I finally get to wear a retainer. I never had any orthodontics work done on my teeth growing up. I knocked my two front teeth out and the caps were put in a little straighter. And I cheated on my overbite when the dentist was testing me because I did not want braces. Reluctantly my parents gave in to my resistance and saved themselves a chunk of change. So I won the right to have crooked teeth that cut odd shapes into my tongue. One of my great victories in life! But now a byproduct of my recent molar extraction is a retainer. I might have resisted but I thought I was agreeing to pay a retainer fee for the dental work in the queue. I hate being in a position with no leverage. I would have agreed to knee braces just as long as the dentist stopped the pain in my molar. I could have decided to get a second opinion and waste days or weeks of pain and more money searching for an elusive better deal. I remember once having my truck towed to the dealer and being told I needed $1300 of work to fix it. Am I going to have it towed somewhere else for another opinion? I played a game of really grappling with whether I would authorize the repairs while the service department pretended like I really had a choice. In 1971, I was starting our 1965 Ford Mustang Fastback by compression courtesy of four on the floor. Unfortunately it had 110,000 hard miles on it. One morning the compression trick no longer worked. I was towed to a dealer and outsmarted them by trading it in on a brand new Pinto and avoiding costly repairs.
A July 11th BBC travel article on Romania spotlights the medieval marital prison used to avert divorce for 300 years in the Transylvanian village of Biertan. Couples would be locked up for up to six weeks by the local Lutheran bishop so they could iron out their marital problems. Only one marriage was not saved in the three centuries during which this ritual was enforced. Apparently love was not rekindled as much as the need not to starve took over. Couples usually had enormous pressure to get about the agrarian business of making sure they had food the next year. I would like to know more. How many marriages were actually “saved?” The prospect of prison was undoubtedly a deterrent to having marital discord. And if a couple was miserable enough to go to prison, being locked in the same room with the one causing the misery would likely lead to shouts of “We are reconciled, let me out!” I would also like to know what happened to the one couple whose marriage was not saved. For example, were they dragged through the streets, drawn and quartered, and memorialized with their heads mounted on sticks? That would explain a high success rate for future couples undergoing the process. I would be willing to experiment with this therapy if Mollie could go on her own to the castle prison and spend quality time meditating on why she should appreciate me more. I do not think it would work but I am willing to give it a try.
When my employer relocated me to Wichita, some local co-workers were not so happy to see another out of stater coming down to take one of their plum jobs. They gleefully entertained themselves by frightening me with stories of chiggers and ticks. I was especially susceptible to their torture since I like to jog on trails where those arachnids supposedly like to hunt. I have wasted way too much time worrying about them in the decades since, considering I have never had a chigger or tick bite in my entire life. Since my unfinished Bucket List is likely to outlive me, I am going to drop the line item about experiencing chiggers and ticks off that list. And then I am going to mail some slugs down to the good old boys I know in Kansas.
I turn down so many great deals because they sound too good to be true. I do not want to waste time hunting for the catch. My wife has been fully on board ever since a disastrous encounter with an in home pan salesman a few decades ago when she thought she was getting a free pizza. We laugh about what windfalls we may be losing. I know people who have abandoned their own money by understandably not trusting unclaimed money sites that are actually dispensing dollars in forgotten accounts. I have made some exceptions and accepted deals that seemed too good to be true. Marrying Mollie was one. Then shortly after I turned 62, we were trying to enter Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota. The single vehicle fee at the time was $20 but because I looked so old, the ranger suggested the lifetime senior pass to all national parks for a one time $10 fee. I probably appeared rude to the fellow as I cross examined him trying to find the catch. Since we actually visit national parks, that card has been an amazing perk. My wife even bought one of her own which she has used on outings with her family. It gives her the security of knowing she can divorce me and still have the freebie. That was wise because the $10 fee is going up to $80 soon (still a good deal when entry fees regularly run $30). Footnote: this Blog site continues to be a well kept secret that is just too good to be true!
I agree with those who describe Roger Federer as the greatest male tennis player ever. His surname indicates his father was named Feder and his grandfather was a Fed. Some people will argue that an ancient Greek tennis player named Aesop Yogurt was actually better than Federer but Yogurt never won a Wimbledon title and had the advantage of playing in the nude. Roger recently won his record 19th Major tennis title at 35 years old which caused a great stir because of his alleged advanced age. He seems quite young to me. Everyone does incredible things at 35. When I was 35, I was a professional juggler with a challenging job, three demanding sons, a softball team to run, and marathon training. When Carlos Lopes and I were both 37, he won the 1984 Olympic Gold Medal in Los Angeles (sadly I was an hour and a half behind him and on the wrong course). I will be really impressed when Federer is winning a tennis tournament at age 69 because I now barely have the energy to take a nap. Athletes have often been champions at 35 and older. Think recent ones like Serena Williams (35), Tom Brady (39), Floyd Mayweather (40), Henrik Stenson (40), Kristin Armstrong (43), and Erik Guay (35). At the age of 40 in 2016, David Ortiz hit 38 homers, drove in 127 runs, while batting .315. I am on board with Federer’s greatness but I do not believe he has earned his way into the Old Person Club. I am not comfortable with him being designated old without putting in all the years and indignities of aging that my fellow geezers and I have endured.
I saw quite a bit of backlash about Michael Phelps racing a shark. Apparently much of the promotional hype was not clear enough about the race actually being versus a computer generated image (CGI) of a shark. I missed the event because I was out looking for the tomb of Genghis Khan. It is not in my backyard or at the Factoria Mall. Many of the disappointed Phelps viewers were probably hoping to see him at least maimed by the shark so I am not feeling sorry for them. I am a poor swimmer so I was not that interested anyway. But if we can get Usain Bolt racing a CGI cheetah, I would pay big bucks to see it. Or Jordan Spieth golfing in match play against a CGI ape. Maybe even Tom Brady and a CGI New England Patriot offense could take on a real herd of elephants. Unfortunately the possibilities are endless. Phelps lost, so that killed shark racing as a possible Olympic event. Bobby Riggs had a good thing going when he beat Margaret Court in a tennis match but then Billie Jean King ended his Battle of the Sexes gig by trouncing him 6-4, 6-3, 6-3. When the computer Deep Blue defeated reigning Chess Champion Garry Kasparov in 1997, he made accusations of cheating. IBM refused a rematch and dismantled Deep Blue. If we want interest in inter-species competition to thrive, apparently we first need the man to win.
Back when I published my 300th consecutive daily Blog posting, I started congratulating myself on how I could consistently be at my best every single day. But then my Ichiro loving friend sent me this Al Franken quote: “Only the mediocre are always at their best.” This could be considered an insult but I whiffed the scent of a compliment. For example, “mediocre” ranks higher than “disgustingly horrific.” Mediocrity is not the lowest state on the Great Chain of Being which is a popular hierarchy within the philosophy of Neoplatonism. Trump ranks slightly below mediocre and he is President of the United States. Of course, The Donald ascribes to a different chain which he calls the Greatest Chain of Being. He is currently on the second link and is poised to take over the top spot on his Greatest chain. Trump and Franken are sworn enemies but both share a background of being famous television celebrities who successfully entered politics at a very high level. Franken is a Senator from Minnesota who aspires to be President. Trump also aspires to be President but has the advantage of already being elected.
Ever since last Saturday’s Blog on Two Spaces, a debate has been raging about which of my postings has actually been the most boring. Many fine candidates have been submitted for consideration. My new suggestion for the Most Boring competition is to include Blogs never posted by Stamper because they died of boredom first. My first nomination and a personal favorite: Why Curiosity is not Spelled Curiousity. No one should be surprised that you can find this issue on the internet but the passionate debate it creates is amazing. Just as a pitcher becomes aware he might be in the middle of tossing a no hitter, I just had that same surge of adrenaline because I realized I could be typing the new Most Boring champion this very moment. But I lose focus and introduce other Blog Rejection categories. Ideas too racy for my Blog include the underwear controversy over the removal of slits in men’s briefs. It makes no sense to censor brilliant essays since they are such a rare species but that frustration is the essence of rejected postings in the file labelled “Only if I Want a Divorce.” My wife is now especially desperate to outlive me. This is disconcerting whenever I ponder how much of the food I eat is prepared by her.
My siblings and I were sorting through some of my Mom’s books and I elected to keep Webster’s Dictionary of Allusions. It seemed like such a valuable compilation of allusions all stored in alphabetical order under one cover. I could use it to add colorful vitality to my Blog postings. But the book was published in 1999 and the internet has exploded since then. Not only are new allusions entering our language every year but any listing, no matter how thorough, would be incomplete because the sum total of allusions approaches infinity. And with just a few keystrokes, the internet can now provide up to date information on anything in Websters as well as any information left out of it. Everything has changed. Except me. I keep thinking books have all the answers. Webster opens his Allusions dictionary with Abelard and Heloise (tragically romantic lovers) but leaves out Romeo and Juliet. The next page is Achilles Heel but Funny Bone does not make the cut. The third entry is Lord Acton who said, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Acton died in 1902, so he must have been thinking about world leaders when The Donald was still a boy. That makes Acton’s insight more impressive than my Math.
An alert reader asked why I do not put two spaces between sentences. Actually I have always been a two space guy until I started this Blog. And I continue to use two spaces in one of my journals and some other documents. I thought the arguments for one space were more amusing than anything but my son Dustin continued to bombard me with reasons beyond saving paper and trees. Apparently the old manual typewriters using monospaced type (each character gets the same space) broke the earlier tradition of proportional typesetting where thin letters like “I” were given less space than fat ones like “W.” So monospaced type made it harder to easily spot spaces between sentences and the two space rule became popular. But monospacing apparently went out of general use in the 1970’s when electric typewriters and then computers allowed proportional fonts. You can easily find great passion on this subject on the internet. One space proponents believe the second space actually interrupts the natural flow of a writing by creating too much space. So I started to experiment with one space at the end of Blog sentences. But I discovered that my own disjointed writing was what was actually disrupting all natural flow. I just tried three spaces after the last sentence in a desperate effort to improve readability. I am not optimistic about the results.