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What’s So Bad About a #1 Pencil?

A regular contributor to the Greenville Journal is a man named Barry Ray whose column "Barry's World" reminds us a lot of the style of Dave Barry. One of his recent columns about back-to-school trauma was hilarious. I searched high and low to find it online somewhere, but to no avail. I wanted to put a link on my blog to the column. Finally I decided to write to the e-mail address for Barry Ray to ask him if I could get a copy of his article somewhere so that I could put it on my blog. Within a couple of hours I got a nice reply that stated, "I am planning on putting some older columns online soon. Right now, the Journal likes being the only source and putting them online would hurt subscriptions, I suppose. I have attached a JPEG of the column for you to use on your blog. Keep reading and thanks!"

And so with Barry's permission I'm placing the picture he sent me below. What you see below is a picture of a printed page, and so the quality of the print is not the best, but it's definitely worth the extra effort to read this one!

What's So Bad About a #1 Pencil?

A few weeks ago my wife Becka saw a restaurant review in the Greenville News that caught her attention. One of the reasons was that the reviewers all gave the restaurant high marks - a rarity indeed! So our little team who taught in Asia last year went there with our friend Ruth as a farewell before her return to Asia. We all enjoyed our meal very much, proclaiming we'd definitely be eating there again. The food was scrumptious, beautiful and plentiful, and the entrees ranged mainly from only $7 to $10.

Last evening Becka and I returned there for dinner and were dismayed that we were the only customers during our meal. We would hate to see this place close its doors! The restaurant is Vietnamese, and it is as authentic as you can get. It's a family-run restaurant, and everyone who works there is Vietnamese - unlike some of the local Chinese restaurants with Spanish speakers doing the cooking! With delicious food and a dining area that is clean and pleasant, there's no reason this place shouldn't be packing in the people! ...except that I don't think they have much of a notion at all about advertising. As a result, other than the review in the paper, they get customers only by word of mouth or from people happening by and wandering in.

updated 20 Oct. 2007: I've learned that the restaurant has closed its doors. Very sad.

Below is their business card. Too bad they didn't make it. Thanks to all of you locals who tried it out and attempted to give them more business.

SaiGon River business card


In reference to teachers ... "We are not just data merchants." - Dr. Dan Olinger

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If the #2 pencil is the most popular, why is it still #2?

Rookie Card for Sale

The following comes from an email I received from one of the readers of my blog. I cannot vow to its authencity....

Bonds hitting homer

It's no news that Barry Bonds hit homerun No. 755 at San Diego to tie Hank Aaron's record and received a warm reception along with some boos. There are some who believe that Barry Bonds should be disqualified for using steroids. I do not really want to enter that debate.

Whether Barry took steroids at some point in his career, I don't know. I just want to capitalize on the current situation to sell a prized possession - I am selling one of my Barry Bonds baseball cards to the highest bidder. Below is the highly prized Rookie Card that I bought in 1986.

Barry Bonds Rookie card

Let the bidding begin!


"You can only be young once. But you can always be immature." - Dave Barry

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If one synchronized swimmer drowns, do the rest have to drown too?

Mathematical Relationships

On the cusp of another academic year, I thought I'd share some math that might make more sense than the math we all learn in school....


A man will pay $2 for a $1 item he needs.

A woman will pay $1 for a $2 item that she doesn't need.


A woman worries about the future until she gets a husband.

A man never worries about the future until he gets a wife.

A successful man is one who makes more money than his wife can spend.

A successful woman is one who can find such a man.


To be happy with a man, you must understand him a lot and love him a little.

To be happy with a woman, you must love her a lot and not try to understand her at all.


Married men live longer than single men do, but married men are a lot more willing to die.


A woman marries a man expecting he will change, but he doesn't.

A man marries a woman expecting that she won't change, and she does.


A woman has the last word in any argument.

Anything a man says after that is the beginning of a new argument.


This is Rob, the ivman, again.

One of my favorite forms of math lately is doing Sudoku puzzles. Here's a recent Pluggers that I found amusing.

Plugger Sudoku

Sometime recently I ran across a picture of a gift idea for that Sudoku fan in your life who has everything.

Sudoku TP

Since this post is about relationships, here are several relational things from this past weekend.

My wife Becka and I just had an extremely enjoyable weekend away from home before the new school year starts up for the faculty and staff this week. One of Becka's college roommates has been wanting us to get together with her and her husband, and we finally found a weekend that worked for us all. We had such a good time talking and laughing with Cathy and David and were utterly spoiled by their gracious hospitality at their home in the Raleigh, NC area, a place we'd never visited before. We all agreed that we're not going to let so much time go by before our next reunion, hopefully at our house next time so we can return the favor. Below is a picture of Cathy, David, and Becka.

Cathy, David, and Becka

Another nice part of the weekend was being able to attend the wedding of one of my students who just graduated. Below is a picture of Becka and me with Ethan and Sarah.

Loaches and Messiers


"Whoever wins the next election is supposed to win. God sets up and pulls down kings and rulers." - Dr. Drew Conley

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If the shortest distance between two points is a line, why does waiting in one take so long?

Think Cool!

This week it's been oppressively hot here in Greenville. Yesterday, depending on which thermometer you looked at or what weather report you heard, the temp hit anywhere from 101 to 103 degrees. It is supposed to do the same today and tomorrow, but they say cooler temps are coming this weekend - like 90 to 95 degrees is cool?! I guess in comparison, it is.

I've heard several people joking about moving north. I remind them that several weeks ago it was the northernmost states who were having 100+ degree temperatures, and do they *really* want to endure their winters?! I thought of an old classic to share with you today about a Southerner who moved north.

Diary of a Southerner who moves to Montana

December 8: 6:00 PM. It started to snow. The first snow of the season and my wife and I sat for hours by the window watching the huge soft flakes drift down from heaven. It looked like a Grandma Moses Print. So romantic we felt like newlyweds again. I love snow!

December 9: We woke to a beautiful blanket of crystal white snow covering every inch of the landscape. What a fantastic sight! Can there be a more lovely place in the whole world? Moving here was the best idea I've ever had. Shoveled for the first time in years and felt like a boy again. I did both our driveway and the sidewalks. This afternoon the snow plow came along and covered up the sidewalks and closed in the driveway so I got to shovel again. What a perfect life.

December 12: The sun has melted all our lovely snow. Such a disappointment. My neighbor tells me not to worry, we'll definitely have a white Christmas. No snow on Christmas would be awful! Bob says we'll have so much snow by the end of winter, that I'll never want to see snow again. I don't think that's possible. Bob is such a nice man I'm glad he's our neighbor.

December 14: Snow, lovely snow! 8" last night. The temperature dropped to -20. The cold makes everything sparkle so. The wind took my breath away, but I warmed up by shoveling the driveway and sidewalks. This is the life! The snow plow came back this afternoon and buried everything again. I didn't realize I would have to do quite this much shoveling, but I'll certainly get back in shape this way. I wish I wouldn't huff and puff so.

December 15: 20 inches forecast. Sold my van and bought a 4x4 Blazer. Bought snow tires for my wife's car and 2 extra shovels. Stocked the freezer. My wife wants a wood stove in case the electricity goes out. I think that's silly. We aren't in Alaska, after all.

December 16: Ice storm this morning. Fell on my bottom on the ice in the driveway putting down salt. Hurts like crazy. My wife laughed for an hour, which I think was very cruel.

December 17: Still way below freezing. Roads are too icy to go anywhere. Electricity was off for 5 hours. I had to pile the blankets on to stay warm. Nothing to do but stare at my wife and try not to irritate her. Guess I should have bought a wood stove, but won't admit it to her. I hate it when she's right. I can't believe I'm freezing to death in my own living room.

December 20: Electricity's back on, but had another 14" of the stuff last night. More shoveling. Took all day. Snow plow came by twice. Tried to find a neighbor kid to shovel, but they said they're too busy playing hockey. I think they're lying. Called the only hardware store around to see about buying a snow blower and they're out. Might have another shipment in March. I think they're lying. Bob says I have to shovel or the city will have it done and bill me. I think he's lying.

December 22: Bob was right about a white Christmas because 13 more inches of the white stuff fell today, and it's so cold it probably won't melt till August. Took me 45 minutes to get all dressed up to go out to shovel and then I had to go to the bathroom. By the time I got undressed, and dressed again, I was too tired to shovel. Tried to hire Bob who has a plow on his truck for the rest of the winter; but he says he's too busy. I think he's lying.

December 23: Only 2" of snow today. And it warmed up to 0. My wife wanted me to decorate the front of the house this morning. What is she, nuts?! Why didn't she tell me to do that a month ago? She says she did but I think she's lying.

December 24: another 6". Snow packed so hard by snow plow, I broke the shovel. Thought I was having a heart attack. If I ever catch the guy who drives that snow plow, I'll drag him through the snow. I know he hides around the corner and waits for me to finish shoveling and then he comes down the street at 100 miles an hour and throws snow all over where I've just been! Tonight my wife wanted me to sing Christmas carols with her and open our presents, but I was busy watching for the snow plow.

December 25: Merry Christmas. 20 more inches of the stuff tonight. Snowed in. The idea of shoveling makes my blood boil. I hate the snow! Then the snow plow driver came by asking for a donation and I hit him over the head with my shovel. The wife says I have a bad attitude. I think she's an idiot. If I have to watch "It's a Wonderful Life" one more time, I'm going to shoot the television.

December 26: Still snowed in. Why did I ever move here? It was all HER idea. She's really getting on my nerves.

December 27: Temperature dropped to -30 and the pipes froze.

December 28: Warmed up to above -20. Still snowed in. THE WIFE is driving me crazy!!!!!

December 29: 10 more inches. Bob says I have to shovel the roof or it could cave in. That's the silliest thing I ever heard. How dumb does he think I am?

December 30: Roof caved in. The snow plow driver is suing me for a million dollars. My wife went home to her mother. 9" predicted.

December 31: Set fire to what's left of the house. No more shoveling.

January 8: I feel so good. What are those little white pills they keep giving me? Why am I tied to the bed?


Today our grandson Drew is five months old. The doctor says for most baby milestones - sitting up, teething, etc. - it's best to think of him still as being 6 weeks younger than he is since he was born 6 weeks early. Jim is a real sports enthusiast, loves baseball hats, and is glad that Drew is finally big enough to wear hats. Megan sent us a couple of pictures we thought we'd share on the blog.

Jim and Drew in their ball caps

Drew happy to be with Dad


"Rather than being pessimistic about life changing, be optimistic because it's God making the changes." - Dr. Drew Conley

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What do you get when you cross a snowman with a vampire?

You Know You’ve Lived in China Too Long When…

Our friend Ruth with whom we have taught in Asia the last two summers has been here in Greenville on an extended leave to help her elderly parents and is now preparing to go back next week. One month before her scheduled departure, her university there informed her that since her passport would run out in 5 months, she would need to get a new one. We were all amazed that she was able to get her passport renewed and then get the necessary visa in it in 18 days! She loves the confirmation that Someone wants her there this school year. One evening this week our little team of teachers from last summer is taking her out for Asian food before her return next week.

Recently Ruth forwarded a list of ways you can know you've lived in China too long. My wife and I have lived there only two months, so we had not experienced all the things in her list, but we saw enough to know that nothing in the list is out of the realm of likelihood.

You Know You've Lived in China Too Long When...

You think a 30-year-old woman's carrying a Hello Kitty lunch box is cute

All white people look the same to you

You like the smell of the bus

You no longer need tissues to blow your nose

You find Western toilets uncomfortable

You think it’s OK to throw rubbish, including old fridges, from your 18th-floor window

You believe that pressing the button 63 times will make the elevator move faster

You aren’t aware that one is supposed to pay for software

You are not surprised to see your tap water run dark brown

You think that a $7 shirt is a rip-off

You started to buy an XXXL T-shirt in a store when you returned home

You think it’s silly to buy a new bike when it’ll get stolen soon, and stolen bikes are half the price

You feel cheated if you don’t receive a full head and shoulder massage when getting a haircut

You blow your nose or spit on the restaurant floor (of course after making a loud hocking noise)

You no longer wait in line, but go immediately to the head of the queue (=the line)

You no longer wonder how someone who earns US $400.00 per month can drive a Mercedes

You regard it as just part of the adventure when the waiter correctly repeats your order and the cook makes something completely different

You accept the fact that you have to queue to get a number for the next queue

You are not surprised when three men with a ladder show up to change a light bulb

You honk your horn at people because they are in your way as you drive down the sidewalk

You have a pinky fingernail an inch long

You burp in any situation and don’t care

You have absolutely no sense of traffic rules

You start cutting off large vehicles on your bicycle

You go to a local shop in pajamas

You think - pollution, what pollution?

Someone doesn’t stare at you, and you wonder why

You wear out your vehicle’s horn before its brakes

Forks feel funny

Chinese remakes of Western songs sound better than the originals

You get homesick for real Chinese food when away from China

Your handshake is weakening by the day

You have compiled a 3-page list of weird English first names that Chinese people of your acquaintance have chosen for themselves

Your collection of business cards has outgrown your flat

The last time you visited your family, you gave each person your business card

You and a friend get on a bus, sit at opposite ends of the bus, and continue your conversation by yelling from one end to the other

You cannot say a number without making the appropriate hand sign

You start recognizing the Chinese songs on the radio and sing along to them with the taxi driver

You feel insulted when you enter a restaurant and only three greeters welcome you

Signs like the one below don't look odd to you...

bilingual signage


"We have a low estimation of how much prayer can change our circumstances." - Dr. Drew Conley

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Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you respond to it.