My Sitcom Hall of Fame


There’s nothing better than a smart, snappy, funny situation comedy. My childhood is full of memories of such shows.  They seemed to disappear for awhile, but have made a bit of a comeback of late.   Who doesn’t like a good belly laugh? And at 22 minutes the shows are manageable and are often stand alone so if you miss one it is not a big deal.  I know, I know, Seinfeld is not on my list. I just never got into that show. Some hour-long shows are tougher to classify, was the Gilmore Girls a comedy or a drama (some call these shows dramadies)?  So for the sake of this list, I have kept it to the 30 minute shows.  Here’s my list of all time favorite sitcoms in order of my favorite, are there some shows you’d add that I missed?

 Family Ties (1980s):  This show just captured the conservative times it aired in so well.  Alex P. Keaton was the poster-boy for the 80s and the father’s whip-sharp wit and wisecracks just made the show.   But unlike some comedies, this one did have some tender moments tucked away in it.  This is probably my all-time favorite.

Three’s Company (1970s):   My Mom always winced when my brother and I would turn this show on, she thought the humor was too adult for us and maybe it was…but the slapstick comedy timing of the late John Ritter was second to none.  Add Don Knotts as a foil and it was just the greatest laugh.

Newhart (1980s): Bob Newhart’s dry wit and perfectly timed stammers were always priceless.

All In The Family(1970s):   “Edith, Get Me a Beer!”  If Family Ties captured the 80s, All in The Family captured the tumultuous times of the society rifts shaping the 70s.   The show was never the same after Mike and Gloria left, but up until then it was a hoot.

Alice (1970s): Supremely underrated, the antics of Mel and the waitresses were good for endless laughs.

Jeffersons (1980s):   The priceless sniping between Florence the maid and snarly George Jefferson made this show.

Golden Girls (1980s): Who said growing old isn’t fun?  These wisecracking ladies proved that aging can be full of laughs.

Part of show’s staying power is how it “ages”, I think all of the above shows have held up very well over time.  Time will tell how the following three hold up, they air currently and will likely enter my “Sitcom Hall of Fame.”  Great shows!

The Big Bang Theory

Modern Family

The Middle


Anatomy of a Bad Week: Toothaches, Cell Phones, and Glasses


This is what is known as a “venting” post.

My wife says virtually all of the things I am about to vent about were preventable, and I don’t disagree, but it still doesn’t make them any less maddening.

TUESDAY:  right before I started taping an interview on National Public Radio, I began feeling a pain in my jaw.  I’m no stranger to tooth problems and have put off needed dental work (that’s the preventable part), so I was wary, but fortunately it subsided just long enough for me to do the hour-long interview before coming back with fury. By the next day, it was an intense pain.  Toothache pain is awful.  I keep thinking that the pain itself wouldn’t be so bad if it were in, say, the leg or shoulder.  But when you put that pain right in your face it really is like living with a pounding mallet in your skull.  Anyone else out there have some bad toothache experiences to share?

  WEDNESDAY: After trying to flood my system with OTC painkillers I succumbed to the inevitable and realized I probably had an abscess and needed to get into my dentist or doctor’s office.  I guess if you get sick during the afternoon in my hometown, you’re essentially out of luck.  You’re on your own.  You need to plan for sudden sicknesses or maladies days or weeks in advance.  After calling a dozen doctor’s offices and being told that I couldn’t get in today (one office offered to schedule me an appointment in  3 WEEKS…long after, I’m sure, the abscess had spread and I’d be dead).  There is, however, an “urgent care”  walk-in facility in our town. So after exhausting all other options, I went to that health court of last resort. After waiting 90 minutes in their “customer welcoming area”, I was told that the patient in “Room 3” had slashed his hand butchering meat (so much for HIPPA) and that he was a priority so it could be another 90 minutes of waiting.  Not sure why if he had a sliced-like-roast beef hand that he was there instead of the hospital….but oh well. So I left vowing to come back in the evening when it might be less busy.  On my return visit – the mallet still pounding in my jaw – I was  armed with my laptop. At least I could pass the endless waiting time surfing the internet.  No wireless at the Urgent Care but I was able to poach a signal from a nearby Bob Evans.  Thank heavens for sausage.

After another hour of waiting I was finally ushered into see the doctor.  He was a grumpy, elderly man who shuffled around with the aid of two canes.  After looking in my mouth for about 2 seconds and mumbling something under his breath, he prescribed me some antibiotics and pain medicine.  Relief. Finally.

I decided to use the men’s room before leaving.  As I entered the closet-sized facility I was juggling my laptop and cell phone and I hear a sickening splash as my phone does a graceful dive into the open toilet.   I’m even more sickened as I see the sign above the toilet “patient drug screening in progress: do not flush”, so I look down and see my beloved Blackberry swimming in lemon-colored water.  I hold my nose, reach in, and then spend 10 minutes washing and sterilizing my hand. But my phone was irreversibly damaged and someone’s urine sample might have come back contaminated with flecks of phone.

That night after battling writhing pain – the antibiotics hadn’t kicked in yet – I decided to get up in the night and just lay on the sofa downstairs. Perhaps a 2 a.m. change of scenery would do me good.  In a medication and sleep-filled stupor I set my glasses on the sofa in the dark and somehow in my throbbing pain  rolled onto them. The sickening snap told me all I needed to know.

THURSDAY: Morning light revealed broken glasses.  My 1 year old nephew loves to grab glasses and at his birthday party in March, he snatched them off my face and and flung them onto a concrete floor which snapped them the first time.  A little super glue later, though, and they were good as new (the super glue wasn’t enough to withstand being slept upon, though). The tally of victims was growing: teeth, cell phone, and now my glasses.

On Thursday, since I couldn’t see well and was still battling the tooth pain, my mother agreed to accompany me on a trip to Dayton to get new glasses (my wife was away at work).   It was one of these eye mart optical places that always promise glasses in “about an hour.”  But the “about” is open to very liberal interpretation. I’ve learned that they consider 3 hours “about” an hour. Not wanting to wait around for 3 hours for my new glasses, Mom and I drove home and she wonderfully volunteered to go get them for me when they were ready in the evening.    So, fast-forward 3 hours later…I excitedly open my glasses case for my new specs and….I can’t see.  It’s like looking through the bottom of a thick glass Coke bottle. What the??  I call Mom and ask if she had received any paperwork with the glasses.  Turns out they had filled the prescription for the wrong Kevin L. Williams.  SIGH, common names will get you every time.  This is a post for another day, but with my common moniker I’ve been confused with everyone from drunk drivers and hit-skip perpetrators. Sometimes I wish maybe I had been named Raisin or Squish or Cheer, I bet if my name were Cheer Williams there’d only be one of those in the eye mart’s database.

FRIDAY:  Tooth pain is gone so the antibiotics must be doing their thing. But I still can’t see. So today I blindly drive back to the eye mart to have them correct their mistake.

“Your not Kevin L. Williams on Horsley Drive?”

“No, I’m Kevin L. Williams on….”


I glare.

“Uh…we’ll get you fixed right up, I apologize for the error. Feel free to have some complimentary coffee while you wait,” the manager says.

The eye mart has me waiting another 90 minutes for them to redo my glasses (they cut the “about” an hour in half since they screwed up).  But after 90 minutes of waiting the assistant manager comes out and gravely informs me:

“Mr. Williams…there’s been a slight problem.”

I stare at him.

“The left lens was filled for the wrong Kevin Williams, but they got the right lens right.  We’ll have this fixed in about 20 minutes.”

So it’s Friday evening and I can finally see again, my phone is fixed, and my tooth pain is a memory.  But I ‘m so glad for the arrival of a 3 day weekend….




What the Heck???


SIGH, someone sent me an email earlier today that expressed surprise that I used the word “heck” in an email.  He went on to say that he was taught at home that the word “heck” was a substitute for the curse word “hell” and that “gee” was a substitute for “Jesus” and “gosh” for God. First of all, the reader was not emailing me in a mean-spirited way, so I don’t want to be disparaging.  But I thought it brought up an interesting discussion.  Interestingly my wife saw a sign posted in one of my favorite Amish bakeries expressing a similar sentiment.

People who register on The Amish Cook website receive email blasts from me a couple times a week.  And in one sentence today I wrote: “What the heck is a Lancaster County buggy doing in Indiana?”

It never even crossed my mind that “heck” was in some way offensive.  It’s a place-holder word that expresses eitherin this case “incredulity” or in other cases maybe mild annoyance.  Isn’t any mild word used to express minor annoyance a place-holder for something more coarse?  If I stub my toe and yell “oh, fudge!”  Isn’t that a replacement for a much more coarse four letter word?  And isn’t the whole point of saying “oh fudge” to avoid saying something coarse?  Using the emailer’s logic I shouldn’t even yell “oh fudge.”  What should I exclaim then?  I always thought darn, heck, and shoot were perfectly acceptable place-holder words.  If those aren’t acceptable, what is?   If Istub my toe or make a mistake at work and want to express mild annoyance do I exclaim “Oh, rhubarb and asparagus!?” or “chair!” or maybe “swimming pool!”

I went to a Jesuit college my freshman year and one of the nuns taught us that you’re upset and are tempted to take the Lord’s name in vain, just exclaim “cheese and rice!” instead.  And to this day one of my friends from that freshman year still invokes “cheese and rice” in anger.  Anger or frustration are natural emotions and I understand some peoples’ objections to using coarse language or language that is religiously disparaging, so aren’t more mild place-holder words acceptable?  If not, what is?  What should I say to express mild annoyance?  What do you do?

Dateline Marion, Indiana


I love the open road more than almost anything.  Just getting into my car and heading for nowhere in particular.  That to me is fun. The longer the journey the better.

I was in the mood for a road trip yesterday which is a good thing because I was scheduled to give a talk 2 1/2 hours away in Marion, Indiana.  Sometimes my wife accompanies me on such trips, but she was working and couldn’t.  I love the solitude of the open road, so I almost just went myself.  But it was the day after Mother’s Day and Mom is recently retired and she also likes  a good road trip so I invited her along to keep me company.  Wow.  Big-time back-seat driver.  I’ve logged probably enough accident-free miles in my adult life to drive to the moon and back several times, I’m close to 40 years old, and she STILL says “light is green” or “aren’t you tailgating a bit?”  SIGH.

Not a week or so before I was contacted by the library in Marion last year, coincidentally, I had finished a book about a dark chapter in the city’s history.  The book “Our Town” by Cynthia Carr details the events leading up to the last major lynching in the northern US which took place there in 1930.  The book is a riveting account of that warm August night and the aftermath and years of healing and attempts at reconciliation.  I approached the stately downtown courthouse with a slight sense of foreboding, the same courthouse outside of which the horrible events unfolded.  It was evening and the city center was empty which added to the air of unease.  But I shook off the shudders quickly. I told myself that it really is ridiculous to hold any sort of ill will towards a town in 2010 for something that happened in 1930 . Although I decided against bringing up the book at my presentation, I was there to talk about the Amish, not about history and I was pretty certain most people in Marion might be tired of the topic.    The courthouse really is a gorgeous structure as if plucked out of a Hollywood movie set of small-town America. But one can’t take the pulse of a city in such a brief breeze through.  I wish I had had more time to explore.  I do highly recommend the book Our Town for anyone interesting in exploring race relations in the post Civil War United States.  Another great book is Separate Pasts.   We’ve come a long way in race relations in this country and Marion is a microcosm of that I’m sure.

Now, if my Mother would just move beyond backseat driving……

Store-Bought Ice Cream…


I have a love-hate relationship with ice cream and I know I’m in the minority. It seems most Americans can’t get enough ice cream.  Ice cream parlor ice cream is in a league of it’s own so we’ll discuss that product another day.  Some negatives about store-bought ice cream:

1) Store-bought ice creams are too expensive and their package sizes are getting smaller.

2)  Store-bought ice cream is often just too much trouble. When you take it out of the freezer it’s usually too hard so you have to bend spoons to carve some out of the container.  Or you have to use one of those ice cream scoops that really don’t do much better at getting ice cream out of the container, they just don’t bend.

3)  When store-bought ice cream gets low in the container you have to scoop it out of the bottom and if you’re not careful and your wrist rubs the side of the box you get all sticky.

4) Why, oh why, do the grocery stores put cones, sprinkles, chocolate syrup and the like in some distant aisle away from the ice cream???

5) Ben & Jerry’s store-bought doesn’t seem as good as it was when it was a young, upstart company.

But my view of store-bought ice cream isn’t all negative:

1) There are more choices than in years past and they do seem to be getting better in quality.

Okay, I thought I could come up with a few nicer things to say about store-bought ice cream,but I can’t.  My mother-in-law did buy this “Pennsylvania Dutch Pretzel” ice cream last weekend.  Very interesting flavor!  There are chocolate-covered chunks of pretzels inside and swirls of what tastes like the salty crumbs dumped from the bottom of the pretzel bag into the ice cream. It really is quite good – for store-bought ice cream, anyway.

As an aside, my grandma always used to serve us sherbert (not bad) or ice milk (horrible) when we were kids. Do they even still sell those anymore?



Okay, if any of you bank with Wells Fargo, forgive me…but…they are IDIOTS.  Or least whoever made the bone-headed decision to dismiss an employee for a crime she committed in 1972 is an idiot.  Yes, you read right: 1972.  I guess this story pushes a couple of “hot buttons” with me: 1) that everyone is entitled a fresh start, a do-over, a clean-slate and 2) I generally dislike banks.    I’m a big believer that everyone is entitled to make mistakes, pay their  penance and move on.  If she had murdered someone or, heck, robbed a bank…done something dreadful,  I doubt I’d be discussing this.    But she shoplifted when she was 18 years old.  That was the crime. I am NOT condoning shoplifting. It’s a serious crime. But with all the devilish deeds that Wells Fargo and the big bloated fat cat banks have committed over the years, mistakenly foreclosing on peoples’ homes, piling on specious NSF fees on the poorest customers, and contribution to the cause of the Great Recession, for them to step up on some sort of santcimonious high horse to fire someone for something they did FORTY YEARS ago is beyond ridiculous. And banks wonder why people dislike them?  What the heck were they doing poking aroujnd this woman’s past 40 years ago anyway??  They ought to rehire the woman immediately and Wells Fargo should fire their current public relations director because what a stupid, stupid decision on their part. What do you think? Click here to read more.

Leo and the Lynx…


Not to OD everyone with crazy cat posts, but this phenomena has gone on for awhile in this house and it just so happened I was able to capture it on camera.  Leo is our lumbering lunk of a cat…he weighs as much as a small bag of flour and it’s not like he’s a kitten…he’s got to be pushing 10 years old now (my wife has all the pet ages memorized, etc..numbers aren’t my thing..I can remember Rachel’s birthday and our anniversary and anything beyond that is bonus).  Anyway, Leo has this stuffed lynx that he just can’t seem to get enough of.  Here he is with the lynx, which he also carries around while making a bizarre sound (I guess it’s where the term caterwauling came from), but then, as if that isn’t enough, he does this “thing” with the lynx.  What the heck is it?  Is it something amorous? Comforting? Or something completely off my radar?   Maybe we’ll never know….Click here to watch the video.  Any guesses?  Sorry the camera didn’t pick up the sound as he did that…when he is doing the lynx massage the caterwauling is replaced with a loud purr.

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