Something nice for a change…

Lost among the horrible headlines this week, the stories of disaster, homicide, war, politics and other tragedies, a couple of notable things have occurred.

First, the vehicle that allows you to read these words, that marvelous World Wide Web known as the Internet, turned 25 this week. (The older you get, the shorter 25 years will seem.)

It was on August 23, 1991, that British computer whiz Sir Tim Berners-Lee introduced something he called an “information management” system. No, Al Gore did not invent the Internet. Instead, Sir Tim’s product became the World Wide Web that has obviously mushroomed way beyond what he or anyone else thought possible.

Back in the day, those of us who fancied ourselves on the cusp of all things cool jumped all over it, getting that dial-up system (remember all the croaks and screeches on the speaker as it ‘synched’?) that seemed to take forever so that we could check out this new-fangled connection.

In its early stages, it would have taken, oh, a week and a half to download a music video on that WWW. Now you can do it between keystrokes (for those who still use keyboards and don’t just poke screens).

Technology has taken us to communicative heights that few really appreciate and most just take for granted. There are adults among us who think all television and computer monitor screens have always been flat. They’re called “millennials,” because, of course, we have to call people something these days or we’re not ‘hip’ or ‘with it’ or ‘cool’ or whatever the latest buzzword may be.

How many of you remember when @ meant ‘and’ and your cell phone flipped open?

But enough about that, since I’ve probably reached the attention span limit of most web surfers.

For the many of you who now seek escapes from the techno world, the other anniversary should be right up your alley: it’s the 100th year we have been able to enjoy America’s National Park system as we know it.

We owe a huge debt of gratitude to President Woodrow Wilson, the Virginia Democrat who created the National Park Service in 1916 so that the then-existing park system wouldn’t ultimately be consumed by those bent on mining, drilling into or otherwise developing the nation’s beautiful natural expanses.

Thanks to Wilson’s foresight, the U.S. has 58 pristine national park preserves that enable the masses to escape into worlds that might otherwise have become little more than memories.

The most-visited of these is the half-billion-acre Great Smoky Mountains National Park that encompasses the legendary Appalachian Trail that stretches from Georgia north to Maine. The largest is Alaska’s Wrangell-St. Elias preserve, featuring some 8 million acres of the most beautiful landscapes in the world.

Of course, there’s also the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone and Zion, just to name a few of the most unique places on earth.

Coupled with the many state park systems, it’s safe to say that all of you are within a short drive of some kind of paradise that doesn’t show any bars on that phone.

It would be prudent to note that, in recognition of the National Park Service anniversary, all of the parks are offering free admission for a little while, so power down that device and get away for a while.

Enjoy the bliss of at least a few hours of ignorance.

Note to readers: Thanks for stopping by. I may be dropping off the radar for a little while. Pays to take one’s own advice from time to time…


Trump flips, Hillary shuffles.

Apparently Donald Trump had to fire his campaign manager to realize he probably wouldn’t be getting any African-American or Hispanic votes, thus it would be mathematically impossible for him to win any election within the borders of the United States, wall or no wall.

And it appears some of Hillary Clinton’s advisors have nudged her to blame all this e-mail crap on Colin Powell. After all, Powell’s a Republican and not running for anything and, well, used to be Secretary of State and stuff.

Trump even apologized for some of the utter nonsense he’s been spouting for more than a year, saying last week in a Charlotte speech he “regrets” some of the things he’s said.

And so the Comedy Central tone of Campaign 2016 goes on.

See, here’s the thing: politicians will say anything to get elected. We’ve known that for generations. They’ll promise us all the world and, when the smoke clears, it’ll pretty much be business as usual inside the la-la land of the District of Columbia.

Here’s a thought. Maybe the Trump people should recruit Olympic swimmer Ryan Lochte to be their ‘spin master’. He’s shown that he has an incredible ability to put whatever spin he wants on a story and, at least for a while, everybody buys it.

“Uh, Mr. Trump had to say all those bad things before because, you know, a guy showing a badge put a gun to his head and told him to do it after he, like, got pulled over and stuff,” Spokesman Lochte can tell the press corps.

While we’re making staff suggestions, maybe Hillary’s camp could employ US women’s soccer goalie Hope Solo – you know her, the ‘queen of trash-talking’ who dissed her Swedish counterparts in Rio – to talk about anybody who says anything bad about Secretary Clinton.

“Those people who keep talking about all this e-mail junk, well, they’re just cowards,” Ms. Solo could shout into the microphone array at the next Hillary event.

Talk show hosts and stand-up comics everywhere are going to be so disappointed when November 9 rolls around.

So many people I know and usually respect have been driven batty by all the rhetoric of Election 2016. Those who normally know better are genuinely fearful that, if Donald Trump doesn’t win the race, America will be plunged into a violent chaos we might not survive.

Come on.

Others say that if Hillary doesn’t win, the first thing Trump will do is push the nuclear button, the world will be destroyed and there’ll be nobody left to say “I told you so!”.


The country as we know it IS NOT GOING TO CHANGE no matter who emerges on top the night of Nov. 8. Sadly, we’ll still have poverty, starving children, neglected seniors, ridiculously overpriced prescriptions and a bungled health care system.

The only way we’re going to solve any and all of those problems is to THROW ALL THE BUMS OUT in D.C. and start with a new slate, and that’s not likely to happen in our lifetime.

Why? Because significantly more of you who are reading this will not vote than will, and that is and will always be the flaw in this great American system.

You want change? Really? Then get off your butt and start doing something about it.

So there.

Note to readers: I try to avoid politics here when I can, but there occasionally comes a time when, well, it’s like trying to ignore a charging rhino.


Time to go to that happy place…

People will tell you it’s not good to live in the past. People aren’t always right.

In this day and age when we’re constantly assaulted by all the bad things going on in the world, an escape to your ‘happy place’ every now and then may not be a bad thing.

Few of us need any examples of woeful current events, but let’s just serve up a sampler: locally, a 25-year-old man has been charged with the murder of his girlfriend’s three-year-old daughter; there has been at least one homicide every day this week; fires are scorching what seems to be most of the western U.S.; 11 people have died and thousands are homeless after the Louisiana floods; and then there’s the 2016 presidential election, of course.

Because of the marvelous technology of the age, you can’t just turn off the TV or radio because these tidbits of terror are handed to you on your phone or tablet with alarming regularity. Even surfing what you expect to be fun places, like, oh, Facebook, well-meaning people are beating you over the head with bad news just in case you missed it.

So for those of us who can’t afford (or simply don’t want) to go to a $150-an-hour shrink or pop some kind of magical pill, I’m offering this simple advice: take a minute or two (or longer, since you own your time) and revisit the past.

Think about the one thing (or more if you’ve got ‘em) that you remember as the happiest time of your life, tune out any outside influence and just go there in your mind.

Maybe it was something as simple as playing with your dog or cat, or that graduation, wedding, that first car, first job, first day at school, first kiss. Nothing complicated here.

Based on past conversations with friends or family, you know you’ve had that experience in some way, shape or form.

Parents can think about the birth of that first child (or more, if you’ve been prolific) or, say, the first time you traveled to some foreign land or the minute you waded into the ocean and felt that foamy wave wash across your toes.

You were able then to tune out anything and everything going on in the world, because that was your experience and nobody else’s.

Are you being selfish? Of course not. We’re simply talking about what that expensive psychiatrist would charge you and arm and a leg to declare is a ‘coping mechanism’ and it’s totally acceptable.

It’s easy and, most importantly, doesn’t cost you a dime.

So reminisce. Cope. All things will pass.

We’ll get through this.

Note to readers: Thanks for stopping by. Come back when you can (and, of course, tell your friends!) and we’ll get through the storms together.


Life’s ‘speed bumps’…

We’ve all had ‘em. Those days where nothing seems to go right. You wish you could crawl back into bed, sleep awhile, then get up and start over again.

The older you get, the more attention you pay to such ‘speed bumps’ in life, especially in a political year that seems to have brought the worst out in so many people.

I spent more than an hour on the phone yesterday with a friend who absolutely spewed, non-stop, about everything that’s wrong in the world, wrong in politics, wrong in his own life. If a third party had been eavesdropping on the mostly one-sided conversation, they’d have thought I was listening to an inmate on Death Row, so woeful was his diatribe against pretty much everything.

When the verbal assault diminished to silence, I gently asked him if he’d had anything to eat today. Of course he said “yes.” So I – tactfully as possible – told him he was probably better off than most of the population of central Africa.

“Did you open your eyes, maybe look outside?” I asked.

“Of course I did,” he replied.

“Then you’re well ahead of the 40 million people in this world who are totally blind,” I said. “That’s a plus, right?”

“Okay, I know what you’re doing and I appreciate it, but it doesn’t really make me feel any better about my life,” he said.

I’ve known this guy long enough to accept that I can’t turn him into an optimist under any circumstances. Still, I pressed on.

“Besides simply waking up this morning, what’s the best thing that’s happened to you in, oh, the past month?”

He had to think for a minute – probably as much for dramatic effect as actual rumination – and said “well, I guess it was watching the hummingbirds at my feeder. Hummingbirds make you forget about bad things for a while.”

In the grand scheme of things, I suppose it’s a little sad that watching some birds is a high point of your life, but it’s a start.

As though emphasizing the miniscule impact of that moment, he proceeded to rattle off another score of negatives, and I just listened.

I realize he needed to vent, and more often than not my calls to him are for that very purpose. He doesn’t have many friends and none that I know of who let him unburden, so to speak.

When our call had again dwindled to the hum of the phone line, I suggested that, just as an experiment, he take the time each day to jot down something good about that day, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant. “You might surprise yourself,” I added. He reluctantly agreed to the task.

So that’s where we are. He promised that when I called again, he’d have whatever list he’d accumulated.

Here’s the thing. I’m not so naïve to think that there aren’t scores of bad things happening in and around our individual universes all the time. It’s called life. And life is full of ‘speed bumps’.

But if we dwell on them, before we know it we’re obsessed with the bad, and take little time to even think about the good stuff.

Make your own ‘good list’ and see what happens.

Might surprise you.

Note to readers: At the top of my good list is being able to interact with you guys. Thanks for that. And come back when you can.


We all bleed red…

We’re living in a time where it seems – at least if you believe everything you see on the news – the world is more divisive than ever.

It doesn’t help that hate is fanned by the likes of certain political candidates telling us we should be afraid of or shun certain groups or individuals for no more reason than, oh, the color of their skin.

The late and so very great poet Maya Angelou said in her terrific ‘Human Family’ that “we are more alike, my friends, than we are unalike.”

Truer words were never spoken.

A good example of that ‘alikeness’ is being shown every day at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio, where a rainbow of participants can be seen, day in and day out, laughing, competing, hugging, sharing experiences with absolutely no regard for the color of their skin, the nation of their origin, the god they may or may not worship.

It’s not at all unusual at any given moment to see an American hugging a Chinese athlete or a French or Spanish competitor jumping up and down in joy with or for a fellow athlete from, say, Syria or Israel or Kenya or Myanmar.

The unique ‘Refugee team’ that is a first in this year’s Olympics is populated with competitors of multiple ethnicities and, though they are kids without countries, they’ve got broad smiles on their faces as much because of the ability to use their skills as the fact that they’ve been accepted, even honored by their peers in the 206 countries represented among the more than 11,000 aspirants in Rio de Janeiro.

What we see in the Olympic microcosm and in scores of churches, civic groups, charity efforts and the like is that when international and/or interracial or interfaith relationships are left up to the people, not the politicos, we seem to get along very well, thank you.

It kind of makes you wonder if, indeed, we are governed by those who are supposed to be “of, by and for the people” or whether they’re simply touting their own agenda, doesn’t it?

That divisiveness we’re being pounded with daily, locally, nationally and internationally, may not be quite what we’re told it is. Look around your own neighborhood and you’ll probably agree.

There’s nothing to fear but the fear-mongers, perhaps.

“We are more alike, my friends, than we are unalike.”

We all bleed red. Maybe it’s time the people showed the world we can stop the bleeding.

Movie night: A couple of recommendations fresh at the box office: Disney’s “Pete’s Dragon” is probably the best family movie to hit the screen in quite a while, opting more for sweetness over action or violence. Even the dragon in the title is green and fuzzy, rather than frightening or reptilian. Rated PG, it’s okay for the whole gang.

And Meryl Streep is, of course, always worth a trip to the theater, and never more so than her poignant performance in “Florence Foster Jenkins,” the fact-based story of a wealthy New York woman who fancied herself an opera diva, despite the fact that she couldn’t hit a note with a two-by-four. The movie is sadder than the way it’s being promoted, but there are some genuinely funny episodes and it also features standout performances from Hugh Grant and Simon (“Big Bang Theory”) Helberg in the Stephen Frears-directed biopic. The PG-13 film will be best-received by grownups but is suitable for teens on up.


Elvis, now and forever.

There’s probably no greater legacy in the entertainment world than that of Elvis Presley.

In the next week, pilgrims by the thousands will descend upon the King of Rock and Roll’s homeplace in Memphis to mark the 39th anniversary of Elvis’s untimely death in 1977, when a heart stressed by painkillers gave out at the age of 42.

Scores of Elvis impersonators still ply the arenas of Las Vegas and at myriad parties and venues around the world, belting out renditions of “Heartbreak Hotel” or “I Can’t Help Falling in Love with You” or “American Trilogy,” to name a few of his many familiar hits.

Today, Graceland is a museum already visited by millions, his songs still sell to fans marking second and third generations since his passing and his net worth, now in the hands of wife Priscilla and their only child, Lisa Marie, approaches a billion dollars.

In fact, “Elvis Week” is already under way at the Hard Rock Café on Beale Street with ‘tribute artists’ competing to become the “Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist” and perform on stage at Graceland and hold the coveted title for a year.

The week, which includes everything from a 5K run to benefit Presley’s Livitup Inc. charity for the disabled to tours, a variety of concerts and karaoke competitions, ‘Heartbreak Hotel Bingo’ and scores of ‘meet and greets’ with former Elvis compadres, culminates on August 16, the anniversary of his death.

There’ll even be confabs, more than likely, of the stalwarts who contend that ‘the King’ isn’t dead but simply wanted to get out of the spotlight and now lives quietly somewhere at the age of 81.

I’ll confess that I wasn’t much of an Elvis fan, though watching his old movies is vastly entertaining and so many of his songs are among those that get stuck in your head.

And I have a few ‘six degrees of separation’ connections. My father worked security for him on a concert visit to Charlotte many years ago, and a friend of mine in Mooresville actually owns the hearse that bore Elvis on his last ride from Graceland to the mortuary.

I also worked at a radio station in Lumberton, N.C., alongside a man who had to have been Elvis’s biggest fan, the late Bruce Worrell, who, when the Associated Press sent out a bulletin of the singer’s death, stopped all programming at WTSB and played nothing but The King’s songs for the rest of the day.

In fact, Elvis was scheduled to perform in nearby Fayetteville that year, and I know for a fact that many folks never sought refunds but held onto those tickets as mementoes of the sad occasion.

Elvis Week is, of course, open to the public and most activity is centered around Graceland, a place I’ve actually visited twice (and was surprised that it was considerably smaller than I expected), where a granite-seated bronze plaque bearing his name covers his final resting place in the tiny family cemetery among the similarly-marked plots for his mother, Gladys, father Vernon, grandmother Minnie Mae and a memorial marker for Elvis’s stillborn twin brother, Jesse Garon.

And some day yonder, we will never more wander, but walk on the streets that are purest gold,” he sang in his 1960 spiritual tune ‘Mansion Over the Hilltop’.

That pretty much says it all.

Note to readers: Thanks again for dropping by. Come on back when you can, and we’ll get caught up.


Backing the Blue…

This week communities across the country observed something called “National Night Out,” an evening where neighbors essentially get acquainted with one another and, in most cases, the police officers and first responders that serve them.

It was started back in 1984 by a group called National Association of Town Watch, an organization that promotes community watch programs in the U.S., Canada and places like military bases around the world.

Typical NNO observances before this year involved little more than asking people to keep their porch lights on overnight during the second Tuesday in August (though some places hold their events in October).

But in the wake of events in recent weeks in Dallas, Baton Rouge, Minneapolis, Orlando – the list seems to go on and on, doesn’t it? – there was a more significant need to make National Night Out 2016 a message of sorts, a call for unity, if you will.

And boy, did the neighborhoods come through.

Picnics, ‘town hall’-type meetings, even parades dotted the landscapes of the North American continent this week, with the majority of them punctuated by the laughter of children, the taste and aroma of good food, hugs, nodding heads and a huge leap forward in understanding between citizens and the folks in uniform sworn to serve them.

“It was overwhelming,” observed Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Kerr Putney.

See, the problem in so many areas is that a large number of citizens don’t see law enforcement, firefighters or medics as ‘real people’, at least until they meet them one-on-one, and sometimes, of course, the reverse is equally true.

“Until now, you know, the only time I saw a cop was when he was standing beside my car,” said a participant in one of the local events. “I mean these guys (he gestured around the gathering) are pretty nice.”

The irony of that observation is that many of us remember growing up in neighborhoods where you actually knew your protectors. Days when cops walked beats or firefighters drove down streets just to see that everything was okay.

That’s being called ‘community policing’ these days, as though it were some new, innovative concept.

And as the previous week’s activities underscore, it’s ultimately the best answer to smooth the wrinkles of misperception that have plagued both sides of the controversial issues to date.

It’s also nice that, in the past couple of weeks, social media has been full of snapshots and film clips of things like officers stopping people to give them ice cream cones or playing basketball with neighborhood kids or rollicking in water-gun fights with toddlers.

We’ve become a people far too caught up in an electronic world that makes you focus on tiny hand-held screens or blaring televisions more than simply walking outside, shaking a hand or actually asking, not texting, questions we want answered.

Contact is everything. And it’s good to see more of it.

Note to readers: Thanks for dropping by! Come back when you can, and we’ll have something new to talk about…


That’s entertainment, dadgummit!

Box office receipts throughout time have shown, for the most part, that people ignore film critics’ takes on what’s good and what’s not, and you can bet most or all movie studios are thrilled by that fact.

Way back when George Lucas launched the “Star Wars” empire, there were more bad reviews than good published in papers (when those dominated, imagine that),and so far the franchise has grossed more than $6.5 billion, including the $2.2 billion-and-counting from the most recent episode.

But when Lucas sent Harrison Ford & Company into the beyond, John Simon of New York Magazine called it a “dull new world,” Joy Boyum of the Wall Street Journal said it was “puerile” and the legendary Gene Siskel flat-out said it was “not a great movie.”

There are literally billions of viewers who would beg to disagree.

A recent example might be the Matt Damon reboot of “Jason Bourne,” which far more critics have panned than praised. I was probably the only one locally who actually liked it (Steve McQueen would have been proud of the action sequences) and, in spite of the mostly vitriolic reviews, moviegoers carried it to a $60 million opening weekend, heading toward a likely nine-figure gross that will easily eclipse its $120 million production budget.

So the question is, should anybody pay attention to what critics say?

Well, that depends.

Critics, sadly, can’t do enough to warn you away from crap like “Absolutely Fabulous, The Movie” or “Dirty Grandpa” or “The Brothers Grimsby.”

But there actually have been some pretty decent films this year that people stayed away from in droves, despite glowing critical acclaim. “The BFG” comes to mind. It will likely not recoup its $140 million production expense, despite the fact that it’s directed by Spielberg and based on a Roald Dahl children’s classic.

Bottom line, fans of certain types of movies are always going to go to the theaters in appropriate numbers. For instance, the “Fast and Furious” franchise has grossed more than $3.8 billion for seven movies that, combined, cost less than a fifth of that figure to make.

What can I say? Vin Diesel still pulls ‘em in.

And “The Legend of Tarzan,” another film that I seemed to like a lot more than my critic friends, has so far, happily, made more than $300 million, which virtually assures that we’ll see Alexander Skarsgard swinging through the trees again.

The thing is, the kind of movie you like versus the kind you don’t like is 100 percent a matter of your own personal taste, and no one else, especially not one of those “high-falutin’ critics,” is going to convince you otherwise.

Am I right?

Note to readers: Come back when you can! Lord knows what we might talk about next…


Not really a good neighbor…

See, here’s the deal. That insurance company with the sweet jingle or the smiling person on the phone you see on TV or in the ads? They’re actually not your good neighbor, you’re not in good hands, Flo could really give a crap whether you live or die and that lizard-looking thing (I know, it’s a gecko) may be cute, but it doesn’t have a darn thing to do with insurance.

Let me explain why: insurance companies are in the business for the profit, not the payout, which is, of course, logical in the business world. But the thing is, they do all manner of things to convince you they’re on your side, when nothing could be farther from the truth.

Most insurance company bigwigs are actually professional liars and bullies (sound like any politicians you know?) who spend more time and energy telling you why they’re not going to pay you for something, or at the very least pay you the smallest amount possible to replace that car, house, whatever.

Doesn’t matter if you’ve been with them for years, paid them thousands of dollars in premiums because the law requires it, because the first time you have a claim, several things are going to happen. Assuming your claim is paid, you’ll likely see an immediate increase in premium so they can make that money back. If that doesn’t happen, then they’ll probably make up some kind of excuse to cancel your coverage.

I’ve got a friend who recently had a mysterious water leakage somewhere in her home that pretty much destroyed a patch of flooring. Will probably cost a couple hundred bucks to fix and replace it. So, logically, she files a claim with her insurer. And what do they tell her? Well, she’s had three similar claims in the past (obviously, the plumbing in her condo complex ain’t the best in the world, but hey) so they’re now going to investigate her for insurance fraud.

The thing is, the fact that she’s had this company for more than a dozen years, paid them premiums equal to five or six times the value of all her claims combined and has been compensated for absolutely no more than what any repairs cost, the company has still made a buttload of money off her and she’s not once ever lied to them about anything (they send adjusters, for cryin’ out loud), but now they’ve decided to make her out to be the bad guy.

Obviously she’s not in good hands.

Another example: I have a car insurance policy for which I have never filed any claim. I got a notice before my last premium renewal that my cost was going to increase by just under 10 percent. I called the agent to ask why. I told her I had the same vehicles, they were both a year older, I have a completely unblemished driving record, and so on.

Her response: “Well, they’ve changed the rate schedule where you live.” What that means is that somebody decided insurance companies were not making enough money off good drivers so they had to come up with a reason to jack up the price.

Before I start ticking people off, let me say that I’m not in any way blaming friends I have in the business. It’s not you, it’s your corporate bosses who think nothing of spending $25 million to sponsor a golf tournament but will choke the last dime out of your $300 fender-bender claim.

So do any genuinely honest insurance companies exist? Probably not, though there may be a few that won’t go out of their way to screw you over.

Oddly enough, I’ve found the best way to find the good ones is to ask a lawyer who’s dealt with them.

Oh, and loyalty to a particular company means absolutely nothing. Believe me, I know from first-hand experience.

When you go shopping for that coverage, the best rule of thumb is to simply go for the best premium, because they’re all cut from pretty much the same cloth.

And, of course, expect that premium to increase on a fairly regular basis.

Note to readers: Thanks for dropping by! This column was actually inspired by a reader (a good many of them are), so stick around. And if you ever have a topic you want aired, let me know!


Signs of the Apocalypse?

Are we on the verge of the Apocalypse?

Think about it. America is faced with probably the most contentious presidential election ever, where we’re forced to choose between, well, the lesser of evils.

And that’s just one of the things that builds a case for the Book of Revelation-like crescendo of events.

In the past three weeks, no less than a half-dozen local churches have been heavily damaged or destroyed by lightning. One popular local lay preacher was killed by a lightning bolt.

Then there are, of course, the random shootings and assaults around the world, but that’s more just bad and crazy people than anything apocalyptical, even though these tragedies seem to be dramatically increasing in frequency.

Huge wildfires are consuming giant chunks of what some consider the most ‘sinful state’ in the nation (California); there is a record-smashing “heat dome” that has enveloped most of the country; floods and violent storms are consuming scores of neighborhoods here and abroad; scientists are reporting unusual activity on the surface of the sun.

Usually, whenever you talk about the Apocalypse people roll their eyes and laugh at you behind your back. You’re branded as one of those “doomsday nuts.” Remember the Aztec calendar fiasco? Or y2k (millennials won’t understand that one)?

Certainly some of the things that have been happening are more of a concocted nature: people are literally walking off cliffs while playing video games on their phones; Sheldon slept with Amy; Dinozzo left NCIS; ABC abruptly canceled ‘Castle’; somewhere someone actually took a Kardashian seriously; people are consciously trying to ‘demonize’ Taylor Swift. I mean, come on. Taylor Swift?

A few other indicators are a bit more subtle. Like David Duke announcing he might run for the U.S. Senate, or Turkish leaders saying that country’s military coup attempt wasn’t staged.

Still, there’s enough going on these days to make you wonder if there aren’t at least a few biblical predictions that might bear closer scrutiny.

Some of us start getting antsy every time the number seven pops up at what seem like more than random occasions. Seven was the ‘mega ball’ number of the most recent MegaMillions sweepstakes drawing, and there was a ‘7’ among the white numbers on PowerBall the very next day! Revelation scholars will know that reference, as it’s the prevailing number of seals, trumpets, etc.

More than a few of us have friends or acquaintances who are absolutely convinced we’re on the verge of the ‘end times’, as one of my buddies calls it. He’s laying in a suspiciously-large pile of canned goods and bottled water, and, for the life of me, I don’t see how that’ll do him any good if his belief comes true. I mean, the end is the end, right?

Personally, I believe things aren’t a whole lot different than they’ve been for longer than most would care to admit, it’s just that we’re more aware of it in this electronic age.

For example, imagine if there’d been Snapchat or Facebook or Twitter when Jack the Ripper ran loose or the Nazis wreaked their havoc.

Sadly, bad things have always happened to good people. Now we just pay more attention (and share way too much on social media).

Note to readers: You’ll pretty much always find something to talk about around the water cooler when you check in here. So come on back when you can?