Feature Contributors Archives for 2023-12

Column: Adventures as big as life itself

Dear readers, my friend Chuck Cochran died on Christmas Eve.

I featured Chuck this year in my Veterans Day column. Last month, when I wrote about his military career, I had no idea that I would soon be writing his obituary. It was only a couple of weeks later that Chuck assigned me that honor. 

I answered my phone early one late November morning and heard a familiar commanding voice, “Kris, this is Cochran. Come over to my house immediately.” 

Receiving marching orders from the retired Lieutenant Colonel was not unusual. Chuck was known by his friends to be curt, opinionated, stubborn, and bull-headed. After Chuck died, his long-time friend and fellow antique automobile collector Steve McManus put it best, “Those of you who didn’t know Chuck, or didn’t understand him well enough to get past his initial gruffness, really missed out.”

When I arrived at his home that morning, I found Chuck in the living room with several other friends of his that he had summoned. Chuck was not feeling well and had decided that he needed to go to the hospital.  Actually, “not feeling well” is an understatement. Chuck was clearly having thoughts of impending doom. He was assigning each of us specific tasks.

My task was to write his obituary. Chuck dictated the exact words that he wanted to describe his departure from this world, “Lieutenant Colonel Chuck Cochran blocked out on God’s time for an on-time departure.”

He then said, “Kris, you know me well enough to fill in the details.”



As usual Chuck was right. I did know him well enough to fill in all the details, but somehow, I still screwed it up.

Chuck was a generation older than me, but we both grew up near Morrison Park. We shared the same childhood memories of countless youngsters who grew up in that area of town. In the years I had known him, he shared with me the stories of his life. I knew him well.

Chuck graduated from Shelbyville High School in 1948. Yes, he was a junior when SHS won the state championship in 1947. Chuck had many stories and fond memories about the championship class of ’47. Chuck was the center on the reserve team. He not only knew the members of the championship team, but he played against them weekly. Every Wednesday the coach held a scrimmage between the varsity and reserve teams.

Every year senior classes come and go, but not the Shelbyville class of 1947. It isn’t forgotten. This year, Indiana University celebrated the opening game as “Bill Garrett Game” in honor of the center on Shelbyville’s championship team. 

Somehow when putting the details in Chuck’s obituary, I put him in the class of 1947 instead of 1948. Genealogists of future generations will mistakenly put Chuck in the class of 1947 instead of 1948 and it will be my fault. I guess if I was destined to make an error, putting him in the championship class isn’t all bad. It is certainly better than if it were the other way around.

Taking someone out of the championship class would have been unforgiveable. Basketball isn’t everything in life, but to kids growing up in Indiana, it’s close. After all, the most famous high school movie about basketball is named “Hoosiers.”

Those of you who made it to the end of my column this week are probably wondering what the photo of the old car has to do with Chuck Cochran. The car was restored by Chuck.

It is a 1934 Chrysler Imperial Airflow Model CX and is in Jay Leno’s collection. Chuck was nationally known for collecting and restoring antique automobiles. Pretty cool for guy from SHS class of ’48.

I’ll fill in the details in a future column. 

See you all next week, same Schwinn time, same Schwinn channel.

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Column: 'Twas the night before Christmas

Dear readers,

It is Christmas eve. Let’s reminisce.

Look closely at today’s photograph. It is the Meltzer family’s Christmas card from 30 years ago. Left to right is Trent, Zane, Sandy, and me.

The bicycle in the photo is a Schwinn Wasp. My cheesy hobby writing my weekly column, “A View From My Schwinn,” was in its infancy.

My column had brought me great happiness. I felt a need to share. There was no end to my self-promotion. I passed out free T-shirts with my logo on them along with bumper stickers with the slogan, “I Brake for Schwinns.”

Looking back, I’m amazed at how long my family put up with my obsession with all things Schwinn. They were such good sports, but even good sports have their limit. That Christmas I found their limit.



Earlier that fall, my good friend Billy Emerick had found a smaller version of my Schwinn bicycle at a yard sale. When I saw it, I instantly thought it would be really cool if my entire family rode the same model Schwinn. Schwinn made most of its bicycle models in various sizes and for both men and women.

By that Christmas, I had found two of the smaller old Schwinns. In my mind’s eye, Christmas morning at the Meltzer house would be worthy of a Norman Rockwell illustration. Trent and Zane would be filled with joy when they feasted their eyes on the bikes Santa had brought them.  Christmas morning came and let’s just say their eyes weren’t filled with joy.

A few years later, Trent inspired by the poem, “A Visit from St. Nicholas” penned his own poem to commemorate that Christmas. The “Ernest” referred to in the poem is a character from the movie, “Ernest Saves Christmas.”



 ‘Twas the night before Christmas when all through the house

Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.

My brother and I were snug in our beds.

While visions of new bikes danced in our heads.


When out in the alley we heard a noise.

Zane thought it was Santa with our new toys.

We wanted to see Santa so to the window we snuck.

But it just looked like Ernest unloading a truck.


I said, “Maybe it’s Dad, he and Ernest are almost twins.”

Zane said, “Look he’s unloading some rusty old Schwinns.”

The next morning Zane and I were sad.

We realized that Santa’s helper really was Dad.


Why didn’t Santa find a helper he could trust?

Zane and I didn’t ask for old bikes covered with rust.

This year I told Santa for me and my brother,

If you need a helper, please ask our mother!


See you all next week, same Schwinn time, same Schwinn channel.

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Letters Home: Senpai and kohai system in Japan

One very distinct and time-honored tradition in Japan is the “senpai” and “kohai” relationship between classmates and work colleagues.

A senpai is usually an elder or senior person who has a higher level of experience than the younger or junior person (kohai). This hierarchical relationship can be related to personal experience, job position, education level, or simply age within a particular organization, institution, or company. Often times, it merely means the one person happened to join the club or team before the other person … even if the younger person might have more ability than the older person, it is likely that the person would be referred to as kohai.

The role of the senpai is to act as the “go-to” person for the junior person to offer assistance, counsel, or even friendship to the “newbie” or kohai. In return, the kohai should afford the senpai a higher level of deference, respect, gratitude, and even personal loyalty. This system is most commonly seen in the context of schools, especially in school culture clubs and sports teams (bukatsudo).

The terms are gender neutral in that they may refer to both males and females equally.



Due to the proliferation in the West of Japanese manga and anime, the term is not completely foreign to people who are aficionados of Japanese comic book culture. Early on when Japanese anime was gaining in popularity overseas, the term senpai was sometimes misunderstood to have a sexual context, but it simply is an honorific title of respect that refers to the relationship of an older classmate or colleague who is wiser or more experienced in things than the younger, junior person.

The senior/junior relationship has its roots in Confucianism, but has become a very distinctive and unique aspect of Japanese culture and tradition, even though the original concept was imported.

Using senpai to refer to an older classmate is still very common and is used frequently amongst younger people. I often hear my students in class address a friend or classmate with senpai in normal conversation. Most often, the two students belong to the same university club or play on a sports team together.  

It has been my experience to notice the senpai/kohai relationship and distinction occurring at about the time children enter junior high school. I don’t notice it so much among younger children, but once they get to the lower secondary education stage of their lives, it starts to be used. This perhaps could be because this is the time when they begin to play sports more earnestly and start to join student clubs. 

The tradition then continues through university and into their professional lives after joining the work force. Especially if a new worker joins a company where there are people from his/her university already employed there, the term would be used when referring to an older colleague who is already established in the company or school (in the case of teachers).

This is not to suggest that those who are senpai have it made in the shade in being given deference and respect by their underlings or kohai. Being a senpai is a huge responsibility and has real implications for the senpai; in order to be a good elder to his/her kohai, the senpai must be good at advising their kohai by offering support and assistance when needed to the junior person. If a senpai is too bossy, selfish, overbearing, and/or treating the kohai badly, then the senpai will lose the respect of the kohai which is avoided at all costs.

A bad senpai is the kiss of death in the social-hierarchy of the group because once one gets that reputation, it is hard to regain that respect once again. The relationship runs so deeply within Japanese culture that people maintain lifelong senpai/kohai relationships long after the initial association for the hierarchical relationship has finished.

The other side of this hierarchical coin is that the kohai must show his/her senpai proper respect and deference in order not to be labeled as a contrarian or a disrespectful antagonist. If a kohai insists upon not showing the needed respect to his/her senior, then the kohai will likely be put in his/her place (if not by the actual senpai then by other kohai or senpai in the group).

A tired an overused saying in Japan is “the nail that sticks out gets hammered down” but it is quite apropos in this situation. The kohai will quickly be admonished by the others in the group and likely be told to shape up or ship out.

The senpai/kohai system in Japan is, in part, the oil that keeps the finely-tuned cultural and societal inner workings running smoothly. People know their place and behave accordingly. There is a related concept that is quite prevalent in Japan that is marginally related to the senpai/kohai tradition and that is “amae.” 

Amae is a Japanese character trait that emphasizes the need to be dependent upon or attached to others in order to remain in good favor with the group. A worker may ask a boss a softball question at a meeting to show his/her dependence upon the higher up. Even if he/she knows the answer to the question, it is considered appropriate to show dependency upon the experience or wisdom of the other person in the supervisorial role. 

On first reflection, one would think that something like amae wouldn’t be a positive character trait, especially when looking at it through an American cultural lens where independence is expected, welcomed, and admired. But in Japan, a sense of dependency upon another person, group, or work situation portrays the importance of the group and one’s desire and need to have that group or person to depend upon.

The ultimate goal I think is for the person to display the need for maintaining a harmonious atmosphere within the shared space which may or may not be related directly to individual specialties or social boundaries. The bottom line is it shows a need for mutually beneficial relationships with those with whom one is interacting with frequently or on a regular basis. 

Amae is such an ingrained aspect of Japanese interactions that I believe it is largely done unconsciously in depending upon others to do things for them. My first introduction to the concept of amae was when I read the book “The Anatomy of Dependence” by Takeo Doi in the 1970s. His description of amae was so interesting to me back then, and over the past nearly 40 years I have had so many opportunities to see it play out around me in my interactions with Japanese people while living and working in Japan.

If my memory is correct, one aspect Doi focused on in the book was how this sense of dependence is similar to how children will purposefully behave childishly in order to get parents to indulge them more and he believed that this need extends into adulthood and generally Japanese people yearn for this child-parent type of connection with those whom they must interact with in daily life.

All this talk of dependence and amae makes me want to pull Doi’s book off the bookshelf again and reread it! 

Photo: A kohai (left) is visiting a football stadium in La Crosse, Wisconsin, with his senpai (right). They both belong to their own university's football club. The senpai is also a coach for the football team.

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Origin of the Christmas Wasp


Before there were beautiful stories of Santa and Christmas, there were darker tales told at Christmas time. One tale that originated in the early 1600s in Poland survives even today in rural areas in Europe about the Christmas Wasp or Wasp King. During this time period, candy canes in northern Europe were black and yellow commemorating the Christmas Wasp.

The story is told that a poor farmer made a deal with the Devil concerning his turnip crop. The devil would cause the farmer’s turnip crop to be a bumper crop, and the farmer would yield his soul for eternal damnation.

The Devil tried to collect what was due to him for producing a bumper crop for the farmer. But the farmer offered to cut off his own fingers instead of yielding his soul for eternal damnation.

When the devil refused that compromise, the farmer thought fast and offered the devil a taste of the world’s finest honey. Apparently, even Satan liked honey, so he agreed to follow the farmer to his woodshed for his prize of honey. The farmer told Satan that all he had to do was to reach into a hole in the wall and he would get a real treat. What Satan did not know was that in the hole was a wasp nest, and wasps do not produce honey. The stings were so severe that the Devil fled back to Hell. 

The story does not end there. The Wasp King was so irritated at the farmer that he and his fellow wasps stung the farmer to death. 

Well, enough with the dark side of folklore concerning insects and Christmas. Enjoy your Christmas Season and don’t reach into any wasp nests!

Column: Reindeer games

Dear readers,

I’ll get to the mailbag in a minute, but first I have some bad news. Team Schwinn is ending our public service project, “Letters to The Helbing.”

Outreach volunteer Jack Yeend reports that only one letter has been received. It was a prank letter penned by Bill Stafford. Bill was supposedly working on an art project of his own to be installed on the people trail called, “Water, Trees, and Flowers.” 

I thought a public that once paid $3.99 a minute for advice from psychic Miss Cleo would jump at the chance of getting free advice from a giant stainless-steel sculpture. It looks like I was wrong. Now let’s open the mail.

I received a letter from Cousin Tom’s donkey Cletus this week. It’s not unusual for me to receive correspondence from Cletus. He writes almost weekly harping on and on about the time Team Schwinn embarrassed him by trying to enter him in the Indiana Derby. 

For you newer readers, we really did try to enter Cletus in the Indiana Derby. It was mostly local attorney Tyler “Earl” Brant’s idea. We located a jockey who didn’t have a mount in the derby, outfitted him in our official “View From My Schwinn” silks and showed up to race.

Cletus was disqualified for not being a horse. Team Schwinn knew it was a long shot. Maybe some of us went along with the scheme knowing it was a joke. The officials at the track were great sports but did insist that Cletus leave the premises. As you might expect he was stubborn, and it took us forever to get him back in the trailer.



I decided to publish Cletus’ letter this week because it is timely and I’m glad he has embraced his donkey heritage.

Dear Kris,

Tis the season, so how about a shout out in your column for the donkeys.  Somehow the reindeer have hijacked Christmas. Poor Rudolph couldn’t join in the reindeer games, boo hoo. Children even know their names, on Dasher and Dancer, Prancer and yada, yada, yada. 

I’m somewhat confused because I have a Christmas story that has been passed down in my donkey family for many generations. As it was told to me, long before my family legally immigrated to this country, my ancestors lived in a place called Nazareth.  

One of my grandfathers (too many greats to include) was present for the first Christmas. It was winter and he carried a pregnant woman to Bethlehem. The trip was no cart ride. It was about 70 miles as the crow flies and walking in the rocky terrain took better than a week. To make things worse, not an hour or so after arrival the baby came and was placed in grandpa’s food.  

A great number of visitors stopped by to see the baby which resulted in a sleepless night for grandpa. Several days later grandpa traveled with the family to Egypt. According to donkey folklore, there were other animals present, including sheep and a camel or two, but no reindeer.

So now for my Christmas question. Can you please explain how the reindeer got in the story?

Just wondering,


Dear Cletus,

Reindeer got in the story somehow along with fruitcake, eggnog and too much shopping.

Christmas is really all about the baby who was named Jesus. However, the good news is that most humans get around to remembering that by December 25.

Don’t bother writing me a letter this spring asking about Easter. I don’t have any idea how bunnies took over that holiday.

See you all next week, same Schwinn time, same Schwinn channel.

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Christmas Folklore and Insects

During the Christmas Season it is always interesting to investigate how insects play a part in Christmas legends and folklore. One interesting story has to do with the legend of the Christmas Spider. 

The Christmas Spider originates as a German or Ukrainian story. In its simplest form, it is a story of a poor woman and her experience every Christmas Eve when the Christ Child would appear and bless her house. On that day, the house had to be spotless. Even the spider webs would need to be removed. 

But one Christmas Eve, the spiders came down and formed their webs all over the Christmas tree covering every branch and twig. When the Christ Child came to see the house and bless it, He saw the webs and their beauty. When the Christ child touched the webs, they turned into silver and gold. 

Since that time, we have enjoyed tinsel as a decoration that is hung on Christmas trees in remembrance of the Christmas spiders’ webs.  

Insects are many times used in storytelling to explain supernatural events. There are many Christmas stories worldwide that include different insects.

The Christmas season is a perfect time to examine some of these stories and continue to pass them down through the generations.

Column: Only 15 shopping days until Christmas

Dear readers,

Thanksgiving is over. It is now finally time for the holiday that Hobby Lobby began celebrating in June. 

My Arlo Guthrie LP “Alice’s Restaurant” is safely stored away until next Thanksgiving. I’ve replaced it on the stereo with my Nat King Cole “Christmas Album.”

I always like to get in the Christmas mood by playing “The Christmas Song.”  It’s the one that begins,

Chestnuts roasting on an open fire                                                        

Jack Frost nipping at your nose                                                       

Yuletide carols being sung by a choir                                                  

And folks dressed up like Eskimos

Just by reading those lyrics, I’ll bet many of you already have the song playing in your head. Now I’ll cut a slice of fruitcake and pour myself a glass of eggnog. OK, let’s open this week’s mail. 



Dear Kris,

Help! Our family is already having a holiday argument. You can settle the argument because we have already agreed to go with whatever you say. The argument is about regifting.

Our family is split almost evenly between “there’s nothing wrong with regifting” and “regifting is lazy, tacky, and wrong.”

What say you, Kris?

Name withheld upon request.

Dear divided family,

To quote Abraham Lincoln, “A house divided cannot stand.” Most people think Lincoln first made this statement in some civil war speech.  It was really his “go to” saying back when he was practicing family law in Illinois. 

In all family law matters, Lincoln would just make that statement using his most commanding voice followed by, “Now get out of my office. My fee is a sack of turnips or a roll of Necco Wafers. Pay my secretary on your way out.”

I only mention this bit of Lincoln trivia to give you one more example of why you are so very lucky to be living in the 21st century -- as if not getting polio and having indoor plumbing weren’t reason enough.

Unlike Lincoln, I can give you advice that is useful. It has nothing to do with my legal education being any better than Lincoln’s. It has everything to do with the fact that I watched the 12th episode of the 6th season of Seinfeld, “The Label Maker.” It is the episode when dentist Tim Whatley famously regifts a label maker.

The old saying,” killing two birds with one stone” was coined by the person who first invented regifting. You not only save money, but you also reap the benefit of cleaning out your closets and crawl space at the same time.  

Regifting can be a bit tricky, but if done with the right attitude it can be rewarding for both the giver and the recipient. Here are a few simple rules.

Try to not regift the item to the relative who gave it to you last Christmas. Unless you are sure they are absent minded.

When regifting chia pets, be sure to put in a new packet of chia seeds.

If regifting an item that isn’t really age appropriate for the new recipient, it is better if you aren’t off by more than a few years.

If the regift has been stored in the crawl space for several years, be sure to wipe off the mold.

Finally, what do you do if you are out of money, but know that a regift will disappoint the recipient?

Easy, just give them a certificate that says, “A donation has been made in your name to “The Human Fund.”

See you all next week, same Schwinn time, same Schwinn channel.

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Letters Home: Japanese noodles

When many people think of traditional Japanese food, there are several things that come to mind, and one in particular is a piping hot bowl of Japanese noodles.

While many people automatically assume that noodles are indigenous to Japan, they were actually initially brought to Japan via China during the Heian Period (794-1185). Toward the end of the Heian Period, noodles began to gain in popularity as they were a favorite of the samurai class.

Later, around 1600, noodles really took off and they began to become popular outside of Japan as well.

The aspect I appreciate about Japanese noodles is the regional variations that can be found all over Japan. Along with varying ingredients that change the flavor depending on the region, the styles of preparation and the way of serving noodles also differ depending upon the area.

A hot bowl of noodles is a comfort food in the winter, and a cold bowl of noodles can be quite refreshing on a hot summer day.  Rather than being merely a Japanese “dish,” I think noodles deserve to be its own food category. That is how prominent and ubiquitous noodles have become in Japanese culinary culture.



Nearly every country in the world is familiar with “ramen” noodles that were made popular through the introduction of “Cup Noodle” in 1971 (a staple of most university students cramming for finals, as an easy to prepare and filling snack when pulling an all-nighter).  Convenience and the need to save time in the modern world are likely the two primary reasons why instant ramen noodles spread so quickly and became so popular around the world.

Ramen noodles are synonymous with Japan today, but originally the concept hailed from China. Ramen noodles can be prepared using chicken, pork, or beef.

Fukuoka City, the area known as Hakata, is world-renowned for “tonkotsu” ramen which is made from pork bone, specifically the collagen and cartilage. When being prepared it emits a very pungent odor, one that I do not particularly enjoy. But anytime Japanese friends come to visit me in Fukuoka, the most requested activity to do is to eat tonkotsu ramen as this area of Japan is so universally famous for this style of ramen.

I have been told that tonkatsu ramen is less tied to the “flavor” and is more related to the style of how it is prepared. I took this to mean that it can be flavored in a variety of ways, using miso or shio, for example, but the base always contains pork bone to get that distinctive aroma and umami flavor that is very rich and high in calories.

Since I am not a fan of tonkotsu ramen, my personal favorite is regular “miso ramen” which is most often associated with Hokkaido. Ramen noodles are made from egg and wheat flower and tend to be long and yellowish in color, and most have a wavy texture and are generally quite thin in circumference.



Ramen shops are plentiful all over Japan, and ramen is served in big bowls that make it a whole meal unto itself. If people decide to prepare it at home, I suspect most people do not go to the trouble to make their own noodles from scratch, but will buy noodles already made and then prepare the soup stock and ingredients to cook at home … or they can buy an instant ramen package that only needs to have hot water added to it, similar to “Cup Noodle” but a bit higher in quality and tastier, in my opinion. (See photo above)

The second most commonly known noodle outside of Japan would likely be “udon.” These thickly-cut noodles are designed to soak up as much flavor as possible from the broth they are cooked in. Primarily made from wheat flour, udon noodles can be eaten hot or cold … when served cold, they are often dipped in a savory sauce.

The broth base is made from dashi (which has a long tradition for flavoring food in Japan, using seaweed and dried bonito flakes).  Since I am not a fish or seafood eater, udon is sometimes too fishy for my palate.

If the dashi is made from a mushroom base, then I like it. Dashi is said to be central to Japanese cooking and cuisine because it enhances the flavors of the other ingredients and serves to harmonize everything into one prominent flavor.

The texture of udon noodles is not only thicker but also chewier. They are most often garnished with chopped green onions. Udon is often paired or topped with other items, like fried tofu or tempura. 



Again, a bowl of udon noodles is a meal unto itself and it is common to see noodle stands in train stations, even on the train platform, that allow commuters and business men and women to stop by for a quick bite to eat before they catch a train (see photo above). These are normally a standing counter configuration where the customers find an open spot and stand to eat their noodles.

The third most well-known type of noodle outside of Japan would be “soba.” Made primarily from buckwheat flower, soba is a popular noodle to eat on New Year’s Eve in Japan called “toshikoshi soba” and this means “year crossing noodle.” These are served warm and it is believed to be lucky to eat a bowl on New Year’s Eve to reflect on the past year as you anticipate the New Year.

Since soba noodles are so long in length, it is said to symbolize the wish for a long life. I guess it is similar to the Eastern European tradition of eating cabbage on New Year’s Day for good financial luck. In fact, my mother always made sure to include a penny in the pot when she cooked or boiled the cabbage on New Year’s Day.

One of my favorite Japanese dishes is “yakisoba” and this dish is often stir-fried in a skillet or on a grill. It is a favorite dish to make on camping trips because it is easy to prepare and a large amount can be made rather quickly.

Yakisoba is prepared with ingredients like onions, cabbage, and ginger. It is flavored with a uniquely tasting sauce, similar to Worcestershire sauce. In addition to camping trips, yakisoba is a staple at Japanese festivals, revered as a favorite “matsuri” (festival) food.

I highly recommend anyone travelling to Japan to seek out a noodle shop or stand to eat Japanese noodles because Japanese noodles eaten at a standing counter offers visitors a truly authentic Japanese experience, one that is filling, delicious, and satisfying as one stands between salarymen who are grabbing a bite to eat on their way to work, at lunch, or on their way home.

Don’t be surprised if you hear a lot of loud slurping as that is the traditional and proper way to eat a bowl of noodles in Japan.

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What Happens to Insects in the Winter?

That’s a good question. In fact, it’s a question that probably is not thought about much, but the answer is quite interesting. 

Insects are much like humans in some respects. When it gets cold, we as humans tend to snuggle in and get warm. Insects like the boxelder bug, marmorated stink bug, and Asian lady beetle do the same by finding ways into our homes through soffits and cracks and crevices. 

Many humans travel south to avoid the harsh winter months. And Monarch Butterflies do the same making a long and tough trip to Mexico leaving their egg cases here to develop in Spring.

Honey bees cluster in the hive around the queen and brood to keep her warm. As the bees consume honey, they shiver to raise their body temperature, then the outer layer of bees pushes their way toward the center of the cluster and those in the center move to the outer layer. That is truly a good strategy for sure.

But what about those insects that don’t make it to warm areas? If all insects died during cold weather, they would die out and not be able to continue survival of the species; but nature has a plan. One method is called glycerol, or “antifreeze,“ that develops in the insect slowly as the temperatures lower in the Fall of the year. Glycerol does not allow ice crystals to develop in the insect. 

Another stratagem is called “diapause” in which some insects go into a type of state of suspended animation after they find a protected place to rest. Their bodily functions slow down until warm weather comes again. 

Folks you just can’t beat Natures ability for the survival of insect species.

Column: Act your age

Dear readers,

Today’s column might be a short one.

I managed to sprain every part of my body. Typing is painful. However, I will soldier on and complete this week’s column for the public good. If I can save even one other old-timer from suffering my fate, then my pain endured with each keystroke will be worth it.

My misfortune all started on a recent cold November day. My 9-year-old granddaughter, Rose, wanted to go rollerblading. Rose had already asked her sisters, parents, and grandmother. I was her last resort.

Without hesitation, I said yes. Yes is my default answer to any question posed by a granddaughter. Which is why in our family, my answer isn’t a final decision. My “yes” is always subject to being vetoed by a parent or grandma.

“I don’t care what grandpa says, the answer is still no,” is heard frequently at our house.



My answer of “Yes” to go rollerblading with Rose wasn’t met with a veto. I think both Rose and I were surprised. But those with veto power did have some questions. All the questions surrounded just how me going rollerblading with Rose could possibly work. It was pointed out that I don’t rollerblade and I was asked the question, “Just how do you plan on keeping up with Rose?”

Everyone looked surprised that I instantly had an answer. I spotted one of the children’s scooters on the back porch. “I’ll be riding a scooter,” I said. The adults with veto power questioned my ability to ride a child’s scooter, but no veto was cast. Rose and I were out the door.

We both rolled over to the people trail near Sunset Park. Rose is an experienced rollerblader and I quickly caught on to riding the scooter. With one foot on the scooter and the other pushing off, I had no problem keeping up with Rose.

Modern children’s scooters are very sturdy. Teenagers regularly do tricks on them including jumps. “Getting air” is their slang term for temporarily going airborne.

It was a brisk day and we had the trail all to ourselves. Rose was blading faster and faster. Not to be outdone, I got the little scooter going so fast that I had both feet up and coasted past Rose. I wasn’t in the lead for long. I was about to get some unplanned “air.” 

It all happened so quickly. The little front wheel on the scooter must have kicked up a rock that jammed the wheel. The front wheel stopped instantly and without notice. Those of you who paid attention in physics class are probably already laughing.

What happened next is an example of Newton’s laws of motion.  Something about an object in motion staying in motion.

The little wheel stopped but I remained in motion. The scooter handlebars with me still holding on pivoted straight forward to the pavement. The little scooter tumbled end over end with me holding on and tumbling with it. I was getting “air.” 

I landed with a thud and the scooter on top of me -- the wind knocked out of me with such force that I couldn’t breathe. All I could manage was a strange intermittent noise. If you have ever really gotten the wind knocked out of you then you know what I mean.

I had thoughts of impending doom. Like a bull rider trying to hang on for only eight seconds, it seemed like an eternity until I gasp my first breath.

The crash or my moaning was loud enough that it brought a couple out of a nearby home to check on me. I struggled to my feet, brushed myself off and determined that I had survived. The scooter seemed to be fine, so we headed back home.

After arriving back home, Rose’s rendition of the event caused everyone at the house to laugh so hard that some got the hiccups. It is always funny when someone else slips on the banana peel. 

Considering what I had been through, I didn’t really feel all that bad.  However, by the next morning, I could hardly move.

Years ago, my grade school teacher Carolyn Weintraut told my parents not to worry because sooner or later I would “grow out of it and act my age.” Maybe that time has finally come.

Then again, maybe I should just ask Santa Claus to bring me a helmet for Christmas.

See you all next week, same Schwinn time, same Schwinn channel.

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