Category Archives: Random Thoughts

Veterans Administration – Take a Number Sucker

I think it was a year or so ago when President Obama said he was going to fix the backlog problem at the Veterans Administration.  I am pretty sure he also promised to bring the killers of our Ambassador to Libya, Chris Stevens, to justice.  I think his strategy is to say the right thing at the right time and then hope the people forget about it.  The Media is in his pocket, so they won’t remind anyone.

But unfortunately (for him) the present problems at VA have reminded the public that he hasn’t kept his promise.  So now, on cue, it is announced that Obama is “madder than Hell” over the VA allegations.  Well, that makes me feel a lot better.  The Washington Post had a cartoon a week ago Saturday in which a veteran was entering a VA office.  There was one of those take-a-number machines and sitting right next to the machine was a soldier in a Civil Was uniform!  Loved it.

When I was a young officer, Mr. Kenty, a warrant officer whom I worked with, and had been in the military for over 30 years, told me that there was only one person really interested in my military career and that was me. He started in the Army as a Blacksmith Apprentice.  He loved the day the Army got rid of their horses and he didn’t have to feed them at 0600 hours everyday.  His message about my career was clear and I did my best to keep track of what was happening to me.  I also strongly believe that the same holds true for medical care.  Especially in the military.

Upon retiring, Carole and I continued to receive our medical care through the military, always mindful that we were the only ones interested in our health and wellbeing.  A number of military families, upon retirement, got as far away from military medical care as possible.  That was their way of addressing the issue.  We learned how to get great care within the military.  The thought of using the Veterans Administration never crossed my mind.  If VA was the answer, I have no idea what the question was.

I’ve had only a few experiences with the VA.  None has been good. At the time of my retirement from the Army, I was told to apply to the VA for a disability rating.  I was also told to make a copy of my medical files before VA got them, because they would surely lose them.  They did.  Three times!  But each time they lost them, they found them.  So technically, they didn’t lose them, they were just misplaced.

This all happened 24 years ago, so I’m a little fuzzy on some of the facts.  Other parts of the experience, I remember like it was yesterday.  In applying for the VA disability, you have to list all the things that have fallen apart during your military career.  Then the VA gives you an appointment where they can evaluate your problems.  They set it up so I had five appointments in the same day.  I could receive all of my evaluations that day and be done. Sounded too good to be true.

The first evaluation was with an orthopedic doctor.  I was given a couple of forms to fill out while waiting for the doctor.  The forms were so ambiguous and confusing that I left a lot blank.  When the doctor arrived and saw that I hadn’t completely filled out the forms, he became furious with me. He was screaming at me with some Eastern European accent.  I was so bewildered that I just took it.  It was his play pen and I was thoroughly confused.  Here I had just retired  with 28 years of military service and I was being treated like a truant school child.  I thought about getting him in a hammer lock and giving him options.  But, I had come over to this strange hospital with a mission and this jerk wasn’t going to get me off track.  He eventually examined me and sent me on to my next appointment.

I made it to my next appointment which was with an eye doctor. He was young and friendly.  We chatted for a few minutes and then he asked to see my glasses (a reasonable request).  My glasses had been made in Germany which made the bifocal portion different. In the US, you can feel the bifocal portion of the lens extending from the front of the lenses.  My glasses had the built-up portion of the bifocal on the back of the lens.  The doctor noticed this and got all excited.  He asked about where I got the glasses and I explained to him that they came from Germany.  He asked if he could borrow them for a few minutes and I said, “Sure.”  He didn’t come back for an hour.  I just sat there.  I eventually went out to the receptionist and told him I was missing my next appointment.  He told me not to worry.  It would be OK.  The doctor came back as if he had been gone for only ten minutes and sent me on my way.

The next doctor concluded I had high blood pressure.  Duh!  I was delighted I hadn’t blown a leak.  The next doctor was a psychologist who asked me how my day was going.  I smiled at him and said, “Fine.”  Way back in 1962, I had a buddy going to ROTC Summer Camp at Fort Sill (I was also attending).  His car broke down three times on his trip from Missouri to Oklahoma.  He got there late and they rushed him through the physical.  Finally he saw a psychologist who asked him how his day was going.  He went into a rant about the trip down to Fort Sill.  They kept him under observation for three days.  So whenever a psychologist asks me how my day is going, I smile and say, “Fine.”  I also tell them I love my parents.

A year later, after “misplacing” my file a few times, I was notified that I was being awarded a 20% disability.  That came to a little over $100 a month.  Sound great?  Well, not so great.  The $100 they award is subtracted from my retirement pay.  The only benny is that I don’t have to pay taxes on the VA money.  Whoopee!

My only other VA experience was a screw up on my part.  The year I was assigned to Northwestern University to get a Masters Degree in Criminal Law, we lived in Evanston, Illinois.  Every couple of weeks we would go up to the Great Lakes Naval Station Commissary.  We would pass the hospital on the way to the commissary.  I had messed up my knee in my previous assignment in Germany and called up to the Great Lakes Naval Hospital and got an appointment.

On the day of my appointment, I drove up to the hospital and went inside.  I found the room number of the orthopedic section and headed there.  I found the room and went in.  There was a receptionist sitting at a desk.  I told her who I was and that I had an appointment.  She said, “Well the doctor isn’t coming in today, but if you would like to sit down and read some magazines, go right ahead.  Whoa!  I headed back down to the reception section and got in line behind a young kid.  He was big as a house, but the
little woman behind the counter was very upset with him.  He had lost his medical card (and not for the first time).  When it was my turn, I told her I thought I was in the wrong place.  She starred at me and said, “Are you sure?”

It turned out that rather than going to the Naval Hospital, I had gone to a VA mental hospital.  I smiled at her, told her I was fine and that I loved my parents and got the hell out of there.

Written by PJ Rice at

District of Columbia – A License to Steal

I’m sitting in the waiting room getting my car serviced.  Since I am retired, I can wait for it.  It’s a good time to get things done, if you can get far enough away from the blaring TV.  I’ve noticed a consistent correlation in waiting rooms like this.  The more mindless the TV show, the louder the volume.

Living close to the District of Columbia exposes us to the absolute worst of the worst (and I spent a year in Chicago).  And they want to become a state.  I used to teach types of jurisdiction at The JAG School in Charlottesville, Virginia.  And, the District of Columbia is a Federal Enclave.  Some places, like here in Virginia, are exclusive state jurisdiction and DC is exclusive Federal jurisdiction.  I can’t remember much more than that, except that a number of years back, there was a patch of land called Fort Missoula, Montana that nobody claimed.  Montana insisted it was Federal property and the Feds had exclusive jurisdiction.  The Feds insisted that the state had jurisdiction.  This came to a head when an abused wife blew away her soldier husband.  Both sides insisted the other had jurisdiction, and consequently, neither Montana nor the Federal government would prosecute.  Ladies, don’t lure your abusive male companions out to Fort Missoula because I think the problem has been fixed.

If you’re mad at somebody, take them for a walk in DC.  Medric Cecil Mills, Jr. was walking with his family on Rhode Island Avenue and he collapsed from an apparent heart attack.  The good news was they were right across the street from a fire station with 15 firemen/EMS on duty.  The bad news is that Rhode Island Avenue is in DC.  Members of the family raced over to the fire station to get help.  After an unreasonable delay, they were told to call 911!  It took 15 to 20 minutes to get help and Mr. Mills died.

Generally when the DC EMS takes an hour to get to the location of the emergency, they blame it on broken equipment, bad directions or that they were understaffed.  Kind of hard to do it in the Mill’s case.  Of course, they could blame it on stupidity.  And what will happen?  Oh there will be an investigation.  Someone will be suspended.  Someone will retire early and someone will be reassigned.  Of course the family will sue DC and the city will settle the case for millions. And, we, the taxpayers, will pay.  And life in the city bumbles on.

There is hardly a week that goes by when some DC official isn’t arrested for stealing money from the city.  It doesn’t matter whether then have an important job like awarding DC contracts or whether they just empty the coins out of the parking meters, they have figured out how to supplement their income.  My previous barber’s building was torn down and he had to find a different location.  The new location required reconstruction and the only way he could get his permits approved was to pay off all the city inspectors.  There is a DC license plate that says at the top, “Taxation without Representation.”  Across the bottom it should say, “Ah, But We Do Have A License To Steal.”

Whenever I mention the problems in DC, people immediately mention Marion Barry.  He was the mayor for 12 years, then went to jail, and then was elected again as mayor.  After going to jail for six months, his campaign slogan was, “He may not be perfect, but he’s perfect for DC.”  I love it and couldn’t agree more.  During his second term back in the Eighties, he hired so many DC employees that no DC official could tell Congress how many employees DC had. Congress had to strip DC of its hiring authority and take away budget control.

There were eight years when Barry didn’t pay his taxes.  But to revoke his parole, the government had to proved he intentionally didn’t pay.  And, he was usually so zonked out, it was hard to prove he did anything intentionally.  He is still the Ward 8 Councilman, because he is still perfect for DC!

In the last three years, three council members have pleaded guilty. Harry Thomas, Jr. from Ward 5, stole hundreds of thousands of dollars from the DC youth sports program.  Kwane Brown lied and fraudulently altered documents to get a loan to buy a boat that he named “Bulletproof!”  And, Michael Brown was caught taking $55,000 in bribes from undercover FBI (probably the same guys that got Barry).  If they were smart like Barry, they would have pleaded not guilty and relied on a DC jury of their peers to set them free.  After all, they too are perfect for DC.

The present mayor, Vincent Gray, is a piece of work.  He was elected in 2010 and the election is still being investigated.  A number of his subordinates have already pleaded guilty to election misconduct.  Now, deep pocketed Jeffery Thompson has pleaded guilty, admitting he provided $668,000 for a shadow campaign for Gray.  Thompson told the judge who accepted his plea that Gray presented him with a budget of over $400,000 that Gray needed for his illegal election activities.  Gray has now called Thompson a liar. Gray, like Barry, may be perfect for DC.  Gray, of course, is running for reelection.  Gray, unlike Barry, looks exactly like Snidely Whiplash.

FLASH – Marion Barry has just come out and endorsed Vincent Gray for mayor.  I rest my case.

Written by PJ Rice at

What Should I Do With All This Stuff?

Isn’t it funny how something that isn’t of any importance one day suddenly becomes all consuming the next?  Now I understand that if someone is involved in a serious car accident or discovers an illness, then everything changes.  But, I’m talking about something much milder.  I’m talking about suddenly realizing that you have more stuff than you can handle if you are going to move into smaller quarters.  Like five times the stuff.

In the military where you moved every two to three years, there was a built-in system to control your amount of stuff.  And while we did gather more stuff, we also got rid of stuff.  If we bought a new couch, we sold the old couch.  But, when we retired from the military in 1990, we moved into a house with lots of room and lots of storage space.  So now when we buy a new couch, we move the old couch to the finished basement or out into the gazebo. When we remodeled the kitchen, we hung the old cabinets in our garage so we could fill them up with more stuff.  We were good! We were very efficient and when the name of the game was accumulate, we excelled.  

So in the blink of an eye, the rules changed.  Now we are concentrating on getting rid of stuff.  It was a lot more fun to accumulate.  The first difficult question is where to even start.  If you just wander from room to room looking at everything, it will drive you crazy.  So we decided to start with our files.  I started with my study and then, will move to the basement.  This is serious work.  I was really doing quite well in disposing of files that I would never use.  Then, I pulled out my desk drawer and focused on on a pile of cards I had been keeping forever.  Some of the stuff I found was amazing.

I found a business card advocating the election of Brunson Hollingsworth for prosecuting attorney in the Democratic Primary on August 7, 1962.  He had been a year ahead of me in law school at MIZZOU.  The front had a picture of him with his dark framed glasses and a big, bushy mustache.  On the back, he had printed some lines which included, “A time like this demands strong minds; great hearts, true faith, and ready hands.”  I scratched my head over the part about “ready hands.”  I’ve observed too many politicians with “ready hands.”  Anyway, Brunson was elected as the prosecuting attorney of Jefferson County.

This wasn’t Brunson’s first run for office.  In 1961, he ran for president of the University’s student body.  Two Greeks were running and Brunson tried to get the votes of the independent students.  He ran on a “do nothing” platform and announced that if he were elected, he would do nothing.  It was great fun.  When you are in law school, any diversion is great fun.  He rented a horse and wagon and had himself driven around campus laying on a bed of straw in the back of the wagon (doing nothing).  He also had a two-foot tree stump that we carried to the center of traffic intersections on campus.  He would then sit on the stump (posing as Rodin’s The Thinker) and, of course, do nothing.  It was a riot.  I guess you had to be there.  He came in third in the election, but insisted that the other two candidates had spent more money than was permitted and declared himself the winner.  The University didn’t buy it.

Going through these cards was not a productive project towards cleaning out stuff.  Each card I looked at brought back fond memories.  I have a Trial Observer card from the late Sixties (signed by the infamous Lew Shull) when I was stationed in Germany.  Also, a Cook County Sheriff’s Correctional Department ID from when I was doing pro bono work toward a Master’s Degree at Northwestern.  And, a press pass issued to me by The Fort Riley Post when I started writing The Judge Says.

I also found my receipt for taking the H1N1 Swine Flu shot in 1976. What a fiasco!  One person died of the flu and at least 25 died from taking the flu shot.  That was 38 years ago, so I am probably safe. Whatever doesn’t kill you will make you stronger.  I’m thinking of getting a tattoo that says “Swine Flu Shot Survivor – 1976.”  I just can’t figure out where I should put it.

At this late stage, I have now satisfied myself that I have probably screened this little pile of cards many times, because everyone is a keeper.  I still have my Red Cross blood donor cards, even though I can no longer give blood.  That is because I was stationed in Germany in the 1980’s.  Something to do with Mad Cow Disease. Mad Cows and Swine Flu.  I think I will become a vegetarian.

Written by PJ Rice at

Jigsaw Puzzle Therapy for Frigid Days

My goodness it has been a cold winter.  A miserable winter.  We have been in the Washington, DC area for twenty-four years this time and I can’t remember a winter this cold.  I keep waiting for Al Gore to explain this phenomenon.  I’m sure he can explain it.  I’m also sure it is just part of the big picture.  I’m just too damn cold to see it.

We stayed in the DC area after we retired because we had been here a long time and the winters really weren’t that bad.  I would explain to people how the storms that hit the Midwest usually missed us.  It had to do with the “ski board” effect of the Blue Ridge Mountains.  I was the only one exposing this position and I hoped I would be discovered and receive some kind of an award. There’s a lot of stupid people out there giving out awards. However, I think this winter has substantially reduced the chances of my theory catching on.

It was 15 degrees and we still had eight inches of snow on the ground and the bird feeders were almost empty (two were empty and the third was down to the nub).  I gave that a lot of thought.  I could fill the three bird feeders in about 12 minutes.  So I wouldn’t be outside too long.  I bundled up layer on top of layer and headed out to the shed where I keep the bird seed.  Nikki loves the snow and was nipping at my heels (a now useless sheep dog skill).  The shed had an 18-inch snow bank around the door.  So back to the house for the shovel. Nip, nip, nip.  Twelve minutes turned into a half an hour.  I’ve decided in the future to firmly apply a 27 degree wind chill factor rule. To hell with the 12 minute crap.

So what do you do when you are retired and it’s too cold and snowy to go outside?  Let’s see, you can make an idiot out of yourself on Facebook or you can watch TV.  I got a Facebook account so I would know what the grandchildren were doing.  Let’s just say it was a mixed bag.  They don’t get on Facebook to communicate with ole Grandpa.  And, do I really need to see You Tube stunts that didn’t make it?

Well a week ago I decided to drag out a 1,000 piece jigsaw puzzle of the castle at the Magic Kingdom.  It’s a lovely picture done by Thomas Kinkade.  We have been to Disney World a lot and this puzzle is a picture that Carole has taken over 50 times.  Her pictures have a lot more definition than Kinkade’s painting.  Except for part of the castle and the sky, all the pieces were a dark brown (including a lot of the lower castle) or dark green (water in front and the surrounding trees).  After I did the border and the top of the castle, I spent a lot of time wondering why I started the stupid puzzle.

I am now going to set out some basic rules for doing a jigsaw puzzle.  First, you need lots of room.  The puzzle may be less than three feet by two feet, but you need twice that amount of space for laying out the pieces.  You also need good light.  I had to set up in the dining room to have enough space, but the lighting in that room wasn’t so great.  So I’m sitting there with a flashlight looking at the pieces.  After five minutes, the pieces started getting darker. The flashlight batteries were heading for the battery graveyard. New batteries and I was good to go, just looking stupid.

Once you get enough of the pieces placed, you can look for odd shapes and then try to locate the piece with that shape.  I found a location with a very distinctive shape and looked through all of the pieces left with absolutely no luck.  I looked again.  Same result. And, of course, all the pieces left were some shade of gray.  My conclusions was that there was a piece missing.  That was crazy because I had broken the plastic seal on the bag with all the pieces tucked inside.  That bag had been approved by Inspector # 4.  He or she was not going to get away with this.

After you have spent twenty minutes looking for one piece, it’s time to move on to another part of the puzzle or quit for a few hours.  I quit for the night mumbling about Inspector # 4.

The next day (my sixth), I was down to less than 75 pieces and I knew they would fall into place very soon.  I had eight pieces assembled to each other, but not yet attached to the main puzzle. And quite frankly, I was running out of room.  Something had to give.  While trying to figure out where the eight-piece group fit, I noticed one piece attached to the wrong place.  You’re right, it was the piece I had spent 20 minutes looking for the day before!  I rapidly finished the puzzle.

While puzzles are a good way to spend a cold winter day, please remember that jigsaw puzzles, like chess, can become a form of sickness.  Limit your playing time or find a support group.  And, if by chance, you are Inspector # 4, I apologize.

Written by PJ Rice at

Is There a Right Way to Worry?

I think we spend too much time worrying.  And the vast majority of things we worry about are out of our control.  I worry about no peace in the Middle East, but I can’t do anything about it.  I worry about John Kerry coming up with some treaty that just make matters worse.  That I can’t help worrying about.  But the bottom line is I should probably use my worry time in a more constructive way.  Like my health.  That’s closer to home and I can do something about it.

Through the years, I have made some very small life changes to make myself more “healthy.”  I switched to skim milk (you can call it “fat free,” but it still tastes the same).  I drink a lot of milk, so I figured that would help.  Hey, after 15 or 20 years it no longer tastes watery.  But, if I continue to drink Nestle Quik ice-cream floats, I’m not sure the skim milk is going to save me.

Back in the early Eighties, I quit drinking coffee.  This was no big sacrifice because I probably didn’t like coffee.  What I liked was all the sugar I dumped in my cup.  And my hand was shaky and someone told me it was from drinking coffee.  I had trouble holding my sugar spoon steady!  So this little life change eliminated about nine spoonfuls of sugar from my daily diet.

I switched to tea.  I still had to sweeten it, but with tea, I could use artificial sweetener.  Then all I had to worry about was the warning on the pink Sweet’N Low packet.  It advised that the use of Saccharin (the sweetener in Sweet’N Low) had caused cancer in rats.  I couldn’t imagine what kind of rat put Sweet’N Low on their cheese.  Anyway, around the year 2000 the warning went away.  I think it had been decided that people were different than rats (at least most people.  I keep getting this picture of former Congressman Weiner nibbling on sweetened cheese.)  But, by then I had moved on to Equal in the blue packet.

The sugar industry was unhappy that the artificial sweetener companies were getting a free ride.  So, The Sugar Association contracted with Duke University to study the impact of Equal and Splenda (the yellow packet) on rats.  The University determined that rats that ate Equal got fatter.  But, even more significant, after 12 weeks of eating Splenda, the rats “exhibited numerous adverse effects.”  There was a reduction in beneficial fecal microflora and an increase in fecal PH.  I clearly don’t understand what they are talking about, nor do I give a rat’s ….  The only thing I took away from this study is don’t be upset with your job; you could be spending you day examining rat feces.

Am I concerned that the study said rats eating Equal got fat?  No. Whenever you evaluate a study, the first thing you need to do is see who paid for it.  In this case, The Sugar Association.  And, gee, the study was unfavorable to artificial sweeteners.  And they say you can’t trust a lawyer.

I ordered tea at a roadside diner not too long ago. Our table had a bowl containing pink, blue and yellow packets of sweetener.  I fished around and found two blue packets.  After I emptied them into my tea, I noticed that they were not Equal.  It may have been NutraSweet but I’m not sure.  What I am sure is that the blue packets were identical to the pink and yellow packets.  The company had something for everyone.  Then again, if the biggest thing you have to worry about is being duped on your sweetener, life’s not half bad.  I am passing this along merely as a public service announcement.

You know, I don’t drink beer or spirits (only on special occasions like Friday or Saturday) and now, people are telling me that Coke is bad for me.  What a bummer.  I thought Coke was somewhere up high in the food pyramid.  So now, I try to limit myself to one Coke a day.  I don’t drink Coke in the morning, so that helps.  But, if I drink one in the afternoon, I am a goner.  I think I will worry about the Middle East and have another Coke.

Written by PJ Rice at

The Petting Zoo All Over Again!

I really like to watch commercials.  I know that sounds stupid, but I do.  People get paid good money for putting those 30 seconds together.  Once I have seen most of them, I would rather not see them again.  And if they come on again, which they always do, I feel no obligation to watch.

There doesn’t seem to be any correlation between whether I like the product and whether I like the commercial.  I don’t like beer, but I love Budweiser commercials.  How can you not love horses and dogs?  But the Coors commercial where these guys are climbing all over this frozen mountain to deliver two bottles of Coors is a little flaky.  It’s a big bar full of music and people and they deliver two bottles of Coors.  I wonder if everybody else is drinking Bud. 

The Super Bowl makes for an exciting, but difficult day.  I don’t want to miss any of the game, nor the commercials.  There is no time for a comfort break.  I guess the problem will solve itself when I can watch it all on my wrist.

One commercial that really gets me going is a group of young parents sitting around and someone inquires whether anyone has done anything regarding setting up a college fund for their children.  Only one couple has and it’s the Gerber Life College Plan. And, the wife says, “It’s an insurance policy too.”  And, I’m thinking, you mean if my child kicks the bucket, I have a pay day? I don’t know.  That seems a little cold.

My favorite commercial at the moment has a mother at the mall with her two small children.  She stops to tell them that they only have a short time to find Daddy the perfect gift and they really need to focus.  She tells her son (age 8 or 9) that he is her rock and asks if she can count on him.  He gives her the thumbs up.  Then, she turns to her daughter (age 6 or 7) and says, “Sally, look at me. I need you to step it up.  We don’t need the petting zoo all over again.”  The little girl looks at her mom and says, “I can’t make any promises.”  I just love that  We can only guess what happened at the petting zoo.  The bad news is that while I love the little episode, I don’t remember which smart phone the commercial is trying to sell.  And I think that is probably important.

I probably don’t watch shows that advertise Mr. Clean and Tide, so I guess I have to exclude those commercials from my evaluation. I guess I watch TV shows where they are trying to sell beer and cars and Snickers.  I like the Snickers’ commercials where famous actors like Robin Williams and Roseanne Barr are out of control. Then after they eat a Snickers Bar they turn into normal people.  I loved it when Roseanne Barr got whacked by a big log in the lumber yard. Maybe it’s because I can’t stand Roseanne Barr. Robin Williams is playing a high school football coach and during a time out, he encourages his team to “win the game for Mother Russia.” After eating a Snickers Bar, the real coach returns and sends his charges on to the field for victory (but not for Mother Russia).

I said there was no correlation between whether I liked the product and whether I liked the commercial.  But, I guess there is one exception.  If you look under the category called “The Fox,” you will find a blog entitled, “Why I Will Never Buy an Audi.”  As you will see in the blog, I have nothing against the vehicle, just the executives that run the company.  So every time I see an Audi commercial, I can’t observe it impartially.  There’s the commercial where the woman with an Audi is getting ready to put diesel in her car and everyone is trying to stop her.  One young man yells, “Hey lady, that’s diesel.”  She smugly looks at him and says, “I know.” Then she and her male companion (probably an Audi executive) nod at each other, silently saying, “We are surrounded by idiots.” Then, there’s the scene where Santa is ringing the Salvation Army bell outside a department store.  An Audi drives by and everyone who sees it, drops their car fob in the collection kettle.  Most of the donated fobs have a Mercedes symbol on them.  I think the advertising company for Audi is as arrogant as the Audi executives. But, of course, I’m not impartial (and never will be).  If someone asked me what I took away from the commercial, I would say that people who drive Mercedes are very generous people.

While getting gas at the Fort Belvoir Exchange, a woman drove her Audi up to the diesel pump.  I really tried not to say anything, but my impulses got the best of me.  Finally I said, “Hey lady, that’s diesel.”  She immediately understood, gave me a pleasant smile and said, “I know.”

Then there’s the erectile dysfunction commercials.  They say it may just be a blood flow problem.  I agree.  I don’t think the blood is getting to the brain.  I love what the golf industry has done with this issue.  Polara golf (they make golf balls) says that when the ball doesn’t go where you intended it to go, you may have projectile dysfunction.  Their ball can correct projectile dysfunction. There was also a golf company who claimed their driver would cure projectile dysfunction.  I thought the company was Cobra or Cleveland, but I can’t find anything on it now.  And believe me, if you go on the internet and can’t find anything, it causes grave doubt as to whether it ever existed.

Now, we tape a lot of our shows on TV and we fast forward through the commercials.  I’m afraid that commercials may go the same way as buggy whips, green eye shades and Blockbuster Video.

Written by PJ Rice at

They Don’t Make Halloween Like They Used To

I truly don’t know the history of Halloween and I can’t push myself to find out.  I may be better off not knowing.  It’s a time when kids can dress up in costumes and race around the neighborhood collecting candy from their neighbors.  This is very important to the economy.  All the grocery stores, drug stores and Walmart make lots of money selling candy to people who have no choice but to buy it.  That reminds me, I saw a cartoon in the Washington Post where Obama was on the television saying, “If you are happy with the candy you collected on Halloween, then you can keep it.”  The little kids in front of the TV looked horrified!

I don’t remember dressing up when I was in college.  But I guess it’s a problem, because the University of Colorado has put out rules as to what students shouldn’t wear.  I think they went overboard. They don’t want anyone to wear a sombrero or to dress up like a cowboy or an Indian.  What in the world are they doing?  They said you shouldn’t have a theme party where people dress up like “white trash” or a “hillbilly.”  I’m not an expert on political correctness, but I think it is quite insulting to call a group of people “white trash.”  So I don’t think the PC people at Colorado University should be referring to this group that they are trying to protect as “white trash.”  Just as I have refrained from calling the CU PC people pretentious jerks.

When I was a kid, “trick or treat” had meaning.  We all had a bar of soap (or paraffin), and if no one opened the door, we decorated their window.  Now the kids don’t even go door to door.  There is something called “trunk or treat.”  Parent drive their vans and SUVs to the school or church yard and open up their “trunks” and the kids, hopefully not dressed like a cowboy or “white trash” get treats out of the trunks of the cars.  I’m concerned as to where this will lead. What if the parents have a small economy car?  Kids will be saying, “Gee, he doesn’t have a very big trunk.”  This could lead to trunk envy.

One thing I did learn from the CU instructions.  I found out that “squaw” is an offensive word.  Some Native American woman explained it all on Oprah, so that makes it official.  I must have missed that show.  I’m just sitting here trying to figure out what we should call Squaw Valley.  How about Native American Woman Valley?

When I was stationed at Cooke Barracks in Goeppingen, West Germany, we had a Halloween party at the Officers’ Club.  About two weeks before the party we had an incident on post.  A brand new Second Lieutenant who was assigned to the Engineering Office beat up his wife.  He really did a job on her and she ended up in the Army Hospital in Stuttgart.  She didn’t want anything to happen to her husband and without her help, we were at a loss.

They even came to the Halloween party at the Club.  The Second Lieutenant came dressed as Dracula with blood on his fangs and the petite little wife appeared as a ghoul with blood dripping and her body wrapped in gauze!  After that, I quit worrying about the poor little damsel (I wonder if it is alright to say damsel?).

At the same party was a newly assigned major and his statuesque wife.  He came dressed as a special forces night fighter and his bride came dressed like Jeannie in “I Dream of Jeannie.”  If you are too young to remember Barbara Eden, it’s your loss.  Anyway, between ghouls and “I Dream of Jeannie,” it was quite a night.

The problem with writing a lot and getting older is that you can’t remember what you have published.  Carole thinks I have already written about being struck by lightning in Viet Nam.  I have used the available search engines on my site and I can’t find it. She is still probably right.  So, I’ll make this quick.  A few years after the Halloween party, special forces night fighter and I were assigned to the 1st Cav headquarters in Viet Nam.  Carole and “I Dream of Jeannie” were both spending the year at Schilling Manor in Salina, Kansas.

We got rocketed every night, but never twice a night.  The VC would set up, hit and run.  I never told Carole about the rockets. I truly did not feel threatened.  However, the special forces night fighter would tape messages to “I Dream of Jeannie” during the incoming. Jeannie told Carole and Carole wanted to know what was going on.  I tell her there’s about as much chance if me being hit by a rocket as being struck by lightning.  Three weeks later, I was talking on a poorly grounded telephone line when lightning struck the wire and knocked me across the room.  I survived!

Written by PJ Rice at

It’s Been Five Years. I Know You Are Out There.

One of the inside jokes in the Army is “All Army programs are doomed to success.”  That’s a head scratcher.  But, if you think about it, it’s the only way the Army can get rid of a bad program. Declare it a success and move on.  For example, “Zero Defects” was a disaster. Any mistake was a defect and the Army was prohibited from having any.  Hey, let’s declare that mess a success and get rid of it.  

Then there was “McNamara’s 100,000.”  This was back in the Sixties. Secretary of Defense McNamara was convinced that the Army should draft 100,000 Category Fours.  Cat Fours were those we considered too intellectually challenged to join the Army.  That’s right, really, really dumb (IQs of 65 or below).  Well, the Army did it for three years.  They gave distinctive service numbers to the Cat Fours so they could be identified and tracked.  I guess there might have been a few success stories.  The program was run by a bunch of Army sociologists whose purpose was to make the program succeed.  It succeeded as all Army programs succeed.

My personal experience was to represent one of the 100,000 as he cut a swath through Deutchland.  I was a young Captain doing defense work for the 4th Armored Division in Goeppingen.  I was appointed his counsel after he got in a fight downtown and tore up a gasthouse.  Lieber Gott.  I think his name was Jake and I can almost see him.  He was not a big guy and looked harmless enough. He had a twinkle in his eye.  I think I got him off with an Article 15 (nonjudicial punishment).  From then on, it was like I had him on a retainer.  Later, he got into it with a German taxi driver.  It was always hard to understand him, but I think he decided he was being overcharged.  So he didn’t pay.  The cab driver produced a pistol and Jake took it away from him and beat him with it.  Jake was not good for German American relations. Because the pistol belonged to the cabbie, I had some success in getting Jake off.

The last time I saw Jake was when he came by my office to say goodbye.  He had his arm in a sling.  It appeared he had recently flipped a jeep.  His buddy was still in the hospital, but was going to be OK.  Jake was being reassigned to Viet Nam.  I thought long and hard about whether I should notify someone.  I wasn’t concerned about him hurting himself, but what about the soldiers in his unit?What about the cab drivers in Saigon?

If you are wondering whether all this is leading to me declaring this blog a success, rest easy.  I’m having too much fun. GoDaddy.Com manages my web site, so all I have to do is write and publish.  Plus, every time I go to GoDaddy.Com, I get to see Danica Patrick.

GoDaddy also keeps stats on how many visits I get.  When I started out, I got very few visits.  Of course, I had very few blogs up.  If I got a hundred hits a week I was delighted.  Now, I have over 230 blogs/articles and I have had my site “visited” over a thousand times in one day.  GoDaddy has assured me that none of these visits to my site were from web crawling bots!  What in the world is a web crawling bot?  All I can think of is in the movie, Matrix, there were all these mechanical bees that were always attacking.  Maybe they were web flying bots.  The only thing I know for sure is that if the web crawling bots visited my web site, they were not counted. Web crawling NSA?  I’m not so sure.

In 2008, I wrote a blog entitled, “Bomb Threats at Washington Square.”  Washington Square was the name of the building I worked in.  A disgruntled former employee of Morton’s Steakhouse, located in our building, called in 20 to 30 bomb threats over the summer.  Life was bad.  Anyway, I got an extraordinary number of hits on this blog.  I finally figured out it was our federal spooks checking up on me.  But, anybody dumb enough to put “Bomb Threat” and “Washington” in the same title deserves to be checked out.

Anyway, I know you are out there, but I would like to hear from you. I have a half dozen dear friends who send me comments and once in a while, out of the blue, I get an email from someone who liked something I wrote.  But, let me know you are out there.  I wrote a blog entitled, “It’s a German Thing.”  It was accurate, but not complimentary of Germans.  I got a comment from a German written in German using the “F” word.  Yes, they too have the “F” word.  The beauty of the system is that with one stroke I deleted the comment.  I wonder if he was a cab driver.

Written by PJ Rice at

Redskins Forever

Things you can count on: Death, Taxes and someone complaining about the name of the beloved Redskins.  I don’t blame President Obama for raising the issue.  If I were the President and fumbling through my fifth year like a rookie, I, too, would be trying to divert attention to mundane matters like the name of the Washington Redskins.

Obama said, if he were the owner of the Redskins, he would think about changing the name.  If he were the owner, and ran the Washington Redskins the way he is running the country, he wouldn’t have to change the name.  The famous franchise would collapse faster than Solyndra and there would be no Washington Redskins.

Bob Costas used his two minutes of half-time, prime-time to say that the name Redskins was an insult and a slur.  Of course the Redskins have been around since 1933 and all the fans, including many Native Americans, have been honoring the team.  I’m sure Bob Costas has been referring to the Washington team as the Redskins on radio and TV for at least 30 years.  I guess it was alright for him to use that “insult” or “slur” for all that time and now, to become righteous. Hallelujah.  The scales have fallen from my eyes.

I will say that the term redskin can be used in a derogatory manner. So can Yankee.  Believe me, there are thousands and thousands of people in this country that use the name Yankee as an insult.  I’ve been called a Yankee when it was definitely intended as an insult, a slur.  What’s the rule?  If one person is offended?  Whoops, there goes the New York Yankees.  I never liked them anyway.

Owner George Marshall changed the name of his team in 1933 from the Boston Braves to the Boston Redskins (Shortly thereafter, the Washington Redskins).  This was done to honor and bring attention to their coach, Lone Star Dietz, who believed he was a Sioux.  He went to an Indian school in Oklahoma and then to the Carlisle Indian School in Carlisle, Pennsylvania.  He played football at Carlisle with Jim Thorpe.  If you don’t know who Jim Thorpe was, please go back to reading some tweets.  Later, questions were raised as to whether Lone Star actually was an Indian, but so what? Maybe he spoke with a forked tongue, but it is irrelevant to our discussion.

One TV show asked people to comment on whether they were offended by the name Washington Redskins.  One viewer wrote in and said the part of the name that offended him was Washington. When the Irish immigrated to this country, they were a minority that was known for heavy drinking and fighting.  So some people might think that calling a team the “Fighting Irish” is an insult or a slur. What do you think, Bob?  At one time, it probably was.

I’m sensitive to not insulting people.  If a group wants to be called something, I say OK.  I’ll call them that.  And, if a few years later, they decide for the third or fourth time, they want to be called something else, I’ll go along.  But for 81 years, we have been honoring the Redskins and for some politically correct numbskull to claim we are insulting somebody is outrageous. 

I’m not a big Dan Snyder fan and I blame him for much that has gone wrong during his ownership (I have written on this before), but I’m with him on not changing the name.  I hope he sticks it out. He is taking a lot of heat and for that one thing, I commend him.  I wish the PC crowd would move on to deciding what Chrysler should do about the Jeep Cherokee.  

Written by PJ Rice at

Live in DC and Meet the President

I was asked the other day why we are still living in the DC area.  We are at an age where most thoughtful people have moved to more comfortable and warmer environs.  Almost anywhere we moved would be less expensive.  But, hey, it’s only money.  We have never really sat down and put together a plus and minus list.  I suspect I know why.  Let’s just say we are comfortable with out situation (except for all the steps in the house).

Then, again, how many of you have recently said hello to the President? So what if it was in the bathroom at the Fort Belvoir Golf Club.  I’m not sure whether I would put that on the plus or minus list.  It seems like he comes out to Fort Belvoir to play our golf courses every weekend, but it is probably just two to three times a month.  The reason that meeting the President under these circumstances would go in the minus column has to do with the disruption he causes when he comes to play golf.

Of course, they never tell us he is coming, but I’m a quick study.  When I pull into the parking lot and find that half of the lot is blocked off with distinctive green cones, I know we are in for a bad day.

I generally don’t play golf on Saturday.  But, I do like to hit the driving range sometime over the weekend.  Don’t want to lose the edge.  Well, on three occasions I have not gotten away before his arrival.  When he arrives, all cars are stopped.  We are required to step out of our cars and stand next to them.  Then we have to wait until he has warmed up and played the first two holes before they release us.  I have waited 45 minutes in the parking lot before being released.

A couple of weeks ago, I finished up hitting balls and needed to pick Carole up at the Commissary.  I headed back to my car.  There were at least 50 secret service, MPs, state and county police and rent-a-cops around the area.  I asked one of them if I could get out of the parking lot before he arrived.  He told me, “You better hurry.”  Hurry I did.  I threw my clubs in the trunk and drove out of the lot in my golf shoes and golf glasses.  I made it!

So this week, it is Saturday and we are doing our little run.  I drop Carole off at the Commissary and slip over to the golf course to hit balls for 90 minutes (the edge).  Carole says, “Well at least with the Syrian situation, you won’t have to worry about Obama showing up.”  Wrong!  Now I know why he passed the buck to Congress.  So he could play golf on Saturday. When he announced on Saturday morning that he was going to request Congressional approval, was I the only one who noticed that he was wearing golf shoes?

When I got to the course, there were the infamous green cones.  Three security personnel were standing by the main entrance.  So as I walked by, I asked them if he was here yet. One fellow smiled at me and said, “Sir, I have no idea who you are talking about, but no one is here.”  I smiled at him and said, “I don’t understand you, but thanks.”

I understand the security requirement.  I’m not an Obama fan, but I certainly don’t want anything bad to happen to him.  I’m good with the searches. They have portable wands for searching and I have even been sniffed by one of their big dogs.  They asked me to stand still.  I couldn’t have moved if I had wanted to.  Nice Fido

Saying hello to the President under the above circumstances definitely goes in the minus column.  But the Commissary and the golf courses and the great medical care go in the plus column.  There needs to be a third column that is neither plus nor minus for such things as being able to go to a Wizards’ basketball game.  In this electronic age, I can go bloggity-blog from anywhere.  So why not West Springfield, Virginia?

We just lost one of our pluses.  Our favorite Chinese buffet closed.  The sign on the front door said, “Closed until further notice.”  We made three trips back to check and finally the sign was gone.  Carole inquired at the store next door and was advised that the closing involved the police and a rather nasty family dispute.  Chinese buffets generally don’t survive nasty family disputes.  Maybe the closing was a good thing.  I am sure there are things you can get from a four-day-old General Tso’s chicken that aren’t yet listed in medical books.

I’ll bet some of you don’t even know what a Case-Lot Sale is.  That’s when a whole lot of big trucks show up in a commissary parking lot and sell large volume items at ridiculously low prices.  That’s a plus.  Carole has never missed a Case-Lot Sale.  Our basement looks like a well supplied bomb shelter for thirty people.  However, because of the Sequestration, there were no Case-Lot Sales this year.  So Mr. Obama was correct when he said that the Sequestration would make everyone suffer.  Carole is really bitter.

I don’t think we are here because of inaction.  Our children are spread out, so there is no place to move which would be closer to them.  We like our house, but it is getting too big for us.  But, if we don’t find another Chinese buffet pretty quickly, we may be out of here!

Written by PJ Rice at