Category Archives: Random Thoughts

Me, Me, Me

Sometime back, one of my “mentors” told me to keep in mind that when talking to career management, only one person was interested in my career.  And that was me.  I have concluded that it is the same with medical care.  Don’t get me wrong.  I am delighted with the medical care provided to me, but it is up to me to make sure I get what I need.

The chief of gastroenterology at Walter Reed examined me and decided I was too healthy to receive a colonoscopy.  I may be one of the few people you will ever know who fought to get a colonoscopy.  I won, if you can call that winning.

When one of my young friends had a massive heart attack on the 8th fairway at Fort Belvoir, I decided to get my heart checked out.  I figured out I needed a nuclear stress test.  Again, another stone wall.  My primary care physician concluded that there was no medical justification to give me the test.  I am convinced that the Fort Belvoir Hospital gives a prize to the Doc who saves them the most money and I believe my Doc is in the running.  Well, I finally found a friendly cardiologist who let me walk on her treadmill.  I passed.  Me, me, me. Over ten years ago, I had a basal cell problem on my nose.  I got to keep my nose, but every six months, I check in with a dermatologist.  One of the problems with military medicine is you are constantly losing your doctor and getting a new one.  So last June, I had my six-month checkup.   The doctor was pleasant and thorough.  She froze a few spots on my face, but thought I should have something called “blue light” therapy for the area around my jaw. We decided to wait until golf season was over.  After the treatment you have to avoid the sun and even bright lights.  

I got my blue light appointment in October.  My doctor was out on maternity leave and the new doctor looked younger that my grandson.  The technician asked what area to treat.  The Doc said, “Oh, let’s do his whole face.”  I know, I know, I should have spoken up.  The technician painted my whole face with the medication stick.  Then he put metal goggles over my eyes.

The blue light machine looked something like a beauty-shop hair dryer.  I had to sit in it for an hour.  Remember, I had on goggles and couldn’t see a thing.  It was really a long hour.  I tried meditation.  I tried yoga deep breathing.  But most of the time I spent trying to figure out where I went wrong.  Me, me, me had backfired.

By that evening, my face looked like a lobster just pulled out of the boiling water.  And it hurt.  It took me about two days to realize that my face was burnt.  After three days, most of my facial skin was on my pillow.  By the time my face peeled for the third time, I was not a happy camper.  The only thing that pleased me was all the tales I was making up about what happened to me, me, me (skiing in the Himalayas)!

Well, it’s all history now.  And I don’t think the precancerous cells on my face faired any better that I did.  I’m no longer furious with the child doctor.  I’m also letting people touch my face for a quarter!

The Changing World

Isn’t satellite radio great?  You never have to change your radio station.  You can listen to “Willie’s Roadhouse” all the way from here to El Paso.  Satellite radio also gives you a chance to listen to old-time radio shows.  They have a station (maybe now it’s called a channel) Radio classics where you can listen to Gunsmoke, Bob Hope, Jack Benny and even the Shadow.  “Who knows what evil lurks . . .”  You know the rest.

The other day I flipped over to Radio Classics and guess what was on?  Duffy’s Tavern, “where the elite meet to eat.”  That got me thinking – where  have all the taverns gone?  When I was growing up there were taverns everywhere.  The corner tavern.

In high school, we were too young to go to a tavern.  There were drive-in diners and our favorite place, the “Parkway.”   You could go into the Parkway and for a reasonable price get a barbecue pork sandwich and a Coke.  And when no one was looking, you could carve your initials on the table.  You didn’t want to put your hand under the table.

I have fond memories of McDonald’s back in the 60’s.  You could get a burger, fries and a Coke for 35 cents.  Now that’s nostalgia.  In fact, as we were struggling to get me through law school, that was a big night out.

Now, there are all kinds of specialized burger places.  I’ve only been to 5 Guys a couple of times.  It seems like they only had about three tables, so I guess it’s mostly a carry-out place.  The burgers and fries aren’t too expensive and the grease is free.  Take a bunch of napkins.  BGR, The Burger Joint is a little more expensive, but the burgers are bigger.  BGR has on its menu “The 9 Pounder.”  It cost $80.00 and feeds 10-15 hungry people. It comes with a “river of Mojo sauce.”   I could devote a whole column to the 9 Pounder, but I’m going to stop right here.

The Springfield Mall is now the Springfield Town Center.  It went through a major renovation and is a vast improvement over the Mall.  You no longer have to fear being mugged in the parking lot.  They have a BGR and a Zinburger’s.  Zinburger is sort of an upscale burger joint.  I knew it was upscale, because when they gave me the menu listing burgers, they also gave me the wine list!  The Kobe Burger was $15.25.  No fries, they are extra.  But you can get double truffle fries for only six bucks.  Maybe a cabernet sauvignon is in order.  However, if you are ordering the Seared Ahi Sandwich, then, by all means, go with a white wine.

Written by PJ Rice at

Copyright 2017

Confessions of a Sore Loser

If  there was such a thing as Sore Losers Anonymous, I could go to the meeting and say, “Hi, I’m Jack and I’m a sore loser.”  Then everyone would say, “Hi Jack.”  But there is no such thing.  I know, because I Googled it!

I told my son, Paul, that I was going to write on being a sore loser, and he said, “Dad, if you need any material, just let me know.”

When I was a little kid, I would bring my bat and ball to the neighborhood games.  If I were unhappy with how the game was going (or someone called me out, when I knew I was safe), I would take my bat and ball and go home.

When I was nine, we went on a vacation in the Ozarks.  My uncle, Bob, challenged me to a checker game.  What a fool.  Didn’t he know that I was the world’s greatest checker champion?  Some how he started jumping all my pieces.  I was furious.  I had three checkers in my hand.  They were made out of Bakelite (one of the early plastic products).  And before I knew it, I had crushed the pieces.  That was really dumb, because with the pieces broken, I couldn’t get a rematch.

Like many kids, I played sports all year round and my philosophy was that if you treat every game like a life or death struggle, you would lose less ofter.  There may be a grain of truth in that approach, but you end up as a basket case when you lose.  Sometimes I would blame the officials, sometimes I would blame my team mates.  One time I decided it was my fault.  But then I decided I was wrong!

Somewhere in my fifties, I had lost a sufficient number of times to where I realized it wasn’t the end of the world.  I retired from the Army and took an appointment as Chief Counsel for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), Department of Transportation.  After I had been there a short while, one of my attorneys advised me that our office had a softball team and that we played the other offices in NHTSA.  I agreed to play with them.

Boy, were we bad.  And with no umpires, long drives down the foul line seemed to end up in long arguments.  At the end of our third game, I got into an angry argument with someone from the Planning Office.  I finally realized that I was no longer 12 and walked away.  The next morning, both of us sought the other out and apologized.

Later that afternoon, I gathered all the Chief Counsel players into the conference room and told them I had some good news and some bad news.  The good news was that as people grew older they mellowed and became less aggressive.  The bad news was that I had already passed through that phase and was still pretty bad.

I seriously considered not playing, but decided on a three-step philosophy.  First, don’t get hurt.  Second, don’t show your backside.  And lastly, if you can do the first two, then, by all means, win.

Is anybody up for a game of checkers with a former world champion?

Written by PJ Rice at

Copyright 2017


The Chinese Buffet

I need a fix.  No I’m not talking about drugs.  I’m talking about Chinese food.  About once every two weeks (sometimes sooner), Carole and I need a fix.

While living in Springfield, we had a number of choices, some of them really bad.  We usually judge the restaurant by its hot and sour soup.  If the soup is really good, the rest of the food will probably please us.

A number of years ago, we found a Chinese buffet in Kingstowne.  It was called, appropriately, King’s Buffet.  Yes, the hot and sour soup was really good.  The lunch was inexpensive and they usually had a big crowd.  The place had no atmosphere and the guy at the next table may be wearing an undershirt.  But if you need a fix, you are willing to make certain compensations.  We went to King’s Buffet for years.

Then a few years back, Carole was spending a few days at the Fort Belvoir Hospital and I needed a fix.  So I slipped over to the King’s Buffet.  The was a sign on the door that said, “Closed until further notice.”  I was shocked.  Uncertainty is so unsettling.

Well, we found out later that the King’s Buffet was owned and run by a Chinese family (surprise) and the members of the family got into a furious fight.  The police were called and all the help shot out the back door.   I think the politically correct term is “undocumented immigrants.”  “Further notice” never came and the location is now some kind of a wireless phone store.  I felt like I lost a friend.

So Carole and I went on a quest to find the best Chinese buffet in the area.   Don Quixote did better than we did.  If we went on Wednesday, the place was closed on Wednesday.  Unfortunately, we found a place in the Rolling Valley area that was open.  When Carole went back to the buffet line, she saw a roach fall into the General Tso’s chicken.  The fellow standing next to her notified the help and the tray was taken to the back.  I don’t want to speculate on what happened in the back, but more General Tso’s chicken soon appeared in the buffet line.  Bon Appetit!

Then there’s the Blue Pearl Buffet in Springfield.  The fellow in the undershirt is still sitting at the next table, but the food isn’t very good.  You guessed it, the hot and sour soup is bad.  We have been to the Blue Pearl a few times when we were desperate.  The Blue Pearl is the kind of place that will make you kick the habit.

We found a great Chinese buffet called the East Garden.  The only problem is it’s in Charlottesville (that’s 120 miles south).  Of course, there are some excellent Chinese restaurants in the area. There’s the House of Dynasty and, our favorite, the Asian Grill in Springfield.  Darren Ho, the owner of the Asian Grill, has told us why we should never go to a Chinese buffet.  What he told us were things we already knew (food may have been prepared days earlier).  But at a buffet, you can get a little of this and a little of that.

My favorite treat at a Chinese buffet is steamed rice smothered in General Tso’s sauce.  I avoid the three-day-old chicken, the red-hot peppers and especially, foreign objects.

Written by PJ Rice at

Copyright 2017

The Changing World


Isn’t satellite radio great? You never have to change your radio station. You can listen to “Willie’s Roadhouse” all the way from here to El Paso. Satellite radio also gives you a chance to listen to old time radio shows. They have a station (maybe now it’s called a channel) called Radio Classics where you can listen to Gunsmoke, Bob Hope, Jack Benny and even the Shadow. “Who know what evil lurks. . .” You know the rest.

The other day I flipped over to Radio Classics and guess what was on? Duffy’s Tavern, “where the elite meet to eat.” That got me thinking – where have all the taverns gone? When I was growing up, there were taverns everywhere. The corner tavern.

In high school, we were too young to go to a tavern. There were drive-in diners and our favorite place, the “Parkway.” You could go into the Parkway and for a reasonable price get a barbeque pork sandwich and a Coke. And when no one was looking, you could carve your initials on the table. You didn’t want to put your hand under the table.

I have fond memories of McDonald’s back in the 60’s. You could get a burger, fries and a Coke for 35 cents. Now that’s nostalgia. In fact, as we were struggling to get me through law school, that was a big night out.

Now there are all kinds of specialized burger places. I’ve only been to 5 Guys a couple of times. It seems like they only had about three tables, so I guess it’s mostly a carry-out place. The burgers and fries aren’t too expensive and the grease is free. Take a bunch of napkins. BGR, The Burger Joint is a little more expensive, but the burgers are bigger. BGR has on its menu “The 9 Pounder.” It cost $80.00 and feed 10-15 hungry people. It comes with a “river of Mojo sauce.” I could devote a whole column to the 9 Pounder, but I’m going to stop right here.

The Springfield Mall is now the Springfield Town Center. It was a major renovation and is a vast improvement over the Mall. You no longer have to fear being mugged in the parking lot. They have a BGR and a Zinburger’s. Zinburger is sort of an upscale burger joint. I knew it was upscale because when they gave me the menu listing the burgers, they also gave me the wine list! The Kobe Burger was $15.25. No fries, they are extra. But you can get double truffle fries for only six bucks. Maybe a cabernet sauvignon is in order. However, if you are ordering the Seared Ahi Sandwich, then, by all means, go with a white wine.

Written by PJ Rice at

Copyright 2017

Pills, Pills, Pills

Some time back, I had a buddy tell me that pills weren’t necessary.  They were just a crutch.  If you eat right, exercise and remain composed, you won’t need medication.  It sounded good to me.

Then my blood pressure shot up. Whoa.  I’ll tell you, when your blood pressure shoots up, it’s hard to remain composed.  I solved my blood pressure problem with a little pill and decided my buddy was a doofus.  Eating right and exercise are great, but sometimes we need help.

As the number of pills increases, so does the complexity of life.  I suspect that most people around my age spend some time each week organizing their medications for the next week.  Those of us retired from the military can’t complain about the cost.  I don’t mind spending an hour at the Fort Belvoir Hospital Pharmacy for free stuff.  Of course, I am so cheap that I refuse to drive on the toll lanes around DC.

Then the pill I had been taking for years changes its size, shape and color!  It had something to do with some new generic drug that is supposed to be as good as the original.  That’s what the FDA says.  I have no idea.  Hey, I’m just trying to keep them off the floor so the dog doesn’t get them.

Now for the $64 question.  Is it OK to take your pills out of their original containers and put them in your weekly pill dispenser?  We all do it, but is it legal?  I guess the correct answer is it depends.  It depends on the type of drugs you are taking.  Certain drugs are called scheduled drugs and are controlled by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA).  If you have a prescription for Oxycodone or Xanax, I’d keep it in its original container with your name on it.  One fellow who was carrying his Oxycodone in a little plastic bag didn’t fair too well (Duh).

My son, Paul, used to be the Deputy Warden at the Fluvanna County Correction Center for Women (FCCCW).  Every once in a while, on visiting day, they would cordon off the parking lot and search the vehicles.  They would find long knives, sawed-off shotguns and lots of pills.  They would confiscate everything.  So, if your daughter or granddaughter is at FCCCW and you are going to visit her, don’t take all your pills in your weekly dispenser (or your sawed-off shotgun).

Now, what about flying?  You can’t go on a trip and not take your pills.  We aren’t frequent flyers, but when we fly, we keep our pills close by.  I have searched through the Transportation Safety Administration (TSA) list of prohibited items, and I didn’t find anything prohibiting medications.  They do recommend that medications be clearly labeled (but they don’t require it).  Believe me, the TSA has bigger problems to worry about than whether pills are properly labeled.  If I were traveling overseas, I’d be more cautious and try to find out what the rules are in the countries I was visiting.

Finally, if some strange looking dude at the airport asks you to hold his medications while he looks for a friend, don’t do it!

Written by PJ Rice at

Copyright, 2016


Images are so important.  And a retirement community wants to have an image of being  young and vibrant.  I’m not sure why, but it seems to be the case.  It must be for new prospects.  Being warm, comfortable and well fed is enough for me.

Carole and I took a few days off last month and went to Ocean City.  We walked on the boardwalk, but also spent our fair share of the time sitting on the boardwalk benches.  As I sat there watching people pass by, I noticed a lot of them had tattoos.  That’s when it hit me.  The Fairfax retirement community needs a tattoo parlor!

I’ll bet we would be the only retirement community in the country with our own tattoo parlor.  Take that Greensprings.  Talk about young and vibrant.  One of the problems with tattoos is when you get old, they fade and your skin sags.  But since we are already old and our skin already sags, we won’t have to worry about our tattoos changing shape.

I know we are limited for space in the Community Center, but I think I have a fix for that.  We could put the tattoo parlor in the back of the beauty salon.  One of the benefits would be that a woman could get a tattoo while she was getting her hair done.  I’m sure if we can pull this off, we will get a lot of free press.

I know I am thinking outside the box, but here at The Fairfax we have some outstanding artists and art classes.  Wouldn’t it be great if one of our own up-and-coming artists became a tattoo artist.  Probably more free press.

Themes are also important with tattoos and we have some naturals.  We have the patriotic theme and the wildlife theme.  I’m thinking of getting an American flag on one arm and a blue heron on the other.  I can’t convince Carole that a tattoo will make her more youthful and vibrant.  I know what we could do.  The first month we could run a special on tramp stamps!

I just reread what I have written and I’m not sure everyone will agree with my approach.  Don’t you just hate doubting Thomases?

Written by PJ Rice at

Copyright 2016

Cruises are Not What They Used To Be

To be totally honest, there aren’t many things that aren’t as good as they used to be.  That may  tell you more about me  than it does about those things.  A while back, we were on a 14-day cruise with Holland America.  We had a great time (thanks in no small part to a super calm sea), but things aren’t like they used to be.

It used to be that there was always a Captain’s Reception.  Anybody who wanted to could greet the ship’s captain.  Then that changed with the fear of spreading germs.   You could still greet the captain, but he wouldn’t shake you hand.  I guess that made sense.  Well, on our cruise, we never saw the captain.  We heard him a couple of times on the intercom, but for all I know, he was sending those messages from Amsterdam.

Then there’s the issue of what to wear to dinner.  It used to be there were formal nights, informal nights and casual nights.  On formal nights, most men wore a tuxedo.  If they didn’t have a tux, they could get by with a dark suit.  On this cruise, I looked over the dress requirements and to my surprise, there were no formal nights.  They now call them Gala Nights and you are encouraged to wear gala attire (whatever that means).  Well, I saw ten times more tuxes at The Fairfax New Years Eve party than I saw on the 2100 passenger Nieuw Amsterdam.

I was walking to our table on a Gala Night and I noticed a fellow wearing a polo shirt.  Maybe it had been autographed by a rock star and was thus gala attire.  I hate to sound like a snob,  but cruises just aren’t what they used to be.

If it wasn’t a “Gala Night,” then it was a “smart casual night.”  I have yet to figure out what isn’t smart casual.  I finally concluded that smart casual means you must wear matching sneakers.

Something else I noticed for the first time.  Once you open your cabin door with your key card, you then have to slip it into a slot by the door or your lights won’t work.  This is not a problem.  The problem is that when you decide to go somewhere and grab your key, the cabin goes dark.  If you wife is taking a shower at that moment, she will not be happy.

I always like to participate in the recreational sports activities on board.  They have competition in ping pong, putting, shuffleboard, bocce ball, and badminton.  Well, Eric, our so called “sport director,” set up the badminton tournament outside while the ship was moving and we were dealing with a 35 miles-per-hour wind.  Then when we had the putting contest, he kept talking the whole time people were putting.  Egad.  Then Eric set up the bocce ball tournament on a mostly tile floor.  Eric should have concentrated on teaching line dancing.  OK, maybe I am a snob.

Written by PJ Rice at

Copyright 2016

Bowl Games, and Games, and Games

Remember how great it was when there were only four bowl games and they were all played on New Year’s Day?  After a night of singing Auld Lang Syne you could just sit on the couch with your feet up and take in a little football.

There was the Rose Bowl, Orange Bowl, Sugar Bowl and the Cotton Bowl.  Truth be known, the Sun Bowl is  older than the Cotton Bowl, but it is played in El Paso and has never made it big like the other four.

Now, how many do we have?  It’s 40 or 41, depending on whether the BCS Championship Game is considered a bowl game.  They don’t call it a bowl game, but BCS stands for “Bowl Championship Series.”   I still don’t know.  There were so many bowl games this year that Nebraska got invited with a losing record (5 wins and 7 losses).

And the names of bowl games are wild.  Some that struck my fancy include the Taxslayer Bowl, The Popeyes Bahamas Bowl and the Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl.  That got me thinking about what the future might hold.  How about the I Can’t Believe Its Not Butter  Bowl; or simply the Chiquita Banana Bowl?  I wonder if we will ever get  to the point where a university refuses to play a bowl game because its name is so ridiculous?  Not a chance!

A friend of mine, Chet Young, set up a bowl game pool.  You had to select the winners, considering the spread and different games had different point values depending on the importance of the game.  I selected my winners, and sent them to Chet.  I added a note that said, “This is a piece of cake.”

I lost five of the first eight games and then it went down hill.  Gee whiz.  I started really feeling badly for the teams I had selected.  I felt like my selection had cursed them.  There is an old saying, “If you can’t be good, be lucky.”  I couldn’t seem to be either.

Chet came out with a pool for the NFL playoffs.  I passed for some reasons more obvious that others.  I now realize that picking winners was somebody else’s piece of cake.

More importantly, I had a horse in the race.  I would have conjured up all kinds of ways to get the Redskins to the Super Bowl.  Silly?  You bet, but that’s what you do.  If we beat Green Bay and the Seahawks beat the Vikings, then we go to Arizona and the Seahawks go to Carolina.  Under this strange tortured scenario, we beat the Cardinals and the Seahawks beat the Panthers.  Now the NFC championship games is being played in Washington, DC (really Landover Maryland).  I wasn’t sure we could beat the Seahawks, but at least we would have home field advantage.

Now, looking back at the playoffs, I would have gotten one out of five NFC playoff games right.  And, the only game I got right required the Viking kicker to miss a chip shot.  I don’t think I would have made a very good river boat gambler.  All of us should stick to what we do well.  Isn’t that right Pete Rose?

Written by PJ Rice at

Copyright 2016.

Things I Don’t Understand

Wow, this could be a long one.  But I promise not to get carried away – at least in length.  No promises on the topics.

First, a simple little matter, a stop light that doesn’t stay green when it should.  The light only exists because it is at the entrance of a government building.  The entrance is closed on weekends.  There is a massive gate that is closed and they even place traffic cones out by the intersection to ensure no one turns in.  And yet, the stop light turns red throughout the weekend.  I sit there frothing at the mouth.  In a technical age where we can watch Gone With The Wind on our wrist watch, why can’t we make an unnecessary stop light stay green?

Oh yes, the government building behind the closed gate is the Defense Threat Reduction Agency.  I guess they only reduce threat Monday through Friday.  Just another thing I don’t understand.  I don’t even want to go there.

I haven’t made many decisions in my life that I can point to that were done so that I could be healthier.  In fact, the only one I can think of is that 15 years ago I switched to skim milk.  I love milk and I drink a lot.  So I was pleased with my decision – a life decision to be more healthy.  Now, 15 years later, I’m being told that the joke was on  me.  I was stupid enough to believe the federal government’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans.  It turns out drinking whole milk (which is really 3.5% milk) would probably have been better for me.  And now that I have grown accustomed to skim milk, I don’t think I can go back.  Maybe I could try 1%.  But then again, maybe in 10 years it will turn out they were right about skim milk.

Maybe, just maybe, because I was giving up something to be healthy, it, in fact, made me more healthy.  Our high school football coach was Wirt Downing.  He was one of the more important men in my life.  As a football coach at East Side High, his record was 144, 18 and 7.  That’s right, they had tie games back then, AND that’s right, I’m a High School Harry.  We always had a team meeting the night before our games.  At one of those meeting, Coach Downing told us about when he was on a team, his coach told the team that they needed to give up dessert to be better players.  He was a farm boy and loved his desserts.  But he gave them up.  The message was if you are willing to give something up to be better, you will be better.  I’m trying to work through this and see if giving up whole milk made me healthier.  I doubt it, but Coach Downing would have been proud of me.

My last subject is concussions.  How many times in the past have you heard, “He got his bell rung.”?  Now, if a football player or baseball player or almost any athlete gets hit in the head, there are protocols to be followed.  It’s good that we understand the risks and take steps to protect our athletes.  Then, I asked myself what about boxing?  One of the goals of boxing is to knock out the opponent.  So I checked to see if professional boxing has protocols for head injuries.  Of course they don’t.  In the third round old Rocky gets knocked down, he gets up and the bell rings signaling  the end of the round.  They can’t take Rocky back to the locker room to do a protocol on him.  He has to answer the bell for the fourth round.

OK, OK, it’s a risk-reward type thing.  Then I asked myself, how can we justify youth boxing?  I checked and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that doctors “vigorously oppose” youth boxing for the obvious reason of head injuries.  However, in my research I found that Arlington County (VA) has an Arlington Boxing Club.  Here is how they justify youth boxing.  “With the multi-cultural and ethnic make up of the Arlington community, the program also offers numerous opportunities for cross cultural interaction as well as team building.”

This is taking the politically correct “multi cultural” crap too far.  When some guy is unmercifully beating you about the head and shoulders, it’s hard to think about it as an opportunity for “cross cultural interaction.”  What a crock!  Just one of the things I don’t understand.

Written by PJ Rice at

Copyright 2015