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Monday, May 31, 2004



I recently watched the movie Miracle about the 1980 US Hockey Team which won the gold medal. I am always drawn to stories in which the underdog succeeds. The fact this movie was a true story made it even better. That win over the Soviets has to qualify for the all time upset win ever. Herb Brooks applied the formula of a good plan + hard work + single mindedness = success.

Herb was a good teacher. Once he assembled his team, he often asked a player three questions. "What is your name? Where are you from? Who do you play for?" From the first tryout to game play, the players would answer the third question with their college. There was a rivalry between Minnesota and the East Coast. I think it was after the US team tied the Norwegian team Herb Brooks kept the players on the ice after the game. He was angry, because he had observed them looking at girls in the stands and generally not taking the game seriously.

He made them skate from one end of the rink to the other in a common drill. The team stayed out there for a long time. In between sprints, Herb would say things to them. He reminded them of how important it was to give your all. The players were about to drop and most had thrown up from exertion. Finally, one of the players shouted out his name and the city from which he hailed. Herb Brooks asked him the third question, "Who do you play for?" Back came the response, "I play for the United States of America." The player "got it" and the team "got it." The coach could have stopped them on the first day and said something like this, "Boys, when I ask you who you play for, you are to say the USA. We need to put these rivalries behind us and be as one." Herb knew that lesson could not be conveyed in that way. The players would have to learn it on their own or it would not matter.

Miracle is a feel good movie. It is a welcome addition to what is out there. It is easy to see how it happened. The Soviets were over confident, but the US Team prepared. They paid the price in hard work and they were not in awe. You just never know what will happen.

When it comes to accomplishing your miracles this movie sets down a solid approach. First, have a goal. In my case it is to qualify for the Boston Marathon. Second, have a good plan. I am eating cottage cheese and peaches aren't I? Perhaps more importantly, I am paying for a coach and I will do what he tells me. Third, hard work. This is where a lot of goals crash and burn. It is one thing to have a goal and make a plan, but to do the day to day work of it separates the men form the boys. If you went to college you probably remember urges to quit maybe half way through. You have probably done the work for some goals and quit on others. That brings us to the next point. Single mindedness is necessary to accomplish the impossible. Fortunately, most of the things we want to do are not impossible, but it is nice to know you can do it if you apply single mindedness. I do not think I will have to quit my job to qualify for the Boston Marathon. I will have to forego some things. I will have to sacrifice.

It is comforting to know I can do just about anything I want to if I apply this formula. Others have proven its truth time and again. Movies like Miracle inspire and invite us to believe and to do. If we dare, we too will accomplish miracles.

Until the next time
John Strain


Sunday, May 30, 2004


Name That Puppy

Those of you who suggested a name for this little guy may be interested to see the 12 finalist names. You can cast your vote for one of them here. This is a dog Other World Computing is sponsoring for "Working Class Dogs." He will be a service dog for someone.


I chose Yoda because he is going to be smart.


Saturday, May 29, 2004


Jump Starting a Diet

Today is the day I was to begin the peaches and cottage cheese diet. My last regular meal was last night at Outback. About 2:00 AM I awoke to the sound of my wife Barbara throwing up in the bathroom. My immediate concern was, "Barbara's throwing up, I hope I don't get it." One of my nicknames is "Mr. Compassion." She threw up again and again about every 30 minutes. I could no longer ignore an uneasy feeling in my own stomach and before I knew it I was spewing diarrhea myself. "Well," I thought, "diarrhea is not so bad, at least I am not throwing up." Within a short period of time, I headed to the bathroom with a sense of nausea climbing beyond the limits of holding things down. I was doing a Linda Blair imitation that was a dead ringer. Few things are as disgusting as heaving your guts up into a toilet. I had not noticed how the hard water stains were beginning to collect around the rim. Between heaves I made a mental note to mention this to Barbara. Last night's supper exited my mouth with such pressure, it splashed in the toilet water and showered my face. The acid in my throat, snot dripping from my nose, tears streaming down my face, oh what misery. I had not had this sort of problem in a long time. There is temporary relief once you hurl like that, but it is short lived. I washed my face, brushed my teeth and crawled back in the bed.

Barbara and I took turns throwing up and expelling diarrhea most of the morning. I had a feeling of nausea that would not subside. I could not throw up to relieve it. It just stayed, then a headache accompanied it for laughs I guess. Eventually, by three or four, I began to feel a little better. I drank some Diet Coke, then some ice water. I went outside and watered my plants. Then I came inside and sorted through a few weeks of mail to pull out the bills. By now, I felt like I was on mile 22 of a marathon.

I am getting better. I figure tomorrow I will be back to normal. Outback said we were the only ones complaining of a problem from yesterday. I told them that they may not be able to yet. It is only now I managed the strength to pick up the telephone. I thought they might want to check things out. At this time, I am not really wanting meal coupons.

Oh, I got on the scales and I already lost four pounds from yesterday. I knew the cottage cheese and peaches diet would work.

Until the next time
John Strain


Friday, May 28, 2004


Thanks Everyone

For those of you taking time to wish my mother a happy birthday, I say thank you. You can see by her comments she was impressed. I love the fact that just leaving a message on a web page can lift the spirit and boost the confidence. Your attention is most appreciated.

John Strain


Happy Birthday Mom

Why not go over to my mother's site and wish her a happy birthday.


Latest Find

If you are looking for some great "how to's" with respect to HTML and CSS in a blog context, then check out Mandarin Design.


The Devil You Say?

When I was a seminary student 22 years ago, I wrote this paragraph:
Familiar Eyes

I saw the Devil today, he was looking back at me with familiar eyes. I found his features pleasant. He seemed a likable fellow. He assured me that he wanted the same things I wanted. We seemed to agree about everything. I had always thought of him as a monster and someone who wanted to destroy me. But that is not true. He really is not that bad. I should know, because today I saw him - gazing at me from my mirror. February 18, 1982

The subject of the devil, demons, and evil is always a hot topic in religious circles. Most of us have spent time thinking about what we believe along those lines. No one really has "the answer." We simply settle on some views. Theologians offer theories about evil from the traditional "devil" to evil not existing at all. So whatever you believe right now, there are scholars who will back you on your points.

I am not one to expend a lot of calories arguing over points no one can prove one way or the other. In cases like this, I focus on the practical - how does it affect me and what does it mean I should do? In matters of religion, I strive for a system of thought as free of contradictions as possible.

My brief writing from 1982 gives you some insight about how I view the concept of the devil as he affects individuals. To my knowledge, I have never seen the devil or talked with him. I have not had the opportunity to sell my soul for a career as a blues singer or a baseball player. This does not prove Satan does or does not exist. It only points out that, if the devil is running around influencing people, I have not been aware of it.

If Flip Wilson's Geraldine accurately depicts the devil, then we can be manipulated by him. I, however, feel that I can make my own choices. In other words, when I screw up, it is me screwing up and not me being influenced by the devil. Oh, but temptation is out there and we must choose wisely.

Personal responsibility has slipped from importance in recent years. The drunk who runs into another car killing an entire family is not held as responsible as the bar keep who sold him the liquor. The teacher is blamed for little Johnny earning an F in English.

If I act like the devil, it is because of my own choices. A line from the Lord's Prayer goes, "and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil." Avoiding temptation is the key. If you expose yourself to temptation, you will eventually cave in.

Evil: M. Scott Peck wrote, People of the Lie. He does a pretty good job describing evil in our world. The thing is, evil is often disguised as good. Parents may look appropriate on the outside, but be destructive and evil in the way they interact with their children. A good example of this was illustrated in "The Dead Poet's Society." Do you remember the boy who killed himself because of his father's overbearing and control? This was pretty close to the evil I am trying to describe. The father was remorseful, so he may have been misguided. Evil has no regard for others.

President Bush speaks of the evil doers. He takes heat for these words, but what words better describe someone who would turn a plane into a missile to kill innocent humans?

In my mind, evil is not so much up for debate. George Bush is not evil. Bill Clinton is not evil. Adolph Hitler was evil. Saddam Hussein is evil. I see a lot of people in my work. Every now and then, I come across someone who is just evil. Most people recognize it. Just like you know when you are in love, but at a loss to describe the feelings, you will sense evil when it is present even if your words fail to describe your feelings. Policemen know this as well. They will tell you, there is breaking the law and there is evil.

Well, what the devil do you think?

Until the next time
John Strain


Thursday, May 27, 2004


Just For The Health Of It

I am about to do something out of character for me. I am going on a cottage cheese and canned peaches diet. You read that right, cottage cheese and canned peaches. The reason this is out of character for me is I always preach against diets, and strange diets draw even more fire and brimstone from my personal health point of view.

Here is the diet. For one week I eat only cottage cheese and canned peaches. I can eat all I want, but nothing else. I can drink any non caloric beverage including Diet Coke. I also take a multivitamin. At the end of the first week, I enter phase two. During this phase, I eat the basic food pyramid plan while not gorging. Phase two only lasts one day, then it is back to phase one, provided I choose to do it for another week.

I wonder if this diet is responsible for cottage cheese thighs?

This diet was suggested by my coach to lose some weight quickly. It is only for rapid weight reduction and once I am off of this diet, I will eat sensibly to maintain the weight. Now that I am in training, I need to drop some pounds. I intend to train much more intensely than I did for the Napa Valley Marathon I ran in March. I know how much easier it is to run if I can shed an extra 10 lbs.

It sounds funny and my coworkers have already started calling me "peaches." Strangely enough, several of them perked up as I told them the details of the diet and some want to do it with me. People are more apt to do something if it sounds crazy than if it sounds legit.

For example, a woman once purchased breast enlargement cream because she was unsatisfied with the size of her tits chest. After using the chest enlargement cream for a month, she was getting out of the shower. "Honey," she said to her husband who was shaving, "I don't think this cream is working, my breasts don't look any bigger." The husband swished his razor in the sink, "why don't you rub toilet paper on your breasts," he said with a distant tone. "Will rubbing my breasts with toilet paper make them bigger?" she inquired. Her husband replied, "It worked on your ass."

How much do we really know about health anyway? Last weekend we were in New Orleans and visited a Whole Food Store. I think it is a chain, but anyway, imagine a large health food grocery store / GNC on steroids. The store had all kinds of vegetables, fruits, and nuts I had never before seen. They had aisle after aisle of special health products. The colors, the smells, the packaging, were all strange to me. I did not know what most of it was. People were buying it left and right though. Personally, I think it is a bunch of hooey. People are gullible and will fork over cold hard cash for what they are told is the fountain of youth or the latest elixir to grow hair or some pill promising to help men pop a chubby.

We are brainwashed to believe certain things are good for you and other things are bad for you. There is good cholesterol and bad cholesterol. Do you know the difference? How does bad cholesterol behave? Why is good cholesterol good?

How about antioxidants. I don't even know what an oxidant is, but antioxidants are supposed to be good. Maybe we are prejudging oxidants. I mean, are they all bad or did a few bad mannered oxidants ruin it for the good ones?

Why does the healthy way have to be less desirable. Most would rather sit than run. Eat than not. If it feels good, then it probably isn't good for you.

Sometimes the doctor wants me to have a lipid profile. How do they get the little lipids to stand sideways anyway?

I am getting tired of my doctor. Ever since I turned 40, he has started doing weird things to me. I won't go into it because I don't want to reopen old psychological wounds, but I wind up leaning on my elbows with my pants around my ankles. Afterwards I always feel so cheap. I also feel his hand in my nether regions for about two days following the assault. He tells me he is only violating me in the name of health.

So all in the name of health we eat weird and eat weird things. We rub things on our body and put things in our body. We allow strangers to put parts of themselves in our body. We spend money, do without, study, sacrifice, and humiliate ourselves. What do we get? Usually the shaft. (I just can't get that doctor out of my head).

Our preoccupation with health is a sign of how fortunate we are. We are rich enough to destroy ourselves through indulgence. It takes discipline to resist what tastes good, what is easy, and what feels good.

In case you are interested in the diet, here is the email I received from my coach containing the details:

Dear John: If you want to lose substantial weight in a short period of time, here is the diet that will do it:

Losing Weight Fast Ó2004 Michael Schreiber

The best approach to weight loss and weight control is the long term one. That is, you increase your exercise or training load and modify your diet. Gradually you lose sloppy fat, and gain firm muscle.

Your body’s appearance actually improves faster than the scale indicates, because firm tissue (muscle), though lesser in volume, weighs more than fat.

While I am primarily a believer in the long-term approach, for psychological reasons it is sometime a good idea to begin by losing a bit of weight in a hurry, and then move to a more gradual plan.

The most effective, non-drug quick loss plan ever developed, bar none, is the peaches and cottage cheese diet.

It works so well because it combines both the physiological with the psychological; you don’t count calories; you don’t keep complicated records; you don’t plan meals; you don’t restrict the amount you are allowed to eat. In other words, you aren’t forced to dwell on the subject of food and you don’t go hungry.

Before you begin this diet, or any new diet or exercise plan, consult your doctor.

This diet has you eat canned peaches, cottage cheese, a vitamin/mineral supplement, and the non-caloric beverages of choice. This would include: tap water, bottled water, mineral water, coffee, tea, herb tea, and diet soda.

You may eat as much peaches and cottage cheese as you wish, as often as you wish during the day and evening. However, it is better if you don’t stuff yourself, but rather take very small portions, and eat more often. A meal portion might consist of two heaping tablespoons of cottage cheese and half a peach, repeated throughout the morning, day and evening.

It is essential that you eat only the cottage cheese and peaches, the vitamin and non-caloric liquid, *absolutely nothing else!* No changes at all! The slightest change in the diet will prevent it from working to full effect.

You may stay on this program, with doctor’s approval, for one week. At the end of one week switch to "phase two," a diet that consists of fruit, vegetables (cooked and raw), beans (red, black or pinto), unflavored yogurt and fresh cheese, and the meat fish and poultry you most enjoy. Plus the non-caloric drinks mentioned before. This is the near ideal diet for an endurance athlete (and anyone else, for that matter).

After *one day* on "phase two," switch back to the cottage cheese and peaches diet for an additional one week. Continue cycling through the program, several times, until you reach your ideal weight. Good luck, and hang in there.  Mike  training2run@yahoo.com

As you pursue your health goals, I wish you luck.

Health Tip: Giving blood can reduce your risk of heart attack.

Until the next time


Wednesday, May 26, 2004


Go Somewhere Else

Go somewhere else is both title to this post and some good advice. I am not trying to run readers away from my site, but to offer a tidbit of information which has the power to free you and make it possible for you to finally live your life as you would choose.

Let me begin with a parable of sorts:
Spot was a happy dog. Each night he walked to the back door of a local restaurant where he was given food scraps and bones. All Spot had to do was bark a few times and one of the kitchen hands would emerge with a platter full of dog delicacies. Spot was fat and happy, but his luck was about to change.

The restaurant Spot loved so much had to close its doors one day. Not able to read, Spot did not see the announcement in the paper. Instead, he went to the same back door he had been going to for food, but there were no lights on and no usual activity in the alley. Nevertheless, Spot barked his usual way, but the door never opened. The kitchen help did not emerge with his nightly treat. Spot barked some more, but nothing happened. He eventually walked back home. He did everything right, but it did not work tonight.

The next night, a similar scenario unfolded. Spot showed up at the right place and the right time, but no food. The same thing happened the next night. Spot could not figure it out. It was not his fault. He was doing the right thing, but not getting fed.

The next night, Spot went to a different door. Spot was a smart puppy. He realized that if he kept doing the same thing, he would keep getting the same thing - so he took a risk and did something different - and it paid off.

Many people go to their parents for affection, approval, and encouragement. Instead they receive rejection, ridicule, and disapproval. It hurts. They crawl off and lick their wounds, heal, pick themselves back up. After a while, they return to the source hoping for different results, but end up rejected again. Go somewhere else.

Some folks have a crush and love someone, but the love is not returned. They reach out time after time and all they receive is rejection. Go somewhere else.

You may want your family to love you and be happy for you, but when you are around them, they douse your dreams with cold water. Why act surprised if it happens again and again. Go somewhere else.

It is not about you being good enough to earn their praise. It is about them. Something is wrong with how they think and act. Are you a parent? If so, ask yourself, what does your child have to do to make you love them? The answer is - nothing. The child only needs to exist. The child does not have to do anything to earn your love. What could your child do to make you stop loving him? Again, the answer is nothing. You may be disappointed in your child, but my guess is you will always love him/her.

If you can predict what will happen and it is bad, avoid the humiliation. Go somewhere else. Seek nurture and approval from someone who will freely give it.

An Autobiography in Five Chapters

Chapter I
I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I fall in.
I am lost...I am helpless.
It isn't my fault.
It takes forever to find a way out.

Chapter II
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I pretend I don't see it.
I fall in - again.
I can't believe I am in this same place.
But it isn't my fault.
It still takes a long time to get out.

Chapter III
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I see it is there.
I fall in...it's a habit...but, my eyes are open.
I know where I am.
It is my fault.
I get out immediately.

Chapter IV
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I walk around it.

Chapter V
I walk down a different street.

- Anonymous

If you go somewhere and you are not getting what you need, go somewhere else.

Until the next time
John Strain


Tuesday, May 25, 2004


Values Exercise

Yesterday, I asked you to make a list of the 10 things which were most important to you. The list could include people, things, concepts, and anything you deem important. If you did not do this, take a moment and make one now. Do this exercise when you have a few minutes. If you hurry through, it will have less meaning.

I will alter the exercise a bit for this venue. If I were talking to a group, I would be more detailed and elaborate with the scenario. However, if you take it seriously, the results will be the same.

Suppose you are on an airplane heading for Hawaii with your closest friends and family. You can be traveling with anyone you like. Let that image soak in. Feel the excitement of going on vacation. What will you do first once you arrive? Go to the beach? Rest in the hotel? Don't worry about money, everything is taken care of - all expenses are paid for one week.

As you settle in to your seat thinking about the fun you are going to have, the pilot comes on the intercom and announces the plane is having some engine problems. Things should be fine, but you need to give up one item on your list to keep the plane airborne.

Cross one item off of your list.

The crisis is past and you again begin to relax. You are thinking about your life and how many things you have done. Another adventure awaits you in Hawaii with your friends. Just as you are completely relaxed again, the pilot addresses the passengers once again. Bottom line is the plane will crash unless everyone crosses one more item off of their list.

Cross a second off of your list.

After another hour or so listening to the rhythmic hum of the jet engines you notice the noise change. They begin to cut out and sputter. Soon the engines are completely shut down. In a strange silence, the plane continues to glide and lose altitude quickly. If you are going to make it into one of the life boats when the plane hits the water you will need to cross item three off of your list.

Cross a third item off of your list.

Each time you cross an item off of your list, you are doing so to stay alive. It is either die or live on without whatever thing you choose to live without. At this time, you have seven items left. Suddenly the life boat is surrounded by sharks. They are big ones and threaten to swamp your small craft. The only way to get rid of the sharks and stay alive is to give up one more item.

Cross a fourth item off of your list.

The sharks are gone now and you float in the life boat for a couple of days. You are hungry and thirsty. The sun has burned your skin. You feel the life begin to slip away from you. Without food and water you will surely die in the life boat. Food and water is available and you can save yourself, but you must cross one more item off of your list and it will be gone forever.

Cross a fifth item off of your list.

You are strong again. There is plenty of food and water to sustain you. Aloe has soothed your sunburn. Strength has returned to you. Hope wells up inside, there is an undeniable feeling growing that you will be rescued. Then you hear something. At first, you are not even sure you hear anything at all, but soon you know the sound is a helicopter. Rescue is near and eventually the hovering helicopter lowers a basket for you. To enter the basket and be rescued, you must cross one more item off of your list.

Cross a sixth item off of your list.

You are almost home. In order to return home safely you must cross one more item off of your list.

Cross a seventh item off of your list.

What do you have left? Which three items remain? These three things are what are most important to you. Now ask yourself. If someone were to observe your life, would it be obvious to them these three things are what you value most? How much of your time, energy, and money do you put into these three things? Is it proportionate to the importance you ascribed them? What are your thoughts and feelings after taking this exercise? Do you feel you need to make any changes?

I used this exercise when I worked with men who had been arrested for spousal abuse. They were court ordered to attend my class. We would have fun with the above scenario, but as they had to wrestle with sacrificing items, the class grew quieter and more serious. They were truly thinking about life without their valued things. At times, a man might choose to die. "I cannot imagine living without X or Y," they would say, "and so they would perish." People make these choices in life all of the time. A soldier who throws himself on a live grenade puts the survival of his buddies above his own life. Parents often sacrifice for their children.

Back to the abusers. Almost always, the men would wind up with their family in the top three items. I would ask the hard questions. You say your children are your most valued thing, do your actions bear this out? You say your wife is what you value most, yet you hit her, how do you explain this?

I did not have to connect the dots for these men. They knew their words and actions were often out of sync. I could just tell them something like this. You know Bob, if you value your family at all, you will not scream and belittle your wife. You won't do it in front of the children either. You wouldn't spend a lot of your money on drinking and carousing. If we were to look at your actions and not your words, we would say you value anger and alcohol. I could say that,, but it would not have the impact this exercise would. Often times, men would leave in silence as though just hit between the eyes with a post mal. The next week often brought changed men back to the group.

Granted, the class dealt with a lot more than just this exercise. This came later on in the class, but it had impact. The men and sometimes women in the class were confronted with a contradiction of word and deed. "If I say I value something, how can I live in such a way?" This question would gnaw at them and often be the catalyst for change.

I have always done this exercise in a group setting. I am not sure if it will translate in this setting. Let me know what you thing. How did you experience this exercise?

Until the next time
John Strain


Monday, May 24, 2004


Different Worlds

I had what could be considered a pretty typical midwestern upbringing. My parents believed in honesty, friendship, family, and hard work. They believed in a lot of other things too, but that description should give you a general idea about me.

Brent keeps up with police officers who die in the line of duty. The most recent officer senselessly killed was Vicki Wax, a 27 year veteran of the Baton Rouge Police Department. She was killed trying to arrest someone suspected of shoplifting at a Wal Mart. The shoplifter held beliefs from a different world.

Half way around the world. People are raised quite a bit differently than I was. They learn a different history and religion. War is a constant for them. I am not familiar with their ways nor are they familiar with mine.

Use your imagination and contemplate all of the differences existing in this one world. We end up with many worlds in actuality. I am referring to different worlds with respect to values, purpose, goals, dreams, and passion.

A long time ago, the world was much bigger. People could live far enough apart or otherwise insulate from people not like minded. Nowadays, the world is much smaller and getting even smaller. Travel and communication have reduced the world to a room full of people.

Today if someone from a different world does something you do not like, you know it immediately. A response can be immediate as well and the whole world watches. In the old days, news did not travel as quickly. By the time information trickled out to the ends of the world and a response trickled back, there was ample time for thought and reason to form a response.

All of what I said applies to individuals and countries. Different worlds and different motivations for life is a two edged sword. On the one hand, it gives us diversity, on the other hand it gives us unreconcilable differences.

Still, with all of the differences, there are many things we all have in common. This fact only gives us the possibility to get along. For instance, as I understand Al Qaeda, the only way we can avoid their sword is to become them and take up their cause. Things get dicey when a group feels they speak for God.

The confrontation that we are calling for with the apostate regimes does not know Socratic debates...,Platonic ideals..., nor Aristotelian diplomacy. But it knows the dialogue of bullets, the ideals of assassination, bombing, and destruction, and the diplomacy of the cannon and machine-gun. From the Al Qaeda Training Manuel

My world view is still changing. The things I learned as a child worked in a classroom full of like minded children, but in the larger world they are insufficient. If someone mugs me, he is breaking the rule of sharing. If someone beats me, he is not keeping his hands to himself. If someone takes advantage of me in a business deal, he is not being nice. If someone kills me in the name of God, I do not comprehend.

Because I feel I have a right to exist and because I have a belief in freedom of thought, religion, movement, to name but a few freedoms, I may have to set down some boundaries. If people intrude on my boundaries, I may have to defend them. Someday, I may have to choose between letting someone trample one of my freedoms or to defend said freedom. Countries do this too.

It gets complicated when countries of different values vie to have their values satisfied. There are often conflicts, hard feelings, and resentments.

It is easy to let this become overwhelming, but when you consider all you can really control is yourself, it gets easier. Live true to yourself, knowing that you cannot have it all. You can probably make more money in business if you cheat. Therefore, having a value of honesty may effect your profit margin. You may believe in personal freedom, but that may mean your children choose a path of which you do not approve. You really cannot have it all.

Values Exercise: (If you know me, I often joke around or do things like this to set you up for a laugh. This is not a joke, honest injun, so if you choose to do it, you have nothing to fear.)

To help you better understand your own values do this. Make a list of the 10 things you love the most. List the 10 most important things in your life. The list may include people, things, beliefs, anything.

Tomorrow, I will complete the exercise. it is important to give your list some thought. One way to do it is to think the 10 things are all you can have, but this is not Survival, so don't list food and water. We will assume the physical needs will be covered.

Until the next time
John Strain


Sunday, May 23, 2004


Happy Sunday

OK, running done, check. Mowed the lawn and all the other yard work, check. Move to the inside and piddle around the rest of the day, check. Grill hamburgers later, have a few drinks and watch the Sopranos. That should finish off my Sunday, then it is back to work.

Here's to hoping you enjoy your day.

Until the next time,
John Strain


Saturday, May 22, 2004


Service Dogs

It is funny to me how a post materializes. While checking my email, I read my biweekly newsletter from Other World Computing. Before they get to their specials and new product reviews, there is usually a paragraph about the weather or something completely unrelated to computing. This issue mentioned an organization OWC was supporting, "Working Class Dogs, inc." In addition, they were having a puppy naming contest. I bit on that one because I like puppies and I like to name things. Although giving a name to my son and my sex organ are probably the only things I have ever really named. Anyway, I submitted my name for the puppy and said awwwhh at the cute little guy. Then I thought I would go to the "Working Class Dogs Inc." website, but could not find one. Shoot. I was now interested in service dogs in general, I searched a few sites. Then I remembered the only person I ever knew who had a service dog. It was in college. Back then they were called guide dogs.

Radar was his name, not the dog, the blind guy. The dogs name was Jester. They strolled up and down the sidewalks and everyone loved to pet Jester and say a few words to Radar. I never had a class with him myself, but there was a whole canon of stories about Radar and Jester. Jester had Radar's social security number tattooed on his belly. I doubt if they do that today.

I want to share one other thing I found in my search. It will make you aware of a whole segment of society. A segment we do not usually see or of which we seldom take notice. They are set off to the side, hidden, too shy or unable to come out. Many times when they do come out they have to endure ridicule or face, what are to them, grueling and frightening tasks.

Here is one such individual:

Service Dogs
Making Dreams Come True

"Let me tell you about a child that in Pre-K was not interacting with his peers because he could not keep up, because he did not always know the right things to do or say to get other children to take notice.  By the time this child started Kindergarten he learned that he would be left behind, that other children would start to treat him differently and even tease him, and that it was easier to play by himself. 

Now let me tell you about the child that is now risking interaction with others, that now has something in common with them, and even is seen as special in the very eyes of those that had deemed him different. 
Of course this child is Hunter.  And the change is Kicker.  Even when Kicker is not with him...he is.  This is my hope for every child and team placed by 4 Paws...that the world grant them a chance to be seen for who they are, not for what they can't do, and that a bridge of acceptance is built between able and "dis"abled. "
Michelle, Parent of a child with a 4 Paws Service Dog

Service dogs are used to help people with:

Dogs are quite remarkable when you think about it. Of course they make great pets and friends, but they work. Thus the phrase, "work like a dog." This does not apply to my dog Hobo. All he does is sleep and eat. Dogs are quite useful in law enforcement and rescue situations. They don't complain and they work for praise and a few dog biscuits.

Dogs can make us laugh:

What did the indian say when his dog fell off the cliff?
Dog gone.

Two drunks are watching a dog lick its balls.
One drunk says to the other, "I wish I could do that."
The other drunk says, "Aren't you afraid he'd bite ya?

A three legged dog goes walking into a western saloon
He says in a loud voice, "I'm looking for the man who shot my paw."

One of my favorite cartoon bits is when a guy had a talking dog. So the talking dog and his master go to a talent agency. They stand in front of a desk and the master explains how he has a talking dog. The dog is sitting there very dog like. The master turns to the dog and asks a series of questions. "OK rover, what's on top of a house?" "Roof," comes the reply but sounding very barklike. The next question comes, "How does sandpaper feel?" "Ruff," says Rover again very barklike. The last question is posed, "Who is the best baseball player ever?" "Ruth," comes the response, very barklike as were the previous two answers. The two were promptly thrown out on the street. As they sat there, the dog turns to his master and with a shrug says in a very Brooklyn accent, "I should have said Dimaggio?"

Service Dog Links:
Delta Society: The Human - Animal Health Connection
National Service Dogs Training Center Inc.
4 Paws For Ability

I don't have a name. Click my picture to give me one:
Name that puppy

Until the next time
John Strain


Friday, May 21, 2004



I took the plunge and retained the services of an online coach. My goal is to qualify for the Boston Marathon. That means I have to run a marathon (26.2 miles) in less than 3 hours and 30 minutes. I have done such a thing so it is within my grasp. Training is more than just work it is working smart. I get confused with all of the theories about training. Since my marathon in March, I have been running pretty well, but the last three weeks, I have floundered. The snooze alarm and computer have enticed me and I have given way to sloth, one of the seven deadly sins.

Over at training2run.com, I became familiar with Dr. Mad Dog Mike Schreiber. The name appealed to me first off. I mean, when selecting a coach, I would rather have one with a name like Dr. Mad Dog than I would Poindexter. Dr. Mad Dog sounds tough and smart all at the same time. I have emailed the Mad Dog and he has responded with good information. I considered doing the coach thing, but put it off until my motivation started heading south. I reasoned a coach would provide the accountability I lacked. So I did it, I paid the $100 for 12 weeks of coaching. I am already glad I made the decision. We have emailed each other a few times and I have been given my running orders for the next week.

I am going to be in better shape, lose weight, and eventually qualify for the Boston Marathon. Then I am going to run the Boston Marathon. Of course, all of this is contingent on the good Lord being willing and the creek not rising.

I have made fun of people in the past who have had personal trainers. My opinion was folks should do it for themselves, but I have changed my position. In my case, I can see a number of benefits to having a coach. The support is important and my motivation has received a jolt to boot.

It feels good to set a goal like this. When I accomplish my ultimate goal is a long way off. I hope to compete in the 2006 Boston Marathon. It will be here before I know it though so I have to get started now.

If you will excuse me, I've got to run.

Until the next time
John Strain


Thursday, May 20, 2004


Walking the Dog

Hobo CollageBarbara and I ate at the Chinese buffet tonight. "Six Fortune" is one of our weekly haunts. True to form, I ate enough to hamper my breathing and make me question my judgment. That food is too good. When we got home, we decided to take a walk.

My geriatric dog Hobo loves to go for walks. His hind leg muscles are deteriorating causing a major loss of strength. He struggles to stand and sit. The vet has him on "dog celebrex" which helps some, but the poor dog is slowly wasting away. He will be 13 June 1.

Our nightly routine used to include taking Hobes for a walk. We somehow quit walking regularly. I cannot even remember when we walked last. Tonight, I grabbed Hobo's leash and asked him if he wanted to take a walk. When he hears the word walk, he cocks his head to one side. It is very cute. I did not have to ask him twice. We were out the door and Hobo was back in his element. There was a whole neighborhood to pee on to let the other dogs know that Hobo is alive and well.

When Hobo was younger, he was much stronger. On more than a few occasions, he pulled Barbara around like a skier behind a motor boat. If Hobes saw a cat or a squirrel, he would take off. I handled him quite a bit better, but every now and then he would catch me unsuspecting and nearly dislocate my shoulder as he did his best to chase a cat. One house we walked by had a cat who was often outside. If Hobo saw the kitty, he would lunge to get at it. He would be barking like a rabid dog and the cat would look at him like, "you're on a leash moron, you can't touch this." Sometimes people would stop their car and ask Barbara, who is walking who?

Tonight was a taste of the old days. We had to laugh. As we took about four hours to go around the block due to Hobo's slowness, we got to reminisce about familiar landmarks. There was the junior high school gym, where John played his first basketball game at age 7. We thought about all of the games we attended there through rec league and eventually the school team, of which he took part. We went to parent's night meetings in that gym. Then it occurred to us, what in the world is going on? The kids who attend junior high today are so young. Why, even the parents look young. I don't know how that can be. They were not that young when we were there with our son, were they?

As we walked, Hobo sniffed and peed like old times. It was sultry this evening and the whir of air conditioners droned on in the night. The chorus of night sounds serenaded us. A frog was in the road, and I shooed him off into some brush in an attempt to spare his little life. I did not want him to croak. In relative peace and calm we strode slowly through the night air. We were aware of the passing of time. As if standing on a bridge and watching a river flow past us; a puppy grows up and is in the winter of his life; a boy becomes a man and is heading into the fullness of his life. We watch it all flow by, feeling many things at once. Pride and gratitude are muted by an uneasy sadness. The flowing river of life is full of hellos and goodbyes. I doubt we will ever comprehend it, we will just have to accept it and enjoy it.

I have lived my entire life to get to this one evening in May 2004. I took a walk and reminisced. I acknowledged gratitude for some of my blessings. I was aware of the temporal qualities and though with a measure of sadness, was accepting of it, choosing to enjoy this moment like I do a magnolia blossom in the spring. It won't be there in a month, but it is here now and I will breathe it in. I will gaze at its beauty. When it is gone, I will wait with anticipation until I see it again.

Your mind can take snapshots of your beautiful moments. They will be there to browse just when you need them to lift your spirits.

Catch a falling star and put it in your pocket. Save it for a rainy day.
Catch a falling star and put it in your pocket. Never let it fade away.

Until the next time
John Strain


Wednesday, May 19, 2004



Play Doh: Here is another hodge podge of free flowing thoughts. This post is like the can of Play Doh made up of bits and pieces. Remember the swirling colors? OK, a show of hands, who has eaten Play Doh? Not bad, a little salty. Then remember the smell. I always rolled a clump in my hands and made either a male sex organ or a piece of dog poop. After getting a few laughs and if the teacher didn't catch me, I would make a pancake or something equally creative. Silly Putty was neat for pressing on a comic strip. When the Silly Putty was lifted up, presto, like magic, the comic strip was now on the putty. I had fun stretching and distorting the characters. I did not have the patience for clay. It was too hard. Anything I made was pretty crude. I guess in more ways than one.

What's on TV?: My son works for Circuit City selling TV's. The other day he was selecting the channel to be displayed on the televisions. What is on one television is on them all. So he chooses Lord of the Ring which was airing on HBO. John went about his work, then he took a break and ate lunch. When he returned, there was no one in his department. Lord of the Ring was over and all of the televisions from the smallest 5 inch to the 63 inch giants were displaying a nude couple in the throws of passion. He said two people were going at it on a sofa. He quickly ran to the receiver and switched programming to ESPN. Apparently, no one noticed. I could just imagine what might have happened. "Mommy, what's that man and lady doing?" "Is he hurting her mommy?" "No, then why is she screaming." "Are they worshiping mommy? That lady keeps saying, Oh God!" But none of that happened. Phew!

Connections: On a sincere and serious note . . . It is easy to get busy and focus on what you have to do in my work and not on the individual you are trying to help. A new patient means another group note, a social history, releases of information to be signed, talking with family members, and other tasks. This process can become mechanical. Today, however, I made a connection with someone. I felt like I made a difference in this person's life. I think there are a lot of nurses, social workers, physical therapists, doctors, and other health professionals who are in their job just going through the motions. This condition is not a result of disinterest, lack of concern, or sloth. Instead, I think it is the result of a heavy burden of paper work and ungodly regulations from state and federal authorities. Going in, one has an impression of what it would be like to be a nurse, social worker, doctor, physical therapist, and so on, then reality hits. Good intentions, motivation, and years of school meet redundant paper work created by lawyers for lord knows what purpose. Images of working with people are replaced with the reality of writer's cramp and laborious rules which make little to no sense.

I suppose most professions are like this. Today though, I made a connection with someone. I will write about it someday. I cannot now, because I am paranoid of the HIPPA laws. More laws to protect privacy, but in actuality make it more difficult and costly to deliver health care, especially psychiatric care.

Coach: I am considering retaining the services of an online coach. It costs $100 for 12 weeks. The guy is an accomplished runner, coach, and author. I really want to qualify for the Boston Marathon and I think having a coach to lay out my work schedule would be the ticket. I would be accountable to him, so my pride would get me out of bed in the morning. I have a good 6 months before my next marathon, so this guy could have me primed and ready to go.

The Year's At The Spring: While spring is making its way to my friends in the great white north, summer is almost here in the south land. The mornings are quite hazy and humid now. Cool is a word I will use less and less until perhaps next October.

Here is one of my favorite poems about spring. My mother had it hanging on her wall for years. It may still be there.

The year's at the spring
The year's at the spring
And day's at the morn;
Morning's at seven;
The hillside's dew-pearled;
The lark's on the wing;
The snail's on the thorn:
God's in His heaven—
All's right with the world!
Robert Browning

Until the next time
John Strain


Tuesday, May 18, 2004


Free Associations

In the psychology biz we refer to associations as either being "loose" or "tight." An association refers to the logical connection of thoughts. In the old days, associations were tested more formally. The psychologist would say a word and the patient would say the first thing that came into his mind. For example, if I were to say "hot," you might say "cold" or even "John Strain," hehe, just kidding. If I were to say "up", you would probably say "yours" or "down." These are tight or normal associations. Loose associations are thoughts which have no apparent logical connection. For instance, if I were to say "black," a loose association might be tooth pick or mosquito. Today, associations are not evaluated formally. Instead, assessment of associations is done in conversation. If the thoughts are not logically connected and if they are difficult or even impossible to follow, we say that person has loose associations. This post will be an example of loose associations, because I am going to draw from some unrelated items and put them here with no apparent logical connection.

A psychologist was testing one of his patients using the Rorschach test (ink blots). After examining the first ink blot, the doctor asked the man what he saw. The man replied, "I see a naked woman." The psychologist produced the next ink blot, to which the man described a naked woman putting a golf ball. "Hmmm," the doctor said scratching his chin. He then showed the patient the third ink blot. "What does this appear to be," asked the doctor. "Oh, this is a naked woman doing her algebra homework," the man said very sure of himself. The doctor stated, "you seem to have a one track mind." The patient, shrugged and replied, "hey, they're your ink blots."

If you would like to take a brief ink blot test, try this one. I found it quite accurate:

Take an online Rorschach (ink blot) test

Ink Blot

My friend Mollie, sent this to my inbox. I guess you could say she contributed her two bits to this post. You won't want to miss the picture she has posted of John Kerry's daughter. She is almost nekkid. You can also see it here.

New Louisiana Quarter

In honor of the movie Troy, why not see which Greek God you are most like:


?? Which Of The Greek Gods Are You ??
brought to you by Quizilla

I had a long day Monday. Up at 5:00 AM, got in my run, work by 8:30 am, off by 5:45 PM, then I had a city planning meeting which lasted until 9:00 PM. When I got home I was really hungry. I said to my wife, "I am so hungry, I could eat the ass end of a menstruating skunk." If you think that line is funny, I made it up. If you think that line is disgusting, then I am only repeating what my friend Marty from the Mississippi delta taught me. Basically, that line meant I was really hungry.

OK it is late so I am heading to the rack.

I am behind on my blog reading and commenting, but will catch up.

Here's to a less busy Tuesday.

Until the next time
John Strain


Monday, May 17, 2004


It's Not About Me

If I had to identify one understanding I have about interpersonal relationships that is most important, I would say, "It's not about me." I will explain. When people become angry or hurt, it is usually because they believe someone is singling them out. They feel the object of some plot just to piss them off or belittle them.

I, of course, learned this the hard way. I would be wronged, then make myself miserable for days hashing and rehashing the incident. Often times, the person I had the feelings toward was oblivious to my strife.

I would mull over questions like, why did they do this to me? How could they? What did I ever do to them? My gut would have that old churning feeling and it would take several days for me to get over it. I do not like anyone to be upset with me and I am a pleaser. These two characteristics make me ripe for upsetting myself.

Then I learned a little secret. What "person X" did was more about them than about me. This is simple and liberating if one takes it to heart. I still care about what people think of me, but if I am criticized negatively or snapped at, I do not immediately upset myself. My first thought is, "what's with them?"

We should not lose site of reality and what is appropriate in a given situation. The ability to break things down is important. If one does not possess this skill, they may under react or over react.

In counseling, the understanding of "it's not about me" is one of the concepts I most frequently teach. People come to counseling because they are upset about something. Often, their understanding of what is appropriate is askew. If the patient is really lucky, they think their conflict is about them and not about the other guy. It truth, it is about both, but people skilled at bothering themselves prove themselves adept at painting themselves into emotional corners.

So, next time someone tells you to shove it, don't wonder what you did or what is wrong with you, wonder what is up with them. Maybe they are having a bad day. Their dog may have run away, an unexpected bill may have just arrived. If you hold your tongue, the guy who told you to shove it may just apologize to you. This may be part of what Jesus was talking about when he implored his followers to "turn the other cheek."

Until the next time
John Strain


Sunday, May 16, 2004


Clear Skies

Weather MapToday is as pretty as yesterday was not. The sun is shining and my thick grass awaits a few hours of my toil to give it that curb appeal once again. What a cycle I'm in, I work Monday - Friday, sometimes Saturday. On the weekend, I spend about half a day sprucing up the yard. I enjoy it for a day, then go back to work. Then it repeats and repeats again and again. I wonder why I don't freak out and run screaming into the night. Maybe it is because we need to keep busy even if the tasks are routine. What would I do with an extra half day a week if I did not take care of the lawn? Would I use it to better mankind. Excuse me while I stop laughing. There, I'm OK now.

Lawn care is a huge industry. Think of all of the tools used. There are hand tools like shovels and rakes, power tools, such as electric hedge clippers, blowers, weed eaters, and edgers, then there are power mowers and lawn tractors. Most of these tools require accessories or ongoing support like string for the weed eater, gas and oil for the engines. There is more. We cannot forget hoses, sprinklers, and fertilizer. There is also pesticides and sprayers. If someone were to invent grass that only grew to a height of 2 inches, Home Depot would close down.

Since our economy would probably collapse if lawn care was not a part of it, I suppose I will do my patriotic duty and tidy up my yard today. I just purchased a new blower a week ago, so I am doing my part.

I often wonder how long I can do the yard work myself. I know there should be a few years left in me. I am only 47. I see men in their 70's doing their yard, but they are pretty slow and use lawn tractors. I prefer the push mower, because I want the exercise. The only exercise I get at work is wrestling with a patient every now and then. Thankfully, I am just an extra hand when it comes to that and not the point man.

Time to stop talking about it and time to start doing it, the yard that is, but after my run. I did not do that yesterday either.

Until the next time
John Strain


Saturday, May 15, 2004


It's Raining And I Don't Care

Ordinarily on a Saturday I would be bummed under rainy circumstances. Today, however, I have to go to the hospital and work about five hours just to catch up on my charting and other paperwork. It is somehow easier to take when I would be stuck inside anyway.

Maybe later it will clear off and I can get my run in. If not, tomorrow looks to be nice weather. Therefore, the yard work and long run will have to wait.

A lot of people do not like George Bush. They may wonder why I do. One reason is he sends me personal items and appoints me to special tasks. Case in point, the photo below arrived in the mail yesterday. Notice how neatly he wrote my name at the bottom of the photo. He and Laura even autographed the photo. This will certainly be displayed prominently on the refrigerator door.

George and Laura Bush
To: John F. Strain, Thank you for your early commitment and dedication as a Charter Member of the campaign in Louisiana. Grassroots leaders like you are the key to building a winning team. Best Wishes, Laura Bush George Bush

According to what George wrote, I am some sort of charter member grassroots leader in Louisiana. I feel responsible to deliver the state to George just like his brother did Florida in the last election. Now, let's see, do we have a bunch of morons in Louisiana who will look at a ballot and vote for Bush when they really want to vote for Kerry? Hmmmm. Maybe we can tell everyone at about 10:30 AM the state is already in the Bush camp so all of the Kerry people will stay home. That is what the Gore folks tried in Florida. There have to be more and better ideas out there. This is Louisiana after all, we used to lead the nation in dirty politics. I think we are trying to clean up our image though. The Louisiana legislature has moved to the front burner, debate over a proposed law to not allow people to expose their underwear. I think this is directly aimed at rappers. Apparently, you can show your tits on Bourbon Street, but a cotton waste band is just more than a decent person can take. Thank God they will hash this out, because jobs, business, healthcare, crime, and the environment are already taken care of in this state. I am going to adopt a policy I have heard others state, which is to always vote out the incumbent. These people are jokes.

Now, I'm getting myself worked up. The obvious loop hole here is not to wear underwear. Just like the little girl who told her mother she was getting cookies from boys just for pulling up her dress. "Oh, honey, don't do that," her mother said "Those boys just want to see your under pants." The next day the little girl came home eating a cookie. Her mother said "You didn't raise your dress again did you?" The little girl responded "Yes mommy, but I fooled them, I didn't wear any under pants." I think that little girl was from Louisiana.

OK, I am going to the psychiatric hospital for some sanity and a reality check.

Enjoy your Saturday, hope it is pretty where you are,
Until the next time
John Strain


Friday, May 14, 2004


Am I Only Dreaming?

The woods are beautiful in the winter time. Morning is breaking as I am trudging through the new fallen snow. I can see the bright red sun through the trees as it rises. The tall trees cast long, light blue shadows which form a somewhat distorted silhouette of the woods on the white snow covered ground. The air is sharp, fresh, and clean. The sound of my walking carries well on this brisk morning. slight gusts of wind rustle the already dead leaves that still cling to the trees where they grew. The air is alive with the happy songs of birds as they fly with amazing gracefulness and precision. A tranquil feeling has come over me. My many worries seem to diminish as I drift into a sense of awe. I am refreshed. I cannot help but believe that if everybody took the time to walk in the woods and behold God's handiwork the world we live in would be a better place. Imagine the world without wars, without crime, just peace.

Am I a dreamer?

My mind drifts back into reality, suddenly a bell sounds. I get up and turn off my alarm. The radio announcer's voice rings loud and clear - - "fighting continues in the Middle East . . . crime rates up in 76 . . ."

I guess I was dreaming after all.

I wrote the above piece as a college sophomore in 1977. My English professor was an older gentleman by the name of Ira Buffington. Lots of students could not look past his out of style clothes and gray hair. Their disrespect somehow drew me closer to him. I paid close attention in his class. As a ministerial student, I knew English was important, even if that was not my attitude in high school.

Dr. Buffington read some of the papers he liked before the class. The greatest honor he could bestow, however, was to ask the author for a copy of the paper. Those special papers were somewhat immortal. He would read them to other classes as examples of "how to do it."

One day, Dr. Buffington was reading some of the papers he chose as a cut above the rest. The last one he read was my piece, "Am I Only Dreaming." The pride and satisfaction welled inside me to the point I began to shake. When he completed the reading, he looked at me and said, "Mr. Strain, this is an excellent paper, may I have a copy of it?" That was one of the greatest moments in my life. It may not sound like much, but I really worked on my writing. In addition to that, I was genuinely interested in writing outside of English assignments. It was like hitting a grand slam or for you Canadians, scoring a hat trick.

The funny thing is, it still applies. Cheeky Squirrel pointed out my point of view is often idealistic. I suppose he is right. I have been a dreamer for a lot of years. Truthfully, I am a little bit of a lot of things. I am a cynic at times, pragmatic at others. Ideal, wistful, and compassionate in response to some things and critical, angry, and judgmental about others. The trick is to recognize and maintain balance.

TGIF and POETS (Piss On Everything Tomorrow's Saturday)

Until the next time
John Strain


Thursday, May 13, 2004


I've Been Doing Some Thinking

The Thinker

Two forces move us to decision making; thinking and feeling. Yesterday I was doing a lot of feeling in the aftermath of the news about the militants beheading an American citizen. I was extremely angry for a number of reasons. As I sat at my computer, I browsed photos and found the one I eventually posted. The post I wrote was more an expression of emotion than a carefully researched history. Nevertheless, they were my feelings. I felt better when they were written out. I finished about 12:30 then went to bed. I laid there for a while still feeling angry and sad and frustrated.

The next day, the comments trickled in. Commenters on my site have always been polite when expressing contrary opinions. I read the responses and replied to them throughout my work day. I was beginning to do more "thinking" than I was "feeling." I get energized by differences of opinion and I was receiving lots of fuel. The beauty of blogging is one can receive feedback from all over the world and I was getting feedback from several countries.

I am still angry and if I give it much thought, I can rekindle those passionate flames. I still hold what are conservative political views. Again, thanks to blogging, I was exposed to views and explanations to my political left. Without blogging, I might have wallowed in the warmth of Rush Limbaugh's soothing agreement or basked in the comfort of FOX News. I assume this also works in reverse. Some of you may read Hillary's book for comfort or maybe James Carville gives you solace from the onslaughts of those darned conservatives. We are all acquainted with opposing views. We have the opportunity to read them and think about them or to zap them, even ban the commenter. I hope these differences of opinion cause us to keep thinking about the issue. None of us can afford to lock down our opinion on such dynamic topics. It is a good intellectual exercise to be open minded without being wishy-washy and to have an opinion without being dogmatic.

Venting emotions is necessary, but if that is all we do, we become exhausted. At some point, feelings must give way to thinking. Only then can we learn something new or strengthen our resolve. You can do this yourself. If you are at the point of biting nails in two, you are most likely emotional. We must transition from feeling to thought. To do this, we can ask ourselves; what is the real problem? What needs to be done? What can I do? How does it effect me?

Opposition is data we can use to hone our own understanding of things. If we block such data, we run the risk of becoming more like the cliché' of our political choice than an individual who affiliates with a political party.

I continue to appreciate this thing we call blogging. I am an old dog learning new tricks. I am learning things about myself. To connect with people all over the world still seems like magic to me.

So thanks to you, all of you who comment here. Although we may not always agree, I always appreciate you taking the time to weigh in on a topic.

Until the next time
John Strain


Wednesday, May 12, 2004


America and Freedom


America was born for want of freedom. A struggle for independence was bought with blood. People poured onto this continent to taste that freedom. In the 1860's, a conflict of freedoms exacted even more blood and many wondered if America would survive.

Not content with her own freedom, America sent her young men to other wars so others could remain free. Generations of her sons have sacrificed their lives for the cause of freedom on many battlefields. The enemies of freedom have taken different forms, Communism, goose stepping supermen, and zealots who believe they know the mind of God.

America has paid a high price for freedom. Sometimes she has erred in her intentions. Yet she remains strong, because her people are strong.

Today our freedom is being defended against terror. This enemy is different. He targets innocent people instead of soldiers. They move in small numbers and benefit from the freedom while trying to destroy it.

I remember the hollow looks of the survivors of the Holocaust. I remember the images of the great wars. I can still recall the fear in the pit of my stomach on September 11, 2001. I also remember that fear melt into anger, pride, and resolve. I knew on that day there would be no talking to such an enemy, someone who would kill so indiscriminately. I knew then we would have to kill them or they would kill us.

Nothing America did could justify such attacks and destruction. The war on terror continues, a tyrant is no more. Iraq is free to determine its course, but the Iraqi people must embrace the freedom. They must rid their land of the foreign fighters and extremists if they are ever to be free. On September 11th after three planes had already crashed into buildings, a fourth plane full of Americans would not passively follow suit. They fought back and gave their lives that others could live. Freedom can foster such nobility in the most common soul.

While guarding Iraqi POW's, who incidentally have American blood on their hands, some of our soldiers disrespected and humiliated them. Boo hoo. While these soldiers violated our own values and policies, they will be dealt with. In the press, and in world reaction, one would think these soldiers were guilty of Hitleresque war crimes. Senator Kennedy even compared the actions to the Hussein regime. What a political whore he is. He would sell out his own countrymen for a political one liner. He disgraces himself.

Then on Tuesday, we learn of a video tape chronicling the beheading of an American civilian, whose crime was trying to rebuild Iraq. Will there be a world outcry proportionate to the abuse meted out by our rogue soldiers? Who will step forward from the Islamic world and denounce this? My guess is no one. Where are the, so called moderate Muslims and why won't they take a stand? Are they afraid? Won't they shed one drop of their blood for the freedom of their people?

America has paid a high price in dollars and in blood for the people of Iraq. The Iraqis better start stepping up themselves or they might as well let Saddam Hussein out of his cage. They will deserve him. The rest of the world should realize who the bad guys are. They are not a few kids who embarrassed a soldier (albeit inappropriate), the enemy is the terrorist, those who behead, who burn bodies and hang them from bridges. The people who fly planes into buildings, blow up trains and busses of innocent civilians are the bad guys. The world must unite to stop this threat or it will continue. America is not the problem. Her crime is trying to impose freedom on the oppressed. She is guilty of trying to free people from a prison they do not realize they are in.

On June 5, 1973, an editorial was written by a Canadian, Gordon Sinclair. It aired on CFRB radio in Toronto. This editorial resurfaced shortly after September 11 and I want to bring it to the attention of folks once again.

Listen to "The Americans" editorial by Canadian, Gordon Sinclair, June 5, 1973

Full text and background of The Americans

OK, as Dennis Miller says, that's just my opinion, I may be wrong.

Until the next time
John Strain


Tuesday, May 11, 2004


That's The Breaks

I have always heard it said that bad things happen in threes. My latest set of three has to do with things breaking. My washer broke just before we left for Florida. $190 later it was as good as new. I didn't have the heart to watch Barbara use the ringer washer even if it would save some money.

The next thing to break was my leaf blower. It developed an electrical problem requiring a $50 part. Instead of fixing it, I just bought a new one. I am still getting used to the new one. It is not as powerful as the one that broke and it is made for right handers, like most every other frigging thing. You see, the muffler for the leaf blower is on the right side. Therefore, holding it in the left hand, as I do, puts the muffler on my left leg unless I awkwardly hold it away from my body. Crap. I guess I will get used to it. It is hard to do a blow job when you are uncomfortable.

This photo illustrates the third loss.

Stained shirt

Notice the stains over each nipple. I wore the shirt once on a long run. As is customary, I greased up with Vaseline to keep my nipples from bleeding. The Vaseline stained the shirt. I went to put it on this morning and noticed the two stains, double crap. I told Barbara, "did you notice the stains on my silver shirt?" She said, "yeah, I washed it five times, but no luck." I guess she thought I wouldn't notice. Wouldn't notice - Stevie Wonder and Ray Charles could see those stains.

Then it occurred to me, the jinx is over. The shirt was the third thing. Thank goodness that's over. My dad used to get paranoid anytime he got a little extra money. "Any time I get a little ahead, something breaks," he would say. My favorite saying of his was this: "When my ship came in, it was hardship."

I guess that's just the breaks.

Until the next time
John Strain


Monday, May 10, 2004


Of Nations and Men

On Mother's Day afternoon, Barbara went shopping and I was home alone. It was just me and the dog lying close by. I flipped on the the Western Channel and began watching the last half of a John Wayne movie, North to Alaska. Then I went to the computer and dinked around while listening to another movie. Then another movie came on and I listened to part of it and watched some of it.

It occurred to me the movies were focused on individual struggle. One man was a half breed. He was torn between being an indian and being white. The more he tried to avoid trouble, the more trouble found him. The movie dealt with honesty, racism, personal struggle, and loyalty, to name but a few issues.

What a contrast to today. In today's movies, the individual is lost. The nation or mankind is the topic. Individuals are to sacrifice for their side. The Westerns tell story after story, where the individual is more important than the nation. Good values overcome injustice. I realize things are not so simple, but the Westerns are telling stories "the way it should be."

Movies today are often about a cause. The Matrix was about man against machines. Lord of the Rings was another good vs. evil trilogy. Open Range, another Western, was about good vs. evil, but also highly individual. At any rate, today, the individual is, I believe, less important, than say 25 years ago.

If one considers today's political climate, the individual is not important either. The party is important. The candidate is not important except to gain control for the party. it is a seduction. We can fall victim to the rah, rah, of a team and sacrifice individual values.

I do not want to get into a "which candidate is a better individual" debate. What I would hope to do is challenge individuals to stop looking outside themselves for the answers and look inside. There is no political party, system, or person who can tell us the secret to life. Preachers, politicians, teachers, and business leaders cannot tell you the secret. You can follow a preacher, politician, teacher, or business leader, but you will one day be disappointed. Look within. Struggle with questions and solutions yourself. Look outside yourself for information and data, but make up your own mind. Do not blindly follow a political party or system of thought - they will only disappoint you in the end.

Struggling with issues is part of life's challenge. The struggle makes you strong and that strength makes you more independent. Our world needs more people thinking for themselves and fewer faithful followers to polarized ideologies.

Living in America is beginning to be only tolerable when a certain party is in charge. I laugh at the celebrities who announce they will move away if the Republican is elected. I would imagine there are people who feel they should move if a Democrat is elected. My reaction to them all is, "Let me help you pack." Is our country so terrible if your choice does not become president? What a bunch of pansies.

Our nation was built on the backs of strong individuals. The pioneers who moved west, the immigrants who built the railroad, and people after people who struggled to survive. I feel we dishonor them when we become so petty. Wouldn't it be nice if our divided country united after the election. Think what we could do.

It can happen. Tell you what, I'll do my part and you do yours.

Until the next time
John Strain


Sunday, May 09, 2004


Happy Mother's Day Ladies

Mother's Day Pic
"All that I am or ever hope to be, I owe to my angel Mother." -- Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865)

"God could not be everywhere and therefore he made mothers." -- Jewish proverb

"Of all the rights of women, the greatest is to be a mother." -- Lin Yutang

"The heart of a mother is a deep abyss at the bottom of which you will always find forgiveness." -- Honore' de Balzac (1799-1850)

"My mother was the most beautiful woman I ever saw. All I am I owe to my mother. I attribute all my success in life to the moral, intellectual and physical education I received from her." -- George Washington (1732-1799)

"By and large, mothers and housewives are the only workers who do not have regular time off. They are the great vacationless class." -- Anne Morrow Lindbergh (1907- )

"The mother's heart is the child's schoolroom." -- Henry Ward Beecher (1813-1887)

"Youth fades; love droops, the leaves of friendship fall; A mother's secret hope outlives them all." -- Oliver Wendell Holmes (1809-1894)

"I remember my mother's prayers and they have always followed me. They have clung to me all my life." -- Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865)

"The most important thing a father can do for his children is to love their mother." --Author Unknown

Enjoy your day
John Strain


Saturday, May 08, 2004


Beautiful Spring Morning

Today is my more typical Saturday routine. I will run 10 miles, then come back and get the yard in order. After that, who knows? I have lots of little jobs awaiting my attention. I need to begin interior painting in preparation for my workstation and generally, we need to embark on a declutter campaign.

I'd better begin. Enjoy your Saturday,
John Strain


Friday, May 07, 2004



Momma and baby lion
In my line of work, I meet people who have serious problems with their mother. Some mothers are abusive, while others abandon their children. These actions inflict scars incomprehensible. One time I was admitting a man who could not recall his mother's name.

My experience is nothing of that sort. I have been fortunate. I have a mother who also became a friend. I love her because she is my mother, but I respect and admire her for what she is and what she does.

As a matter of fact, my mother may have done too good of a job in my case. I have often quipped, my mother can find something good about anything I do. If I were to take a dump in the middle of the living room, I have little doubt, she would say something positive about it. "That is very creative John, I would have never thought to do that myself." This kind of unconditional love and acceptance has given me a good self-esteem. My friends might depict it differently than self-esteem, ego maniac or narcissistic prick comes to mind. I think they are kidding though.

This month, my mom will be 72. She got a computer a couple of years ago and today she has a blog presence, check her out Essentially Esther.

She is a good writer and in recognition of Mother's Day, I would like to share some of her with you. Twenty years ago, she wrote a piece about motherhood. This piece reveals a lot about her. She is logical, calculating, fair, honest, and loving. She is a human being and therefore not perfect, but I always felt loved and I always felt proud she was my mom. In my book that is about as close to perfect there is.

I listened as the pastor gave a flowery sermon on the virtues of motherhood. If I were not a mother I could believe it to be as routinely noble as he described it. His voice hummed like a bee probing for pollen in a flower garden. My thought indicator began a reverse selection from the storehouse of dusty memories on the subject.

I remembered the diagnosis that introduced me to the select category. "Nothing wrong with you that nine months won't cure, the doctor stated in a matter-of-fact tone. My inner reaction was one of panic and impending doom. I had been married two months and was just ready to celebrate my eighteenth birthday. Though I perceived myself to be mature and well disciplined it was only a facade. In reality I was a mass of contradictions, unsure of who I was, where I was going and given to taking the easy way out of anything I didn't like. I need not write more to convince you that the news coming from this strange doctor was unwanted and unwelcome.

I went into psychological shock. I fretted and stewed and literally made myself sick. For five months I had morning sickness and lost fifteen pounds because I couldn't keep anything down. With the same matter-of-fact tone he had pronounced my unwanted pregnancy the same doctor proclaimed I would miscarry. It was at that instant a defiant protectorate welled up inside me and roared, "Oh no I won't." From that sick, frightened girl came the first reaction of motherhood. In a wondrous moment all thoughts evaporated concerning my own wishes and suddenly I was propelled into thinking only of the unborn child.

The duration of the pregnancy was fraught with terrible financial problems and physical complications. In due time the trauma of delivery was met and conquered and a child-mother began the business of raising the child.

At first I mimed the actions and parroted the words I’d seen and heard from my own mother. It was odd how well it seemed to work when I was the child but now as the mother the results seemed less effective. I began a long series of trials and errors, some original, some copied. Over the months and eventually into child two and three I labored to perfect a system that was reasonable and workable. To make things "fair" between three children isn't always possible. I learned it is foolhardy to make hard-and fast rules. Each situation required a different judgment. It also seemed logical to explain the reasoning behind the judgment. I learned early that communication is necessary even for little ones and as the years went by it remained a tool to solve problems. I worked for respect without intimidation, friendly rapport rather than mandates from a tyrant and a sense of freedom that evolves from trust. Common courtesy for one another was a must.

Inevitably and invisibly I fell victim to my own ideals and standards for the children. The hypocrisy of verbalizing morals I didn't possess drove me to an honesty, and a discipline I had never embraced before. Seeing such obvious failures of ethics in the children only pointed to my own shortcomings with ghastly exposure.

The years have flown away on pastel wings. The children are all gone now. Theirs' is the freedom to accept or reject the way they were raised. Theirs' is the responsibility to pass on the best and hopefully forget the worst.

I prayerfully and fearfully considered the training of each child and tried to meet their every need. I stood before God, helpless and dismayed many times. It was only His guidance and our joint love for the children that solved the problem in every situation.

Preachers deliver typical Mother's Day sermons to oblige a calendar date. Congregations listen attentively because everyone has or has had a mother. Only mothers know it is because of the children that we are what we are.


Mother Cartoon

Have A Happy Mother's Day
John Strain


Thursday, May 06, 2004



Honesty is the best policy. Tell the truth. A liar is not to be respected. These were things drilled into my head by my parents, Sunday School teachers, and the Boy Scouts. I learned at an early age to be honest, because my mother always knew when I was up to something. it was futile to even think about getting away with anything around her. Besides having eyes in back of her head, she was omnipresent, omniscient, and could read my thoughts. Only a fool would try to lie to my mother. Only a fool and my sister Becky, haha.

I was encumbered with the usual childhood limitations and poor eyesight. The end result was, I learned to tell the truth most of the time and I learned first hand how honesty really was the best policy.

I have tried to teach this to my son. Lately, he and his friends have been playing poker. A while back, he got online and ordered a poker table top and a sleeve of poker chips. The package came a few days ago and instead of sending him one sleeve (50) poker chips, they sent him a nice 500 piece set. This baby was nice. It came in a titanium, foam lined case. There were 500 poker chips, two decks of cards, and five dice, all neatly tucked away in their custom made slots. The 50 chips cost $9.00. The set they sent cost $100.00.

Poker Chip Set

John phoned me at work to tell me about the mix up. I could tell by his voice, he thought he hit the jackpot. "John, you know we need to call the company to tell them they sent the wrong stuff, don't you?" I said, somewhat dampening his enthusiasm. "Yes," he replied, lacking enthusiasm. When I got home, i called the company and explained the mistake. The man on the other end of the phone asked me to wait on hold while he checks things out on his end. A moment later he got back on the phone and said, "honesty has its rewards. I spoke to my manager and he said because you were honest, we would like you to keep the deluxe set of poker chips." I thanked him and promised to steer business his way whenever I had the opportunity.

John was elated. I continued my lecture. It was nice of them to do that, but we did what we did, because it was right, not for any other reason. We are entitled to what we paid for and nothing else. It was a good lesson in honesty, but honesty does not always get you extra. Sometimes being honest will cost you.

My wife Barbara told me a story about honesty once costing her. We met at the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. She was studying social work and I was studying biblical studies and psychology. One of the required classes was missions and it was taught by a former missionary spinster with a huge chest. Her name was Dr. Falls. We knew her affectionately as Chesty Falls. But that is beside the point. On one of her final exams, she asked the question, "Did you read the entire text?" Most folks checked "yes" and moved on. Barbara, however, was honest and admitted she did not read the entire text. It cost her a letter grade in the class. Her honesty cost her something. My thought after she reminded me of the incident was, "Leave it to the Baptists to reward someone's honesty with a penalty."

We should be honest because it is right, but if you are in a position to recognize another person's honesty, the reward thing feels a lot better than does the guilt thing.

Sometimes a lie is appropriate. If a little child asks me if I want to play a game with them and I don't want to, I would probably lie and say, "I would love to play a game with you."

I have lied telling people I like things which I really do not so as not to hurt their feelings or to make them feel good.

For the most part, not telling the truth is wrong. We do that by leaving out facts, inserting facts, and just flat telling stories. That kind of behavior will get you into trouble. It also requires you have an excellent memory, because your facts will begin to conflict.

Now, if you are ever in the market for poker tables or anything poker, check out these nice folks:

Poker Tables and Poker Chips

Their kind gesture made an impression on both me and my son.

Until the next time
John Strain


Wednesday, May 05, 2004


The Battle of the Sexes

Have you expended energy trying to understand the opposite sex? Do you think the opposite sex is crazy, too emotional, too logical, crude, hysterical, and a few other things? Do you believe you will one day understand the opposite sex? Have you given up? Since time began, men and women have scratched their collective heads in an attempt to make sense of each other. How much of men's behavior is cultural? Do hormones control the behavior and thinking of women? If anyone tells you they know the answer, they are probably full of BS.

One of my coworkers told me about a PBS program she heard recently, titled "Testosterone." It was on This American Life, which is a program hosted by Ira Glass. The show examined how testosterone influences behavior and thinking in men and women. On the surface, this may not sound very interesting, but I recommend you take an hour and listen to the program. The link is at the end of this post.

The show was made up of several interviews. The first conversation was of a man who, due to a medical condition, had been almost without testosterone for a four month period. He talked about how his personality, his interests, virtually everything that was "him" vanished. He had no interest or passion.

The next interview was of a woman-to-man transsexual. This person, who had been a feminist and a self professed dike with all the trimmings described attitude and thought changes after testosterone which even he could not believe. What was unique about him is he was once a she. He went from looking at a woman, for instance and thinking, "she is attractive, I would like to meet her, I wonder what book she is reading, I bet she is an interesting person . . ." to "I want to have sex with her." He said he become interested in science and even understood it better.

I was captivated by the program. It is certainly part of my field, but I think interesting for most people. It made me think. Whatever role testosterone, culture, or anything else has in the development of sex roles is not as important as it is to understand:
Number One: Men and Women are different
Number Two: The two compliment each other
Number Three: Efforts should be made to understand and celebrate the differences in the sexes

I remember in the early 70's when "women's lib" was just getting started. Men were told they were jerks and slobs. The woman was held up as the ideal. Television sitcoms usually had the man as the idiot and the woman as the wise one. Do you remember "Maude" and "All In The Family?" Many men attempted to become what women told them they should become. It did not help. Women did not like that kind of man for a mate or a boyfriend. Deep down, they wanted John Wayne. (Give me some latitude here ladies, this is my experience and I know I am speaking in vast generalities. I know there are plenty of exceptions.) This trend continued. Men became more and more what women "said" they wanted men to be like. The result was men becoming big pussies. Do you remember the television show "Thirty-Something?" I still heave when I remember how the men on that show acted. They were more women than men.

A man can retain his manhood without being a clod or an oaf. A man can be sensitive and caring without being a pussy. I think what happened was men bought into the conventional wisdom that we were somehow flawed and should not be ourselves. Hopefully, that is a thing of the past.

At the same time, women were being told, in so many words, that staying home and raising a family was not as good as having a career. Many wound up doing both and the supermom was born. Women were being driven into the ground and into the therapist's office. They felt guilt no matter what they did. I believe things have snapped back some. Women can do either or both, it is up to them and what is best for their family.

Both of these phenomenons are results of not accepting the fact that men and women are different and different is OK. Some things men are just better at while women are better at others. What things are what? That depends on the couple.

So, listen to the program. I really enjoyed it and it was informative.

Now for some silly stuff about the Battle of the Sexes.

A Man's Guide to What a Woman is Really Saying:
• Yes = No.
• No = Yes.
• I'm sorry = you'll be sorry.
• We need = I want.
• Do whatever you want to = You'll pay for this later.
• We need to talk = I need to complain.
• Sure - go ahead = I don't want you to.
• I'm not upset = Of course I'm upset, you MORON!.
• You're so manly = you need to shave and you sweat a lot.
• You're certainly attentive tonight = Is sex all you think about ?
• This kitchen is so inconvenient = I want a new house.
• I want new curtains = and carpets, and furniture, and wallpaper ...
• Do you Love me? = I'm going to ask for something expensive.
• How much do you love me = I did something today you're really not going to like.
• I'll be ready in a minute = Kick off your shoes and find a good game on TV.
• You have to learn to communicate = Just agree with me.
• The answer to the question " What's wrong?"
The same old thing = Nothing. Nothing = Everything.
Everything = My hormones are acting up.
• CAN'T WE JUST BE FRIENDS? = There is no way in hell I'm going to let any part of your body touch any part of mine again.
• I JUST NEED SOME SPACE = Without you in it....
• DO I LOOK FAT IN THIS DRESS? = We haven't had a fight in a while.
• NO, PIZZA'S FINE = You cheap slob!
• I JUST DON'T WANT A BOYFRIEND NOW = I just don't want you as a boyfriend now
• I DON'T KNOW; WHAT DO YOU WANT TO DO? = I can't believe you have nothing planned.
• COME HERE = Hee hee....my puppy does that too....
• I LIKE YOU, BUT... = I don't like you.
• YOU NEVER LISTEN = You never listen.
• WE'RE MOVING TOO QUICKLY = I'm not going to sleep with you until I find out if this guy at the gym has a girlfriend.
• I'LL BE READY IN A MINUTE = I'm ready, but I'm going to make you wait because I know you will.
• OH, NO, I'LL PAY FOR MYSELF = I'm just being nice; there is no way I'm going Dutch.
• I'M JUST GOING OUT WITH THE GIRLS = We're gonna get sloppy and make fun of you and your friends

A Woman's Guide to What a Man is Really Saying:
• I'M HUNGRY = I'm hungry.
• I'M SLEEPY = I'm sleepy.
• I'M TIRED = I'm tired.
• I'VE GOT TO PEE = Get out of the way.
• I'VE GOT TO GO = Get out of the way and stay away until it clears.
• CAN I CALL YOU SOMETIME? = I'd eventually like to have sex with you.
• DO YOU WANT TO GO TO A MOVIE? = I'd eventually like to have sex with you.
• CAN I TAKE YOU OUT TO DINNER? = I'd eventually like to have sex with you.
• CAN I GET YOUR COAT? = I'd eventually like to have sex with you.
• LET ME GET YOUR DOOR = I'd eventually like to have sex with you.
• MAY I HAVE THIS DANCE? = I'd eventually like to have sex with you.
• YOU LOOK TENSE, LET ME GIVE YOU A MASSAGE = I want to fondle you.
• WHAT'S WRONG? = I don't see why you're making such a big deal out of this.
• WHAT'S WRONG? = What meaningless self-inflicted psychological trauma are you going through now?
• WHAT'S WRONG? = I guess sex tonight is out of the question.
• I'M BORED = Do you want to have sex?
• I LOVE YOU = Let's have sex now!
• I LOVE YOU TOO = OK, I said it. We'd better have sex now!
• GOOD MORNING = That was great sex. Let's have more!
• SEE YOU LATER = That was great sex. Let's do it again sometime!
• YES, I LIKE THE WAY YOU CUT YOUR HAIR = I liked it better before.
• YES, I LIKE THE WAY YOU CUT YOUR HAIR = $50 and it doesn't look that much different!
• YES, I LIKE THE WAY YOU CUT YOUR HAIR = For $50 they should have GIVEN you hair!
• YES, I LIKE THE WAY YOU CUT YOUR HAIR = You cut your hair?
• LET'S TALK = I'm trying to impress you by showing that I am a deep person and maybe then you'd like to have sex with me.
• WILL YOU MARRY ME? = I might as well get tax benefits for going through these talks.
• WILL YOU MARRY ME? = I want to make it illegal for you to have sex with other guys.
• YES, THAT ONE'S NICE = Why do you ask when you aren't going to listen anyway?
• THAT ONE LOOKS GREAT ON YOU = Pick any freaking' dress and let's go home!
• I LIKE THAT ONE BETTER = Pick any freaking' dress and let's go home!
• UH HUH = Pick any freaking' dress and let's go home!
• ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ = Pick any freakin' dress and let's go home!
• IT MAKES YOU LOOK FAT = I am incredibly stupid!



This American Life Website

Listen to the program on Real Player

More Battle of the Sexes Humor

Until the next time
John Strain