Lunch with my alien neighbors.

By Henry Dumas

    Sophia squinted her eyes when she read the note from Steven on the kitchen counter. “I’ll be home in a few hours and I will pick up some Chinese food for lunch.” The note from Steven said.  

     Stevens’s long, strawberry-blonde, shoulder length hair and a full unkempt beard made him look as if he had just walked out of the wilderness after three months without a comb. He was six feet, two inches tall, large, and stout. Not an ounce of fat on him. He liked his part-time job as a bouncer in a local bar and took pride in being the toughest badass.     

Continue reading “Lunch with my alien neighbors.”

An Asinine Solution for Social Justice Abuse  

Upon this writing I decided to kill two birds with one stone. That is, my writer’s choice assignment will incorporate a word list assignment. Fourteen words derived from a third party source.

So I write ….. In 1985 a statue of Janette Pickering Rankin was placed in the Statuary Hall in Washington D.C.  The inscription on its base reads … “I cannot vote for war”. At the dedication ceremony she was referred to as “one of the most controversial and unique women in Montana and American political history”.  In 1916, four years before the Constitution guaranteed the right of women to vote she became the first female American elected to the United States Congress. By then she had become the guru of the suffragette movement delivering white papers lobbying legislators in several states for the enfranchisement of women. Reports that passed third party blind reviews and that discredited longstanding grandfather clauses that were often supported by tone deaf male members of Congress. In her freshman year as a congresswoman she was watched closely to see if she could handle the challenges of high office. And well she could because in that first year she introduced legislation that eventually became the Nineteenth Amendment granting unrestricted voting rights to women nationwide. However it was a tour of duty not without a black mark. She was a dedicated and principled pacifist who genuinely believed world peace was women’s work and in 1917 voted with 49 other congressmen against the United State’s entry into World War I. She was not re-elected at the end of her first term.   

For the next 20 years she continued to work for the cause of peace and advocate for social reform. Throughout the 1920s and 1930s she participated in international peace organizations. During that time she was a lobbyist and speaker for the National Council for the Prevention of War. The success and notoriety of that work led her to run for Congress once again and was re-elected in 1940.  Following the attack on Pearl Harbour in December of 1941 she cast the sole vote in Congress against the United States entering World War II. She was clearly the master of her own fate as the vote essentially aborted her congressional career. While some believed it spoke to her integrity and was a brave decision she basically committed political suicide and was never re-elected. She continued her dedication to peace throughout her remaining years.

I trust most will find this writing to be at best interesting and at worst boring but I don’t believe many will find it to be harmful to anyone. Think about that! Are any of you offended? Except of course the Dean of Stanford University. The fourteen words I used from a third party source are words that the University has identified as harmful to marginalized groups in our society. Stanford contends that the word American insinuates that the United States is the most important country of the 42 countries in the Americas. It contends that the word grandfather has its roots in the “grandfather clause” adopted by the Southern states to deny voting rights to blacks.  It warns against words ending in man or woman such as freshman or congresswoman as not being inclusive. The word abort is linked to abortion. The word guru is a sign of respect in the Hindu tradition and using it casually negates its original value.  The word brave perpetuates the stereotype of the noble courageous savage and thus paints an Indigenous male as being less than a man. Black mark and black sheep must not be used because of their negative connotations with the color black. Referring to a scientific based research report as a white paper is clearly harmful. And in order to not define someone by a singular characteristic we are not to use the word immigrant. The list goes on and on. The University also announced that it intends to educate people about the impact of “racist, violent, and biased’ words.

Until I am fully educated in that regard I may just stay with the contention that a word is none of the above but rather the context in which it is used is what determines whether it is harmful or not. I would venture to guess that the starving children in India don’t give a Bengal Tiger’s ass whether those of us in a first world country use the word guru casually. I would guess the masses of poverty plagued children on the Indigenous reserves in northern Canada don’t give a bull moose’s ass whether people choose to refer to their heroes as brave. I would guess the many parents of black kids getting shot on city streets or assaulted by police don’t give a black sheep’s ass whether people call mistakes black marks or research reports white papers. I would also guess that the thousands of families detained at the southern border don’t give a Texas armadillo’s ass whether they are called immigrants. All of those people are hoping that our leaders, especially the well-educated ones, are providing better solutions to the problems that the marginalized face in our society. Solutions that are better than some lame ass initiative on semantics.

But who am I to speak on the subject. I have never even heard the phrase ‘Karen’. However Stanford University insists that a Karen must be referred to as a demanding or entitled white woman. It also tells me that my heartfelt greeting of “long time no see” to a friend who I have not recently spent time with is an old offensive adage that was originally used to mock Indigenous and Chinese people who spoke pidgin English. Yet Stanford doesn’t acknowledge the old adage … “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never break me” which is reported to have appeared in a publication of the African Methodist Episcopal Church in 1862. 

I am truly glad that I am not a freshman at a modern day university – and yes I know that using the word freshman is not inclusive now that I am a little better educated. But on a modern day campus I would be totally adrift on the current Sea of Woke Culture hoping only to spot a good luck omen albatross that might lead me to some safe semantics shore.

Sweet Memories

by Randy Munch

On a driving vacation with our daughter and her husband we toured through Germany, Austria, and Hungary. While in Budapest we learned that the company that our daughter worked for had staff located there who reported directly to her. They insisted on showing us around the city. They arranged a candle lite dinner cruise on the Danube.  They took us on tours to the city center where we either dined on fine cuisine or stopped at street side cafes for the renowned chocolate Dubos Torte. They helped us make our way to the surreal Memento Park that contains all the statues erected during the communist regime. Statues that were ripped from the streets and dragged to a site outside the city. And they provided us with tickets to the State Opera House where we took in a ballet and an opera. The building was amazing: intricately designed mosaics covered the entry foyer only to be outshone by majestic marble columns that supported gold leaf covered arches reaching for vaulted ceilings that displayed magnificent murals; gold leaf covered lamps and stunning chandeliers lit the stone stairways and the rich scarlet carpet of the hallways. The impact of that building led me to contact a close friend when we returned to Canada.

This friend and I had been baseball teammates for many years. He and his family had also toured much of Europe and its museums and churches. My message to him was essentially how we had both experienced those magnificent structures and how I had attended an opera no less, in a magnificent building, and yet he and I had never attended a baseball game in the old Yankee stadium – an edifice of unmatched magnificence for baseball partisans.

His response was strange in that he insisted that we make the trip ASAP. At the time of departure I understood his urgency. He had learned of the cancer that was metastasizing in his body. He was weak by then but keen to go. We went on to attend a four game series against the Toronto Blue Jays. We sat together admiring the dirty concrete floors, the rusty old steel columns that hampered our view, and the amazing emerald green diamond where many a Yankee great had plied the trade that we so loved. He passed away shortly after we returned home and our time in that baseball shrine remains a bitter sweet memory.

However each of our weekly Joy of Writing club assignments brings back better memories of my old friend. Dave was a gentle bear of a man and regardless which forest he walked he was smarter than the average bear. He had graduated from Harvard with a degree in chemistry and then obtained a master’s degree in education at the University of Saskatchewan. He spent his early career as a teacher and then later developing science curriculum for both provincial and federal school systems. Following our respective retirements we often corresponded by e-mail. With each message we tasked ourselves to out-do the other’s dissertation and write a more eloquent response. A tough job when your opposition is a Harvard graduate and you as an engineer are expected to struggle with three syllable words.

One year, shortly after out retirement, he and I and our wives were wintering together in Lake Havasu and I received a two dozen pack of Nut Goodies, a personal favorite candy bar that is not available on shelves in Canada. They had been sent by my daughter who found them on-line from a company somewhere in the American Midwest.  Normally I would have horded those treats most selfishly but on this occasion I shared them with my friend. My sharing of those treats with Dave sparked an eloquently worded e-mail from him when he got back to Canada. He wrote:  ……    

“Although the Nut Goodie presentation has not inspired any bards to write of abject and sacrificial friendship leading to such an event as a gift of Nut Goodies, Nut Goodies themselves have inspired some doggerel  …

I think that I shall never see

A poem quite as good as a Nut Goodie      

A Nut Goodie beneath its wrap of red

Five precious bites and one’s well fed

With chocolate, nuts and gooey white

Marshmallow, yielding pure delight

Poems are adapted by fools like me

But only Pearson’s Candy Corporation, St. Paul, MN.,(and available at Walmart, Cub Foods, Fleet Farms, Rainbow Foods, Sam’s Club, Super America, and Snyder Drugs) can make a Nut Goodie.”

            Clearly that e-mail, which is now permanently on file with my important personal documents, was the all-time winner in our writing assignments and, more importantly, it will always be a sweet memory of a dear friend.

Christmas Letter

by Randy Munch

Well here I am writing my inaugural Christmas letter. My dearest spouse insists that only a total social Philistine would refuse to dispatch greetings to his family and friends at this special time of the year. As such I am composing with some fancy font to add a more personal touch and some appropriate colorful icons along the border. I expect this joyous gift of prose will reach everyone before the eve of the birth of our Savior and Lord however if not that too will reflect appropriately my commitment to the exercise.

At this time of celebrating traditions that we have grown up and old with while the strains of carols fill the airways I am tempering those joyful sounds with the warm glow of political correctness. I am not singing “White Christmas” (not because I can’t carry a tune in a Christmas shopping bag) but rather to avoid being labelled a racist. I am refraining from the refrains of “Felice Navidad” knowing full well that a WASP like me will assuredly be accused of cultural appropriation. I won’t sing along to “Frosty the Snowman” on the chance I will be seen as sexist. I am totally backing away from “Rudolph the Rednose Reindeer” to avoid exposing children to the concept of bullying. I do however wonder how those same children, with Easter eggs in hand, will cope with learning of the guy that bullies nailed to a cross.

I believe that a Christmas letter is to opine as to the well-being of your children and of their accomplishments. However those who might give a damn are geographically or socially close enough to already know of these matters. As for the trips that we have taken during the course of the year, which I believe is also apropos for a Christmas letter, we are spending our winter in Arizona.  I am hoping that on our return trip to Canada we will receive the same welcome at the border as the thousands crossing the border in Eastern Canada who claim they are refugees escaping from one of the best places in the world to live, the United States of America.  Yes. Maybe I won’t be asked to provide a passport or that I won’t have to declare what I have been doing in the USA and for how long or what items that I purchased. Maybe they won’t care if my shoes are new or worn or whether I changed the oil in my vehicle. Maybe we will be offered a temporary abode to help us with our cost of living once they let us in. Not unreasonable since I have paid taxes for some 55 years to support this concept that my government currently provides to those illegal aliens. 

Now if you sense a tad bit of cynicism in this my first Noel you should understand that it veils my appreciation for the fact that many of my friends and family point out to me, most eloquently in some cases and in some not so eloquent monologues, that after the last couple of years, I should just be happy that I am still able to celebrate a Christmas.  Well I am !!     and I treasure the help and support that I have received from them all.  

So I am wishing you and yours a “Merry Christmas” and God forbid that as such I am seen to not value the beliefs or to marginalize anyone who celebrates Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or nothing at all.

Randy                       (I would have included the signature of my good wife however she has given serious second thoughts to having encouraged me to write a Christmas letter. I suspect that my inaugural Christmas letter may be my first and last.)

What’s in a Name

by Randy Munch

Two of my daughters who are currently successful professionals in the IT industry attended Bedford Road collegiate which is a high school in a Canadian city of about 200,000. It was one of six high schools in the city and one of two that had a higher enrollment of First Nation students. My daughters interacted with all of their class mates in a respectful and friendly manner. Those two daughters and many of their teammates competed proudly on the Redmen teams and proudly wore the logo which resembled that of the NHL’s Chicago Blackhawks. As far as I could see that pride was felt by the entire student body.  

I have since been informed, by those who insist they are more sensitive to social injustices, that I should have known the name of the team that my daughters so proudly wore had grown out of the fertile soil of racism and misogyny. I have also been informed that my oft farewell to dear friends – “see you soon God willing and the creek don’t rise” is clearly racist. Apparently the reference to the creek has nothing to do with water. Originally the phrase referred to the Creek who were a hostile Native American tribe that was feared by early American settlers. The use by me thereby promotes ethnic stereotyping.

 As such it is confusing to note that the US Army’s helicopters and fixed wing aircraft bear names that reflect fierce and courageous warriors who have fought well for the armed forces. By edict the names chosen for these aircraft must not sacrifice dignity and are meant to promote an aggressive spirit that reflects confidence in the aircraft. Those names include the likes of Apache, Comanche, Kiowa, and Black Hawk.  And yet current social justice warriors are convinced that those same names, when associated with sport teams, are reprehensible. They take positions that team names like the North Dakota Fighting Sioux is racist if the team is not made up entirely of Sioux athletes. I never realized that all the athletes at Notre Dame were Irishmen, the collegiate team known as the fighting Irish of Notre Dame.

Armed with this greater awareness of political correctness and social justice I have begun to more carefully assess the name of professional sports teams. While I hear the objections to names like the Washington Redskins and the Cleveland Indians I am more offended by the name Minnesota Vikings. This name promotes prejudices and misunderstanding. My paternal grandparents were Danish and Swedish and being of a Scandinavian blood line I take particular umbrage at the stereotyping of my roots as vicious Vikings. The term Viking is generally used to describe the people of Scandinavia during the medieval period but it is really a name for a profession of Pagan plunderers. It was coined by the people who were their victims. The Vikings were all men – clearly a sexist organization– who used their skills to make terrifying murderous raids on towns and churches of neighboring kingdoms. These raids were a part of an intensely masculine, warlike culture that emphasized battle as a way for a man to prove himself. The name misrepresents our culture. We were explorers, farmers, fishermen and merchants. The name is hurt full to me because my forefathers, albeit members of the wicked white colonial establishment, settled and developed thriving and caring communities in much of Minnesota and Western Canada without raping and plundering.

The misguided cultural appropriation of wearing horned head gear which is encouraged at football games is especially hurt full. The portrayal by football fans as screaming Beserkers, who were Viking warriors that were so consumed by battle frenzy they felt no pain and could strike with such power they terrified anyone who faced them, paints a horrible image of our culture. What’s worse is that Vikings never even wore horned helmets. The belief has been adopted only because of cultural appropriation costuming in 17th and 18th century operas. Further the portrayal of Viking women with long blond braids and big busts promotes misunderstandings. They didn’t all have long braids.

It doesn’t matter that many Scandinavians don’t believe the name to be racist. What we need are more institutions with the progressive thinking of the University of Minnesota. An institution that chose a name and mascot for its sports teams that was not racist. It respected the Scandinavian’s culture and knew those who settled and worked the fallow fields of the American Midwest and Western Canada understood the tenacity of the golden gopher. I believe the name Vikings should be changed to Valkyries. In modern Scandinavian culture Valkyries have been the subject of art, music and poetry and have no racist or misogynistic implications. In fact modern thinking portrays the Valkyries as noble maidens helping the Norse god Odin guide warriors to Valhalla, an elegant palace where only heroes abide.   

An Airplane’s Orchestra

The airplane’s landing gear drops, kerplunk         

All passengers, as if on cue, jump.             

As it descends to the landing strip,          

nervous passengers tighten their grip.   

The wheels hit the ground, a loud thump they make       

and screech as the pilot pumps the brakes.

A chorus of cell phones when turned on,

chromatic dings creating a song.

Seat belts unfastened, click, click, click, click,

adding percussion to the mix.

Overhead bins opened with a bang,

add unique sounds to the strain.

Passengers head to the exit, quick, quick,

toward destinations they all had picked.

A Deck of Playing Cards with Attitude

My brothers, sisters in law, nephews, and I gathered one Saturday night for a rousing evening of playing games.

One game required several decks of cards, so we opened new packs and threw them in the mix and the game began.

We had neglected to remove an information card from each deck and simply tossed them aside and kept playing.

At the end of one round, I read the card. I re-read it. I read it aloud. It contained the following script:

Thanks very much for playing car brand playing cards, these cards are made of worldly best paper which is imported from German and it deal specially with exquisite procedure. We believe that you will feel the special softness, flatness, and folder-proof when you playing it. Its feel and quality is obviously larruping.

Everyone stared, then looked incredulously at me, and then started laughing.

We speculated as to which country produced the cards. Couldn’t the manufacturer find someone who could speak and write the English language? We think we figured out the overall message but had differing ideas on some of the phrases. Of course, that is a lawyer’s delight-to argue differing meanings of the same written word. And three of us are attorneys, so we spent far more time on this than necessary.

For instance, what on earth is “worldly best paper?”

A dictionary defines “worldly” as relating to, or devoted to this world and its pursuits rather than to religion or spiritual affairs or possessing or displaying significant experience and knowledge about life and the world.

Could it have meant “made of the world’s best paper?” Or is the paper a material thing of the earth and not a spiritual thing? How can paper be capable of either? I guess it could be from the earth if the paper is made of the wood from trees, which have their roots in the earth. Was the writer using personification? Based on the poor grammar throughout the card, I think not.

And that worldly best paper is imported from German. Does it mean imported from Germany? Or imported from a German paper manufacturer? That does not necessarily mean the paper was produced in Germany. Or is the producer/manufacturer of the worldly best paper named German?

That worldly best paper, imported from German, it deal especially with exquisite procedure. What is it? Is it the German manufacturer who produces the cards with exquisite procedure? Could it mean imported from Germany? Or is “it” the way cards are dealt in play, that is, does the manufacturer deal cards with exquisite procedure?

Which led us to wonder what exactly is an exquisite procedure? The dictionary defines exquisite as “of special beauty or charm, or rare and appealing excellence, as a face, a flower, coloring, music, or poetry; extraordinarily fine or admirable; consummate; or intense; acute, or keen, as pleasure or pain, of rare excellence of production or execution, as works of art or workmanship.” We examined the cards, and all agreed the cards looked like any other cards, we could not ascertain any exceptional differences.

We decided at this point another round of adult beverages would be in order.

We tried to picture an exquisite procedure on many levels, such as a surgical procedure, written procedures for employees to follow, directions for filing court documents, computer manuals, electrical engineer’s schematic circuit designs, recipes, and on and on. We failed to identify any procedure as “exquisite.”

Next, we tackled the phrase We believe that you will feel the special softness, flatness, and folder-proof when you playing it.

What is “folder-proof?” There are fire-proof folders, water-proof folders, accordion folders, manilla folders but we could not find anything remotely to folder-proof. Are the cards designed to not being able to be placed in a folder? We thought it refers to the fact that the cards are sturdy and do not fold easily. Conducting our own quality testing, we felt the cards to see if we felt any special softness, flatness, and folder-proof qualities. OK, now we were really getting a kick out of how do you feel whether or not a card is folder-proof? So, we bent one. It bent like any other card. But we also ran our fingers over the cards with many oohs and aahs as we noted the special softness.

We almost reached hysteria as we read the final sentence- Its feel and quality is obviously larruping. Seriously? Skipping the obvious subject and verb error, we concentrated on the word larruping. We had to look it up in a dictionary. It means very or exceedingly. As we examined the cards, we all agreed that it was obvious the cards were larruping, even to the most casual observer. How could we not find otherwise?

We continued to play that evening, occasionally pausing to comment on the special softness of the cards. Who would have thought a deck of cards would provide such larruping entertainment? Plus, we all learned a new word.

While we had different opinions on the meaning of several phrases, we all agreed the manufacturer should have quit after Thanks very much for playing car brand playing cards.

Old man wisdom

July 31, 2022 / Henry Dumas

By Henry Dumas

As you may expect, I filled my life with things I wouldn’t do again, as well as things I wish I had done. These are the consequences of never really growing up. There are things in my life for which I would appreciate a magic make over. The problem with magic makeovers is they’re a gamble. If you change something, you don’t really know how it will work out. If you can honestly say there’s no possible way, it could have been worse than it was. You have a lot more faith in your ability not to screw up again than I have.

              Ultimately, I believe we can see our regrets as positive experiences. If you are happy now, or if you are mildly content, consider that both the good and stupid things you did brought you here.

Turnabout Is Fair Play

December 12, 2022.

By Henry Dumas

   Steven looked at his best friend, Robert. Shook his head from side to side and quietly scoffed. “You look like crap; do you want to go duck hunting?” Steven’s long, red, tangled hair and unshaven face made him appear like he had spent a week in the woods without a comb or razor. Stevens’ friends described him as one of a kind. He’s a handsome, young-looking fifty-year-old with a charming disposition. His baby blue eyes and auburn curly hair that dangled from under his cowboy hat down to his shoulders, made him a prized possession for single ladies. He had on his favorite camo hunting gear and carried a canceled weapon tucked in his waistband, and would use it if necessary.

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By Pam Crawford

Having arrived in North Dakota mid-March, we immediately started looking for a warm place to live. Being creatures of habit, we migrated to the same neighborhood we settled on in the past few years. We scoped out the area while perched atop of a huge silver maple tree in front of what we considered a quiet house except for a very tall young man who would come and go occasionally.

Deciding this was the spot, we proceeded to build our nest in the crook of a drainpipe on the edge of the backyard patio. It was covered with roof overhang-the perfect spot. I laid my eggs and sat on them day and night.

Life was good until there was quite the racket coming from the house. Lights came on, windows flew open, doors slammed, people were moving about, and then we heard a baby crying. The owners had returned early from Arizona, mumbling something about COVID and an adoption.

We were getting nervous, thinking our position would be compromised. To my pleasant surprise, they left us alone. Occasionally I caught glimpses of them watching us with binoculars at the patio door. They came into the back yard, which made me extremely apprehensive, but we seemed to be accepted, even though we were trespassing.

Sometimes I caught a glimpse of the tiny grandson when they carried him to the window to check on us. Maybe that is the reason they did not shoo us away because we had in common the responsibility of feeding and caring for babies.

Soon one of the eggs hatched and the people grew even more attentive. They tip-toed around us, watching me feed the baby. Then came the day when my baby bird could fly and off we went, never to return to the nest.

One day on our daily sweep through the yard I heard the woman ask the man what birds do all day, wondered why we never returned to the nest, and what it was like to not have a home base. She was concerned about our baby and if he had survived.

A few days later, as we flew by an open window, we heard the woman playing her guitar. We landed on the fence outside the window and listened, swaying with the music. She stopped and looked out at us. I flapped a wing and we left. I think she knew it was us and was relieved to know we were doing well.