Extraordinary Stories

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Monday, June 1, 2020

The "Eating My Way Through Baseball" Story

It was an ordinary day.  Looking at a small piece of green tablet paper my wife handed me with "Eating My Way Thru Baseball" written on the top and the name Barry Weinberg written on the bottom.  She said I would probably enjoy reading the book while on vacation.  The note sat on my desk a few weeks until yesterday when I "Googled" "Eating My Way Thru Baseball" and found the story of Barry Weinberg's love of our Nation's favorite pastime.
Barry Weinberg
As I read more about Barry and his book I found he also wrote a blog.  Within seconds I had his blog on my MacIntosh desktop computer and spent the next hour or so exploring his blog which is titled "Barry Weinberg's 'Eating My Way Through Baseball', Life's a journey, enjoy the meal!"  As I read more I realized that Barry grew up in Silver Spring, Maryland which is a short ride from where my daughter Brynn and her family live in Urbana, Maryland  (Yes...I even thought about a visit with Barry at sometime in the future).  He writes in his blog that his life was changed when Frank Howard (Washington Senators baseball team All-Star) moved in across the street from him.  Frank used to play wiffle ball with the neighborhood kids in the street and used to take him to the ballpark to watch batting practice.  Barry graduated from Springfield College where he played baseball for four years.  He then went to Indiana University to do graduate work.  He claims to have had good grades in only two classes; Care and Prevention of 
Athletic Injuries and First Aid.  Made his life's work easy to predict.  Before long he was working for the Pittsburg Pirates organization as a trainer.  To this day he still has no idea how he got the job, since he had no experience, didn't have a degree in athletic training, wasn't certified and hadn't finished his education.  In another part of this blog I found a story of how he now lives his life.  His love of baseball began nearly 60 years ago.  
Barry helping the St. Louis catcher off the field.
He has spent over 40 years working in professional baseball as an Athletic Trainer from the minor leagues to the World Series.  Worked with the Pirates, New York Yankees, Oakland A's and the St. Louis Cardinals.  He writes that "It is unbelievable to me what a young boy from Silver Spring, Maryland; Edith and Harold's only son; has had the opportunity to do."  He also writes, "I've met and befriended wonderful personalities, a lot of whom are mega stars, and witnessed the funniest things (before games were televised) and heard the craziest stories everywhere from the dugout to the locker-room and dined all over the country and in many parts of the world."  
Neil Armstrong
Today he is known best as "Uncle Barry", since his college best friend Ed Folli's kids started to call him that.  Then Ed's son Michael was drafted by the Cardinals and he continued to call Barry "Uncle Barry" so it stuck with everyone.  He tells that he can't cook, but loves to eat out.  I'm sure he has frequented many restaurants during his years of working in professional baseball.  Actually the first sentence in his book says: "I can't cook - nor do I try."  He now shares little tastes on his Blog in no particular order to wet your appetite.  I must admit I loved his stories and the photographs he shared with everyone on his blog.  I loved the story of his meeting and eating with Neil Alden Armstrong who was an American astronaut, engineer and the first person to walk on the Moon.   You too can view his blog at: https://www.eatingmywaythroughbaseball.com/blog-1. It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Advertisement for his book.

The "And...How About The Middle Name!" Story

It was an ordinary day.  I was trying to remember how many of my friends didn't have a middle name.  Thought for quite some time and couldn't find a single one who didn't have a middle name.  Now, if you read my blog from time to time, you probably remember a story or two when I told you about all the trouble I have gotten into due to someone whose name is the same as mine, Larry W. Woods.  Its been more than once that the people in authority (police) have called my wife asking about one Larry W. Woods.  By now she knows how to handle the situation, since the other Larry W. Woods has a different middle name than I do.  What did people do years and years ago when people didn't have a middle name or middle initial.  The traditional middle name goes all the back to close to 3,000 years ago in Rome.  In Rome it wasn't uncommon for Roman men to sport three names known as the praenomen, nomen and cognomen.  The praenomen was the individual's personal name, such as Larry, whereas the nomen was the family name, such as Woods.  The cognomen was slightly different and was more of a nickname that was passed down from father to son.  This is different than how we use the three names today being that we use the nomen, or family name, as the last part of our name.  Using a middle name probably became a normal practice in the 13th center when the elite in Italy began using it.  By the 14th century, use of a longer name became popular across all social classes and made its way to the countryside, where it became even more prevalent.  Parents had to decide if they should use the name of a saint for their newborn or if they show bear the family name.  The former was thought to provide their child with protection in life.  So, they began to use both.  
Using a middle name began to spread.  Italy, Spain and France used middle names as well as England's upper class.  By the start of the 19th century, Europe was full of citizens with three names and colonists in the United States were doing the same.  Today it isn't unusual for us to use all three names from time to time.  We known William Brad Pitt as Brad Pitt; we known John William Ferrell as Will Farrell.  Your middle name is a portion of you personal name that is written between your given name and your surname.  Some keep it as a name while others prefer an initial.  I prefer an initial unless my wife happens to be talking to the police, then I prefer my middle name of William.  But, what do we do when the woman gets married and has a maiden name?  Does she now have four names?  My wife decided to drop her third name of Baker and take my name of Woods so she still retains three names, with her middle initial still being "A" for Ann.  I have a friend who I worked with who went by R. Dean Lemon.  Boy did that screw things up!  Seems he didn't like his given name of Ruel so he chose to be known as Dean.  Same goes for the Principal of the school where we both taught.  The principal's name was C. Wendell Hower.  I never called him anything except Mr. Hower, so I have no idea what the C. stands for anyway.  And, for my wife and I, I may have to be known as Larry William Woods in order to keep the police away from the house.  Seems Larry Wayne Woods enjoys using just his middle initial, since it takes the police away from him for some time until my wife can explain to then that they are looking in the wrong place for their man.  She's getting real good at doing that.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Sunday, May 31, 2020

The "Countdown To Disaster" Story

It was an ordinary day.  Sometime in the last week of June, 1989.  All started when a fellow by the name of Daniel P. Krushinski purchased two rocket engines from Vulcan Systems of Colorado Springs, Colorado with the intent to set them off from the parking lot of Larry Murphy Chevrolet on the outskirts of the city of Lancaster, Pennsylvania.  The entire event was to be a promotional gimmick for the Chevrolet dealership.  Next to the Chevrolet dealership stands Franklin & Marshall college as well as an upscale neighborhood of stately homes.  Nearby is the beautiful home known as Wheatland which was the former home of President James Buchanan.  Also closeby is St. Joseph Hospital, one of two hospitals in the city of Lancaster.  So, who is this guy Krushinski?  He claimed to be Daniel P.  Kirchner, a rocket launch specialist with a long record for crimes involving fraud and deception.  Kirchner purchased two rocket engines from Vulcan Systems and had them sent to 2268 William Penn Way in Lancaster, the address where a guy by the name of...yep, Daniel P. Krushinski lived.  Something fishy here!  Well, Lancaster County District Attorney Henry S. Kenderdiine Jr. got involved in the whole mess and pointed out that they must now teach rocketry at the New Values program at the jail where Krushinski had recently been released.  But, it was determined that Krushinski did apply to the nearby Dauphin County Court to have his name changed to Daniel P. Kirchner and he was now living with his parents at 315 N. Charlotte Street in the city.  The Lancaster newspaper asked Krushinski/Kirchner for an interview and when they knocked on the door at 315, no one answered.  No kidding!  
The rocket is checked
out by Bob Cooke.
The newspaper did find out that Krushinski was released from state prison late last year after serving more than two years of a two-and-a-half to seven year sentence.  He was serving time for impersonating a police officer, six counts of forgery and five counts of theft by deception.  I did some checking and found that Krushinski/Kirchner did apply and receive a "Certificate of Waiver or Authorization" from the U.S. Department of Transportation that allowed: Shooting rocket off from the abandoned Landisville Airport, which is located in Lancaster, Pa. 17603 (Approx. 220 1/2 - 5 1/2 miles from LRP-VCR) surface to 30,000 feet.  Rocket will return via parachute).  The certificate was effective from 7-4, 1300 hours to 7-4 1430 hours and subject to cancellation at any time upon notice by the Administrator or his authorized representative.  Evidently Mr. Krushinski/Kirchner gave the Certificate of Authorization  to the Lancaster Airport and in turn the airport must have notified the Manheim Township Police Department, since Manheim Township police seized two rocket engines from Larry Murphy Chevrolet, after learning that a promotional consultant may have misled the engines' manufacturer as to how the engines were to be used.  
The authorization to set off the rocket.
The general manager, Bob Cooke, of the Chevrolet dealership, voluntarily relin- quished the rocket engines after he was told they repre- sented a serious safety hazard, and canceled the promotional rocket launch that had scheduled for July 4. Mr. Cooke had planned to launch the 30-foot high rocket from the Larry Murphy car lot.  When Vulcan owners found out what their rockets were to be used for they said they had been misinformed about the use of them.  So, I guess Mr. Krushinski/Kirchner must have been in for more jail time.  I checked, but couldn't find out what ever happened to him.  I'm assuming he is in another state by now.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Lt. Jack Nunumacher of the Manheim Township Police
carrying one of the rocket engines that was confiscated.

The "Learning In The Amish Community" Story

It was an ordinary day.  Heading back from a trip to the grocery store in nearby Lititz, Pennsylvania.  Traffic is light, but thought I would head back through the back roads to see how the planting is progressing on the many Amish farms in the area.  
One-room Amish School on Fairview Road sets idle.
Passed an Amish one-room school and began to wonder how they handled the recent COVID crisis.  There are about 250-or-so Amish and Old Order Mennonite one-room schools in Pennsylvania and wasn't sure if they closed or stayed open after Pennsylvania's Governor Wolf ordered all Pennsylvania schools to close.  As it turned out, most all Amish schools closed their doors to there classes.  But, as in other public and private schools, learning never stopped.  Now, they didn't go online as quite a few other schools in the state did, since Amish do not have electricity in their homes or have access to the Internet.  The Amish schools switched to remote assignments with paper and pencil.  In most cases, the teachers, who are mostly young women who haven't been married yet, sent home worksheets and textbooks, giving instructions as to how to finish their lessons for the remainder of the school year.  Many of the teachers live closeby their school assignment and were able to visit with the students if it was necessary.  Some teachers even gave individualized instruction at their home or the home of the student.  Being that most Amish schools have only about 30 students, with many being siblings, it wouldn't be hard to visit a home to give instructions.  
Another school on Snake Hill Road also sets idle.
The teacher could walk, ride a horse, take a scooter, ride in their buggy or use an "Amish Taxi" which is driven by a non-Amish person.  Since Amish schools only go to the eighth grade, most students don't have a tremendous amount of homework in the first place.  Especially since the virus arrived close to the beginning of the growing season and most families would expect their children to help in the Spring planting, therefore hoping that their teacher hadn't given homework.  I did find one website that told of Amish teachers handing out schoolwork two times a week to at least try to stay on schedule.  The Amish don't normally listen to "English" (non-Amish) rules and guidelines and the decision to close schools was one of those rules handed down by the "English" State.  The decision to close schools was guided by the local Amish Steering Committees which are groups of laymen that serve as a liaison to various levels of government.  But, they did follow their "English" neighbors as far as closing the school door.  The Amish took the COVID crisis very seriously and respected the public health aspect of it and the guidelines handed down by the Governor.  Being that they don't stop school for holidays and other breaks, they finished school a few weeks ago anyway.  Again, the planting season usually signals the end of the school year in the Amish school.  Will they return in the fall as others will probably do?  My guess is they will more than likely stick to the same starting schedule as their "English" neighbors do.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Saturday, May 30, 2020

The "A Female Hero In Colonial America" Story

It was an ordinary day.  Reading a bit more about a young woman by the name of Susanna Wright who became well-known as a poet and pundit, botanist, business owner and scholar.  She lived at one time in the family home in Columbia, Pennsylvania along the Susquehanna River which was known as Wright's Ferry Mansion.  
Wright Ferry Mansion in Columbia, Pennsylvania
I toured the Mansion several times in the past dozen years, but never was told the entire story of Miss Wright.  The story I found today shed a totally different light upon the woman that I found wouldn't back down to any man.  Susanna was born to Quaker parents, John and Patience Wright, in Lancashire, England.  The oldest of eight children, she remained in England for schooling in 1712 when her parents and siblings came to Philadelphia.  Six years later, after completing her education, she also came to America.  Her mother died in 1722 leaving Susanna with all the household duties and responsibilities.  Her father John moved his family to the banks of the Susquehanna River in Columbia, Pa. in 1730 and began operating Wright's Ferry.  Robert Barber and Samuel Blunston, fellow Quakers, joined John in his business.  Susanna's brother, James, built a family home which then became known as Wright's Ferry Mansion.  At the time the west side of the Susquehanna River was disputed territory between Pennsylvania and Maryland while the east side was considered Pennsylvania land.  While Susanna's father ran his ferry business with his friends, she ran a large agricultural operation.  In the 1740s she moved to nearby Bellmont Mansion, since she was willed the property after the death of Mr. Blunston.  
A ferry scene on the Susquehanna River.
This move was momentous since Susanna would now be considered indepen- dent which was something a female at the time couldn't become under English practice of coverture.  In 1749 her father died, but left his land to his sons.  She used the land around Bellmont Mansion to grow hops, hemp, flax and indigo as well as experiment with native and European plants.  She wrote to Benjamin Franklin frequently about growing Spitzebburgs and Poppins apples.  But, her biggest agricultural achievement was her silk production in a northern climate.  She developed a method that allowed the silkworms to spin in specially created paper cones and in 1759 she made her first pair of silk stockings.  They were presented to Gen. Jeffrey Amherst, the commander of Britain's forces in America during the French and Indian War.  In 1771 the Philadelphia Silk Society awarded her a prize of ten pounds for the largest number of cocoons raised by a single individual; a woman at that!  She became a prothonotary or principal of the court for the Susquehanna River settlement, drafting legal documents including land deeds, indentures and wills.  She was known to settle many disputes between settlers and native Americans.  Judge Judy would have been envious!  One of her clients, Benjamin Franklin sought her help in outfitting the Braddock Expedition of 1753 during the French and Indian War.  Susanna was fluent in French and versed in Latin and Italian and literature was a welcome delight in quiet times.  Friends Benjamin Rush and James Logan shared their collection of books with her, though she was slow at times to return them.  
Laying out mulberry leaves to feed silk worms.
She belonged to an informal group of male and female writers causing her contemp- oraries to refer to her as the "Susquehanna Muse."  But, she never kept copies of her work, thus only about three dozen of her poems and writings remain.  In her poem titled "To Eliza Norris-at Fairhill" Susanna meditates on the status of women in the eighteenth century.  Her mediation concerning the inequality of women to men is one of her most analyzed poems.  Her reputation had grown so much by 1784 that friend Benjamin Rush mentioned in his journal that he had met "the famous Suzey Wright...a lady who's been celebrated for her wit, good, sense & valuable improvements of mind."  Later that year she died at the age of 88.  She was a woman well respected in colonial life and her writings and poetry were called brilliant and passionate.  She was a true heroine for woman as well as men in colonial times. A person who is admired who is admired for her courage and brave acts and fine qualities.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.  

PS - you can find stories I've written about Wright's Ferry Mansion of Saturday, Sept. 2, 2017 and Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2019.

Friday, May 29, 2020

The "Answers To Be Used On Jeopardy!" Story

It was an ordinary day.  Reading one of the many sites I enjoy visiting when I came across a story telling me about a few Presidents of the United States were much more than the policies they backed or the speeches they gave.  There was a story for just about every President from the past, but I thought you might enjoy some of the more unusual stories that were told.  Hope you can find a couple that you may find funny, hilarious or just plain stupid.  I thought all of the following would make great answers for a Jeopardy competition.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.  

George Washington:  Every President serves as the Commander-In-Chief, but nobody will ever outrank George Washington, since he was posthumously given the rank of General of the Armies of the United States, making him America's only six-star General.

James Madison:  President Madison and his wife, Dolley, helped popularize ice cream in America.  While serving in the White House he had ice cream flavors such as chestnut, asparagus and parmesan on the menu.  Dolley's favorite was oyster!  How could anyone enjoy eating any of those flavors?

James Monroe:  General George Washington gets all the credit for bravely crossing the icy Delaware River River during the American Revolutionary War, but Lieutenant James Monroe was part of an advance unit and crossed the river before Washington ever appeared along the shoreline.  Monroe was wounded at the Battle of Trenton, as Hessian soldiers shot him in the shoulder.

John Quincy Adams:  During the Presidential election of 1824 four candidates ran for President.  No-one won an outright majority and Adams was chosen as President by the U.S. House of Representatives.

Martin Van Buren:  Martin was the only President whose first language wasn't English.  He grew up in a Dutch-speaking community in New York.  His accent was only noticeable when he became visibly excited.

Zachary Taylor:  President Taylor was the second President to die in office.  He did not smoke or drink, but did chew tobacco.  Lots of it!  He had the reputation of never missing a sand-filled box that sat in the Oval Office and was his spittoon.

Millard Fillmore:  President Fillmore was an avid reader who on Christmas Eve in 1851, when the Library of Congress caught on fire, ran to the scene with a group of Congressmen and "rendered all the service in their power" to stop the fire.  He led the bucket-brigade early into Christmas morning.

Abraham Lincoln:  Honest Abe was an accomplished wrestler.  As a young man he competed in about 300 wrestling contests and lost just one match.  In 1830 he was crowned his county's wrestling champion and was heard to say: "I'm the big buck of this lick, and if any of you want to try it, come on and whet your horns."

Ulysses S. Grant:  The "S" in Ulysses S. Grant doesn't mean anything.  It was a clerical error.  He received the erroneous middle name when a friend of his father, Thomas Hamer, nominated Ulysses for enrollment at West Point.  The initial stuck.  When sending a note to his future wife he wrote..."I have an 'S' in my name and don't know what it stands for."

Rutherford B. Hayes:  He was the only President who served during the Civil War who was wounded in combat.  He had four horses shot from under him, suffered a wounded knee, took a gunshot to his left arm, injured his ankle and took a gunshot at the Battle of Cedar Creek.

Grover Cleveland:  Long before he served as President of the United States, Grover Cleveland worked as an executioner.  He had previously been the humble sheriff of Erie County, New York and had the unpleasant job of wrapping the noose around the neck of two criminals.  His political opponents named him "The Buffalo Hangman."

William Howard Taft:  During Roosevelt's presidency, Teddy bears became all the rage.  Taft wanted something special to set his presidency apart for previous ones, so he chose the opossum.  Yep, the opossum!  Only problem was children didn't find "Billy Possum" as funny, cute and cuddly as the teddy bear.

Calvin Coolidge:  President Coolidge was the only president born on July 4.  He had an elector-powered mechanical horse installed in the White House after the Secret Service banned him from riding real horses outside.  The press dubbed the riding horse "thunderbolt" and Coolidge rode it up to three times a day.  

John F. Kennedy:  While some politicians use their family's wealth and influence to avoid military service, John F. Kennedy did the opposite.  He suffered from a slew of medical problems that disqualified him from serving in the Armed Forces so he got a fake health certificate from a family doctor to sneak into the armed forces.  Kennedy would command a patrol boat and receive a Purple Heart during his tour of the Pacific theater.

Lyndon B. Johnson: Long before he became President, he was a Texas schoolteacher.  He taught fifth, sixth and seventh grade, coached the debate team and kept a watchful eye over the playground.  He even served as a janitor.

Bill Clinton:  Bill's first job as a teenager was at an Arkansas grocery store, where he ran a comic book stand.  "I had two chests filled with perfectly preserved comic books and sold everyone of them.  I made about $100 and I felt like a millionaire.  I now know I was a fool.  If I had saved those comic books, they'd be worth $200,000 to $300,000 today."

The "What's This In My Cereal Box?" Story

It was an ordinary day.  Just finished reading the morning paper and posting a new story on my blog when I went to the pantry and grabbed the box of Kellogg's Frosted Mini-Wheats.  Just bought the box last week at the grocery store so I had to fight to open it.  I believe they put more glue on the lid then they do sugar on their cereal.  
Offer of a free Bowl Buddy on the top of box.
Finally got the box opened and while reaching in the box for the bag of cereal, pulled out something unusual.  "Now, what's this in my cereal box," I asked myself.  Then all of a sudden it brought back memories from my youth...which was light years ago.  Toys, decoder rings, small license plates for your bike, charm necklaces, baseball cards...are all items that I can remember as being offered in cereal boxes to try and get you to buy this brand or that brand of cereal.  The guy who made the prizes in cereal boxes a novelty was John Kellogg, who first tried to entice kids to eat Corn Flakes.  At first he offered a free book called "The Funny Junglel and Moving Pictures Book."  That was back in the early 1900s.  At that time, parent's had to mail in for the book and send along a proof of purchase for their book.  But, the kids wanted it instantly, so General Mills began to offer its own prizes in their cereal box in the 1930s.  
The little plastic guy sits atop my cereal bowl.
The prizes featured cards with someone known as Skippy and General Mills was hoping you would want to collect their 12 different cards.  Recently I found a set of 6 on eBay that were over $50.  Who would have ever thought that would happen?  In 1974, cereal box toys were deemed so successful at convincing kids they absolutely need that box for breakfast that the Federal Trade Commission considered banning all TV advertising of the included toys, games, stickers, records, squirt gun, etc.  In the late 1980s Kellogg's had 30 million flutes and binoculars recalled after they were deemed a choking hazard.  Shortly after that happened, most manufacturers shifting toy placement from inside the bag of cereal to the lining between the inside bag and the box.  Then in 1988 a Pennsylvania girl nearly died after choking on a "Cool Flute" musical toy packaged in Corn Pops cereal.  
A few of the Skippy cards that were offered in the 1930s.
That was enough for Kelloggs and they recalled some 30 million similar playthings.  But, in 2004 they packaged a Spiderman-themed wristwatch with Rice Krispies.  This time it wasn't the prize itself, but the mercury battery which drew protests from environmental groups and state legislators opposed to the use of hazardous metal in toys.  
My toy of the day!
I read that one Connecticut lawyer said, "No healthy breakfast begins with mercury."  Kellogs once again stopped  inserting that product.  So, why has Kellogg's begun once again to package a plastic product in their breakfast cereal boxes?  The plant where Kellogg's makes their cereal and packages them in boxes is a stone's throw from my home in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.  You may remember reading a story about my recent visit to the plant.  So, I'm stumped as to why they need more than the cereal in the boxes.  The little guy that I pictured sitting on my cereal bowl found his way into the trash after I took the photo.  I'm sure they have a reason to do so, but children today seem to be too savvy for plastic trinkets.  My guess is that those making the decisions may be a bit too old to realize that fact.  It was another ordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Thursday, May 28, 2020

The "World's Oldest Documented Human May Be A Fraud" Story

It was an ordinary day.  Reading an online edition of "The Washington Post" and found a rather interesting story about a woman named Jeanne Calment who for years reigned as the oldest documented person to have lived.  She died in 1997 at the age of 122.  Our local newspaper frequently lists names of those who have reached the age of 100 as well as publishing obituaries that feature people who had died and were 100 years old or older.  Many of my relatives have lived well into their 90s so who's to say how long I might be able to entertain you with the stories I write on a daily basis.  Jeanne Calment died on August 4, 1997 in Arles, France where she lived most of her life.  But, recently a Russian mathematician, Nikolay Zak, claimed that Jeanne was actually Yvonne Calment who took her mother's identity to elude inheritance taxes in the 1930s.  If so, Yvonne Calment would have been 99 in 1978 and not 122.  Zak (neat name, so it is) backed up his theory by telling that the later Calment, who recently died, was nearly the same height at age 100 plus as she had been at a younger age, and it is proven that people usually lose height as they age.  Plus, a passport for Jeanne in the 1930s shows a different eye color entered for her than what was noted in later life.  Zak tells of a litany of discrepancies in her accounts of details of her life over time.  A French woman by the name of Jean-Marie Robine is hoping that Zak's theory is all a hoax, since she wrote a book telling of the life of Jeanne Calment and is trying to sell the book.  Not going to go over very well if all she wrote was a lie given to her by the real Jeanne Calment's daughter.  Robine believes that the Jeanne that died was the real-deal and was 122.  She believes she got that far in life because of a personal regimen of diet, medical treatment, exercise and good genes.  Actually, scientists believe we may live to be 150, but would anyone really want to live that long?  So, whether it was the real Calment or her daughter posing as the real Calment, she did defy the odds since she smoked until he was so old she couldn't light her cigarette without assistance.  She also rode a bicycle until she was into her 100s and loved chocolate so much that she ate 2 pounds a week.  Not bad for a woman that was blind after in her later years, almost deaf and used a wheelchair.  So, what do you think?  I find it hard to believe that a blind and deaf woman could live to be 122 years old.  Not sure how she even lived to be 99.  Do you think the newspaper made up the entire story to sell more newspapers?  Does make for good reading, though.  If the stories are all a hoax, I do feel bad for the person who lived second longest for they were never mentioned in any article.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.  

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

The "A Painting For The Ages" Story

It was an ordinary day.  Reading about a painting that is recognizable to many people all over the world.  Painted by Renaissance-era artist Leonardo da Vinci, "The Last Supper" depicts Jesus's last meal with his apostles before his betrayal by Judas.  
Scupture of Leonardo da Vinci
Leonardo was born in 1452 and achieved mastery in sculpting and painting by the age of 26.  Soon after he turned 26 he was com- missioned by the Duke of Milan to paint a mural for the Santa Maria Delle Grazie monastery.  The mural ended up being what we know today as "The Last Supper."  This masterpiece would be revered and cherished for hundreds of years.  Many others tried to duplicate the painting on canvas as well as duplicate it in stained glass.  Many great copies exist, but none are as historic as the painting by da Vinci.  Da Vinci began work on the painting around 1495 and spent about three years completing the mural.  But, when he painted it he used the wrong type of paint.  Instead of painting it in the "Fresco" method, which is applying paint to a layer of fresh plaster that lets the paint's pigments bind with the wall and resists chipping and fading over time, he tried painting the mural in oil and tempera.  This allowed him to achieve something quite different with a type of chromatic luminosity that had not been seen before.  
"The Last Supper" painted by Leonardo da Vinci
But, the experiment was a disaster.  The painting began to flake and chip after a couple of years.  Repair work did more harm than good over time.  Then in the late 18th century, Napoleon rode through Italy with his soldiers who used the stable at the Santa Maria Delle Grazie monastery, where the painting was at the time.  It wasn't clear what damage was done, but it showed how much value paintings received at that time.  Then, during a flood in the 19th century, mold damage began to occur.  The tempera/oil method that da Vinci had used provided a poor amount of adhesion between paint and plaster.  This left a thin opening between the surfaces that trapped humidity and made the painting susceptible to molding.  
A stained glass representation of "The Last Supper".
Over the years art restor- ationists struggled to correct all these mistakes that occurred since the painting was finished.  Then World War II arrived and the Santa Maria Delle Grazie was nearly destroyed during an Allied bombing campaign.  Nearby residents suspected something like that might happen so they surrounded the mural with sandbags, scaffolding and other items to protect it from damage.  "The Last Supper" was not harmed, but damage to the building exposed the painting to the elements.  Luckily, that too caused no harm.  Art historians performed restorations on the mural over the centuries with the work being finished in 1999.  Some argued that there were so many changes from the original that little remained of di Vinci's original work.  With all that, "The Last Supper" endured over it's lifetime, a period of over 500 years.  It's a miracle that it still looks as good as it does.  But, then...it is a work of God!  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

The "The Ring That Binds...But, It Must Be On The Finger!" Story

It was an ordinary day.  Lounging on the beach on Antigua with my wife Carol and our friends Jere and Just Sue.  Temperature was in the low 90s and the water felt good that fateful day.  Sometime in the afternoon we all entered the water to cool off and enjoy a conversation about where we would have our evening meal.  After about 30 minutes of water time, we all headed back to the lounge chairs for a bit of reading or perhaps an afternoon nap.  As we all exited the ocean, Jere noticed he was missing his wedding ring.  After a futile search in the ocean, we gave up.  The following day we took a trip into the capital of the island, St. Johns, for some exploration and shopping.  Wasn't long before Jere showed me his new wedding ring.  He had worn his first wedding ring on his left hand for close to 50 years before it became dislodged while in the water.  Pretty traumatic experience for anyone, let alone the ring given to you by your high school sweetheart and mother of your two sons.  I felt for Jere, but there was nothing I could do at the time.  He felt a need to put another ring on that finger as soon as he could and our trip into St. Johns gave him that opportunity.  So, why do we wear wedding rings in the first place.  I know they are a time-honored tradition and are the ultimate symbol of love and devotion, but why don't we get our wife's name tattooed on our finger instead?  Couldn't lose that!  
Rings made of wood were used at one time.
Well, I began reading about wedding rings and found that they date back thousands of years to ancient Egypt.  The original rings were extremely simple compared to today's standards and made of materials such as hemp or leather, but were in the shape of a circle.  The circle is a symbol of eternity, since it has no ending.  And, why is the ring worn on the third finger of the left hand?  Well, it is said that there is a vein in that finger that goes right from the heart to that finger.  Known as the vena amores and is a bunch of crap, but the legend still lives on in the name of love.  In ancient Greece and Rome, the ring was usually part of the dowry suite.  The ring was seen as a pledge of fidelity before the union was official.  So, today the wedding ring remains a common tradition.  The more I read the more I found about wedding rings.  Things such as:

  1. In Ireland, a common style of wedding ring features an ornate crown-topped heart which is a symbol of friendship, love and loyalty.
  2. In Turkey, puzzle rings are the traditional wedding ring which has interlocking pieces and can be hard to put back together if removed.
  3. In India, it's common for married women to wear toe rings.
  4. Engagement rings are still popular with diamonds as the choice of stone.  Other choices may be aquamarine which represents courage and communication or sapphire which represents loyalty.
  5. A pearl engagement ring is rumored to be bad luck since it is shaped like a tear.
The crown-topped heart ring from Ireland.
So, when Jere found his ring-finger bare after a romp in the ocean, he became upset, since it was a symbol of Sue's love and everlasting friendship and he just couldn't stand not to have it on his finger.  His new ring looks the same to me, but to him it still reminds him of the day that he and Sue said "I do."  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.  

PS - While talking to Jere recently about this story, he told me that his new ring is actually the third ring he has worn, having lost his original ring many years ago.  Wow, just when you thought you knew everything about the story you were writing, something new pops up and you have to change the story.  But...I have decided not to make any changes to my story, since in my mind he's only on his second wedding ring...to the same young women, Pam...no wait, it's Marilyn...no, that's not correct, it's Sue!  

While looking for photos to illustrate my story, I came across this photograph.
I believe this girl has her wedding ring on the wrong hand.  Am I correct?

The "TV Watching Just For The Fun Of It" Story

It was an ordinary day.  Just finished my evening meal and had settled in my favorite lounge chair, anxiously awaiting my favorite two television shows of the day; Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy.  On one channel The Wheel comes first while on the other channel Jeopardy comes first.  Makes for some extra fun if I watch on one channel and then turn it to the other channel and watch it once again. I get to impress everyone, since I know the puzzle or questions.  Works only once though!  So, use this technique when you are really trying to impress someone.  I have written about Jeopardy in the past, but never wrote about Wheel of Fortune.  
The very first Wheel of Fortune was not what we are accustomed to viewing today.  In October of 1952 Wheel of Fortune appeared for the first time on TV.  To be eligible for the show you had to have done a good deed; the good-deed doers and the people they had helped appeared on the show.  A wheel was spun with cash amounts of between $30 an $1,000 on it.  Whatever the wheel landed on was the amount to be played for during that show.  There was also a number on the wheel telling how many questions had to be answered correctly for the money.  The beneficiary received a gold watch for their appearance.  Didn't last long since it was too hard to understand.  Then in 1975 a show called "Shopper's Bazaar" began.  The object was to spin a wheel to win money to spend on great prizes.  Then another version of Wheel of Fortune began with Chuck Woolery as host and Susan Stafford as the letter turner.  After a contract dispute, Chuck Woolery left and Pat Sajak was hired to replace him.  In December of 1982, Susan Stafford departed and a few interim letter changers followed, until Vanna White eventually took over.  Pat has always hosted the syndicated version of the show which started in 1983, and hosted the network daytime version until January 17, 1989 when he turned the NBC daytime version of the show over to Rolf Bernirschke.  Are you lost yet?  On July 17, 1989, the daytime version moved to CBS with Bob Goen hosting.  Charlie O'Donnell was the announcer until 1982.  After that, Jack Clark became the announcer until he died in 1982.  Charlie O'Donnell returned and has been the announcer ever since.  Current show host, Pat Sajak was a DJ for the Armed Forces from 1968 to 1972, during the Vietnam War.  He was also a weatherman during the 1970s and 1980s.  Then in 1981 he became host of Wheel of fortune.  
Pat Sajak, host of "Wheel of Fortune."
Now, you may have known all this already, but did you know that he hosted a late-night talk show in the early 1990s?  Maybe not, since it was a disaster.  As far as Vanna White goes, she was a contestant on "The Price Is Right."  Johnny Olsen once said, "Vanna White...come on down!"  Never made it out of contestant row, but in 1987 "Vannamania" swept the country, when she appeared on Newsweek, starred in the made-for-TV movie "Goddess of Love," and wrote a best seller, her autobiography.  In 1994 she appeared in "Naked Gun 33 1/2 - The Final Insult."  In
Vanna White, letter toucher extraordinaire.
1992 she was given credit as the world's most frequent clapper, since she claps her hands more than 140,000 times a season.  That's 720 claps every show.  
As far as "Wheel of Fortune", the big wheel weights 2,400 pounds and has 200 lights that can make two million different colors. The noise of the wheel comes while being spun and 73 stainless steel pins hit the three rubber "flippers," one in front of each contestant.  There is only one wheel and one puzzle board, so it makes it tough when the show changes locations, which it does from time to time.  During travel, the show transports about 1 million pounds of equipment, Vanna and Pat not included.  Some of you may remember when Pat became ill this past November and Vanna had to take over.  I don't know about you...but I was really glad when he returned!  If you have never watched the show, give it a try sometime.  You may enjoy it and tune in many more times.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Monday, May 25, 2020

The "The Universal Game Of Baseball" Story

It was an ordinary day.  Reading a story written by sports writer John Walk about a young fellow by the name of Dan Kurtz who was born in Seoul, South Korea and at the age of 4 was adopted by a family in nearby New Holland, Pennsylvania.  His lifelong dream was to be a sports broadcaster.  Little did he realize that the current COVID-19 pandemic has helped him toward his dream.  After graduating from Lancaster Mennonite High School in 1998 he returned to his native South Korea and worked as a school teacher.  
Dan working on his site from home.
At the time he set up a website known as mykbo.net which is dedicated to the Korean Baseball Organization for English speaking baseball fans.  At first it served as a message board, but during the pandemic it has gained in popularity, since the only baseball on TV, besides reruns of old-time World Series games, has been Korean baseball games.  Now, the site has gained in popularity with fans in the United States and Dan has become a sort of celebrity.  ESPN Sports Network has been broadcasting Korean Baseball games for the past few weeks and twice Dan has made appearances on games talking with the broadcast crew.  Today, Dan is a stay-at-home dad to his three young children while his wife is in the Army.  They have been on the move recently having lived in Pennsylvania, Washington, Korea, Texas and now back in Washington.  His children are ages 9, 5 and 3, so they keep him pretty busy.  He grew up on a farm in Lancaster County and attended Millersville University while studying in South Korea during the 2000-2001 school year.  It was during that time that Dan attended his first Korean baseball game and fell in love with it.  In John's article, Dan talks about the game and says its almost like attending a rock concert.  
Dan attending a game with his son Landon. Photos from Dan.
The fans cheer, shout and play music no matter if their team is winning or losing or if its the first or last inning.  In Korea baseball is known as "Yagu."  It has to do with having fun and showing a bit of flair on the field like punching out a guy with a strikeout or players doing bat flips after hitting a home run or even a single.  In the United States players would be humiliated if that happened to them and would probably try and retaliate.  Not so in Korean baseball, since it's all part of the game.  He also said that if you are a young pitcher and happen to hit an older batter, you have to take off you hat and bow to the batter meaning you show no ill will towards him.  If not, the benches will clear and a big fight will break out.  Baseball in Korea is based on age and having respect for your elders, as it is in life in Korea.  Dan has maintained his website for many years now and finds it's a way to stay connected with baseball as well as his birth country.  He doesn't make any money on the site, but keeps it active due to his love of the game.  And, he realizes that when the virus releases it's grasp on the United States, and Major League Baseball returns to the tube once again, the amount of hits to his site will probably decline.  He does mention that since the Korean games are played without fans, the games aren't as exciting.  But, if in the meantime, baseball fans can learn more about baseball in Korea, then its all worth it.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

The "20/20 Eye Test" Story

It was an ordinary day.  Sitting in my eye doctor's office trying to read the chart on the wall that hangs about 20 feet from my chair.  Often wondered who every made that chart in the first place and why did they make the letters so small on the bottom few lines.  Is there anyone who can read those letters?  Then I found there is another eye test that is perhaps the world's oldest eye test.  Goes like this...using only the naked eye, spot the second star from the end of the Big Dipper handle which is known as Mizar.  Now if you can't find the Big Dipper, ask someone or check it out online.  After finding the second star from the handle look at the star to the side of it which is Alcor.  They really aren't side by side since they are light years apart, but they appear to be next to each other.  If you can distinguish the two stars separately, you have passed the world's oldest eye test and have approximately 20/20 vision.  
If you can't distinguish two stars you probably need eye glasses to correct your vision.  In 1623 Spaniard Benito Daza de Valdés wrote the first book on optometry and placed mustard seeds at measured distances and asked patients to count them.  Later he used small print to be read at different distances.  The results told him the strength needed to correct your eyesight.  Then in 1843 a German ophthalmologist, Heinrich Georg Küchler created the first eye chart using symbols.  He cut images of animals, farm tools, weapons, etc. and pasted them on a piece of paper arranged from largest to smallest.  He also used a chart of alphabet letters in graduated sizes.   That was a good start, but in 1862 Herman Snellen of the Netherlands designed a type font for the optotypes (letters or figures for testing) in a chart of specifically calibrated letters in 11 rows.  The top row contained the largest letter (E), and each successive row decreased in size.  It was designed to be read from a distance of 6 meters or about 20 feet.  His chart has become an icon at eye doctors offices today.  Normal vision is described as the ratio of 20/20 which is an arithmetical expression of the distance from the chart over the distance from which normal vision can read the chart.  A 20/30 reading suggests problems with vision: only at 20 feet can the individual see what a person with standard vision see at 30 feet;  20/40 vision means that the viewer needs to be 20 feet away from something to see what a normal viewer can see at 40 feet.  A reading of 20/10 indicates that the viewer has higher vision than average; he or she can see at 20 feet what a normal viewer can see only at 10 feet.  If your vision is 20/200 or less, when using eyeglasses or contact lenses, you are considered legally blind, which is not the same as sightless.  About 35% of the adult population have 20/20 vision with the aid of glasses.  It seems that athletes fall into that category most times.  Great archers and sharpshooters have a visual acuity of 20/16.  The best for a human was an aboriginal man who had a visual acuity of 20/5 vision.  About 30% of North Americans have been found to be nearsighted which means then can see relatively close objects clearly while those at a distance appear blared.  This will become worst by 2050 since people spend too much time looking at a TV, computer, etc. screen.  Therefore, I need to stop typing at this point and go see if I can find the Big Dipper!  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Sunday, May 24, 2020

The "The Famous Classmate Whom Made My Dad Proud!" Story

It was an ordinary day.  Thinking back to when my father was alive and the many stories he shared with me about his youth.  He was born in 1920 and would have been 100 this year had he lived this long.  Dad died in 2007, but his stories still live on in my memory.  His stories of meeting mom in high school were all rather humorous.  When dad was a senior, mom was a sophomore.  She dated all of dad's friends and as a last resort, dated dad.  Since there were no more guys for mom to date, she kept dad.  Dad graduated in 1938 from J.P. McCaskey High School in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.  Two years prior, a fine athlete by the name of Henry Norwood "Barney" Ewell graduated from J.P. McCaskey.  Dad often told stories about Barney and his athletic achievements.  "He even won gold medals in the Olympics," dad had told me at one time.  Dad always thought it was neat that his middle name was the same as Barney's first name.  But, the "star" of dad's class was a guy by the name of Franklin J. Schaffner.  Recognize that name?  Not only was Franklin a friend of my dads, he was an Academy Award-winning director of television, Broadway as well as movies.  Memories of my dad and his friend flooded back into my mind this past Thursday when I found a lengthy story titled "Remembering Franklin Schaffner" in my local newspaper.  Story told of his being a famed filmmaker, a McCaskey grad as well as a graduate of local Franklin & Marshall College.  As a senior at McCaskey, he starred as Mr. Darcy in "Pride and Prejudice" which was the first play ever presented on the J.P. McCaskey High School auditorium stage.  Mr. Schaffner was born in Tokyo to Protestant missionary parents in 1920.  At the age of five he came to the United States and was raised in Lancaster.  As a teenager he worked as an usher at the local Hamilton Movie Theatre.  The movies must have made a lasting impression on him at the time.  
Mr. Schaffner
After graduating with my dad as the valedictorian of his class, Frank enrolled in nearby Franklin and Marshall College where he majored in government and English.  While in college he performed in numerous student productions at the Green Room Theater and worked as a part-time announcer for WGAL Radio.  In a newspaper article from the local Intelligencer Journal, one of Frank's college friends who performed with him, Mary Atlee, recalled that his finest performance was as Feste in "The Twelfth Night."  She called his acting brilliant!  After graduating from F&M in 1942, Frank had plans to enter law school, but his career was sidetracked by WWII.  Both he and my dad served during the war.  After the war Frank worked with the World Peace Organization where he served as assistant director for the documentary film series, "The March of Time."  That must have given him the taste of directing that led to his career in directing.  He then accepted a position with the news and public affairs department of CBS Television News.  At first he covered sports along with public service programs which included the national conventions of 1948 and 1952.  He switched to drama and directed more than 150 live television plays for "Studio One," "Ford Theatre" and "Playhouse 90."  He was the director for the series "Person to Person" for Edward R. Murrow and the documentary "A Tour of the White House" which was hosted by Jackie Kennedy.  He received a Trustees' Emmy and the Peabody Award for his directing in these shows.  He received Emmys for productions of "Twelve Angry Men" in 1954, "The Caine Mutiny Court Martial" in 1955 and for the first six episodes of the "The Defenders" in 1961 which was considered to be television's best episodic dramatic series.  The year before he had directed the successful Broadway production "Advice and Consent," which earned him Best Director recognition in the Variety Critics Poll.  At this point in time he formed his own production company and entered films.  His first picture was "The Stripper" which was followed by "The Best Man."  Other films you may remember were "Planet of the Apes" and "Nicholas and Alexandra" which was nominated for the Academy Award in 1972.  One of his films, "Boys from Brazil" was partially filmed in his home town of Lancaster.  That film starred Gregory Peck.  During the filming of this movie he received an honorary doctorate from F&M.  after receiving the award he began work on the film about the life of General George Patton called "Patton."  
Mr. Shaffner receiving an award.
Before directing the movie he read 13 different books on the general.  The film, which was made in 1970, won him the Academy Award for best directing.  The star of the movie, George C. Scott, won a best actor Oscar for his starring role.  Franklin & Marshall College  is going to feature a special exhibit dedicated to Mr. Schaffner as soon as the college reopens due to COVID-19.  Starting in the 1970s, many artifacts and memorabilia have been donated to the college and are now being gathered into a special exhibit.  I am anxious to make a visit when it does open. I'm so sorry my dad will not be able to attend it with me.  Mr Franklin J. Shaffner died in California of cancer in 1989.  He has made Lancaster proud and placed our city on the filmmaker's map.  Dad at least had the chance to celebrate some his friend's achievements before he passed.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

The "Colorful Meals" Story

It was an ordinary day.  Cleaning some of the shelves in our living room for something to do to avoid the boredom of being confined to the house during this stressful time of fighting the coronavirus.  As I cleaned the shelves above our small sink in the living room, I admired once more the many pieces of vibrant Fiesta Ware that my mother had given to us over the years.  Carol and I very rarely use the plates and dishes since they are more valuable sitting on the shelf than they are sitting on the table full of food.  Fiesta Ware was designed by Frederick Hurten Rhead for the Homer Laughlin China Company in Newell, West Virginia.  It was first introduced to the public in 1936 at the Pittsburgh China and glass Show.  
A variety of colors of plates, saucers and cups.
Some of the original colors were red, yellow, cobalt blue, green and ivory.  One of my favorites, turquoise was introduced a year later.  What made the pottery interesting was that you could buy all the different plates and dishes in just about every color, therefore the chances of your neighbor having the exact same collection was rather slim.  And, being that most people in the mid to late 1930s weren't wealthy, you could buy a few pieces at a time instead of having to buy an entire set all at once.  Mr. Rhead's art deco design made it look as if pieces had been formed by hand on a potter's wheel instead of being mass-produced.  In my hometown of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, my mom was able to buy her collection of Fiesta Ware at the downtown Woolworths which was the first Woolworths to open in the United States.  
A gravy boat sits in a celery dish.  On the right rear of the
photo is a set of three mixing bowls while a serving
bowl is on the left rear of the photo.
She could buy individual pieces as well as a 24-piece place setting which sold for about $11.  The Homer Laughlin China Company produced more than 1 million pieces of Fiesta by 1938.  In the 1950s many of the pieces could be bought in soft pastel colors while brighter colors were made in the early 1960s.  But, there was some talk about the old orange-red glaze that was used.  It was called by many "radioactive red" and was made in the early 1940s.  One of the key ingredients of the glaze was uranium and was restricted to government use for nuclear bomb research.  At that point, red Fiesta disappeared, but did eventually make it's way back on the shelves in 1959.  The pottery reached it's peak in 1948 when 10 million pieces were purchased.  Fiesta Ware was retired in the early 1970s.  
This photo shows the serving bowls with a
serving platter.
But, in 1986, when it became popular with collectors, Bloomingdale's partnered with Homer Laughlin to reintroduce the colorful pottery.  The new line became known as Post 86 and is lead-free and safe to use in the microwave and dishwasher.  The Fiesta Ware that Carol and I now have is always hand-washed and is never placed in the microwave for fear it may cause sparks.  We still use a few of the pieces we have from my mother at special occasions such as Christmas and Easter dinners.  Didn't happen this Easter, since we didn't celebrate the holiday with our family due to the coronavirus.  Check out some of the pieces we have stored in our cabinet in the living room.  They still are beautiful and heavy.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

My favorite piece is this serving bowl that has handles and a knob on the
top.  Original casseroles featured details such as these hand-applied handles
and knobs that added to the value of the piece.  

Saturday, May 23, 2020

The "It Can't Get Any Worse, Can It?" Story

It was an ordinary day.  Reading the morning paper when I came upon a story and immediately thought to myself, Just when we thought it couldn't get any worse!  The article was titled "The Real Danger of Murder Hornets," and described insects that are close to two inches long and can kill a person with one sting.  
This is the size of the head of the Murder Hornet!
As if over a million and a half deaths as of today in the USA, to COVID-19, wasn't enough, now we have these huge insects arriving from Asia that can bite the head off a honey bee in mid-flight.  But, the more I read the better I began to feel, since the murder hornet isn't the same category of threat as the virus.  Only those that have allergies to insects could possibly die from a single bite.  For the rest of us, it would probably take a few more bits to bury us.  Make you feel any better?  The Murder Hornet is known as Vespa mandarinia or the Asian giant Hornet and the more I read about it, the more I realized we have less to worry about the sting than we do with the fact that they decapitate other insects to feed the bodies to their young.  
The Murder Hornet devouring a leaf.
But, if they begin to decimate the honey bee population in the U.S., we may be in trouble, since pollinators, most often honey bees, are responsible for one in every three bites of food we take and increase our nation's crop values each year by more than $15 billion.  And, to make matters worse, honey bee decline has been happening for more than 30 years already.  If the Murder Hornet takes hold of the U.S., it could dramatically change the available plants and food here.  So, how did these insects find their way here from Asia?  Perhaps the same way that the Spotted lantern fly and the snakehead fish did in the past few years.  They all seem to be well organized and are taking over, strangling the competition.  As of now it seems that the Murder Hornet is the least of our worries, but if the U.S. neglects to find a way to eliminate them in the near future, we will have one more problem that will lead to a decline in food production...and that may lead to a total destruction of what we know as the United States of America.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.
One more look at the size of the Murder Hornet.  Scared yet?