Tuesday, April 24, 2012

This article will be written in sequential parts, each added as I have time to write them. I was raised in a medium sized mid-western city and lived in three houses during my growing up years, two in the eastern and one in the western part of the city. Each half of the city was almost a city onto itself.

During my youth, up to eight years old, my family lived in a small garage type of home, so named because it was a little larger than today’s two car garage – with an attic. My older sister and younger brother, father, mother and dog Queenie occupied this house, formerly occupied by my father’s parents, brothers and sisters. Once grown his brothers and sisters moved elsewhere and my grandparents moved into a larger house two doors from our own.

During my years in this small house, I can’t recall receiving any religious training except for a couple attendances in a Sunday school in a nearby public gradeschool and once in a church. My mother was baptized Catholic but when she was a child her father, a European immigrant, turned against the church and they discontinued their membership. I didn’t become aware of this until several years ago.

My parents embraced the services of spiritual faith healers which was not uncommon for that time period. My mother told me she employed the use of one when I was only weeks old and had double pneumonia. She said he treated me and when he did so, a cloud of foamy ectoplasm came out of my mouth and dissolved. Following that treatment I got better. All of what I have described transpired between 1932 and 1940.

The earliest memory I have in this house was a day when I was between 2 and 3, was waking up from a nap on a “day-bed” in our small living room being attacked by a large rat. I don’t know if this was real or just a dream. A strange first memory of life but it had no paranormal content.

We were a happy family of five, and a dog, in those days. We had relatives from both sides of the family nearby who stopped in to visit on a regular basis. My father had an entry level job which paid little but he was lucky to have that during the depression years. We were poor, like many throughout the country, but happy.

Months before WWII began, we moved about eight miles away to the west side of the city in a brand new brick, two bedroom home with an attic and a basement measuring about 800-900 square feet which was about a normal size home for that period.

During the four years we lived there, my parents were under a lot of stress because two more children were born (in that house) to our growing family, my father’s job was frozen as many were during the war years and he was stuck in a low paying city job while other neighbors had high paying jobs in nearby war related manufacturing firms. To add to his stress, he had an unreliable 1935 Chevorlet that was his transportation to his job on the east side of the city. He never knew if the car would start in the morning, especially during the cold mid-western winters.

Perhaps because of their stress they got involved in Spiritualism, maybe with the hope that the spirits could guide them through tough time. I don’t know that as a fact but here I’m surmising. Looking back, I’m amazed they did as well as they did under the circumstances.

My parents teamed with other like-minded people interested in spiritualism. None of these people that I’m aware of were “professional spiritual mediums.” They held their séances at each other houses. When it was their turn, my parents held their séances down our basement. The members came with the tools of séances which included a collapsible conical horn with strips of florescent tape circling its circumference. The horn acted as an amplifier for the weak spirit voices. The tape glowed in the darkened room so the members could see where it floated to as the spirits spoke through it.

My sister and I, the oldest of the five children were not allowed to participate in these séances that were held at night. The three younger siblings were usually in bed at that time. My sister and I were however, able to monitor the events by lying on the floor and listening through the cold air return register. We would hear religious songs being sung by the members to start the séance followed guitar music from a ghostly instrument because no one arrived with one and my parents didn’t own one either. Following that we heard deep male voices being spoken that gave messages to the members about future events or things they should be doing.


Tuesday, September 07, 2010


Harold J. McLaughlin, Ph.D.

I am a 78 year old lung cancer survivor!

I haven't smoked in 51 years, haven't drank alcoholic beverages in 30 years, haven't drank coffee in 20 years; I've exercised regularly for more than 35 years, and took heavy doses of vitamin supplements for 35 years, and yet ... I managed to get lung cancer. How can that be?

Three years ago I caught a very serious case of bacterial pneumonia. It lasted for more than a week before it was treated ... in a hospital. During that short out-patient stay the doctors noticed a spot on my lungs and declared it to be scar tissue. Perhaps the cause of this was pneumonia? Since that time, I've been plagued with pulmonary problems.

During a period of three months beginning in December 2009 and March 2010, I managed to attract three severe cases of Bronchitis, each one cured through the application of "five day antibiotics" program prescribed by my immediate care doctor. He X-Rayed my lungs during one of these episodes and he saw what appeared to be scar tissue. His advice was to return in six months to have another X-Ray to see if the scar tissue changed.

I have a "self proclaimed very loving bitchy wife" of 55 years who tired of this nonsense and encouraged me to see a Pulmonologist, a specialist who deals with the body's respiratory system. I contacted my cardiologist's office for a recommendation. His staff gave me three recommendations, one of which was outstanding, Dr. Shahriyar Tavakoli, MD, and I was told I would not engage because he's always booked. As luck would have it, my friend and literally my neighbor is also a renowned cancer doctor, Dr. Davood Vafai, MD, and is a personal friend of this famed pulmonologist. He secured an immediate appointment for me.

Over a period of a month, Dr. Tavakoli had me take several breathing tests in his office and nearby Eisenhower Hospital. They proved normal. Next came a CT (CAT) X-Ray scan. That showed the lung "scar" tissue in the upper (of three) lobes in the right lung. Next he ordered a PET Scan which provides real life answers about cancer (breast cancer, lung cancer, colorectal cancer, melanoma, etc.). It is a nuclear medicine imaging technique which produced a three-dimensional image of functional processes in my body. A rradioactive tracer isotope was injected into my blood circulation. The tracer is chemically incorporated into a biologically active molecule. There is a waiting period while the active molecule becomes concentrated in tissues of interest; then I was placed in the imaging scanner. Before the scan I had to swallow a liquid nuclear medicine and wait about 45 minutes for it to distribute through my body. If there was cancer in my body of a given size, the medicine lights up in the area of the cancer.

On April 30, Dr. Tavakoli said my PET Scan was clear. No cancer elsewhere in my body. Becasue of the small size of my cancer it was not detected.

Dr. Tavakoli was not convinced I was cancer free. He conferred with Dr. VaFai, the cancer doctor as well as with other collegues. They superimposed the CT and Pet Scans for better definition of the scar tissue. Something was not right. Dr. Tavakoli then ordered a CT Scan guided lung biopsy.

Now lung biopsy's are not the most fun experiences in the medical world. I was admitted to Eisenhower Hospital as a patient, dressed in the usual hospital garb and taken to the radiation labratory. I laid on my stomach in the bed of the CT Scan machine and my back was numbed with the appropriate medication so the 20 inch long needles would not hurt as they were inserted through my back and into my lung. It was not painful, just a lot of pressure and a weird feeling as the doctor instructed, "take a deep breath - let it out and hold it" then he thrust the needle into my back and lung. My "bed" was then positioned into the CT Scan machine, presumably with the needle still in my lung and a "picture" was taken. I was rolled back out and the most recent picture was displayed on a monitor beside my "bed." That apparently showed the doctor if he aimed accurately. This process was repeated for 40 minutes. He eventually was able to extract about four samples.

On May 18th, Dr. Tavakoli called me in for the biopsy reports. HI suspecions were correct - stage 1 lung cancer. It was a 1X1.1 cm well differentiated Adenocarcionoma with Bronchioloalveolar features (describing certain variants of lung cancer arising in the distal bronchioles or alveoli that initially exhibit a specific non-invasive growth pattern - Wikipedia). He recommended immediate resection (doctor talk for removal).

May 19th was my first visit to my friend and neighbor, Dr. VaFai, the cancer doctor. He described how the effects of smoking effects the cells of the path between the mouth and the lungs and how some of the cells mutate into cancer. He also described how the combination of the CAT and PET scans identify the state and severity of the cancer cells in the lungs. He said my cancer is small, 1 X1.1 centimeters and is often dismissed by many doctors as scar tissue. Then, only a biopsy can ensure an accurate diagnosis. My biopsy identified the small growth as a stage 1 cancer. I was lucky. Only 1.5% of lung cancers are identified as stage 1.[1] Many of his patients come in too late and are in stages 3 and 4 and they only have year or two left to live. Mine is curable by removing it and I am expected to have a full recovery.

Even though nearby Eisenhower Hospital is rated as one of the best in the country, I wanted the best surgeon available for this operation. I did a Google search on my cancer and discovered Dr. Robert J. McKenna at Cedars-Sinai in Los Angeles invented a non invasive flexible bronchoscopy, video assisted thoracic lymphadenectomy operation and had performed more than 2,500 such operations. Additionally, he was rated the best surgeon in the country for this type of operation. By chance, another of my friends had used his services and I used him as a reference.

On May 24th,l telephoned Dr. Robert McKenna's office and his assistant wanted to know when I'd like to arrive. She said he's in on Monday and Wednesday and operates on Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. I made an appointment with him for 2:00 p.m., on Wednesday, May 26. I could be operated on Thursday May 27 providing he thinks I'm a good candidate. I needed all of the CDs, records of my CT & CAT Scan tests. I had the CDs but had to pick up the test and pathology reports. I subsequently did that later in the afternoon. He also needed my breathing test results. I had Dr. Tavakoli's assistant FAX them to her that day. Also needed was a recent EKG. I had my cardiologist's office FAX it to her. I also said I'd stoped taking Coumadin (blood thinner). The last time I took it was Sunday afternoon. I telephoned my cardiologist's office to tell them what I was doing and his assistants called back and said what I'm doing is OK. I asked Dr. McKenna's assistant if my wife can stay in my room on a cot. She can. I telephoned Cedars-Sinai Admissions and asked what the extra charge to have my wife stay in my room and there is no extra charge.

My wife and I hired a driver to drive us the 125 miles to Cedars-Sinai and stay with us through our initial Dr. interview to see if I was going to be accepted as a surgical patient. The interview went well and I was accepted as a patient. I would be admitted and operated on the next day. We sent our driver home and my wife and I Checked in to the nearby Le Parc Suite Hotel for the night.

The next morning we checked into Cedars-Sinai Hospital and I was prepared for my operation. It lasted for about an hour and a half, I was sent to recovery for a couple of hours then back to my room which was to be home for six days.

Since it was a "non invasive" operation, no ribs were broken. The top lobe of my right lung and lymph nodes were removed for good measure. The pathology report on my lung lobe confirmed what the biopsy showed and the lymph nodes showed no sign of any cancer.

The worst part of the operation was having two 3/4 inch drainage hoses sticking our my right side which had to follow me when I used the bathroom. Removal of those hoses as well as a catheter from my penis and an enema all administered by a beautiful young nurse proved to be not the most enjoyable experience. However, the hospital staff was wonderful to both my wife and myself. Interestingly, I gained 12 pounds during my stay even though I only ate two small bowls of Oatmeal and two pieces of toast during my six day stay. I'm sure the food was tasty but I had no appetite. The weight gain was due to the fluids being dripped into my arm. Water weight.

Dr. McKenna visited me many times and was polite, thorough and professional. He said I could check out on Tuesday, June 1, which we did. Our driver picked us up and we were on our way home by 11:00 a.m. That night I had my wife call 911 and was transported to nearby Eisenhower Hospital because of shortness of breath. That subsided and I was sent home during the early AM hours the next day.

June 8th, one week after discharge, our driver returned us to Dr. McKenna's office for a follow up visit. He said everything looks good. Medically I can do anything I want, go to the gym, fly, drive etc. He knew however, I was incapable of doing much of anything for at least two weeks. I think he was spoofing me a bit.

Exercise I did by plotting a 135 foot course through the house and walking around it 10 times at least 5-6 times a day. I think i wore a path into the carpeting doing this. I also had to inhale on a device with three balls in their individual cylinders and to suck them to the top of the device. This was to exercise my lungs.

Because of the healing small incisions in my right side, and the pain they caused, I was unable to sleep in my bed for about 10 days. I slept in my family room recliner which was fine because I didn't wake my wife when I was up at 1:00 a.m and 4:00 a.m., doing my walking exercise.

On June 10th, I visited my cardiologist to make sure that department was working properly. It was! He told me an interesting fact. I had given him a copy of my biopsy and operation pathology reports and he said my type of cancer often grows out of scar tissue. Interesting! I'm going to avoid my lung scar tissue in the future.

To get better faster, more exercise is needed. So on June 14 I walked outside in the cool early morning hours and walked 1/2 mile. The next day, I doubled it and walked a mile and did it again the next day and continued each day.

Healing continues. My surgeon told me "total" recovery will take six weeks. I'm a high activity type of person and as of June 17th, I'm entering my third week since my operation and I'm beginning to believe the surgeon about his six week estimate.

Was the early detection and correction worth the inconvenience, and pain? If you have a happy full filling enjoyable life - YOU BET IT IS! If you don't, that is your call. I have my Higher Power, whom I call GOD, to thank for putting all of the small incidents and wonderful people (especially my self proclaimed Bitchy wife) and personal friends, together to make this happen in the manner and time it did. I am forever grateful to all of them for their concern, help and kindness.

Six month follow-ups with my Drs. Tavakoli and VaFai, and cardiologist are necessary to ensure this nasty disease does not return but that is a small price to pay for THE GIFT OF EXTENDED LIFE!

[1] New England Journal of Medicine, 2006, Oct 26.Survival of patients with stage 1 lung cancer detected on CT screening.
International Early Lung Cancer Action Program Investigators, Henschke " ... we screened ... using low dose CT ... 27,456 repeated screenings were performed 7-18 months after the previous screening. ... Of these participants 412 had clinical stage 1 lung cancer ... Among 302 participants with clinical stage 1 cancer who underwent surgical resection within 1 month after diagnosis, the survival rate was 92%. The 8 participants with clinical stage 1 cancer who did not receive treatment died within 5 years after diagnosis. Conclusions: Annual spiral CT screening can detect lung cancer that is curable."

Thursday, November 12, 2009

A friend sent this item to me that might be a help to you and to the country.

Hi Everyone,
I want to share with you some great information that I found out, purely by accident. I believe it can also save and create jobs in America , while giving people better customer service.
So, how many times have you called a company's service phone line and found that the rep. can barely speak English? Once, with a major mortgage company, it was so bad I demanded to speak with someone who spoke English. Right at that moment, I broke the code, the secret password for customer service.
Come to find out that every American company using overseas operators must transfer you to an American representative by saying...

" I want to speak to a representative in America ."
(Don't take no for an answer on this.)

This was confirmed by the American rep. that they must transfer you after that request. I've tried it on a half a dozen major companies, including cable, bank, phone, and mortgage companies. It works every time and I actually get my issues taken care of.


Sunday, January 04, 2009

A Reverse Dictionary for Everyone

A Reverse Dictionary For Everyone
by (Jack) Harold McLaughlin, Ph.D.

“That’s nice you say, but what is it?” No! It’s not a thesaurus or even a dictionary. It’s for anyone, or everyone who knows what they want to say but just can’t find the correct word to say it – no matter how hard they search the misty reaches of their vocabulary. With this on line gem, you merely define a concept, type it into the search block and – EUREKA – a list of possible definitions appear than can number in the hundreds. Don’t get too excited though as after the first 10 or 20 the words don’t seem to fit.
Excited? Good! The on line address is: www.onelook.com/reverse-dictionary.shtml

I put it to the test and entered, “Earth or stone embankment protecting soldiers from enemy fire.” The first word of more than 600 hundred was “parapet.” My American Heritage Dictionary said that is correct.

My second test was, “Buildings external angle or corner.” The first and tenth words respectively were “Quoin and cornerstone.” Right again! I also clicked on the program’s “Translations dot” and got the following definitions: noun: the keystone of an arch noun: expandable metal or wooden wedge used by printers to lock up a form within a chase noun: (architecture) solid exterior angle of a building; especially one formed by a cornerstone. That feature also allowed translation into eight languages. I clicked on Dutch and it translated but I couldn’t read a word of it. No surprise there.

Another feature is to search each word in your statement individually. You’ll get a lot of responses but not all of them will be useful.

The program also allows searching for the beginning of words such as buil* or word ending such as *rner. Adding the star symbol at the end of a partial word means that it searches for all words beginning with the letters preceding the star. Adding the star before a partial word searches for all words with the letters following the star.

This is a great program for those of us who have reached the age where the dark reaches of our minds sometimes remain dark especially when we need those reaches the most. It’s well worth keeping on your computer’s, “Favorite places.” It may save your sanity.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008


A Short Story
Harold (Jack) McLaughlin, Ph.D.

My friends, John and Mary (not their real names) moved into an old Victorian House about 35 or more years ago in a historic town in rural central Missouri. This story is about actual events but real names and places are not used to protect the privacy of the living -- and dead. This historic town is idyllic, small, with most of the Victorian homes legally designated as “historic” meaning, renovations must retain their original look. On the town’s east side is a beautiful natural lake, with many homes situated on the lake’s shore. Beautiful old trees, Oaks, Maples, Elms and Pine of many varieties line the streets of this old town.

During summer months, these huge old trees form a virtual tunnel of green through the town’s streets and pathways. For a few short weeks during the fall months, the leaves change, painting a picture of beautiful color, green, flaming red, orange and yellow and many shades in between. A large round clock sits on a tall pedestal in the meridian of main-street, providing the time of day for the convenience of all. Bells in a nearby church steeple gong at noon to alert townspeople and visitors alike that it is time for lunch.

Town center has a large ornate elevated gazebo where local talent provides free musical concerts on Friday and Saturday nights for the town’s people during the warm summer months. A cider mill is nearby is set back in an Oak woods where residents enjoy freshly squeezed Apple cider and warm donuts while their children play on swings and teeter totters. The entire area makes one feel like they have stepped back into the mid nineteenth century when the world moved slower and people were friendlier.

Our friend’s house is equally idyllic, built in 1890 on five acres of wooded land with a red barn in back of the property for storage of a motorized lawnmower and other tools needed to keep this old house and surrounding grounds in good repair. Two very old and knurled Apple trees in the backyard are beyond producing edible fruit but the visiting deer don’t seem to mind eating the bounty of countless bushels small wormy fruit they produce each year. A swing made from an a bald automobile tire suspended by a sturdy rope from a large knurled branch from one old Apple tree and is there for the pleasure of their visiting grand children and children of neighborhood children. In one corner of the yard is a small pond kept full of clean, cold, water from an underground spring. It is home to several species of fish such as Sunfish, Bluegill and Croppies as well as Snapping Turtles, Ducks and an occasional goose. John and Mary’s children enjoyed fishing this pond when they were young, and now their grandchildren and a new generation of great grandchildren enjoy it too.

This big, beautiful, three story home is situated on a country road outside of town. It is made of wood painted white with a porch that encircles the entire house, which is great for those summer barbeques. A large Gazebo sits on the shady side of the porch and provides protection from the sun and rain for family and guests when used in the summer and fall months for outdoor parties. Most of the glass windows throughout the house’s several stories are original, and have bubbly imperfections that make it difficult to replace when broken. The basement features a steam furnace that heats the house very efficiently with tall radiators in every room. This deep basement is also used as a cool pantry to store Mary’s home canned goods and for John’s workroom needed for his many tools to keep the house in repair.

The first floor houses the kitchen, dining room, sewing room, a tiny bathroom and living room, all with 12-foot ceilings. Their upstairs has five bedrooms and a bathroom. I’ve never been in the attic and have no desire to venture there for reasons that soon will become obvious.

When John and Mary moved into this house so many years ago, they found they had an unwelcome and permanent unwanted guest, a ghost. John was the first one to discover this active and mischievous ghost. One day, John returned for the local market with about a dozen cans of peaches and stored them in the kitchen pantry. The next day he wanted one of those cans and they were gone, nowhere to be found. He asked Mary if she had used them and she had not, in fact she had not seen them since John stored then in the pantry. His young son and daughter had not seen them either. He was perplexed and dismissed the issue, for the time being. He felt a more thorough search of the house would be in order the next day. However, the next day’s search of all rooms in the house, including the attic was fruitless (pun intended). More than a month passed then almost magically, the missing cans of Peaches had mysteriously reappeared, just where he had stored them and in the same order and position, as far as he could remember. Some months later, John put his wallet on his dresser as he usually did when he undressed and got ready for bed. The next morning his wallet was gone, disappeared, never to return again, ever. He was starting to get an eerie feeling about his house and wondered if indeed he had a permanent invisible houseguest.

His concerns increased when his young daughter said someone or something was pushing her down the stairway, from the second to first floor. This did not happen just once, but many times. Fortunately, each time this happened, his young daughter was able to recover her balance and no harm came to her. For some reason, John and Mary seemed to sense this entity was a little girl and they sought help to confirm their suspicions. Activity seemed to be greatest in a small sewing room adjacent to the master bedroom. Strange and unexplained things continued to happen in this room. Since this entity was not going to leave, they wondered what they could do, so they could peacefully co-exist as they loved this old house and didn’t want to move.

My mother was a psychic of sorts and was always giving her family and friends readings with Tarot cards. She was experienced in such matters because she and my father attended and hosted Spiritualists séances in their homes and their friend’s homes during the 1940’s and 1950’s when such a practice was in vogue. As a young boy, my older sister and I would put our ears to the cold air return register of our house and listen to the strange sounds and voices emanating from the basement where those spooky séances were conducted. Those voices and eerie sounds did not sound like the voices any of the attending Spiritualists nor of this world. Hearing those eerie sounds frightened my sister and I but we continued to listen and even looked forward to these strange sessions. I wonder, to this day, were those real or somehow manufactured by the Spiritualists themselves but doing so would be counter productive for their fellow member Spiritualists, especially since they rotated to meetings to one another’s houses..

John and Mary asked me to invite my mother to their house so she could give them her opinion if they had an unwelcome guest. My mother accepted their invitation. Upon her arrival, she went through the basement, and all the rooms in the first and second floors. She did indeed sense an entity and also felt it was a playful little girl, one who did not want to leave HER house to “strangers.” My mother had no suggestions for John and Mary how to co-exist with this now identified and unwelcome invisible little girl – playful or not!

Mary was not going to leave her house she loved so much because of this “playful” invisible imp. She thought and thought and finally decided to try to reason with her. One day she went into the small room thought to be the little girl’s and sat down and started to talk with her. First, Mary named her ghost, “Mary Jane” a nice name for a little girl; it may not have been her real name but it is better than calling her nothing. She then started her conversation by saying, “Now I don’t know your real name and since you can’t talk to me, I’ll refer to you as Mary-Jane. Mary –Jane, my name is Mary and my husband’s name is John. Our son’s name is Jim and our daughter’s name is Sally. We bought his house to be ours and now it belongs to us. This may have been your home at one time but now it is ours. We don’t mind sharing it with you so long as you behave by not taking our things and not push our daughter down the back stairway.” Mary continued these talks with Mary Jane almost every day for weeks.

Gradually, these conversations seemed to be effective as things disappeared then reappeared less and less frequently and Sally was not pushed down the steps any longer. Finally Mary Jane quieted down and only rarely would she pull pranks on them or their workers or friends. A truce seemed to exist between the family and Mary Jane.

But not completely! Mary’s large dining room, as was the rest of the house, decorated in early American, the period in which the house was built. Mary is quite creative and has a talent for decorating and quilting, her two great loves. In her dining room, she had a life size, department store mannequin beautifully dressed in period clothing. The arms of this mannequin were movable but not the wrists or hands. One day, Mary’s cleaning lady, Lois, was going about her duties, cleaning the floor and dusting when Mary asked Lois if she could manage on her own as she, Mary had to run some errands. Lois thought that would be fine, not a problem at all. Mary departed to complete her errands while Lois was all by herself in this very large, beautifully decorated house. Lois was then busy mopping Mary’s large dining room floor when Mary Jane had a mischievous moment. She somehow made the mannequin’s wrists move as though it was waving at Lois. Lois was frightened out of her wits, almost had a heart attack, and ran out of the house, not to return.

Upon her return home, Mary found the house open, a bucket and a mop in the middle of the floor and Lois not to be found. Mary telephoned her to find out why she left so quickly. She told Mary what happened and said she would not return, not as long as that spiritually activated mannequin was around and she’d never stay alone in her house.

Mary was quite annoyed with Mary Jane and had another heart to heart talk with her about this turn of events. Now Mary had to find a new cleaning lady, which was no easy task as the word spreads in a small community about what had happened at her house. The talk must have done some good as Mary Jane was quiet once again - for a time.

Several years later, John and Mary’s children grew up, moved away and started their own families. John was, at the time, renovating a room in the house and hired a handyman, expert in that particular task. The handyman had worked there for several days and became friends with John and they shared stories about their respective families. In so doing, John mentioned he had no children or grand children living with them in this big house, only he and his wife Mary. One day, John was at work and Mary was away doing errands. The handyman, who had not heard rumors about this house, arrived one-day to continue his work. He had a key to the house so he could work when John or Mary was not home. The handyman arrived one day, unloaded his tools and material he had brought for the job and in so doing, he looked up at the window in the attic. There he saw Many-Jane who had materialized her self, looking out the window at him. The handyman was so frightened; he dropped his tools, got back in the truck and drove away, not to return again.

When John and Mary returned, they found the handyman’s tools and material but no handyman in sight. John called him and the handyman told him what happened. John listened and understood. Now he had to find someone else to finish the job. Not an easy thing to do under the circumstances. Another talk with Mary Jane followed and she was quiet once again – for awhile.

My wife Ann and I owned our own business and throughout the years, traveled a great deal, often returning to this small town to visit John and Mary, staying with them in their haunted house. Since I have always had more than a passing interest in the paranormal, because of my parent’s activities in this field when I was a boy, I had always wanted to experience their ghost, Mary Jane. I always hoped to see or experience their “permanent house guest” but that was not to be, at least not for a while. However my wife did get such an opportunity some years after the workman’s incident. Mary Jane had been quiet during this period of relative peace.

One year, Ann had an occasion to visit John and Mary and upon her arrival she rented a car at the airport and drove to their house and was their guest for several days. Ann was given the room that Mary Jane seemed to occupy the most. Ann stored her rental car’s keys in her suitcase when she didn’t need to use them. On the day she needed the car, she searched for her keys and they were not to be found even though she removed everything for the suitcase. She had to call the rental car company who delivered her another set of keys. The next day, she was scheduled to leave John and Mary’s; she opened her suitcase to finish packing it for travel. When she opened it, her missing keys were right on top in easy view. Evidently, Mary Jane was up to her old antics.

A couple of years later, it was my turn to visit John and Mary’s as I was on a business trip in their area. I accepted their invitation to stay with them during my stay. I thought this might be my chance to have a sought after “encounter with Mary Jane” or so I thought. I was also given the room that Mary Jane was supposed to frequent the most. John had a plan to make my wish come true but kept it to himself.

That night I went to bed in the assigned room which was adjacent to John and Mary’s. At 2:30 a.m., my bed started to shake, hard enough to simulate a violent earth quake which of course awoke me. Even though I wanted an encounter with Mary Jane, I was frightened out of my wits. I got out of my shaking bed, and I too was shaking, removed a Crucifix from the wall and held it up over my head in hopes it would ward off this unwanted spirit. I ran to John and Mary’s room, wearing only my Jockey shorts, still holding the Crucifix over my head, yelling that Mary Jane was shaking my bed. They of course were very startled and concerned for my safety, or so it seemed. Even though John was startled, he was wearing a slight smirk. I got suspicious, returned to the room with my shaking bed, still shaking. I got on my hands and knees, looked under the bed and found a vibrator on a timer affixed to a hollowed out section of the mattress. By this time, John and Mary were howling with laughter. I had been had, really had, but good! I almost got my wish to see some of the “other side” but not in the way I had imagined. And yes, we are still friends to this day! Each time we get together, John, Mary, Ann, me and other friends, that story is retold, over and over, with a bit of embellishment with each telling. The joke was on me. That was more than 20 years ago but I still have to laugh at myself. And no, I still have not seen or met, the one I have wanted to meet for so many years, Mary Jane! Perhaps I will when it is my turn to “cross over” into the unknown.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Exercise - It Saved My Life - It Could Save Yours Too

Exercise - It Saved My Life - It Could Save Yours Too

I am a big man with a lifelong weight problem, 5' 9 ½", 245 pounds. I have tried every diet known to man, plus have taken innumerable doctor prescribed shots and pills all with short-term results. The weight always returned - and then some!

In desperation, I even joined a class of Overeaters Anonymous where the other 20 members were very overweight women. After attending about 10 meetings I noticed none of them were losing any weight. During the discussion period they said it didn't matter that they weren't losing pounds because they were getting in touch with themselves and were became satisfied with who they were. During my last meeting, I jokingly asked, "Who brought the chocolate cake for our refreshment period." Collectively, they took a dim view of that statement and promptly kicked me out of the group. I guess they just didn't like men. It didn't matter. I didn't lose any weight anyway.

Unfortunately, like so many other people whose bodies share a similar gene structure as mine, our body's processes food in a much too efficient manner. They seem to extract even the smallest calorie component from the food we eat and turn it into FAT! Doctors and friends alike say I just eat too much and eat the wrong kinds of food. How can such nutritious foods as potato chips, ice cream and hot dogs possibly be the wrong kind of food?

To keep from being "really" fat, I exercise a lot! I workout very hard in the gym one and a half hours three times per week, do difficult 3-9 hour desert and mountain hikes often and frequently ride a mountain bike 25 or more miles. Except for colds, I am rarely sick.

Three months before my "incident", at age 64, 12,000 other people and I rode the twice-annual 50-mile bicycle ride from Rosarito Beach to Ensenada, Mexico, where three quarters the distance is in the mountains. Typically, that ride should only take 4 ½ to 5 hours to complete. It took me six hours but I made it while many others did not. Two weeks before my "incident", I was hiking for several hours at the 9,500-foot level in the San Jacinto Mountains near my home in Palm Springs, California. One weekend before my "incident" I was hiking for several hours in the desert then came home to play with my grandson in our backyard pool. Following that I went to my home office, sat in my chair and dozed off into a half hour deep sleep, something I rarely did but I didn?t pay any attention to it.

The following week I saw a doctor for the sole purpose of having him prescribe the then, popular magic diet pill that miraculously takes away a person?s appetite. Supposedly, this magic pill had no nasty side effects. Fortunately he took a dim view of this pill and didn't prescribe it. A few months later the "magic pill" was taken off the market because it caused permanent heart defects in many people who did take it.

Since I was in his office, and hadn't had a complete physical since President Truman was in office, he suggested I have one. I reluctantly agreed to it. Enter the, "Incident." He gave me an EKG and immediately referred me to a cardiologist. The cardiologist recommended I immediately have an angiogram, an operating room procedure to determine where the blood is or is not going to your heart. During that procedure a heart surgeon was called to observe. Having a heart surgeon in to observe the fun and games was definitely not a good sign. Sure enough, I had five blockages, several, including "the widow maker artery" was 95% blocked and the remainder in the 80's percent range. I remained in the hospital and the next working day, a quadruple bypass was performed (somehow they made a two for one patch). During the operation the cardiologist came out of the operating room to tell my wife that "this man should be dead" because of the stressful things I had done and do on a regular basis.

Later I asked the doctor why I should have been dead. He said from the exertion I put my body through, and with my artery blockages, my heart should not have been getting the blood it needed. I asked how it was getting what it needed. He said thanks to the exercise that could have killed me, caused my body to develop peripheral blood paths that provided just enough blood to keep my heart from being damaged. I was one very lucky man! A year later I closed down my stressful high technology consulting business to be a card-carrying Social Security and Medicare recipient.

It is true the exercise could have caused my death, but if I had led a more docile lifestyle and had not exercised I would have surely died from the blockages.

Ten years later, and in my 74th year, I still keep my exercise, hiking and biking regimen and I'm still the same size 245 pound man. I take blood pressure and cholesterol medication, have doctor checkups twice each year and eat a low fat diet (that means no potato chips, ice cream and hot dogs.) all of which help control plaque build up in my arteries but not my weight. I continue to enjoy each day and thank God for allowing me to have more of them after cheating an almost certain death.

My recommendation to all of you couch potatoes is to put down your bowl of potato chips, get away from the TV and go for a brisk 45-minute walk and have a checkup once each year. It could just help you to stay on this earth plane longer, keep your spouse from benefiting from your life insurance policy and looking for a younger partner.

(Jack) Harold J. McLaughlin, Ph.D.
email: jackmcla@aol.com

Sunday, July 30, 2006



Jack McLaughlin, Ph.D.

You do and I do! And everyone in this country needs to be prepared! In today's climate of natural disasters such as earthquakes, hurricanes, tornados, floods etc., and man made disasters such as those caused by aging utility systems and terrorism, every person and community needs to be prepared for such an event. I arrived at this emphatic statement from a recent experience while on summer vacation.

During early August, a few years ago, my wife Bev and I left for our annual seven-week stay in Northville, Michigan. Northville is in the southeastern part of the state about 35 miles north west of Detroit. We traded Southern California's desert's usually hot and dry weather for the east's and midwest's hot and humid weather. Northville was hot, rainy and humid when we arrived on August 5th. Many of the eastern and midwestern states were enjoying(?) the same weather as Northville. Hot and sticky weather usually means everyone uses power, lots of it. Now you know what is coming next.

On Thursday, August 14 at 4:14 PM, eight eastern and midwestern states suffered the effects of the nation?s biggest power blackout in history. It was also felt in Toronto and Ottawa, Canada. It reportedly was caused by the failure of three transmission lines in northern Ohio. It affected an estimated 50 million people, surpassing the 30 million in the 1965 Eastern Untied States power blackout.

Now the fun starts that prove how vulnerable the entire country is and how all citizens need to be prepared for such an emergency. When the power went off in the greater Detroit area, it affected 2.1 million homes and businesses served by Detroit Edison, the area's power company. When it hit, Bev and I were in our furnished apartment. We, like many people were not prepared and suffered the consequences.

The first thing that went out was communications, radio, cell and cordless phones. We didn?t know what had happened and that was the scary part. Terrorists? Natural disaster? How widespread? How long will it last? No one knew. There were no immediate answers.

Thanks to their emergency generators, radio stations were back on line in short order but cell phone service was spotty throughout the ordeal. Since we didn't have a battery-powered radio, we listened to a car radio and learned the degree of the outage. That still didn't answer the question; What caused it ? Terrorists?

Bev and I tried to call nearby friends but they didn't answer their phone. We drove there and discovered they only had cordless phones connected to their lines. Cordless phones didn?t work because they need ac power to operate. Corded phones do work because they use dc power supplied by the Telephone Company and is distributed to the small wall sockets phones are plugged into. Fortunately, they had a corded phone and plugged it in.

Unfortunately, these friends did not have a small battery powered radio but did have a boom box that required six-D size batteries. They only had five. They couldn?t buy another because the stores were closed. Stores had no power to operate lights, refrigeration, cash registers or their machines to run credit card purchases. Our friends did have an extra, dimly lit, small flashlight to loan Bev and I to supplement the tiny one Bev carry's in her purse.

Bev and I took the back roads to another friend's house in Northville to avoid traffic. Our friends loaned us a battery-powered radio, candles and matches. Since we don?t smoke we don't carry matches. They don't smoke either and could only find a half package of matches to give us to light the candles. They also gave us a D cell battery but didn't know if it was any good. They didn't have a battery tester. We took our loaned treasures and returned to our other friend?s house and gave them the battery. Fortunately it worked and they could run their boom box radio. While there, we discovered their toilets wouldn't flush because the water pressure was dropping. We were able to fill buckets with water from slow flowing faucets and flushed the toilets by pouring the water directly into them.

The people in Detroit?s center city and surrounding communities were having a bad time too because the power outage hit at quitting time on a Thursday afternoon. The traffic signals were not operating and caused immense traffic jams. The commuters were generally polite and took their turn at traffic signals, now four way stop streets, but it took some of them three to four hours to drive home.

Bev and I returned to our very hot and humid apartment with our loaned radio, candles and matches. We took an inventory of what we had and didn't have. We didn't have any bottled water but we did have a supply of diet coke and Vernors ginger ale in the pantry and in the refrigerator. Our kitchen range and microwave were useless because they too are electrically powered. Our freshly stocked freezer would be OK for about 24 hours or more if we didn?t open it, which we didn't. We knew our refrigerator held some cooked pork chops and chicken, fruit, soft drinks, lunch-meat, vegetables, bread and cheese. We planned what we wanted out of the refrigerator before we opened it, removed what we wanted and quickly closed the door. We wanted to keep what cooling remained to avoid spoiling the rest of the food.

That evening was spent listening to the radio for news about the blackout and when it would end. We sat and sweat in the heat and humidity. When we weren't listening to the radio, we read to keep our mind off our immediate problems. It got dark around 8:45 PM so we lit our three candles. Their wicks were stubborn and didn't light easily. We used almost all our matches. Finally all three were lit and we had a few matches left for later use.

Since there was nothing to do we went to bed early. While brushing our teeth, we noted our faucet water pressure was dropping fast and the water was now just a trickle.

Overnight our water situation worsened thanks to Detroit's Water and Sewage department. It operates the world?s third largest water system and provides water to 126 southeastern Michigan communities and 4.3 million customers. The water department's pumps didn?t work because it didn't have power either. Apparently it had no backup power generators.

On Friday morning, we woke up around 6:30 AM to a very hot, powerless and waterless apartment. We still had no electrical power to run our air conditioner and appliances. To make matters worse, no water to drink, brush our teeth or flush our toilets. To keep our toilets from clogging we deposited soiled toilet tissue in a plastic bag for later disposal.

Bev and I dressed and went to our Apartment's office & clubhouse at 7:15 AM to see if it would be serving a continental breakfast for residents as it does on Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings. It was and an office employee was setting out milk and orange juice (cooled by ice purchased yesterday), Bear Claws, breakfast bars and cereal. We enjoyed the milk, juice, cereal and bear claws.

The young lady setting up the breakfast said her parent's apartment, where she also lives, owns a fish aquarium filled with rare fish costing thousands of dollars. When the power failed, the aquarium's pump stopped. By morning, the expensive fish were dead. A young working resident joined us for breakfast. She had to travel on her job but had no cash, not even a penny, nor could she get any at ATM's because they require electricity to work. She eventually borrowed from her mother.

Our apartment?s community's swimming pool was off limits to residents because the pool pump couldn?t run without power. This meant the water couldn?t be circulated, filtered and purified. Residents however were allowed to collect pool water in buckets to flush their toilets. If residents didn't have a bucket, the office had a few to loan. Our apartment building was a block away from the pool and our apartment was on the second story with no elevator. The trek, with filled bucket in hand, was worth the effort, considering the alternative.

Later in the day I decided to empty our garbage. I took it to the community's disposal area and the driveway to it was blocked. A sign on the disposal bin asked residents not to use it because there was no power to operate the compactor. Residents were asked to use a maintenance bin located a half-mile away.

Radio newscasters were constantly giving updates on traffic conditions, open gas stations and stores. Some freeways were closed during the day because of scattered heavy rain causing some flooding. Other freeways were crowded with people driving to areas in Michigan that had power and water.

Most gas stations were without power and were closed. The few that were open had their own backup generators and were swamped with customers with dry or near dry gas tanks. Lines at these stations were hours long. Police monitored these stations to prevent altercations between hot and impatient customers. A couple altercations did take place but the police quickly quelled them before anyone was hurt.

Some Meijers super stores were reported open and one was located near our apartment. I drove there hoping to buy ice, water and D batteries. I got there too late. The huge parking lot was filled as well as the store. Meijers was running on its own backup generators. Not all the store lights were on and the few open checkout lines backed up almost to the rear of the store. A sign at the store's entrance said it had no ice, water or batteries. I promptly left empty-handed.

Bev and I spent the afternoon at our friend's house in Northville. For an unknown reason, they had water but at reduced pressure. We washed our hands and face. That felt really good! At 4:25 PM, their power came on. We were overjoyed. We returned to our apartment and it too had power. We checked the food in our refrigerator and determined everything in the freezer was still frozen except two large sausages that were beginning to thaw. Bev cooked both packages of meat, ate some and froze the rest. We checked the food in the refrigerator and decided what had to be discarded. Fortunately, there wasn?t much in it because we?re on vacation and we generally buy only what we need on a daily basis.

At 9:55 PM our tap water began to flow, slowly at first, spewing air in the lines as water trickled out, then hours later, full pressure. Water for bathing, but not for drinking, at least not directly from the tap. We were cautioned not to drink the water unless we boiled it for five minutes. Bev boiled a pot for brushing our teeth. We showered then went to bed, very happy and relieved.

By early Saturday morning most, but not all of Detroit Edison's customers had power but not at full strength. Users were cautioned not to use their air conditioners and large appliances. The system was fragile and was only one power station away from collapse. 3,000 Customers were still without power by Saturday night and were not expected to have it back until Sunday.

Throughout Saturday, supermarkets and restaurants began to open. Gas stations were pumping gas, albeit with higher prices by as much as 15 cents more per gallon. Stores were restocking water and ice brought in from surrounding areas not affected by the blackout.

On Monday, things returned to normal with one major exception; tap water was still not potable unless it was first boiled for five minutes. At 3:00 PM, a laboratory in Dearborn tested the water and declared it potable. The crisis was over ...for some! The financial toll on restaurants and supermarkets was heavy because of the spoiled or questionable food they had to throw out. The cost is in the tens of thousands of dollars for each restaurant and hundreds of thousands for markets. It will take months for them to recover from these losses.

I've shared my lessons learned in this disaster to illustrate how important it is to be prepared ... individually and the community. Many communities have Disaster Response Teams who prepare action plans that can be acted upon if the need arises. If your community does not have one I urge you to petition your elected officials to put one in place. Many of us are complacent without out an immediate need. But, we all appreciated it when the need arises. In these perilous times, a disaster, natural or otherwise can strike at any time. Like the Boy Scout Motto says, BE PREPARED!

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Gargantuan Banana Split

Gargantuan Banana Split at the Central Dairy inJefferson City, Missouri
By(Jack) Harold J. Mc Laughlin, Ph.D.

Central Dairy
610 Madison Street
Jefferson City, Missouri 65101
Telephone: (573) 635-6148

Each time my wife Bev and I visit our friends of 50 years, Bob & Jody Jones in Missouri, 35 miles south west of Jefferson City, they take us to our favored spot in all of Missouri ? well ? almost all ? the Central Dairy in downtown Jefferson City. This is home to the biggest, grandest, tastiest, most diet destroying banana spilt in all the universe.

The Central Dairy is not just any old ice cream shop; it makes its own ice cream and can put Baskin & Robbins to shame with its 31 flavors. I didn?t count them at Central Dairy but there are at lest that many if not more. Regardless of the number, each flavor is rich in fat that makes ice cream so tasty ? and diet busting ? but just looking at all that goodness makes one throw caution to the wind and indulge ? and it?s so inexpensive. Ben & Jerry, eat your heart out.

The Dairy is reminiscent of the ice cream soda fountains of the 50s & 60s but without a soda bar. There are plenty of window booths where one can sit at ease and contemplate and discuss the goodness that is about to bestow them as their order is being prepared. A long red & white striped awning cover all the windows, and protects those customers dreaming of their ?sugar plums? in the making, from the hot sun.

The biggest decision one makes after deciding he or she is going to have a banana split it to decide on the ice cream flavors and the toppings that are so numerous it?s hard to count them all. The banana split expert begins the creation in the usual manner by splitting a ripe banana lengthwise and positions the pieces in a banana split ?boat.? She then scoops out six ? that?s right ? six huge scoops of your selected flavors. These are not just puny petite scoops but ?Hungry Man? sized scoops that are placed three to a row on top of the bananas and three more on top of the first three. She then places the banana bowl on a large piece of waxed paper before adding the finishing touches of three or more toppings, such as Marshmallow, chocolate, caramel, Strawberry, Raspberry ? and then she tops it off with whipped cream and a sprinkling of nuts.When she is done, these toppings, in great abundance, run off the side of the banana boat onto the waxed paper. You then pay the bill, an ?enormous? $4, up from $3.50 in 1999 and $3.00 in 1998, and carry your treasure, gingerly to your table, being careful not to spill any bit of it?s goodness ? and say to yourself, ?How can this be so inexpensive??

My friend Bob and I then engage in a contest to see if we can eat it all ? without getting sick. We tear into it with gusto then slow down when we?re satiated but we both don?t give up until the last bit in the ?boat? is gone. We then finish by scooping the stray remnants from the waxed paper. We then sit back, in a sigh of relief and satisfaction that neither one of us won the contest. Our wives, however, stare at us in a look of bewilderment and perhaps a touch of disgust, that two old men could act so childish over a gargantuan banana split. Ah ? but it was so good and satisfying. We just hope that our ulcers don?t act up and spoil the whole thing ? but still, it was worth it!

Thursday, June 08, 2006




Harold J. McLaughlin, Ph.D.

Some things in life you just can?t put a price on, such as watching the birth of a new life coming into the world, the smile of one?s mate in appreciation for something you?ve done, watching children smile as they open birthday or Christmas presents, or just snuggling up with a loved one in front of a fireplace with a blazing fire on a cold winters night.

I recently had such an experience. It was on a Thursday night, two days away from Father?s Day on Sunday. No it wasn?t my grown son who called but my grandson, Austin. He had to call his, ?Popsy-Bo-Bopsy,? his latest name for me, on an urgent matter. The next morning his Kindergarten class was having a father?s day celebration with handmade gifts for the fathers, a class poem presentation, and donuts, juice and chocolate milk for refreshments. Austin?s father could not get off work to attend but grandfathers, brothers or uncles were also welcome to stand in for the absent fathers. Just to make sure no child would be disappointed, mothers too were welcome if a male representative could not attend. Austin?s teacher thought of everything.

Austin loves and idolizes his father, Jim and Jim in turn loves Austin just as much and the two of them do many things together. Jim and Austin have built a play- house together, play basketball, catch, golf and even go roller blading together. Jim also has the ?patience of Jobe? when it comes to assembling Austin?s ?zillion? part Lego toys that require adult assembly help. When Jim relaxes from his heavy work schedule in the garage on his favorite chair, smoking his pipe (he can?t do that indoors) Austin is right there with him. Jim has drawn a scale model of an aircraft carrier on the garage floor so Austin can play pretend ?ships? while Jim enjoys his pipe ? and Austin plays pretend ?ships.?

Jim was very disappointed not being able to attend this very important occasion in his son?s life. Popsy-Bo-Bopsy would make a suitable substitute in this case but in no way could he replace his father. Actually it was my wife, Bev who took his call. A good thing too because Popsy-Bo-Bopsy is hard of hearing, especially when it comes to children?s high pitched voices that are out of his hearing range.

Bev asked me if I would go to his very important event. Austin lives in San Diego and Bev and I live in the Palm Springs, California area, which is a two hour and 15 minute drive to Austin?s house; plus the same amount of return time. This being our only grandchild, how could we say no? He was overjoyed that he would have someone in his classroom the next day.

Bev and I got up at 5:00 AM the next morning, showered and dressed and we were off at 6:00 AM. We arrived at 8:15 AM, a full thirty-five minutes before Austin and I had to leave for his school. When it was time to leave, a neighbor father and his two boys joined us for the several block walk to school. Austin proudly held my hand as we set out for the walk, happy that his ?Popsy-Bo-Bopsy? was there with him. However, he soon tired of this as he and his friends bounded ahead of the father and I, playing some sort of a child?s game while pulling their wheeled book back packs behind them.

When we arrived at the school, his friends and father separated from us as they went to a different classroom. Austin once again, but this time with authority, took my hand and proudly led me to his classroom. Upon arrival, Austin and two other boys ?roughhoused? together while I sat on some steps talking with other fathers, much younger than I.

Finally it was time and the teacher greeted her students and parents and other adult representatives, and welcomed them to her classroom. She has a ritual she performs whenever anyone enters her classroom. She gives each one a squirt of a liquid disinfectant on their hands to help prevent hand borne germs that can cause illness. That teacher thinks of everything.

Once in the classroom, Austin led me to his table and invited me to sit in one the miniature chairs that can only be comfortable to a five or six year old, but not for a 5 foot, 91/2 inch, 245 pound adult. But sit I did. I joked to a father sitting behind me, ?Now let?s see you get up!?

On Austin?s table lay a hand crafted paper necktie, inscribed with a ?Happy Father?s Day? statement written only as a six year old can write it. Austin very proudly said, ?I made it for my father.? I praised him for his effort and told him his uncle Michael made one something like it for me many years ago and each year we hang it proudly on our Christmas tree as an ornament. Treasures such as that are meant to keep for a lifetime.

Austin also showed me another gift he made for his father, carefully wrapped in white paper with a ribbon around it. Inside was a picture frame made from Popsicle sticks. He cautioned me not to open it because it is for his father. I assured him that I wouldn?t touch it as I know he made it for his father.

The teacher called the class to order and invited all the children to the front of the room to jointly recite their poem, with one line having them all jump together in glee about us being there and the final line with their arms outstretched for a hug to all of us. Now that was heartwarming! Heartwarming enough to make a tear form in the corner of a father?s eye, with the father?s of course, hoping no one would notice.

Following their presentation, the children and their fathers (or mothers) lined up for their share of the Crispy Cream donuts, orange juice or chocolate milk, the latter made by pouring a bit of chocolate in a Styrofoam cup, adding milk then stirring until it the chocolate dissolved into the milk. The teacher greeted each parent at they reached the head of the line. I told her about Austin?s emergency call and our trip to San Diego. She thanked me for coming.

Once seated, and everyone was munching on their delicious Crispy Cream donuts, the teacher addressed the class and thanked everyone for coming, fathers, brothers, uncles, mothers and even one grandfather. She also told everyone about how the one grandfather happened to be there, how Austin made the call and the early morning drive to San Diego. Austin was visibly pleased.

When everyone had eaten, and some of the mother helpers were disposing of the dirty paper plates and Styrofoam cups, the teacher asked all of the children to gather in front of the room and sit on the floor in preparation for a presentation by one of the fathers. He is a stockbroker by day but on weekends he is a racecar driver. He brought along a racing seat and racing seat belts and helmet for his demonstration. He kept his presentation simple and directed it towards safety and how the children should also practice safety anytime they are in a car, on their bicycle, skateboard, scooter or anything else with wheels. He demonstrated his equipment and had one girl sit in the racing seat and positioned the seat belts around her. He had another girl put on the helmet. His talk and demonstrations held the interest of the children through to the end. He also invited questions from the children and the adults who remained for his presentation. He may be a stockbroker but he really knows how to relate to children and to answer their questions in away they can understand.

The big event in Austin?s life ?in an hour it was over ?but he was happy! Was it worth it for Popsy-Bo-Bopsy? You bet it was!

The day was not over yet. Since it was a beautiful sunny day, Bev, Jackie and I drove to nearby La Jolla Shores and parked our car in the Marine Room restaurant parking lot. The restaurant is right on the beach and about a mile of shoreline from the La Jolla Shores Beach wharf. Since we were an hour early for lunch we walked the sandy beach to the wharf and back, taking in the beach activities. Mothers were walking their children in the sand; children and adults were playing in the somewhat chilly ocean water; life guards patrolling the beach in their jeep surveying the water for swimmers in trouble; young people playing volleyball on the sandy beach; scuba divers putting on their wet suits and diving gear; sunbathers lying on the beach; and sea gulls flying about looking for their next meal.

When we returned to the restaurant we were able to get a table facing the ocean so we could continue watching the beach activities while we had a delicious and leisurely lunch. The best part of that was my daughter treated my wife and I as a father?s day gift for me. She didn?t forget her dad!

It?s interesting that as we grow older how some of the seemingly smallest things provide the greatest pleasures and value in life. When Bev and I were young parents I didn?t have the time to enjoy these small pleasures in life. Like so many fathers and now many working mothers have to forego taking time to do these fun things with their families. I know I was too busy just trying to make a living. I was totally unbalanced, devoting much to much time to my work, spending too much time away from the family. Fortunately, Bev was a stay at home mom and had the child rearing responsibilities along with all the tears and the joys of watching them grow from one stage to another.

Early that afternoon Bev and I started our journey back to Palm Springs. As we drove through the mountains, blessed with clear sky?s and a setting sun, we reflected back on the day?s events. Yes! Some things in life are indeed priceless.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006


(Jack) Harold J. McLaughlin, Ph.D.

After a hiatus of 24 years, Ford Motor Company has once again begun tours of its famous and now a historical landmark, Rouge Factory in Dearborn, Michigan. In years past, this huge, formerly vertically integrated factory has amazed, entertained, educated and enlightened the politically powerful, industry giants, interested tourists and students alike.

My tour group, including my wife, brother and sister-in-law began on a very rainy July 12, 2004 about two months following the return of these very interesting and educational tours. The tours starting point was outside the Henry Ford Museum, in the Henry Ford complex that also includes the Henry Ford Museum, Greenfield Village, IMAX-Theatre and the Benson Ford Research Center. Buses leave 11 times daily every half – hour from 9:30 AM to 2:30 PM for ticketed passengers. Tickets are sold for and valid only on a specific date and time. Ticket prices are: Adults - $14; Seniors (62 years and older) $13; Youth (3-12 years old) $10 and infants under 2 years are free.

Two 44 passenger buses transport “guests� in buses to the “Rouge� for each tour. The buses appear to be renovated from the Rouge “in plant� transportation system. The buses’ sides are a decorative pictorial mural noting they are for the Rouge Plant Tour. The mural also covers the buses’ windows that appear opaque from the outside but inside they are semi-translucent. This semi-transparency detracts from the view (especially on a rainy day) as your drive through Dearborn, to and through, the Rouge Plant complex. Television monitors provide a pictorial and narration about what “guests� are about to see. However, the buses’ noise drowns out the speaker. That is unfortunate because the video’s content looks very interesting and well put together. More modern buses would make the 15 minute ride more comfortable and the video more understandable.

Driving though the one and a quarter mile wide and three quarters of a mile long,
Factory complex, you see is a maze of buildings, large and small, connected by roads and a waterway that feeds them with parts and raw materials. At one time, the Rouge was a “vertically integrated� facility that brought in and “digested� raw materials from ships and disgorged finished trucks, cars, tractors, airplanes and military products to support our nations wars. Truly a remarkable complex!

Our bus dropped us off at a building at the truck plant, designed specifically for tours. Cheerful, neatly dressed docents greeted us with umbrellas to shield us from the heavy rain downpour as we exited the bus. We were directed to a beautiful and what appeared to be a new, three-screen “Legacy Theater� designed to accommodate at least 88 people from the two-bus tour group. Seating arrangement was very comfortable.

A 10-15 minute movie about 100 years of Ford’s progress beginning with it’s humble beginnings fueled by Henry Ford’s dream of producing an affordable car for most people. He also made this possible by paying a wage that for the first time in history enabled people to purchase a product they themselves helped to produce. The movie also answered questions about how the plant came about, why it was located in Dearborn, Michigan and how it became such a large and successful mass production facility. Scenes from these events flashed sequentially and at times, seemly at random across the three huge screens. Ford’s dream and accomplishment changed America in the way it worked and lived. Music composed specifically for this presentation and played by the Detroit Symphony Orchestra in surround-sound accompanied these interesting scenes.

Throughout its century of growth, Ford faced many problems, some of which blemished its image, such as the formation and eventual acceptance of the United Auto Workers Union (UAW). Initially, Ford did not accept the UAW and literally fought it with its own plant protection personnel (named Ford’s goon squad by its detractors … not mentioned in the movie) but Ford eventually accepted the union and formed a partnership between management and the workers.

Ford also faced and recovered from other problems during the 20th Century; American’s “Great Depression� of the 1930s, World War II and foreign competition.

Leaving the Legacy Theater, we were ushered into a second spacious, “The Art of Manufacturing Theater� complete with comfortable swivel seats providing a 360 degree view of the seven huge trapezoidal shaped screens. A movie flashed across the seven screens showing dynamic scenes of how vehicles are built in the 21 century from start to finish.

A vehicle begins with the delivery of raw materials. How these materials are made into steel in blast furnaces; how steel is formed into parts by huge stamping machines; parts are assembled and welded together by people and robots; assemblies painted by robots; and the finished vehicle tested by people and machines.

Scenes are accompanied by realistic special effects …delivered to the audience during the presentation. Blasts of heat shower the audience when a blast furnace is shown pouring melted steel from a red-hot cauldron. A mist sprays the audience when parts are shown being cooled. The theater shakes with a loud thunderous clap when giant stamping machines stamp out door, fenders and other parts. An original score performed by the Detroit Symphony Orchestra accompanies these scenes. All these special effects, make the movie come alive and the audience made to feel like a part of the operation.

Following the movie, two elevators transported the audience 80 feet to the “Observation Deck� where we could see most of the massive Rouge complex … at least that which was not obscured by that day’s heavy rain. A number of interactive kiosks throughout the “Deck,�described a number of the environmental friendly features that Ford has proudly introduced into its factories.

The roof of the 10.4 acre truck plant is designated by Guinness World Records as the World’s Largest Living Roof. It is covered with maintenance free sedum. It can absorb four million gallons of rainwater annually thereby reducing the amount of water released into nearby rivers and streams. It also absorbs carbon dioxide and releases oxygen into the atmosphere. It also provides insulation to the plant that helps decrease its energy costs. Ten huge skylights on the roof also provide natural lighting inside the plant further reducing energy costs while providing a better working environment for the employees. Arrays of photo voltaic cells mounted on the plant’s roof and a nearby experimental system for recovering paint fumes and turning them into fuel for fuel-cells, generate electricity, also reducing operating cost. Ford is realizing that being environmentally responsible while providing a better working environment can also be profitable.

The two elevators returned our group back to the main level, then through a doorway into the assembly plant onto a 16-foot high mezzanine and walkway where we were able to observe the overall plant and its operation. Friendly and informative docents were located near the many interactive kiosks along our 1/3-mile route through the plant’s three buildings. The kiosks (and docents when asked) described each of the operations as we looked down upon the assembly operations. Two things stood out for me: (1) Few people were on the floor and virtually nothing was going on. A docent told me the lines were virtually down because of a two week vacation and the line change over to the 2005 models was approaching. More probably Ford, as well as the other major auto and truck manufacturers, were in a sales slump at the time of our visit and the Detroit Free Press had reported that auto manufacturers had a three month inventory on hand and were once again offering rebates. Perhaps production was slowed for this reason.

The second (2) thing that greatly impressed me was the cleanliness of the three buildings. I had not been through a Ford factory in over 50 years! Then, the buildings were dirty, greasy, noisy and generally in disarray. These three buildings could be described as almost beautiful … as far as plants are concerned. Floors were clean … even gleamed, everything was orderly and was comparable to many of the hundreds of electronics manufacturing facilities I have toured throughout California's Silicon Valley and the world.

Body shop, paint shop and final assembly are the functions of the three buildings. Production lines are arranged in a very efficient serpentine fashion. The body shop’s 289 robots weld the truck bodies together then sends them to the paint shop for painting. When finished, the paint shop sends truck body to the final assembly building for … well … final assembly.

Assembly lines are arranged in a serpentine fashion so when an assembly operation reaches the end of the line it turns around on a “U� track and continues until it reaches that track’s end and again reverses itself working its way through the building until the truck is fully assembled.

Innovative production techniques are used such as inverting the frame as it travels down the line so that underside parts such as axles and brakes can be installed and when those and other such parts are installed the frame is flipped right side up. Another innovation is the platforms, called “skillets,� the vehicle and assembly operators ride on throughout the truck’s assembly. Assembly operators can adjust the skillet height for the operation performed which minimizes assemblers bending, stooping and straining.

At our tour’s end, we returned to the visitor center, housing the Legacy Gallery and the Gift Shop. The Gallery displayed many of the more famous vehicles produced at the Rouge and those that helped make automotive history. Displayed were the one millionth 1929 Model A, the 1932 V8 powered Ford, 49 Coup, 1955 Thunderbird, 1965 Mustang and a F-150 truck now in manufacture. All cars were of course in mint condition … polished to a high sheen and show room ready. Vintage car collectors can only dream about cars such as these.

We visited the very small gift shop that had few memorabilia items for sale. Offerings of tee shirts, a few miniature autos, refrigerator magnets, coffee cups, decorative pins, computer mouse pads and books dominated their offerings. We purchased a few gift items and went to the waiting area for our return bus.

My party and 40 other return passengers boarded our bus at 1:20 for a 1:30 PM departure but it at the designated time, our noisy return vehicle wouldn’t or couldn’t move. The driver tried to solve the problem by flipping power switches, manually closing the rear doors but it still wouldn’t move. At 1:45 PM we all had to get off the bus then something amazing happened … It could and did move. We all re-boarded and the driver whisked us back to Greenfield Village, just in time to make his 2:00 PM return run … concluding a very interesting, educational and entertaining … very rainy day!

Visitors to the Detroit area who complain and are under the assumption that American Auto Manufacturers are not up to Japanese or other foreign car makers should visit Ford’s Rouge Plant. It just might make them change their mind.