it take to screw in a light bulb?
A: Seven. One to screw in the bulb, and six to wire the house for electricity.
Q: What do you get for the Clempson girl who has everything?
A: Penicillin
Clempson is Expected To Win 6 Games Next Year...
Two in Football, and Four in Basketball!
Q: Where was the toothbrush invented?
A: Clempson. If it was invented anywhere else it would have been called a teethbrush.

(Note: Also a perfectly good Tennessee joke. We used it here a month ago!)

If this collection of jokes seem a little one-sided… that’s because it is! All Clempson and no Carolina.

But here’s the good news: They’ll never know it, unless somebody reads it to ‘em!!!

However, if you ARE a Clempson fan, and you DO find somebody to read this to you, we’ll try to be fair about it. You can send your Carolina jokes to our website, and we’ll post’em for the world to see. Just to be fair. (If, of course, you can find somebody else to WRITE them for you.)

Send them to me via electric email:

Or, for the Internet savvy, just post’em to my internet blog:

Go Cocks! (We’re thankful for Clempson!)

Monday, November 17, 2008

Halfway through Autumn

In addition to being the week of Veterans Day, the week after Election Day, and two weeks til Turkey Day, this week also marks the Half-way Point of Autumn (HPA), an occasion very often overlooked. Frankly, it’s an occasion which has been universally, completely, entirely overlooked… until now! As far as I can tell, this is the very first time anybody has actually tried to pinpoint the halfway mark of any of the four seasons as an “occasion”. It just seemed to me like a pretty good idea… to pause and review… to examine how it’s going so far, in case we need to make any mid-autumn adjustments.

First, let’s take a look at the big election that captivated our attention for nearly two years.
It’s over!

Lots of times, in a presidential election year, there’s an October Surprise which occurs very late in the process, right before the election, and alters the outcome.

This year’s October Surprise was that there wasn’t any surprise!

We have a new Commander in Chief. GWB 43 is being replaced by BHO 44.

At first, I was thinking the gas prices dropping was a device by “Big Oil” to influence the election, but then they kept dropping AFTER the election, so I guess that was just my delusional paranoid conspiracy-theory imagination at work. Unless, of course, “they” kept dropping the prices after the election on purpose, just to throw us off!!! Wow! Visions of black helicopters!

Now let’s talk about the weather.

So far, so good.

In Minnesota, Montana and the Dakota’s, they’re probably having snow storms on a regular basis. But here in sunny South Carolina, I’m still wearing short sleeves most days. Knock on wood.

We’re well into the new TV season – and I have seen enough of the current prime time line-up to know that I’m going to be spending most of my R&R surfing the net instead of watching the tube. (How could they let Cloris Leachman get voted off the island?)

Speaking of TV, Monday marks the three month countdown until television becomes “digital only” on February 17th, just in case you really DO live in a cave and haven’t heard the news. (I’ll reiterate here my concern for the advertising decision-making geniuses who thought it would be a good idea to run those ads urging viewers to switch to cable TV… on cable TV channels.)

We’re also well into the other annual highlight of autumn – the 2008 Football Season. This year’s regular football season is a) over; b) at the end; c) winding down; or, d) who cares; depending on whether you’re referring to a) high school; b) college; c) professional; or d) soccer, rugby, European, arena, or any of those other foreign versions of so-called football.

Back to TV for a minute: The Christmas ads have already started, earlier than ever, continuing the trend of the last few decades. This year, I think they slid right in to take the place of the political ads.

But, seeing the Christmas ads, and hearing the news of continuing economic downturn, brings to mind the local shops and retailers who are counting on the coming holiday season for their businesses to survive. So, let me again urge you to SHOP LOCAL.

The internet is gaining an ever-increasing share of shopping business, and the corporate-giant chain stores always manage to find a way to prosper. But the handful of mom-and-pop shops and stores which still exist NEED our support… and we should give it to them.

After all, the smaller, locally-owned businesses are the ones who sponsor our local Little League teams. They are the ones who support our festivals and community events. They are the businesses who make up our Chamber of Commerce, and give generously to the Band Boosters, the cheerleaders, the high school yearbooks, the scouts, and our schools.

And, more importantly, they are the businesses who keep our dollars here in our own community, providing local jobs, and spending their profits with other local businesses, instead of shipping our dollars to some corporate headquarters a gazillion miles away.

So, this year, let’s try our best to support those local businesses with our shopping dollars, to help keep our own local economy strong.

Okay, what else do we have for our Mid-Autumn Check-Up?

Daylight Savings time: We fell back a week ago with no major injuries, other than bruised egos of those who missed it and showed up an hour early.

Holiday Weight Loss Contest: Who are we kidding? Not gonna happen.

State Fair and Halloween: Long-gone, ancient history, and I missed them both.

So there’s one last item: Veterans Day.

If you haven’t already done so, thank a veteran this week. They are they ones who make all this possible. (Including allowing me to write whatever is on my mind, and allowing you to read whatever you choose.)

And in case nobody else does, I’m offering a giant Thank You to each and every man and woman who donned a uniform and fought to keep America free and to allow all of us to enjoy our lives full of football weekends, hundreds of cable TV channels, Christmas shopping, State Fairs and Halloweens, and a food supply so plentiful that most of us need to LOSE weight. Thank you for protecting the light of the world… a homeland so blessed that truly there are no limits to what any man, woman or child in America can accomplish. To every veteran, we thank you.

See you next week.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Time for a Change

As I sit down at my keyboard to write this, I still don’t know who has won the election. There’s still a day-and-a-half until it’s all over.

By the time you read this, however, the contest will already have been decided, history will have been made – one way or the other – and you will know the identity of the next leader of the free world.

Unless, of course, Obama happened to have won the states of California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, Wisconsin, and the District of Columbia, and McCain coincidentally prevailed in the states of Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, Wyoming, and both of the Carolinas– in which case, we have a tie on our hands, 269 to 269, and we won’t know for sure until the U.S. House of Representatives breaks the tie.

But I’m going out on a limb and predicting that didn’t happen. I’m guessing we have chosen a new president, and things are going to change.

Note: As a consolation prize, the loser still gets to be in the United States Senate.

The Presidential election isn’t the only Big Change to come along recently. This weekend was also time for a visit from my old pal: Daylight Savings Time (DST) – The World’s Longest Running April Fools Gag!

I heard something interesting about Daylight Savings Time recently. Did you know that the Sunday after we “fall-back” and get an extra hour of sleep each year holds the record as the day with the fewest heart attacks? Apparently, Ms. Carter wasn’t kidding in my third grade health class when she told us it’s good for us to get enough sleep each night. “Fall Back” Sunday is the one day that most of us get extra sleep, and, as a result, we’re healthier that day!

Here’s another observation I made about DST this weekend: An increasing number of gadgets change the time for you! My cell phone and my computer automatically adjusted the time overnight, so that when I woke up, I was more confused than ever.

The alarm clock said 9am, but the computer said 8! The watch said 9, but the phone said 8. The wall clock said 9, but the Weather Channel said 8.

It was confusing. (And I really felt sorry for those folks who may have spent Saturday evening imbibing after the ball game.)

There’s another big change that’s needs to happen soon: I’ve got to seriously lose some poundage. I really hafta drop a few lbs. (Can anyone tell me how “lb.” can be the abbreviation for “pound”?) Pounds, lbs… whatever… I’ve got WAYYYY too many of them these days.

The last time I tried dieting, back in July, I got distracted in the middle of my weight loss competition, and ended up not losing much at all. Now I’m a big fat giant hippo-pig-whale again, and that’s definitely got to change!

Coincidentally, the winner of that Summertime Weight Loss Challenge – Big Don Gawrys – seems to still be keeping the 40 pounds he lost off, and is apparently ready to go for another round. He issued a challenge last week to our gang of 17 – suggesting another weight loss competition, this time right smack dab through the middle of the Holiday Season! Wow! He’s gutsy… and so are the other sixteen of us, but not in a good way.

Anywho, it appears that about half of the guys have accepted the challenge, so I guess “The Largest Loser Holiday Edition” will be cranking up soon. As always, we’re issuing an open invitation for anyone who would like to participate. In the past, we’ve each kicked in $100 smackeroos, with the winner taking it all after a six or eight week contest period. Since we’re just pulling it together, I can’t say for sure when we’ll start… but I would guess it will be in a couple more weeks.

So, if you think you might want to be a part of this contest – and apparently make the rules for us, since we’re all to fat and lazy to do it ourselves – shoot me an email via your Electronic Internet Email Machine, to:

One last change I want to suggest: It’s time to change your socks! You know who you are… Don’t make me call you out! Just go change them. NOW!

That’s all for this time. See you next week… unless I change my mind.