Never let the facts get in the way of a good opinion

We all have opinions about things and if it weren’t for them, I wouldn’t have very much to write about. We typically have an assortment of personal feelings. They can be formed with a complete lack of logic or reason that facts can never penetrate.

The process of repeatedly passing information from person to person can result in the unintentional formation of our beliefs. Our minds are hard-wired to categorize information and create mental shortcuts. This helps us to organize knowledge using a minimum of mental effort. It also provides us with a needed sense of structure to cope with an otherwise messed up world.

There are the famously opinionated “Monday morning quarterbacks” who will analyze every game and every play. They will tell you what the local sports team did wrong and how they would have played it. We have the Trump supporters and those that think he should be impeached. We also have the people that are religious and that know they are in the one faith that will get you to Jannah, Nirvana, Canaan, Elysium or whatever you call Heaven. Never argue with these people because it is a waste of time.

From time to time we might ask other people about their stance on an issue even if we don’t agree with them. Forming new beliefs to add to the ones you already have might interest you. Of course this doesn’t mean you can’t change your mind. Changing your outlook is a sign of personal growth, having an open mind and the willingness to see other sides of an issue.

The sound of two opposing thoughts clashing can be very exciting. This can cause the development of intense debates in a frantic attempt to support your own existing philosophies. In my humble opinion, it seems very unlikely that there will ever be a shortage of opinions because most people have at least one well founded viewpoint based on personal experience plus four or five others about things they know absolutely nothing about. This is evident whenever you hear a person watching the Bills on television, offering a bar stool assessment on who should coach the team and how.  

I question all the opinions I now hear. Whenever I hear a new one, I handle it with skepticism, I check to see where it came from and listen it to see if it is ticking before I open it. Once it appears there is no problem, I fact check it and if it fails, I file the view point in the circular filing cabinet.

Working out which ideas are worthy of consideration and which are outright lies is now a full-time job as “fake news” is now used to undermine many assumptions. If the theory promoted seems to be from someone who has some expertise in the subject I will listen.

Convictions can be dangerous and having an incorrect belief might ruin your reputation. Voicing your opinion at the wrong time can also make you appear foolish. The old adage attributed to Abraham Lincoln goes, “It’s better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt,” and that seems to still hold true today.

However, when you hide your convictions to yourself, this can actually be more harmful than expressing them. As a matter of fact, opposing ideas are what fuel forward motion. Stating your opinion might make you appear more confident. Confidence never has been a bad thing to have.

A common reason that people may hold back on their thoughts is the thinking that their conviction doesn’t matter or that they won’t be listened to. For example, if a person is troubled by a new company policy, they could hold their tongue because they think that they will be labeled a troublemaker. Nevertheless, you may have a valid point. If you speak up, you might make a difference.

Even if your point of view isn’t taken seriously, what you mentioned can still encourage an important debate.  The argument you make may not have been thought of up until then. If you offer a possible solution it may still be decided that your idea isn’t worth investigating. But your opinion might encourage some new perspectives about the subject. Discussion frequently precedes results and the more thoughts that are promoted in a discussion the better and quicker you might see results.

If you’re wrong, you’re wrong. Perhaps your outlook is invalid, or that you think that there’s something “off” about it. If you want to find out just state it. The other people around you will let you know. If you are wrong admit it and don’t beat a dead horse. None of us is perfect.

You might express what everyone else is thinking but just too afraid to say. Occasionally people are afraid to state their views because they don’t think they are valid. If you voice your position, you might just present an idea that everyone can agree on.

But that’s just my opinion.

An old friend

An old buddy stopped by my house the other day. He came over because I got in touch with him due to a series of challenges I had personally taken on. This task was to contact an old friend. Just connecting with him was an undertaking because he had dropped his land line which was the only phone number I had for him. I checked his Facebook page to no avail but finally found his brother’s number. I talked to his sister-in-law who gave me his new cell number. Now we were cooking.

I have known him for over four decades. Donna and I used to go to his home on weekends to go swimming in his pool. He and I had built a deck off the back of his house. This had a platform that overhung the side of the pool for diving. We used to have cookouts for dinner and the two of us would go out to a farmer’s field and pick corn for roasting. I hadn’t seen this buddy in quite a few years so we spent about two hours catching up with each other.

We talked about the weather and the recent wind storm. If you are from Western New York, you always talk about the weather. I showed him our new bedroom addition on the back of our house and he loved it. He appreciated the fact that it looked as if it has been there forever. He liked the floors, the en-suite bathroom with a walk in shower and elevated toilet. He loved the walk in closet, the pocket door, the number of outlets I had the electrician put in (22 of them in the bedroom alone) and even the magnetic doorstop. I put in a lot of thought when I was designing this space.

His son has now grown and has given him a grandson and his son lives just around the corner from my son, small world. My buddy is a very proud grandfather. His grandson is as cute as can be and looks just like his father. We told him about the exploits of our own grandchildren, discussed our children and many other things.

We talked about banks and online banking (he is for it, I’m not). According to the FDIC, the national average interest rate on savings accounts currently stands at 0.09% so I don’t see any compelling reason to keep money in a bank.

He is a Vietnam Era veteran just like I am but we didn’t discuss politics. Politics and religion are the two subjects I refuse to discuss.

We chatted about what we were doing now. About how I blog and write articles for newspapers and even get a few of them published internationally. I told him about the article I had written, a sarcastic piece on the song “Baby it’s cold outside” and the radio stations that refused to play this classic winter song. It caused such a turmoil that I no longer write for the online paper where it was first published. However, it was distributed elsewhere without a problem. This song has gotten a politically correct remake this year by John Legend and Kelly Clarkson.

My buddy now drives a school bus and boy, did he have a few stories to tell! My wife asked him about passing a stopped school bus and did she ever hit a hot button! He told us about the people that blast past his bus as he is discharging kids and indicated his experience was not uncommon. We must have chatted about this subject for at least a half an hour.

According to the New York State DMV website, a majority of school bus related injuries and deaths happen when children are crossing the street after being dropped off by the bus, not by collisions involving school buses. There is nothing you are doing, there is no place you are going, that is worth injuring a child.

He wasn’t aware that a mutual friend of ours had passed so we informed him about it. It’s sad how we lose track of our friends and loved ones over the years. I also updated him on another person, Ed, which we both knew. We go out to dinner with Ed monthly.

Our twin grandsons were spending the day at my house due to the schools being closed and were playing upstairs but you wouldn’t know it. I called them down to the living room and they introduced themselves and shook my buddy’s hand. After they went back up to play, my buddy remarked what polite, well behaved young men they were.

Our visit was very, very enjoyable and when he left it was like we hadn’t lost any time at all. Unfortunately, he had to leave and go do his afternoon bus run. I hope he comes over again soon and often. Next time I encourage him to bring his son, his son’s wife and of course, his grandson.

Mariner’s Landing: Olcott

As appearing in The Niagara Falls Gazette 11/25/19

Another weekend another restaurant. This time my wife, my buddy and I decided to hit up the Mariner’s Landing restaurant in Olcott. It had been about a year and a half since I had been there so it was about time for a return trip. They have been open for over 18 years at their present location. It is unusual for a restaurant to be open this long so they must be doing something right. We entered the restaurant and saw the décor hadn’t changed much since the last time we were there.

They had paneled walls, a couple fireplaces and ample windows that would let in sunlight during the daytime. They also had a nautical based motif with several model ships, lighthouses and sailor figurines on the high shelves that went all around the dining room. There were a few fish tanks with several small fish swimming around to add to the calming atmosphere.

The hostess told us to sit anywhere and we selected a table near the door. The table was set with real tablecloths but they ruined it by having paper place mats. I haven’t seen a tablecloth in a restaurant for several years and it was a nice touch. The server brought our menus and took our drink order. My wife had her usual water with lemon, Ed had a glass of wine and I chose a Coke with light ice (2.50) and she headed off to get them.

When she returned with our drinks, she took our order. My wife selected the fried oyster appetizer (8.95) for her dinner and Manhattan clam chowder (3.95). Ed selected the salmon special with a bourbon/maple glaze and sautéed vegetables. I selected the New England clam chowder (3.95) and the Fried Seafood Platter (23.95). This contained shrimp, scallops, a stuffed clam and a 10 OZ piece of Icelandic cod. I had an option of several sides and selected a baked potato with sour cream.

Shortly after we ordered, the server showed up with a basket of warm bread and some butter. The butter was soft which I highly appreciate

My wife’s Manhattan clam chowder had a robust tomato taste and her fried oysters were scrumptious. She also asked for a cup of cocktail sauce on the side. The oysters were moist and tender and the coating did not fall off of them. I could have eaten them all night.

My clam chowder was very creamy and rich with diced potatoes and chunks of clams throughout. Everything on my Sea Food Platter was delicious. Everything was cooked properly and I even had to bring some home for lunch the next day.
Ed’s salmon had a maple glaze that blew my mind. The pairing of the tender and flakey salmon with the maple glaze was phenomenal. I would have never thought that it would work so well. Ed pronounced it perfect. Dinner was delish.

Our server was the Lisa and was quite pleasant, quickly answering any questions I had about the menu. She stopped by frequently to see if everything was OK with our meal.

The food was great, the ambiance perfect and we had a good time. Prices were reasonable and portions were ample. We would have liked to have tried desserts, but we were too full from the meal. We are looking forward to returning and trying other menu items, but I will probably always order the clam chowder.

However there was one downside. I had occasion to use the men’s room and this is definitely not ADA compliant. The first door had a knob on it and when I turned it, it felt funny. As I opened the door I found out why. There was no latch mechanism or even an inside doorknob, just holes where they should have been. This door opened into a small vestibule with another door. When I tried to close that door, it kept hitting on the first door’s automatic closer arm, bad planning. When I opened the stall, the only way you could enter was to step over the bowl. Talk about the bathroom from hell. If you plan on dining there just, don’t plan on using the bathroom.

Mariner’s Landing;
1540 Franklin St in Olcott, New York.
Phone number is (716) 778-5535

Their hours are:
Wednesday and Thursday 4 – 9 PM
Friday and Saturday 4 – 10PM
Saturday 12 – 8PM.

I give them an 8 out of 10 spoons because of the bathroom.
I am looking forward to our next dining adventure.

Good help is hard to find

I ran a handyman type business part time for 35 years until health problems caused me to quit. I put an ad in the paper for just one week and was as busy until the day I closed it out. It surprised me that I would be so busy but in retrospect I now know why.

My customers would pass my name around to their friends and family because I treated then like I wanted to be treated. Apparently this concept has gone the way of black and white television and rotary dial telephones. I have now reached the age where I am the one that needs some help.

I sided my house several years ago but a wind storm caused one piece to come loose. I called several people and the first person that showed up nailed it back up with the nail heads showing, but the next windstorm we had the nails pulled thru the siding, leaving holes. So he went on the “S” list and tried again.

One man showed up in the back seat of a car driven by a relative. He looked over the job and asked if I had a ladder to get up there. What? You don’t have a ladder?  He then said would have to go on the internet to see how to do the repairs I needed.  Another entry to “the list”. Finally I had a man from Lancaster do the job and he did it the right way. It hasn’t blown off since. 

One day, the automatic garage door opener stopped working. Investigation revealed that the underground wiring I had installed over thirty years ago had shorted out. Because I had a concrete patio installed right over the in ground conduit, I decided to call an electrical contractor to install a new underground feed. They dug up my yard, burrowed under the sidewalk and put the new wiring into the back of my garage instead of the side where I had originally installed it.

Shortly after that, after it had snowed, my wife came into the house and asked if there should be sparking where the old wiring entered the garage wall. I looked out the window and saw that the siding was melted and had black marks on it. I quickly ran to the basement and shut off the circuit breaker before my garage and two inside vehicles burned up. If it wasn’t for the fact that there was snow piled up against the wall, I probably would have lost the building and my cars.

Seeing as they were a licensed electrical contractor, I never inspected the job they had done. I figured they would do it right and to code.  Wrong! My investigation of this problem revealed the old wiring had never been disconnected and they didn’t install the National Electrical Code required disconnect. So I called them and read them the riot act including quoting the specific code they violated when they wired my garage.

I told them they had two choices. The first one was fixing the problems including replacing the burned and melted siding or I would report them. They were out the next day to repair the wiring.

I needed my gutters cleaned. I called several people that were recommended on Facebook but only one showed up. I would have called them Curley, Larry and Moe but I think Moe was still in prison. They did do what I asked. They cleaned the gutters but left the downspouts as plugged tight as a duck’s arse. I didn’t find this out until the next time it rained and they all overflowed. My list is getting longer.

I wanted my exterior doors replaced. They had been here since 1919 and they wouldn’t close in the summer and leaked so bad in the winter that the breeze would blow out a candle. One person showed up, a large company that advertises on the television. They gave me a price but because my doors were oversize doors, they would only install a standard door leaving a 4” gap at the top for me to deal with. I am running out of paper. Finally I found a person to do what I wanted. Replace 2 doors, two storm doors and all for the low, low price of $6000.

I wanted a digital thermostat installed in my master bedroom suite. So again I went to Facebook for suggestions. A man contacted me and we agreed he would come over the next day. When he arrived, he had our new thermostat and his tools in a plastic “Tee shirt” bag.

I left the room and sat in the living room when I heard a zap, saw sparks and all the lights went out in the bedroom. So I got up to see if he was laying on the floor. Four and a half hours later, after several zaps, damns and f bombs and after he reinstalled the old thermostat that was not working now, I told him to go home. He took some of the pieces with him and left a pile of spare parts. My list gets even longer.

It was cold that night and it’s going to be a cold for a few more nights. We still have no heat.

Brain Health

I do Sudoku puzzles, crossword puzzles and write 7 days a week 52 weeks a year. I feel that keeping my brain healthy is as important as keeping my body healthy. I recently found some support for this opinion.

The Daily Mail reports that doing Crosswords and Sudoku could keep your brain up to ten years younger. They stated that doing a puzzle every day might have a “dramatic effect” on your memory and help to ward off dementia as you get older.

The Mail reports that joint studies were done by the University of Exeter and King’s College, London. This involved participants that were between 50 and 93 years old. The participants took an online survey, reporting how often they did these types of puzzles, as well as tests to measure the changes in their brain function.

This research concluded that doing a puzzle every day could lower your brain age by up to a decade. According to a study, published in the International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, people over 50 can improve their brain function by completing word games. 19,100 people took part in this research, and they were tested on their attention, memory, and reasoning and were asked how frequently they did puzzles. Findings showed that those who did these puzzles performed better in tests, and had a lower ‘brain age’ than those who didn’t. The difference in brain function was ten years for those who worked on the puzzles regularly and an eight-year difference for short-term memory.

I find that writing stimulates long forgotten memories. I call this opening the “file cabinets of my mind”. As soon as I open a drawer, hundreds of memories come pouring out. Memories of people I knew and things I did. Memories from my childhood right thru last week.

Sometimes they come so fast, this hunt and peck typist has trouble writing them all down. Frequently when the memories stop, I find I have written 1500 words or more. Now comes the job of paring it down to an acceptable size. I try to cut it to 800 to 900 words and save much of what I remove for another day. I frequently tell my wife that I have a 25 year old mind in a 70 year old body.

Dr. Anne Corbett, senior author of the Daily Mail studies, said: “Most of the people involved in the research did crosswords or Sudoku every day, which exercises the memory and improves problem-solving abilities and focus.” The theory behind these results is that the brain is just like anything else in the body. Continuing to use your mind and not vegging out will improve it’s capacity and adaptability.

The brain has a lot of connections that we need to use regularly doing activities like puzzles. It’s the old “use it or lose it” theory. We don’t really comprehend though if people like doing puzzles because they possess a higher level of brain function or if their mental function improves due to the fact they are solving puzzles.

Some people say that what is good for your heart is also good for your brain. This means you can lessen your risk of dementia by having a balanced, healthy diet, maintaining a healthy weight, exercising regularly, keeping alcohol use to a minimum, and quitting smoking. I quit smoking after 45 years and I never felt better. I think that maintaining social connections with your friends and family might also reduce cognitive decline.

The brain controls many things like memory, making decisions and much more. These cognitive abilities can affect how we are able to perform everyday tasks and if we can live independently. Changes in thinking as people age are normal. Older adults could have problems with multi-tasking, difficulty finding words and recalling names and decreased ability to pay attention. However, as a person gets older, certain parts of the brain shrink, particularly those areas that are important to learning and other complex mental activities. This doesn’t mean you cannot learn new things. You can teach an old dog new tricks!

I changed careers at 60, taking a job that I had absolutely no experience in or training for. I love a good challenge and just figuring out how to do this job made me feel younger. To do this job, I had to write PowerPoint training modules, something I had never done before. Not only was I able to write them for my job but other supervisors asked me to write modules for them. The last time I attended college, I went to UB when I was 62. Since then, I have received several certificates and diplomas from online courses including from NCCC and the University of Central Florida.

There is increased scientific evidence that the mind does not remain static but is able to take on new challenges as people age. It is not exactly clear why certain people think just as well when they get older and others don’t but exercising your brain is very important.

You can reach Norb at Nrug@juno.com. If he doesn’t answer you right away, he is probably trying to find his glasses.

November

In early November there are two things that occur that I think should be eliminated. One is a throwback from days gone by. It is the switch from daylight saving time to standard time.

The first Saturday in November ends daylight saving time. Unless you live in Hawaii or Arizona, where DST is not followed, you need to turn your clocks back an hour in November, getting back the hour that you lost last March.

The truth is that switching back and forth is a total waste of time, messes with your internal clock and accomplishes absolutely nothing. According to popular myth, it saves energy. Not so, according to what I have read. Energy costs tend to go down in the summer because we use less lighting and we are not heating our homes. Daylight saving time has no purpose in our industrial, always on, technology-driven society.

There is certainly no good reason to do this today. If people want to take advantage of an extra hour of daylight, maybe they should just get up an hour earlier.

We reset our clocks during the summer to move an hour of daylight from the morning to the evening. Here’s an idea, move the whole world clock forward one hour and leave it alone.

The time to eliminate this dinosaur, this throwback to when we were an agrarian culture, is now.

But the only way we can change this is if Congress takes action. Unfortunately you will get old waiting for this to happen. Congress can’t seem to agree on many things. How can we expect them to handle an issue like eliminating daylight saving time, even though there is almost a universal support for its repeal?

The primary thing that drives me crazy (although some people will say it is just a short putt) is Christmas music in November. Every year it seems we start a little earlier, putting up the lights, the trees and blowup Santas. Before you call me a Grinch, I like Christmas music just as much as the next guy. Give me a good Burl Ives “Holly Jolly Christmas,” a Nat King Cole “chestnuts roasting on an open fire,” or José Feliciano’s “Feliz Navidad,” but Lord help me I don’t need it on
November 1st. I gave my radio a quick scan the other day and found four stations broadcasting “All Christmas, all the time.”

I like the Christmas season; it is one of my favorite holidays. I love the eggnog, the much maligned fruit cake, the Salvation Army red kettles and bell ringers and the decorations. I enjoy the kindness that seems to pervade society at this time and the gathering of friends and family, but for the love of God, can we wait until the Thanksgiving turkey is out of the oven and the dishes are washed before we start celebrating Christmas?

I think that the stores must have paid to have some big, expensive study done that said by playing Christmas music in November, it encourages consumers to spend more money. The study probably said it increases impulse buying and therefore the stores’ bottom line, but sorry, it doesn’t work on me.

It has just the opposite effect on me. In fact, it persuades me to get in and get out as quickly as possible without any looking around. This makes me just want to get what I wanted and leave. It causes me to shop online so I don’t even have to enter a store. I now do more online shopping than in-store shopping. Give me free shipping and we are golden.

Food for thought

During the fall, food banks all across America remind people that hunger never goes away. Around the holidays they will see an increase in donations because people feel more charitable then but hunger is a twelve month a year problem.

I was fortunate enough to have a food bank in Lockport at my disposal when I couldn’t work due to a medical condition. It wasn’t like shopping at Wegmans as they had limited products including some day old baked goods available.

Even though there were some things we didn’t like, I took everything they offered me. My wife would then find creative ways of cooking these and we ate all of them. It is amazing just what you will eat when you are hungry.

I relied on food banks for sustenance 50 years ago when I was in the service. Our neighbors showed us how to apply for a monthly allocation of surplus food that the state would give to low income people. Then, every month we would have a food exchange in the common area of the housing complex where we lived to swap whatever food we didn’t want for food that we did.

I also remember during the Blizzard of ’77 that I took a part temporary job at a local supermarket due to the fact I could not get to my job in Buffalo. I used to dig thru the “Garbage Room” finding perfectly fine food that was not saleable. A tomato with a spot, a dented can or a broken carrot.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture states that between 30-40 percent of the food in the United States is wasted. Large amounts of produce that is grown in the United States is left in the field due to economic reasons. It is also fed to livestock or transported from the fields to a landfill.

I have done “Gleaning” where you go thru a farmer’s field after the harvest. A man I worked with grew a field of “Butter Sugar” corn one year. At the end of the season, after the price dropped, he gave me the field. Told me to take what I wanted for free. My father in law and I went and picked the corn and brought it to my house where my wife and mother in law blanched it, cut it off the cob and packaged the kernels in zip lock plastic bags for freezing. We had 100 bags of corn and it lasted us a full year and a half.

In my humble opinion, the appeal of perfect produce probably started in the 1940s as people adapted to refrigeration. Suddenly, you could get a pineapple in Wisconsin in February. Clarence Birdseye helped hasten the preservation of foods with his quick freezing methods and the days of going to the grocery store every day were dying out. Suddenly stores were ending up with unsaleable products that had to be thrown away.

Americans waste a large quantity of food. According to a report by The Guardian.com approximately half of all produce in the United States is tossed out, around 60 million tons worth $160 billion every rear. The Environmental Protection Agency has discovered that thrown away food is also the largest component in American landfills.

Wasting food represents many problems for our country. With all of the households in the United States that struggle to put food on the table. That much waste could be used to feed hungry Americans.  Reducing our food waste by 15 percent would help feed 25 million Americans every year. Food waste is also a primary source of waste going into landfills and is also the one of the largest causes of methane in the United States.

When I worked for Nabisco, forty years ago, they used to donate damaged packages of cookies and crackers until some of the donations ended up being “returned” to stores for a refund. Allegedly they also had to defend themselves against a few lawsuits related to the donated food. They stopped donating food to charity for these reasons and just destroyed the product with imperfect packaging.  Some people ruin it for everybody.

The Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Act was passed in 1996.  This act protects businesses from lawsuits when they make a contribution of food to a charity. This protects them from litigation except for cases involving extreme negligence.

I worked with a person who knew a salesman/driver for a dairy. He would bring in “expired” yogurt for me. It was perfectly fine, it was just past the “Best if used by” date and unsaleable. It was delicious.

There are many reasons why so much food is thrown out in the U.S. Part of the reason is that food is less expensive and more abundant in the United States than almost anywhere else in the world. But the big reason Americans waste food appears to be the national obsession with the aesthetic condition of their food. Food that goes past their “Best if used by” date gets thrown out or grocery stores throw out unattractive produce or dented cans that shoppers will not buy. Other reasons include damage in transit and stores ordering more than they can sell.

We have to stop throwing out perfectly good food.