Never Look A Gift Horse…

Photo by Irina Iriser on

Clichés; athletes are allegedly trained to use them. We gave 110% effort today. I kept my eye on the ball. We took our swings. You can’t win them all. We brought our A-game today… In the movie Bull Durham, the grizzled old catcher played by Kevin Costner taught Tim Robbins character several clichés before he headed up to the major league team. “We’ve got to play them one day at a time.”

A few clichés came to mind when we recently freed up some clutter in the house to hopefully make someone’s Christmas a little brighter. We offered up a few ‘free to you’ items to anyone in need of gifts. Three people took us up on the offer. All strangers: one for a local men’s halfway house, and two needed gifts for youngsters in their lives.

One man’s trash is another man’s treasure. All three were quite happy and thankful for items we no longer needed or wanted in the house.

Never look a gift horse in the mouth. None of them acted as if the items we gave them were subpar and not worth accepting.

No good deed goes unpunished. We found our people of need by listing the items on Market Place. While perusing Market Place this week, we found several of the free items up for sale by one of the recipients… See “One man’s trash…”. It probably should not matter, and more power to them if they can sell the item’s that their “kids” didn’t want or need. We will not share the name or expose the items…but seeing those free items for sale rubbed us the wrong way. Like perhaps we were duped by a grifter…

There are also famous speeches and quotes and poems: Like the beginning of the Gettysburg Address; “Four score and seven years ago…” Like the beginning of Dickens Tale of Two Cities; “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…” Like many of William Shakespeare writings; “To be or not to be? That is the question…”

Perhaps it would’ve been easier to give them all to The Good Will or St. Vinny’s where those in need would have to pay a small sum to obtain the items. That would reduce the chance of a deceptive person misrepresenting the need. However, we are no worse off for the endeavor and we will continue to be charitable in the future.

The experience reminds me of a famous poem that is frequently credited to Mother Teresa. She, however, borrowed it from a Harvard student named Kent M. Keith from the late 1960s.

“The Silent Revolution: Dynamic Leadership in the Student council”, Harvard Student Agencies, 1968.

People are often unreasonable, illogical and self centered;
Forgive them anyway.

If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives;
Be kind anyway.

If you are successful, you will win some false friends and some true enemies;
Succeed anyway.

If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you;
Be honest and frank anyway.

What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight;
Build anyway.

If you find serenity and happiness, they may be jealous;
Be happy anyway.

The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow;
Do good anyway.

Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough;
Give the world the best you’ve got anyway.

You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and your God;
It was never between you and them anyway.


There’s No Place Like Home Field Advantage

Photo by Ron Wilkie

Football, like most everything else in 2020 is VERY different this season. Maybe it is because I’ve limited my football viewing to YouTube highlight reels of B1G conference games and the NFL.

Football without fans is…well…boring. It’s like watching a scrimmage. Granted a high-end TV production of a scrimmage, but still it has all the excitement of a scrimmage. At least, it does to me.

This must change the level of play too. For most players, the energy that a crowd brings to the game effects how they perform. Both for the good and bad. There are players that will perform better when being cheered for, there are some that feel the pressures of a huge and electric home crowd.

Some visiting players feed off the jeering from the opposition fans. Some visiting players will under-perform based on the jeering from the opposing team’s fans. We are getting little if any in the 2020 version of big-time sports.

Conversely, anyone that has been in organized sports or organized competition of any kind knows of at least one competitor that was a great practice player and folded like a cheap suit when competition began, especially if there was a crowd to observe.

We may be seeing good performances from players that normally would not shine in the spotlight and perhaps less brilliant play from those who ‘turn on’ when the lights come up and the fans cheer loudly.

For Packer fans, the lack of spectators has not changed the play of Aaron Rodgers or Davante Adams. They are in a groove with each other that most competitors never get to experience. Those at the top of their game are not affected by too many external variables.

There is one thing that the lack of in person fans has changed. Home field advantage. When testing my hypothesis, I chose the NFL for collecting data. This league prides itself for leveling the playing field. The NFL system makes parity the norm.

Parity in the NFL has had one exception. Being the home team. From 2002 to 2019 home teams had a statistical edge over visiting teams. The home team won 60% of NFL games during these 18 seasons. That has changed this season.

Fourteen weeks into the 2020 season sees absolutely no advantage to be the home NFL team. After the week 14 Monday night game NFL home teams have won 103 games, lost 104 games and one tie. That’s 49.5% home wins. Let’s round up and say teams have a 50% chance of winning no matter where the game is played. Now that is true parity.

Home teams won more they lost only during weeks 2, 5, 10 and 11. Ten weeks of majority losing home teams versus 4 weeks of more winning home teams than losers. Assuming near even odds, if you were to bet the visiting team each week in the NFL you would be ahead of the bookies.

Unless this season has been a fluke…kinda like the year 2020 has been…and if the NFL wants continued parity, they should gain all revenue only from broadcasting contracts. Building stadiums in the future will be less expensive because they will no longer need to house 60,000 to 100,000 fans. Communities will not have the pressures of being asked to pay for professional venues for the sake of keeping a franchise that is threatening to move to a town that will build a huge state of the art stadium.

I do not hope for this speculation, attending professional and college athletics is awesome. We miss attending live performances of all kinds, athletics is no different. The new normal of isolation stinks, let’s hope the new year ushers in plenty of safe gathering.

Legalized Pot Roast

Comfort foods. I’m guessing that those two words instantly brought the picture or aroma of at least one food to your mind, didn’t it?

Images of meat loaf, mac n’ cheese, fried chicken or a nice savory soup are common. For others sweet treats like cake, pie or ice cream will come to mind.

When a person has a cold a common comfort food is chicken soup. Heck this comfort food is so well accepted that motivational speakers Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hanson started an inspirational series of self-help books beginning with the famous “Chicken Soup For The Soul”. The series now has more than 250 books all beginning with “Chicken Soup for the…” in the title!

When the chips are down, sometimes you just need a food that eases a fragile psyche. Comfort foods are alleged to give us a sense of serenity or links us to a fond reminiscent memory.

When researching the topic, I found an article from *Scientific American that discusses a series of case studies attempting to verify if humans will choose familiar foods over unfamiliar foods when experiencing lows, highs or random changes in their personal life. Participants were given the option to choose a familiar chip brand or an unfamiliar chip brand. The Results didn’t show a significant tendency of participants to migrate towards the familiar regardless of circumstance.

My initial response is…so what? Chips, regardless of brand, is not high on my list of comfort foods. If I’m down and you show me two bags of chips, I might consume both bags and probably washing them down with some beer. Then…it’s time to fire up the stock pot and stew a nice warm batch of soup!

We have several go to comfort foods at our house. Most anything that Beth makes in her Instant Pot, from yogurt to a plethora of chicken dishes. My personal favorite from Beth is Tortellini Soup.

Two favorite dishes that R Dub makes are my almost world-famous chili which we featured a few weeks ago and a dish we call Coca-Cola Pot Roast. Slow cooked to a fall apart tenderness with a savory Coke infused gravy that is smothered in potatoes and carrots that were also slow cooked in the sweet and savory Coca-Cola sauce.

We prefer beef chuck, but you can substitute any low-end beef like round or brisket. Pork shoulder or rump is an alternative, but I have been less impressed with the results. Many ask me if they can cook this in a crock pot, and the answer is yes, but again the oven method listed below in my opinion produces a better taste and texture.

Yes, I know I’ve pictured my pot roast in a crock, but it was oven cooked in a roasting pan, then transferred to the crock pot so Beth could enjoy some when she returned home from work.

Experimenting with recipes is encouraged here, so do what brings you joy! At the end of the cooking cycle, the only thing that matters is how the meal is received by your culinary taste and diners.

Variations of this recipe can be found in many cookbooks, but here is the recipe that we use:


2 lbs Beef Chuck Roast

1 lb Carrots Sliced

1lb Potatoes Quartered

1 Package Brown Gravy Mix

2 Tsp Water

1 Package Onion Soup or Dip Mix

10.5 oz Cream of Mushroom Soup

10 oz Coca Cola

Cooking Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degree F

Place roast and vegetables in a 13” roasting pan

In a large mixing bowl combine the brown gravy mix and water, mix until it is a slurry.

Add onion soup/dip mix to slurry and mix until moist.

Stir in cream of mushroom soup mix.

Stir in Coke.

Cover roast and veggies with Coke mix in roasting pan cover pan with aluminum foil and lid, place in preheated oven for 60 minutes.

Reduce oven temperature to 225 degrees F and bake an additional 3 hours.

*D’Costa, K. (2017). Understanding the Power of Comfort Foods. Scientific American. August 30, 2017.

Merry COVID19 Christmas Letter

Ah the annual Christmas letter. Some love them, some hate them. Personally, I like reading them and writing them. Beth and I will include one in Christmas cards this year.

WGN had a radio team named Kathy and Judy who featured a Christmas segment that they called Merry Medical Malady Christmas cards. Listeners were encouraged to call in and share medical maladies that friends and relatives included in Christmas cards.

It’s been a while since writing a Christmas letter and I sure didn’t want our letter ending up as a funny anecdote on someone’s radio show…so a consultation on the World Wide Web for Christmas letter etiquette suggestions ensued. There is a plethora of Christmas letter writing advice, but most articles on the subject were similar.

I jotted down etiquette notes, combined our collective calendars from 2020 and reviewed my FaceBook page for significant events and made a chronological list to refer to and began typing our first draft on the laptop.

Upon completion of a rough draft Christmas letter, internet suggestions were used to see how well I did. You will not be tortured with the actual letter but here’s the etiquette advice with my results:

Be Positive: Well…it is 2020 after all and as much as there is plenty of positivity, there are some lamentations too.

Shorter is better, keep it under one page: Not even close…over 2 pages…OPE!

Don’t Brag: Nailed it! (oh wait, that’s a brag…)

Be Mindful of the Audience: The letter is for family and friends and written as such. OK, 2 for 4. Things are looking up.

Keep Achievements to a Minimum: Alright, 3 for 5 now.

List Interests and Hobbies: We listed travel and shows as actives, I think that counts. 4 for 6.

Include Photos: Bingo! 5 for 7.

Be You: I don’t know how to be anyone else! 6 for 8.

Be Personal: Conversational writing is my thing, 7 for 9 that’s 78%, not too bad.

COVID19 has changed so much of our lives and the current Holiday Season that stretches from Thanksgiving to the New Year is filled with pressures from healthcare professionals, authorities and society to isolate and curtail celebrations. Our Christmas letter reflects much of these pressures and our efforts to be responsible, safe and healthy citizens.

What’s in our letter? The year is divided into Pre COVID, Post COVID and Despite COVID activities. Beth and I do not have the luxury of working from home, she is in the healthcare industry and worked in an Emergi-Care clinic and a Wound Care clinic from day one until today. I manage a crew of essential workers at a factory that has not shut down at all except for weekends and Holidays from day one of COVID until today. We never truly became “Safer At Home” citizens, but we did venture out less than normal.

Our letter honors loved ones who we lost this year. There is a section devoted to our activities from January through March; like attending live performances, going to movies and dining inside. Activates that we no longer take for granted and long to do again. There is a large section devoted to activities that were cancelled due to COVID. We wonder if these activities will ever be rescheduled.

Most importantly our letter lists successful adaption of life. Enjoying shared cooking activities instead of eating out as often. Helping each other with continuing professional education that would’ve been done individually at a remote location instead of in our home virtually. Spending more time in our backyard with a bonfire or in our pool.

2020 has had its challenges and our Christmas letter reflects that. However, the human spirit is stronger than this virus or any gathering restrictions. As Aristotle once wrote, “Man is by nature a social animal.” Humanity will find a safe way to be social again.

Despite the difficulty of 2020, we think we succeeded in making the very best of the year, and we wanted to share it with those we love. We look forward to hearing about their successes too!

College Degree On A Dime: Better Yet, Some One Else’s Dime

In 2018 Mike Rowe from Dirty Jobs and Returning The Favor was quoted saying “…We’re lending money we don’t have to kids who can’t pay it back so they can pursue jobs that no longer exist…”.

Mike continues to promote skilled labor education; where tuition is more affordable plus the time between enrollment, graduation and full-time employment is shorter than the traditional 4-year College or University. The conjecture is that not everyone should go to college. Which, of course, is true.

However, it is also true that not everyone is cut out for skilled labor. The word skilled worker means a craft, trade, or job requiring manual dexterity, special training or a gift for mechanics in which a person has competence and experience.

Let’s face it, not everyone is cut out for that either. We need skilled tradesmen, but we also need people that can crunch the numbers, read market trends, handle the human resource and design the products and services that we all need.

So… how do we educate people for non-skilled labor without putting them into $70,000 worth of debt for a $35,000 per year starting wage? It’s anecdotal evidence, but I’ll tell you how I earned my Associates of Arts degree, my Bachelor of Science degree and recently a Master of Science degree while spending a meager $10,000 of my own money.

In the summer of 1980, I enrolled at a local community college to study for an associate degree. My parents co-signed with me for a $10,000 student load and off to trade school I went. Two years later I have an Associates of Art Degree, but alas no job offers of greater than $10,000 per year. So, I go back to my parents’ home to regroup.

Thankfully, mom had a friend at the Nebraska Job Service who helped me to parlay my technical degree and the experience of a summer job as a grain inspector into my first full time real job. 3M hired me into their Quality Control department as a Quality Inspector.

3M invested in my formal education in the fall of 1993 when I was approached by my boss about finishing my bachelor’s degree. 3M supported 100% of the tuition and books.

In December of 1994 I earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration. Upon delivering proof of graduation to my boss, within days I was given a healthy raise in pay. That was a pleasant and unexpected surprise.

The bachelor’s degree has gotten my foot in the door for many job interviews, which in turn has become several well-paying and satisfying jobs over the years.

One year after being hired by Hubbell Incorporated, my boss informed me that we have a tuition reimbursement program in the company. She encouraged me to utilize the program for continuing education in Quality. I told her that I’d always wanted to study for a master’s degree and she enthusiastically supported the idea.

In the fall of 2017 Hubbell Incorporated, approved my master’s degree program. In November of 2020 I finished a Master of Science in Management degree. That’s 3 college degrees, plus three Professional Certifications that were paid for by employers for a grand total of $10,000 out of pocket expenses.

The bottom line is: You don’t have to go into great debt or obtain a full ride scholarship to get a degree at reasonable cost to you. It can be on a dime…well, on someone else’s dime if you keep your eyes open and make the right moves as opportunity presents itself.

Lowest Legal Prices?!

If you grew up in Wisconsin this picture declaring proudly that beer can be purchased at the ‘lowest legal price’ is common place. However, as a transplant to the great state of Wisconsin, this sign always draws my attention and my disdain. In Wisconsin there is a law dating back to 1939 called the Unfair Sales Act or commonly referred to as the Minimum Markup Law and it includes much more than beer sales. The law applies to all products, but not services.

In a nutshell, this law prohibits merchandisers from selling anything below the total cost incurred by the retailer or wholesaler for buying, transporting, taxes and any other cost incurred to bring the product to market. In other words, a business is not allowed to sell below cost to attract customers or most and other reason like dumping slow moving inventory.

The state claims that doing so “is a form of deceptive advertising and an unfair method of competition in commerce.” Really?!

There have been a few unsuccessful attempts to eliminate the act. Most recently in late 2019. However, the attempt was to mask a plan to raise the state gasoline tax by an additional $.08 per gallon. I’m guessing they were hoping that consumers would not notice the increased tax if the price before taxes went down. Talk about deceptive and unfair methods…

I’m not a fan of big brother, so I don’t want to see a maximum markup law either. Letting the free market of supply and demand set pricing is good by me, but I digress.

This law is overdue to go away. Let’s hope it happens sooner, not later.

Here is the actual law as posted on the state of Wisconsin web site:

  • For all merchandise except alcoholic beverages, tobacco products, and motor vehicle fuel, cost to either wholesalers or retailers is defined as invoice cost or replacement cost, whichever is lower, less all trade discounts, plus any excise taxes and any cost incurred for transportation and any other charges not otherwise included in the invoice cost or replacement cost of the merchandise.
  • For alcohol and tobacco products the definition of cost also includes a 3% cost of doing business markup for wholesalers and a 6% cost of doing business markup for retailers. Cost for wholesalers who operate retail outlets or retailers who purchase directly from the manufacturer includes a 9.18% markup (3% plus 6% compounded).
  • For motor vehicle fuel, the definition of “cost” relies on either the “average posted terminal price” or invoice cost (whichever is greater) plus a cost of doing business markup. Use our Motor Vehicle Fuel Cost Calculator.
  • Penalties for violating the Unfair Sales Act may include a civil forfeiture of $50 to $500 for the first violation and $200 to $2500 for each subsequent violation. Sellers of motor vehicle fuel and/or tobacco products may file a private cause of action to seek damages if they are injured by a competitor’s price.
  • Exceptions to the law are made to allow for matching a competitor’s price, clearance and final liquidation sales, sales of damaged merchandise and perishables, contracted governmental institution sales and for merchandise sold to charitable or relief agencies.

Chilly Outside? Chili Inside!

When temperatures begin to drop under the freezing mark my appetite begins to long for a nice hot soup. Chili is my very favorite soup. Bright red broth chocked full of ground meat and beans and a variety of spices prominently featuring chili peppers. The mouth waters just thinking about it!

Like most, my first taste of chili came from my mom’s kitchen. For mom the recipe included ground beef, kidney beans, pureed tomatoes, salt ground black pepper and a healthy dose of ground chili powder. Simple, straight forward, comfortable and tasty. Saltine crackers on the side for those who needed to take the edge off the chili powder.

The definition of what is and what is not chili is relative. Relative to where you live or who your family or close friends are. With most foods I tire of those who believe that some foods are not authentic unless they adhere to a rigid recipe and ingredients. Where I came from the debate was with or without beans. Here in Wisconsin the question is with or without noodles.

My opinion? I believe that chili is a soup that features the taste of chili pepper, period. Spare me the discussions concerning noodles and beans. I will eat chili with or without either.

Variations of chili can be found at most any eatery or fine diner that serves it.

The Ohio based chain of Skyline features chili in three configurations:

  • 3 Way with spaghetti, chili meat sauce and grated cheese.
  • 4 Way with spaghetti, chili meat sauce, grated cheese plus onion OR beans.
  • 5 Way with spaghetti, chili meat sauce, grated cheese plus onion AND beans.

Milwaukee based Real Chili gives you more configuration options:

  • Mild, Medium or hot pepper spice.
  • Single, 1 ½ or double helping size.
  • Beans Only, Meat Only or Spaghetti only with chili meat sauce or any combination of the three.
  • Extras include: Cheese, jalapeno peppers, onion and sour cream for a nominal upcharge.

The Beaver Dam based business Chili John’s owned by third generation owner Chris Stavropolus:

  • One option: What is in his crock.

There are many more places and varieties, of course, but these are my 3 favorite places to go for chili…EXCEPT MINE, OF COURSE.

What’s my chili recipe? I thought you’d never ask. This recipe has changed drastically over the years until about 10 years ago. The following recipe has been a favorite of my children and close friends, and it is rarely altered…much.

Here is R Dub’s recipe, try it and tell me what you think.


  • 1 pound Ground Pork Sausage
  • 1.5 pounds Ground Beef or Ground Poultry
  • 46 ounces V8 Original Vegetable Juice
  • 15.5 ounces Black Beans in mild chili sauce (undrained)
  • 15.5 ounces Great Northern Beans in mild chili sauce (undrained)
  • 4.5 ounces of diced chili peppers or 1 teaspoon ground chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon Seasoned Salt
  • 2 tablespoons Dry Rub Seasoning
  • 14.5 ounces diced or sliced carrots (drained)
  • 14.5 ounces whole kernel sweet corn (drained)


  • Brown ground meats on medium heat and season with salt and half of the dry rub
  • in a large soup pot (12 to 16 quart).
  • Reduce heat to simmer.
  • Add the V8 vegetable juice and stir.
  • Stir in the chili pepper, beans, carrots and corn.
  • Stir in the remainder of the dry rub seasoning.
  • Reduce heat to low and let stew for one hour.


The V8 and the dry rub are the key to my unique and awesome flavors. My secret ingredients are Grandpa Rechek’s ground pork sausage and I’m specific with Bad Byron’s Butt Rub.

I know, I know, the chili purists will say that there is no place for carrots or corn in chili…I do not care. This soup is fabulous.

What about noodles? I cook them on the side for those who wish.

2018 Beaver Dam Pepper Festival Chili Cook Off