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Tuesday, August 2, 2016

What is the Plural of "Moses"?

Recently I was preaching at a church and the subject of the sermon was the story of the crossing of the Red Sea from Exodus chapter 14.  This portion of Exodus details how that Moses, after he had led approximately two million people out of Egypt and into the wilderness, suddenly found himself between a rock and a hard place.  With his back up against the wall (actually, his back was up against the water) and with Pharaoh (a bald Yul Brynner for those who have seen the old movie “The Ten Commandments”) bearing down on this rag-tag band of suddenly-freed slaves, Moses, in the face of almost certain camping trip failure, uttered forcefully in verse 13, “Do not fear, take your stand!”

So in trying to wax eloquent, I stated with great emphasis to the congregation how that today in our culture we need more leaders who won’t flinch in the face of the onslaught of opposition. 

“What we need today,” I eloquently waxed, “Is more Moseses!” 

I paused for affect.  (Actually I paused because I saw the confusion on the face of the gathered saints, so I tried that line again.)

 “What we need today,” I said with even greater zeal, “Are more Moseses!”

Their look of confusion continued, so, with sweat trickling down my brow I began looking off into space in a rather saintly pose, all the while in my spirit formulating an unspoken prayer request to The God Who Knows What More Than One Of A Person, Place Or Thing Is Called…

“O Thou That dwellest in the heavens, Who Art enthroned above all languages and grammatical constructions and feeble pastoral attempts at eloquent waxing, PLEEEEAAAAAASSSSE answerest Thou me like really fast and deliverest Thou me from this embarrassing self-made predicament.  WHAT on earth (or if it’s in Heaven then sendest it downst to me) is the plural of Moses???  
                        Are more Moseses?
                        Is more Moseses?
                        More than one Mosum?
                        More Mosii??
                        A bunch of Mooses
                        A gaggle of Moseses?
                        A murder of Crows?

Answerest Thou me in fire with the correct grammatical construction and driest Thou up this river of sweat filling the trench around the altar!”

Divine insight suddenly began to flood my northern Minnesota spirit!
Well ok…actually my wife mouthed the correct grammatical enuncification to me as she rolled her eyes.  (Over the years I have learned how to interpret her mouthings with great agility because on a number of occasions she has caught me in mid-sermon and mouthed, “Y  o  u      h  a  v  e      y  o  u  r      s  w  e  a  t  e  r      o  n      b  a  c  k  w  a  r  d  s  !  !  !).  

With an astonishing sense of relief I was finally able to wax eloquently about the need for unyielding courage and granite like determination in the face of embarrassingly incorrect grammatical constructions.

“What we need today………………are more brothers of Aaron!”

The End J

“He Who sits in the heavens…laughs” (Psalm 2:4)

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Gutter Blaster Part Deux – The Revenge of the Fallen

As I wrote in my first scientific review back in 2008, the “Gutter Blaster” is simply a 3 foot length of aluminum tubing that has a very, very small nozzle at one end and a hose attachment at the other.  It is curved at the nozzle end so that you can reach “up” and blast away “down” into the gutter and remove unwanted debris such as leaves, pine needles, baby ducklings and baby alligators.  And the tiny jet-action nozzle is easily turnable so you can direct the high speed jet spray to the left, or to the right, or away from you (preferable) or directly toward your face (not preferable).

It probably weighs no more than 12 ounces and when I originally bought it the cost was $3.00.

Now lest you think you can’t get much entertainment these days for three one dollar bills…well, I have news for you!

Once it is hooked up to a hose, for those 300 pennies you get a laser beam-like jet spray of water (a weapon of grass destruction) that can toss you and your arm into your neighbor’s yard so quick you will hardly have time to scream JUMPING BANANA LIZARDS BATMAN DID YOU SEE THAT!!!  

Especially if you are like me and don't follow the directions.  My son-in-law reminds me from time to time that directions are (to quote Gus), "Just another man's opinion."

The Gutter Blaster’s original instructions contained this warning (and I am not making this up): under the section called “SAFETY AND MAINTENANCE,” it read:  “DO NOT POINT THE NOZZLE TOWARD ANY LIVING CREATURE!” 

I can see why.  I wonder if the Army knows about this thing.  They’ve got lasers that can fry walleyes from 20,000 miles up in space, but do they know about this?

(Just a note: I read on the internet that the reason the Russians never beat us to the moon is that the first stage of their moon rocket was powered by 5,213 military grade gutter blasters.  And when the rocket began to lift off, all the teenagers in Moscow flushed the toilets AT THE SAME TIME which caused the water pressure to drop precipitously and the rocket simply dropped out of the sky.)

The directions also explicitly state (and again…I am not making this up), “YOU CAN USE YOUR GUTTER BLASTER TO WATER YOUR HANGING PLANTS.”  Are you kidding me? I can see it now – weekend warriors all across the fruited plains dutifully watering their wives' stunningly beautiful hanging plants; and turning them into…salad!

The only thing I remember about “Gutter Blaster 2008” is that the first time I used it I turned it on full blast (as in all at once) and it wasn’t pretty.

After retrieving my arm from the neighbor’s yard to the west and the gutter blaster from the neighbor’s yard to the east…well that’s when I read the directions.

The directions clearly stated (and I am not making this up either), “DON’T TURN THE WATER LINE ON TO FULL PRESSURE THE FIRST TIME YOU USE YOUR GUTTER BLASTER!”  I blame my son-in-law for causing me such horror and pain.

So during my vacation this year (and with seven more years of wisdom under my belt), I forgot everything I had learned (and the pain I had experienced) and did almost the same thing. 

I held it with one arm...over my head…while holding onto the ladder two stories up…and I turned it on full blast (as in all at once).

What follows is a compilation of eye witness accounts from the actual police blotter, “Mr. Vander Ark was found in a heap 369 feet from his house   His new gutters were GONE!  Other than an innocent looking piece of aluminum tubing on the end of his hose, no other source could be found to cause such a mystifying accident.  One neighbor stated in utter amazement, “I saw the neighbor, you know, the bald guy with the white beard who looks a lot like Papa Smurf only not as blue…well he like turned on the hose and WHOOSH!  I mean I have never seen anyone fly up so fast and so high in all my life!  In just seconds he was a crumpled heap on the lawn on the OTHER SIDE OF 8TH STREET!”  Another neighbor stated in sworn testimony, “I am positive that his beard was NOT white before he turned on the hose but that upon re-entering the earth’s atmosphere his beard caught fire and THAT’S how his beard turned white! “   Another eyewitness account claimed, “When I saw him turn that thing on I RAN FOR COVER!  Especially when it began to rain little ducklings and alligators!”

So to all of my fellow home beautifiers and weekend renovation warriors -- be careful out there!  Something that only costs about $3.00 at your local home improvement store can provide hours of fun and fascination! Especially if you don’t read the instructions. :>)

Dan Vander Ark 2016
All rights reserved

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Grocery Store Checkout Stress

Unless it’s an emergency, my wife doesn’t let me help buy the groceries.  Its not that I don’t know how to drive the grocery cart or that I throw too many nutritious items like poptarts into the cart…it’s simply that she can’t handle me not handling the checkout stress.

I am pretty calm under just about every circumstance.

Is there an asteroid hurtling toward earth?  No big deal…just grab your camera! It should make for some really great photojournalistic opportunities (but leave the tripod).

Is the economy about to crash?  That’s ok…we’ve stored up a decade’s worth of peanut butter and lutefisk (which has a shelf life of several centuries).

Is the car heading down the slushy highway backwards?  No worries!  You can see where you’ve been just moments earlier!  (This really did happen to us).

Is there a tsunami heading toward Duluth?  Don’t panic!  Just drive UP to the mall area and check out the latest gear at Best Buy or Gander Mountain for awhile. 

But ask me to bag the groceries at the supermarket checkout?  Immediately my heart starts to race, my pupils dilate, my breathing gets more rapid, my palms get sweaty and the room starts to spin around.

I can pack a 24 foot U-Haul moving truck ok, but when it comes to filling a bag with groceries and making sure you don’t put the Tide on top of the eggs…well that’s where for some reason all my training as a hunter-gatherer falls apart.

And I turn into a quivering pool of Jell-O.

Like one of the times when we got to the checkout.  I could tell that my wife was concerned as I inched toward the end of the checkout and I heard the clerk whisper to my wife, “Is he ok?  He looks like one of those purple Minions.  And why is he breathing into the all those paper bags??? Isn’t he supposed to be filling them up with stuff?” 

I started the bagging process (all the while marveling at the calm demeanor of the 4 year old in the next lane filling 6 bags simultaneously).  As I carefully started filling the first bag I couldn’t figure out why an avalanche of groceries was coming my way and why wasn’t the conveyor stopping and why is the clerk doing this to me and doesn’t she know she might push me over the edge AND WILL SOMEBODY DO SOMETHING FAST AND CUT THE POWER TO THE BUILDING!!!

It was then that my wife motioned that I shouldn’t be leaning against the rubber bumper at the end of the lane cuz that’s the switch and that’s why the 12 pack of coke was smashing up against the marshmallows. 


There wasn’t a reverse switch to send the groceries back up the lane to the clerk so I put my superior intellect into high gear and just started grabbing anything that looked halfway frozen or cold and I shoved that into one bag, I grabbed anything made out of steel and put that in another bag, I then filtered out anything that would fall into the soft and squishy category and put that in another bag.  I then put all of the non-food items (like beets and peas) into another bag and finally, anything resembling meat into another one. 

My plan failed when I realized that a bag full of soft stuff doesn’t weigh the same as a bag full of steel stuff.  I bagged it that way because I remembered one of my high school teachers saying that a pound of feathers weighs the same as pound of rocks so I couldn’t see what was wrong with my bagging process.  To alleviate bag rippage, I quickly put some of the steel stuff on top of the soft stuff – I don’t see the big deal on this as a loaf of bread 1 inch high has exactly the same nutritional value as a loaf 6 inches high.  And as a bonus, you can get more loaves in the bread box. Although lunch guests might wonder why their sandwich is the size of a matchbook.

To finish the bagging process I put the 23 boxes of poptarts into the last four bags. 

With our checkout line of crabby grocery shoppers snaking all the way back to the meat department (if looks could kill!), I finally finished jamming all the bags into the cart in one last frenzied outburst of unruffled tranquility. 

I pushed the cart out the door to the car and transferred the $3,047.19 worth of Super Duper Grocery Store items (of which $2963.14 was for the hamburger) into our vehicle.

My wife got into the passenger side, grabbed my Bible and said, “Place your hand on the Bible and repeat after me…

            I (your name goes here)
            I Your Name Goes Here
            Will never
            Will never
            Help me
            Help me… (Help me or help you?)
            With the groceries
            With the groceries
            Ever again in the history of the world
            Ever again in the…what was the last part?
            I am dead
            I am dead (wait…who’s dead in this scene…me or you?)

The End :>)

Thursday, February 18, 2016

The Adventures of Danny and the Strange Case of the Haunted Dishes

It was unusually warm for a mid December Saturday as I guided my ship into the cold waters of the St. Louis River off the Boy Scout Landing in Duluth.  Two fishing poles (one rigged for panfish and one for marlin), and two cameras (both rigged for picture taking) accompanied me on my voyage.  I paddled the Vanderyak, a 12 foot piece of plastic in the form of a sit-on-top kayak, lazily down-river to the old Oliver Bridge.   It is indeed rare when you can find open water in December away from the Big Lake they call “Gitche Gumee Bear.”

It was around noon when I began my journey, and I couldn’t shake the odd scene from my mind that I had seen only minutes ago.

Just prior to my launch and about 100 feet from the boat ramp I had spotted what seemed to be a lost treasure of several china cups and saucers just off shore in about 3 inches of water.  It was an odd sight indeed.

Could it be the remnants of some ancient ship wreck?

Did they come from the Titanic? 

Or did a bunch of burly Finnish fishing guys from Duluth decide to have tea and crumpets as they waited on a catfish strike and just threw everything into the water when their wives showed up?

I am not sure.  Nevertheless it was such an odd sight that I decided to investigate further after returning with a large catch of bluegills and marlin.

I fished for awhile by the old bridge but then realized that, irrespective of the warm weather conditions, it was December and any marlin or bluegill with a half of a fish brain would have long ago headed out to the Atlantic via Lake Superior and the St. Larry Seaway (with just a smidgeon of a left turn by Niagara).

So I paddled back to the landing. 

When I was within about one half mile from my destination the eagle that I had been chasing earlier with my camera suddenly swooped down out of the overcast sky and landed on the bow of my craft.  Which is toward the front.

And looked at me with his eagle eye.

“Danny!!!” said the eagle in a stern voice with a Boston accent, “Do not go near the dishes!”  And then he flew away.

“That’s odd,” I said to myself.  “Why would an eagle from northern Minnesota speak with a Boston accent?”

Continuing on to the landing, I ignored the wisdom of the old eagle and decided to investigate up close and personal those mysterious dishes.

What I saw astounded me!  The dishes, which just a couple hours prior were semi-submersed in ice-cold December water, were no longer covered with water!

My first thought was, “Where did all that water go?”  I mentioned this to my son-in-law a week later and he said something that to him made a lot of sense.  “There’s a dam on that river, right?”  I just stared emptily at him as I tried to decipher his line of reasoning.

One thing I did know for certain -- the mysterious disappearance of the water had to somehow be connected to the mysterious appearance of those dishes.

In fact, the water had gone down so much that, as I eased my ship toward the archeological site, my small craft became lodged in the sea bed. Eventually the Coast Guard sent a fleet of Fisher Price tugboats to assist me in my plight and I was able to free the Vanderyak. 

I went back to the landing, loaded my kayak onto the truck and commenced to investigate the now-on-dry-land dishes.  There were several cups and saucers with markings that they had been handcrafted in England and a place called “Avon.”  I carefully loaded the fragile cargo onto the truck and then I called my wife with the news that “nope I didn’t catch anything but I had a wonderful time” (which is my never-changing voicemail message on my cell phone). 

But then I told her about the dishes.  She seemed mesmerized as I related the scene to her and the fact of the disappearing water and that I had found some sort of ancient unburied treasure in the form of cups and saucers.   Maybe it was the money pit from the famed Oak Island Treasure. (Check out The History Channel [channel 63] at 7PM Central Time every Tuesday!)

After I got home my wife examined the dishes and was astonished.  (Ok, maybe “astonished” is a little bit too dramatic; but she was definitely “stonished!”)

The next day I put the muddy, dirty dishes in a small box and placed them next to the desk in the basement family room.

The following Friday, December 18th, my wife and I drove to Phillips, Wisconsin for the family’s Christmas get-together.  We had a wonderful time!

When we arrived home that Sunday evening, what my wife witnessed as she opened the basement/family room door startled her.    I was still unpacking the car when she rushed out to the garage and uttered dramatically, “MAYBE THOSE DISHES REALLY ARE HAUNTED!”  

As she gesticulated wildly and nonsensically about a horse being in the middle of the floor and how did it get there and is it connected to the dishes and should we call Horses-R-Us or the Titanic discoverer Robert Ballard, I on the other hand reacted with a totally calm Sherlock-Holmes-like demeanor when I opened the door.


Somehow, the Victorian era reproduction horse/toy was in the MIDDLE OF THE FLOOR LOOKING AT US.  And that horse hasn’t moved off from the shelf it was on for years!  (The proof is in the dust!)

And to make this story even more dramatic and mysterious and scary, for that horse to get from the shelf to the middle of the floor it would have had to have fallen off the antique book it rests on, hit two cameras on top of the computer tower, avoided an assortment of desk paraphernalia like three-ring binders and a hole punch and speakers and a broken Hershey bar and dried out donut, avoided lots of stuff on top of the filing cabinet; then on its way off the desk missed two camera bags and a computer bag and rolled out into the middle of the floor unbroken and upright.  All the while positioned to look directly at us when we opened the door!

After the hair on the back of my neck went back to its normal position, I surveyed the scene again and alleviated all of my wife’s fears with this simple bit of wisdom, “Hey the Vikings won!  Who cares if the basement’s haunted?”

(Note: the events stated above are ALL TRUE except for these – I didn’t go fishing for marlin, I didn’t have a beak to nose conversation with an eagle, the Coast Guard never did send any tubgoats, and there WASN'T ANY DUST on that old book!)

Thursday, December 10, 2015

How To Escape From A Roundabout

Two entities have crept westward across the land in the past few years and made their way into northwestern Wisconsin and northeastern Minnesota.

The first is called a “Kwik Trip.”  They are gas-station-mini-grocery-store-combos that are multiplying faster than rabbits in the Duluth/Superior area.  And they make the best chicken alfraid-o (pronounced “alfredo”) pizza in the whole wide world!  How do I know that? I took a survey of all the 13 year old teenage grandsons that I know…and Noah gave it a resounding two thumbs up!

The second is called a “Roundabout.”  There are at this time only two in our area (that I know of).  They are the cruelest of other-worldly circular traffic control inventions ever foisted upon the American public.

Roundabouts were originally designed by the English during the Dark Ages (that era before cable TV) to slow the Viking hordes from spreading lutefisk throughout Europe.  They worked wonderfully – when that fierce Norwegian warrior Erik the Red (cousin of Barney the Purple) attempted to lead his army to London, upon entering the roundabout he simply kept going round and round and round until he was finally heard to say, “Uffda Sven!  How do we get out of here!  Let’s snack on some of that lutefisk and then skeedaddle back to Norway!” 

For those unfamiliar with these marvels of traffic engineering, here is some information from “Roundabout USA” (kind of sounds like an amusement park, doesn’t it?): “A modern roundabout has three major characteristics compared to its predecessors -- traffic circles and rotaries. First, the roundabout gives vehicles in the circular travel way the right-of-way. This change on a national basis in England in 1963 marked the start of the modern roundabout era. Second, roundabouts are small, generally from 70 to 160 feet in diameter compared to 300 to 400 feet and more for traffic circles and rotaries.”

Did you catch that?  The predecessors to the roundabout were “traffic circles” and “rotaries.” Traffic circles faded in use when crop circles became the favorite form of UFO traffic control and rotaries eventually merged into a loosely knit consortium of civic organizations. 

This is an early cave drawing of a roundabout found near London:

This is a blueprint of a modern day Roundabout found in an engineer’s office:

And this is an aerial view of the Roundabout at the other end of the Bong Bridge - that's me in the blue car:

And don’t feel bad if, when you entered a roundabout for the very first time, panic and a sense of dread set in.  They are beyond confusing!  Consider the following phraseology from several different publications describing this wonder of traffic control:

“The rotary began in the U.S. as a simple circle with no governing principles, but evolved into new designs based on weaving theory.” 

Weaving theory?  You begin to think about making baskets when you go in there?

And this, “If theories can correctly predict the critical gap, correctly predict how many such gaps are available, and correctly predict move-up time for vehicles in the queue, then theoretically we can sum individual driver behavior to predict total capacity, queuing, and delay. It is this apparent simplicity that gives gap theory its broad appeal.” 

The queue? Simplicity?  Broad appeal?  I hope they get a queue, because I predict that when the gap theory combines with the weave theory there is going to be a pile of cars in the middle of Roundabout Island the size of the Empire State Building!

And here is some more unintelligible rambling on the subject of Roundaboutology, “In the last step of gap theory, analysts sum predictions of individual driver behavior to predict aggregate intersection performance during the analysis period. This is mathematically simple but statistically dangerous, because aggregating results of previous estimates will compound any estimation errors.”

I don’t usually scream at my computer, BUT WHAT DOES THAT MEAN???

And finally this: “First, a roundabout is geometry. Unlike a signal, roundabout performance is entirely controlled by geometry and markings. To evaluate the effect of geometric design elements, a gap theorist must reliably predict a driver’s reaction to all relevant geometric parameters…” 

What?  My reaction to relevant geometric parameters?  How should I know? I flunked geometry!

And get a load of this from “Roundabout USA” (Hee-Haw!), “…roundabouts have a raised entry "splitter" island that slows down or constrains speed just before entry, duplicating in a way the curvature the driver will experience within the roundabout itself.” 

The curvature the driver will experience within the roundabout?  We’ll get bent out of shape when we go in there?  Am I reading that right?

Maybe on “Splitter Island” they should add a McDonalds or a Bass Pro Shop to give motorists who cannot escape something to do.
Perhaps the roundabout was the inspiration behind the weird machine in Carl Sagan’s book/movie “Contact” that sent Jodi Foster to see her dearly departed dad in the Chevy Vega System via a worm hole.  Why do I say that?  Because one person from Superior, Wisconsin that was trapped for 93 minutes in a roundabout on the eastern end of the Bong Bridge stated, “Once I got in there I began going faster and faster until I was bent out of shape by the weaving geometry of the gap theory.  And it seemed like time itself was slowing down!  And then, as I neared the speed of light on Splitter Island, I began to see my long dead relatives!  And even some of my short dead relatives!”

I think the Department of Roundabouts should give out trophies to motorists who actually navigate successfully through the weaving splitters of gaps and queues and geometry, oh my!

To conclude my thesis on “Escaping from a Roundabout via a Parallel Universe,” this actually happened to me when I approached the Bong Bridge Circle of Death for the first time.  As I entered the new roundabout from the west on Belknap Street, the sign indicated that I should enter the rotisserie and go counter clockwise.  (What makes this Roundabout even more confusing is that it incorporates a “wheel within a wheel” technology – there are TWO circular lanes orbiting Splitter Island!)  But one of the arrows engraved into the concrete in one of the lanes approaching this DOT amusement park strongly suggested that I should enter this scarey-go-round and go LEFT to get to Duluth. (I think I have that right…it was all so confusing.)

Fortunately my sixth sense indicated to me that if I did that, I would begin seeing dead people…one of them being Dan Vander Ark.

What did I do?  I could see Duluth in the distance to my left so I put my two wheel drive S-10 into four wheel drive (I double clutched), put the pedal to the metal, flipped on the nitrous oxide switch for an extra surge of power (actually I just turned up the radio), cut right through the McDonald’s drive-through on Splitter Island, grabbed a double cheeseburger, and plowed my way onto the Bong.

Or something like that.

I leave you with this final thought: “The history of research on roundabouts shows that ‘what is going on’ is not obvious.” (Mike Brown, Retired Chief of Geometrics, London)

I’ll say :>)

Dan Vander Ark
Copyright 2015

All rights reserved

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Doctor, I Think I’m Dying!

My wife came down with a bad cold & cough on Memorial Day night and I came down with the same cold & cough the following Saturday day.  She started feeling better as I started feeling rottener, so it was obvious that she had mysteriously transported her germs over to me without my permission.

Even though I asked her to stay home from work and/or go to the doctor when she was sick, she refused.  She is tougher than nails.  Tougher than John Wayne, Clint Eastwood and Genghis Kahn rolled into one (but a LOT prettier!) I am surprised germs even dare to go near her.

Me, on the other hand, am a wimp.  Without any prodding from my wife, I stayed home two days.

I emailed my boss that I wouldn’t be in on Tuesday because I hadn’t gotten done what he wanted me to do and now I am dying and could he push off my project for maybe say a week or so?  And I emailed him early on Wednesday to let him know that I was still dying and did that project get done?  If not then I will be dying on Thursday also.  And possibly Friday.  Although by the weekend I should be undead.

I told my wife that I thought I was dying and that I should go to the doctor as soon as possible. 

Her reply? “It’s just a bad cold; you don’t go to the doctor for a cold.”

The local clinic opened at 8:00 on Wednesday and I was there at 7:59:59 banging on the door.

“Let me in!  I am dying!”

When the student nurse came to get me after 300 seconds of waiting in agony, we did several laps around the inside of the facility as she was new and was unfamiliar with the floor plan and didn’t know if my room was on Hallway C or D.    On the tenth lap the track announcer said we were in the lead by “a lot” and when the nurse’s station finally waved the checkered flag they then gave us directions to room 222.

(And has anyone ever unraveled the code behind those mysterious colored room flags?  You know – the red, yellow, black, blue, etc. little plastic flags that the nurse or doctor flips out or in.   I know that red and black indicate a hurricane warning, but I am not sure about the others.)

The student nurse tried to take my blood pressure but she was confused by the velcro on the BP cuff and had the thing upside down.  She finally figured it out.  Perhaps she struggled in Velcro 101 in Nursing School.  But she was very nice.

“Your BP is fine,” she said, “It’s 100 MPH over 33 1/3 RPM.” 

As she went out the door I noticed she was dropping bread crumbs so she could find her way back.

Then the doctor came in.

“Doctor,” said I, “I think I am dyeing!” 

“Are you sure?” she said, “what color were you before?”

“Sorry Doc, I meant to type “I am DYING!! As in a Christian Ponder pass attempt!”  She immediately knew what I meant and I could see the look of concern on her face by the depth of her furrowed brow which was brownish in color with just a hint of auburn.

“Why do you think you are dying?” she asked.

I have a raging fever, can you check my temp?” 

She did…she said it was a normal 98.6.

“That must be Celsius!” I said. “Can you check that again???”

This is just a little deviation from the main story, but who determined 98.6 degrees is “normal” anyway?  Maybe the rock band “Keith” paid off the AMA back in ’67 so their song “98.6” would make sense:

Hey, 98.6, it's good to have you back again
Oh, hey, 98.6, her lovin' is the medicine
That saved me, oh, I love my baby

That sounds a lot better than:

Hey, 100.0, it’s good to have you back again
Oh, hey, 100.0, her lovin’ is the medicine
That saved me, oh, I love my baby

Back to the main story and me.

The doctor was a Physician’s Assistant and not a real doctor so maybe that explains why my temp was normal.  A “PA” is an abbreviation for the Latin “almostus a doctorus.”  A PA can do everything a real doctor can do except what is defined by the AMA as “icky stuff.”  The American Motorcycle Association defines “icky stuff” as “anything on the outside of you that should be on the inside, and anything on the inside of you that should be on the outside.

After my DIS-appointment (the doctor refused to believe that I was dying) I went to that place that’s on the corner of Healthy and Happy which is directly across the street from their nemesis CVS [Comma Value Separated] Pharmacy. I purchased 17 large bottles of Dayquil, 24 bottles of Nyquil, and a couple bottles each of MorningQuil and EveningQuil.  And cough drops…lots and lots and lots of cough drops.  I purchased a case of sugar free what are technically called “Cough Suppressants/Oral Anesthetics.”  I put several in my mouth and duct taped a bag to each arm as I figured they would work like those nicotine patches.

I told my coworkers to stay away from my cube because “germs as big as blackbirds are flying around down here in I25.” (Is it just me or does I25 sound like a prison cell number?)  

And I for one am so glad that our company has Professional Series "AngelSoft"  facial tissue.  At least I didn't have to deal with amateur series facial tissue during my long illness.

I am on the mend now.  My temp is pretty much back to normal from my raging fever.  I will check with my boss to see if my near-death experience was justification for not doing what it was I was supposed to be doing when I wasn’t doing it.

The end.

Dan Vander Ark
Copyright 2015
All rights reserved

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

How To Turn Your Grandkiddies Into Robots (The Birth of Pine Cone)

This little step-by-step instructional should help you on your quest to turn your little Krumbcrushers (or Anklebiters) into an amazing robot that will do practically……….nothing!  But they look cooler than cool!
  1. First – find grandkids that are preferably between the ages of 3-7; if they are younger than 3 they are too young to grasp the idea of a “robot” and if they are older than 7 they want their robot to be able to fly into space and defeat Megatron.

  1. Find a box that isn’t too big for the littlest one or too small for the oldest.  A refrigerator box is probably a smidgen too big and a shoe box is a smidgen too small.

  1. Go to your favorite dollar store and just buy a bunch of cool stuff – you know, tape, tin foil (lots and lots of tinfoil), copper scrubber things for the kitchen, pipe cleaners, really ginormous glasses, tape, kiddy stickers, more tape, markers, maybe a plastic bucket helmet in sizes large and small, more tape, etc.  We found that in robot construction you need lots and lots of both duct tape and tinfoil.  But just one note of caution: Justin Bieber style duct tape is NOT PERMISSABLE ON ROBOTS! 

  1.  Go to Menards and buy 3 inch plastic dryer vent tubing stuff and cut it in half so that each arm can be approximately 4 feet long.  Normal robot arms, according to the NRS (National Robotic Standards) are 1.7 meters but who knows how long that is – we’re in America!

  1. Figure out where the arms and head will protrude from the robot and make some careful incisions into the robotic cardboard.  Have a towel handy so that you don’t get human blood onto the robot.  Mixing human and robotic DNA might not be a good idea (have you ever seen that movie, “The Fly?”)

  1. Although this is your call, probably cover the robotic torso with something like flooring paper or butcher paper – something that the Grandkiddies can draw on.

  1. Let the Krumbcrushers name their robot – although you may want to have a list of suggested names handy that they can pick from.  Our grandkids named their robot………..………………”Pine Cone.”   I had the greatest look of disappointment on my face as I just mumbled, “Pine Cone??????”  I was expecting something like “Planet Crusher” or “Meteor Zapper” or “Adrian Pederson the Packer Crusher.”  But “Pine Cone”???????  I guess that’s what happens when the two Grandkiddies involved in this project are girls.  I should have assigned the task of naming the robot to my grandson.

  1. Decorate it, draw stuff on it, and just let the Anklebiters do whatever they want to their robot.  We even had a string of Christmas tree lights for the belt (if by chance you do make a robot that flies into space, then make sure the extension cord is long enough).

  1. Attach a pair of gloves to the robot dryer duct arms.  As seen on the attached photo, adult supervisors are allowed to try them out first (but they should be careful with them as robotic arms are quite expensive).

  1. Set the robot upright and then figure out if the Grandkiddies are going to need to stand on anything inside the robot so that their head actually sticks out and can be seen by the general public.

  1. Very gingerly place a grandkiddy inside the robot and attach the arms and the helmet and plug in the belt.

  1. WARNING! WARNING! WARNING! WARNING! WARNING!  Once you have placed your little human inside the robot, NEVER turn your back on it because the robot can tip over!  As we were preparing to take photographic evidence of PINE CONE and with the oldest granddaughter inside the robot, THE ROBOT FELL OVER BACKWARDS!!!  As I replay the horrific scene in my mind the whole thing seemed to happen in slow motion, but before the adult supervisors could react in fast motion (or even normal speed motion), Kabammmm – Pine Cone was on the ground!  And the granddaughter was crying and scared!  She sensed it starting to go backwards and flailed her 4 foot long dryer duct arms wildly, but it didn’t help!  She hit the really hard floor (carpeting over concrete) and the only thing that saved her was her ice cream bucket helmet! 

  1. Before placing a little human inside the robot, print out a copy of the NFL’s “What To Do If A Player Has A Concussion” and read it thoroughly.  Because we had done that we were able to react very swiftly (once the robot was in the prone position). And we followed the NFL’s guidelines verbatim: First we hollered, “OH MY GOSH!!!! ARE YOU ALL RIGHT????” And then we directed, “QUICK PUT YOUR HEAD IN THIS BUCKET OF ICE!!!”  It turned out she was fine and hadn’t hurt the floor at all.  Because of our quick thinking, Little Natalie totally recovered and again got back into the robot.

  1. Have a supervisor (someone 18 or older and strong enough to stop falling robots) hide behind the robot and grasp it firmly.

  1. Oh, one other thing…do not have the wood stove in the basement family room going at the same time so that its like 123 degrees while you are trying to build your robot.  During the robot construction period it tends to make adults irritable.

  1. And finally……………..have fun!

Twenty Little First Graders

When I picked up my wife from work on Friday, December 14th, I asked her to text our daughter with a message that read something like, “Give the grandkids an extra special hug from us tonight.”

It had been about 8 hours since a monster had entered Sandy Hook Elementary School and killed twenty first-graders and 6 staff members.  Our granddaughter is the same age as those 20 innocent little kids.  

Earlier in the day I had clicked on a news website to see what was going on in the world. When I read the horrific headline I just dropped my head, closed my eyes and began to silently pray.  With just an awful feeling I called my wife and told her what had transpired in Connecticut. 

The next day one radio announcer remarked, “You know it’s a bad day when you are stopped at the traffic light and the people in the cars around you are crying.” A “bad day” doesn’t even begin to describe what took place.

Words just get in the way when trying to express the enormity of the grief that the parents, grandparents, family members and even the entire community of Newtown must be going through.

The shooter, Adam Lanza, fired between 50 and 100 rounds.  Most of the shooting took place in two first grade classrooms – 14 were killed in one room and 6 in the other.  Eight little boys and 12 little girls.  The six adults that were killed were all woman…and all were heroes.

In the mode of US Marines, several of the adults ran toward the sound of gunfire.

Denis Hamill wrote this in the New York Daily News, “The 2012 Daily News Person of the Year Award belongs to all those who put their lives on the line at Sandy Hook Elementary School trying to save the lives of children…”

In that same article he goes on to say, “Jump for joy for a Sandy Hook Elementary janitor named Rick Thorne who did a Paul Revere run through the hallways after spotting the gunman, shouting, ‘A gunman is coming! A gunman is coming!’ He checked to make sure the classroom doors were locked.”

Victoria Soto, a 27 year old first grade teacher, put herself between the gunmen and her terrified first graders.

The Apostle John wrote, “Greater love hath no First Grade Teacher than this, that she lay down her life for her students.” (John 15:13)

One first grader escaped by pretending to be dead.  When she finally ran and reached her mother she said, "Mommy, I'm okay, but all my friends are dead."

It wasn’t long before AM talk radio and the cable new shows were filled with talking heads pointing the finger of blame.

Was the rampage the result of loopholes in the existing gun control laws?  Is it the violent first person shooter games that we should blame?  Is it the need for more precise mental health evaluations and more dollars to be spent in that area?  Is it bad parenting?  Is it the result of Hollywood’s glorification of violence and gore and blood?

There is a great cry throughout our country for something (anything) to be done.  On the left there is a call for firmer gun control laws and even a demand for guns to be confiscated; on the right there is a call to arm the teachers.

The purpose of this brief article is not to opine on what should or should not be done, but to hopefully (and in the smallest of ways) provide some spiritual comfort. 

First, we live in a broken world where sin is rampant.  Unfortunately there may be more Adam Lanza rampages in the years to come.  Albeit they were not school shootings, in Chicago this past year 500 people have been murdered. That’s almost 20 Sandy Hooks per year!  When Jesus was born, King Herod, not wanting any competition for his throne, cruelly massacred all of the boys in the region of Nazareth 2 years old and younger.  Perhaps dozens of parents had their hearts ripped apart that day.  The Apostle Paul wrote, “But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. For men will bebrutal, haters of good…” (II Timothy 3:1-3). 

Second, as tragic as this event is, the news media will quickly move on to other current events and will, for the most part, forget about Sandy Hook.  But God doesn’t forget.  The prophet Isaiah wrote, “Yet Jerusalem says, “The LORD has deserted us; the Lord has forgotten us.’’ “Never! Can a mother forget her nursing child?  Can she feel no love for the child she has borne?  But even if that were possible, I would not forget you!  See, I have written your name on the palms of my hands.” (49:14-16)   

Thirdly, unless we have lost a child, it is hard for us to fathom the pain of the parents and grandparents at the loss of their little ones.  How can you even open the door to their bedroom without tears streaming down your face?  How can you face Christmas without the joy-filled faces of those little first-graders?  But there is a God Who does ache and feel and love.  Revelation 21:4 reminds us, “And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.”  The proof that our God is a God of love is found in the fact that He doesn't delegate the job of wiping away the tears of sorrow to angels...He does it Himself!  The lyrics from the song “For Those Tears I Died” remind us, “I felt every teardrop when in darkness you cried, and I strove to remind you that for those tears I died.”  The Heavenly Father endured the brutal torture and death of His only Son; and because of that He has a tremendous compassion for the community of Newtown.   

Fourthly, find a way to show kindness and find a way to serve.  Your gentle action may make a world of difference in someone’s life.  And the world needs an army of empathetic servants. 

And finally, pray for Newtown and Sandy Hook Elementary.  Often relegated to end of the line because of its seeming unimportance and powerlessness, prayer can make the difference in someone’s life!  There is an unfathomable power available through tears that are poured out at the Throne of Grace! Through prayer we can connect individuals and communities to a God Who cares.  In the coming weeks and months remember to lift them up in your prayers.