Thursday, October 28, 2010

Still Undefeated

The records of only two pseudo lawyers are known to me—mine and that of William Shatner, who portrayed the zany attorney Denny Crane in “Boston Legal” on network television.

My memoir, Days With The Dads, included a tale about my 2007 triumph in small claims court as a representative of our homeowners association. I won by uttering a couple of sentences after the defendant failed to show up. Nevertheless, I concluded that real attorneys earn their keep, and announced my retirement from matters legal with an unbeaten record—one for one.

Shatner was retired when the network cancelled “Boston Legal” after six seasons. We find few television programs worth watching once nowadays, and none except this one worth viewing twice. Currently, we are enjoying reruns of the comedy show.

Denny Crane famously enhances his legal legend at every opportunity by loudly intoning his own name. Through usually strange machinations, he claims to have won every case in his long career. After each victory, he proclaims:

“Denny Crane . . . Still Undefeated.”

I came out of retirement as a pseudo attorney two years ago when our first property tax bill showed an assessed value nearly $40,000 higher than what we paid for our new home in Michigan. Sandy and I appeared before the township tax review board to protest. We thought we had a great case, including photos and documents and a carefully rehearsed presentation. The board members listened politely and then curtly rejected our claim in their decision letter.

That sent me to the Michigan Tax Tribunal with an appeal of the board’s decision. Taking the action was a bit scary. Aren’t tribunal decisions known to be followed by firing squads? In this case, the frightening part turned out to be the paperwork and the length of the process. I had to send a brief of my argument with supporting documents, and then wait more than a year to gain a hearing.

During the wait, our township surprised just about everybody by announcing a 17 per cent reduction in 2010 assessments for most residential property, including ours. I fired off a copy of my letter from the assessor to the tribunal with an amended argument that this action constituted on admission by the township that the tax review board was dead wrong in denying my 2009 claim.

Minutes before my appointment to plead our case before the tax tribunal, our assessor called my name in the courthouse hallway. She was accompanied by a tribunal judge.

“I apologize,” the assessor said. “You shouldn’t have had to make the trip here. You were supposed to get a letter, but something when wrong. I reviewed your case, and you are right in all respects, especially in light of what happened with the general tax reduction. You’ll be getting a refund check after we calculate your corrected rates.”

The check will be nice, but once again, folks, legal work ain’t easy for those whose only encounters with the bar were to order refreshments. So I am officially retiring from the courtroom scene (including hallways) once again, but I do so with pride:

“Dick Klade . . . Still Undefeated.”

Thursday, October 21, 2010

In Grateful Memory

Spc. Joseph T. Prentler (U.S. Army), 20, Fenwick, Michigan. Killed by a terrorist bomb, Afghanistan, October 4, 2010.
The Fatty Factories

Agreement seems general that Americans are getting fatter, posing significant health problems that negatively impact the overly plump ones and our society in many ways. Perhaps most distressing are numbers for school-age youths.

We are told 10 million youngsters ages 6-19 are overweight, and a good many of them are obese. A recent study indicates the number of overweight kids in each class increases as the students grow older.

Recently, I had an opportunity to chat with the local superintendent of schools, and the talk turned to high school athletics. The superintendent said she was very pleased that week to have hired a well-qualified athletic director. I said I wondered why a high school needed a full-time athletic director.

It turned out I was a dinosaur on the subject. The local school district and the one in my hometown are roughly the same size. When I was a student (1949-53) the entire sports program in the Tomahawk, Wisconsin, district consisted of high school boys’ football, basketball, and baseball, plus small intramural basketball programs for boys and girls. The Plainwell, Michigan, schools superintendent said her district sponsors 72 team sports! She was right; Plainwell needs an athletic director.

Assuming this dramatic increase in the number of organized sports activities over a half-century reflects national trends, something doesn’t add up. Why the dramatic increase in the number of fat kids at the same time?

It is possible that junk food diets, more prevalent today than when I was growing up, contribute more to the national overweight problem than does a lack of exercise. However, health professionals are in agreement that both good diet and exercise practices are needed to develop and maintain healthy lifestyles.

One factor may be a decline in physical education training. A 2008 study by the Center for Education Policy found many schools cutting back on physical education because of financial pressures or curriculum priorities for other types of instruction.

Another study, reported in 2007 by the Centers for Disease Control, found 22 percent of schools had no physical education courses at all. Only 3.8 percent of U.S. elementary schools, 7.9 percent of middle schools, and 2.1 percent of high schools offered daily physical education classes for the entire school year.

If school boards are serious about doing their part to help slim students down, they might get serious about slimming down the number of team sport offerings.

Many team sports allow only a few students to participate. The cost savings of eliminating some of them could finance physical education programs for all students. Information on good eating habits ought to be included in the instruction.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Easily Identifiable

The University of Wisconsin colors are cardinal and white. Ohio State University’s colors are red and gray. Thus it was no surprise when announcers for Saturday’s nationally televised football game between the two rivals several times described the scene at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison as a “sea of red.”

Old fraternity pal Thor Thorsen was among the 81,000 spectators. He phoned fellow Sigma Nu Bob Hirsch just before the game started.

Thor said, "You won't have any trouble spotting me at the game if you're watching on TV. I'm wearing a red shirt."

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Sorry, Martyrs

I’ve just seen some rather startling statistics showing increasing sexual activity world-wide among teenagers and even pre-teens.

If present trends continue, soon one powerful motivation no longer will be available to recruit Muslim terrorists.

It won’t be possible to find 70 virgins in heaven.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

In Grateful Memory

Sgt. Anthony D. Matteoni (USMC), 22, Union City, Michigan. Killed in combat, Afghanistan, October 1, 2010.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Ya Gotta Know When to Play 'Em

In an entertaining post, blogger Joared (her site is “Along the Way”) told of a twinge of embarrassment when she played the age card to get her air conditioner fixed promptly during a southern California heat wave. I once was reluctant about asking for senior and other favors. Not any more.

Some 20 years ago, I snorted in disbelief when told a friend had joined the oldsters at the Golden Hours Senior Center in Ogden, Utah, the day after she turned 50. Our friend’s husband was a retired Marine Corps colonel, who was collecting a hefty stipend every month courtesy of Uncle Sam. In addition, he had collected an even heftier sum a few years earlier as the sole beneficiary of his wealthy mother’s will.

Our pal was resolute. She said she saw no reason not to take advantage of free lunches (a $2.00 donation was suggested, but not required) and numerous other perks available at or through the Senior Center. “After all,” she said, “I’m now officially a senior, and I deserve what I can get.”

Our friend was right. We’re not regulars at senior centers, but we have learned not to hold back when playing the age card or other special cards we hold will produce a winner. Discounts and freebies are all around us, and there’s no reason not to take advantage of them.

Although chains often aren’t the finest eateries, we many years ago became fond of several menu items and the atmosphere in Applebee’s restaurants. Last year, I was amazed to hear an elderly lady at an adjacent table ask for the senior discount. The waitress said, “Sure,” and knocked 10 percent off the tab. Applebee’s had provided a 10 percent senior discount for all the years we’d eaten there, but they never advertised it. You had to ask for it. Now that we’re in the know, I ask every time.

Lowe’s offers a 10 percent discount on Memorial Day and Veteran's Day to all veterans, and at all times to active service people. Home Depot matches the perk. But, again, vets must request the discount and they may have to show some evidence of their service. We’re remodeling our home and improving the landscaping. We’ve saved hundreds of dollars with those discounts.

If a little junk food is in order, Wendy’s is one place to get it. You can go there and pay the regular prices, which most do, or, at least here in Michigan, you can first visit a web site ( and get coupons that will cut your burger tab in half. And, if you’re a senior and ask for it, you can get a drink for pennies and get a free refill as often as you go back.

If you have a personal hang up about asking for a discount, try a little humor to put yourself at ease. My favorite tactic is: “I know you find it hard to believe I’m a senior. But I am. Do you have a senior discount?” That almost always brings on a smile, and occasionally nets a discount I wasn’t expecting. The world can use more smiles, and we can use more discounts.

It pays to be alert and do a little detective work. My local newspaper published a story on utility costs. Buried near the end was a brief description of a Senior Citizen Electric Credit of $3.00 per month if the household head is over age 65. I checked out the company’s web page and learned to my surprise that no income levels were involved, and I was eligible. It took 10 minutes to make a phone call and sign up.

The bad news is I missed $63 in credits that could have been mine had I been on the ball and checked out utility perks when we moved here. However, figuring we will gain $36 over the next year, I took Sandy to lunch in celebration—at Applebees using a senior discount, of course.

“Ask and it shall be given you. Seek and ye shall find.”

Good biblical advice. And on a more secular note, when you’re dealt a handful of aces—play them!