More or Less Random Thoughts (posted 6/17/22)

Because our political leaders are so depressing right now, I thought I’d take a column off, and write about a few other, non-political – though not necessarily wildly upbeat! — items I’ve seen in the news lately. 

But first, I’m in the process of updating my own website, and I recorded a short video there, if you’d like to see it.  With the coming of Father’s Day, I always think about my dad, and I thought I’d share a brief story of one of the funniest impromptu things he ever said to me.

To see it, go to  At the top of the page, you’ll see several headings, including one for “Videos” — the Father’s Day entry is the first one I’ve posted.  Fair warning, though: I’ve got a face made for radio, and due to my being from the 19th century and not understanding technology, the lighting is a little dim.  (Though some might say that dim lighting and my face were made for each other!)   

You’ll also see headings at the top of the page for “Short Stories” and “Road Trips,” as well as my regular political humor and commentary columns.  The former section has two of my published stories from years ago, and I’ll be adding more as I can track down copies; the latter section includes my columns from last year’s road trip on Route 66 from Chicago to LA, and this year’s trip around Lake Michigan. 

Coming soon, I’ll put up a section that will have pictures and possibly some videos and commentary about the ongoing restoration of our old Victorian house (Rosewood) that partially burned in April. 

If you do want to wander around the site, I’ve heard from some readers that there are problems seeing everything when using your phone, so you might want to use a computer.

Okay, in no particular order and with no particular theme, here are some interesting stories I’ve come across recently:

For this first story, I should warn you that it really is tragic, and involves what might be simultaneously one of the worst and best ways to die.  So it is graphic, at least in terms of what it makes you imagine — if you are queasy, you might want to skip the next few paragraphs.

A 39-year-old father of three died in a Caterpillar foundry in Illinois on June 2nd.  He was working near a gigantic crucible full of molten metal, when he fell in.  I’m not sure how something like this happens, and the thought of it is obviously horrific.

But while the last few seconds of this poor man’s life must have been terrible, his death was instantaneous, which would have been a mercy. 

The listed cause of death has to be one of the worst I’ve ever heard: “thermal annihilation.”    

The same day I read that horrible story, I came across another one that had a lot in common with it, and yet couldn’t have been more different: two employees working in a M&M factory in PA fell into a giant tank of chocolate.  Apparently neither of them was seriously injured, and the fire department was able to rescue them.

Boy, is life strange!  If I hadn’t read the first story, I’d immediately be thinking of jokes about the two guys in PA waving off the firefighters, insisting that they’d drink their way out of the chocolate tank, or some similar foolishness.

In any event, there can’t be too many more polar opposites in human experience than falling into something in a factory: you either find yourself surrounded by delicious chocolate with a funny story to tell later, or … (shudder) thermal annihilation.

Another social phenomenon that illustrates the incredible range of human nature and local behavioral norms involves crime.   Following the crime blotter in a new area tells you a lot about whether you’d be happy there.  Cartel beheadings in the news?  A weekly ballistic bloodbath in Lori Lightfoot’s allegedly tightly gun-controlled Chicago? 

For everyone not under the sway of a malign ideology, those should prompt a hard pass.

At the other end of the spectrum, my wife has drawn me into watching a few episodes of North Woods Law, which follows New Hampshire conservation officers and game wardens as they investigate and arrest people for hunting and fishing violations of various sorts, illegal camping, and reckless use of ATVs (as well as warm and fuzzy stories of finding injured animals or birds that they nurse back to health).

You can get emotional whiplash after watching the evening news in any big, Dem-run city, and then switching to the NH gumshoes, tracking down Gus and his ducks shot the day after duck season ended, and Bobby and his bucket full of fish, only half of which are long enough to have been legally caught and kept.      

Our own college town is big enough to have its share of occasional murders and terrible car wrecks and etc.  But it’s small enough that stories like the following one can make the evening news.

The staff writer clearly paid attention in J-school, because he or she does NOT bury the lede: “A Gainesville woman is in jail after coating another person with a condiment during a fight.”      

It seems that the 29-year-old was arguing with the father of her child, and things eventually got ugly.

And savory. 

Witnesses reported that the evildoer, and I quote, “dump[ed] a bottle of ranch dressing on [the] victim.” 

Thank God the cops got there before any croutons or hot sauce were involved!  The woman is now cooling her heels – and possibly licking her fingers – at the county jail, charged with domestic battery.  (Make your own pancake jokes if you must.)

Finally, I’ll close with a book recommendation. 

I’m halfway through Andrew Klavan’s new, “The Truth and Beauty: How the Lives and Works of England’s Greatest Poets Point the Way to a Deeper Understanding of the Words of Jesus,” and I’m really enjoying it.

It’s an eclectic and eccentric (in the best possible way) look at some great writers, great works, and the Gospels, and the moral challenges and truths that – Klavan argues – connects them.  In the first section, he discusses Hamlet, Paradise Lost and Frankenstein, among others.  I’ve read and enjoyed all of those, yet Klavan has shown me new aspects of each one.

He’s a skilled writer.  After discussing Wordsworth’s early infatuation with leftist causes and the ideals of the French Revolution, he deftly sketches out the transition the poet made to conservatism and a conversion to Christianity: “As time passed, the years did to Wordsworth what years will do, if you keep your eyes open.  They gave him both reasons to become more conservative and the experience to see the wisdom in old ways.”

Section 1 ends with this tease of Section 2, if you don’t mind a long quote:

“Wordsworth – lost and dispirited by the failure of the radical project – soon left London for the rural seaside county of Dorset.  There, one day in spring, he received a visit from a remarkable man.  The man was a genius and a drug addict, a polymath and an overly emotional fool.  He was also a Christian with perhaps the most profound and original insight into the Gospels since Aquinas.  And he had a preternatural power to ignite the minds of those who knew him with his ideas.

His name was Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and together, in an age of unbelief, he and Wordsworth began to reconstruct the moral imagination of the West.”  

How can you not want to read on, with a closing like that? 

If you enjoy great literature and aren’t averse to thinking anew about uncle Jesus, this book is worth a read.

Have a great Father’s Day weekend!        

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