Send in the Clowns

Sometime, we don’t know when, but sometime, we are going to move.  So there is a need to downsize.  When I walk into a room, I immediately start looking for things that need to disappear.  The whole process stinks.  What I have noticed is that  when I look around, I see clowns.  Pictures of clowns, ceramic clowns, porcelain clowns, toy clowns and clown clowns.

You know the little old lady who likes cats?  So every time she gets a greeting card or a present there’s a kitty somewhere.  Well, I guess I have always been a clown.  I constantly needed attention and clowning around got me what I needed.  I seriously considered whether I could survive in the Army with my “irreverent” attitude.  For years, I had an unrepressed desire to say or do anything that would get me a laugh.  And, fortunately or unfortunately, I am constantly thinking of funny stuff.

The worst thing people can do when I start entertaining is laugh.  That’s the fuel that makes things get more outrageous.  At dinner parties when I was cranking up, my wife, Carole, would reach under the table and squeeze my thigh.  That was my signal that I was getting out of control and needed to shut it down.  At a large gathering in Frankfurt, Germany, Carole was sitting on the other side of the table and some distance away from me.  I got a boisterous laugh out of the crowd and was on my way.  Then suddenly, Barb, the lady sitting next to me, squeezed my thigh.  I looked over and Carole was smiling at me.  Then there’s “Carrie, the Weird.”  She would encourage me until one of us came down with a migraine.  I always secretly hoped it would be her.

Somehow, I survived the Army without being reprimanded for inappropriate behavior.  I had to apologize a few times, but I was usually getting off easy.  While I was the Staff Judge Advocate at Fort Riley, Kansas, in the early 80’s, the post sponsored and hosted a Special Olympics.  Special Services put out an announcement that they would hold classes for those people who wanted to volunteer to be clowns at the Special Olympics.

The G1’s wife, Meg Ionedias, suggested that we sign up for the classes.  We did and it turned out to be four hours every Saturday for six weeks.  I had no idea that clowning took that much preparation.  Anyway, I graduated as a full face Bozo clown.  My instructor said I was a natural.  She said she had met a lot of Bozos, but I was the biggest Bozo she had ever met.

The day of the Special Olympics arrived.  The post had an athletic field with a runner’s track around the outside.  I  had no responsibility except to go around and act silly.  The opening event was a grand march around the track.  Then the “competition” would begin.  It was frenetic getting everyone lined up for the march.  I noticed one young lad in a wheelchair.  He had almost no control of his body and had to be strapped into the wheelchair.  He had to have support to keep his head mobilized.  And with all that was going on, he looked frightened.  My initial thought was that it was a shame that he had been brought out to an event he could not understand.  No one knew what I was thinking because I had a big smile painted on my face.  Then the parade started and I devoted the rest of the morning and some of the afternoon to being a silly, entertaining Bozo clown.

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The event was a big success.  I played my small part.  It was fun.  Where else can a senior Army colonel run around flapping his arms and jump in the air while being goosed by another clown?  What made the event special was that late in the day, I again saw the boy strapped in the wheelchair and he was happy and laughing and having a wonderful time.  That sold me on the Special Olympics.

Children love clowns and that made my spirits fly.  But under a certain age, maybe two, maybe one and a half, clowns look strange and scare the hell out of them.  I learned that the hard way.  I never determined the exact age, but when I got around the little ones, I was very tentative until I saw how they reacted.  When they screamed, I’m  not sure who was scared the most.  But the painted smile protected me.

The Fort Riley Officers’ Wives Club was having a bake sale outside the Post Exchange and the asked me to show up as Zippy (every clown should have a name) and entertain.  After about 30 minutes, the PX manager came over and told me that she would like to hire me for certain occasions at $12 an hour.  I told her it took me two hours to change into Zippy.  She told me she would pay me for that time.  Finally I had to tell her that I was the clown who gave her legal advice.  We had a good laugh.

So like the lady who loved cats, I started accumulating clowns.  I even have a cloth one with a large “Z” on the hat for Zippy.  You can imagine how upset I was when a comic strip “Zippy the Clown” showed up.   And he was anything but a happy clown.  I think he is gone now.  Yippee!

I’m no longer in great shape, but I’m a heck of a lot better off than my clown outfit.  The elastic around the neck, sleeves and feet is kaput and the skull cap has rotted away.  I bought a curly red wig, but I’m no longer willing to spend the time painting my face.  That disqualifies me from being a Raider fan.

So most of my clown memorabilia will disappear.  But I will hang on to the suit, wig and the paint.  Who knows, I may be the life of the party at the old folks home.

Written by PJ Rice at www.ricequips.com

Copyright 2015

New Year’s Revolutions

No, I didn’t mean resolutions, I meant revolutions. Because they come around every year and they look very similar to the previous year and the year before. They revolve from year to year.

I decided to try some new ones this year. One of the rules is it can’t have been a resolution from a previous year. My plan started out well but then fizzled. My first for 2015 was not to go into the shower with my glasses on. It’s no big deal when it happens, but it is sort of a helpless feeling. You’re wet, glasses are fogged, there is no place to put them and opening the shower door just creates more problems.

Next, I have decided to learn a new word everyday. No, I have never made this resolution before. But with all the new words entering the English language, like LOL, BFF, and OMG, I thought it would be a good choice. Maybe I will learn how to pronounce them. You know, BFF doesn’t have a vowel. That makes it tricky.

I’m a late comer to the Big Bang Theory. I started watching just a few months back. Of course it is easy to catch up because their reruns are on about 12 different channels and I have now upgraded my Verizon FIOS so that I can record lots and lots of meaningless shows all at the same time. Anyway, I have resolved to watch at least three shows a week. This is to remind me that brilliant people have problems too. People who are brilliant and have no common sense are not uncommon. They are all around us AND easy to spot.

I’ve never had a resolution on dieting. First, I like food too much and weight has not been a problem. I don’t want to sound flippant, but all I have to do to lose weight is not put all those goodies in my mouth. Our house at Christmas time is like a culinary minefield. But it’s Christmas. Come January, things should return to normal.

Well, now I’m breaking my first New Year’s resolution (to not repeat any from previous years). Every year I resolve to exercise more and with a better routine. I generally prepare a chart. The chart very seldom makes it into February. I do keep exercising through out the year, I just don’t keep track of my times. Carole gets on her recumbent bike every day and checks it off on her calendar. Don’t you hate people like that?

I didn’t mention in this year’s Christmas poem that I went back to Leadbetter’s Golf Academy on our December trip to Florida. Bob Lohr, my golf instructor, knows what I need to do to get to the “next level” (that would be holding the wrist angle to the last second like Sergio). I listened to him carefully and I also think I know what I need to do. It’s just that I’m not sure I can get my body to do it. That’s a hell of a note. The answer is flexibility exercises. After Bob was through with me, he turned me over to a physical therapist specialist, Mike Lane. I still remember Mike saying, “You are going to feel great when we are done.” Then he twisted me into positions that a 12-year-old female gymnast would have had no problems with. I did. After we were done, I had to get assistance to get out of my golf shoes! But he did email me a list of flexibility exercises that should get me to the “next level.” I’m hoping it’s not a pine box.

So for my next and last New Year’s Resolution, I have again made an elaborate chart of these “next level” exercises. If I can do them till Spring, I going to treat it as a completed year! Hey, it’s my list and my rules.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!

Written by PJ Rice at www.ricequips.com

Copyright 2014

A Merry Merry Christmas 2014

I know, I know, I know I’m late,
But sometimes I’m carrying a lot of freight.
When we retired life was supposed to be simple,
But it turns out you still get warts and a pimple.
So it’s the week before Christmas, I’m off of my keister,
If I don’t hurry up, you’ll get this for Easter.

It wasn’t a great year, but it wasn’t bad,
We had happy moments and moments so sad.
Fifty-five years of marriage, not all bliss and spice,
But devoted to each other, not related to Ray Rice.
We celebrated the entire year, fifty-five for goodness sake,
No one seemed to complain and we ate a lot of cake.

We traveled to the Smokies, we saw all that we could,
But we couldn’t find Dolly in Dollywood.
We trekked the Boardwalk in Ocean City,
Did Rehobeth shopping, and ate till we were giddy.
Becky and Missy flew in in June,
They kept their bags packed as we departed soon.
Pennsylvania was our destination,
The Carlisle Kitchen Shoppe without hesitation.
Then on to Hershey and a Lancaster call,
Then dash away, dash away, dash away all.

We made it to RAJA, it really was a treat,
Illness cancelled our last two years, this year it was sweet.
The Inner Harbor Baltimore, with old friends galore,
Next year Colorado Springs, we’re ready for some more.

All of our lives we’ve accumulated things,
Big things like couches, little things like rings.
As our houses got bigger, we filled them to the top,
Then comes the day when it all has to stop.
This year we are downsizing, it’s really a twist,
Yard sales and thrift shops and even Craig’s list.
It’s a maddening experience, brings you to your knees,
Does anyone out there want 1990 TVs?

Jack lost his brother Bill, his friend evermore,
We traveled down to see him two months before.
The memories of him surely brings the tears,
But before they even dry, a great granddaughter appears.
Lydia’s a precious bundle, but she’s too far away,
Thank goodness for FaceTime, it really saves the day.

We finished the year strong, that’s why the poem is late,
Thanksgiving at Paul and Sandy’s, then we left the state.
The first half of the month in Florida, Jack took his sticks,
Why go South in December without a golfing fix?
Carole rented a scooter and we scooted around the park,
Epcot Center, Magic Kingdom, we scooted until it was dark.

Now it’s time to reflect on the year, to think about what’s key,
Our wonderful friends, loving family & a nation that is free.
We wish we had a wand, to bring all our friends together,
To push away the aches and pains & bring us all fair weather.
But know that we are wishing you health, wealth and cheer,
And a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Jack and Carole

written by PJ Rice at www.ricequips.com
Copyright 2014

Some Assignment Rules in the Army

“The needs of the service.” What that means is that you would like to be assigned to Fort Lewis, Washington, but you are needed at Fort Hood, Texas. So that is where you will end up. Of course, some other lucky guy got assigned to Fort Lewis. I guess he was needed there more.

I never worked in the JAG career management office. If I had, I might have made it to Fort Lewis. But I did become familiar with a few of their fundamental rules. Like Rule One: “Everybody has to be assigned somewhere.” And, believe me, some people are hard to assign. The Army Judge Advocate General’s Corps (JAGC) had and has a large number of outstanding lawyers. But, there are always those on the far end of the bell curve. Another career management office rule is that if you are running a large office, you are going to get your fair share of the problem children.

I had been in charge of a number of large offices, so I had had my share of marginal officers. But if you have 15 to 20 officers and the vast majority are truly good, you can work around one or two problem children. Most officer assignments are routine. It’s when you get a call from the Pentagon notifying you that you are getting a particular officer that your antenna goes up. When I was the Staff Judge Advocate at Fort Riley, Kansas, I received one of those calls. The officer being assigned was transferring into the JAG Corps from the Military Intelligence Corps. I said that was fine and please send me his file. The assignment officer said, “Well, that’s just it, Jack, we can’t get his file because it is sealed. But we have been assured that there is nothing in his file that would preclude him from performing his duties.”

This is when, even though you know you are being hornswoggled, you smile and say, “Yes sir, yes sir, three bags full.” Remember Rule One: “Everybody has to be assigned somewhere.” Well this officer, who I will call Ted, was already at Fort Riley serving as an MI officer. In fact, his wife, who was a captain in the Transportation Corps was also at Fort Riley. The Army tries to keep married military couples together, except “for the needs of the service.” Well Ted worked for someone who worked for someone who worked for me. So I didn’t have a lot of contact with Ted. When I would inquire, I would get a report that he was doing “OK.” Then I would be advised that he was a little bit strange and secretive. Surprise! But I could live with OK.

I remember one time Ted was scheduled to teach a one-hour class on legal assistance issues to Army Community Service volunteers. I bumped into him in the hallway and asked if he was ready. He told me he had put together 400 slides and felt very comfortable. I should have told him that if he was going to show 400 slides, he should have a medic present.

One of the neat things about the Army is the social aspect. Commands will have formal dining ins and usually on New Years Day, senior commanders will have a reception at their home. Everyone dresses up in their dress blue uniform and wishes each other a Happy New Year. Even though I was technically not a commander, we always had our officers over to the house to start the New Year with a drink and some snacks. The Commanding General usually had his reception late in the day so the major commanders under him had theirs earlier. We usually had ours from 12 to 2 PM so we could attend some of the other receptions.

Ted came in towards the end of the year and told me he would not be able to attend our reception because he and his wife would be in Kansas City over the holiday. Even though Ted couldn’t make it, everyone else seemed to have a good time. Then Carole and I slipped over to the Wheelers for their reception (now don’t get ahead of me). Al Wheeler was the Division Support Commander. As we stepped into the receiving line guess who was right in front of us? There stood Ted and his wife in their dress blue uniforms. His wife was part of the Support Command so she was attending her bosses’ reception. Had someone mentioned that Ted was secretive? How about sneaky? We acknowledged each other, but that was about it.

A few months later, Ted came into my office and told me that he had decided that the JAG Corps was not for him and he had made arrangements to return to Military Intelligence. I wished him well. We had survived Ted.

A few years later, I was the Staff Judge Advocate for V Corps in Frankfurt, Germany. Much bigger office, so there was a need to support a few problem children. “Everybody has to be assigned somewhere.” A young captain, who will be called Bruce, was assigned to the Trial Defense side of the operation. He didn’t work for me, but was due to be assigned to my office in a couple of months. He was a nice looking, well spoken officer. He approached me and said that he needed to use the phone and my deputy was not in that day and would it be alright if he used the deputy’s desk. I said “Sure.” Fifteen minutes later, I walked by the deputy’s office and Bruce was on the phone, but he was leaning back and his boots were on the desk. I gestured to him to get his boots off of the desk.

My Chief of International Law was being reassigned and Bruce let it be known that he wanted the job. I discussed it with my deputy, Bob Kirby, and we decided that a female captain working in Criminal Law would be better for the position. After the announcement was made, Bruce came in to see me. It was 5:30 PM and I was wrapping up the day. Bruce told me that he thought he was better qualified and I hadn’t given him a chance. I told him that he might be right and if it turned out to be the case, I would try to make it up to him. I had been there a short time and had to make a decision. I did the best I could under the circumstances. He kept saying I hadn’t given him one good reason why he wasn’t selected. I told him I agreed, but that I selected the other captain because I had had more of a chance to observe her performance.

Bruce said it wasn’t his fault that he hadn’t worked for me. I told him that he was correct. It was now 5:50 PM and I told Bruce I had to finish up some work and I needed him to leave. I asked him to leave. He started in again that I hadn’t given him “one good reason” why he wasn’t selected. I asked him again to leave, but he wasn’t going to leave until he was satisfied. Then I said, “OK Bruce, I now have a good reason why not to select you. I’ve asked you to leave four times and you are still here. Please leave.” He started to get out of the chair, but he couldn’t make it. He had to go for one more round. By then, I knew we had made the right decision.

When Bruce arrived, we assigned him as a legal assistance officer. It was the first time I ever received written complaints on the conduct of a legal assistance officer. One time he showed up a half hour late for an appointment, dressed in a sweat suit. Then, as the lady was explaining her problem, he pulled out his lunch bag and started eating. On another occasion, he was using a sample will that, as an template,
had a trust provision in it. Not understanding that it was only an example, Bruce put the trust provision in a number of wills. When the client would asked why he would be leaving his residual to the Judge Advocate General’s School, Bruce would explain that it was just boilerplate language.

Bruce was finishing up his four year obligation and wanted an extension. I told him it was a bad idea. I then called Heidelburg (higher headquarters) to let them know that he should not be extended. Bruce outsmarted me and called back to the Pentagon and got his extension teaching logistics somewhere in Virginia.

After leaving the Army, Bruce had criminal difficulty and ended up in a Virginia State prison. He escaped once, but they caught him and brought him back. That was years ago and I hope Bruce has returned to society. All I know is if every large office has to have its share of problem children, I should have gotten double credit for Bruce!

written by PJ Rice at www.ricequips.com
Copyright 2014

Is National Security Politically Incorrect?

I read on the front page of Sunday’s Washington Post that the “Pentagon’s plan for overseas spy service curtailed amid concerns.” The article says we are only going to train and deploy half the number of spies we had originally planned (500 rather than 1,000). The question I have is what kind of undercover organization gives out this type of information?

There was a time when this type of information would never see the light of day. If a reporter knew about it, it still would not be printed. But now, you have the intelligence community and the Department of Defense commenting on the cut back. I’m wondering if the CIA has a Facebook and Twitter account?

These new spies will become part of the Defense Clandestine Service. My question is what kind of a clandestine operation calls itself the Defense Clandestine Service? “Hi, I’m Joe Swartz. I’m with the Defense Clandestine Service.” “What do you do Joe?” “Oh, I’m assigned overseas where I do clandestine things.” I’m sure “”Wild Bill” Donavan, who was responsible for forming and running OSS is probably rolling over in his grave.

This reminds me of the spy story that came out of the cold war. Our agent was given elaborate instructions on how to meet a deeply covered reliable informant behind Soviet lines. When he found the informant he was to say the code words “The tulips in Holland are beautiful.” It took him two weeks to find the address of his contact named Bruno. He knocked on the door and a man opened it. Our agent said, “Bruno?” The man said “Yes.” Our agent said, “The tulips in Holland are beautiful.” The man said, “Oh, you want Bruno the spy, he’s on the third floor.”

I don’t know why I am surprised that we are telling our enemies how many agents we have in the Defense Clandestine Service. After all, this Administration has told our enemies in Afghanistan when we are pulling our troops out. Maybe they will throw us a party.

Written by PJ Rice @ www.ricequips.com
Copyright 2014

Buy Low, Sell High!

I wish I understood the Stock Market better. But I do have some observations that I will pass on for free. No strings attached. Periodically I get something in the mail or on the phone where some financial advisor wanted to send me something for “free.” I only made that mistake once. The advisor would subsequently call me on the phone. We were through with the free stuff. First, it was the friendly sales pitch. When that didn’t work, it was the aggressive “You would be a fool not to buy.” When that didn’t work there was the indignant “It’s your loss Buster.” So my first bit of sage advice is don’t accept “free stuff” from a cold call financial advisor. It won’t make you richer or poorer, but life will be much more pleasant.

People get excited about the Stock Market when it’s really high. It is OK to get excited. I get excited when we are having something special for dinner. But that doesn’t cost me anything. Buying stock when the market is really high will probably cost you. My learned opinion is that the market will go up and it will go down and stocks, to a great extent, will follow the market. So don’t buy when everything is coming up roses. Buy quality stocks when the market is in the crapper. It sounds easy. But it is really hard to pull the trigger when everything looks bleak.

One of the delightful things about the Stock Market is that the day of enormous broker fees is gone. The on-line competition has solved that headache. It used to cost an arm when you purchased stock and a leg when you sold it. That is where the expression “it will cost you an arm and a leg” came from. Today, it’s just a few bucks and the price is the same whether you buy 10 shares or 1,000.

I had a broker at Merrill Lynch back in the late 80s who I liked very much. He would spend time explaining things to me. But I am convinced that his boss or his bosses’ boss had certain quotas that had to be met. Periodically, I would get a call from Mike advising me that they had just been briefed on a sure thing and he wanted me to get in on it. Later, I realized that the sure thing he was talking about was the broker fee!

One of the sure things I purchased was stock in Quaker Oats. The company had been waiting for my meager purchase to start its slide. I never broke even on that one. Mike finally got tired of calling me. So when the next great thing came along, he would have his assistant call me. The assistant would tell me that Mike was busy, but he wanted me to know about this latest hot shot, can’t lose stock ASAP. I told the assistant to tell Mike that I was still having trouble swallowing my Quaker Oats.

I have a good friend who writes a blog on financial matters. It’s entitled “Investmentreflections.com.” Check it out. I’m always impressed. Some of what is written here is probably stolen from Tom’s articles. Sue me. I wonder if any of his clients know that his nickname in college was “Nutty Tom?” It would all come out in the trial.

Hey, I’m getting serious now. Look for stocks that pay dividends AND have been doing so for a long period of time. If the dividends are too high (too good to be true), the company may not have enough capital left to grow the company. You need to look at something called “pay out ratio.” I have a general idea what it means, but I don’t think I can explain it. You’ll have to check with Nutty Tom.

Written by PJ Rice at www.ricequips.com
Copyright 2014

My S.O.B.

We had our Old Fuds luncheon this week. A bunch of old retired Army Jags standing around before the meal trying to remember each others names. Oh yes, we have name tags, but with the condition of our eyes, it’s still a challenge. Then one of my friends showed up with his beard shaved off and I was clueless.

I ended up sitting between John Naughton, whom I served with in Germany back in the 60’s and Fran Gilligan, whom I served with twice at the JAG School. Whenever John and I get together, the subject eventually turns to our boss in Germany, Major Charlie Baldree. Working for Baldree was the worst experience in my life (not just professional life), but I survived it.

John and I worked as captains in the 4th Armored Division Staff Judge Advocate’s Office in Goeppingen, Germany. An SJA office only had about six officers back in 1967. Joe Donahue, our deputy, got promoted to Lieutenant Colonel and left and in came Major Charlie Baldree to disrupt our lives. Baldree would grin and smile, but he was downright mean as a rattlesnake. He insisted on competing with me. Believe me, I’m smart enough to know not to compete with my boss and rater. But every time I turned around, I was in the barrel.

Charlie’s office was about twenty steps from mine, but he would send me notes on everything. I would receive 20 – 30 notes a day. I remember receiving three notes at the same time. The first asked about the status of a particular matter. The next two complained that I hadn’t answered the first inquiry. I tried my absolute best to keep him informed and happy. But he was determined to crush me and I didn’t understand why. Was I paranoid? You bet.

There was a claims matter that I recommended paying. Charlie disagreed. That should have been the end of it. If he had told me to write it up denying pay, I would have. But Major “B” sent my recommendation and his disagreement into the SJA, Lieutenant Colonel Charles Wright and asked him to choose. You see how I am screwed? Well, to make matters worse, Colonel Wright notified Charlie that he would hear oral arguments on the matter. Here I am, competing again. After we both expressed our views, Colonel Wright agreed with me. Talk about a no-win situation. Jolly Charlie grinned, smiled and sent me back to my office. Here comes the notes.

At this time the Vietnam War was in full throat. The Army was increasing in size and people were being promoted rapidly. Because I was in the cue, I spent only three and a half years as a captain before I was promoted to major. Major “B” was unhappy that officers weren’t spending as much time as captains as he had. He didn’t come to my promotion party.

My promotion permitted me to move into field grade quarters. Majors lived in a building called the Glass House. Charlie, of course, lived there with his new bride. Shortly after I moved in, he sent me a note saying that since I had time to wash my car over the weekend, he assumed the projects he had given me were completed.

There actually was a chapter in the Army Officer’s Guide entitled, “Working for your S.O.B.” The chapter basically said it happens to everyone and do the best you can and before long, one of you would be reassigned. Well the first to be reassigned was not Charlie or me, but Colonel Wright. Our new boss was Lieutenant Colonel Charles Dribben. Colonel Dribben had been a reservist and had not spent much time on active duty. Now, all of a sudden, he was the 4th Armored Division Staff Judge Advocate. Colonel Dribben created enough confusion to keep Major “B” busy and things eased up on me. And, Colonel Dribben really liked me (bless his heart).

The OER or Officer’s Evaluation Report is how the Army decides who will be promoted and given positions of additional responsibility. Major Baldree wrote my OER. Before he wrote it, he came in and told me that he would never give a score lower that 92 (92 out of 100), because he wouldn’t want to kill a person’s chances for promotion. I need to explain that the OER numbers are highly inflated. A 95, at that time, was not a good number and I was convinced that a 92 would kill an officer’s future chances. When I got my OER from Major Baldree, he had given me a 92! He had that earlier conversation with me to let me know that he was giving me the lowest score he ever gave. Sweet. His narrative was consistent with the low score. He didn’t say anything negative, he just didn’t say anything positive. “Major Rice completes every assignment given to him.” Whoopee!

So how did I survive and go on to be the Commandant at The JAG School? Well, what saved me was the endorsement to the rating by Colonel Dribben. He maxed me out on everything. He gave me 100 out of 100 and said all the right things including that he considered me the best major in the office! When I departed Germany, I felt like a gigantic yoke had been lifted from my shoulders.

I have reread this draft about six times. First, it’s not very funny and my original purpose was to make you at least smile. Second, I’m not sure I can paint how stressful and downright horrible the situation was. I may come across to you as a griper or complainer. If that’s the case, you should have stopped reading well before now. Two years after Germany, I was in Vietnam and bumped into a friend who had had similar experiences with Charlie Baldree. A third person who was listening to us asked us what it was about Baldree that set us off. My friend said, “This is the best way I can sum it up. If Charlie were throwing a big party and wasn’t going to invite you, he would ask you to pick up the invitations.”

The ordeal was miserable, but I believe it made me stronger and I used the experience many times to help me out. When I was faced with a really bad situation and was having difficulty figuring out how I could manage, I would say to myself, “Hey, I can do this. This is not half as difficult as surviving Charlie Baldree.”

Written by PJ Rice at www.ricequips.com
Copyright 2014

Bloggedy Blog Blog – Final Part of the Trilogy

Things get old quickly. I remember when Imus was getting started with his ranch. It seemed like the only way a guest could get on his show was to donate three head of cattle and one Mexican ranch hand. I gave up on watching. And yet, here I am talking incessantly about this damn web site.

It’s just that I was blogging away for years, watching my numbers rise and thinking I’m on to something. Then GoDaddy pulled the plug on the program I was using and I began to flounder. To begin with, I had over a thousand new registered users who now I’m told were all spam. Comments were appearing at the bottom of my articles that I hadn’t approved or even seen. Some comments that I had deleted reappeared. But worst of all, Google couldn’t find anything I had written. If Google can’t find you, you are truly in a literary uninhabited wilderness.

Well, I got some professional help, a WordPress wizard, and things are back to “normal.” People can now subscribe again to Ricequips and as of the middle of September, 2014, I am again, receiving statistical data. The numbers are teeny tiny, but that is where I was when I started out last time. AND, that web crawler, Google, has located me again. So enough said about Ricequips.

My next problems is the acorns. The acorns dropping from the Oak trees are extremely heavy this year. I’m sure the Farmer’s Almanac uses such information to predict what type of winter we will have. That and the thickness of the Wooly Bear Caterpillar.

Seven years ago, we added a gazebo to our deck. It is fully enclosed and has eight sides.The neatest thing about the gazebo is the roof which also has eight sides and adds an additional eight feet to the already eight foot gazebo. Can you picture a very steep sloped roof? Well, that’s where the problems come in. Thirty feet above the sloped roof are the oak branches loaded with acorns. As the acorns release, they hit the sloped roof and fire into our bay window. It sounds like we are being shot at. Our poor dog, Nikkie, races out of the family room every time we are under attack.

So it’s just like Rosanne Rosannadanna used to say, “If it ain’t one thing, it another.” “Never mind.”

Written by PJ Rice at www.ricequips.com.

Copyright 2014

East Side High

Yea, it doesn’t matter how old you get, some of us will always be High School Harrys.  Still living in those days when life was much simpler.  I went to high school back in the 1950s.  The good news is that as we get older, the stories get better and better.

I grew up in East St. Louis, Illinois.  Right across the Mississippi River from St. Louis.  Back then we were known as a tough industrial town.  Just North of the town was the National Stock Yards (world’s largest hog market) and to the South were large industrial plants like Monsanto and Alcoa Aluminum Ore.  One thing about growing up in East St. Louis, you always knew which way the wind was blowing.

East Side High was a very large, very old brick building.  It wasn’t on the City Tour.  In fact, there was no City Tour.  The high school was located about five miles from my house.  No, I’m not going to tell you that I walked it everyday.  But there was no such thing as a school bus.  We all got to school some how.  My first year, I road with a friend across the alley.  His name was Fred “Ace” Edmonds and his older brother, “Crazy Ace,” had a car.  Each morning I would wait for Crazy Ace and Fred to come out of their house and I would get in the back seat of the car.  That entire year, I never spoke to Crazy Ace.  Fred said it was better that way.  Come to think of it, school buses sounds like a pretty good idea.

East Side High was a three year school.  Our ninth grade was spent as seniors in a junior high.  We had three junior high schools, Rock, Clark and Lansdowne.  East St. Louis was know as a football power house and the junior high system helped that program.  Rather than having a freshman football team, we had three junior high teams battling against each other (I was also a junior high school Harry).  I was the quarterback for the Lansdowne Tigers.  That was so long ago that I could probably get away with telling you that we were undefeated, but we weren’t.  We did play one night game under the lights against Clark.  We were losing until the last play of the game.  I hit Larry Heise with a 20 yard pass and he ran for 53 yards to score the winning touchdown.  Life was good.

So, when we finally got to East Side, we were sophomores competing to make the sophomore team.  That meant we only played varsity for two years.  But then again, we never lost a game the whole time I was in high school.  When I graduated, we were undefeated in 46 straight games.

I suspect the school had about 1800 students.  In between classes, when the students were in the hall ways, you could feel the floor on the second level rising and falling.  I asked a senior about that and he said, “Oh yea, it does that.”  My homeroom was on the second floor, so I got used to it.  When the Washington Redskins were playing at RFK Stadium, the fans used to get the stands rocking.  It always got me thinking of my High School Harry days.

My homeroom teacher was Pick Dehner, the basketball and baseball coach.  He stood about 6′ 6″ and received All American honors when he played basketball at the University of Illinois.  That was about the time I was born.  He must have hand picked who was in his homeroom because he had almost all of the jocks from our class.  Room 201 was a large study room with over 100 desks.  We met every morning for attendance and announcements (which usually there were none) and then we were off to class.

Pick selected me to do all of his gofer duties, so I designated myself as the Homeroom Class President for all three years.  There was never an election.  Outrageous?  You bet.  But it fell into the category of “Who cares?”  But every time I see it in the Eastlian class year book, I have a chuckle.  Wow, Homeroom Class President for all three years.  I must add that after attending law school, I became quite serious about telling the truth.

My senior year, me and Larry Heise were standing outside our homeroom before school started.  The lovely Alice Hoge walked by and we grabbed her and brought her into Room 201.  There was a supply room right behind Pick’s desk and we put her in there and took our seats.  Then Pick came in and sat down.  The room was deathly silent.  Then the supply room door opened and Alice walked right by Pick and left the room.  Not a word was said.  Then Pick looked at me and shook his head.

I can now safely report that Alice did not suffer any lasting trama from the incident.  There was no need to bring counsellors into the school to advise troubled students who had observed the incident.   It was just another day in the life of East Side High.

The reason I am reflecting on this stupid prank is that I wonder how it would have been handled today.  I’m sure I would have been arrested for false imprisonment – maybe even kidnapping.  Lawyers would have raced to see Alice’s parents explaining that she needed to sue not only me and Larry,  but also the school for letting such an egregious thing happen.  And, of course, Pick would have been in deep Kimchi for not reporting the incident.  Then, the media would look into my past and concluded that everyone should have seen this coming.  They would also find out that a few years earlier, I had asked Alice to go out with me and she had turned me down!  Clearly, this was an act of retribution.

Oh well, fortunately it was the 1950s and people seemed to know the difference between a harmless prank and a willful assault.  Life was good and we all survived East Side High.

Written by PJ Rice at www.ricequips.com

Copyright 2014

 

 

Bloggedy Blog Blog, Part 2

The world is racing by me.  I can’t keep up.  As JFK said, “Life isn’t fair.”  But if my biggest problem is that my blog site is out of control, I shouldn’t complain too loudly.

You know how many emails you get everyday?  Well, it’s the same with me.  So I delete a lot of them without even looking at them.  Groupon, Jockey, Golfsmith, Dick’s, Amazon, Facebook and GoDaddy.  Ping, ping, ping, ping.  They disappear as fast as I can hit the delete button.  I get rid of political stuff just as fast.  I have decided that sending $25 to some political hack is not going to save the world.

GoDaddy supports my blog site.  And, it turns out that 90% of their emails were trying to sell me something.  However, for the last few months, they had been trying to warn me that they were going to shut down the GoDaddy platform that supported my website.  They kept trying to notify me and I kept deleting the message without reading it.  Ping!

Something caught my attention one week before blog doomsday.  I was going through my emails and GoDaddy’s subject line said, “Important Message.”  That saved me.  If I hadn’t taken action, all of my previous blogs would have vanished.  So in the eleventh hour we transferred my 244 blogs over to my new “platform,” WordPress.  I’m sure that WordPress is good, but I just can’t make it work for me.

For example, I used to get one or two comments whenever I posted something.  It’s really great to know someone is out there.  Of course, I have to approve the comment before it is published.  I wrote a blog entitled, “It’s a German Thing” and it set out some problems I had with the German people.  One comment I received and promptly deleted was from a German, who in familiar Deutsch gave me the finger.  Now, with WordPress, the damn comment has reappeared.

Since switching to WordPress, I had been receiving 170 comments a day.  Of course, I can mark them for spam or trash, but it is extremely time consuming and frustrating.  Almost everyone was spam and trying to sell something (on my site!).  I was overwhelmed with spam.  I tried to figure whether there was something in the WordPress settings that would help me.  I finally found a place where I could put  “comment blacklist” words.  If the proposed comment had one of these words in it, then it would not pass GO, but would go directly to spam  I studied my submitted comments and  found that 60 to 70 % included Louis Vuitton.  So I put four items on the comment blacklist:  Louis Vuitton, babyliss, Michael Kors and louboutin.  Guess what?  I have had only six requested comments in the last two weeks!

Under my old GoDaddy Quick Blogcast system, I had a place where people could subscribe to my blog and whenever I published something, they would receive an email of the blog.  I also could check statistics and see how many hits RiceQuips had had in the last day, week or month.  Heady stuff.  Now I am flying blind.  And to make me completely irrelevant, Google can’t find what I have previously published.

I’m going to brag for a moment.  I actually had posts listed on the first page of Google.  Now, they are way back on page 12 and if you click on it, it comes up “Not Found.”  I have been told that Google is a creeping search engine, so it will eventually find me.  It’s been two months.  I wish it would creep a little faster.

I have been told that Google Analytics is the best place to get statistics, but now I can’t log on to Google.  I registered with Google about three years ago.  Google insists that my password is wrong (I wrote it in a book and I am looking right at it).  So I told them that I lost my password (not true), and then, they insisted on texting me my password.  I don’t text.  I know, I know, I’m a dinosaur.  So for my last chance, they asked me to tell them when I opened my Google account, AND, when was the last time I was on it.  I didn’t have a clue to answering either question.

If my air conditioner stopped working, I would get professional help.  If my car shut down, I would get professional help.  Get the picture?  You know those commercials where they say, “Don’t try to do this at home.”  Well, that’s where I’m at.  I have found someone who is going to fix me up.  My old subscribers will again be getting my blogs by email.  New subscribers will too.  I should also be looking at some statistics!  Life may not be fair, but for goodness sakes, don’t sit on your hands.

Written by PJ Rice at www.ricequips.co

Copyright 2014

BOO! I saw you smile!