Election year maze

corn03Now here’s an interesting metaphor.  Our annual trip to Shryock’s Corn Maze took on an intriguing theme:  the U. S. presidential election.

I suppose as we have to chart a course through the maze, progressing through many obstacles and making decisions at every intersection, we should also ponder the presidential election as we, the people, chart a course for our country, keep our nation progressing through many obstacles and choose someone who we think will be making the right decisions at every intersection.

Or at least for this year, making the right decisions much more often than the other candidate.

The “Cos”

billcosbySo we got some tickets to see Bill Cosby in concert down in Branson….

My first exposure to Bill Cosby’s standup humor came, of all places, in high school.  Yes, I had an English teacher/coach, who, as English teacher/coaches go, was good at what he did.  Quirky, but good.  He actually read to our class a self-published novel he had written.  Of course, his idol was Stephen King, so most of the teens in his novel died by the end.  Like I said, he was quirky.  As a reward to us near the end of the term, he showed us Bill Cosby:  Himself.

I know, I have digressed somewhat.

But then again, so does Bill Cosby.  Maybe not quite as rambling as me, but more like your favorite old uncle who always tells you stories.  That was what watching Bill Cosby in concert is like now.  He starts stories, moves on to others, then comes back to the first one in a way that made me feel like he’d invited us over for dinner and we were now enjoying some after-dinner conversation.

He spun his humorous stories from a chair in the middle of the stage.  He was wearing a casual sweatshirt, and it looked like he was fighting a cold by the way he went to the tissue box at various times during his performance.

Though still autobiographical, his humor has changed from Bill Cosby:  Himself.  Of course that was over twenty years ago.  Then, he talked about his family, being a father, his kids, his childhood.  Now, at 71 years of age, his jokes are more about the challenges of getting old, trying to swap recipes with fussy neighbors, and visits to the doctor and dentist.

I particularly enjoyed some of the stories about him and his wife Camille.  I “get” that he’s taken some liberty with the “grumpy” exchanges he describes in his routine.  The deep love and understanding that makes a 44-year marriage happen always sneaks in between the lines of his jokes.

“You get to my age, you can sit like this in a room, no TV, no radio, just sitting in a room, and you can get into trouble.”

“My wife will say, ‘I just straightened up in there!’   Well, I must be the mess.”

I hear you, Cos.  And Angie and I really enjoyed you having us over last night.

417 Idea Home

I like to surprise Angie with “extra destinations” on our annual birthday trips.  (The first corn maze we went to in Columbia was a big birthday surprise.)  This year was no different.  The fun we had in Springfield would probably have been enough (Japanese Stroll Garden, Braums, Battlefield Mall), but I wasn’t finished yet.  I took her down to tour the 417 Idea Home in Branson.

We’ve been talking about building a home for some time now.  The Idea Home was a collaborative effort that took four years to complete.  The home featured the best of what local architects, designers, builders, and suppliers had to offer.  It was meant to be an inspiration for people who want to build their own homes using the latest materials and technology.  Something that you can actually touch and walk around in.  And, best of all, Angie had never heard of it.

It was great fun for both of us, and it fueled another round of design plans and revisions.  One day, one day….

How to play chess

I came across an instruction slip that must have come from a chess game I had at school.  I thought it might help someone learn how to become a great player, so I’m posting it here.  (Please note, if you look carefully, you might find a couple of typos.  They are not mine; I wanted to reproduce these instructions in all the glory of the original.)


Loc are drawn to estaohsh who has the while chessmen and thus, who can move first.  This player is then allowed the 16 black chess pieces.  The board is positioned so that each player has a dark corner square on his left.  The rooks are positioned on the two corner square to the left and right.  Next to these come the two corner square to the left and right.  Next to these come the two knights.  One on the left and one on the right.  Next to these, the two bis hops and in the center.  The queen and king, the white queen is always positioned on a light square and black queen on a dark square.  The eight pawns are then placed adjacently in the second row in frond of these chess’ pieces.  The pawns are then placed adjacently in the vance from its initial quare on the second rank, the pawnhas the option of moving one or Two-squa res.  The rook moves only on the ranks and files any distance and the bishop only on the diagonals.  The queen can move in any direction The knights are the only pieces which are able to change direction during the course of a move and “jump over” one’s own or one’s opponent’s pieces; a knight takes one step of one single square along the file or rank and then, still moving many from the square that it has left, takes one step along the diagonal.  The king may move in any direction, one step at a time.   Continue reading How to play chess

On a bicycle built for two

bikefortwoTwo seats.  Two sets of pedals.  One steering mechanism.

This contraption is truely a compatibility test for couples that surpasses what you could get on those many of those “online dating” sites.  You go through several stages on one of these things.  The first, of course, it, “Hey, that looks like fun.”  Next comes, “Okay, you are pedaling too (fast | slow) for me, could you (relax | pick up the pace)?”  Then comes, “In order to steer this thing, we have to work together.”  Then there’s a stop and a short break, followed by a pep talk by the one whose idea it wasn’t to stop and take a short break.

Then there’s communication.  Deep communication unlike what was occuring before.  Decisions on speed and direction are seemingly made and executed simultaneously.  You turn to your mate and see she’s smiling.  You realize you are too.

Riding on a side-by-side bicycle built for two on the Katy Trail near Rocheport is an education and a ton of fun at the same time.

Marriage encounter


I joke sometimes about our yearly pilgrimage to the corn maze as being our “marriage encounter.”  As with most humor, there is a seed of truth hidden in the joke – I highly recommend the experience.

The maze gets you outside in the most beautiful time of the year.  It’s a neutral ground, where you are posed with a challenging task that is both physical and mental and must be completed together.  Well, I guess it isn’t necessary to complete it together, but that’s part of the fun for us.  You make decisions together.  You listen to one another.  You walk and get a lot of exercise.  You test your mind at each checkpoint as you answer the trivia questions.  You enjoy hanging around the farm afterwards, watching kids put quarters in the three-story tall gumball coaster in the barn.  Sometimes you pick out a pumpkin or two to decorate your porch at home.  You have a nice date in Columbia afterwards.

What better way to improve your marriage than by spending good quality time with each other?

What a country!

In the United States, you can always find a party.   In Soviet Russia, the Party finds you!

heartThat’s the kind of thing I expected when Angie and I went to Yakov Smirnoff’s show in Branson.  What I got was a whole lot more.

You see, Yakov is more than just a comedian.  He is an art teacher.  He is a professor of psychology.  He is a writer.  He is an actor.  He is a traditional Russian dancer.  We got a glimpse of each of these facets at his show.

The comedy in his show was family friendly, but sharp.  His clever play with the language was like George Carlin without the vulgarity.  “I bet you never looked at it that way … but you will now!” was his refrain.

What struck me most about Yakov was his genuine affection and appreciation for America.  He spoke in a way that isn’t fashionable now.   Continue reading What a country!

Meet Graviton!

If you will indulge me for just a moment, I’ve created a superhero in the time between family visits this holiday season.

Graviton is the superhero persona of Dr. Mortimer Albee, an astronomer who was studying a previously unknown gravitational phenomenon five times the intensity of a black hole.  During his night of observations, he noticed something very peculiar.  The phenomenon was highly directional, and, in fact, was traveling right at him!  The effects were focused by the telescope he was using, and his entire body was exposed to the intense gravity phenomenon.

After being realigned on the subatomic level, Dr. Albee found he could “bend” gravity to push objects, regardless of their mass.  What he could push, he found he could pull, too.  In fact, he could even bend light around him to become invisible!

Corn maze

When I was in elementary school, I used to draw mazes for fun. I would fill up full-sized pieces of art construction paper in a couple of hours time with a maze that had only one solution. a large piece of art construction paper in a few hours time with a maze that only had one solution. They fascinated me, and they still do.

I read somewhere there are 6 different kinds of mazes varying in construction from simple single-path labyrinths to multidimensional mazes that are constructed on exotic surfaces (ie., Mobius strip). But for pure enjoyment value, I have to say your best bet is a maze constructed on an agricultural surface (i.e., corn).

I took Angie to our first corn maze as a birthday surprise back when we were still dating. Something about teaming up, roaming from checkpoint to checkpoint, and punching our cards as we found them really excited us. Here we were, putting our heads together and solving a problem.  We were a real team!

Since then, the corn maze has become an annual pilgrimage for us. Now that we’re husband and wife, the idea of putting our heads together and solving problems isn’t so novel, but the corn maze keeps calling us back, a ton of fun and the last big outdoor event each fall.

Hello, True Believers!

Reality shows.  Ever since “Survivor” became so popular, I’ve been stuck wondering what people see in them.  I can honestly say I’ve watched only two or three “Survivor” episodes since they came out; all of those viewings were under duress. To me, these shows glamorize the very worst in people. The winning contestants make the grade by manipulating others, forming cliques or “alliances,” dividing others by casting doubt and deception, and victimizing those in the “out” group.

If it is true that there is an exception to every rule, I just watched the final episode of such an exception. “Who Wants To Be A Superhero” was in many ways, an “anti”-reality show. Entertaining enough that both my wife and I were hooked, it was filled with good-natured fun, positive messages, and delightful twists that kept us laughing out loud.

Contestants competed to become the next great comic book superhero, immortalized by Stan Lee (creator of Spider-Man, X-Men, and many more comic book heroes) in their own comic book. They dressed and lived AS the superhero they created. How they competed was what really drew me to the show. Lee told the superheroes right off that he knew he couldn’t judge them on how high they could leap, how fast they could fly, or if they could stop a speeding train. He made it clear that he was going to test them on virtuous character traits that a true superhero would possess on the inside.   Continue reading Hello, True Believers!