issues & thoughts


Louise's Saturday Bowl Game Picks Are All Winners - Lead Grows In Bowl Pickers Contest

Louise's lead in 2019-20 High Pointe Bowl Pickers Contest grows as she accurately selected all four winners in Saturday's College football games.  On Friday Louise had more confidence in MSU than Mike, who showed little loyalty as he picked Wake Forrest in the Pinstripe Bowl.  "I had not counted on a defensive tackle rumbling into the end zone for a TD after intercepting a Demon Deacon pass," Mike tried to explain.  (photo/left: Mike Panasiuk's "Pick Six"  in the 1st Qtr of the Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium) 

Louise's lead in the annual contest grew to 4 games as bowl mania continues to dominate televised sports broadcasted (mainly on cable TV).  Louise, overall, has picked 15 winners vs. Mike's 11.  Ouch.  College football takes a breather today as the NFL takes center stage in this, the 17th and final week of professional games.  Of the remaining 18 college bowl games slated for next week Mike & Louise picked different teams to win in 10 games ... which means Mike does have a chance to catch-up ... or, Louise has the potential to really bury the guy!  (i.e., beat, thrash, cripple, trounce, rout, cream, maul, wreck(ed), obliterate, annihilate, foil, overpower, smoke, vanquish, conquer, crush, ausgespielt, defeat, destroy ... well, you get the idea.) Only time will tell.

How did this get started?  Well, decades of ineptitude by the Detroit Lions tends to drive fans crazy - it stands to reason that we would move on ... namely to high school & college football.  We started our annual contest in 2011 ... you may have read about it in Mike's article:  "He Lacked" (story archived here).   And, it's no wonder Louise won the contest 5 out of the last 8-yrs!  She does her homework - and we're not talking about simply reading headlines off some Twitter-feed"Every bowl season, Mike prints out an official High Pointe Pickers sheet so we can keep track which team we pick & game results," Louise says.  "I read articles like: which team has a rookie quarterback or which key players are injured ... coaches retiring or fired … teams with awesome defense or offence, etc.  I also take into consideration their travel time to the bowl game and it may affect the team, etc." 

The picks have been made ... the die is cast ... now its time to just sit back and watch, and enjoy.  (Or in Mike's case: weep.)  
updated 12.29.19

2018-19:  Louise won! 16-15  (9 bowl games were dropped 'cuz participating teams didn't have winning records)
2017-18:  Louise won! 22-20
2016-17:  Louise won! 24-22
2015-16:  Mike won 25 to 20
2014-15:  Mike won 19 to 16
2013-14:  Louise won 22 to 16
2012-13:  Mike won 24 to 17
2011-12:  Louise won 18 to 14.
Mom was a fairly crafty Lady

This time of year as I open the box of holiday ornaments & decorations I find examples of my mother's arts-n-crafts like this cute little Jack-In-The-Box figure.  Mom captured the picture to the right of Grandma posing with some of her crafts back in 1980 when she was making tons of these types of things to sell in church fund raisers and little gifts for grand kids.  We affectionately call it "Mom's Plastic Canvass Era" ... she'd cut out pieces of a flat plastic grid material and using colorful scraps of yarn she'd create hundreds of various objects ... bookmarks, 3-D statue-like figures, Santa & Mrs. Claus dolls, snowmen, clowns, Raggedy Andy and Raggedy Ann dolls. 
[link to a YouTube clip showing the process of making this sort of stuff]

A Piece of Strudel in just 3 clicks: Mike Geier to Jeff Goldblum
Huh?  "A piece of strudel"?  It's my shorthand to describe a tasty treat in layers ... like a fine pastry.  This morning on YouTube I was checking out that emotional singing talent of Mike Geier.  Some folks may be more familiar with his Puddles persona (as in Puddles Pity Party).  Geier is a giant ... a menacing character at 6'-8" ... has enjoyed modest success as a solo act cabaret singer and member of musical groups like Kingsized.  Don't recall where I first heard or saw that creepy clown, Puddles ... matters not.  But I'll confess I've become quite a fan - love his renditions of Nature Boy, Under Pressure, Blue Moon, and that mash-up of Johnny Cash's Folsom Prison & Pinball Wizard by the Who.  Very creative.

So today I was listening to straight Geier, sans grease paint.  You know the time-wasting cyber routine: YouTube doesn't want one-and-done listeners ... they make $$$ by keeping users exposed to the ads they sell.  At the song's conclusion YouTube programmers offer-up more temptations to keep me connected.  So, the music video of Geier led to Puddles which then led to a duet Puddles & Haley Reinhart, a talented & perky jazz singer I had previously not heard of ... [click] ... which leads to a duet of Reinhart and actor Jeff Goldblum of Independence Day / Jurassic Park fame.  I had no idea Goldblum had aspirations of being a lounge lizard.  Very nice. 

Here's the string: Geier to Puddles to Puddles/Reinhart to Reinhart/Goldblum ... or, you can always create your own tasty strudel.  Happy holidays.

posted 12.17.19 

Ripley's Room Is Home For The Holidays

We opted for a smaller Christmas tree this year & decided to set it up in the den. Why? Well, smaller trees are dwarfed in the living room and it's cathedral ceiling.  Also, we figured the newly framed sports cards hanging out in the den (see articles below) would really get into the holiday spirit & the festivities around High Pointe this Christmas.

Yep, that includes the Sport Kings groups and the Ruth/Cochran/Gehringer group and the other six card '30s era framed cards shown below. After all, Paul Richard, Heinie Manush and the rest of the gang have spent much of the last 86-years stuffed in old cigar boxes stashed away in attics and basements all over the globe. They are having an absolute riot bein' on display as is Ripley who is certain we put up this yr's tree just for him ... his heated bed is located in the den … or rather, Ripley's Room as he prefers to call it.

ho, ho.
posted 12.14.19

Movie files for family to download

Louise & Mike hosted Thanksgiving this year and besides showing the pathetic Lions football game as is customary, we also played "Gignac family movies".  Several of our nephews acted as if it was the 1st time they saw Mike's Scan-A-Slide project compiled earlier in the year turning a box filled with family photos.  So, we promised to give 'em the following links to replay & copy & save the files once they got home:

gignac family photos - part two.mp4

Don't dawdle, fellas ... these files will be removed in early 2020 from my web-server.   [posted 11.28.19]

Mission Accomplished: vintage baseball cards - framed at last!

Okay, so it took nearly a year ... I kept picking up new additions to the collection but held off pulling the trigger before getting 'em framed.  I figured, what's the rush?  Some of the 'new cards' are 105-yrs old ... somehow I suspect these guys are used to waiting.  But thru the year I've posted pictures of some of these new acquisitions [links connect previous articles, below] and I figured you may be curious to see how they turned-out.

New additions - Babe Ruth, flanked by fellow Hall of Famers: Cochran & Gehringer ... as described earlier in the year, these classic baseball cards are from 1933 & 1934. [enlarged view of unframed cards]

Golden era of sport - 14 cards from what has become my favorite group of 1933 Goudey cards: Sport Kings ... the 1st multi-sport collection that featured both male and female athletic stars.

[enlarged view of unframed cards & more info]


The World Seemed Somewhat Brighter, More Vibrant & Cheerful In 1948 - something radically different from Leaf Gum Co.

Meet my newly framed collection of brilliantly designed Leaf sports cards.

Two baseball players.  Four football players.

While they were not part of my Dad's collection, I've learned a fair amount about sports collectibles during the "golden age of sport".  And over time I fell for these in a big way - they were so different from everything else available at the time.  When I first acquired these good looking cards earlier this summer I posted a brief article introducing the players ... take a peak [here].

It's always fun when I find the source image/photo used to create these vintage cards from '33 and '34-'35.  My new framed group of mostly "commoners" features HOF outfielder: Heinie Manush, lower right.  As a kid I played catcher in our local Little League baseball squads, which may be why I appreciate the catcher, Paul Richards (bottom row, center). His pose reminds me of "Field of Dreams" character John Kinsella (father of Ray…Kevin Costner's character).  Rounding out this hard-working squad: Jim Elliott, Bob O'Farrell, Flint Rhem, & Baxter Byerly "Buck" Jordan.

Jordan played in the majors 10-yrs ... 8-yrs for the Boston Bees.  (I just love that team name ... the Bees!)  The cereal makers of Wheaties produced some of the greatest looking cards of the era ... including this high-impact card featuring "Buck" - click the link on the card thumbnail to see & learn more.   No, it's not in my collection, but you've gotta' admit: it is pretty jazzy!

I don't know a lot about the top-row fellows (Elliott, O'Farrell, Rhem) but hopefully I'll learn something about their careers ... I bought 'em largely 'cuz I like the "look" of the trio as if they're in the midst of gettin' warmed-up before their next game. Play ball!

posted 11.25.19

40-Years Flashing Before Our Eyes...

Literally.  Louise & I just celebrated our 40th wedding anniversary and part of the shared joy that we've experienced is being relived by way of one of our more beloved TV programs: This Old House on PBS.  Thanks to video streaming services we just finished watching the only episode we did not see completely when it first aired in 1979.  We bought our first home together in late summer of '79 and proceeded to tackle a few household projects [link to photos]. There was no shower in the bathroom but with some help from my buddy Ed, we added one. College pal Terry even drove up from Adrian, MI to do the plumbing, which we have always been extremely grateful and appreciative.  Humbling.

We were in the Flint house just about 3-yrs before moving to something far larger than we needed in Grand Blanc where we tackled still more challenging home improvement and repair projects inspired by This Old House.  We got rather good at it.

The program has continued thru the years and now begins their 41st season. While they're on their 3rd host many of the building pros (Norm, master carpenter, and Rich, plumbing & heating) have been on the show since the first episode ... and I think we've watched 'em all.  And now, thanks to the streaming service, we're going to replay some of the early projects and reminisce a bit.  Some of the early design choices are a crack-up in retrospect.  The Dorchester House above featured a complete gut & total renovation of the kitchen & bathroom; upon seeing the show some 40-yrs after the original airing we laughed rather hard seeing the pumpkin orange kitchen counter-top laminate (right) that was selected.  Even the early PBS logo is cute. 

posted 10.07.19
update:  12.15.19  Mike just discovered that the original theme music for TOH is a song performed by Fats Waller called Louisiana Fairytale ... used to greet viewers from 1979 to 2002.  Since then producers of the PBS program have burned thru four alternate theme songs which tells me they shouldn't have messed with the original Oh, and I learned that the late-great Leon Redbone also recorded another sweet rendition of Louisiana Fairytale ... [worthy listening].

Learning More About Some Legends of Pro-football

Earlier this summer I mentioned acquiring a small group of neat-looking sports cards created in 1948 by the Leaf Gum Co.  shown below.  I got 2 baseball and 4 football cards which caught my eye largely because of their design and the colorization technique used to produce these post-WW2 beauties.  The fabulous expression on a card for George Taliaferro was the 1st purchase, followed by Clyde "Bulldog" Turner.  I had read about Turner in the Bronko Nagurski biography mentioned below ... he was a rough & tumble Texan who played center & linebacker for the Chicago Bears 1940-52, back when it was common for players to play on both sides of the ball, offense & defense.  But I knew next to nothing about Taliaferro.

I know a bit more today, though, thanks to a biography Louise got for me written by Dawn Knight: Taliaferro - Breaking Barriers From The NFL Draft To The Ivory Tower.  When the card was printed and distributed, Taliaferro was still playing college ball at Indiana University - an All-American triple threat player who excelled at quarterback, halfback, and record setting punter!  As a freshman Taliaferro lead the Hoosier to their only undefeated season in 1945 and champions of the Big Ten.  Some thought it may have been premature for Leaf to produce the card so early in Taliaferro's career but when he was selected in the 1949 NFL draft, he became the 1st African-American football player in the modern era.  While there were several Black pro-football players decades earlier, the league had become segregated thru much of the 1920's into the 40's.  Another book Louise gave me, Pigskin: The Early Years of Pro Football by Robert W. Peterson, has a great chapter identifying other early African-American players prior to the formation of the NFL.    

One nagging question I had has also been settled.  I spent way too much time pondering the jersey number #79 shown above on the cover of the book and the '48 Leaf football card ... my research showed Taliaferro wore #44 during his college days at IU and never wore #79 during his professional career (LA Dons: #93; NY Yanks #20; Dallas Texans #20; Baltimore Colts #20; Philadelphia Eagles #24).  I wrote to the author and to the college and one of the assistant athletic directors, Mark Deal, kindly responded: "Pictures taken before the season and in practice often in those days had players wearing either a jersey number from practice, or a jersey that was either with no number or a number randomly chosen. This is what happened in this case."  Since Mark's father was an All-American tackle and captain on the same 1945 Big Ten Champion Hoosier team (and former IU player himself) I feel confident that now I know "the rest of the story" as Paul Harvey used to say. Thanks Mark! And thank you Ms. Knight for writing this great book.

posted 09.15.19, updated 09.16.19

This Is Not What Real News Looks Like

We've all seen articles like this that appear quite literally in pop-up messages online.  And while I hate to be the one to "break it to you" ... this is not real news.  Here I was reading a report from CBS News:  Mattis takes swipe at Trump in new book:  "I did as well as I could for as long as I could" ... sub-headline: "Ex-Defense Secretary Mattis breaks silence." 

Then up pops the eggs and pseudo investment advice which I tend to be a sucker for; if there's a story about savings, retirement, 401K or IRA plans, compound interest, Treasury Bonds ... typically, I gravitate along that path & I read 'em.  The Google and other cookies my PC has captured knows this and finds ways to deliver just the sort of time-wasting material for me to notice, and hopefully click-thru-n-read.

As folks have seen on my other webpage "issues & thoughts" I tend to read quite a few government reports and serious political news about local, state & Federal government issues.  Not that I read anywhere near as much as Louise (my Kindle lovin' bud), but I do delve into things.  Example: this year there have been quite a few reports of contaminated drinking water - beyond those  Flint's Got Lead in it's Drinking Water  stories that perhaps you're tired of hearing about.  (Though you have to admit ... it's not every day that folks find metallic elements flowing from their faucets.)  Some people simply tune-out when they've reached a saturation point.  The new reports about contaminated drinking water I'm referring to are those involving PFAS ... Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances manufactured and used in a variety of industries around the globe, including in the US of A since the 1940s.  [source for mo-info]  And each month, on the first Friday of the month, around 8:30 a.m., EDT, you'll find me hanging out at the Bureau Of Labor Statistics waiting for the jobs report.  I know, I know, it's been going up every month, consecutively ... month in & month out ... for over 10-years.  Has been since the Obama/Biden administration cleaned up the last mess Republicans left behind.  But I'll leave raw political discussions on the "issues & thoughts" page ... it's just that there can be quite a bit of over-lap in my bald but beautiful head. 

The point intended here is more cultural.  With so many people obsessed with social media and their eyes constantly glued to various Smart devices I worry that people look at the eggs above and consider that to be news.  Join me in saying the next line really fast:  "it's not."

posted 08.29.19

Decluttering Can Be Fun (and rewarding!)

As mentioned previously we're having a great deal of fun decluttering our home and selling stuff we really don't need through eBay online.  We joke about all the items we either threw away or donated to outfits like Goodwill Industries years ago ... today we sell things online that I hadn't perceived to be of value.  Both Louise & I scour thru cabinets, boxes and closets to locate the items - Louise handles the listings & we both haul stuff to the P.O. for shipping. We joke with each other that the proceeds affords us a Senior Dinner every once-in-awhile.

Case in point, these discs for America Online upgrades used to be handed out for free at the post office or included free with just about every personal computer sold in the 1990's.  We had one unopened package that contained a compact disc that just sold on eBay for $9.80 + postage.  We sold an old "Dexter No. 3" steel pencil sharpener from the late 1930's that was missing it's cover: $6 + s/h.   The pencil sharpener was in a box of miscellaneous tools I got from my Grandfather over 30-yrs ago. (An old, empty Chock full o'Nuts coffee can ... "♪♪♪ that Heavenly coffee ♪♪..." that we found in the same box also sold!)  What a great country!

No swimming rule debunked...

This past Sunday woulda' been Mom's 95th birthday.  A story on NPR reminded me of her, not that I needed the reminder, but it still put a smile on my face.  I grew up on one of Michigan's Great Lakes ... Lake Huron was essentially our front yard up in Greenbush.  Gads, what a time we had there as kids!  But I heard a radio story the other day that debunked one of the rules that defined our childhood: "No swimming for 30-minutes after eating" ... or was it an hour we had to wait?  The fear was: full tummy - we'd get cramps and be unable to get to shore.  "You'll get a cramp because you haven't digested your lunch. And then you'll drown," or so went the scare tactic.  And so we waited — I mean, was it 100 percent?  Of course not, but still, no one took the chance to find out.  Still clinging to the myth?  Here's a handy [link] so you too can update yourself.  I don't swim much these days, but I do enjoy these recollections.

posted 07.30.19

...love and be loved in return...

Ok, I'll confess.  I'm driving Louise a little bit nuts this morning as I play countless renditions of Nature Boy - an early hit for Nat King Cole in 1948.  We've heard versions performed by Frank Sinatra, Cher, Shirley Bassey, Sarah Vaughn, Radka Toneff, Jose Feliciano, Demis Roussos, Bobby Darin, Stephane Grappeli, Etta Jones, Bobby Scott, Natalie Cole, George Benson, Johnny Mathis, Celine Dion (can't believe I now have one of her recordings).  Even found one version by a Swedish acapella singing troupe: the Real Group, and another by Mike Geier who performs these days as Puddles Pity Party in full creepy clown regalia (personally, I like the YouTube version from Sandra Sherman who's mash-up includes her classic guitar accompaniment to Geier's original video).  Here's a soulful jazz version by Abbey Lincoln recorded in 1995 on her album "A Turtle's Dream".

The writer of the song, George McGrew changed his name to "eden ahbez" (yes, intentional lower case). Reportedly he was one of America's first "hippies" and lived in a cave near Palm Springs, CA where he wrote Nature Boy - he gave a copy to Nat King Cole's manager & asked that the singer take a look at it.  King loved it and began playing the song in his live performances. However, before recording the tune King sought permission from it's writer & had a challenging time tracking down the long-haired vagabond.  [read more]  The song was also used in several feature films including The Boy With Green Hair.

  Nature Boy
   There was a boy
   A very strange, enchanted boy
   They say he wandered very far
   Very far, over land and sea
   A little shy and sad of eye
   But very wise was he

   And then one day
   One magic day he passed my way
   While we spoke of many things
   Fools and Kings
   This he said to me:

"The greatest thing you'll ever learn
Is just to love and be loved in return"

"The greatest thing you'll ever learn
Is just to love and be loved in return"

[Instrumental Interlude]

"The greatest thing you'll ever learn
Is just to love and be loved in return"

Written By eden ahbez 1947; 1st recorded by Nat King Cole 1948.
Posted by Mike 07.25.19

Every Picture Tells A Story (or fourteen)

While pondering a few of the vintage baseball cards I have framed I had a thought.  Viewing these cards isn't like seeing some artistic masterpiece ... like Da Vinci's Mona Lisa or The Creation Of Adam by Michelangelo.  The illustrations on the sports cards are quite lovely.  But to me it's more than the artwork; the cards tell a story about the subject and some of these characters have a great deal to say!  (Some don't.)

It may be a story about a feat or accomplishment like Ty Cobb's 24-year cumulative batting average (.366).  Some of these athletes lead amazingly rich lives and experienced so much ... entire books have been written about 'em.  Guess that's one of the reasons I like 'em.  They speak to me.  Louise knows how much fun I have learning more about these folks.  I've acquired 3 golfers from the 1933 Sport Kings series: Bobby Jones, Gene Sarazen, and Walter Hagen - and Louise found a book on Hagen that she thought I may enjoy.  (She was right ... loved the book, but as often happens with biographies, the ending is kinda' sad - Walter Hagen died.)
posted 06.22.19
Note:  you too can see all 14 Goudey Sport Kings cards in Mike's collection, click here.

Did baseball's Babe Ruth Actually Hit More Than 714 Career Home Runs?

Having finished reading "Wonder Girl" the Babe Didrikson biography brother John kindly gifted earlier this year (see below) I'm now cracking open the book Louise got for me, "Big Fella", mentioned below.  Wonder Girl was a beautifully written book - I highly recommend it ... whereas Big Fella', the Babe Ruth biography, has a completely different style - rich with detail which is requiring a minor adjustment on my part.  Already I am finding myself doing simple research to verify several of the many  fun-facts offered by author Jane Leavy. 

One section of the book got me second-guessing my memory about records, stats & facts ... specifically about Ruth's single season home run record.  I had to confirm that post-season homers (World Series) did not count toward records established by "the Sultan of Swat" ... single season (60) or career (714).  Along the way in verifying that piece of minutia I found a great article written last year at the Major League Baseball website regarding all sorts of questions, like: "Did Babe Ruth actually hit 715 homers?"   It seems a couple of historians found that over the years there were plenty of rule changes which affected how we kept track of various achievements & records.  Such was the case back in 1918 ...

"when Ruth was still with the Red Sox, he came to the plate in the 10th inning of a scoreless tie against Cleveland. He faced future Hall of Fame pitcher Stan Coveleski. Ruth's teammate, Amos Strunk, was on first base. Ruth crushed the ball over the right-field wall to win the game. This is now called a 'walk-off' home run.   Ah, but in 1918 … it was ruled a triple, and the final score of the game was 1-0.  The thinking then was the game ended the instant Strunk touched home plate.  As umpire Hank O'Day said, "There is no way you can score a run after a game is over."

The historians dug deeper and found some 37 similar examples of "fence-clearing hits" that were not counted as "home-runs".  They also found that back-in-the-day a fly ball to the outfield that bounced over the fence used to be considered a "home run" (today, it's called a "ground rule double").  And, fly balls that hit the foul pole in the outfield were awarded a "double" - today they are considered to be in fair territory and counted as a "home run".  

posted 05.16.19  ~   edited 07.02.19
New Additions...

Meanwhile, another 3-card group of baseball mega-stars is about to get framed.  Recently I purchased one of Babe Ruth's 1933 cards displaying his legendary batting stance / pose ... the card is in very good condition - colorful and not too badly worn except for one price-busting flaw (which made it affordable for me to purchase) ... the card was torn in half!  Ouch.  I was telling brother John about it and he said: "I can almost hear a squabble among 2 kids now: "hey that's MY card!" -- "No it's MY MINE!" -- "Give it BACK!  [rip]  Oops.  Sorry."

Actually, it's the upper left corner - torn completely off and taped in-place from the backside.  The rest of the card is really swell and likely would warrant a rating of "PSA 4 or 5".  I waffled for weeks: to fix or not fix the Babe, then decided to let professionals restore it.   I realize restoration will not improve it's monetary value with other vintage collectors (though I think it should).  My original thought was to put the injured Babe in a frame with two of his Hall of Fame contemporaries: Mickey Cochrane and Charley Gehringer (below).  Who among us does not have issues or flaws?  To my newly found vintage sports cards, I say:  I like 'em [enlarged view]

posted 03.24.19 ... revised 06.24.19

Mike's Bookshelf...

...is filled with selections that were gifts from Louise, who tends to read about a hundred books to my one.  But that may be 'cuz I'm busy reading news, government reports - especially anything to do with the investigation of Donald J. Trump and his staff of criminals.

But, once again I'm swerving off-topic ... this posting is s'posed to be a book review.  For the holidays Louise dug up this little gem: Hack's 191 - Hack Wilson and his incredible 1930 season which I've just finished & thoroughly enjoyed.  Until recently I had no idea who this Hall of Fame baseball player was or the impact he had on the game.  As mentioned below, 2018 was the year of discovery when it came to learning more about my father's collection of baseball cards ... and through the course of a little bit of research & reading I stumbled upon a quirky baseball card from 1933 for a player named Lewis "Hack" Wilson.

Louise enjoyed the stories I discovered and just knew I'd love still more vignettes about the ballplayer and the era ... the golden age of sport in America.  She was right.  About half of Bill Chastain's book introduces Wilson, his teammates and Chicago's rich sporting & gambling history ... the second half of the book summarizes the Cub's 1930 season. The number 191 in the title refers to Wilson's single season major league baseball record of 191 "runs batted in" (RBI) a record which still stands today! 

So what's on-deck for my reading pleasure?  Well after hearing me quote endlessly from a book my older brother got for me about the life & times of Bronco Nagurski Louise knew she'd score big by following the same theme.  Under the Christmas tree I found another cool book covering pro-football from the same era: Pigskin - The Early Years of Pro Football.  Sports fans may have seen it - the dustcover shows Washington Redskins Hall of Fame quarterback slinging Sammy Baugh.  It oughta' be swell. 

After that I will tackle another book Louise found for me: Jane Leavy's biography of Babe Ruth: The Big Fella' - and the world he created.   I've taken a sneak-peek and it looks like an awesome book, rich with details.  For example, an appendix at the back of the book provides comprehensive stats of Ruth's on-field performance, and tons of details of his financial deals off the field like his endorsement contracts and investment earnings.  Did you know the fine folks at Quaker Oats paid the Great Bambino over $62,000 for his product endorsements?  (That'd be worth $1,189,041 today.)  True story. 

posted 02.18.19 updated 03.24.19 

Sign, sign. Everywhere a sign.

While the declutter project here at High Pointe continues I stumbled upon this nameplate that used to display the entry to my office at Ameritech in Troyland.  It brought back fond memories and reminded me of projects that used to take up my time & energy and people I used to work with.  Ah, the projects, and multiple drafts of PowerPoint presentations.  The endless string of initiatives and plans ... committees, consultants, boarding passes, hiring & firing decisions, promotions & stock options.  I'll never forget a co-worker's comment / observation: "there's nothing wrong with taking a profit" when it came to selling our stock options.  We used one such grant to pay off our mortgage, and another to buy a condo for Mom-in-law to reside near us in comfort.  It sure was fun seeing the value of our stock soar when SBC offered to buy us out ... though they preferred to call it a "merger".   Funny.   I was part of the merger integration team and there was nothing co-equal about the parties ... it was clear who bought whom and who was in-charge.  While I miss many of the people I used to work with, it's fun pondering & thinking back.  Glad I kept the nameplate.            

The day I "beat" Arnold Palmer...
It was Christmas Eve, not a creature was stirring ... not even a Ripley!   Mike was feeling a bit nervous after 9-holes of computer golf - he was leading Arnold Palmer by 2-strokes.  When Louise relayed the story the next day by phone to her sister Cindy in Bergland...hubby Bill in the background observed: "I think Arnie's dead."  We know.  Mike was playing a beloved golf simulation program called Links LS which includes computer generated games by popular professional golfers of the era when the game was introduced in the '90's...Palmer, Fuzzy Zeller, Davis Love III, & Sergio Garcia.  The game does not function with modern operating systems like Windows 10 so it's not been played in nearly a decade.  Another example of planned obsolescence, Mike says.  But while cleaning out a closet this summer he stumbled upon the original program discs for some of the most famed golf venues in the world...realistic renditions of Pebble Beach, Oakland Hills, St. Andrews, Pinehurst, Banff, Riviera and more than 30 additional courses.  Mike loaded the programs (folks call 'em "apps" today but that's a whole 'nuther story for another time) on an older PC in the lower level which is still limping along with Windows XP.  Yes, the internet connection is disconnected.  Result:  instant joy.  In short order Mike was "clicking away" like a mad man getting reacquainted with the game.

Louise loves it, hearing Mike hacking away.  He golfs as she weaves in the adjacent room.  The first couple of rounds Mike was struggling to get the ball in the hole...but being the persistent sort that he is, scores slowly came down.  Mike's Links golfing persona is Shot Shaper a fictitious character he created back in the day when he played other 'puter golfers on the internet.  Younger readers should know, in the early era of the internet it was frowned upon to use real names for security reasons.  And, BTW: Mike says "Shot" is obviously a nickname; his real name is Walter Shaper...famed PC golf bum. 

So, back to the match play between Arnold Palmer's computer character vs. Shot Shaper...the contest was taking place at Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville, KY.  Mike...'er...Shot went out in 29, Arnold scored 31 for the front-9.  By the 10th hole the lead was 3 strokes...by the 13th it was up to 4...and computer commentator David Feherty was going bonkers.  ("...who are you and what have you done with the other guy who was playing?")  Mike took a break from the game to share the news with Louise and take a little walk...trying to shake off the tension.  It didn't help.  When play resumed Shot bogied 16 & 17...(ouch)...but managed to par #18 for a final score of 63.  Palmer birdie #18 for a 64.  Sweet!  A legendary round of golf on an old game.

posted 12.27.18

update: 01.30.19  In multiple rematches Shot Shaper has beaten Mr. Palmer (and other computer animations) many times by as many as 4 strokes.   


Our sports memorabilia project continues. As you may have read in the articles below, my Dad collected baseball cards starting in 1933.  The cards he saved from that first year were pretty worn...only one card rated PSA-3 by a professional sports authentication service; the rest were rather beat up, so we sold 'em.  I did want to preserve a sample however of the cards from 1933 produced by the Goudey Gum Company and I found some bargains on eBay. Thru the process, I learned more about some really neat players like Hack Wilson shown to right in the middle.  When I first spotted the card and this odd looking character I found that Wilson was the leading National League power hitter during the era when Ruth & Gehrig were tearing up the American League.  "Wilson, who still holds the seemingly unbreakable single-season record for RBI with 191 in 1930, was a compact 5’6" tall and weighed close to 200 pounds. At the plate, he was an explosion waiting to happen," says PSA. Wilson is a Hall of Famer. [see more about Hack Wilson...

I made this frame some 30-yrs ago out of cherry using a neat hand plane Louise got me called a Stanley Combination Plane.  The cheap prints that the frame held had faded long ago and it sat all alone in a dark closet. We figured it needed a 2nd chance at spreading joy, so we teamed-up 2 other cards from the same series of cards from Goudey: pitchers George ("Rube") Walberg & Richard Coffman...not Hall of Famers, but two very talented pitchers.  I liked the Coffman card because it was in really great condition (PSA 4.5), and 'cuz he had a long career (15 seasons largely as a relief pitcher)...and because the blue background is just so striking.  Attractive.

Walberg, shown right/top, also played 15-seasons in the big leagues and had several World Series appearances during the Depression era with Connie Mack's Philadelphia Athletics.  Walberg was the winning pitcher in game #5 when the Athletics beat Hack Wilson's Cubs in the 1929 World Series. He was traded to Boston in '34 and retired after the '37 season with a lifetime record of 155 wins vs. 141 loses.  Welcome to the High Pointe collection, fellas!

The Guy Was A Stud!

Up until this past spring I had only the most basic familiarity with the football player named Bronko Nagurski.  I knew he was a Hall of Fame football player often called "the greatest football player of all-time" but I knew few details.  Then, in April ('18) Louise & I opened the box containing my Dad's collection of sports cards - mostly baseball but a few football cards including one featuring Nagurski.  The process of learning something new began.  For example, we learned Bronko was a two-way player - typically he played both offense (fullback) and defense (linebacker or tackle) for the Chicago Bears during a period often called "the fat ball era" as the shape of a football was quite bulbous ... lots of running and very rarely did teams use the forward pass ... in the mid-30's the shape of the ball was changed (from fifteen inches in circumference to eleven inches) making it easier grip & throw ... thus improving the passing game and increasing the action for fans.  Bronko was a powerful runner & major offensive threat.   On defense he was a bruising tackler disruptive force.

It took minimal research to determine Bronko's card (above - right) was likely the most valuable card in the cigar box.  As with most collectables several factors influence "value":  1. condition of card & the player's "star power" are vital in determining value.  2. pro football was in its infancy & this series of cards was among the first football cards introduced nationally.  3. the series initially did not sell well so production was cut ... only 36 of 240 cards planned were ever produced by the National Chicle Co.  4. timing - not good - these came out right in the midst of the depression.  My Dad's cards were in remarkable condition considering that we never did anything special to preserve them.  In the case of the "pre-WW2" era of sports cards - baseball & football - many collectors are attracted to the Art Deco-style prevalent in the mid-30's.  Rather than using photographs the player likenesses were artistically rendered.  Also, my Dad had a significant collection;  we were thrilled to discover 35 of the 36 card set called simply "football stars". 

My family has humored my interest in the card and the player.  Brother Pat gave me the book Monster of the Midway about Nagurski and I've learned a great deal about his life & sporting exploits.  Louise gave me an autographed reprint from the Bronk's early pro-career in 1934.  Care to know more, too?  I found a cute clip from a movie Hearts in Atlantis starring Anthony Hopkins based on a Stephen King novel, where the character played by Hopkins recalls seeing Nagurski play in the final regular season game in 1943.  [link to video clip]  Four weeks later the Bears defeated Washington's Redskins for the NFL Championship.     

Perfection can be fleeting...

Sixty-three years ago Don Larsen experienced a degree of perfection on the baseball diamond.  The NY Yankee pitcher faced 27 batters in game 5 of the 1956 MLB World Series and none of 'em could get on base...27 consecutive "outs".  No runs, no hits, no errors.  The Brooklyn Trolley Dodgers had a team loaded with talent including Jackie Robinson, Pee Wee Reese, Roy Campanella, & Gil Hodges ... but none of 'em could get a hit that autumn day.  "I had great control. I never had that kind of control in my life," admitted Larsen after the game.  The stats support that assessment; Larsen pitched 14-yrs in the big leagues for 7 different teams winning 81 games, losing 91.  Lifetime earned-run-average (ERA) of 3.78 ... respectable for a journeyman who played for many teams that often didn't produce enough runs to secure victory.  And though I was but 3-yrs old at the time, and did not witness the game "live", I have grown-up reading about the feat and hearing the story ... I've listened to broadcaster Vin Scully's rendition a few hundred times, and always enjoyed the pure joy captured in the photo (right) showing Yankee catcher Yogi Berra leaping into Larsen's arms after the final out. 

Louise got the autographed photo for me as a birthday gift.  It's authenticated by Beckett's no less!  Isn't it swell?   She's a national treasure that spouse of mine.

click here-to-hear Scully's broadcast - video clip of Larsen's post-game celebration  

Collection of Baseball Cards...

We sold most of 'em as highlighted below.  Took us about 6-months.  The last batch was among our most valuable (authenticated and graded by professionals); they also netted my brothers and I with a sizeable pile of dough.  Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Stan Musial, Bob Feller, Hank Greenberg, Bill Terry.  Even some football greats from the National Chicle "Football Stars" series from 1935: Bronko Nagurski, Bull Tosi, Luke Johnsos, Clark Hinkle. 

Brother John was the one who found our eBay seller, Mark - great guy and an honest fellow.  Our final sales figures were even greater than Mark had originally estimated, but there were a few cards that did not doing as well as most others.  So I bought a bunch for peanuts rather than seeing 'em go for considerably less than they were worth like John "Blondy" Ryan who played shortstop for the NY Giants. 

See Ryan's "frame-mates" >


1934 Goudey Big League
baseball card #32 - rated "EXCELLENT 5"
by PSA. 

Oldest Living MLB Player Passes 11.30.18

Fred Caligiuri...who had just turned 100 on October 22, 2018, has passed away.  The autographed picture to the left was a gift from brother John and will join the growing cast of characters celebrating sport during the era of my father's youth.  I had mentioned to John what I'd uncovered about Fred while researching a question posed (below) about Lloyd Johnson, the major league pitcher who appeared in just one game back in 1934.  I told John that the oldest living major league ball player was about to celebrate a birthday, and that his story was a bit different from Johnson.  Fred pitched for the Philadelphia Athletics for two years before WW2, and then returned from his military service to our country to resume his career but lasted just a couple of seasons…then "retired" and got into the auto business.   

Earlier this summer the Charlotte Observer newspaper posted a short video interview with Fred where he recalls his early baseball career and pitching to the late-great Ted Williams in 1941.  It's fun hearing how sharp Fred was in his 99th year & his recollections of William's quest to end the season with a batting average over .400.  RIP, Fred & many thanks, John for the autographed treat.   (Link)  revised/updated 12.19.18   

"Hey four-eyes!"

Fathers teach their kids all sorts of things...big & small.  My Dad had plenty of experience wearing eyeglasses...shown in photo to the right, Dad's with his scout troop demonstrating some of the skills they've learned operating a drill press & other tools...and if you didn't guess: he's the handsome fellow in the middle wearing glasses!

So when my eye doctor said I needed to wear 'em too at 5-yrs of age, my Dad could relate.  He knew glasses could be a pain in the butt, knew all about kids teasing, and could recall when he'd catch hell from his father if he lost or broke his glasses.  My Dad never gave me a hard time when that happened to me...the same can't be said for Grace who went bonkers when my specs were broken or misplaced.

There are plenty of reasons I opted to hang onto some of his boyhood baseball cards he'd collected during the mid-1930's and eyeglasses like "Chick" Hafey, right, was just one of 'em. Reportedly Hafey one of the few big leaguers to wear glasses while playing.  The Hall of Famer Hafey was a fine hitter - sporting a .317 career batting average through 13 seasons with St. Louis and Cincinnati. 

I recall talking with Dad about these players but can't recall specifics.  I just know he cherished his card collection and took good care of them.  Now I get to enjoy 'em.
More photos of Young Ralph in our Scan-A-Slide collection, and more baseball card stories below.  See how nicely Hafey & Hubbell look with 4 other players in a new picture frame >

There Was More Than One Moonlight Graham

You know the story - from Field of Dreams...Burt Lancaster played Archibald W. Graham...or Moonlight Graham as he was known back in 1905...he made one appearance in the major leagues.  Yep, Archie played outfield for half an inning in the final game of the season.  The next year he enrolled in medical school.  His story is likely not completely unique but it did make great theatre in Kevin Costner's movie.

As we sort thru my Dad's boyhood collection of baseball cards.  The 1934 Goudey Big League baseball card to the right represents a bit of a mystery - much like Moonlight Graham - Lloyd William Johnson got to play in one game - one inning in the Major Leagues.  Johnson spent 12-yrs in the minor leagues in the Cincinnati Reds and Pittsburgh Pirates organizations, and his only Major League appearance was with the Pirates in 1934: he threw one inning, allowed one hit on three batters he faced, retired the side and finished the game.  But that was in April...what happened to the rest of the season?   Not quite sure why...just one inning.   Yet, maybe these one-game wonders are not as rare as I thought. 

1934 Goudey Big League
baseball card #86 - rated VG-EX 4
(very good) by PSA. 

According to the Baseball Almanac there have been 948 players who, like Moonlight Graham & Lloyd Johnson, played just one game in their entire major league career.  At least Johnson had a big league ball card to prove it.  Another sad example: Larry Yount, relief pitcher for the Houston Astros and brother of Hall of Famer Robin Yount, was summoned to pitch late in a game in 1971, but he hurt his elbow warming up and never threw a pitch to a batter.  Ouch.   Another odd fun-fact I discovered...there have been 21 major league pitchers who appeared in one game with zero innings pitched; that is, they did not retire a batter. Double ouch.  So as I continue looking for info about Lloyd Johnson...and why he pitched just one inning...I'll enjoy the mystery. Meanwhile, I'm keeping the card.
She Comes From A Long Line of Cuties...

My brother John commented when he saw some vintage photos of Louise's mother: "Marie was really beautiful! She has that famous model/actress look...sure am glad I asked her to dance with me at your wedding! I was one lucky kid!"   John had spotted some of Louise's family photos that we've posted at Mike's Scan-a-Slide project. Initially the images were integrated with Dawson/Barrett family pix but when the list of Gignac/Brown pictures grew to over 200 vintage snapshots we decided Louise needed a home of their own on GooglePhotos - two fun-packed albums:

#1  Gignac Family Album  - historical view back to Marie & Richard's childhood.... 
#2  The Next Generation -
Dick & Marie's daughters grow-up

Shown to right is one of my new fav's...Louise pictured in 1960.  Whada' cutieWeb-guy note: when we created new albums on Louise's Google account and deleted the pictures posted on Mike's Google account, any comments that had been left also got wiped-out.  Unintended consequences.  So, the combined family albums are now "shared" just as brother Tom has done with his "Dawsons of Hawkinsville" pictures.

Take Me Out To The Ball-game...

The tune has become our theme song for 2018 & we've been humming it while sorting through our various collections of vintage sports cards.  Baseball, football, even a handful of non-sports collector cards, many from my father's youth (1930's) as well as my collections from the '50's and '60s.  So we decided to have a few cards framed to preserve as keepsakes and memories of my Dad, and sell the remainder.  Its hard to let go of many of these because so many of the vintage cards are really quite cool.  The wide frame below with 7 small baseball cards are from a limited series created by the Goudey Gum Co. in 1938 affectionately referred to as "Heads-Up" cards.  To learn more, click on one of the frames below:

Above (L) the famed 1935 National Chicle Co. football stars series; (R) Topps 1959 Detroit Lions team card.

I've learned a lot through the process of researching these sports cards. Example: as a youth I was definitely into sports as a participant and a fan.  I'd fall asleep listening to Ernie Harwell broadcasting Tiger games...but I do not recall ever hearing about The Boston Bees.  Turns out, the Bees of Boston played on a field called The Bee Hive.  I'm not making this stuff up. Originally the team was known as the Red Stockings in 1871 - sometimes called the Red Caps not to be confused with the Cincinnati Red Stockings (and not to be confused with the American League Boston Red Sox founded in 1901 but not named Sox until 1908). The NL Boston squad was known as the  Beaneaters ... then became the Boston Doves (named after new owners George & John Dovey). In 1911 the team was named the Boston Rustlers...who finally became the Boston Braves...they moved to Milwaukee in 1953 and then off to Atlanta in '66.  Whew.  Talk about an identity crisis!  Bet those who think native Americans are disrespected by "the Braves" nickname wish it were still The Bees!

The '38 Goudey Heads-Up card above features Hall of Fame catcher Al Lopez who played then for the Boston Bees and featured 2nd from left in 7-card collection at the top of this page.  After his playing career Lopez became manager of the Cleveland Indians & Chicago White Sox in the '50s & '60's.

While getting an education on current trends of collecting & selling vintage baseball cards I'll admit to getting the collector's bug just a little bit.  There are tons of various collections of baseball cards dating back to the late 1800's...most were available to the public as a premium for buying a particular product.  Tobacco companies were some of the early producers of ball cards, and a series known to collectors as the "T206" has caught my eye.  T206 cards produced 1909-1911 by the American Tobacco Co. to promote a number of their brands with ads on the back for: American Beauty Cigarettes, Carolina Brights, Polar Bear, Cycle, Sovereign, Drum, Sweet Caporal, Tolstoi, Uzit Mouth-Piece, Ty Cobb Smoking Tobacco and more.  A player's image appeared in color on the front with name & team affiliation.  I just love the simplicity of the design. The cards are quite small (1-7/16" x 2-5/8") about the size of 6 postage stamps.  Cards in pristine condition fetch thousands of dollars, or more, by serious collectors, which I am not.  One Honus Wagner T206 card sold for $3.12 million in 2016.  (Gulp.) 

I did purchase nine well-worn, well-loved cards to assemble the GoodPlanet squad (less than $40 a card) and framed 'em for my personal enjoyment. Louise keeps asking which is my favorite and I tell her the name of a different player/card each time she asks…but I've selected the player with the distinctive red background to serve as captain for my personal all-star team...Johnny Kling of the Cubs. In addition to being a pretty swell catcher he was also quite a pool-shark….won the World Pocket Billiards championship in '08. Kling even took a year off from baseball to compete in pool tourneys across the country.  When he returned to baseball he was a player/manager for Boston - a common practice back in those days. After his ball career he made his fortune in real estate, and was a popular owner of a Kansas City minor league ball club in part because he had the courage to ban segregated seating in the stadium.

Perhaps the stories & player biographies are nearly as much fun as having this tiny collection of vintage cards.  In the group of seven below the center card, Ed Killian, is the only card that was "graded" (PSA-3).  Naturally, for diversity, I had to have some of the landscape oriented cards - hence the duo shown left. 

added above 1909-11 "tobacco" cards 07.21.18; below 1914-15 "Cracker Jack" cards 08.16.18

Three cards in the framed group to right are from 1914 & 1915.  Babe Ruth, lower right, was a promotional card for a national card collectors show in 2013 labeled "the card that never was"...Ruth was a rookie in 1915 and was not originally included in the this series of cards.  More info about Cracker Jack cards. 
Click image for larger view >

As kids we sure had plenty to cheer about with our Detroit pro sports teams over the years. We lucked-out getting tickets for the Tigers world series games in '68 & '84. The Pistons were exciting through championships '89, '90 & '04...after decades of mediocrity.  But the football Lions have been a different story...no championships since '57.  Quite a drought.  Still, we watch and hope.  I know my friends in cities like Cleveland can relate.  While something tells me the situation is about to change (and improve) I admit, I've had that same sense of optimism about our Lions for over a half-century.

Rediscovered: we've found plenty of gems like the picture below as we've sorted thru family photo albums and slides taken largely by my father.  We call our collection the Scan-A-Slide photo project and it continues to grow.

above: Mike & Pat practice in Dearborn ('57).

As a youngster our family lived in a very nice community within walking distance to elementary school.  Quarton Elementary was just 701 yards (.4 miles) from my back door.  From the 1st grade onward I viewed the taller, older "safety boys" with great admiration, respect & a touch of envy. They were posted at each intersection on the streets surrounding the school...from my house to the school there were 4 such crossings where "safety boys" stood, arms extended, protecting kids from any traffic or danger.  "I wanna' grow up and be one of those guys!" I likely said to myself thousands of times.  It must have one of the many goals my parents urged me to set for myself & it paid off...by the time I was a 6th grader I was doing my part to keep kids safe.  The badge they gave me has been a cherished keepsake in that shoebox filled with memories that included some of my favorite Match Box die-cast little toy cars & ticket stubs to the '68 World Series, among other treasures.  

Not familiar with the Safety Patrol?  Here's a vintage public service announcement that may help explain on YouTube:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mRw-cJ0RXcQ 

SOLD!  J.J. Cardinal's Wild Bird & Nature Store...the fun little shop that Louise launched in 1991 now has a new owner (eff. Oct. 2017).  Our beloved Little Red wagon that hauled over 4.7 million pounds of the birdseed has such rich patina we couldn't give it up.  Brother John was kind enough to get us a new little red wagon for JJ's new owner Gretchen Giles so that our original little red can enjoy retirement, too.  Little Red is now Louise's "Chuck Wagon" ...helping with the daily task filling bird feeders at High Point!

We Went Solar !
We decided to be part of the solution. First, when it was time to replace our natural gas powered forced air furnace in 2012 we opted for Geo Thermal which uses the Earth's temp 5-feet down in the ground to heat & cool our home.  No fossil fuel is burned.  The system relies on electricity so we added an array of 20 solar panels mounted on a neat rack constructed in our backyard.  Since then we've shared our production data, particularly for those who think only Southern states get enough sun to justify the investment...because it's a false narrative.  Even in cloudy Michigan where half the year you need a sweater or jacket anytime you venture outdoors...we generate electricity from the sun.  Lots of it.   Since 2012 our solar panels have generated 33.9 megawatt hours of power, reducing our Consumer's Energy bill by $5,787.
hammock lovers....head to toe (times 2)...the rest of the story.best friends
while in college Mike had a roommate who nixed the standard issue dormitory bed in favor of a hammock. Yep, he strung it up with lag bolts secured in concrete walls. Quirky guy that boy we called "2-shirt Tanis" (because he always employed the layered look: shirt on shirt).

Anyway, this isn't a shirt-tale, but rather, a hammock story. Louise has bought a couple of 'em for our little utopia in the woods - strung between two sturdy oaks with the bolts slowly being absorbed by the growing trees. It's a peaceful way to spend some quality time with a good friend: swinging in a hammock. We made a design note to ourselves recently that when it comes time to build a Superior home we'd be wise to incorporate a hammock to be placed indoors so that we could use it year-round (ala' 2-shirt)! See? There was some linkage after all, to these tales. 

a little bomb - see Mike's latest comment >

If some foreign country had dropped 20,000 bombs on the USA do you think we'd notice?
see Mike's archive of past rants >

What happened to the "blog"?  Too much spam.  Given the political landscape in this country, one more ranting voice is certainly not going to make a difference.  I'll continue to write an occasional piece under the heading above: "issues & thoughts". 
It's really not a shock ... something on this page was revised on 12.28.19