Blogs > Jim Collins' Editor's Notebook

Jim Collins is editor emeritus of The News-Herald and also serves as executive in residence at Lakeland Community College. His popular weekly column appears each Sunday in Comment in The News-Herald.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

College football league provides fun for the entire season

Football can be a series of bitter disappointments, going back as far as 1965.
It was the previous year that the Browns won an undisputed title.
Since then, not much to cheer about when the season ended.
But college football, for some reason, doesn’t elicit that same sour emotion. Maybe it’s because there are so many good teams we can follow. I was a close follower of Ohio State this season and that loyalty, such as it is, rewarded me handsomely – in good cheer, if not monetarily.
I will leave the gambling to others. I follow teams for the fun of it.
One of the college teams I do not follow is my alma mater, Kent State, because to do so would be something less than rewarding. The Flashes have sent some outstanding players into the National Football League, but none of them played at Kent in large enough groupings to sustain a team with a decent record.
I have written previously about the Lake County Football Prognosticators, a group of 10 young (or reasonably young) men who make it a sport to select four college teams and follow them throughout the season. Three are “regular” choices and there’s one “bonus” pick. We do pony up a modest amount of money, and I must say I had a pretty good season.
I won $1.50 (that’s a dollar and fifty cents) at the season-ending “payoff” meeting. In addition, I was the only player whose bonus team was undefeated, so I laid claim to the entire “bonus pool.”
Several people have asked me just who these Prognosticators are. Fortunately, I have been given permission to tell you. This came at our payoff meeting the other day, at which I threatened to expose them whether they liked it or not. So nobody put up a squawk.
But first, this is how our selection process goes. And by the way, this is not a secret society. Its boundaries are not limited, so anyone who seeks admission will probably be considered, although there are no guarantees, because I am not authorized to speak for the others. For all I know, they may limit membership to 10.
At our August selection meeting, Dave Clair writes 10 numbers on pieces of paper and places them in a hat, or some other receptacle that is suitable. Each player selects a number. But this is not the order of the draft. It is just the order in which we select the second number, from one to 10. That is the real order of the draft. Got it?
Then we begin the draft. Once a team is selected, it is gone, so to speak. The second player must pick from the remaining college teams. And so it goes until all players have chosen four teams.
John Trebets drew No. 1, and he chose Mount Union, as he did last year, when he also selected at the No. 1 spot. He is very lucky at choosing first, because he always gets Mount Union, and it never loses in the regular season (playoff games don’t count).
Just the last 10 games of the regular season are used in our final accounting, otherwise there would be hell to pay in summing things up. So I had a perfect season with my first pick, Ohio State, because the Buckeyes won their last 10 regular season games, and that upsetting loss early in the season to Virginia Tech did not matter in our standings.
Rick Stenger, picking in the No. 2 spot, chose Wisconsin Whitewater, always a coveted team because it seldom loses.
Geoff Weaver drafted next, and took Alabama, except the Tide lost a game and finished 9-1.
Choosing next, Rich Collins took Northwest Missouri State, and that was also a good choice, because it was also 9-1.
Parenthetically, some of our players have titles such as “judge” preceding their names, but I am not including them in this narrative because it really doesn’t matter. They get the same amount of respect as the other players, which is minimal.
But I digress.
Next up was John Hurley, and he took Oregon, which also was 9-1.
Next was Clair, and he took Mary Hardin Baylor, which, as expected, went  10-0. How I love that team. I would draft it every year if it were still available.
Choosing next was Vince Culotta, and he took Grand View of Iowa, which was 9-1. Then Marty Parks chose Florida State, which posted a 10-0 record.
I was next with my Ohio State pick, then choosing last was Dale Fellows, and he took Lenoir Rhyne, which finished 10-0.
Here is where the element of fairness comes in – in the second round, Dale chose first and John Trebets last. The choices are in reverse order.
We subtract losses from wins, so in the final accounting, Fellows led the pack with 28 points, Culotta was next with 26, then Trebets with 23, Weaver with 22, Parks and me with 20, Stenger with 18, Hurley with 14, Clair with 14 and Collins with 12.
Those numbers do not reflect whole dollars. They are merely fractions of dollars.
The bonus pool went in its entirety to me, because I chose Minnesota State Mankato, which lost nary a game. Correct, it was 10-0.
And why wasn’t Mankato chosen in the first three rounds? Just dumb luck, I guess. Who would know the team would have an undefeated season?
Dale and Vince did well because their other teams were New Hampshire and Morningside (Iowa), along with North Dakota State and Minnesota Duluth.
I hate to have to report this, but the team with the poorest record among the 40 drafted was Clair’s pick of Cumberlands, Ky. Last year was great. This year, at 3-7, not so good.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Small talk proved to be a balancing act

Wherever you go, you see people in small groups, talking. Unless you eavesdrop, you cannot hear what they are saying. Eavesdropping is considered rude in some circles, but I will tell you what it is they are discussing.

Well, I can’t tell you exactly what they are talking about, because what they are saying is not important, and it is not important that we know. But here is the gist of the situation – they are making small talk.

Small talk is the opposite of large talk. An example of large talk would be on the order of world concerns, for example nuclear energy or brain surgery. Those are indeed matters of great import.

Some items of large talk are in dispute, for example, global warming and global cooling, both of which, I understand, exist to some degree. When the degrees become higher, it is warming in nature. And when the degrees go down, that would be an example of cooling.

Small talk is not conducted at nearly such a high level. The topics are important in our everyday lives, and they are meaningful because we care about them.

Many people make small talk about gasoline prices, for example. The higher they go, the more we talk about them. Prices are going down right now, so we don’t make as much small talk about them as we used to.

Last weekend, there was much small talk about football, specifically, about the Browns and Ohio State.

The talk about the Browns was depressing. Conversely, the talk about Ohio State was exhilarating. What we are looking at here are losers and winners. The Browns cannot win even when they hold their opponents to a minimum of points, because they have forgotten how to get the ball into the other team’s end zone.

Ohio State is quite the opposite. The Buckeyes scored a monstrous 59 points against a Wisconsin team that has over the years given them fits. Ohio State has three or four quarterbacks who could be starting for the Browns, but that is neither here nor there.

You will never see more groups engaging in small talk than you will at a fancy dress party, which is why it was so fascinating to see all of the small groups of people engaging in it last Sunday night.

I must inject a disclaimer here. When I include references to specific days in these essays, you should be warned that I usually do my writing on Monday afternoon, with the pieces intended for publication the following Sunday – six days later.

But the essays are usually “posted,” as they say in computer jargon, a day or so after they are written.

Thus when somebody from Arizona, Florida or South America calls or emails to say, “I just read your blog,” they mean they read something intended for print publication the coming Sunday.

I have no control over that, and actually I don’t mind too much, because it sort of adds to the mystique of the whole situation, if you know what I mean. If you don’t, well that’s how it goes. I can’t help you with that.

The bottom line, if there indeed is such a thing here, is that I no longer mind having people referring to my efforts as “blogs.” I know. It sounds almost obscene, but I no longer worry about it, because it is beyond my control, and I have more important things to worry about.

But I digress.

I got caught up smack dab in the middle of some small talk last Sunday at a fancy dress party hosted by the Women’s Committee of the Fine Arts Association. Lynn Smith and I were resting, sitting on a sofa and listening to some cool jazz being played just a few feet away.

We were talking about our balance. This has nothing to do with bank accounts. It is about walking.

The lady of the house sprang to her feet. She had spotted Tony Ocepek and rushed over to beckon him, because he was walking, as is his wont, with a cane. Some might call it a walking stick. He sort of swaggers when he walks with it.

He came marching over, and we engaged in a lengthy session of small talk having do to with walking, maintain balance and avoiding falling down. That is a matter of ongoing concern to both Lynn and me.

I told them I am sometimes accused of shuffling because taking short steps is a way of maintaining one’s balance. I can take longer steps if I wish to, with the accompanying risks involved.

Both Lynn and I quizzed Tony on his sources of procuring canes, or walking sticks, if you wish. I told him W.C. Fields had a hollow cane, filled with whiskey, which does not interest me in the slightest. I merely mentioned it because we were talking about canes.

Tony noted that he has a cane from which one could withdraw a sword, if sudden attack by a stranger or a duel became imminent.

I also mentioned that I have a shillelagh that Bob Murphy brought back to me from Ireland. It could serve as a walking stick, if necessary.

I think both Lynn and I are intrigued by the possibility of acquiring walking sticks as soon as Tony informs us where to obtain them.

Meanwhile, I presume Lynn and I will continue taking small steps in order to maintain our balance. And to think he is 11 years younger than I!

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

At last, another college football season is almost over

The college football season is about over. Thankfully.
Although I enjoy the sport very much, there will be no sadness on my part when it finally comes to an end. It will, if nothing else, be a blessing. Free at last!
Professional football is another matter. I love it also, almost as much as I love baseball. But college football wears on me because of the amount of record keeping I must do each year.
Well, I don’t have to do it. But somebody has to or it will not get done. That’s the tragedy of the situation. It is altogether too time consuming. I do the record keeping on a volunteer basis, and for a generation or two nobody else has stepped forward to keep the weekly scores of 40 college teams.
And without those records, of course, nobody will know where we stand come season’s end. So I will keep churning out the records, hoping that in a year or two another player will step up and say, “I will keep the scores next year.”
And I will shout, “Huzzah,” because that will mean I can merely keep track of my own four teams and let the others worry about theirs.
This all has to do with a group of friends, many of them trained in legal matters but some not, called the Football Prognosticators. I have been a member of the group for only 30 or 40 years, but I understand its roots go back to the 1940s, when the late John F. Clair Sr. was an attorney waiting to become the first judge of the Willoughby Municipal Court in 1952.
The judge, along with some other stalwarts, including Harry Ohm, founded the Prognosticators with the aim of seeing who could do the best job of selecting college teams that would end the season with the top records.
There have been four Clairs who have been Prognosticators. One of them still maintains the final tally. There are 10 of us now, and by the time the season ends for all our teams, I will have several reams of scores ready for final tabulation.
I emphasize that this IS NOT gambling. It is a game of skill involving so miniscule a payoff at season’s end that it fails to reach the level of penny-ante poker.
Many years ago, one of the players was the late Common Pleas Court Jim Jackson, who objected to my writing about it because he thought it was unseemly, he being a judge and all that.
But as I told him then, and as I repeat today, “Nonsense.” It is just a bunch of friends having fun to see who can outsmart the others by picking college teams that finish the season with the best records.
But I digress.
We have had 10 players for the past few seasons. Each player chooses three teams plus one bonus team. Ten players times four teams is a total of 40 teams to keep track of every week.
If all the scores were listed in the paper every week, keeping track would be a snap. Alas, some of the teams are virtually unknown to the wire services. But they all have computers, so it falls upon someone (me) to look up the scores on the internet.
And since I am not a whiz on the computer, finding scores sometimes takes time away from other activities, for example, sleeping.
We hold a draft of teams each August, and Mount Union is always the first one chosen. The next team that goes is Wisconsin Whitewater. Simple so far.
Linfield is a popular choice, as it North Central Ilinois, Eastern Washington, Lenoir Rhyne and a few others that seemingly never lose. Mary Hardin Baylor never lasts long in the draft.
Our system takes into consideration only the final 10 games of the regular season, no playoff games, so I got lucky this year because I picked Ohio State and it went 10-0, with no losses in its last 10 regular season games.
My bonus pick was Minnesota State Mankato, which also was 10-0. I was fortunate, because one of the other players had John Carroll as his bonus pick, but the Blue Streaks lost to Mount Union in their last regular season game, clearing the way for me to be the bonus champ.
I also had Carroll Montana, which went 9-1 in the regular season – not too bad except for a single disappointing early season loss. My other team was Wisconsin Oskosh, which had a fine season.
The 10 players really do their homework. You can’t merely look at the past season’s results and hope for repeat performances. I found that out the hard way a few years ago when I picked Tuskegee and Middle Tennessee State.
They went from great records one year to terrible the next. It is no fun showing up for the December meeting of the Prognosticators when you have a team with a losing record.
There are several colleges with the same name. Not good. That creates a problem for the official scorer. There are Wesley teams here and there and multiple St. Francis teams, not to mention trying to differentiate between Cumberland (singular) and Cumberlands (plural.)
Well, It’s about over. It will be nice to watch bowl games this year without caring who wins.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

The date which will live in infamy is never forgotten

The familiar and unmistakable voice coming from the radio was that of Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
“Yesterday, December the seventh, nineteen hundred and forty-one, a date which will live in infamy, the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by military and air forces of the Empire of Japan. I regret to inform you that a great many American lives have been lost.”
The president of the United States was announcing the sneak attack on Pearl Harbor. If you are old enough to remember that day, the words will haunt you forever.
I was a young lad, running around in the front yard, when my mother came to the door to tell me what had happened.
A few years later, with World War II in the history books, I found myself in uniform after a different conflict had broken out, halfway around the globe in Korea.
Dec. 7 this year will mark the 73rd anniversary of Pearl Harbor. But a couple days after that, on Dec. 9, I will mark an anniversary of sorts of my own – 60 years after my own discharge from the Army.
I was never one to celebrate such occasions, although one of my best friends, former Willoughby Mayor Bud Brichford, spent at least two weeks every year celebrating his own Army discharge.
I helped him on a couple of occasions, but that was the extent of my own involvement in such matters.
Pearl Harbor is not forgotten, however. Far from it. One of the largest remembrances in this area is the one held every Dec. 7 at Hellriegel’s Inn in Painesville Twp. They began in 1964, and I have attended a great many of them. They are held each year on Dec. 7 regardless of the day of the week on which it falls.
It is unfortunate that I will be unable to be there this year. I have a commitment to attend a holiday benefit dinner that evening for the Women’s Committee of the Fine Arts Association in Willoughby.
But my thoughts will be drifting to Hellriegel’s throughout the evening because of the many fine times I have enjoyed there and the outstanding programs that have been a magnet for veterans to attend.
For years the event was virtually limited to veterans – not just of Pearl Harbor, although there were always many survivors in the audience – who were required to wear a part of their military uniform to the dinner.
A couple of Navy veterans couldn’t fit into their pants without having a large V-shaped piece of material sewn into the rears of them.
My problem was a bit different. When I went into the service, I had a 14 1/2 inch neck. It is now two inches larger. I found a solution, however. I went to Sears, bought a khaki work shirt that looked exactly like GI issue, took it to a seamstress and had her sew my 1st Armored Division patch and my sergeant stripes on my new “Army” shirt. Presto! Nobody knew the difference.
Coming up with speakers for the remembrance is not as easy as it once was. With help from veterans such as Jack Daniels and Congressman Bill Stanton, the committee could always come up with someone well-known to deliver the keynote message.
And speaking of congressmen, the father of former Congressman Dennis Eckart, Ed Eckart, was a Pearl Harbor survivor, and he was a regular at the dinners. If I looked hard enough, I could find pictures of him with me, Harry Waterman, Rocco Scotti, Ray Dawson and some of the other regulars.
The speakers who delivered keynote messages were in a class by themselves. I well remember Otto Graham, Ted Williams, Woody Hayes, Sam Rutigliano, Bob Feller and other luminaries from the world of sports.
While they swapped war stories, vets in the room scurried about, getting autographs of the speakers on their programs.
For many years, shipmates of Bill Kochever, who owned Hellriegel’s at the time, had their own table at the dinner. As you might suspect, their numbers dwindled over the years.
The price of the event, which includes a steak dinner, appetizers and open bar, has not gone up. It is still $35.
I talked to Silvio Trifiletti, one of the restaurant’s current owners, the other night. They are still using Navy and military lingo when referring to the party. Cocktail hour is 1700 hours (5 p.m.), chow down is 1800 hours, and the program goes on from there, with a lot of great conversation, questions such as “What theater were you in,” and comments like, “I hope they never stop holding these remembrances.”
This year’s speaker is retired Col. Timothy Gorrell, director of the Ohio Department of Veterans Services. The public is welcome. You no longer need to wear part of a military uniform to attend.
You can make a reservation by calling 440-354-9530. If you are a veteran and can wear a part of your uniform, you are encouraged to do so. If you attend, I guarantee you will have good time, and you will not regret going.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Loyalty learned at an early age proves to be a lesson for life

At Boy Scout meetings we used to recite, “A Scout is trustworthy, loyal...”  There were an additional 10 qualities of character we look for in others ... as well as in ourselves.

You will note that No. 2 on the list is “loyalty.” This just a personal thought, but my own belief is that very little in life outranks loyalty as something that is important in personal relationships.

During one of his many riveting symposiums that I find useful and informative, Morris Beverage, president of Lakeland Community College, asked his audience to choose the most vital traits from a list of about 10 that we consider important.

Almost everyone said, “Honesty.” And I would not dispute that choice. It almost goes without saying, because without honesty we are not even civilized.

The lady of the house also listened to his talk, and asked, “What about compassion?”
It wasn’t on the list. But I would expect that from her, because she is the most compassionate person I have ever known – about other human beings and about every member of the animal kingdom as well.

“OK,” the man we call Duke relented. “I will add compassion as No. 11 on the list.”
I think that made all of us happy. And he still, to this day, makes references to compassion when he speaks of Mary.

But let’s get back to loyalty. I will never forget a remark made by my great friend, the late Judge Fred Skok of Probate Court. I once asked him what redeeming quality he saw in a person whom I did not regard as highly as he did.

“Jimmy,” the judge said. I leaned forward. When he began like that, I knew something important was coming. “Loyalty is the coin of the realm.”

He was saying, of course, that the man had been loyal to him, so he was being loyal in return.
And that ingredient remains a basic truth in my own life.

When I bought my first car, I got my insurance from Dan Hart, a close friend who graduated the year before I did from high school. And because of the strong degree of loyalty that surges through my veins, I never bought car or house insurance from anyone else. I never considered it. I am too loyal a person.

But Dan retired not long ago and sold the agency. And I had no degree of loyalty whatsoever to the person who bought the business from him. Never heard of him. So at the appropriate time, I switched.

And I asked myself, whom do I want to give my insurance business to? It may be no big deal as such transactions go, but it did involve both of our cars and the house, so it must be worth something.
I settled on Jerry Merhar, because he is a long-time friend, he embodies all the qualities I want in an insurance agent, and he is also funny. I don’t take well to people without a sense of humor.

And I will remain loyal to Jerry and to his company. But here is an added benefit I knew nothing of, but which comes with the territory. His company is Nationwide, and along with the policy we receive a bi-monthly magazine called Our Ohio. It is published by the Ohio Farm Bureau. It is slick, well written, and is a strong advocate of agriculture in Ohio. The articles are interesting, thought-provoking and insightful.

In the current edition, Jack Fisher, the Farm Bureau executive vice president, writes compellingly about the algae hitting the fan in Lake Erie near Toledo. The water was not drinkable. But business, labor, farmers, politicians, churches and charities mobilized to seek a solution.

But two days later, the blamestorming (fingerpointing) began. It was not by Toledo’s resilient citizens, Fisher wrote, “but by those with a backside to protect or an agenda to promote.”

He wrote a commendable article, nailing the phonies and the blowhards to the wall in the process.
A few pages later in the magazine is a fascinating article about Mennel Milling, a major player in the flour-milling business in Findlay, Ohio. It is a huge, family-run operation that dates back to 1886. Reading the narrative, I learned more than I could ever guess existed about the flour-milling business.

But like every other business in this super-regulated country, it has challenges. They don’t come across as complaints, but I got the message. Listen to this:

Among the challenges are “keeping up with all the rules and regulations set by the state and federal agencies, including Homeland Security, Environmental Protection Agency, Food & Drug Administration, Occupational Safety and Health Administration and Ohio Department of Agriculture.”

I’m not saying we don’t need any federal or state regulations. A lot of them are necessary.
But I’m just saying that a great many of them are nothing but bookkeeping and paper shuffling exercises, and do nothing except create jobs for bureaucrats and their cronies – at taxpayer expense.

Who would have guessed, when I decided to buy insurance from Jerry Merhar and his son, Mike, that I would be getting such a worthwhile byproduct as a classy magazine that calls ‘em as it sees ‘em?


Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Can someone explain the importance of scanning a product's bar code?

I wish my favorite HR columnist could have been with me the other day when I stopped in at a local gas station to buy a newspaper.

He might have marveled at the repartee between me and the clerk who was manning the counter. Or, more accurately in this instance, womanning the counter. Perhaps personning the counter is the operative word here.

(Don’t you love the world of political correctness?)

I guess I would define Pat Perry’s work as being in the area of Human Resources. At least, that seems to be what he is writing about every other Sunday in these pages.

I may be defining HR rather loosely, but I tend to do that when I am wandering outside my area of expertise.

And that is a rather large area – about the size of the Oregon Territory before Jimmy Polk was finished working on it.

I say that with all due respect to a president of the United States whom I admire greatly for the huge land acquisition he engineered before retiring after a single term – an act of decency that others who have succeeded him might have considered as being in the best interest of the country.

I was once criticized for calling President Garfield “Jimmy,” but they called Carter that, didn’t they, and as a matter of fact that’s what my mother often called me, so I guess I can call President Polk that if I want to.

But I digress.

The paper I was buying at a gas station was not The News-Herald, obviously, because I have The N-H home-delivered seven days a week – a major convenience, if you think about it, because you don’t have to go someplace else to get it.

But the other paper somehow feels it is doing its job by delivering the paper only four days a week, so I have to go to a gas station, a drug store, a grocery store or somewhere else outside my ordinary loop, a major inconvenience when you consider my all-too-busy lifestyle.

Monday, I went to a gas station. I wish Pat Perry had been with me to observe the clerk’s reaction when I attempted to drop a dollar on the counter to pay for the paper.

I started to leave. It seems I am always in a hurry and was under the false impression I had done all I needed to do to pay for the paper.

The clerk called me back. “I have to scan it,” she said.

I knew what she was talking about. There is a little box of black stripes on the bottom of the page which, when scanned by a scanner (what else?) causes a chain reaction in the electronic system that lets “the system” know someone has paid for the paper.

“There’s my dollar,” I said.

“I have to scan it,” she repeated.

“What for?” I asked. “There’s my dollar.”

“I have to scan it,” she said again.

“Why do you have to scan it?” I asked.

“I have to scan it,” she said once again.

“What happens if you don’t scan it?” I asked.

“I have to scan it,” she said again.

“But what will happen if you don’t scan it?” I said. “Will something bad happen?”

“I have to scan it,” she said again.

“You haven’t answered my question,” I said.

“I have to scan it,” she said once again.

“I can’t understand why you have to scan it when I have already paid my dollar,” I said.

“I have to scan it,” she said again.

So I went back to the counter, where other customers were patiently waiting to buy lottery tickers, and held out the bottom corner of the paper so she could scan it.

We were both satisfied that I had indeed made a legitimate purchase, everything about the procedure was legal and above board, and I could go my way knowing that she had done her job as she was trained to do it.

We would both sleep better. Or, at least, she would. She had done what she was orchestrated to do.

But I got to thinking about the level of her training. Is her degree of persistence what the gas station owners expect of her?

And will the world, as we know it, come to an end if somebody buys a paper and offers to pay for it but, for one reason or another, doesn’t get the paper scanned?

What could possibly go wrong?

My question for Pat Perry is this: Is this a matter that concerns the HR department at the gas station, or does it have more important things to worry about?

Interestingly, (at least it’s interesting to me) Pat Perry’s wife is also named Pat Perry.

How many couples do you know who have the same first and last name? I know Pat (the female Pat) very well and have talked with her many times at Mentor Area Chamber of Commerce meetings.

And I have heard Pat (the male Pat) speak on several occasions. He is very entertaining, humorous, and singles out his wife in the audience in the kindest possible of ways that demonstrate how much he cares for her.

But that doesn’t answer my question.

Do the HR folks train people who work in gas stations? Or do they just let them figure out for themselves what to do next.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Dusting off old memories

Boy, I’ll tell you. These computers aren’t all they’re cracked up to be.

And speaking of oddball constructions in the English language, “cracked up to be” is one of the strangest, because there is no way of figuring out what it means.

A scholar could probably look it up in some archaic tome – after dusting it off, of course – and trace it to its origin. I do not have the resources to do that. What I do have, in my basement, is a large quantity of dusty tomes. But I would have trouble laying my hands on one dealing with the origins of commonplace phrases which need to be identified and possibly challenged.

For now, let’s just say that I am not about to go prowling about in the basement, which is an area of the house that is known only to me, the lady of the house and the two cats.

Even the two dogs do not go down there. It is not that they are not allowed to go down there. They can go down there if they wish, but they choose not to. For what reason I do not know. But they have decided against it.

It has gotten to the point that when it comes time for Mary to play with them (about 10:30 a.m.) and she is doing laundry, Maggie will fetch her red ball, take it to the top of the steps and, with Tricia watching, drop it so that it bounces on every step on the way down.

That is usually the way they begin their morning playtime activities.

But I digress.

When I said computers may not be all they’re cracked up to be, I meant that they cannot be trusted to know everything they are supposed to know.

For example (and I am going to cite only a single example, although there are possibly thousands), spell check, a feature for which computers have gained much of their fame, is not infallible – far from it. In other words, it doesn’t always work (“always” being defined here as 100 percent of the time or more).

I spent several weeks addressing the subject of old-fashioned typewriters and how they are so comfortable and reliable to work with. Let’s get over the fact that “with” is a preposition and move on.

Many of you loyal readers, and perhaps a handful of disloyal ones for all I know, responded by letting me know how fond you are of typewriters. Legions of you described, in writing, how much you like typewriters and how important they were, and are, in your lives.

If I had the space, believe me, I would mention the names of all you typewriter-lovers, but the constraints of the available room does not permit that.

Which takes us back to Square One. That square, in case you were wondering, belongs to Ray Stopar, a graduate of Collinwood High School, I believe in the year 1946 (a good year, if not a great one).

Ray was a Linotype operator back in the Golden Days of newspapering. He said he worked for many years for, I believe, Don Foley. That would have been the Willowick Leader, and Don was a fine gentleman I knew very well a couple of generations ago.

Here is something, however, that Ray does not know about me. When I write, I scribble. Not as badly as Dave Jones or Dudley Thomas back in the early days of The News-Herald, but bad enough so that others cannot always read it, and sometimes even I cannot read what it is that I have written.

This can often become a problem at home, but I will not get into that right now. Let’s just say that the lady of the house does not trust me to make out a simple shopping list, because it is a foreign language to her.
I told her it is Greek, but never mind.

When I talked to Ray on the phone recently, I wrote down his last name as Skopar. Well, it looked like Skopar to me. When he called to report the error (he called it a “typo” but actually a typo is something different) he told me his name is really Stopar.

Since it is his name and not mine (mine is Collins), I took him at his word.

We had a very nice conversation, and he said he would like us to have breakfast together some time. I am going to have to disappoint him on that one, because my breakfasts are severely limited – seven days a week.

On six days, I have breakfast with the lady of the house. We have grapefruit (I have begun buying them by the half-bushel from Harlingen, Tex., thanks to information I received from my good friend Clark Hill), coffee, Cheerios, (sometimes I have Cranberry Almond Crunch), bananas, blueberries, and she always has an apple, toast, and other goodies that get our day started.

And on Sundays I have breakfast with my brother at Burgers-n-Beer in Downtown Willoughby. So you see, Ray, I have no openings for breakfast on my jam-packed schedule.

But maybe we could make it for lunch someday.