Sunday, August 31, 2014

Chad Is 41 Today!

Happy Birthday, little brother, even though I am one day late! What an eventful year for you! Did it bring as many surprises as your second birthday did? I love the look on your face in this picture:

Click to make the image larger:

For those of you who do not know my little brother Chad's story, let me tell you a little about the baby of our family. Before you have to pull out your iPhone and check and see what year Chad was born to make him 41 today, I will tell you he was born in 1973, not quite two years after my accident in 1971. He has never known me other than his big brother who uses a wheelchair.

At an early age, he had the nickname "Thumper" because he would thump his leg while he slept on his stomach. As soon as he was old enough to hold any two objects like wooden spoons, he would start beating them rhythmically on anything close to him. That included toys, furniture, his Big Wheel, the seat in the car … you name it.

Little did we know when he was incessantly beating on everything in sight with or without objects as he would use his fingers to pound out a rhythm on the dashboard of my van whenever I took them somewhere that it would lead to a lifelong passion for drumming.

I have posted about him before and the success he has had in getting his Drum Wallet snare drum accessory patented and now being marketed worldwide. His site may be accessed by clicking here. If that does not get to The Drum Wallet, you may access it at this URL:

Besides getting his patent last year and working on getting his product in stores, schools, garages and stages worldwide, he keeps himself busy by giving private drum lessons to budding drummers both in his house and at the students' residences, playing with some well-known bands and occasionally teaches as a substitute in two or three school districts in his area. No moss grows on Chad's north side!

Teaching fourth grade for seven years was a great love for Chad. However, California regulations, school administrators and policies made it extremely difficult for him to continue as a full-time elementary teacher. Now, he makes more money as a substitute, and has a lot fewer responsibilities placed on his head. Ultimately, it was the system that drove him away.

He even made it home for Thanksgiving last fall, and between marketing calls to local stores, found time to have dinner with our family. This photo was taken in my apartment as he waited to have me take him to the airport:

Click on the image to make it larger:

I have blogged about him three times before and if you would like to read any one of those posts, click on his name at the bottom of this post.

Once again, Happy Birthday Chadster! 

I look forward to your comments.


Proud Big Brother Mike

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Robin Williams Was Demanding

Artists can be very demanding in their requirements of the venue where they perform. Many well-known performers demand certain things be just right before they step on stage. Indeed, it is well known people like Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, the Rolling Stones, to name just a few require certain types of foods, bottled water, alcohol and other staples be just right whenever they perform.

Robin Williams had certain demands written into his contracts that not many people know about. The other day, I found this piece on my Facebook friend Amie from Plano, Texas page that reads like this:

A Little Known Robin Williams Story:

“Years ago I learned a very cool thing about Robin Williams, and I couldn’t watch a movie of his afterward without thinking of it. I never actually booked Robin Williams for an event, but I came close enough that his office sent over his rider.

For those outside of the entertainment industry, a rider lists out an artist’s specific personal and technical needs for hosting them for an event- anything from bottled water and their green room to sound and lighting requirements. You can learn a lot about a person from their rider. This is where rocks bands list their requirement for green M&Ms (which is actually a surprisingly smart thing to do).

This is also where a famous environmentalist requires a large gas-guzzling private jet to fly to the event city, but then requires an electric or hybrid car to take said environmentalist to the event venue when in view of the public.

When I got Robin Williams’ rider, I was very surprised by what I found. He actually had a requirement that for every single event or film he did, the company hiring him also had to hire a certain number of homeless people and put them to work.

I never watched a Robin Williams movie the same way after that. I’m sure that on his own time and with his own money, he was working with these people in need, but he’d also decided to use his clout as an entertainer to make sure that production companies and event planners also learned the value of giving people a chance to work their way back.

I wonder how many production companies continued the practice into their next non-Robin Williams project, as well as how many people got a chance at a job and the pride of earning an income, even temporarily, from his actions.

He was a great multiplier of his impact. Let’s hope that impact lives on without him. Thanks, Robin Williams- not just for laughs, but also for a cool example.”

Reposted with permission from

We have all heard of Robin Williams mental health issues and his dealing with depression these last few weeks since his death. We have also heard of many of the philanthropic things he did and how close he was to Christopher Reeve. They went way back to being classmates at Juilliard.

When we think of Robin Williams, we think of an unbelievable talent who made us laugh out loud because we never knew what was coming next. His improvisational skills will never be repeated.

I was fortunate to see him in concert twice. It was a nonstop, energy filled ninety-minute exhibition of sheer comic genius. From start to finish he was going one hundred miles an hour. We did not know what had been written and what he was improvising. He was a true talent in front of an audience. 

I wanted to post this piece to show you another side of a very complex individual. Can you imagine what some people had to go through to step out of their comfort zone and hire homeless people to work for their companies?

The thing is he has been doing extraordinary things for other people his entire life. I recorded The Late Show with David Letterman on August 18th to see Bruce Willis and what antics he was going to pull. I just watched it the other day and Letterman did a tribute to Robin Williams before he brought Bruce Willis out. You could see how difficult it was for David letterman attimes when talking about his good friend of roughly four decades.

Robin Williams appeared as a guest on Dave's shows fifty times! Letterman said the fun thing about having Robin Williams on as a guest was he (Letterman) knew he did not have to do anything that night. He would just introduce Robin Williams, and Williams would take it from there. Letterman would just sit back and watch a comic genius do his thing.

At one point, Letterman showed this picture and made humorous comments about how all of the starving comedians back in the early days were trying to do their routines and how awestruck they were when Robin Williams took the stage.

Richard Pryor was already well established and he came to the Comedy Store to hone his skills every once in a while. Mitzi Shore ran the club. David Letterman was a young comedian making his way and then there was Robin Williams doing the same thing.

David Letterman said Robin Williams was in the same boat as all the rest of those comedians at that stage of their careers trying to become better and get discovered. He made one comment something like, we all stunk and after watching Williams do his bit Letterman said we all felt even worse about ourselves because we were comparing ourselves to the improvisational comic genius of Robin Williams. The tribute was very fitting and touching. It was interesting as you could tell Dave was fighting off the tears by the end.

Click on this image to make it larger:

Hopefully, if anything good can come out of Robin Williams' suicide, it will be an increased awareness and action to properly address depression and mental health issues in our healthcare system.

R.I.P. funny man. 

As always, I look forward to your comments.



Sunday, August 24, 2014

More News On Tammy

Since my last post getting you up to speed on what my youngest sister, Tammy, is up to these days, she has been flying almost nonstop from coast-to-coast and back again!

My August ninth post brought you to that point. However, since then she has been traveling and speaking from Anchorage to Buffalo, back to Washington DC for a couple days. Then, on Tuesday she came back to Minneapolis with my mom who was vacationing with Jeff and Tammy, so she could address a group of national legislators at the Minneapolis Convention Center on Wednesday, August twentieth where she then flew to San Francisco to address a conference there.

I just talked to her and she is doing a little shopping before she catches a late-night plane back to DC. She was busy and could not talk long so I did not get to ask her if she felt any of the earthquakes this morning near San Francisco. However, Tammy just sent a message to my mom telling her she slept through most of the earthquakes.

Tammy's husband, Jeff Farias, posted this interview from C-SPAN on his Facebook page today. I find it fascinating to see what her charge has been with this current position and how she is literally taking the message to the people. Click on this URL to view the C-SPAN video:

The Bipartisan Policy Center will have her traveling a lot this next year to year and a half. In fact, I asked her that the other night as twelve of our family members got to spend a few hours with Tammy having dinner at a local restaurant. She emphasized the words "a lot of travel" in her reply!

I did not get a chance to ask her how many people would be in the audience on Wednesday when she spoke at the convention center, but I am certain it was a large audience as every state has many state legislators.

If you watched the Question and Answer video from above, you can see they are trying to bring the election process into the 21st century, insure there are enough voting booths at every polling place, make sure everyone has the right to vote and make sure overseas and military ballots are counted. There are a couple more aspects of their assignment.

It is no small task, but spoken like a true proud, big brother she comes from a good gene pool and is up to the task! I can only imagine the places she will see, the people she will meet and the experiences she will have while she carries out this assignment.

She did show several pictures they took the day before in a Redwood forest north of San Francisco. The giant Redwoods are not something we all get to see every day. Several years ago I got to go through the Avenue of the Giants in northern California and experience three-thousand-year-old trees that rise three hundred feet and more into the air. If you ever get a chance to go through the giant Redwood or Sequoia parks, I encourage you to do it. It is something you will never forget.

There I go, getting off track again!

As always, I look forward to your comments.



Saturday, August 9, 2014

The Latest News On Tammy!

As my frequent followers know, I am a proud big brother of all the accomplishments my youngest sister, Tammy, has been doing these last few years. Her most recent position after being a member of the Presidential Commission on Election Reform was announced on Thursday she will be working for the Bipartisan Policy Center located in Washington, DC.

Tammy and her husband, Jeff Farias, have relocated to a huge house on the Maryland shore for the next year to year and a half while Tammy works for the center.

To read the press release from the Center, click here. If that does not come up, you can get it at this URL:

I especially like this paragraph taken directly from the press release: "BPC will focus on these key recommendations in the year ahead: reducing polling place lines, addressing the imminent voting machine technology crisis; online registration; cross-state data sharing efforts; improving the Department of Motor Vehicles registration process; ensuring that schools can be used as polling places; and creating opportunities for voting before Election Day."

I am so proud of the fact she is making a difference for the entire country. Voting for everyone is a right and she is helping to see everyone's vote gets counted. I believe that is a huge step forward in light of recent scandals we have had where people were not allowed to vote and laws have been written to exclude certain classes of people.

When Tammy was working on the commission, they often met with top officials in the  Executive Branch of the government including the president and vice president. I am attaching a photograph of one of their meetings when President Obama And Vice President Biden are looking at Tammy. I get a charge out of it every time I look at it: 

You can tell the President is talking to her because Tammy's name placard is in the lower right hand of the screen. Click on the image to make it larger:

This is the fifth post I put up about Tammy. If you click on her name below, you may read the other posts. Yes, I know I posted this picture in one of the other posts; but I am so proud of her and love this picture so much I cannot get enough of it!

Have I said yet how proud I am to be her big brother? Oh wait, I guess I did that in the last paragraph. Just pretend this paragraph does not exist.

Right now, my mother is visiting Jeff and Tammy for a two-week, well-deserved vacation. Tammy is getting back at her by taking lots of pictures of grandma doing everything from taking pictures when they visited Monticello to taking pictures of her with her toes in the sand of the Atlantic. Yes, mom had a book at Monticello and she took pictures of flowers.

Jeff's mother, Nancy, will be joining them soon, and the two grandmas will have lots of stories to tell each other. That is if they can keep their noses out of a book. Mom wrote in one of her threads how she had finished two books and was working on the third. I am sure that one is done by now and it is on to number four.

I am going to close this post with a picture of my mother relaxing and reading through her eyelids. If you know my mom, you know she loves flowers and books. She always has two or three books going at any one time. At seventy-seven she is living proof that lifelong learning is going on in her head.

Click on the image to make it larger:

As always, I look forward to your comments.



Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Football Season Is Here Again!

Once again as summer gives way to fall, our annual rite of football season is upon us. The National Football League has already had its Hall of Fame game with a full slate of preseason games coming up this weekend.

College football teams are working diligently twice a day to improve on last year's records. High School teams are preparing in some parts of the country, and others are getting ready to start practice either next week or the following.

Young boys and girls as young as six and seven years old are dragging mom and/or dad to the local sports shop to buy equipment for their rapidly growing bodies. I have a real problem with that!

Parents all over the country believe they need to start Little Johnny or Janie in these athletic programs at earlier and earlier ages all the time. I do not believe these programs should start until these young bodies are a little more developed. I have had that feeling for many years and now with all of the injury studies being done with older college and professional athletes we are seeing the damage all of the hitting is taking on people's bodies as they age.

The concussion epidemic we are seeing now should have been made years ago. There is too much money in all levels of not only football, but all the other sports as well. I do not believe these young boys and girls need to start at such a young age when their bodies are growing so rapidly and changing literally day-to-day.

For my Prevention and Care of Athletic Injuries class at the University of Minnesota in the late 70s, I did a paper on severe neck injuries in football. I will never forget some of the research I did mostly in a magazine published right here in the Twin Cities called The Physician & Sports Medicine Journal. Remind you, this paper was done almost forty years ago.

Before I start to talk about some of the numbers, let me tell you about the professor and my grade. She handed back my paper with not one red mark on it! Out of a 20-point possible score, she gave me a 19.7! Her note read, "This paper is perfect. You did an excellent job in your research. I wouldn't change a thing."

Mind you, I was only twenty-two or twenty-three and I took exception to her comment and not giving me a perfect 20 if my paper deserved it. After class, I went up and after why I did not get 20 if she would not change a word of my paper?

Her reply was, "I don't believe in perfection."

I asked, "Then why did you write on my paper, "It is perfect. …"?

Then a discussion ensued, and of course I did not get my grade changed because the professor was right (in her own mind) and she was not about to change my grade. That still bothers me to this day! Can you tell?

One of the most glaring statistics that came out of that paper was 70% of all high school players would get hurt in a year, 90% of all college players would get hurt and 100% of all professional football players would get hurt in the upcoming season. Their definition of getting hurt consisted of missing one or more plays due to injury in a game.

I am not sure if that is a very good parameter for considering an injury in a football game. But, who am I to question the scientists? Remember, those were numbers from the 1970s and included all injuries.

I hope today's equipment, rules and coaching techniques have changed dramatically to protect the athletes, especially the younger ones.

One of the problems I see with older athletes is the sheer size and strength they possess. The recent NFL lawsuit is showing some staggering statistics on the toll these repetitive hits are doing to players from head to toe. Is the state-of-the-art of football equipment adequate to protect these larger, stronger and faster players?

That goes right down to the younger players. Another fact I learned from researching my paper was — the neck musculature is the last muscle mass in the body to develop. No wonder I got hurt! I only had a small neck to protect my extremely large head! (I know that will bring some snickers to some of my readers). Here is my individual photograph from a couple weeks before my accident:

Click on the image to make my head even larger:

I am not trying to make this a negative post. I love football! I love watching football; I just do not like watching all the injuries. It physically sickens me when I watch a player who has to be strapped onto a body board and carried off the field. I loved playing football! I regret one play, that is it! I learned a lot from all the competitive sports I competed in as an adolescent. I made lifelong friends I still see today, both teammates and players I competed against. I would not be where I am today if it were not for all of the competition and cooperation I learned in competitive and cooperative team sports.

I like to tell people, "I wouldn't be here if it wasn't for football, but if it wasn't for football, I wouldn't be here." What I mean by that is if it were not for football I would not have gotten hurt. However, if it was not for football, basketball, baseball, track, tennis and golf, I would not have learned to compete. I compete today not against another team; but rather, against myself.

One of my goals is to make myself better every day. I try to learn at least one new thing every day. Imagine what you could do in a lifetime if you did that! If you are in school they would like you to learn more than one new thing a day! But, if you are an adult think how much you will learn in your lifetime if you are learning one new thing every day. It can be powerful stuff! It is all about your attitude!

As always, I welcome your comments.