Got Gear? Packing For Summer Camp 2014

•June 25, 2014 • Leave a Comment

Packing for summer camp is different than a weekend Troop trip, and its way different than what’s needed for a week with Grandma and Grandpa.  Assuming that meals — and the supplies needed to prep them — are supplied, the tried-and-true Summer Camp packing list, built for a one-week Boys Scout encampment, outlines all that your little man might need.

Bonus tips:

– This year, include extra bug spray, 40% DEET.  The ticks are bad.  while you’re at it, pick up a Tick Tool.

– Pack 1-2 extra days worth of clothes.  Kids fall into lakes.  Kids fall into mud.  Kids clothes get lost and forgotten.

– Pack 3-4 pairs of shoes and socks.  Blisters will ruin his week.

– Put clothes in gallon zipper bags, one set of clothes per day.  Helps him find what to wear fast — and get it to the shower house safely — and keeps it clean and dry in an otherwise unclean setting.

Other packing suggestions?  Other must-have items to send along?


Copyright 2014

My Top 10 Real-World Frights

•June 16, 2014 • Leave a Comment

My top 10 real-world frights, in no particular order. What are yours? We need at least three more to get to 13!


1) This woman, who’s trying to take over the world. She’s Jack’s wife.  She’s a bouncer. She’s Mrs. Dracula. She’s a bodysnatcher who’s taken over Flo. And now, she’s taking over the world. One commercial at a time.

2) Bee colony collapse disorder. No bees, no food, no life. Game over.



3) Incredible shrinking products. Less product is fine. Raising prices is fine. But a big concave scoop on the bottom of the peanut butter jar, or a half-empty box of crackers for less product and higher prices. Do you really think you’re tricking us into thinking it’s the same amount of product? Not fine. #NabiscoFail

4) Texting drivers. Dee Stracted, Lane Lever and Al Thoms. They scare the mess out of me.


5). The dark. Scaring mankind for millennia. Still so very good at it. Don’t believe me? Just try this experiment in your basement. Walk down in the light. Turn off the light. Walk up the stairs. You’ll be running by the top step. Guaranteed.

6). Ebola. It’s back. Want to understand the terror of Ebola? Just read “The Hot Zone.” More frightening than any of Stpehen King’s writings. Don’t believe me? Ask him yourself: when he reviewed the book, he described it as, “one of the most horrifying things I’ve ever read.”

7) Opossums. Most would say sloths, but you’ll never meet a sloth on a dark night in your back yard. I did as a boy, and I will never forget it. Picture a giant-rabid-mutant-zombie-ghost-rat. That’s a possum.


8) Bug, snake or spider. Every person on the planet’s scared of at least one of these. I’m cool with snakes and even spiders, unless they sneak up on me. And most bugs are ok, although cockroaches kinda skeeve me out. But the monster amongst them? Ticks. Shudder!


9) Slender Man. My son downloaded a Slender Man game, based on the meme, and before I knew it, I was stumbling in the same dark woods that the Blair Witch wasnt filmed in. Creeped me out, and it was a sunny spring afternoon when we did it. We ended up exorcising the computer to fully get rid of that demon. I wish the two 12-year-old girls had, too.

10) Sleep deprivation.  Makes you a whole ‘nother, scary person!

What doesn’t scare me? The Devil. Imagine that pathetic, blustering kid on the playground, insisting he’s still playing a ball game – to win – long after the other team has already won – and gone home in celebration! Sorry dude – just go home. Game’s over – and you lost!


Copyright 2014

‘How to’ Make This Ham Dog / Hot Burger Monstrosity!

•June 4, 2014 • 1 Comment

Ham dog or hot burger


So is it a ham dog?  A hot burger?  Or just a monstrosity?  How ’bout all of the above?

The how to?  Slice a grilled hot dog in half lengthwise and lay it across a grilled hamburger, resting on a bun.  Dress to taste.  Done.

Redeeming value?  Umm, well … it’s low carb!  And it’s delicious — kinda resembles a bacon burger.

But don’t take my word for it — tell us how you liked it, or how you changed up the “recipe!”


Copyright 2014

‘How to’ Annoy Your Scout Master … and Maybe Save Your Life!

•May 31, 2014 • 1 Comment

Hard to believe I got to the ripe old age of AHEM without learning this, but a belated thanks to a fellow Scout leader who taught me how to make a field whistle out of the detritus of the forest.  I’d guess it’s so apocryphal because, if widely known, a patrol of boys on a hike would drive their Scout leaders bonkers scavenging the trail for materials and blasting flora and fauna with a symphony of ear-splitting tweets.

I share the how-to with some hesitation, but do so in the belief that the trade off is that a boy lost in the woods might be able to alert a distant passer-by of his presence with a loud blast — or if he’s really good, with a Morse code message.

STEP 1: GATHER MATERIALS: ACORN CAPS (OR A SODA BOTTLE CAP): Acorn and soda caps useful for a whistle

STEP 2:  PUSH THUMBS TOGETHER AND PINCH THE CAP INTO THE GAP BETWEEN THEM AS SHOWN: Modeling how to hold the acorn cap to make it into a whistle

The key is alignment; the part of the acorn cap showing behind the thumbs should look like a slice of pie.  You can adjust up or down, and with a wide slice or a narrow slice, for effect.


Lips should be part-way open, with top lip over the knuckle and bottom lip under the knuckle.  Adjust how hard you blow for tone and volume.

Will you teach your Scouts this skill that could possibly save their lives (if you don’t strangle them first)?  What other found objects can be used to make a “field” whistle?  Does the “instrument” have any musical qualities, or is it just useful for making noise?


Copyright 2014

The World Needs More Good Men

•May 2, 2014 • 2 Comments

My father-in-law Jack G. Shannon passed away Friday, March 14 after 84 great years on Earth.  I was privileged to be asked to give him the following tribute at the service held in his honor.  

The world just lost a great man in Jack Shannon.

Jack was a great man because he was good man. I’d contend that the world needs good men a good deal more than it needs great men. And because they are so rare and necessary, good men like Jack are thus regarded as great.

  • A good man will serve his country. He’ll leave his family and friends and personal comforts and he’ll go around the globe, to the darkest corners of the world, to ensure that freedom and democracy and other noble values are protected.

Jack served in North Korea — as a 187th Infantry Regiment Air Assault “Rakassan” — in the 1950s. He experienced things that sound like great adventures; they tell like a campaign in Call of Duty. Around his dining room table over a cup of coffee. Or two. Or three – you might know that Jack could talk! – I heard his stories. Jack was a paratrooper, and I heard about all of his jumps, including the time that he was at 20,000 feet, working to slide a Jeep out of the back of a transport plane. Finally the Jeep’s skid went, and with it, so too did Jack! He was able to barely climb through thin air into the vehicle and hold on tight. The parachutes on the skid opened up, and Jack had a hard – but safe – landing.

There were dozens of stories like that. But there also were plenty of stories that we didn’t hear about: about being shot at and – more difficult to bear for him, I think – about returning fire. He did what his country called him to do and in doing so, kept himself and his brothers in arms alive. These experiences haunted him for the rest of his life. That he found no glory in his heroism makes Jack great.

  • A good man will sacrifice himself – all that he has, and all comforts for others. Everyone in this room, I’m certain, knows of something Jack did to help a brother or a sister in need.
    • More than once, he crawled under a neighbor’s car in the cold and the snow to get it running, so that she could get her children to school and get herself to work.
    • One of Tina’s favorite memories was of waking up – every day for all the years of her childhood – to find an entire loaf of bread or Tony’s pizza crust, toasted, buttered and coated with cinnamon and sugar and set on the table, with a cup of hot chocolate and Flintstone vitamin for each, to ensure each of his kids – and sometimes one or two neighbor kids – got a good start to the day.Three birdhouses on a fence
    • Indeed, it was only a week ago, that Jack continued to go out to his shop, despite the weather and his declining health, to make what must have been his 10,000th birdhouse. He enjoyed building birdhouses and he had dozens of styles of them, but after 542 of them – and at the age of 84 – it might have become a tad tedious; for me it certainly would have. But Jack continued to build them for anyone who wanted one, and if it wasn’t a birdhouse, it was a hope chest or a jewelry box or a cross or anything else that he could build or give or do to bring joy into the lives of others.

We’ve been sharing stories like these with one another over the past few days, and as we continue to do so in the coming months and years, they will be bittersweet moments of remembrance. Jack truly was his brother’s keeper, and in that, he was great.

  • A good man is a father and brother to all. Jack raised a beautiful family – 5 daughters and 2 sons, 15 grandchildren and 3 great grandchildren. Love, nurturing and care for his immediate family could be expected. What’s uncommon – and what made Jack great – is how he extended this love to so many others outside of the obligations of family.

I’ve been around Jack and the Shannons for more than 20 years; some of you a lot longer than that. Rick. Terry. Gary. In fact, I think Rick’s been around the Shannon family longer than I’ve been alive. But we can all share the same account: That Jack treated each of his inlaws as family – and family of the best sort. He never criticized or judged or put conditions on his love for any of us. He certainly never meddled in our marriages, though a time or two I wished he would have! We joke about it amongst ourselves, but made a point to tell every one of us – son or daughter, or in-law – that we were his No. 1. And I truly believe that we each were. Only someone with a heart as big as Jack’s could have dozens of “No. 1s.” He had room in his heart to truly love his neighbor as himself – and that made him great.

  • A good man gets up when he’s knocked down. Every time. Many of Jack’s battles were physical, and would have ruined a lesser man. When Jack’s back was broken, he endured operations and was told that he wouldn’t walk again. But he did. Maybe the former Airborne Ranger didn’t lead men to take any more hills, and maybe he no longer hefted the heavy end of a pool table. But he got around enough to help care for his family and to continue to help others.

Most importantly, Jack proved that 10 years of medical school doesn’t mean you know it all – and it certainly doesn’t give you insights into what a good man is capable of. Jack faced down heart bypass surgeries, aneurisms, lung cancer, heart attacks, diabetes, strokes and more. And don’t forget the bullets and mortars of Korea. In a fallen world, a man as good as Jack walks around with a target on his back, and maybe that explains all of the hardships his body endured. But it’s evident that a Greater Force of Good wanted him around a good long time – so he was.

  • A good man loves his Lord and Maker. That was Jack Shannon. Raised in the Salvation Army, Jack never lost his way. The Holy Spirit was in him always, and he bore His rich fruits: of love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and for the most part, self-control.

I’d say that of those fruits of the spirit, Jack was most full of Joy. A lot of times, this came out melodically. With a deep baritone and a broad catalog of tunes and spirituals, sometimes he hummed hymns, sometimes he sang hymns, sometimes he prayed hymns, and he passed into sleep every night comforted by the same hymns – all of the favorite hymns that he was raised on.

Grandpa Shannon and Mitchell and ChristopherJack Shannon just left this world and is now with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. He’s perfectly at rest after a long and fruitful life. March already has an Irish saint, but by virtue of his unwavering, simple and humble goodness, and in a Heaven full of only good people, Jack surely stands out as a saint amongst saints, and as a great amongst the great.

God bless you Jack Shannon, and may peace and understanding be with his family and with all of us who loved him and miss him.


Copyright 2014

2013 in review

•January 11, 2014 • Leave a Comment

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 3,400 times in 2013. If it were a cable car, it would take about 57 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

The Misfortune Cookie

•November 12, 2013 • Leave a Comment
Open fortune cookie with wadded fortune in a puddle of saliva; the scene resembles a frowning face.

Fortune smiles upon you, but Misfortune wears a frown.

By Jeffrey Bishop

Tell Time: 3 minutes 30 seconds
Scare Rating: 1 of 5 Ghosts

Becky loved her weekly dinners with her dad, and her Dad loved Chinese food. So despite his doctor’s orders to minimize sodium and fat intake, she arrived to his home with a large paper bag of the take-out.

“For you, moo goo gai pan, white rice and two egg rolls. For me, cashew chicken, fried rice and crab rangoon,” she said as she withdrew half a dozen identical small white boxes.

“And for each of us, a fortune cookie. You pick!” she said, sliding both across the table to her dad. As she did, a broad smile filled her face and she gave him a wink that he answered with a frown. An intentional frown that his daughter’s smile had anticipated.

“You know I don’t eat those,” he grumbled good-naturedly. “On mere principle: I don’t believe in superstition!”

“Harumpf!” mocked Becky. “That’s ok; I’ll eat yours. And I’ll get your fortune, too!”

“You’re welcome to it!” he replied.

The two settled in and enjoyed the steaming plates before them, and shared lively conversation about Becky’s latest work project and her planned vacation to the Caribbean in the spring. As Becky continued talking, dad cleared the table and served hot tea.

“To go with your many good fortunes,” he said as he set the hot cup and saucer before her.

Becky cracked open her cookie and withdrew the coiled paper from inside.

“Choose fortune or choose fame. One will be yours,” she read aloud. “Lucky numbers 33, 16, 54, 11 and 93.”

“Play those numbers in the next Lotto and you might choose fortune,” quipped Dad.

“Or I can take your cookie and have both fame and fortune,” she replied.

“Not today!” Dad said, as he swiped the cellophane-wrapped package from the table. “I may not believe the fortunes, but I’m not about to let my little girl get more than her fair share. And, odd as I am, I kinda like the taste of the little cookies.”

He cracked his open, but found no strip of paper inside. He raised each half and shook them to show his daughter.

“Just my misfortune to have NO fortune,” he said. “It’s as if they knew.  But, I still have the cookie!”

He popped one half into his mouth and slowly savored its mildly sweet flavors.

Suddenly, he was choking. He stumbled out of his chair and back against the wall, quickly changing from his normal ruddy complexion to a pale blue-white. Becky jumped out of her chair.

“Dad! Dad! You’re choking!” She didn’t know how to do abdominal thrusts, but she’d seen enough cop dramas on T.V. to know that she had to try something.

Becky rushed behind her dad and placed her fists into the top part of his stomach and pulled hard. Her dad almost fell back onto her, and a heavy gasp of air slipped out, but nothing dislodged. The airway remained closed.

Becky tried again, once, twice. Three, four and five more times. She felt her strength slipping away as she tried to pull as hard as she could. It wasn’t enough, and it wasn’t working. Dad collapsed onto the cold kitchen tile, taking Becky with him to the floor.

“Stay with me, Dad!” she shouted to him through tears. “Stay with me!”In her fear, her frustration, her anger, she slammed her fists into his unmoving chest.

“Why! Did! You! Have! To! Eat! That! Damned! Cookie?!” she shouted, pounding his chest with each word. On the last hammerfall, her dad let out an involuntary puff of air, and with it shot a small, white wad that fell onto the table. Through heavy tears, she managed to pull herself up, move to the phone, and dial 911 for help.

The paramedics arrived and rushed to help, but it was too late. As they carried her father from the house on a gurney, Becky collapsed against the counter with uncontrollable sobs. Her anguish was interrupted by the sight of the object that had choked her father, resting just as peacefully as Dad now in a puddle of wet saliva. She moved to examine it more closely.

On the table, amid the remnants of rice and cabbage, was his fortune, a wadded up piece of paper now wet with saliva and mucus. She unfolded to read his fortune, or rather, his misfortune:

“The end is near. For you, very, very near.”

Copyright 2013

Waiting to Go Die

•November 5, 2013 • Leave a Comment

Ben Codger and Death ... on a porch swing

An anti-tragedy in three acts.  With props to Samuel Beckett.

By Jeffrey Bishop

Tell Time: 6 minutes
Scare Rating: 1 of 5 Ghosts


Ben Codger sighed. The tall, thin figure of his daily visitor slowly crossed the covered front porch, his dark cape sweeping aside the brittle autumn leaves as he joined Ben on the opposite end of the old wooden porch swing. As he sat, the wood planks bent just to the point of breaking under the weight, and the rusty chains squealed as the swing twisted, before settling back into their time-worn, slow gliding path.

“Today?” Ben asked.

“No, not today,” came a low, muffled reply from deep within the recesses of Death’s dark cowl.


“Can’t say.”

With little variation, this was the extent of the duo’s daily conversations. Ben was tired of everything — tired, even, of the novelty of having a supernatural daily visitor. With the exception of that same query, he had plenty of time for, but no interest in, conversation. Death, likewise, was a man — a thing — of few words. Their singular shared interest, unrequited, was simple: Ben’s life.  The end of it, to be morbidly specific.

The two sat on for a long time in comfortable silence, a silence that was suddenly broken by the noise from a sporty convertible that whisked around the corner. It was Dave, a neighbor from the next block, driving too fast, as he always did, down the otherwise quiet street.

The event aroused perhaps the sole remaining passion in the old man. Ben shot out of the swing and marched to the front of his porch, shouting and swinging his fist in the brisk fall air.

“Slow down, ya numbskull!” he shouted over the escaping roar of the motor. “We’ve got kids in this neighborhood! You’re going to kill someone!”

Exasperated and out of breath, Ben hobbled back and reclaimed his seat. He might have expected a smile from his companion at the notion of new business, but Death sat expressionless beside him.


“The way I see it, you’re not supposed to visit unless you’re on a mission,” said Ben on a later visit. “I know that from when we first met. The night you took Betty Lou away from me.”

Still, silence was the only response Death yielded. Continuous unsympathetic silence.

The sound of hard plastic grinding on pavement did a good job of filling the void. Alonzo, the four-something from next door, had his Big Tire trike in neutral and was rolling down the slope of his driveway. He reached maximum speed at the point where the drive met the street, and rode the momentum over the road’s gentle berm and into the neighbor’s drive across the street.

Despite himself, Ben couldn’t help but smile; in a single moment he recalled a similar adventure across many generations: his own hill-side rolls on metal skates in his youth. Watching his pre-teen son do the same on a “too-big-now-but-you’ll-grow-into-it” bicycle. And his young grandson, now moved so far away, taking the same hill on a skateboard. The stacked memories blended together so that Ben wasn’t altogether sure if he had the right boy in the correct scene or not. Not that it mattered.

The bittersweet memory broke his reverie, and he turned to his companion.

“Why won’t you take me?”. Ben insisted. His frustration was evident. “I’m ready. You sure seem ready. Let’s go!” He stood and started across the porch, as if to lead the way. He knew where he was going; he just didn’t know how to get there.

“He won’t let you go yet,” came the somber, gruff reply. There’s something He needs you to do yet.”

“I don’t know what else I could do. Not with what is left of this life,” Ben muttered.  He returned to the swing, dejectedly accepting the news.


“Is it time to go yet?”


Ben let out a heavy sigh. Another winter had passed. He’d thrown off a bad flu that turned to pneumonia. The spring had arrived with uncharacteristic warmth and vigor, and yet, for Ben, the season brought no renewed cheer. The nesting birds chirped their appreciation, as did the cavorting bunnies. Even Alonzo had emerged from a boy’s home-bound winter hibernation to mount his trusty plastic steed for new adventures on the concrete pastures in front of their homesteads.

“Why do you keep coming around?” Ben again insisted. “For six years you’ve been coming. You set your scythe in the corner and walk across my porch like you own the place. You squat next to me and watch me like a buzzard over a sick calf. I’m 97 years old, dammit! I want to go and you want to take me.

“I’m tired, I ache in the morning and I hurt at night,” he added. “And I’m lonely.”

Death turned to look at him. Codger couldn’t read the expression on its hooded skull-face. Perhaps he’d offended his loyal companion, the only true company he’d had these many years.

In the distance, Ben heard the squeal of spinning tires, the high-pitched sounds traveling faster than the low roar of the big-block engine. Dave was clearly also enjoying the spring. Ben wondered if Alonzo would grow up and take after their neighbor. After all, what difference was there but in scale and power between the Big Tire trike and Dave’s convertible?

As worrisome as that notion was to Ben, he was suddenly anxious, as a vision passed across his mind. The sound of Dave’s roaring engine was thundering in his head although he wasn’t sure if it was real or from his premonition. It didn’t matter.

“Alonzo, get out of the street!” Ben shouted. He was off the swing, hobbling off the porch and toward the boy as quickly as he could. “Get up here!”

The boy was oblivious; he was working on his cornering, driving a continuous figure 8 pattern in the wide, smooth street.

“Alonzo, get off the street!”. The sounds of the big plastic wheels were louder than Ben’s hoarse voice, but the boy paused as he saw the nice man from next door approach at a brisk gait — a pace that the boy recognized as trouble, because it didn’t match the tired old frame that carried it.

Sounds and images blurred together in that brief pause. The roar of Detroit power, the sight of his mother on the porch to investigate the commotion, followed by her shrill scream of terror as the scene unfolded, and Ben, the old neighbor, running, pushing, falling and yelling “Alonzo” as the trike jerked forward and off the road under a new source of power. Squealing brakes, a loud thud and a thump, and more screams.

Then, silence.


Alonzo’s mom embraced her son, then frantically examined him for any signs of injury. Dave stood in front of his car, also looking for damage, and still not fully sure of what had just happened. Beneath his front wheels was the limp form of a man at rest. A man at peace.

“Let’s go home,” said Ben, rising from the wreckage. He grasped Death’s bony hand and walked with him.  Away from his finished life and into the light.

Copyright 2013

Monsters in Marketing Part II

•October 31, 2013 • Leave a Comment

By Jeffrey Bishop

As promised in our original Monsters in Marketing post, we’ve kept our eyes peeled — literally peeled — to come across the following additional commercials featuring monsters selling out — maybe even selling out their souls — to hawk commercial products in the weeks leading up to Halloween.  Regardless their dark motives, we hope you enjoy them as much as we have!

I’M not saying Totino’s Bold tastes like brains … THEY are!

FrankenTwizzlers, anyone?

Happier than thou? (Can’t believe we missed this one on our first pass; can’t believe I can’t find the “official” commercial on the Geico site or its YouTube Channel)

“Get crackin’, Norman!”

That’s one evil ride!

Got more?  We’ll be watching!


Copyright 2013

EULA Clause 6.66

•October 27, 2013 • 1 Comment
EULA Clause 6.66 binds the user to an eternity in Hell.

The Devil mistaken for a lawyer? Inconceivable!

By Jeffrey Bishop

Tell Time: 2 minutes
Scare Rating: 3 of 5 Ghosts

“Welcome to eternity,” said the disembodied voice.

Pat opened his eyes. At least he thought he did, but he remained surrounded by the inky blackness.

“Where am I?” he asked. “And what about the peaceful, white light I was supposed to walk into?”

“That’s another reality. A reality you won’t experience.” The words were sincere, but the deep chuckle that followed was mocking.

The air around Pat — if there was any air where he was — was increasingly stale, heavy and oppressive. He could feel his heart pounding in his chest as he started to comprehend — but not yet understand — his situation.

“How can this be? I was a good person. I helped other people.” Desperate tears streamed down his face. They picked up the sulfur in the air and singed Pat’s cheeks.

“Don’t be so hard on yourself,” came the reply, this time condescendingly. “You’re simply another victim of our latest innovation in soul stealing — the EULA.”

“The EULA?” Pat said aloud, struggling to connect the dots. “You mean the end … ”

“Yes, the end user license agreement. Standard with every computer program or app. Can’t use the software until you sign it. Legally binding everywhere. Everywhere and always.

“No doubt you’ve signed dozens of them. Maybe hundreds. Our R&D folks landed on the notion of inserting a clause in the contracts. Clause 6.66, no less.” The Devil’s pride oozed from his lips with his words.

“We used the exact same language that I’ve used in my contracts throughout eternity: ‘I accept the Devil’s generous offer, brokered in this contract, in exchange for my eternal soul.'”

“But no one ever reads those things!” Pat protested, desperately hoping the alibi would absolve him of his sin. Hoping that it was a worthy enough defense to free him from his present bondage.

“So true. But don’t think that this truth will set you free.  Of course no one reads them … that’s what makes it so genius!” the Devil mused gleefully. “But enough idle chatter. Come this way and meet the millions of other ‘no ones’ with whom you’ll be spending eternity.”

Copyright 2013

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