A Look Back at 2017

Been a year worth many Smiles! Smile Gas in Madison Heights, VA

I have to admit that my life is rich and joyful. This past year has been one very interesting and challenging year. There have been more ups and downs then a roller coaster ride in Kings Island.  But I made it through the year with a smile on my face!!

The year started off on a high note as we were in Maryland finishing up a Christmas vacation and I saw a beautiful sunrise. We had some nice travel and then I started a new contract job for PrecisionHawk, a company that manufactures drone software. I was very excited, though it was a contractor position, I was able to work from home which made it very nice. My contract was supposed to be for one year but later on in the year the company transitioned management and many decisions were made, including one to eliminate all positions outside of North Carolina, which included me. That was totally unexpected, but, those kinds of things happen in this economy nowadays so one has to just roll with the punches.

Sunrise as seen from Ocean City, MD on New Year’s Day 2017…that’s the Atlantic Ocean.

Visiting PrecisionHawk HQ in NC in early January 2017

In February my daughter Marissa and I made a trip to Houston to drop off a trailer to my son Seth and his wife Holly.  We took Missy’s kids and had some fun stops along the way there (in Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana) and back (in Texas, Arkansas and Missouri).  Road trips are always a blast, but are even more fun with Grandikidz!

Visiting Alabama with Landen, Lyla and Joselyn

The giant Saturn Rocket on display at the Welcome Center near Huntsville, AL

Lunch at Mammy’s Cupboard in Natchez, MS (see Roadside America Post abt Mammy’s Cupboard)

Stopover in Louisiana

Holding a baby gator at the Gator Chateau in Jennings, LA

They do get much bigger!!

Being Chunky in Chunky, MS

Having Fun with the Grandkidz at the Magnolia Market Silos in Waco, TX

Time in Houston was fun as well.  Found a great quirky burger joint that we all went to.  Pretty unique…

The Shack Burger Resort in Cypress, TX – a load of fun!!

After visiting the family we returned home, first with a stopover in Uncertain, Texas to see the swamps.  Though uncertain about things, we met Aaron Applebaum (Mystique Tours) who took us on a boat tour through the swamp.  Didn’t see gators, but this February morning was a nice ride.  The kids even go to drive the boats.

Uncertain, Texas

Joselyn and Grampz on the boat somewhere in the swamp of Caddo Lake, near Uncertain

Aaron Applebaum let’s Landen drive the boat in the swamp

from the swamps of Texas/Louisiana, we headed north through central Arkansas and Missouri — a route that brought both planned and unplanned adventures.  In the middle of Arkansas, we came across a massive flock of migrating Snow Geese as we crested a hill.  What an amazing sight!!  We went through Missouri and then had a super time in Metropolis, IL.

Thousands of snow geese take to flight in central Arkansas

Hitting Missouri with the grandkidz

Having a super time with Superman in Metropolis

Later in the month my wife and daughter had a trip to Indianapolis to attend Time Out For Women. Wanting a road trip, I went along for the weekend ride.  We went out of our way to visit Story, IN and the Story Inn for lunch.  While they were at their conference, I visited some places in Indy.  Always seeking adventure!

Story, Indiana

The Historic Story Inn offered some amazing food!

Nashville, Indiana

Welcome to Indianapolis!

Hanging with Anthony Snape after his fabulous show at the Lexington Opera House.

We didn’t travel in March at all, but I was thrilled to attend an amazing concert in Lexington, where I got to meet up with my old Australian musician pal Anthony Snape, who performed with the amazing Tommy Emmanuel.  I took Marissa and she had a blast!

Later in the year I also got to attend a couple of other concerts, which I’ll note below.


Visiting Shenandoah National Park on Easter 2017

Julianne’s sister had a time share reservation in Virginia and so they set up a three night stay over Easter Weekend. As always, I wanted to drive.  I would take Julianne up there and then drive back on Easter morning.  I had a spectacular Easter morning visiting Shenandoah National Park and celebrating my own Easter Sunrise Service.  Had a spectacular moon (and even got a photo of Venus!!!) and took a really nice shot of a deer.

Easter Moon (taken with a Nikon D5200 and Tamron 200mm-600mm lens)

Caught this deer at sunrise off the side of the road. It stayed long enough for a quick shot.

Easter sunrise from atop the Shenandoah Mountains

By July I was out of “full time“ work and was striving to make it on the two or three small contracts that I had for a number of years with Vype magazine. That made things very difficult.

A composite of me with all of my grandchildren in 2012 and then again, same pose in 2017 (minus the youngest)

Hanging with the Grandkidz at the Wigwam Village in Cave City, KY. Yes, we stayed there!

That said, it was probably fortuitous that my position was eliminated because in July one of the highlights of the year came along and that was being able to be with my entire family for the first time in five years. All of my children and all my grandchildren were gathered together here in Kentucky and we had in some cases up to two weeks of reunion with family members.

With the family reunion came some additional fun as we traveled with parts of the family to a number of diverse areas including Mammoth Cave National Park, New York to see the Hill Cumorah Pageant and along the way a couple of beautiful state parks with amazing waterfalls, then on to Cleveland where we had another huge family gathering with my Laurienzo family and most of my family that was with us on the trip.

With Grandkidz at Mammoth Cave NP

Mammoth Cave

At the amazing waterfall in Letchworth State Park in New York

One of dozens of waterfalls in the gorge at Watkins Glen State Park in New York

With my wife’s sister Laura and her husband Richard in the depths of the gorge at Watkin’s Glen

Got to see my good friend Corey White, who was performing in the Hill Cumorah Pageant.

Visiting King’s Island as a family – what fun!

Making a splash with my granddaughter Autumn

All of us enjoyed the view from atop Mt. Washington in Pittsburgh, PA


With my sisters Nicole and Tina and brother Joe in Cleveland

My sister Sherry came up from Texas with her husband Brian and daughter Savannah to join us for a couple of days.  Had a thrill going with them to see the band Chicago perform in Cincinnati.  I hadn’t seen them since 1975!!

Traveling to Cincinnati with Sherry and Brian to go see Chicago

Chicago Live in 2017!

One of the many roller coasters at King’s Island

The two weeks in July was an amazing time and one which most of us will not forget too soon.  We even got some family pics, including this goofy one at Waveland State Historic Park near Lexington.  I was contracted by the park to do their official photography for websites and other materials.  It has been fun to do this throughout the year.

The whole family in prime form – July 2017!

The year also brought sadness for me as one of my very good friends, Joseph Higginbotham, got ill and eventually passed away. Joseph was a good man and he had no family, very few friends and really nobody there for him, so I made numerous trips to West Virginia while he was in intensive care, a nursing home and ultimately in hospice. I was with Joseph at his bedside when he passed away.

Remembering my good friend Joseph Higginbotham, who passed away in June 2017

I also had a dear sweet cousin pass away. Donna Shoemaker, a cousin of mine through my Laurienzo family, passed away this year. She was one of the sweetest and kindest souls I’d ever met. Knowing her added luster to my life!

With my cousin Donna in 2016.

Visiting with Charles Snow

During 2017 I was also able to visit in North Carolina with one of my very close friends from college days who had also worked with me at Nava-Hopi Tours in Flagstaff, AZ. Charles Snow has been a friend of mine for well over 36 years, and I was thrilled to visit with him in North Carolina. He too has had some major illnesses and it breaks my heart. My thoughts and prayers go out for him daily as he suffers and struggles from a rare disease and from congestive heart failure. This kind of thing brings sadness to my heart. Besides him, I have a few other friends who are struggling.

Happy Happy Happy

But, where there are downs, there are also upsides. And the year brought many wonderful and exciting things for me, some of which were lifetime thrills!

When you speak of the highlights of your life, it often centers around children being born, getting married or some big events like that. I have had many of those in my life, but this year I had three big “Once in a lifetime” type of rare events happen.

The first of these occurred in January when I had heard about the possibility of seeing the migration of sandhill cranes as they come through Kentucky. In mid-January ventured south to Barren River Lake to check it out during their sandhill crane event. I was excited as I saw 200 or 300 Sandhill Cranes far out in a field. I couldn’t ever get very close.

Got to be amazed by Sandhill Cranes in January…1000s of them.

But, I had also heard that there might be some near Cecilia, Kentucky, which is near Elizabethtown. So that morning I drove up I-65 to Cecilia and drove around a little bit. Soon I came across a flock of these tall, beautiful sandhill cranes. To my astonishment, I soon saw that there were thousands of them! They surrounded me in every direction. The eerie sound they make echoed in my ears while I saw the beautiful grace of these birds taking off and landing in massive numbers while many others stayed on the ground feeding on the leftover corn in the farmland that they were in.

Love the Sandhill Cranes!

I hung around for nearly 5 hours watching this beautiful event, all the way until sunset. It will always remain a highlight of my life, though I plan to visit and revisit again in future years, including this upcoming January (2018).  Ironically, in December of this year we went to Barren River Lake State Resort Park and stayed three nights.  I once again saw hundreds of this birds!

Sandhill Cranes in December 2017 near Barren River Lake State Resort Park

Viewing the Solar Eclipse near Hopkinsville, KY

Another event happened, also in Kentucky. The middle of the year there was the famed great solar eclipse of 2017. It was a full eclipse which is very rare. In my 61 years of life, I had never seen one. So I took the day off and I booked it down to Hopkinsville, Kentucky where it was supposedly the epicenter and perhaps the best place in the world for viewing the eclipse. Thousands and thousands of people gathered from all around the world to witness this natural event. I was one of them.

Many cars had things on them like this one to go see the Total Eclipse

Thousands were in chairs to see the eclipse

This kid was focused!

For a couple of hours I drove around witnessing the “circus“ atmosphere in Hopkinsville. People were dressed in eclipse T-shirts and many had their Pink Floyd “Dark Side of the Moon“ T-shirts on. Of course, everyone had their solar sunglasses!

As the event got near, I sought to find a place away from many people. I eventually found a small church that had parking for $10 and I paid them and I went and parked and sat and watched the event with amazement. I tried desperately to find a good filter for my camera in the previous weeks, but was not able to, so I had to wait until the actual event occurred to get some photos, which are shown below. Talk about a wonderful highlight!

Total Eclipse as seen through my Nikon

I got the Diamond!!

The last shot with my camera before the sun came out. Didn’t have a filter.

The third big exciting event of my life happened just a few weeks ago as I published my first book. I plan on publishing another 11 in the series, but my first book, titled “Less Beaten Paths of America: Unique Town Names,” is a book that took thousands of miles of travel and a lot of visits to out of the way places. I had written many blog posts and taken hundreds of photographs to finally create enough content for this book and those that will follow.

Published my First Book in December. Available on Amazon…sold over 100 copies and over 150 Kindle downloads in first month

Another highlight and good note for me for the year was being hired as a full-time employee by the website ComicBook.com in October. This was my first hired position in over five years and I have to say that I was filled with joy and gratitude for the opportunity. I am currently managing their database, which is massive and includes movies, television shows, anime and many other things. It’s a great opportunity for me and it’s a blast to work with superheroes all day!

My Happy Place

My Happy Place

This year I spent many hours visiting the nearby Jacobson Lake in Lexington, taking photographs of sunrises, sunsets, nature scenes and lots of birds. It has become my “happy place” where I can seek solace and enjoy the wonderful variety of God’s creations.

I got my first good photographs of eagles in 2017. There are two bald eagles that are hanging around the lake and I was able to photograph them and experience that wonder.

Heron with breakfast

One of my many bald eagle shots

Not only did I get to see eagles, some of them close up as the photo below shows, but I also was able to witness a massive flock of Snow Geese in Arkansas as I traveled with my grandchildren, I was able to watch Osprey dive in the water and grab fish, I watched with amazement as a Baltimore oriole wove its nest in a sycamore tree over a number of days. This year became my bird watching year and it was wonderful.


Took this Bald Eagle shot near Cave Run Lake

My happy duckling

I am amazed at nature and the variety that it offers. It’s been wondrous to watch cormorants swimming in groups in the lake as they “herd“ fish into a corner and then feed voraciously! It has been interesting to see the unusual and curious looking merganser ducks swim in flocks together. It is always peaceful to watch the graceful flight of a great blue heron or a great white egret. Both of which I’ve been able to experience this year. (I’ll be doing a subsequent post on my best bird shots of 2017 — so watch for it.)

A Red-winged blackbird

This goldfinch apparently had a bad day

Great White Egret in Flight

An amazing bird – the Osprey

Then there are others….

Flying squirrel

Blue Heron with Breakfast

Despite the negative political climate that has evolved in America, the terrible hurricanes and earthquakes and fires that are devastated much of America, I have been very blessed to be in a lovely place and not be directly impacted by any of these things. I have been able to enjoy life to its fullest this year. I’ve been able to see God’s creations. Through my photography I have made many new friends. I am fortunate to get to see many of them at the lake. I’ve been able to have joy with my 10 grandchildren, my five children and my lovely wife throughout the year.

Some of my photographer friends….thanks to them for making 2017 a good year

Hanging with Eddie Flinchum at the lake

Jerome Keeler

Charles Gough

Hallie Faurest

The gang at an eagle shoot meetup at Taylorsville Lake

Finally, we finished off the year on a high note.  Earlier in the year I had been contracted to do the photography for Waveland State Historic Park in Lexington. Through them we coordinated an agreement with the Barren River Lake State Resort Park. We spent three days in a unit down there (read Staycation) between Christmas and New Years.  Saw some splendid sunrises and sunsets and got to revisit the Sandhill Cranes. There were thousands of them all over the sky.

Winter evening sky at Barren River Lake

Sandhill Cranes fly across the sky

Daughter Chelsea takes after her Dad, catching the sunset

Found Paradise Point nearby — what a kick (there will be a separate blog post about this)

Brilliant Sky over Barren River Lake

When I look back on the year 2017, it will be with joy and happiness and many many many fond memories.

Choose Happy

So, as 2017 comes to an end, my heart is filled with gratitude and joy and I look forward to a splendid 2018!

End of 2017 — sunrise near Barren River Lake

Countdown 365: #343 – Guitar Heroes 1 – Pete Huttlinger

(Editor’s Note: As I approach age 60, I am “Counting My Many Blessings” by doing a daily countdown from 365. These are in no particular order, but, as you will see in days following, there is a method to the madness.)

Pete1Over the past twenty years I have been very fortunate to meet some amazing musicians due to my long friendship with musician Antsy McClain. Through him I also met the amazing producer and music aficionado Eddie Mattiningly, who introduced me to some of these amazing musicians and people. These are phenomenal guitarists yet are not “all about themselves” as they are friendly, giving and caring.  Among these, there are a group I call my “guitar heroes.” Some of them I have not met, but most I have and with some of them I have been blessed to develop a friendly relationship.

Pete Huttlinger

Pete Huttlinger

The first of these I want to mention is Pete Huttlinger. I have had the amazing blessing of getting to know Pete and his wife Erin over the years. I first met them at a show in Elizabethtown, KY and actually did some videos of Pete, which I have on my YouTube site (one of which I have shared below).  Pete is one of those fine musicians who made others even better.  He toured the world with John Denver over the last four years of Denver’s life.  He has performed with LeAnn Rimes in many places around the world and on television.  Currently he also does some performances with John Oates of Hall and Oates.

But, he is also an amazing musician on his own.  He has released a number of albums including my favorite, McGuire’s Landing.  He has done an entire CD of Stevie Wonder tunes (including Superstition as can be seen in the video below – filmed and edited by Sumoflam Productions).

But, there is another less known side of Pete.  He is a survivor. About five years ago he had a major stroke that caused him to be paralyzed on his right side and rendered him speechless. He went through a scary surgery only to find that he had a defective heart.  His wife and many of his friends and fans prayed often for him and Erin stuck with him through thick and thin.  He is now back on the road performing and doing what he loves best…playing fantastic guitar licks to satisfy the musical hankerings of many like myself and entertaining those who attend his shows. His playing style is heart-warming.  His person is even more so.

JoinedAtThe HeartHe and Erin have recently published a book called “Joined at the Heart.” I have recently obtained a copy and can’t wait to read it.  The book is all about his struggle and the struggle of his dear wife Erin.  And, moreover, it is a love story — it is all about their joint effort in love and humor to overcome the dire adversity that they faced.  I know it will be inspirational and uplifting.

Pete is a survivor.  Erin is a survivor.  And I am grateful for their acquaintance and the inspiration they provide — even more than the heart-soothing sounds of Pete’s amazing musical talents.

Knowing them is a true blessing in my life.

A Review: The Navy SEAL Art of War by Rob Roy

(Author’s Note: You can order “The Navy SEAL Art of War” on Amazon.com)


Former Navy SEAL Rob Roy

When you meet Rob Roy, you have no idea that this man served as a Navy SEAL and was a charismatic leader in that organization He spent twenty years (including time with the famed SEAL Team Six) in the SEALs. When you shake hands with this gentleman, you don’t feel the burning fire in his bosom that exudes when he trains executives in a Boot Camp fashion in his 80 hour intensive leadership course that uses military combat training to teach executives the leadership skills they need for success. Its an amazing difference.

Rob Roy

Rob Roy in combat gear

Rob Roy the person is an enigma. But, as a former soldier he was ruthless and was the ultimate team player. You can get a sense of this from the first lines of his new book titled “The Navy SEAL Art of War.”

For me, a teenager during the Vietnam War era, war and war methodologies were never appealing.  However, while at Northern Arizona University and focusing my studies on Asian History and Geography, I took a course on geopolitics and first learned of Sun Tzu’s “Art of War” as well as others like Claus von Clausewitz “On War” and Macchiavelli “The Prince.” I became fascinated by the strategies of Ho Chi Minh, Che Guevara and Mao and by the time I was in my Master’s course work in Political Science at Arizona State University, I was totally engrossed in learning insurgency strategies and guerrilla tactics.  So, my ideas on war have changed over the years.

Navy Seal AoW

The Navy SEAL Art of War is now available on Amazon.com. Click above for more

At the very beginning, in his introduction to the book, Rob Roy tells the story of Paulo, a man who is used to being the guy who tells everybody else what to do. We learn that this business leader was ashen and visibly failing, with sweat sliding down the worn creases of a weathered brow. This restaurant magnate in his mid-40s, who had successfully built a business and was a great leader in his industry, was emotionally and physically broken.

And this introduces us to the Boot Camp mentality of Rob Roy’s Special Operations Training Groups (SOT-G) that undergo his “Leadership Under Fire Training” program, which has a unique no-holds-barred and no-ego-spared process  that will either make or break a successful individual.
Sun Tzu

Sun Tzu

Roy’s book has over 50 small anecdotal chapters and was designed after Sun Tzu’s “Art of War.” Each chapter unfolds story after story of experiences from the Navy SEALs. He relates experiences of teamwork, leadership, mental toughness, humility, attention to detail and a myriad other attributes.

But don’t be mistaken.  Though the stories are indicative of military training and experience, they are really life stories. Each small chapter provides a new building block to help construct one’s life towards better leadership and management of one’s self and others.
I am especially impressed by his chapter titled “Have Servant’s Heart.” In this chapter he details the importance of a true leader actually serving those whom he/she leads. The passionate care about the well-being of subordinates has proven vital in the careers of the most successful leaders.  Serving others with dignity and nobility is a fabulous trait.
Retired Marines General James N. "Mad Dog" Mattis

Retired Marines General James N. “Mad Dog” Mattis

In another chapter Rob Roy emphasizes how former Marine General James “Mad Dog” Mattis, who was considered to be a ruthless warrior-statesman, would make sacrifices for his soldiers, even to the point of doing things way below his pay grade, just so that his younger soldiers and officers would be able to spend time with their families during holidays.  General Mattis was an example of vigilance, discipline, professionalism, innovation, lifelong learning and leadership.

Perhaps the most poignant and important chapter to me is the one titled “There Is No Finish Line.” When people ask me how I’m doing, I always say “I’m awesome, but getting better,” a concept I developed from years of working with Japanese companies and learning of the unique principle Kaizen (Continual Improvement). Masaaki Imai, the father of Kaizen is known for great ideas such as “When you solve one problem, you will see ten more,” or “Kaizen is everyday improvement, everybody improvement, everywhere improvement.” The whole idea is that there is always room for improvement. And Rob Roy teaches the same principle in this chapter. The opening paragraph to the chapter says it all:

Kaizen – Continual Improvement

Instead of looking for the finish line, tell yourself there is no such thing. Instead, constantly immerse yourself in (and learn from) the journey. And continually be prepared for what’s just around the corner.

I have had the great opportunity to meet Rob Roy and personally discuss some of my own challenges with him.  Indeed, it was his book that inspired me to get into high gear and begin my weight loss journey a few weeks ago (see blog post here). I have taken the “No Finish Line” philosophy in my goal to gain my health back and get in shape. Rob has been an inspiration and the chapters of his book continue to help drive me forward on the journey. In fact, I have created my own “team” in the form of Team Sumoflam that is loaded with friends and family (including Mr. Roy!!) that provide the needed encouragement and drive to succeed in this journey.
David "Sumoflam" Kravetz with Rob Roy

David “Sumoflam” Kravetz with Rob Roy

The Navy SEAL Art Of War” will inspire and will provide emotional and mental nourishment to your soul as you progress through each chapter. Rob Roy has thoughtfully authored a book that will help you know who you are.
The reality is that it takes hard, continuous work to really know oneself; to know one’s strengths and weaknesses. But smart leaders find the same energy, passion, and competitiveness that they apply to the challenges in their everyday lives and they routinely turn it inward – focusing on knowing themselves better in order to gain a leadership advantage.
Chock full of good wisdom, the Navy SEAL Art of War is an excellent read!  Order it today!!

Tui Snider’s New Book “Paranormal Texas” is now out! Reviews are in!

TuiMy good friend and fellow travel blogger Tui Snider has recently published and released her second book this year. (See my post about her first one HERE).  Just in time for Halloween and the occasional hauntings, this book is a GREAT guide to some of the quirky, offbeat and unique haunted places, graveyards and spooky retreats in the Dallas/Fort Worth area.

Why creep around at night when so many haunted places in north Texas are open to the public & active during the day? Tui Snider explains the intriguing stories behind some of the paranormal activity in the Dallas – Fort Worth area, and she also gives directions to these places so you can visit them first hand. Here are a few.

*Serial killer’s grave where EVP’s are common
*Amusement park with a haunted candy store
*Country graveyard with a glowing tombstone
*Haunted hotel where a university teaches ghost hunting
*Elevator that opens by itself when pretty women walk by
*Historic cemetery where people get orbs in broad daylight
*Ghost town with an operatic apparition
*B&B with a ghost who is protective of women
*Theater that kept its ghost in mind when remodeling
*Historic town squares where every shop has a ghost

Tui2Tui is also currently offering a Trick or Treat Giveaway and she’s lowered the price on the Kindle version of Paranormal Texas to a mere 99 cents during the Book Release Trick-or-Treat Giveaway. On November 1st, the price pops back up to $4.99. For more details, visit her page about the Giveaway.

I know Tui personally and know the time and effort she takes for research is impeccable.  You can rest assured that this book is packed with great information.

Sumoflam with Tui Snider

Sumoflam with Tui Snider


A number of folks have submitted their comments already:

Diana Coffin – Graves County, Kentucky: “I love this book.  I was just dying to learn more about the unique cemetery stories.”

Carrie Noe Cash – Tightwad, Missouri: “I usually don’t go out of my way to pay for a book online, but this one piqued my interest so I dropped my 99 cents and got it.  Well worth every dollar I spent! Gonna save my pennies and maybe take a trip to Texas.”

Perry Normal – Uncertain, Texas: “I was not certain why Ms. Snider didn’t visit Uncertain to learn about our “Swamp Thing,” but she certainly had some other great stories, especially the one with the orbs in the cemetery! We get those here too.  Maybe her next book can be on the Paranormal in East Texas.”

Rufos Realle – Roswell, New Mexico: “Living with the paranormal daily in UFO central, I found this book to be a wonderful break from the other-worldly appearances here in Roswell.”

Ima Gooly – Boring, Oregon: “Ms Snider has brought excitement to my life.  I have sought to find a new nesting place for my snakes and lizards.  I plan on moving to Fort Worth and spending my time visiting these hauntingly familiar places and hopefully discovering a few of my own.”

Angelica Diablo – Hell, Michigan: “Books on the Paranormal and Ghostly are like arrows, happy is the GothGirl that has her quiver full of them! Thanks Tui for providing me a new and hellaciously yummy book!”

Livin’ the Dream – Following the Reinvention of Myself

Last week I put up a post on my Less Beaten Paths travel blog noting how writing that blog lead to a reinvention of myself and my career path (and also celebrating that blog’s 50,000th visit). This post is a follow-up to that one and I do it on my Sumoflam’s Singlewide blog because it’s not really associated with travel (though I do note some travel things in here….let’s face it, its in my blood).

Livin' the Dream

Living the Dream – masking Antsy McClain

I have called this “Livin’ the Dream” as that is the best way for me to express what my current career situation is for me.  I have gone from nightmares to living the dream and doing what I am passionate about.

DreamJob1To me, a “dream job” does not necessarily mean a job that provides tons of income, but rather a job that provides satisfaction and doing what I love doing. Don’t get me wrong, income is necessary and more of it is better.  But doing what I love while earning money to do it…now THAT is a Dream Job!

My fist real dream job - being a tour guide in Flagstaff in 1983

My first real dream job – being a tour guide in Flagstaff in 1983

Over the years, I have had a number of dream jobs. Perhaps my first was working as a tour guide in Flagstaff, Arizona in the early 1980s.I drove vans and buses and took tourists all over the beautiful locations of northern Arizona to places like Sedona, Monument Valley, the Navajo and Hopi Indian reservations, the Petrified Forest, Sunset Crater, and many other fabulous locations including the Grand Canyon. I met wonderful people, saw beautiful scenery year around, and I truly had a great time.

Working as a Tour Guide with visitors from the Isle of Man on the Navajo Reservation in 1983

Working as a Tour Guide with visitors from the Isle of Man on the Navajo Reservation in 1983

It was not until the late 1980s when we had an opportunity to go to Japan as a family that I was able to experience my next “Dream Job.” After graduation from Arizona State University with a Master’s Degree in Political Science/International Relations, I landed a position through the Japan Exchange and Teaching Program (JET Program) to work for the Oita Prefecture Government as a Coordinator for International Relations (CIR).  In fact, I was one of 32 Charter CIRs in the first year of the JET Program, which also brought nearly 500 Americans, Canadians and British to Japan to teach English.  This was my second “dream job” as I once again got to work with people from all walks of life from different parts of the world as they visited Oita and I got to travel, I did TV shows and had a wonderful two years on that gig (as well as an additional 2 years with Asahi Solar Corporation. My children were in TV commercials and all of these were a result of that particular position.

I served as interpreter, guide and host for then British Foreign Minister Sir Geoffrey Howe (L) and Oita's Governor Morihikio Hiramatsu (R) in 1987

I served as interpreter, guide and host for then British Foreign Minister Sir Geoffrey Howe (L) and Oita’s Governor Morihikio Hiramatsu (R) in 1987

I spent three days as host, guide and interpreter for famed Olympian from Romania Nadia Comaneci

I spent three days as host, guide and interpreter for famed Olympian Gymnast from Romania Nadia Comaneci

I did many TV shows while in Oita.  This was in Bungo Taketa at a famous Samurai museum.  I have the authentic swords used by the samurai as I presented a show (in Japanese) about this historical site.

I did many TV shows while in Oita. This was in Bungo Taketa at a famous Samurai museum. I have the authentic swords used by the samurai as I presented a show (in Japanese) about this historical site.

I was a co-host for a New Year's Celebration program in Oita in Jan. 1989.  Here I am with the camera man prepping fr the show.

I was a co-host for a New Year’s Celebration program in Oita in Jan. 1989. Here I am with the camera man prepping fr the show.

Upon returning from Japan in 1991, I struggled to find gainful employment for quite a while and ended up doing a lot of Japanese translation work and other work related to my Japanese language skills. Though very skilled in Japanese, I believe that I went through a “burnout stage” because of all of what I was doing. Indeed, it was a Japanese-related position that brought the family to Kentucky in 1993.

Japanese interpreting at the Toyota Plan in Woodstock, Ontario, Canada in 2008

Japanese interpreting at the Toyota Plan in Woodstock, Ontario, Canada in 2008

Nevertheless, it was interesting to work in manufacturing plants such as the big Toyota plant in Georgetown, Kentucky (1997) and the Toyota plant in Woodstock, Ontario (2008). I worked in a number of parts manufacturers plants as well. Learning the manufacturing process was quite enlightening. In between a couple of those jobs, I worked on a Japanese-owned horse farm (which was beautiful) and I also spent a number of years working at Lexmark where I thrived on the job, but I would never call them “dream jobs.” The best part of the job at Lexmark was the opportunity I had to travel to Cebu in the Philippines (where I trained my eventual replacements!).

Island Hopping in the Philippines

Island Hopping in the Philippines

On a boat off of Mactan Island in the Philippines with "Team Higante", the crew I was training in 2006

On a boat off of Mactan Island in the Philippines with “Team Higante”, the crew I was training in 2005

The trips to Cebu (which altogether totaled about 7 weeks) were definitely one of the best parts of the job. Despite the daily work routines, I spent many evenings and every weekend traveling around Cebu and other islands.  In fact, my first real trip journals (which lead to my travel blogging) were borne out of these trips (check out these early trip reports). Little did I know back then what my travel writing would do for me!

Sumoflam squeezed into an outrigger canoe on a small island north of Cebu.

Sumoflam squeezed into an outrigger canoe on a small island north of Cebu.

With friends in a Jeepney in Cebu

With friends in a Jeepney in Cebu

After Lexmark I did more Japanese work and eventually made my way to Ontario (which I noted above).  I really did not enjoy the translating work, but it brought income.  The best part was the travel to and from home every two weeks.  I took a different route each time, took lots of photos and wrote lots of trip journals (see them here).

Japanese trainers in Sparta, Ontario on a Sumoflam led "tour" of Southern Ontario

Japanese trainers in Sparta, Ontario on a Sumoflam led “tour” of Southern Ontario

My little home away from home in Paris, Ontario in 2008

My little home away from home in Paris, Ontario in 2008

After my Ontario gig ended, I spent nine months in a job that was a literal hell for me.  I worked as a call center rep for Sprint, then Boost Mobile, then Apple.  I hated the jobs…low paying, low morale and no challenge.  I sought for opportunities to leave at every corner.  And, then in 2009 it finally happened.

Working a baseball game for iHigh.com

Working a baseball game for iHigh.com

My next real “dream job” evolved from being hired by iHigh.com in 2009. I have always enjoyed working in web design and web related services. I have also always enjoyed working with people. And, furthermore, I have loved working in things related to sports, especially high school sports. As a result, my position became one of great passion and enjoyment. Indeed, I did not even take a vacation for almost 3 years. My job was practically a vacation.The job also included a great deal of travel and meeting with people at high schools around the country. I got to do broadcast work which I enjoyed immensely.

Polo Cross at the Kentucky Horse Park - we broadcast a number of Pony Club events.  Was great fun.

Polo Cross at the Kentucky Horse Park – we broadcast a number of Pony Club events. Was great fun.

I traveled to many locations to broadcast BMX Races and took many photos, like this one.

I traveled to many locations to broadcast BMX Races and took many photos, like this one.

As part of my iHigh work I was responsible for the USA Swimming partnership and got to attend the Olympic Trials and broadcast some events.  I a interviewing multi medalist Kaitlin Sandeno

As part of my iHigh work I was responsible for the USA Swimming partnership and got to attend the Olympic Trials and broadcast some events. I a interviewing multi medalist Kaitlin Sandeno

I participated in the FFA National events and helped manage broadcasts of this huge event in Indianapolis

I participated in the FFA National events and helped manage broadcasts of this huge event in Indianapolis

That dream job came to an abrupt end on November 2, 2012. At that time the company had made some major decisions in the business direction and the shifts left both my wife and myself unemployed as we did not fit into the new program.I was devastated as my “dream job” had fallen out from underneath me.

Had to Ponder the Future

Had to Ponder the Future

From the time I lost that position in 2012 through 2013 I struggled again to find any full-time employment. And that is where my previous post begins and how I have participated in the “reinvention of myself” and my skill sets.

Resilience in hard times is always best

Resilience in hard times is always best

I like to think of myself as being resilient. I have learned to adapt to change and always try to take a positive angle towards it despite any challenges, frustrations, hurdles, etc.I also make a great effort to not burn bridges along the way and to do a good job wherever I am up until the last day.

Working with VYPE

So, this reinvention of myself and my skill sets led me to learn the WordPress CMS through my travel blog and then through this blog and others. Relations that I had created such as those at VYPE.com brought me work and I was able to continue to build on the foundation that I had learned through my blog. With VYPE.com I worked with a developer and helped build the entire network after VYPE left iHigh and had to build their own network.and now, for over a year, I have worked with them and manage their entire Web structure which is all based on the WordPress platform. Through them I picked up other work and through other connections I picked up even more work to where I now have number of clients and I was working from home. I was doing things that I enjoy as putting together websites is just a form of creativity that I seem to thrive at.

Working with Antsy McClain

Working with Antsy McClain

With the freedom of working from home, I have reestablished the management of a number of websites I had done in the past. One of these was moving my good friend and well-known singer/songwriter/recording artist/graphic artist Antsy McClain’s website into the WordPress platform.  I once again manage this for him and work closely in his promotion. Indeed, this has been part of “Living the Dream” as I remain in the music industry, something I had dreamed about as a high school student.

On tour with Antsy McClain in San Francisco in the early 2000s

On tour with Antsy McClain in San Francisco in the early 2000s

Then, in early September I got “The Call.” I had been doing some work with my former boss at iHigh.com who now runs a multimedia company called BlueMillion.com. Blue Million is a digital technology and marketing company specializing in social media, digital marketing, and live video to online and mobile audiences around the world. Through this work, he called me from the offices of iHigh, Inc., which runs the Great American Rivalry Series.

Working with the Great American Rivalry Series

Working with the Great American Rivalry Series

This company used to be a sister company of iHigh.com, but recently split away as iHigh.com moved to VolarVideo. I was asked to use my web skills and social media skills to be their “Control Central” during football season. This has literally brought me full circle as I am now working out of the old iHigh Office on Mondays and Fridays and then from home during the week.  Like the days of iHigh, I watch and monitor high school football from the office on Friday nights.  I get to work with many of the high school coaches and broadcast organizations of the past as well. I count this both as an immense blessing and a recognition for my devoted hard work ethic.

Wearing two hats (OK, a hat and a shirt) as I am full swing into high school sports again.

Wearing two hats (OK, a hat and a shirt) as I am full swing into high school sports again.

Coupled with this, I have partnered with Fieldhouse Media Group as their Web Manager (and as an extension I am the Digital Media Coordinator for VYPE.com, part of FMG now). I work with many wonderful people. As a result of this work, I am once again working with a number of broadcast groups across the country and am able to bring them on to the VYPE network as partners.


Sumoflam with Texas author and blogger Tui Snider

Another wonderful “dream fulfiller” which originated with my blog writing was “meeting” other bloggers, photographers and writers. They have all inspired me in so many ways that I will continue to “reinvent” myself and move towards writing some books about travel the back roads of America…an extension of my blog. (Shown above is Tui Snider, author of two books recently and blogs at Mental Mosaic).

A couple of others that have become an inspiration:

Derek Ace a professional photogapher...does amazing work.  We met at Hells Half Acre in Wyoming in May 2014

Derek Ace, a professional photographer…does amazing work. We met at Hells Half Acre in Wyoming in May 2014 (See some of his work on Facebook)

A video about Minnesota Travel Writer Seth Hardmeyer, who does the Highway Highlights blog about Minnesota (and beyond).  We have shared many inspirational stories and places.  He has been an inspiration.

The Dream Job is here and better than ever. Its not about the money, its about the doing what you enjoy and excel at. I now have a photo blog, a photo site on National Geographic and have become a member of the Professional Travel Bloggers Association  Life is Good!

Life is Good

Life is Good

New Book on Texas Travel: Tui Snider – Unexpected Texas

[AUTHOR’S NOTE: This is a repost from my Less Beaten Paths Travel Blog in promotion of my friend Tui Snider and her new book “Unexpected Texas”]

Tui Snider - author of "Unexpected Texas" (courtesy of Tui Snider)

Tui Snider – author of “Unexpected Texas” (courtesy of Tui Snider)

Throughout my time as a travel blogger I have had the opportunity to correspond and exchange notes with many other travel bloggers who are also find of the offbeat and quirky. One of those with whom I have worked with often is Tui Snider, from Azle, Texas.

Tui is a freelance writer and travel blogger specializing in offbeat sites, overlooked history, cultural traditions, and quirky travel destinations. Her articles and photos have appeared in BMIbaby, easyJet, Wizzit, Click, Ling, PlanetEye Traveler, iStopover, SkyEurope, and North Texas Farm and Ranch magazines, among others. She also wrote the shopping chapter for the “Time Out Naples: Capri, Sorrento, and the Amalfi Coast 2010” travel guidebook. Unexpected Texas is her first book.

Unexpected Texas excerpt (courtesy of Tui Snider)

Unexpected Texas excerpt (courtesy of Tui Snider)

First off, I am honored to have been asked to be a part of her “Blog Tour” and to help interested travelers find another valuable guide for seeing some of the more unusual and fun parts of our great country. (Also, some lucky viewers will won some nice prizes….see below for details!!) I have had a chance to peruse this book and it is really chock full of splendid places on back roads you never heard of. Having traveled 1000s of miles of Texas backroads myself, I know that this will likely be Tui’s first book, but not last, on the wonders of Texas.

Unexpected Texas Cover features the famous Cowboy Hat adorned Eiffel Tower in Paris, Texas (photo courtesy of Tui Snider)

Unexpected Texas Cover features the famous Cowboy Hat adorned Eiffel Tower in Paris, Texas (photo courtesy of Tui Snider)

Some of the places, such as the Paris, Texas Eiffel Tower that adorns her cover are places I have been.


Sumoflam at Eiffel Tower in 2007 (photo by Sumoflam Productions)

Sumoflam at Eiffel Tower in 2007 (photo by Sumoflam Productions)

Looking up at Eiffel Tower (photo by Sumoflam Productions)

Looking up at Eiffel Tower (photo by Sumoflam Productions)

For Tui, travel is a mindset. Her motto is “Even home is a travel destination,” and she believes that “The world is only boring if you take everyone else’s word for it.” She has worn a lot of hats in her life – literally – and is especially fond of berets. Her first book, “Unexpected Texas” is a guide to offbeat and overlooked places within easy reach of the Dallas – Fort Worth region of North Texas.

The Nutt House Hotel in Granbury Square, one of the locations covered in Tui Snider's book.

The Nutt House Hotel in Granbury Square, one of the locations covered in Tui Snider’s book.

Tui provides a nice overview of the quirky, offbeat and even scary places around north Texas, sharing often overlooked travel tips for places within a day’s drive of Dallas and Fort Worth. Some of the quirkier chapters include details on how to visit the:

  • Gravesite of an alleged space alien.
  • Courthouse displaying an embalmed lizard in a velvet-lined casket.
  • Statue of Jesus wearing cowboy boots.
  • Museum commemorating the lynching of Santa Claus.
  • Life-sized wax replica of Da Vinci’s Last Supper.
  • Building made entirely of salt.
  • 65 foot tall Eiffel Tower replica.
  • Petrified wood cafe.
  • World’s smallest skyscraper.
  • Only Michelangelo painting in America.
The Old Douglas Hotel in Mineral Wells, 1930s hotel to the stars (and Bonny and Clyde). Covered by Tui Snider in her book (photo by Sumoflam Productions)

The Old Douglas Hotel in Mineral Wells, 1930s hotel to the stars (and Bonny and Clyde). Covered by Tui Snider in her book (photo by Sumoflam Productions)

Personally, I have driven hundreds of miles of roads in Texas and visited over 100 cities and towns, including a few of the places Tui covers in her book, such as Mineral Wells and the famous Douglas Hotel, where it was rumored that Bonnie and Clyde had stayed numerous times. I have also been to the Fort Worth Stockyards, Granbury, Denton, the Fossil Rim Animal Park and more. But I have barely scratched the surface in terms of the number of places Tui details in this great book!

Pecos Bill, the giant longhorn for photo ops at the Fort Worth Stockyards (photo by Sumoflam Productions)

Pecos Bill, the giant longhorn for photo ops at the Fort Worth Stockyards (photo by Sumoflam Productions)

As an author, Tui now has a page of her own on Amazon

You can also find Tui all around the web. Feel free to drop by and say say hi:

Tui Snider’s Offbeat & Overlooked Travel Blog

Tui Snider’s Facebook Author Page

Tui Snider’s awesome Instagram Page

Tui’s Pinterest Page

Sumoflam LOVES visiting Texas!!

Sumoflam LOVES visiting Texas!!

The World of Humor and Self Help: I’m Awesome, but Getting Better

Awesome, but Getting Better

I’m Awesome, but Getting Better….

….And here is why…..

Humorists Keep Me Alive
Groucho Marx Swami Beyondanada Antsy McClain

I have always loved humor. It always makes me feel better.  There are studies that argue strongly that happiness and laughter are natural immune boosters (see this one). In fact, before you continue with this post, enjoy the following video from Belgium entitled “Merci!” produced and directed by Christine Rabbette in 2003.  If this doesn’t give you a chuckle and keep you smiling for a while nothing will. The man laughing in the video is Belgian comic Jan Hammeneker. I love this piece!!

Though always one for fun, I have always sought for laugh inducement, whether it be Dr. Demento in the early 1970s to the Blues Brothers or Steve Martin comedies in the movies and TV.  One of my favorite “immune boosters” is the Marx Brothers.  I was first introduced to them in the 1970s and totally embraced the world of Punnishment (using puns…). Then in the 1980s I got to embrace FUNdamentalism via the great Swami Beyondananda. Finally in the 1990s I got to Enjoy the Ride of the Way Cool World of Singer/Songwriter/Humorist/Artist/Author Antsy McClain. I have never looked back since and humor keeps me alive, happy and well.

The Marx Brothers – I’d Never Join a Club That Would Have Me as a Member

The Marx Brothers

The Marx Brothers

I was officially introduced to the Marx Brothers and their antics while I was a senior at Murray High School in Utah. Like many others my age I had grown up watching the Three Stooges on TV and had seen some Laurel and Hardy shows and had even seen some of the Marx Brothers skits (and all about slapstick).  But the real impact happened when I joined my friends at the Blue Mouse Theater in downtown Salt Lake City (which closed around 1987). This arts-centric theater showed a number of old movies, hosted the Rocky Horror Picture Show, etc.  During 1974 they hosted a number of Marx Brothers movies on the big screen.  We went and had a blast.  In fact, though already a good punster, my punning skill level zoomed to new heights after watching Groucho Marx and his verbal antics.  To this day I have been known to repeat many of his famous one-liners such as the following:

  • I have a mind to join a club and beat you over the head with it
  • Time flies like an arrow; fruit flies like a banana
  • Whatever it is, I’m against it
  • I would never join a club that would have me as a member
  • While in my pajamas I shot an elephant.  What it was doing in my pajamas I’ll never know.

Click here to visit a great page of Groucho’s one-liners.  And even more are here!

Then there is my favorite quote from Chico Marx in “A Night at the Opera.” It’s a scene where they are discussing terms of a contract.  This is one of my all time favorites!!

The contract scene between Driftwood (Groucho) and Fiorello (Chico) (“the party of the first part …”) is telling of my kind of humor (and have used the punch line myriads of times:

Fiorello: Hey, wait, wait. What does this say here, this thing here?
Driftwood: Oh, that? Oh, that’s the usual clause that’s in every contract. That just says, uh, it says, uh, if any of the parties participating in this contract are shown not to be in their right mind, the entire agreement is automatically nullified.
Fiorello: Well, I don’t know…
Driftwood: It’s all right. That’s, that’s in every contract. That’s, that’s what they call a sanity clause.
Fiorello: Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha! You can’t fool me. There ain’t no Sanity Clause!

Here is the actual video clip:

Swami Beyondanda – Take Humor Seriously, and Seriousness Humorously

Swami Beyondananda

Swami Beyondananda

In the 1980s I was introduced to a book entitled “Driving Your Own Karma: Swami Beyondananda’s Tour Guide to Enlightenment ” by Swami Beyondanda. My step dad had it and thought I would enjoy it.  This book had me in stitches from the first page, but I was also impressed about the “self-help” content intertwined with it.  The Swami uses puns and humor to actually work towards this self help. It was my first venture into FUN-da-Mentalism where the effort is on more FUN and less mental.  Or, as the Swami says on his site: He has “held forth on topics such as “Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sects” (“… unbridled sects can lead to unwanted misconceptions …”), “Teach Your Dog to Heal” (“… being around friendly canines generates healthy hormones called puptides …”), “Tantrum Yoga” (“… the latest rage on the path to ire consciousness”), and “Be There Now, Swami’s ultimate take on bi-location” (“… the first time I stepped outside my body, I was beside myself with excitement …”).

DrivingYourKarmaThe Swami is the alter ego of Steve Bhaerman, an internationally known author, humorist, and workshop leader. For the past 23 years, he has written and performed as Swami Beyondananda, the “Cosmic Comic.” Swami’s comedy has been called “irreverently uplifting” and has been described both as “comedy disguised as wisdom” and “wisdom disguised as comedy.” One of his many mantras is “It’s time to take humor seriously, and seriousness humorously.”

Steve Bhaerman

Steve Bhaerman

The Swami teaches the ancient art of “Foo Ling” — where people use laughter as a tool to enlighten up their own lives, and the lives of those around them. And one of the best ways to multiply healing laughter is to celebrate those moments when laughter leads to a breakthrough — what the Swami calls moments of “Fool-Realization“.

DuckSoup In a play on the Marx Brothers’ movie “Duck Soup” (this was the movie with the oft parodied mirror scene and see Lucy and Harpo Marx do it ) coupled with the 1990s “Chicken Soup for the Soul” and other Chicken Soup books (now over 200 titles) by success guru Jack Canfield and Inspirational speaker Mark Victor Hansen, the Swami teaches in “Duck Soup for the Soul” that we can alter our own reality (and the reality of those around us) by Making Fools of ourselves, putting levity over gravity, remembering to Tell-A-Vision, being Esteem-Generators, and Committing Random Acts of Comedy and Beautiful Nonsense.

Antsy McClain – Welcome to the Trailer Park

Antsy McClain

Antsy McClain

I first met Antsy McClain (this is his stage name) in 1993 in Kentucky.  We worked together at an auto parts production plant as Japanese interpreters.  I was away from family, who stayed back in Arizona and Antsy too worked away from family on this limited time contract position. It was during this time that we discovered a shared love of humor and music.  It was soon after that Antsy had left the company and had coupled with a friend to form the “Trailer Park Troubadours,” a musical group with a bit of a goofy “schtick”.  Over the years I have worked with Antsy, managing his website, working concert shows, producing some of his videos, doing some of his photography (like the one above), sometimes touring and even singing with him on stage. (See my “History of the Troubs” for more on the group). Antsy is not only an amazing musician, but is a noted professional artist and has published a number of books.  If I die before he does, I want him singing at my funeral!!! Many of his earlier songs were quite funny, but over the years he has also developed some serious leaning, yet inspiring songs. One of the more humorous videos that I produced for him was that of “The Bathroom Songwriter (clink link below)

I did this for him in 2008 and have a number of his other videos on my YouTube Channel. Antsy’s unique humor and his famed “Antsyisms” have kept thousands of fans happy.  If I ever have a down day, I just need to pull out “Trailercana” or “Way Cool World” and may day is brightened.

Roger McFuddleton's Pet Grudge by Antsy McClain

Roger McFuddleton’s Pet Grudge by Antsy McClain

But music is not his only forte.  He has produced books such as the Pet Grudge picture book above, which is a delightful story of a man with a Pet Grudge that eventually gets too big. Won’t tell the ending…would ruin the story for you.  And then, almost mirroring Swami Beyondanada, in 2012 Antsy published “Resisting Enlightenment in 12 Easy Steps: A Guide to Making Mistakes

Resisting Enlightenment in 12 Easy Steps

Resisting Enlightenment in 12 Easy Steps by Antsy McClain

Between Antsy’s music, art and writing, he helps us to learn about “another code of living – the Aluminum Rule: Thou Shalt Enjoy the Ride”, he helps men learn that the three most important words they can say to their wife are “I Married Up” and teaches us that “a burden is small ’til you feed it” and so we need to “Let the Little Things Go.”  His amazing use of double entendre in his songs mixed with some humor and inspirational thought has endeared him to 1000s who now call themselves “Flamingoheads.”   He always can sing “A Happy Song” to make me happy.

laughter_medicineSo, I try to take my laughter pills every day to keep me smiling, reduce stress and even help others around me have a brighter day. This is what keeps me “Awesome, but getting better”

Jolly Sumoflam

Jolly Sumoflam

If Swami Beyondanda can don a funny colored wig, so can I……

Sumoflam's Alter Ego

Sumoflam’s Alter Ego – always smiling!

I Love Trivia!

I am always in pursuit of trivia…all that useless knowledge makes for great and fun conversation. Trivia is (or are) unimportant (or “trivial”) items, especially of information. Usually these are unimportant facts that everybody has stored somewhere at the back of the brain and are useful in conversation or in games.

Jeopardy!_1974It all started for me in the 1960s when I would catch the television trivia show “Jeopardy“, which got its start in the 1960s and continues as a popular show today.  I loved that the material for the questions covered a wide variety of topics (including history and current events, the sciences, the arts, popular culture, literature, and languages),and that there were also pun-laden titles (many of which refer to the standard subjects), wordplay categories, and even entire sets of categories with a common theme.

Trivial Pursuit

Always in pursuit of Trivia!

I have always been a fan of trivia.  I can remember reading the newspaper daily in the 1970s and 1980s…I wanted to see the L.M. Boyd column, which was chock full of trivia.  Here is an example (L.M. Boyd Selections)

“It’s only a coincidence that “nasa” in Hebrew means “to go up.”

Readers_Digest_LogoWhen I was young I also loved to read through the Reader’s Digest. The jokes and funny stories were a blast, but the magazine always had a tons of little trivia tidbits.  Even today on their online site you can find trivia quizzes, such as this “Great State Nicknames” quiz (which by the way, I got a 100% correct on!!).  As trivia became more popular, other magazines began using it.

Paul Harvey

Paul Harvey

One cannot have a discussion about trivia without including the trivia master of AM Radio…Paul Harvey. Known for his conservative and sometimes opinion-laden news stories on ABC radio for decades, he later produced an interesting Trivia type of radio series known as The Rest of the Story, which can be described as a blend of mystery and history. It premiered on May 10, 1976 and quickly grew to six broadcasts a week, and continued until Harvey’s death in 2009. The Rest of the Story series was written and produced by the broadcaster’s son, Paul Harvey, Jr., from its outset and for its thirty-three year duration. Harvey and his radio network stated that the stories in that series, although entertaining, were completely true. True or not, they were always interesting and his listeners, including me, would wait for his “And now, the rest of the story” portion — this was the trivial meat of the broadcast.

FactoidAlso in the 1970s, media had grasped this trivia concept full force and was including it in news reports. In 1973 the novelist/columnist Norman Mailer was attributed with the creation of a new word from his biography of Marilyn Monroe.  The term was “factoid” and it was defined as a questionable or spurious statement presented as a fact, but without supporting evidence. The word can also be used to describe a particularly insignificant or novel fact, in the absence of much relevant context.  Many magazines and TV news shows now have their little Factoids. (Now there is a piece of Trivia you probably didn’t know!!)

One of many Uncle John's Bathroom Reader titles

One of many Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader titles

Through the years I have enjoyed the “Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader” books too. The first edition, simply titled Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader, was released in 1987 with little fanfare, but to Uncle John’s delight, people loved it…and they wanted more. So the following year the “Bathroom Readers Institute” (BRI) released a second edition, and then one after that, and another, and another. In the early 2000s, when Uncle John decided to expand the line beyond those annual “Big John” editions, the series hit the big time. Now there are Bathroom Readers for kids, plus books that cover single subjects such as horses, hockey, history, Texas, quotations, puzzles, baseball, music, Minnesota, Hollywood, Christmas, cats, dogs, golf, New Jersey, trivia quizzes, and loads more.  I don’t have them all, but I have probably read eight or nine different versions!

DUH! - The Stupid History of the Human Race

DUH! – The Stupid History of the Human Race

There are dozens of Trivia books out there, but they have one thread in common…fun and useless trivia.

Antique Archaeology

Antique Archaeology, home the History Channel’s “American Pickers

Then there are the TV shows that come full of trivia. The History Channel features American Pickers and Pawn Stars, both of which always provide history of the things they are showing and also have some nice Trivia breaks in each show. Many shows have trivia pieces in them now so we can always learn something totally useless if we want.

Trivial Pursuit

Trivial Pursuit

In 1982 the board game Trivial Pursuit hit stores. If you have lived in a cave and never heard of this game, the object of the game is to move around the board by correctly answering trivia questions. Questions are split into six categories, with each one having its own color to identify itself; in the classic version of Trivial Pursuit, the Genus edition, these are Geography (blue), Entertainment (pink), History (yellow), Arts & Literature (brown), Science & Nature (green), and Sports & Leisure (orange). Since 1982 there have been dozens of versions of the game, with numerous themes.  The fun for this in my mind has been the thousands of trivia-filled cards that come with the games.  We have taken them on trips and just read through them for fun.  Amazing facts and information have been gathered!!

TriviaWith the widespread growth of the internet in the past couple of decades, there has also been an explosion in Trivia Web Sites and Trivia Apps for mobile devices.  In fact, there are likely trivia sites for every theme imaginable.  A couple of my favorites:

mental_floss – This evolved from the Magazine of the same name (which I believe may have gotten the name from Swami Beyondanda)  Regardless, the magazine has a massive factoid and trivia filled website and blog, has produced its own game called “Split Decision” and has produced a number of books.

Roadside America – My favorite travel site on the web, it is also filled with trivia and useless (but fun) quirkyness. With over 10,000 offbeat sites in the United States featured on their Website, many of them include a brief history of the quirky and strange places, like the Museum of Clean (in Idaho), the Mustard Museum (in Wisconsin), the world’s biggest twine ball (or all five of them), etc.

But there are many more. One person has compiled a list of 100 “Best of Web” Trivia websites. But there are other lists as well.

wikipediaPerhaps my FAVORITE site of choice for all trivial pursuits of both useful and useless knowledge is Wikipedia. According to Wikipedia, the site a collaboratively edited, multilingual, free Internet encyclopedia supported by the non-profit Wikimedia Foundation. Wikipedia’s 30 million articles in 287 languages, including over 4.3 million in the English Wikipedia, are written collaboratively by volunteers around the world. And this is where I have my fun….here are a few examples

  • When in church we may sing a hymn and I am curious about the composer and his/her background.  I pull out the iPhone, look them up in a Google search and click on the Wikipedia link. VOILA! There is now a whole bunch of detail and many links to other documents.
  • Many evenings I watch television for a couple of hours before bed.  As I see the actors I can look them up on Wikipedia and then typically IMDB (a large data base about movies, TV and the industry).  It is here that we can find out about they kinds of jobs an actor may have had before becoming famous or what obscure movie they may have been in early in their career.
  • I may see something interesting on TV, in a magazine or elsewhere.  Wikipedia will most likely have the details (after a Google search of course).

Google and Wikipedia are my friends — they constantly feed my mind.