Wednesday, January 27, 2016


Best Version IMHO

We are going, heaven knows where we are going,
We'll know we're there.
We will get there, heaven knows how we will get there,
We know we will.

It will be hard we know
And the road will be muddy and rough,
But we'll get there, heaven knows how we will get there,
We know we will.

We are going, heaven knows where we are going,
We'll know we're there.

By Art Garfunkel

Friday, January 15, 2016


10,000 per day.  That's about how many of us leading-edge Baby Boomers, born in 1946, are turning 70.  There are now many stories showing up about us in the media, such as here and here and here.
I will not repeat all of the many interesting facts and figures that are reported in those articles, but rather will simply note that many of us turning 70 hardly feel a day over 69!!  More seriously, one characteristic of us boomers is that many of us are still quite active - biking, running, hiking, skiing and of course basketball!!!  Played nearly 2 hours of 5 on 5 full court last night at the Nederland Community Center, and can still walk today!  Contrary to what Arn Willems insinuated in the previous basketball post, my teammates and I won all of the games [I should probably mention that one of our fellows was a 6'4" forty-something fellow that played college ball] :-)  Below are some fellows that I would like to meet - maybe in our 70-and-over league!

Wednesday, January 13, 2016


In 2013, I published a tribute to G. Barry Pierce that had been previously published in a journal.  In the comments section of that post, I noted the recent passing of Barry, and his obituary can be read here.  Several folks have emailed me with a few thoughts about Barry, and one fellow left his phone number in the comments section, asking to chat sometime.  I called David Rives and we had a long conversation with recollections of Barry.  I asked David if he would write something, and he obliged with several comments in the original post.  They are combined here - Thank you David.

Great talking with you yesterday, Doug.

As mentioned: in my senior year at Michigan, majoring in Cellular Biology, about to enter Michigan Medical School, my instructor in Cell Physiology lab came up to me one day and said, "Barry Pierce is giving a lecture this afternoon. Wanna go?", to which I answered "Sure."

Sat through the hour-long lecture -- on teratocarcinoma, naturally -- then, the next day, went to visit Dr. Pierce in his office in the Path Dept. "basement" (i.e., ground floor).

"Can I help you?" he said.

"Yes. My name is David Rives. I'm majoring in Cell Biology. I've taken a lot of biology classes, and chemistry classes, and physics classes and math classes."


"Also, I'm a pretty smart guy."


"Well, I sat through your entire lecture yesterday, on teratocarcinoma--?"


"And...well...I didn't understand a word you said!"


"So, therefore, I will have to go to work for you this Summer -- if for no other reason than to do whatever it takes to, in fact, understand what the hell you said!"

To which the great doctor smiled and shook his head. "Well, I've never had anyone ask for a job that way, so I guess I'll have to hire you! What day do you graduate?"

"May 5th."

"Fine, then you'll start the following Monday."

Which I did.

As it happens, in addition to Michigan Med, I had also been accepted to Washington University in St. Louis, and the UC Med School in San Francisco. However, all I'd ever wanted to do with my medical education was: cure cancer. Which I was now about to do -- working for one of this country's three ACS Lifetime Professors!

Which meant I no longer "needed" Wash U or UC. So, I told both of them what they could do with my acceptance.

Well, I start work in Dr. Pierce's lab. Naturally, my first question, to one of my labmates is: "So, 

where, exactly, is the 'Cancer Cure' department in this rather extensive laboratory?" 

"Oh, he says,"you don't know?"

"Know what?"

"We don't do that anymore." 

"Excuse me?!"

"I said--"

"No, I heard that. But what do you mean, 'you don't do that anymore'?"

"Exactly what I said: We don't do that anymore. We do 'basement membrane' instead."

"'Basement membrane'?"

"That's right: Dr. Pierce is looking for a way to alter basement membrane."

"What the hell for?!"

"Oh, because he thinks we might be able to cure kidney disease that way -- you know, glomerulonephritis and the like."

So, there I stood, chafing at the bit to cure cancer, figuring I had accidentally stumbled on the best way to do that (I mean, the guy had his OWN ELECTRON MICROSCOPE, for God's sake, and was thinking of ordering another, at a time when the entire Michigan Biology Dept. was trying to figure out how to get their FIRST!); having told two other pretty good medical schools -- that featured curricula I'd DROOLED over -- to "kiss off; I've got what I was looking for," with the full knowledge that the medical school I WOULD be going to -- the University of Michigan -- was among the worst, education-wise, in the country, no matter what "reputation" they may have garnered outside Ann Arbor -- there I stood, with all of that going on, only to be told, "Oh, we don't do that anymore"(?!)

Are you with me here: an entire LIFETIME changed because of a misunderstanding; because "we don't do that anymore" which no one bothered to tell me, ahead of time, was the case in the Pierce lab(!)

So, what did this semi-cum laude graduate of the University of Michigan wind up doing in that lab that summer? 

Just this: killing mice, by breaking their necks, then cutting off their tails, holding the "body end" of the tail in one hand, a pair of pliers in the other, grabbing the distal end of the tail with the pliers, then pulling out strands of pure collagen from the interior of the tail, so the guys in the lab down the hall could analyze it and compare it with basement membrane. That's it.

Oh, Barry did "throw me a bone" now and then -- once, by letting me chop up a cancer he had come across and implant bits of it in some mice spleens, to see if they would grow there (some actually did). 

And I got to use his ultracentrifuge once or twice, to spin down some RNA, to see if it would have any effect on the resulting tumors (it didn't). But that was essentially it for the summer.

In the Fall, I started Michigan Medical School and, as I had been forewarned, it turned out to be one of the worst educational experiences a human being could go through.

Luckily for the Medical School, most of the class had their eyes so firmly planted on the MONEY doctors made/make that the LAST thing they would be doing was complaining about the curriculum. 

"Oh no," their attitude was, "just let me suffer through this crap, so I can come out the other end a rich man!"

To humor me, I guess, the school stuck me in the Honors program, but that was little more than a "frying-pan-to-fire" arabesque.

In the end (i.e., after two years), I simply left the school, after starting to ask the "wrong questions:" 

1) "Excuse me, professors, is there anything we can actually CURE?!" "Uh, nothing that comes to mind." 
2) "Well, since we can't 'cure' anything, what about -- oh, I don't know -- PREVENTING disease! How does THAT grab you?"

"'Prevent disease'?! Are you crazy?! You want to put us out of business?! Get out of here!"

So, I did.

Moved to the West Coast and eventually began doing what I had wanted to do via Medical School: prevent disease, with my books "Walk Yourself Thin" and "Dying for a Smoke."

Anyway, that's my (Barry Pierce) story and I'm "sticking to it!"

Glad I had the chance to share it with those who knew the man.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016


This post is a continuation of the Greatest Game Series, so you may want to go back and read Part 1, Part 2, and The First Runner-Up posts.  Or you may not.....

Part 2 concluded with the Glory Days of New Paris High School basketball, 1962 - 1964.  The stars of our team went on to play ball at small colleges such as Manchester [IN] and McPherson [KS].  I 'chose' [that's another story] to attend Goshen College [IN] as did teammate Dennis Caprarotta.  As the fall semester got underway, we looked forward to the Junior Varsity tryouts, thinking that we would have a pretty good shot at making the team.  It didn't turn out that way -  primarily because it was not truly a basketball tryout but rather a supposed basketball skills tryout.  Apparently the JV coaches thought that they could determine the best basketball players by assessing who could quickly dribble around chairs, jump the highest, and dance rapidly through a hop-scotch-like drill.

Hardly any attention was given to actual basketball skills such as shooting, passing, playing good defense, working as a unit, or what a lot of us would call "basketball IQ."  Since I am quick but not fast and not a great leaper, I was cut.  Denny also did not make the team, although he was seriously hampered by his bum knees.

Thus, my basketball at Goshen College was as part of the intramural leagues and an occasional dorm-versus-dorm tournament.  For the intramural competition, the incoming class received a colored jersey that matched that of the last graduating class - clever.  We had green jerseys that we the used throughout our four years at GC.  I believe the other classes were yellow, red and blue.  Also, since there were many students interested in playing, each class had an A team, B team, C team and sometimes a D team, all playing in their own division, e.g. senior A's versus freshman A's, etc. A few times there would be two class teams in one league - we had two A teams one year.  Not quite sure how the teams were divvied up - might have been the intercollegiate coaches and players that grouped the intramural players.  It was also possible to move up or down if needed.  I think that I ended up playing at the A level for all four years at Goshen - trying to remember if I had to buy a new green shirt or if the original survived!

Kelly Green Was Our Color!

Most of our games were on week nights, which of course gave us a good excuse not to study.  Our referees generally were fellows who had made the JV and Varsity teams - some were good at it, some not so much.  I recollect Art Mullet, Keith Springer and Larry Mann reffed a lot of games and were relatively good.  We pretty much held our own during our freshman year, and by the time we were seniors, we were regular winners.  The best wins were against the faculty team - we tried to make the coaches who were playing on the faculty team sorry that they had not chosen us for the intercollegiate team!  I believe that I regularly volunteered to guard Coach Ingold.  Another highlight of our games is that a few attractive co-eds would come to watch us play - Rhonda Lou Willems was the foxiest of the group :-)  We had some pretty decent players including roommates John Riegsecker and Marlin Nofziger and other classmates Ken Willems, Mike Hostetler, Dorrance Mosier, Dallas Rychener, Don Steiner, Don Graber, Ron Gingerich, and ______ Stuckey. 

Another good time of playing ball was during the spring semester, after the intercollegiate season was over, when dorm floors and houses would face off against each other in a tournament.  The teams that had varsity or junior varsity players were often the winners, but our group of nobodies from Howell House in our senior year had a great tournament, even if I didn't help out too much during our biggest win.  Among our nobodies were John Riegsecker, Marlin Nofziger, Ken Willems, and Henry Bowman. We were playing a team that had several intercollegiate players and we were holding our own during the first half. The bad news was that it seemed that at least one of the two referees had it out for our team, and me in particular - the two - future brother-in-law Arnie Willems and the infamous Robert "Bob" Frey, who should have been named Richard "Dick".  "Dick" was all over me, and even warned me after one foul when I must have muttered something, that I "should not take the name of his Lord in vain."  I got five fouls and headed for the showers before half time.  I remember banging the metal doors at the end of the gym so hard that Rhonda followed me out.  Arnie give his brother Ken a technical foul for placing the ball of the floor after a foul rather than handing it to him.  Despite Frey's efforts to shut us down, our gang held on through the second half, and the game came down to some crucial free throws awarded to Jack Erb, who was probably our least proficient player.  Jack sank them both and we went on to the win!!!  Our 50th year class anniversary will be coming up in 2018 and I am pretty sure that I will still be pissed about the refs!  We played a team with 3 or 4 varsity players including big fellows Keith Springer, Mo Miller and George Liechty for the Championship and we barely lost out.

Another basketball venue during our college years was summer time night games at Rogers Park.  Often we would work all day and then head to the park after supper, and sometimes play until one or two in the morning.  A favorite break was to the local A&W Root Beer stand where you could get a quart of root beer in a cardboard container shaped like a small megaphone [oxymoron!!]

I should mention that during my high school and college playing days, I turned my ankles so many times, often quite dramatically, that my ankles are permanently over-sized, filled with scar tissue.  The good news is that the scar tissue is so strong that I rarely turn my ankles any more!  Thus with graduation in the spring of 1968, my official b-ball days at GC ended, but as will be noted in a later entry in this series, I returned numerous times to play on campus.

Monday, January 04, 2016


There must be some sort of web-crawling-blog-surfing hanky panky going on in Russia - during the past month, there have been 1883 visits to this blog from Russia, while the more legitimate visits from the US have totaled 431.  I seriously doubt that they are keenly interested in [Almost] Older Than Dirt, a post about our late father, Ed Swartzendruber, which had 100 views last month.

Sunday, January 03, 2016


I should have published this a few days ago because I believed that this was coming.  As is typical for big Division I schools, the early season basketball schedule is loaded with patsies who are simply happy to get a good payday and perhaps an upset of a supposedly superior team.  The CU men won 11 and lost 2 in the pre-PAC12 Conference play, but the 11 wins were generally versus mediocre teams, while the 2 losses were to decent teams.  So while Coach Boyle's proclaimed the he was 'bullish on the Buffs' going in to Conference play, I would have bet dollars to donuts that the basketball team would follow the inauspicious footsteps of the football team and not be able to win in their Conference opener:

California 79 -  University of Colorado  65. 

The women did not fare any better: 

Washington 76 - Colorado 74.

The men play tonight at Stanford, and if anyone wants to be even up on Colorado, I will take that bet.