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Opinions

Food for Thought

Communication skills

When I first enrolled in college, there was a required course that all liberal arts students had to pass. It was known campus-wide as Comm Skills 101, and its purpose was to make sure that we were able to speak and write effectively. This seemed like a no-brainer. After all. everyone needs to be able to communicate with others, not just for the sake of learning from our college courses, but for whatever we would be doing with our education for the rest of our lives.

Walkin'

Henlick manuevers

As spring shies to show her pretty face yet another week, it’s been slow times in the Fleck household.

Food for Thought

That spring thing

There was at least one constant every spring while I was growing up– a new spring coat or jacket– count on it. While we very often wore the same warm winter coat for two or three years running, the spring coats were always new, light-weight, pastel in color, and inexpensive.

Walkin'

Anniversary epiphanies

Sabra and I married on Valentine’s Day in the year 2000. Suggesting the date was a brilliant move on my part, even if I do say so myself. Not only is it easy to remember, it also saves buying a gift. These are two practical, utilitarian benefits that are buffed up by yet a third: it’s romantic.

Food for Thought

Why kids ask so many questions

I remember, at sometime in my early childhood, how many big and mysterious words there were in the world. Not just words I heard adults use, and that I assumed I would someday learn the meanings of, but words that were just out there– posted on cars, buildings, billboards– waiting for me to unravel their mysteries. Reading was like a parlor trick. Comprehending was another matter.

Walkin'

Back pain is back

My back went out for the first time in the late 1970s.
I was a twenty-something publishing a newspaper for the military community of Bamberg, Germany.
Once a week I’d check a sedan out from the motor pool and drive 140 miles to the Stars and Stripes headquarters in Darmstadt to get my paper printed. Occasionally, a vehicle from the pool would not be available and I’d have to scramble to find transportation.

Food for Thought

collect the whole set

I got a chuckle out of seeing that bumper sticker ahead of me while I waited at the stoplight. It got me thinking about all the crusades to save various species of wildlife I’ve seen over the years. When I was fresh out of college, there weren’t so many crusades, not nearly the number of animals designated as endangered as there are now, bumper stickers and posters for the various causes were uncommon. By the mid-’50s, I was becoming aware of causes other than soil conservation and the wisdom of having your dog or cat neutered.

Walkin'

Toilet tribulations

During a recent stay at a motel I saw something odd: in the bathroom there were two toilet paper rolls offered, one over the other.
This brought to mind one of the age-old conundrums that has pestered human minds since the first rolls were mass produced in the 14th century: should toilet paper be hung so it reels off the top or bottom?

Food For Thought

Bored to death

One of my good neighbors and I were chatting on the phone. You know how that goes– one topic leads to another and, before you know it, you’ve covered everything from recipes to politics, gardening to retirement, the flu epidemic to wind farms. I wish I could record such conversations because they often leave many things unfinished and, if I could follow them through to their conclusions, I’d probably get a month’s worth of columns out of one conversation.

Walkin'

Barney and his gun

Barney almost shot me by accident, twice.
The year was 1970, and I was working the night shift on the loading dock of the Marshall Fields Department Store in the Woodfield Mall outside of Chicago. I unloaded semi trailers as they arrived and then sorted the packages into two-dozen piles, one each for the drivers who delivered them the next day.

Food for Thought

Jelly simplified

It was the summer of 1944. I would be starting fourth grade in September. We had moved to our acreage on the edge of Knoxville the preceding March. There were walnut trees, pear trees, raspberry bushes, and an old apple tree– and oddly enough, no cherry trees on what had once been a cherry orchard. My mother was making raspberry jelly from berries we’d picked, and apple butter from some of the summer apples. These early apples, commonly called glass apples, made the best and smoothest apple butter when used before they were fully ripe.

Walkin'

Household pests

I’ve killed many a musca domestica, aka house fly, in my day.
As a child visiting Wisconsin, one of my favorite barn chores was poisoning the little buggers. Grandma had an old-fashioned pump sprayer, which she filled, I’m guessing, with a capful of dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane, aka DDT, and water. This was long before we knew that the substance was a scourge to birds, especially ones high on the food chain like hawks and eagles. So spray I did, pumping clouds of toxic vapor in the air.