Friday, June 29, 2018

Is Baseball Too Tedious?

Last week I discussed my addiction to sports, and focused primarily on my favorite sport, baseball, and my favorite team, the Boston Red Sox. What I didn’t mention — and it makes me very sad even to bring this up — is the fact that baseball is getting really tedious these days.

At first, I tried to ignore this problem. But then I had a conversation with a guy I know through work, who is a lifelong Red Sox fan. When I asked him what he thought of the previous night’s game, I was stunned when he replied, “I haven’t watched a single game this year. Baseball has gotten so slow-paced, so boring, that I just can’t watch anymore. It’s like watching paint dry.”

I countered by reminding him how exciting it is when the Red Sox and Yankees both have good seasons and fight it out for first place, which is happening this year. He said, “Are you kidding?! Red Sox-Yankee games are the worst. They never finish in less than four hours!”

His words really shocked me. I’ve always said that I personally prefer a crisp 3 to 2 ballgame that takes a little over two hours, rather than a long, drawn out 12 to 9 game with a dozen walks that takes four-plus hours to conclude. But the powers-that-be in the Major League offices have determined that fans want a lot of scoring, especially home runs, so the game has been modified in recent decades. The most notable changes have been smaller playing fields with “short porch” outfield walls, significantly livelier baseballs, and tighter strike zones. I just accepted it as part of the evolution of the game. Everything now is geared for home runs, but the byproducts are more walks, more strikeouts, more 12-pitch at bats, and more pitchers getting pulled in the 5th inning because the pitch count topped a hundred.

After my Sox fan friend revealed that he doesn’t even watch anymore, I said to myself, “You know, he’s right. Baseball has gotten WAY too tedious. It takes forever to complete a game nowadays.”

The very next day a story appeared in many news outlets. Here was the headline: “MLB attendance drops to lowest in 15 years.” So far this season, attendance is down 6.6 percent compared to last year, continuing a downward trend.

Hmm, it seems my friend and I are not the only ones noticing. Fans are expressing their frustration by not showing up. (The $76 average ticket price — twice that at Fenway — might be a contributing factor, too.)

If it were up to me, I’d institute some changes to speed up the game, such as a 20-second pitch clock, tell the umps to call the real strike zone, and get rid of the DH. I think folks will realize a crisp 3 to 2 game that ends by 9:30 p.m. is more fun than staying up way past 11 watching your closer walk the bases loaded.

But, of course, it’s not up to me. So, in the meantime, let’s have James Earl Jones do a reading from the Gospel according to Saint Doubleday (from the climactic scene in the movie “Field of Dreams”):

“The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It's been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt, and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game — it’s a part of our past, Ray. It reminds us of all that once was good, and it could be again. Ohhhh, people will come, Ray. People will most definitely come.”

I’m sure baseball will survive. I just wish they’d pick up the pace a bit.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Don’t Worry, Be Faithful

In this week’s gospel reading, a synagogue official named Jairus approached Jesus and begged Him to heal his 12-year-old daughter who was at the point of death. As they traveled to Jairus’ house, news arrived that the young girl had died. Scripture says, “Disregarding the message that was reported, Jesus said to the synagogue official, ‘Do not be afraid; just have faith.’”

What a great sentence: Do not be afraid; just have faith.

Jairus’ friends encouraged him to let Jesus leave. “Why trouble the teacher any longer?” they reasoned, convinced it was too late for a healing to occur. But Jairus ignored their advice and pressed on toward his home, most likely clutching Jesus by the elbow and walking as fast as possible.

Jairus did what Jesus commanded. He had faith. (Although I can’t imagine he successfully followed the first half of Jesus’ command, “Do not be afraid.” He was probably terrified and on the verge of hysteria. At least I would be, in the same situation.)

Jesus’ key sentence, “Do not be afraid; just have faith,” was not merely for Jairus. It applies to all believers throughout all of history—including, and maybe especially, those of us living today.

To some observers, Jesus’ statement is no different than that goofy song, “Don’t worry, be happy,” by Bobby McFerrin. Many people think the heart of Christian living is to ignore our problems and pretend that everything is fine. As Karl Marx cynically sneered, “Religion is the opiate of the masses.” (Or maybe it was Groucho Marx. Seriously, I wonder how ol’ Karl’s soul is faring right about now, 135 years after his surprising discovery that atheism is not true.)

Christians are accused of mindlessly and irrationally ignoring the hardships of life and using religion as an emotional crutch. Although I’m not sure about McFerrin’s motivation for writing the song, “Don’t worry, be happy” (I suspect it may have been a few bong hits), the attitude expressed by the song is in fact rather mindless and irrational.

The difference between the song and the Scriptures is the foundation of each. “Don’t worry, be happy” is based on…nothing. Ignore your problems. Why? Well, just because. Be happy. Why? Well, just because. As experience teaches us, ignoring problems usually makes them worse, and trying to force ourselves to be happy is the surest way of becoming miserable. Jesus’ words do work, however, because of the foundation on which they are based: the eternal power and glory and love of God Almighty.

Jesus tells us not to be afraid. Why? Just because? No, because God is God and because He is in control of every molecule in the universe, from the beginning of time and for all eternity; that’s why. Jesus tells us to have faith. Why? Just because? No, because faith can not only move mountains, it also is our ticket to eternal life in Heaven with God; that’s why.

Jairus had faith in Jesus’ words, however weak and tentative his faith might have been. And his faith was rewarded, as Jesus raised the little girl from the dead with the words, “Talitha koum.” (The Bible explains this expression means, “Little girl, I say to you, arise!” I always thought it meant, “You ain’t seen nothing yet!”)

If Jesus had told Jairus, “Don’t worry, be happy,” and then walked away, do you think Jairus would have suddenly been filled with serenity and joy? I don’t think so.

If the advice to ignore our problems and put on a big smile is backed up by nothing but hot air, we’re not likely to do the happy dance anytime soon. Only when that advice comes from Christ, who backed up His words by conquering death once and for all on the first Easter morning, can we be assured that there is truly nothing to fear. The song should be called, “Don’t worry, be faithful.”

Friday, June 22, 2018

Sports Addict Needs Support Group

“Hi, my name is Bill and I’m a sports-aholic.”

I don’t know if there actually is a 12-step program for obsessive sports fans, but if so, I should probably attend the meetings. Recently I tried to figure out how many thousands of hours I have spent during the past six decades following sports. This includes the time I’ve spent glued to the progress of a ballgame, either in person or via TV, radio, or Internet; or the hand signals of a co-worker during an important business meeting, as he checks the progress of an afternoon ballgame on his smart phone. (It’s a simple code. For example, the following sequence — 3 fingers, 1 finger, thumbs up, 5 fingers — means the Red Sox are winning 3-to-1 in the 5th inning. Or this painful sequence — 5 fingers, fist, thumbs down, 1 finger — means a rookie pitcher called up from Pawtucket for an emergency start got shelled in the first inning.)

Also, I have to add in the hours I’ve spent watching or listening to pre-game shows, highlight shows, coaches shows, halftime shows, game wrap-up shows, call-in shows, and looking-ahead-to-the-next-opponent shows. Plus, the time I’ve spent reading sports books, sports magazines, the sports section of the newspaper, and sports websites. I suppose I also should add in the amount of time I’ve spent drifting off to sleep at night while envisioning myself striking out the Yankees’ cleanup hitter with the bases loaded and two outs in the 9th inning using, of course, my wicked overhand curve ball. I’m embarrassed to say this particular dream did not cease when I graduated from Little League.

Since I’ve been alive for well over 500,000 hours at this point in my life, I figure the answer must be at least 200,000 hours. And that number would’ve been higher if various major league sports hadn’t gone on strike a few times, if my home hadn’t been hit by a handful of power outages over the years, and if I thought hockey was a real sport.

Recently, I finally acknowledged that I have serious problem. The Red Sox currently are battling it out with the Yankees for first place, and I’ve been staying up way too late at night to catch the end of the games, which results in concentrating way too little at work the next day.

Back in 2004, I remember fretting and squirming and agonizing over every pitch. At one point I prayed, “Dear Lord, just let them win the World Series one time. That’s all I ask. After that, I’ll be content and never get obsessed about sports again, and no matter what the Red Sox do in the future, I’ll watch the games with detached bemusement and serenity. Amen.”

Well, as you may remember, my prayer was answered that year, as the Sox finally broke the “Curse of the Bambino” and won it all. And they won the Series two other times since then! So, what do I find myself doing this year? Fretting and squirming and agonizing over every pitch.

Another thing to consider: I don’t even gamble on sports (which puts me, from what I can gather, in a distinct minority). So, it’s not like I have a financial stake in the outcome of any game. I have NO stake in any of the games. And yet I intently follow the most meaningless athletic contests as if my life depends on it. Surely a 12-step program is in order.

As I said earlier, I’m not aware of any Sports-aholic Anonymous meetings in this area. But if they exist, I should attend. That is, of course, as long as I can get home in time for the first pitch.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

John the Baptist’s Humble Passion

This weekend the church celebrates the birth of John the Baptist. Few people in the Bible were as colorful and controversial—and passionate—as John the Baptist.

John was the first person in Scripture to acknowledge that Jesus is the Lord. When Mary, pregnant with Jesus, greeted Elizabeth, pregnant with John, Elizabeth exclaimed, “As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy!” (Knowing John’s personality, Elizabeth’s belly probably quivered like a sack full of puppies.)

John’s divinely ordained mission in salvation history was that of forerunner. His job was to prepare the way for the coming of the Messiah. It was only a supporting role in the grand story of God’s relationship with mankind. However, he played the part with passion and joy, and most importantly, he did not upstage the star of the show.

John the Baptist lived a counter-culture lifestyle and didn’t care what anyone thought about him. He lived in the desert, and as Matthew’s gospel explains, “John’s clothes were made of camel’s hair….His food was locusts and wild honey.” (This is weird, even by California standards.)

John was also brash and bold. When the respected religious leaders from Jerusalem came to see him, he shouted in their faces, “You brood of vipers!” Later on, he publicly denounced King Herod’s adulterous affair, and as a result was quickly tossed into prison. Soon after, Herod had John executed.

Although John’s brashness and boldness were obvious to anyone who came near him, his greatest trait, the one which guided his life the most, was humility. Now wait a minute, you say. Humility? John wasn’t humble. He was loud and obnoxious and he drew a big crowd wherever he went. How can you say humility was his greatest trait?

Well, we need to remember the true definition of humility. Being quiet and shy does not automatically make a person humble. Humility is being unconcerned about yourself—not comparing yourself to others nor worrying about what they think of you.

The opposite of humility is pride (the first and worst of all sins). Just as loud and brash people can be humble—if they are unconcerned about themselves—quiet and reserved people can be filled with sinful pride.

John the Baptist was not concerned with typical prideful thoughts, such as: “What’s in it for me?” “What will other people think of me?” “Does this camel’s hair robe make my butt look big?”

As John was baptizing people in the Jordan River, some wondered whether he was the long-awaited Messiah. John quickly refuted the idea. “I baptize you with water for repentance,” he declared. “But after me will come one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not fit to carry.”

John easily could have parlayed his popularity into greater power and influence. But as soon as Jesus appeared, John knew it was time to step aside and let the true star have center stage.

When Jesus came to John to be baptized, John was stunned. He tried to deter Jesus and said, “I need to be baptized by you.” A prideful person never would have done that.

John the Baptist is a wonderful role model for all believers. His only desire was to do God’s will. He didn’t care about himself or what others thought about him. He directed everyone’s attention to Jesus rather than to himself. And to make things a bit more exciting, he didn’t hesitate to point out hypocrisy when he saw it, whether he was confronting pompous religious officials or the secular ruler of the land, King Herod himself.

We all should follow his lead: seek God’s will, and do it boldly, passionately, and most of all, humbly.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Grown-Up Hobbies Are Not Cheap

When I was a kid, my hobby was playing baseball in the backyard with neighborhood friends. We would play all day, every day, for the entire summer. The total cost of my hobby was exact $7.49 (six bucks for a bat, one dollar for a cheap baseball, and 49 cents for a roll of duct tape to repair the bat when it eventually cracked and to wrap around the baseball when the cover started to rip).

Now, many decades later, I don’t really have a hobby anymore — unless you count sitting on the couch and watching TV every evening. So, I thought it might be a good idea to find an activity that doesn’t turn my brain into a big bowl of guacamole, only with less conversational skills.

Unfortunately, I encountered a major problem trying to find a grown-up hobby: I have yet to win the lottery. You see, you can’t have a hobby nowadays unless you’ve won Power Ball or your name is Bezos. Here is a list of some hobbies for adults and their respective costs:

Boating – Owning a boat is a lot like having a cocaine addiction, except it costs a lot more and produces way more anxiety. Small boats cost as much as a BMW automobile; mid-sized boats cost as much as a Maserati; and large boats cost as much as a 7-bedroom colonial on four acres in Greenwich. But the cost of purchasing a boat is only a fraction of the true cost. You also must add in a trailer, the new truck required to pull the boat and trailer, docking fees, gas, insurance, and a team of fulltime mechanics.

Fishing – The cost of fishing is identical to the cost of boating, but you also have to add in a zillion dollars worth of “fishing gear.” Plus, you have to consider the “social cost” of having your hands always smelling like fish guts. Yeah, I’m pretty sure the ladies really dig that.

Snow Skiing – The proper equipment for skiing costs thousands of dollars. Lift tickets are obscenely expensive, and a new Volvo station wagon with a ski rack — which I believe is required by law in certain Yuppie areas of Vermont — is rather pricey these days. But the largest expense about skiing is the fact you have to hire your own personal orthopedic surgeon. Those guys do not work cheap.

Motorcycles – A few of my co-workers are into motorcycles. As best as I can figure, it’s a lot like boating, except when you fall off you don’t go “splash,” instead you go “crunch-crunch, scrape-scrape.” Maybe you can pair-up with a skiing enthusiast and share his surgeon. To give you an idea of the cost of motorcycling, if you want to buy a $12 black tee-shirt, you pay $12. But if you want to buy a $12 black tee-shirt with the Harley-Davidson logo on it, you pay $74. And the tee-shirt is the least expensive item in the world of biking.

Camping – Insects crawl into your nostrils while you sleep. Nuff said.

Golf – The financial cost of clubs, clothing, lessons, and greens fees is outrageous, of course, but the emotional cost of golf is worse. Few people know this, but golf was actually invented by sadistic Nazi scientists to measure how much frustration human beings can endure. Apparently, the answer is “a lot,” based on the number of people I know obsessed with golf.

After analyzing the cost of various grown-up hobbies, there’s only one thing to do. I went to Walmart this morning and bought a bat, a ball, and roll of duct tape. Now I have to round up a few neighborhood kids. And, at my age, an orthopedic surgeon.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Great Things Come in Small Packages

In this week’s gospel, Jesus offered a parable to explain the Kingdom of God. He said, “[The kingdom] is like a mustard seed that, when it is sown in the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on the earth. But once it is sown, it springs up and becomes the largest of plants and put forth large branches, so that the birds of the sky can dwell in its shade.”

There are a couple of ways to interpret this parable. On the one hand, it illustrates the Christian paradox, “Small is great.” Christianity teaches many paradoxical concepts: We conquer by yielding; we reign by serving; we are exalted by being humble; we become wise by becoming fools for Christ; we are made free by becoming His slaves; we must hit down on the ball to get it up in the air (oh wait, that’s a paradox of golf); we live by dying; etc.

The paradox “small is great” flies in the face of worldly wisdom. We’ve all been taught the important maxims of the world: bigger is better; he who dies with the most toys wins; money is power; might makes right; do unto others before they can do unto you; etc.

“Small is great” makes no sense from a worldly point of view. But God doesn’t view things from a worldly point of view. His is a heavenly perspective. And in God's eyes, the small and weak, the meek and humble, are the truly great ones.

Think of those who relied solely on the power and greatness of man: Caesar, Hitler, Stalin, etc. Sure, they all achieved temporary fame and fortune, but where are they now? What was their eternal achievement?

Now think of those who relied solely on the power and greatness of God: Paul of Tarsus, Francis of Assisi, Mother Teresa, etc. What did they achieve on earth by being so small and humble? Oftentimes, it was poverty, pain, and persecution. But where are they now? What was their eternal achievement?

Who do you think is in a better situation right now, Francis of Assisi, the humble, rag-covered beggar who spread the love of Christ wherever he went, or Stalin, the iron-fisted tyrant who murdered millions of his own people and brutalized half the world during his reign of terror?

A second way of interpreting the parable of the mustard seed is that it symbolizes Jesus’ life. A tiny seed was planted in the soil, just as a poor man from an insignificant time and place was killed and buried. The tiny seed sprung up to become the largest of shrubs, just as the poor man rose from His grave to become the most important figure in world history. The branches of the shrub became so big that birds built nests in its shade, just as Jesus’ redemptive power became so great that the entire human race could be saved.

Over a century ago Dr. James Allan Francis wrote an essay titled “One Solitary Life.” It reads in part:

He was born in an obscure village, the child of a peasant woman. He was an itinerant preacher. He never wrote a book. He never held an office. He never had a family or owned a home….He had no credentials but himself.

He was only thirty-three when the tide of public opinion turned against him. His friends ran away. He was nailed to a cross between two thieves….When he was dead, he was laid in a borrowed grave through the pity of a friend.

Nineteen centuries have come and gone, and today he is the central figure of the human race. All the armies that ever marched, all the navies that ever sailed…all the kings that ever reigned, put together, have not affected the life of mankind on this earth as much as that ONE SOLITARY LIFE.

Quite an impressive little mustard seed, wouldn’t you say?

Friday, June 8, 2018

Exotic Vacation Plans

A couple of months ago I received a very exciting offer from my college alumni association. They are organizing a two-week expedition next winter to Antarctica. (No, it’s not what you think. Winters here in the U.S. are actually the summer seasons south of the Equator. So, January and February are the warm months down there, when the daytime temperatures skyrocket all the way up to about minus-four Fahrenheit.)

I swear, I’m not making this up. The fancy eight-page color brochure explained that we first will fly to Buenos Aires, and then fly to the southern-most tip of South America to board a ship, the M.S. L’Austral. The vessel will cross the Drake Passage to Antarctica, where we will visit these well-known destinations: Half Moon Island, Port Lockroy, and Booth Island.

On board, according to the brochure, will be a team of world class naturalists who will lead our expedition groups on shore excursions, so we can explore Antarctica’s diverse wildlife habitats, including penguin rookeries. (C’mon, admit it, your personal bucket list, like mine, has this entry: “Visit penguin rookeries near the South Pole.”)

I read through the brochure, and then said to my wife, “This is very exciting. I’ll have to use up all my vacation days at work, but it will be well worth it, as the expedition organizers are going to pay me $14,000 to sign on for this research voyage.”

She took the brochure from me, perused it briefly, then said, “Um, no. This says you have to pay them $14,000 to go on the cruise.”

“What?” I said.

“Or,” she continued, “you can pay $18,000 if you want to stay in the Prestige Suite, located on Deck 6.”

I said, “You mean this is not a scientific expedition to uncover the mysteries of Antarctica, certain to be featured in a future National Geographic TV special?”

“No,” she replied. “It’s just a fancy cruise ship for people who apparently have already visited all the normal cruise ship destinations.”

I sat in silence for a while, re-reading the brochure. After about ten minutes, I looked up and said to my wife, “So, are you saying I can’t go?”

She never answered. I guess it’s still a possibility.

About a month later, I received another eight-page color brochure from my alumni association, this time offering the opportunity to go on a nine-day Amazon River adventure aboard the expedition vessel Zafiro. Based on the brochure photos, the Zafiro is definitely larger than the boat Humphrey Bogart and Katherine Hepburn used in the movie “The African Queen,” but not by much.

With this trip, we fly to Lima, Peru, and then travel to Iquitos, which is located at the Amazon River basin. We board the Zafiro there, and then head up river and explore the Amazon and its many tributaries.

Once again, there are world class naturalists on board, who lead small boat excursions along backwater rivers and flooded forests in search of exotic wildlife. Some of the wildlife mentioned in the brochure are pink river dolphins, bats, and red-bellied piranha.

After listing all the features of the Zafiro, such as air-conditioning, Peruvian cuisine, an observation deck, and a bar and lounge, the brochure offers this disconcerting sentence: “There is no doctor on board.”

Usually, my college alumni association organizes trips to more traditional locations, like Paris or Las Vegas. I suspect they recently hired one of Jacques Cousteau’s descendants.

So, I’m not sure which trip I’ll choose, the one where frostbite nips at my nose, or the one where piranha nip at my toes. Or maybe my wife will decide for me, and this year’s vacation will be in a different exotic location, like East Hartford.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

How Did Life Begin on Earth?

Did you hear that stunning news report the other day? Out in the Midwest, a tornado ripped thru a Home Depot store and sent everything flying in all directions. And then, left standing in the wake of that devastating twister, was a fully-functioning, 3-bedroom ranch-style house, complete with plumbing, electrical wiring, and a wifi home entertainment system. The chaotic force of the tornado, just by chance, put all the components together in the exact right arrangement. It was amazing.

Nah, I’m just kidding. We all know that could never happen. The odds are zero that every piece of wood, metal, glass, wires, sheetrock, nails, paint, and shingles would randomly fall into place and form a functioning house. It’s mathematically impossible.

But here’s another news flash: for the last four or five generations, science teachers have been telling their students that an even more unlikely event occurred: many years ago, swirling chemicals randomly formed themselves into a living organism, able to take in nutrients and expel waste, and able to reproduce itself. This was the beginning, it is taught, of the long history of life on earth, as this first organism reproduced, mutated, and evolved into all the amazing and diverse forms of life we see today.

The information encoded into the blueprint of life, the DNA molecule, is far more complex and intricate than the drawings and plans needed to build a 3-bedroom home. And yet, the story is presented in science classrooms that chaotic, swirling chemicals, with no outside guidance other than the laws of physics, accidently formed into a complicated, precision organism.

Um…sure. The terms “odds are zero” and “mathematically impossible” come to mind.

Because the desire to explain the universe without acknowledging God as Creator is such a strong urge in the modern scientific community, this glaring problem is ignored. One famous scientist who could no longer ignore this problem was Francis Crick, the man who became famous in the 1950s, along with James Watson, for discovering the double-helix structure of DNA.

Did Dr. Crick acknowledge that God was the Creator of life on earth? Well, not quite. He proposed instead a theory known as Direct Panspermia. This theory claims that space aliens “seeded” the earth with the building blocks of organic life. In other words, the complex data encoded into DNA molecules is so intricate, and the chance that a living organism accidently came into existence is so remote, that DNA must’ve formed on a planet with more favorable conditions than earth. Then advanced creatures capable of space travel brought that genetic code—the seeds, if you will—to our planet, so the long history of life on earth could begin.

Once again, I say, um…sure.

I don’t know about you, but we’re getting to the point, even for an atheist, where belief in a supernatural creator God seems a whole lot more feasible than this wild theory.

Here’s the first paragraph of an article in Scientific American magazine: “The Earth is beaming with life and yet there is no consensus on how life arose…..The origin of life is one of the great unsolved mysteries of science.” 

Do you remember being taught that in your science classes? Me neither. They taught me that it was a proven, scientific FACT that swirling chemicals accidentally, randomly formed themselves into a living organism. A proven FACT.

Quite often the Church is criticized for being anti-science, but on this particular topic it’s actually science that is anti-science. Now, does this mean the God described in the Bible is definitely true? No, but it means science has in no way proven that God does not exist, the exact thing my science teachers taught me.

Whenever you are told that modern science has proven that there is no God, don’t believe it for a minute. That claim makes about as much sense as a tornado smashing through a Home Depot and then leaving a brand new house standing in its wake.

Friday, June 1, 2018

Natural Disaster in Our Own Backyard

A couple of weeks ago, during one of the typical water cooler conversations at my office (conversations which sometimes seem to take up more hours each day than any actual work), the topic was the volcano eruptions in Hawaii.

When people originally purchased the homes that now have been engulfed and destroyed by lava, it must’ve been an interesting conversation with the real estate agent. “Oh, you’re just gonna love this place!” the agent probably said. “Great views. Secluded neighborhood. Truly paradise!” Then the prospective buyer asked, “But it’s built on an active volcano, right? I mean, isn’t that a concern?” “Oh no,” the agent answered, “People barely even noticed the volcano during the past 20 or 30 years, so there’s nothing to worry about!”

My homeowner’s insurance company freaks out if my chimney flue isn’t cleaned on a regular basis. I wonder how steep the premiums are when your house is located three blocks away from molten lava?

At the water cooler, we started talking about all the places that are threatened by natural disasters. California is often called paradise, but they have to deal with earthquakes, droughts, wildfires, and mudslides.

People living in the Gulf coast states, Florida, and the Carolinas are at risk for devastating hurricanes.

The folks in the Midwest get whacked every summer by killer tornadoes. And those living near major rivers get flooded out every few years it seems.

I summarized our discussion by making this sweeping declaration: “Here in Connecticut, it might be too dark and cold for too many months in the winter, but at least the only disasters we have to deal with are manmade, such as high taxes, crumbling roads, and a lousy football program at UConn. At least we’re safe from natural disasters!”

I’ve got to stop making sweeping declarations.

Exactly one day later, a nasty line of thunderstorms raced across our state and produced four different tornados. Not one, but FOUR different tornados! Here in Connecticut! Gee whiz, I could probably count on one hand the number of tornados that have hit the Nutmeg State during my lifetime. (Please don’t send me emails with precise tornado numbers gleaned from extensive Google searches. I’m just using a figure of speech to convey the idea that we ain’t exactly Oklahoma, OK?)

Tragically, two state residents were killed during that recent storm; hundreds of houses and vehicles were severely damaged by falling trees; many days after the storm, tens of thousands of homes were still without power; and aerial footage showed swaths of destruction that made what were once dense forestlands look like a bunch of toothpicks scattered on the ground.

So, for the next water cooler discussion, the topic will be: where the heck can you live that is safe from natural disasters? I think the answer is obvious: nowhere.

Ever since the storm hit, I’ve been uneasily watching a row of tall pine trees on my property line swaying in the breeze. I did some quick calculations: Hmm, if the trees are 90 feet tall, and the base of the trees are 60 feet from my house, and if the wind knocks down one or more of the trees directly toward my house, let’s see, carry the five, move the decimal place over, that means, um, that means the trees will not hit me — as long as I’m at work having a conversation at the water cooling. However, If I’m lying in bed, the trees could squash me like a bug.

Maybe it’s time to sell my house and move to a safer part of the country. I hear you can get some great real estate deals these days on the big island of Hawaii.