Monthly Archives: November 2013

The Amazing Johnny Seven

This is probably the coolest Christmas present I ever got. The Johnny Seven OMA (One Man Army). My cousins Mike and Brad got one just like it.

Thank you, Grandpa and Grandma Welker. We had lots of fun destroying imaginary foes and tormenting our younger cousins.

People often mistake the United Brethren for one of the “peace” churches, like the Church of the Brethren or the Brethren in Christ. Uh, that’s not us.

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Breaking Down NFL Broadcasts


The average NFL game broadcast:

  • Lasts 3 hours and 12 minutes.
  • Contains just 11 minutes of action.
  • Includes 17 minutes of replays.
  • The average play lasts 4 seconds.
  • Includes 20 commercial breaks with over 100 ads.
  • Devotes 80 minutes to commercials.

I might add, with a high degree of displeasure, that the average NFL game seems to finish around midnight.

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Be Careful Who You Help

A couple weeks ago I told about the heavy box-cutter which I inadvertently left in my carry-on bag during a trip to Miami, and which TSA didn’t notice.

I mentioned this experience in an Amazon review of the box-cutter, concluding, “So thank you, Husky utility knife, for whatever you did to stay incognito!”

Today I got an email from Amazon saying, “A customer just told us your review was helpful to them while shopping on Amazon.”

I’m wondering if somebody should be concerned about that.

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Encounter While Giving Blood

Pam and I had bloodwork done this morning. The nurse, very personable and cheerful, was somewhere in her 30s.

“Where is your accent from?” I asked her.

“Where do you think?” she replied.

“Eastern Europe,” I said. I was sure of that much.

She brightened, and gave me a sly smile. “What country?”

“Hungary?” I guessed. I was born on the day the Hungarian Revolution started in 1956, thus my guess.

“Close,” she said, impressed. “Just 45 minutes away. It’s Croatia.”

She then volunteered some glimpses of her story. She was in Sarajevo when the Bosnian War started, and was held by Serbs as a prisoner for 3.5 years. I had read much about that horrible war, including what the Serbs did to prisoners…to women.

“I try not to think about those years,” she told us. “It is in the past. I came to America 15 years ago, and it is home now. I won’t ever go back. I don’t really have any family to go back to.”

This woman had such a happy demeanor, talking with a smile even as she recalled what were no doubt horrible memories. She was a survivor, yes, but also a conquerer.

I don’t have any great life lessons to report. It was just a fascinating encounter, and I keep thinking about it.

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Events for the Ages


Newscasters turn way too many inconsequential events into “everybody will always remember where they were when” events.

“We’ll all forever remember where we were when Kanye West commandeered the microphone from Taylor Swift.”

“We’ll all remember where we were when heard that Dick Cheney shot his friend in the face with a shotgun.”

In my lifetime, there have been only two events I consider worthy of that distinction.

  1. The assassination of JFK.
  2. 9/11.

My parents’ generation can rightfully add the bombing of Pearl Harbor.

If I could add a third event within my lifetime, it would be the Challenger explosion in 1986. But I won’t.

People will nominate other events: killing Bin Laden, the 1972 Olympics massacre, the Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy assassinations, various sports events, Nixon’s resignation, Neil Armstrong stepping onto the moon, Magic Johnson declaring he had AIDS, the OJ chase. I remember clearly–sitting in Grandpa’s living room on Christmas Eve of 1968–hearing the Apollo 8 astronauts read the Creation story as they orbited the moon.

All of those are memorable events, but of a Second Tier variety. For the Top Tier, let’s stick with the JFK assassination and 9/11. And when newscasters go hyperbolic about the Event of the Day, just humor them.

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Where was I When JFK was Shot? Not Sure.

I was in kindergarten when JFK was killed. I vaguely remember Dad telling me the news, but it didn’t quite register. Another vague memory: Dad was watching TV, and I was in the dining room, when Oswald was shot. Is that the way it happened? I’m not sure. Fuzziness reigns.

My clearest memories are of the funeral, particularly of the horse-drawn casket. The TV guys talked about the funeral occurring in Washington, and made references to the Potomac River. Being somewhat of a geography nerd even in kindergarten, I knew that Washington State was in the far northwest, and that the northwest part of the state had rivers. I assumed the Potomac River was one of them.

Why the funeral was occurring in Washington State, I had no idea, but it obviously was, according to the guys on TV. At some point in my young life, I learned about Washington DC and had to reorient everything in my mind.

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Popcorn Trivia

Treat yourself to some popcorn…trivia.

  • Before the 1930s, most popcorn sold was white. Today–only 10%.
  • Movie theater owners preferred yellow popcorn for two reasons: it expanded more when popped (more volume per kernel), and it naturally looked more buttered (requiring that they use less real butter).
  • The theater preference spilled over to stores, with people wanting popcorn “like in the movie theater.”
  • Popcorn remains the top money-maker for movie theaters–an estimated 85% profit. Popcorn accounts for about 46% of theater profits.
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No Vegetables Allowed

Code Nazis alive and well in Florida. A couple dug up their frontyard garden, which they’ve tended for 17 years, after a new zoning ordinance specifically prohibited vegetables from appearing in front yards. Just vegetables. Fruit, trees, and pink flamingoes are still okay. The fine would have been $50 per day.

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Grammar Class: Active vs. Passive Verbs

Today, class, we’ll talk about passive vs. active verbs.

Passive verbs are forms of “to be.” Examples: is, are, was, were, have, had, will. They contain no action.

Good writers prefer active verbs. It’s a tell-tale sign. They still use passive verbs, but the balance tilts heavily toward active verbs.

(I do remember editing freelance manuscripts by writers who had probably just learned this principle, and used active verbs exclusively. Their writing sounded unnatural. It’s fine to use passive verbs in moderation.)

A strong, active verb not only imparts action, but can make modifiers and phrases unnecessary. You show more action with fewer words, and create better pictures in the reader’s mind.

Two examples:

The pastor was in a hurry during his sermon.
The pastor rushed through his sermon.

Dan was walking slowly across the room.
Dan sauntered across the room.

You are dismissed. Or: I hereby dismiss you.

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2013 Champ: Selfie


“Selfie” is the top new word of 2013, according to the Oxford Dictionaries. It’s a photo you take of yourself (usually on a cell phone).

Following close behind were:

  • Twerk. Thank you, Miley Cyrus, for popularizing this move.
  • Binge-watch: viewing a bunch of TV episodes in one sitting.
  • Showrooming: looking at a product in a store, then buying it cheaper online (which describes the relationship between Best Buy and Amazon).

I have never, to my knowledge, twerked. However, I’ve taken a few selfies (usually while holding our cat, Jordi). Pam and I occasionally binge-watch. And I admit to showrooming, most frequently at Barnes & Noble.

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