Arthritis cure or just good raisins?

•November 2, 2015 • 4 Comments


On Saturday mornings I often listen to a show called THE PEOPLE’S PHARMACY on National Public Radio (NPR) hosted by Terry and Joe Graedon.  Its topics range from self-help approaches to out-of-the-mainstream medical professionals who are working to discover new cures for old diseases. This past Saturday the co-host took phone calls from their listeners about self-help remedies that they had used successfully.  One of the phone calls that was of particular interest to me pertained to arthritis cures.  The reason this interested me so much was that over the last 65 years I have been perfecting the art of injuring myself through many creative and quite successful methods.  There was the time that I turned my ankle on the cross-country trail at Hampshire high, or the wear and tear from setting almost 10,000 stones during the building of my house and most recently the Dick Van Dyke flip I took while running through the woods and landing full force on my left shoulder.  The shoulder and ankle injury ended up needing corrective surgery. The doctor informed me that arthritis would probably result from the injury and the surgery; thanks, doc!  In the last couple months I have noticed my hands are somewhat stiff in the mornings which might indicate an arthritic problem.  All cards on the table, I think I am getting old!

So, on this Saturday morning the Graedons took a call about a possible remedy for arthritis.  It seems, according to the caller,  that by eating golden raisins soaked in gin along with some other preparation guidelines one can virtually eliminate painful joints!  Well, I was ready to rush out to the liquor store and buy some gin and find someone who sold golden raisins and get to work making my first batch of this medical marvel.  After reading the details of preparing this concoction, I decided that purchasing them might be a better option, so I ordered a batch of gin-soaked raisins ( and I am awaiting their arrival.

According to the caller, I will notice results in a couple of weeks and I will keep you up to date as to my progress towards a pain-free existence. If any of my readers have some experience with this approach, please share it with us. There are a lot of us old folks who have this condition and would love to have some relief without taking all those expensive and scary drugs.  Hope to hear from you.


A world we choose not to see or a wonderful story.

•October 18, 2015 • 3 Comments


A few days ago my friend took me to help out at the Warm the Children clothing program in Romney, WV.   I had no idea what was in store for me. This is a wonderful organization that survives on donated money that is used to buy new clothes for young people in need. It was a slow day at the center with only four children coming to claim their new clothes but was still very rewarding. This is how it works; the parents fill out a form with the size and gender of the child, this is sent to the Eastern WV Community Action group where it is processed and returned to the clothing center. At that point the parents and children are called to come in and receive their new clothing. There are many volunteers in this organization which is currently led by Patty Anderson of Andersons Corner Jewelry Store. You can give her a call if you would like to help out.
My story is short but sweet. A young girl accompanied by her grandmother came in to claim her new clothes. When she opened the bag it was filled with all boys’ clothes. With a closer inspection of the request list it quickly became apparent that some one in the process had checked the boys’ box instead of the girls’ box. She seemed a little upset. I offered to take the boys coat and go back and find a girls coat that I thought she would prefer. Arriving at the rack of clothes I quickly spotted a coat from the Disney movie FROZEN. I held the coat behind me as I approached the young lady and asked her if she was familiar with the movie, FROZEN. Her eyes immediately widened as I brought the coat from behind me to reveal the FROZEN coat.  She began jumping up and down in excitement asking if I was magic. How did I know that is the coat she wanted? She tried the coat on and it fit perfectly, not that that would have mattered at all, as long as it was pink and had a princess Elsa picture on it. After trying on all her new clothes she loaded up her bag and prepared to leave. She turned to her grandmother and asked her if she could give us a hug, and she said of course. She came to each of us and gave us a big hug and a gentle thank you and then turned and went out the door.
It is easy for us to forget in our busy lives that there are many needy children out in the world from no fault of their own. You hear people spouting generalizations about how the children are just bilking the system or the needy in this country are just spoiled brats. Well this may be true in some cases but I believe there are many who are truly in need of assistance. This is where communities, corporations and people have to pick up the slack and help these children. Maybe its time for you to step up and change the world, one child at a time!

How long will we keep sacraficing our people to guns?

•October 3, 2015 • 2 Comments



It pains me to have to write about this horrible topic. In recent times I have witnessed an increasing tendency for violence of this nature to occur in our country. I am referring, of course, to the obscenity in Oregon where nine innocent people were killed along with their gunman. Words are inadequate to console the parents of these victims. There are no easy answers to offer them that will help them move through the emptiness now in their homes. There is only a vacant bed where they used to sleep. How many more incidents like this can we tolerate before we say, ‘enough is enough’? I would like those who believe that we should not place restrictions on the ownership of weapons to fly to Oregon to tell the families of those slain why it is necessary for anyone to own a military weapon and why they do not support the licensing and control of these guns and ammunition. I think the president of the NRA should do just that!

The media will hype this with 24-hour coverage with interviews, sound bites from all the experts and witnesses who have some tidbit of information to throw into this ‘cauldron of insanity.’ A few will discuss the elephant in the room, but will receive little praise for their efforts. It will surprise most of you to know that I support the ownership of firearms, but our society has taken this basic right and skewed it so terribly that it does not address the reason that this law was brought under constitutional protection. In addition to protecting one’s livelihood, the founding fathers feared the intrusion of excessive government into the lives of people and it was felt an armed population would prevent the government from gradually taking away the people’s rights. This was tolerable until the advent of modern weapons when one person was able to march into a building to destroy every living person and the building as well. I do not believe the founding fathers envisioned a world where uzzies, repeating rifles and homemade bombs were easily accessible.
There is little doubt that this will be portrayed by the media as an extremely complex issue, but I believe it is a simple solution we Americans must create. We must somehow make the choice to keep weapons out of the hands of people who are incapable of rational decisions. There is no need for people to have an arsenal in their basements! There is no need for hunters to have machine guns! As long as we are willing to allow this situation to continue, we will be ambushed by the evening news chronicling ad nauseam the deaths of innocent people. One day it may be someone close to us so that we will be faced with the feeling that we should have spoken out earlier; We should have made a difference; We should have saved our children!….


Here is what one Australian journalist wrote.

Just call me Mr SOLARMAN

•September 9, 2015 • 6 Comments

Almost 30 years ago, I decided that I wanted to heat my house with an alternative to wood.  After almost cutting the end of my foot off, resulting in visit to the emergency room and a bunch of stitches,  I made the decision to find another way to heat our house.  As time passed and we completed the indoor swimming pool with the 24 hot water solar panels on the roof, which was supposed to act as a heat sink that would provide the heat for a heat pump, it became obvious that I was too far ahead of my time and too poor to get the necessary hardware to complete this project. Wood continued to be my primary source of heat but we had a swimming pool that stayed open 8 months out of the year.

Solar heated pool

Solar heated pool

About 5 years ago I read an article pertaining to an old technology that utilized heat transfer through special designed tube to heat your domestic hot water.  I researched it and decided to install one.  Here it is.

June 9 2013 597

This unit makes my hot water.

About a year ago, a friend of my by the name of Rick, asked me over to see his solar voltaic array at Ice Mountain.  When I saw Rick’s system it rekindled my solar drive and I began to research the feasabilty of putting up a solar array at my house.  I had traveled this road before but to my amazement, prices had dropped and the feds were giving a 30% rebate on taxes.  I was ready to go! After almost a year of planning I made my initial purchase of a load of galvanized steel to construct the racking system for the collectors. I choose steel over Aluminum due the high price of aluminum.

Here we go…..


This is the spot I choose to place the array.


Jerry Dean and Tim McDougall helping me dig in the rock.


Country Cramer checking the level of a support.


Brian Streisel helping me cement a support in.


The frame is done and we are ready to place some collectors on it!


Tim McDougall and I place the first panel.


And now we have three!


County Cramer, Wayne Mathias and Bill Determan putting up number 15!


18 on the rack and 27 to go…Bill Determan, Country Cramer and Wayne Mathias helping out.


Its getting bigger thanks to Penny Pratt and Jonah Pratt


36 up and counting with the help of Rich Maloney and Ray Stein. The end is near.


Steve Harris  standing in front of the BIG FINISHED ARRAY!


My neighbor Steve Swisher lending a helping hand…I mean tractor.


The big , long ditch.


Brian Streisel covering up  the BIG DITCH.


Country Cramer and Aaron McBride hooking up the inverters.


Aaron McBride hooking up the daisy chain of collectors.

This is where we are now.  Country and I are still working on the final hook up to the house/grid.

I will let you know when we are ready to start producing electricity!

Who knows, I may have a solar party!





No pain in the universe like this, when the spouse walks out.

•July 8, 2015 • 6 Comments

There is no pain in the universe like the one felt by a person whose spouse leaves unexpectedly or passes away. In either case, the resulting emptiness that engulfs the person is seemingly unfathomable and inexplicable. Some describe it as having a part of their body removed.  Others see it as a darkness that never lifts. I believe I have felt both of these sensations over the last 3 months and have spent many hours considering these feeling and wondering why their depth and intensity are so severe that the only word that comes to mind is ‘addiction.’ I think we become physically, biochemically and emotionally attached to the most important persons in our lives. When that person is suddenly is gone from our lives, all these conditions kick in, creating feelings that are so enormous, they defy description.  I said to a person recently: “This must be what it is like to go through withdrawal from drug use,” but he said,” No, the drug withdrawal stops in a couple of days, whereas the pain of losing a spouse continues on and on endlessly.”  He is so right!  I can say that the pain eases gradually, but only slightly and only when one is distracted by routine activities. Bouts of depression and crying sessions can be brought on by the slightest thing: the smell of perfume, a familiar item, a place, a TV show or anything that might trigger thoughts of a spouse.  Sometimes people will unwittingly say things that cause a flood of emotions hiding within.  I submit that there must be long-term damage to the body from this enormously stressful event.  I wonder if anyone has done research on this.
So how does a person recover?  How does the individual regain his balance and begin life anew?  I have received much advice in this regard which mainly centers on staying busy to keep the mind occupied, but I must say, this only helps so much. I have learned to survive on minimal sleep because of the repetitious and ever-present thoughts of my missing spouse.  I lay down at night with her in my thoughts and eventually fall asleep with her in my thoughts and wake up several times throughout the evening with her in my thoughts.  Obviously this makes for many very poor nights of sleep. It was almost a week after all this began before I slept for any length of time and so was beginning to wonder if I would ever sleep well again!
When a spouse leaves so unexpectedly and suddenly, it is for a myriad of reasons, but I think the most prevalent one is the desire not to confront the spouse.  Life has taught me that avoidance of conflict is a powerful motivator for many. In a majority relationships, arguments and disagreements usually occur prior to the departure, but in some cases, the departing spouse wishes to avoid this situation and so sneaks out the ‘back door,’  leaving the spouse wondering what-the-hell just happened?  I believe this scenario is far more painful than when the spouse leaves after a big fight or major disagreement. When the split is brought on by an intensely emotional conflict, there is something almost tangible to hang on to, which allows the spouses to better deal with the situation and even possibly resolve it.  The departure, when it is not preceded by a noticeable change in behavior, creates that huge void I talked about earlier. This does not lead to a resolution;  it only leads to intense pain in the abandoned spouse! When one half of a couple hides feelings, never sharing disappointments, needs or expectations, it leads to intense unhappiness in that person and may take decades for this to finally surface, but eventually it will, and calamity is the result.
So how might I and countless others have avoided this?  Obviously there are many personal issues involved with every unforseen break-up of this nature, but I believe if I were to single out one important skill that could have helped avoid this, it would be communication! When couples talk, they may vigorously argue and get angry, but there is the potential of resolution within the conflict. When there is no communication, it is highly unlikely that a solution will be found.  In today’s world of less and less face-to-face communication, we may see an exponential rise in this type of separation as our population becomes unable to carry on normal face-to-face discussion. We would rather text than talk. We would rather email or video chat- anything to avoid looking into another person’s eyes to tell him something he may not want to know. We are, I believe, in a dangerous downward spiral as we adjust to all the gadgets in the new information age. Not only will they affect marriages but all interaction between people. The obvious outcome in this scenario is for us to stay in our cubical 24-7, ordering in everything we need, performing our job through the internet and generally isolating ourselves from the rest of humanity. If you think this sounds fictional, look around you. Notice the number of people transfixed on their mobile devices  and the decrease in human voices in crowded areas. Folks, we are already ear-lobe deep in this situation with no discernible plan to remedy it.  Because we are irreversibly in the new communication age and are basically losing our ability to talk to one another.  If that does not strike fear in you, I am not sure anything can.  Well come to 2084….

The honor was mine. Good bye Rick.

•June 12, 2015 • 2 Comments


It is an honor to have been asked to speak at this service for Rick. This is the second Eulogy I have given for an Odyssey of the Mind team member. The first was Yvonne Saville almost 20 years ago.
I thought I would give a brief history of my relationship with Rick. I first met him when he was a 7th grader at Capon Bridge Junior High. Mr. Sirianni, a fellow teacher, had told me before hand about an extraordinary young man coming to our school that I had not yet worked with. Mr. Hicks, another fellow teacher and I were working on a Texas T-1000 computer that the school had recently purchased. We were like monkeys in a Radio Shack but were giving it our best shot. Rick offered his assistance. I guess we sort of chuckled and said we were doing fine, despite the fact we were getting nowhere. Rick, seeing our increasing frustration approached us again to offer his help. So have you used one of these before, I asked? He said yes, “I own one and I know how to use it” he said with a great deal of self-assurance. Well, with that, we turned over the reins to Rick; his fingers danced over the keys as though he had been doing it since he was born. In short order, he completed the task before us and then went on to greatly improve on what we were doing. Needless to say, I was very impressed with this prodigy!
Rick continued to impress me and anyone who bothered to look throughout his junior and senior high school career. He won many science fair awards with several cutting edge projects and participated on several high school Odysseys of the Mind teams that all made it to the international competition.
The two of us spent countless hours discussing everything from astrophysics to artificial intelligence. He was a sponge, soaking up everything I was able to throw his way but his first love was computer programming. He learned computer languages the way most of us learn phone numbers.
He was a giving and gentle person who often was more concerned with others’ needs than his own. Most possessions were of little value to him unless they allowed him to expand his knowledge.
After Rick attended college for several years he decided that the pursuit of a formal education was holding him back so he quit and begin marketing his skills. As his reputation expanded, things went quite well as people learned of his ability, so the jobs began to roll in. It did not take long for people in company offices in the area to realize there was something special about this young man. He was smart, confident, articulate, and able to solve problems that others were unable to solve. More important, he was able to do it faster than anyone they had ever seen!

Permit me to pass on this brief antidote from Rick’s college days. Tom Pliska was Rick’s roommate his freshman year at Virginia Tech. He tells the story of waking up from a deep sleep with frost on his blanket and the wind howling through the room. He looked over to see Rick feverously typing away on his computer in front of an open window in nothing but his BVDs. Sweat was rolling off his forehead despite the fact that the room temperature was close to freezing. Tom jumped up and yelled for Rick to close the window! When he asked him what he was doing, Rick’s reply was, “I am programming.”
Rick stayed in touch with me on a regular basis with phone calls or text. He would often call me to bounce ideas off me in the hope that I might come up with something new and interesting. I always enjoyed the talks because you could never anticipate what it would be about. Sometimes we would talk for hours.
As an adult, (as close as he could get to being an adult) he continued to enjoy play or better said, the art of play. He had the most incredible collection of toys I have ever seen. When he became a father, he could not wait to share his extensive lego collection with his kids. As the good father, he was a mixture of strength, loyalty, fun and unpredictability which is, as most of us know, what lights the fire of a young persons mind.
Eric and Erin will both miss their father as much as any one could because they experienced him as their perfect father.
Your world and mine is a sadder place without Rick. His presence will be missed by many in various different ways. During my teaching career I met many extremely bright and capable students but, I have to place Rick at the very top of a very short list. He was in a league of his own.

I wish there were some perfect words to make this loss easier for all of us, but no such words exist. We will have to endure the pain of his absence for years to come. In order to fill that void, we must remember him as the happy enthusiastic young man who enjoyed immensely the people around him and loved with few limitations. It was his gift.
Rick, know that we will all miss you more than words can tell.

I just realized that in the future we will not need auto insurance

•June 8, 2015 • 1 Comment



It all started with a simple device that allowed a driver to set the speed of a car without holding one’s foot on the gas while driving.  Today most cars have cruise control and most take it for granted, but not too long ago it was a revolutionary technology that had some negative aspects: What if it got stuck and the car refused to stop?  What if it turns but then refuses to go off?   I am sure the debate was intense but technology finally won out so that the most expensive cars of the day were equipped with this new device.
Now move to our present when a new and similar debate is raging.  We now have the emerging technology to create ‘smart cars’ that are able to self-navigate through our intricate road system.  That’s right, you will not have to hold on to the steering wheel!  Just set the car for a final destination and take a nap.  Please do not bring up the old problem of  malfunctions which may kill the passengers?  Seriously, according to the Association for Safe International Road Travel, 37,000 Americans die each year in auto accidents and 2.35 million are injured or disabled.  Worldwide, a staggering 1.3 million people are killed and between 20 and 50 million injured or disabled!  So let’s not go there!  No one is as accident-prone as good old Homo sapiens.  So, back to the topic at hand, this technology will not just save lives, it will allow also to us use the time in our cars in a more constructive way; 1.e,s say reading a book, working on projects, takeing a needed nap or whatever one chooses to do.
Now, who is going to suffer from this technology?  It dawned on me recently that the insurance companies would no longer be needed.  Sure we may have  auto insurance but, because we may have next to no claims, our insurance premium would be extremely small.  Don’t think that the insurance companies aren’t looking at this. There is a lot of money on the line here!  For example, auto-body repair would become a thing of the past.  Hospitals would no longer have to attempt to put people back together who survive an accident, resulting in a major in a loss of revenue.  A multitude of orthopedic devices which help people get around after being disabled would become passe.  This does not even bring to mind entirely the emotional damage of an auto accident.
Yes, it will be a few years until everyone has a car that drives itself, but be ready to embrace the safety that  will surely follow.  Attendance at the race tracks will go up dramatically because people will have to attend to witness the gory consequences an accident.  I can see it now, telling my grandson of the good-old-days when we banged around in our 3000 lb nearly all metal cars.  I know this is scary to many of us, but just think of all those  moments when our children set out on their solo road trip or prom night and knowing that they will be safe.


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