If I Can Quit, Anyone Can

In June I developed a sore on my left forearm which eventually turned into what doctors called cellulitis. After a few days drinking some oral antibiotics which weren’t working, doctor said, “I’m putting you in the hospital and giving you the good stuff,” meaning the heavy-duty antibiotics via IV. On the second day doctor brought in another surgeon who I remember saying, “we’ve got to go a bit deeper.” That turned out to him making a ditch on my arm about 2-1/2 inches long and ½ inch wide. Have no idea how deep, but on a 1-10 pain scale, I graded that a 25.
Same second day, doctors asked me if I’d like to go on Chantix. I said no, as I’ve been a smoker for more than 60 years and had no notion of stopping now. Later that night, in between nurses taking my vitals every 20 minutes or so, I began to think more about it. Since I’ve been smoking my entire teenage and adult life, I really don’t know what it’s like “on the other side.” I started to wonder what it’d be like to eat a big meal and not have to finish it off with a cigarette. Since I have a bit of COPD, wonder how my breathing would be after non-smoking for a while. So, I said, okay, give me the Chantix, not knowing just how long I’d go without smoking.
I took the Chantix for a few days when I got home from the hospital, but thought it was upsetting my stomach a bit. I had already decided in my head that if I was going to “the other side,” it would have to be for some time, not just a few days. So, I quit the Chantix and went “cold turkey.” Several times when watching tv I’d reach over for a drag. But there wasn’t anything there, not even an ashtray, and I just said to myself, “Oh, I don’t do that anymore.”
So, here on January 3, June 28 was my last cigarette. Wife Carol joined me in this a couple of weeks later. We’ve had to re-learn a few things, like having a cup of coffee WITHOUT a cigarette.  Or going to a casino and sitting by smokers. Or watching people on tv light up. One of our favorite programs is Perry Mason on MeTV. Seems like Perry and Paul Drake and most every other character on almost every episode were smokers.
But it is amazing how little we get the urge. Every once in a while I think about lighting up, but it’s not that strong and I use the “Oh, I don’t do that anymore,” and go on with whatever I’m doing.
It really is hard to describe just how shocked I am at how this has gone. I began smoking when I was 13 because it was the “cool” thing to do. All my buds smoked and we could buy our Lucky Strikes at Chris’ Newsstand for a dime. We’d leave them overnight under the World War II monument in the city park. Next day after school we’d retrieve them, hoping the overnight rain missed our pack. We grew up with cigarette advertising on television and radio. It wasn’t until 1970 that Congress passed the Public Health Cigarette Smoking Act, banning the advertising of cigarettes on radio and television, starting on January 2, 1971. During my time in the Air Force, I hardly remember any of my friends who were not smokers. I was a purchasing specialist and could smoke at my desk. After discharge I worked for a large company in San Francisco and again, could smoke at my desk. Just like the song, Smoke! Smoke! Smoke! (That Cigarette), written by Merle Travis and Tex Williams and recorded by Williams in 1947:         
Smoke smoke smoke that cigarette
Puff puff puff
And if you smoke yourself to death
Tell St. Peter at the Golden Gate
That you hate to make him wait
But you just gotta have another cigarette
we just Had to have another cigarette. I’ve never been into marijuana or anything harder, but I think addiction to nicotine is one very powerful addiction.                
No, I’m not going on a non-smoking rampage. It’s still a personal decision and I still respect smokers. Been there, done that.  Not sure when I’ll actually be “on the other side,” but each day I get that much closer.



We Shouldn’t Have Survived

I can’t take credit for this and it’s probably been around for a long time. But I think it’s great and I’m reprinting it here. If anyone knows who created this, please let me know.


According to today’s regulators and bureaucrats, those of us who were kids in the 40s, 50s, 60s, or even the 70s, shouldn’t have survived.

Our baby cribs were covered with bright-colored lead-based paint. We had no childproof lids on medicine bottles, doors or cabinets, and when we rode our bikes, we had no helmets. (Not to mention the risks we took hitchhiking.)

As children, we would ride in cars with no seat belts or air bags. Riding in the back of a pickup truck on a warm day was always a special treat.

We drank water from the garden hose and not from a bottle. Horrors! We ate cupcakes and bread and water, and drank soda pop with sugar in it, but we were never overweight because we were always outside playing.

We shared one soft drink with four friends, from one bottle, and no one actually died from this.

We would spend hours building our go-carts out of scraps and then rode down the hill, only to find out we forgot the brakes. After running into the bushes a few times, we learned to solve the problem.

We would leave home in the morning and play all day, as long as we were back when the streetlights came on. No one was able to reach us all day. No cell phones. Unthinkable!

We did not have Playstations, Nintendo 64, X-Boxes, no video games at all, no 99+ channels on cable, video tape movies, surround sound, personal cell phones, personal computers, or Internet chat rooms.

We had friends! We went outside and found them. We played dodge ball, and sometimes the ball would really hurt. We fell out of trees, got cut and broke bones and teeth, and there were no lawsuits from these accidents. They were accidents. No one was to blame but us. Remember accidents?

We had fights and punched each other and got black and blue and learned to get over it

We rode bikes or walked to a friend’s home and knocked on the door, or rang the bell or just walked in and talked to them. Little League had tryouts and not everyone made the team. Those who didn’t had to learn to deal with disappointment.

Some students weren’t as smart as others, so they failed a grade and were held back to repeat the same grade. Horrors! Tests were not adjusted for any reason. Our actions were our own. Consequences were expected.

The idea of a parent bailing us out if we broke the law was unheard of. They actually sided with the law! Imagine that!

This generation has produced some of the best risk-takers and problem solvers and inventors, ever. The past 50-60 years have been an eplosion of innovation and new ideas.

We had freedom, failure, success and responsibility, and we learned how to deal with it all. And you’re one of them. Congratulations!

Please pass this on to others who have had the luck to grow up as kids, before lawyers and government regulated our lives, for our own good . . .

Kinda makes you want to run through the house with scissors, doesn’t it?


Disaster-Proof Your Personal, Business Information

I was in the process of preparing an article about what we can do to protect ourselves and our businesses in the wake of a disaster, when I found this, prepared by Douglas Charney, senior vice president-Investments of Wachovia Securities in Harrisburg, PA. Wachovia Securities, LLC, Member NYSE & SIPC, is a separate nonbank affiliate of Wachovia Corporation. It’s so well-done I received permission to reprint it here, along with my comments, which are in italics.


Hurricanes, floods, fires, terrorist attacks — the list of possible disasters is endless. Should something catastrophic and unforeseen happen to your home, are your financial records and personal information safe? For most people, the answer is “no.”

Think about all the things you could lose in something as common as a house fire: your tax returns, passport, birth certificate, computer, check book, bank statements, credit cards, insurance paperwork, and even cash. Without all these things, how would you pay your bills, buy food and clothing, or even rebuild your finances and your life?

While no one wants to believe that disaster will happen to them, your odds are actually higher than you think. According to the National Safety Council, the average person has a 1 in 1,167 chance of being involved in a fire, and a 1 in 3,421 chance of being involved in some sort of natural disaster, such as an earthquake, flood, hurricane, etc. Therefore, if you’ve always believed that something bad will never happen to you, it’s time to think again.

So how do you protect your personal and financial information? You need to disaster-proof your personal finances before a tragedy strikes. We will look at 10 ways to keep your financial and personal information safe.

Purchase A Home Safe

Every household needs a home safe that can withstand temperatures up to 1700 degrees. Keep the safe bolted to the floor in your basement or on the ground floor level so it doesn’t fall through the floor during a fire or get carried off by burglars.

Open A Safety Deposit Box At An Out-Of-Town Bank

Many people who have a safety deposit box simply use one at their local neighborhood bank. A better approach is to use a bank that’s out-of-town. This way if a disaster strikes that affects your entire town or city, such as a flood, your safety deposit box has a lower chance of being affected. Since many banks offer free or reduced fees on safety deposit boxes for their current customers, you can use the same bank that holds your accounts, just a different out-of-town branch. Note: Floods can happen anywhere. Remember Cedar Rapids, Iowa in 2007? Banks and their safety deposit boxes were under water.

Create A Financial Disaster Kit

Gather all the documents you keep in your home safe, wallet, and safety deposit box and make two photocopies of everything. Include all the account numbers of your credit cards, bank accounts, retirement accounts, insurance policies, and brokerage accounts. Also include any work-related items, such as pay stubs and employee benefit information. Keep one copy of these papers in your home safe, and keep the other copy in your safety deposit box. By having this information in multiple safe places, you can have quick access to it no matter what happens.

Have An Emergency Cash Fund

Save at least three months’ worth of income for emergencies. Realize that you don’t have to save this amount of money overnight. It will take some time for you to accumulate three months’ worth of income.

Start small, with perhaps $50 a week, and build the account slowly. Should a disaster happen before you have a full three months’ worth of income saved, remember that some money is better than no money.

Make sure you have quick access to these funds via an ATM or debit card, or with checks that are separate from your regular checking account. Keep this ATM card or check book in your financial disaster kit.

Keep Cash Or Traveler’s Checks On Hand

Many people no longer keep cash in their wallet or in their home because of debit and credit cards, which they view as safer. However, should a disaster strike that wipes out electricity and closes the banks, how will you purchase basic necessities? At the very least, have $100 per person in your household available as cash or in the form of traveler’s checks. Keep this money in your home safe. This way you have some immediate funds to hold you over until the power is back on or the banks re-open.

Have An Emergency Credit Card

Keep one credit card account empty and save it just for emergency use. Get the bank to issue two credit cards for this account, one in your name and one in your spouse’s name or another family member. Keep one card in your home safe and the other in your safety deposit box. Do not store this card in your wallet. If you do, you may be tempted to use it and won’t have the credit available should you need it during a disaster.

Back-Up Your Computer And Your Phone Regularly

Since many people claim that they store their entire life on their computer, make sure you back-up your computer every day. You have a number of options for data back-up. Some people prefer to use a CD, USB data stick, or tape drive. In this case, you have to remember to keep the back-up with you or in a safe place. Note “safe place.” Not a good idea to keep the back-up media in your work area or in your desk drawer. But if you keep it in your safe and you have important daily data you need to protect, it’s cumbersome to retrieve it from your safe every day. That’s why in addition to you doing the back-up, the suggestion in the next paragraph is the safest way to go.

Another option is to use one of the many internet-based data back-up systems that are available for a monthly fee. This way you don’t have to physically store anything or remember to grab any files. They will be waiting for you online should you ever need them. Whatever back-up method you choose, practice restoring your back-up so you know what to do should the need arise. Note: There are actually some free back-up services available, maybe with some programs or services you already have.  I’m researching that now and will report in a future post.

The same goes for your phone. With today’s superfast smartphones we can do just about everything, text, bank online, surf the web, not to mention keep track of appointments, contacts and much more. What would happen if it got lost, stolen or damaged? So, like your computer, make sure you back it up. Check with your carrier to see what’s provided. And, soon, for absent-minded folks, you’ll be able to attach an alarm to help you keep track of its whereabouts.

Make An Inventory Of Your Home Furnishings And Valuables

This inventory should be in photo or video format. Keep a physical copy of the photos or videos, put a copy on your computer’s hard drive, and keep a back-up copy on CD or DVD and store it either in your home safe or in your safety deposit box. Include copies of purchase receipts for large items, such as televisions, computers, expensive jewelry or artwork, and furniture suites.

This is so important I’m making a special note on this one. In fact in the future I’ll post a complete article on this. In the event of an insurance claim, an adjuster is equipped and trained to handle the building portion of your loss, but when it comes to “contents” it gets sticky. If you submit a huge list of lost, damaged or destroyed contents with no supporting photos or documentation, a red flag is raised and your claim will take much longer than you want. After Hurricane Ivan I had a woman who claimed she lost 125 pairs of shoes. But, you know what? She listed them by brand and color and gave me copies of receipts for all of them! Many of them were the pricey kind and had she not submitted what she did, we would have had to negotiate the number lost and an average price for the shoes.

Review Your Insurance Policies

Pull out your home and auto insurance policies and see if they need any updating. Make sure that your replacement values for your home or cars are not too low. This is also a good time to consider purchasing disability insurance, which will protect you and enable you to generate income should you become disabled during a disaster. Note: READ YOUR POLICY! Know what’s covered and what’s not. Remember, homeowners policies do NOT cover flood. For flood coverage you need a flood policy issued by FEMA. If you have any questions on coverage, check with your agent.

Back-Up Your Back-Ups

Make a copy of all your financial records, documents, deeds, and your financial disaster kit. Then send this packet of information to a trusted relative or friend who lives in another part of the country. Instruct this person to keep your packet in a safe place, such as a home safe or safety deposit box. This is your final layer of protection, as even if a disaster affects a large geographic area, your information is still safe somewhere else in the country.

Final Note: In the aftermath of Katrina I had a business owner in Mississippi whose business was gone and his home was gone. Most commercial policies cover business interruption, which requires profit and loss statements to calculate how much profit the business lost while being shut down. This insured had no records so we decided to check with his accountant. Guess what? His accountant’s business was gone and so was his home . . . and so were all of the accountant’s records for all of his clients. The only thing left was for the insured to request copies of his federal tax returns from the IRS, and you can guess how long that took.


Short History of Omaha, NE

Omaha enjoys a rich and colorful history.

In 1819 the steamboat Western Engineer passed the plateau where Omaha now stands. It was the first steamboat to ascend the Missouri River to that point. T. B. Roye (or Royce) established a trading post within the present city limits of Omaha in 1825.

In 1846 the Mormons, led by Brigham Young, established the temporary settlement of Winter Quarters (in the present-day Florence area) where more than 300 died during the harsh winter.

When Nebraska became an organized territory under the Nebraska-Kansas Act of May 30, 1854, the Council Bluffs & Nebraska Ferry Company hired Council Bluffs surveyor Alfred D. Jones to prepare a survey of “Omaha City.” The original town plat consisted of 320 blocks, each 264 feet square. All the streets were made 100 feet in width, except for Capitol Avenue and Twenty-First Street, which were 120 feet wide. Men and women from Council Bluffs celebrated the beginning of Omaha at a Fourth of July picnic in the future town.

Jones convinced an Iowa Congressman that he, Jones, should be postmaster of the new town. When he received confirmation from Washington in May of 1854, he had no office. So he designated his own hat as a repository for any mail which might by chance be addressed to “Omaha City.”

The first legislative session in Nebraska was held January 18, 1855, in a brick building in Omaha on Ninth Street between Farnam and Douglas. A room in this building was used for the first school taught in Omaha, beginning on July 1, 1855. Adelaide Goodwill was the first teacher of 40 pupils.

The new town flourished more than its founders had anticipated. This is from the Omaha Times of June 7, 1857:

“1855, June — Number of inhabitants 250 to 300. Best lots sold at $100.

“1856, June — Number of inhabitants about 800. Best lots sold at $600.

“1856, October — Number of inhabitants 1,600. Best lots sold at $2,500.”

In 1857 Governor Izard approved an act of the Legislature incorporating the City of Omaha. Jesse Lowe was elected Omaha’s first mayor on March 2, 1857. He wasted no time in calling for the board of aldermen to convene on March 5. At that meeting notices were given that at an early date several ordinances would be introduced. Among them:

1. To prevent hogs from running at large;

2. To establish a city pound for stray animals;

3. To regulate billiard rooms and bowling alleys;

4. To regulate the sale of intoxicating liquors; and

5. To suppress gambling and gambling rooms.

In 1860 Edward Creighton completed the first telegraph line from St. Louis to Omaha. Hotels, stores, markets, restaurants and saloons sprang up along lower Farnam Street. By 1860 Omaha’s population was 1,883. The telegraph line between Omaha and San Francisco was completed in 1862.

By 1865 Omaha’s population had grown to nearly 5,000. The only police officer was the city marshall, but on March 22, 1866, the city council adopted an ordinance that established a police force of four: John Logan, John Morrissey, Patrick Swift and Thomas Welch. The ordinance provided that the “captain of the city police shall place his men on their beats from 8 o’clock until sunrise.” Two more patrolmen were appointed a few weeks later.

Nebraska was admitted into the Union as a state in 1867. In the 1870s Omaha flourished with streetlights, rail lines, and several large buildings. The name of the post office was changed in 1871 from “Omaha City” to “Omaha.” In 1872 the first train crossed the Missouri River on the Union Pacific bridge. (See article “Nebraska Historic Bridges” in My Portfolio.)

In 1875 an Omaha fire department was formed and professional fire fighters were employed. Creighton College was founded in 1876 and the first Omaha telephone directory was published in 1879, listing 141 subscribers. Between 1898 and 1908 more than 20,000 telephones were installed.

By 1880 Omaha contained over 5,000 dwellings, a dozen large business buildings and 28 churches. Its population was now over 30,000, and more than one third of the people were European immigrants. In 1882 the first asphalt pavement in Omaha was laid on Douglas Street, from Fourteenth to Sixteenth Streets. By January 1, 1916, Omaha had 218 miles of paved streets and alleys.

A warehouse district was developed in the 1880s and J. L. Brandeis opened a large department store. Gilbert Hitchcock founded the Omaha World-Herald in 1885.

In 1893 the Commercial Club (later to become the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce) was founded to improve Omaha’s economy.  The Trans-Mississippi Exposition was held in Omaha in 1898 and marked the beginning of the “Golden Age” for Nebraska farmers. The first horseless carriage appeared on the streets of Omaha.

The Riverpark Zoo began in 1894. Thanks to a $750,000 donation (several million in today’s dollars) by Margaret Hitchcock Doorly in 1963, today’s Henry Doorly Zoo is nationally renowned for its leadership in animal conservation and research. The Zoo includes several notable exhibits. It features the largest cat complex in North America; “Kingdoms of the Night” is the world’s largest nocturnal exhibit and indoor swamp; the Lied Jungle is one of the world’s largest indoor rainforest, and the “Desert Dome” is the world’s largest indoor desert, as well as the largest geodesic dome in the world. The zoo is Nebraska’s number one paid attendance attraction and has welcomed over one million visitors per year.

Otto Bayesdorfer built a vehicle he called the Ottomobile in 1899 and became the first of nearly a dozen Omaha car manufacturers. The Ottomobile weighed 265 pounds, had two cylinders, and could achieve a speed of fifteen miles per hour. However, it could not climb Omaha’s hills.

In 1900 Omaha’s population was 102,000. The University of Omaha was incorporated in 1908. South Omaha, Florence, Benson and Dundee were annexed to the city in 1915 and, in 1917, Father Edward J. Flanagan founded Boys Town. That year Fort Omaha became the site for a World War I army balloon school.

The first traffic light in Omaha in 1924 caused so much confusion that STOP and GO were painted on the appropriate colors.

The Joslyn Art Museum opened in 1931.

By 1948 Omaha had become the nation’s leading meat supplier, generating annual business in excess of $5 billion.

In 1950 new industries came to Omaha and its population was over 300,000. Mutual of Omaha became the nation’s leading accident insurance company, and the College World Series came to Omaha.

Omaha received the “All America Cities Award” from the National Municipal League in 1957.

Omaha’s exciting history has been well preserved, thanks to the dedication of hundreds of volunteers.

The colorful history of the Union Pacific Railroad comes to life at the Union Pacific Historical Museum. Located at 200 Pearl Street in Council Bluffs, the museum gives visitors a fascinating view of Union Pacific from pioneer days to the present.

The Douglas County Historical Society is located in the 1879 General Crook House at Fort Omaha, now the north campus of Metropolitan College at 30th & Fort Streets. The Historical Society’s Library/Archives houses an impressive collection of documents including the complete clipping files of the Omaha World Herald—nearly five million clips. Also available is virtually every newspaper ever published in Douglas County.

The Durham Museum (formerly known as the Western Heritage Museum) is housed in a building which is a monument and museum in itself. For forty years (1931-1971), Omaha’s Union Station at 801 South 10th Street was a busy hub of railway transportation. Today it is the nation’s first restored Art Deco railway station, an Omaha landmark and one of the city’s major tourist attractions.

The museum’s permanent and temporary exhibits tell the story of Omaha’s past. In the Byron Reed Collection one will find some of the most unusual and valuable coins in existence. An internationally recognized Archival Photography Collection documents Omaha from its beginnings in the mid-1800s.


We Love New York!

For all our travels around the U.S. we had never visited New York City . . . until last September and last week. Carol suggested we celebrate our anniversary there in September. I wasn’t so sure with all the people and traffic and yellow cabs. But since I’m the boss of our family as long as I do what she tells me, I agreed. Well, Mother knows best. We had a terrific four days doing all the touristy things: zoomed to the observatory atop the Empire State Building at midnight; visited Ground Zero; saw the Statue of Liberty from Battery Park; and took in Phantom of the Opera at the Majestic. As luck would have it (or was this serendipity?) the San Gennaro Festival was going on in Little Italy and we and a thousand or so people walked along Mulberry Street, taking in the sights and sounds of this great celebration. Of course we had a scrumptious Italian meal along the way.

When we returned home we decided to take each of our six granddaughters and our one grandson to New York on their 13th birthday and last week was GD#1’s trip. Her mother decided to go along so the four of us took off for New York. After a 2-hour delay in Chicago we finally arrived at LaGuardia, only to have someone take our bag by mistake. The airlines reached him on his cell phone but he was already in Manhattan. About an hour later he returned with our bag – one that was exactly like his, same color, same brand. We finally arrived at our hotel around 2 a.m.

On top of this, that cold front finally reached New York. It was in the teens and low 20s with a biting wind. Long walking trips were out of the question, so we boarded the Grayline Tour bus which takes you around the city, stopping at various attractions where you can hop off and hop back on later.  The tour guides were well-informed and imparted many tidbits of information about the city which we didn’t know. For example, a street named Houston is actually pronounced House-ton. And for years we’ve heard of Soho but didn’t know that it’s called that because it’s a section South of Houston. Didn’t know there is a Noho, too, but there is.

One of the highlights of our trip was taking in Mary Poppins at the New Amsterdam. Now, hey, I know this is New York and Broadway and you expect to see good shows, but I think for the first time in my life I witnessed true perfection! Mary, played by Laura Michelle Kelly, begins by singing she’s “practically perfect in every way.” Well, the entire show was just plain perfect in every way. The sets, the actors, the music and the choreography. Ms. Kelly is the show’s original London star and Olivier Award winner. Playing chimney sweep Bert is Tony Award nominee Christian Borle (of Broadway’s Legally Blonde). And watch in the future for Cassady Leonard and Andrew Shipman who played the two Banks children at this performance. These two kids will have great careers!

We have five more granddaughters to go (a trip to New York  for the next three years, then a respite for a couple of years), and a 1 year old grandson. Let’s see, for him in 12 years I’ll be . . .