Worst Case Scenario

I was standing in front of the house the other afternoon, reaching for a string of Christmas lights that had become dislodged from the roof, when I heard the familiar sound of jangling metal behind me – Bathtub Safety Officer Rafferty was briskly walking up the driveway, a massive collection of keys slapping the side of his leg as he shouted:

BSOR: Halt! Don’t touch that! You could suffer a terrible injury!

Me: What makes you say that?

BSOR: Power cords are dangerous. Glass is perilous. And ice is potentially lethal! Any one of these alone can deliver massive amounts of pain and suffering!

He had a point. The lights were the kind with the large glass bulbs. And I admit it – I was standing on an icy patch.

BSOR: Also, I know you’re thinking about getting out the ladder.

I hate it when he does this. I WAS thinking about the ladder.

BSOR: Gravity plus electricity plus glass plus the absence of friction at ground level. That’s what you get when you give in to the crazy pressure society puts on all of us to remove holiday lighting displays before the conditions are completely safe!

Me: But it’s April! You can’t say I’ve given in to pressure to take down the lights too early when the holiday was over three months ago!

BSOR: Why the rush? I always dismantle my festive display starting at 5 pm on the Fourth of July. By then the snow has melted, the footing is good, and there’s plenty of daylight left to finish the job. Plus, because of all the illegal fireworks being launched throughout the day I know the local emergency rooms are staffed and supplied with everything they need to treat horrific injuries should something go terribly wrong for me.

Me: Wow, you really have thought this through, completely!

BSOR: And if I wind up being hospitalized that evening, I can make good use of the moments when I’m conscious to scold the other patients around me for playing with explosives!

Me: So you really do visualize all the possibilities and expect the worst!

BSOR: I have a good imagination.

Me: Well I can’t wait until the Fourth of July to take down these decorations. This particular string of lights has detached itself from the house and is swinging by the front door. I could get sued if somebody gets whipped in the face when they come to … I don’t know … deliver the paper?

BSOR: Is that the best you can do? I’ve seen the guy who delivers your paper and he doesn’t get anywhere near your house. He throws the paper at your front door from a moving car in the street. A much more likely scenario is that the person standing by this swinging string of lights would be some sort of sales agent. Or a police officer, come to issue you a citation for having a dangerously detached festive display!

Me: Gosh, I hadn’t thought of that.

BSOR: Or worse, your Congressman, come door knocking! They’re lawyers, you know!

Me: That’s not too likely.

BSOR: And what if one of the bulbs breaks and he gets whipped in the face by the cord AND the jagged edge of shattered glass!

Me: Ugh.

BSOR: And after the glassy shards of your busted lights embed themselves his skin, the string of lights gets wrapped around his neck and he slips on the ice and falls off your front stoop but the string isn’t long enough to allow his feet to touch the ground?

Me: That’s gruesome.

BSOR: And don’t forget – this is still plugged in. Sparks could be flying everywhere and it might take down the grid!

Me: That’s implausible.

BSOR: All the commotion might even draw radiation through the wires from that damaged nuclear power plant in Japan!

Me: Ludicrous.

BSOR: Maybe it’s ludicrous to you and me, but this is a member of Congress we’re talking about now, right? In their imaginations, anything is possible. The National Guard would be deployed. This whole neighborhood would have to be quarantined for thousands of years, and you’d go to jail for at least that long, just because you HAD to take the lights down today!

Me: Everything you just described is completely and utterly impossible.

BSOR: And you are surprisingly weak when it comes to picturing the worst thing that could happen.

Me: I know. That’s why I’m able to sleep at night.

Do you expect the best, or the worst?

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61 thoughts on “Worst Case Scenario”

  1. I learned from my mother how to imagine worst case scenarios, but even she couldn’t challenge BSOR’s talent. I’d always assumed that emergency rooms were always staffed and ready and busy with sick kids whose parents can’t afford health insurance.

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    1. Now that you mention it, Ken, BSOR’s confidence that emergency rooms would be staffed and ready on the 4th of July is an uncharacteristic bit of optimism for him.

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      1. My son once broke his leg on the 4th of July and we ended up in the ER. At first we thought there was no seasonal excitement. Then they put a man in the next bed who let a firecracker go off in his hand. We enjoyed listening to the man’s wife yell at him-she was very persistent and creative.

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      2. I don’t imagine BSOR would approve of my story of the time I and my neighbor, an ER doctor, spent a stormy and rainy July 4th in my driveway setting off lots of fireworks, including bottle rockets, with blow torches since it was too wet and rainy to ignite them with punks or matches. Boy, was that fun!

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  2. a gracious and safe good morning to You All
    Dale, thanks for BSOR and the reminder to think about what might happen.
    i usually expect the best. right now though, i am waiting for Lassi and Kona to give us their first kids. this time of year is when i imagine all of the terrible things that could go wrong with the kidding process. i read, over and over, the descriptions of all of the mal-presentations and how to remedy them. but i wonder if i’ll have the nerve to help when i need to. i am not good in an emergency. but we’ll see. maybe i’ll luck out with these two first-timers. Lassi due tomorrow, Kona tuesday – soon.
    then i look over to the other side of the aisle and see those two porkers, Freya and Terra, and i feel great optimism and happiness at the strength and generosity of these wonderful animals. sappy :-) tired :-)

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  3. Rise and Look Upward Baboons!

    I am usually a hopeless optimist, whether or not this is a sensible stance. The rare exception was starting my business which I expected to be the hopeless disaster that would precede a career-change. However, it has been pretty successful to my constant surprise!

    Everything else–trips abroad, children, grandchildren, gardens and seeds–I look at and see endless potential, sometimes despite objective reality. Cancer treatment was the same way. It never occurred to me until treatment was concluded, that every Dr.’s visit could have been really bad news. That must have been the denial I needed to keep going. I still look back at that one in wonder. However, I am still ticking 21 years later.

    My paternal grandfather was someone who chronically looked under every rock for the next disaster to overwhelm him. Usually, if there was a disaster lurking it was of his own doing. Example: investing money in swampland in Florida in 1920, despite my grandmother’s protest. After that one, every one was out to get him. He never seemed to understand that this was of his own doing!

    I can’t live that way. So optimism it is!

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    1. Do you still own the swamp land, Jacque?

      It makes me think of a lyric to a Si Kahn song that goes in the opposite direction on impulsive land acquisition – it’s about his grandfather escaping from Russia and settling in Canada, doing backbreaking work and trying to get enough money to make a life.

      Land was a dollar an acre
      but he was too careful to buy it
      so when they found oil on it
      He still had the story to tell.

      The song is called “Crossing the Border”.

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      1. I believe no one ever FOUND the swampland. Long gone, as was the money. Grandpa spent the rest of his life trying to get the money back by buying pork belly futures, of all things. That did not work either.

        I listened to Crossing the Border many times. Thanks

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  4. Jacque, those of us who are pessimists can always be pleasantly surprised if things go better than we could have imagined.

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  5. I imagined the worst about the weekend weather, and now I see that the storm went north and all we will get is rain. Yoo-hoo! I also noticed that I have tulips and crocuses starting to emerge in the flower beds closest to the house. I think that I will continue to be optimistic today.

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  6. Morning. I am cautiously optimistic these days…

    I think I’ve gone through all the emotions though; when I was a kid I think I was always optimistic, then when newly married and taking over the farm became more pessimistic (not in regard to my wife or marriage, just in general) but then I distinctly remember one day while chopping hay silage that I realized there was the possibility of 18 tires that could go flat and mess up my day and no wonder I was pessimistic and I believe that’s when I started being more optimistic…
    Optimism is better.

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    1. Ben, my Uncle Horace told me he felt positive about farming because he knew that even when he was taking a break or sleeping the farm was continuing produce. The crops were growing and cows were grazing while he was resting.

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    2. When I was a reporter in southwestern Minnesota, every farmer I talked to was a pessimist. There was never enough rain, except when there was too much. Even if the crops looked great, they’d mention that the prices were low.
      Everything was on the brink of total collapse.
      Of course, getting that story over and over might have had something to do with the fact that I was a journalist, not a neighbor.

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      1. Oh, in southwest MN they even talk that way to their neighbors. I don’t think there really is such a thing as a happy farmer there.

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    3. It’s interesting reading all these comments… I’m rather surprised.
      You gotta watch out for farmers; they may just want you to think they’re pessimistic.
      I gave up trying to control the weather a long time ago and I’m better off for it.
      I think maybe I posted this once a long time ago but it’s relevant again. It’s one of my favorites… read the last two paragraphs twice. —

      “Coffee Cup Café,” by Linda Hasselstrom from Land Circle: Writings Collected from the Land (Fulcrum Press).

      Coffee Cup Café

      Soon as the morning chores are done,
      cows milked, pigs fed, kids packed
      off to school, it’s down to the café
      for more coffee and some soothing
      conversation.

      “If it don’t rain pretty soon, I’m
      just gonna dry up and blow away.”
      “Dry? This ain’t dry. You don’t know
      how bad it can get. Why, in the Thirties
      it didn’t rain any more than this for
      (breathless pause) six years.”

      “I heard Johnson’s lost ninety head of calves
      in that spring snowstorm. They
      were calving and heading for home
      at the same time and they just walked
      away from them.”

      “Yeah and when the cows
      got home, half of them died
      of pneumonia.”

      “I ain’t had any hay on me since that hail
      last summer; wiped out my hay crop, all
      my winter pasture, and then the drouth
      this spring. Don’t know what I’ll do.”

      “Yeah, but this is nothing yet.
      Why in the Thirties the grasshoppers came
      like hail and left nothing green on the ground.
      They ate fence posts, even. And the dust, why
      it was deep as last winter’s snow drifts,
      piled against the houses. It ain’t bad here yet,
      and when it does come, there won’t be so many of us
      having coffee.”

      So for an hour they cheer each other, each story
      worse than the last, each face longer. You’d think
      they’d throw themselves under their tractors
      when they leave, but they’re bouncy as a new calf,
      caps tilted fiercely into the sun.

      They feel better, now they know
      somebody’s having a harder time
      and that men like them
      can take it.

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  7. Like Jacque, I tend to be a glass half-full, imagine-the-amazing-possibilities, cock-eyed optimist. This balances nicely with Husband (and my manager at work to a lesser extent) who tends to be more like BSOR. Heck, I even have semi-scientific proof of this, having taken the Clifton StrengthsFinder which placed “positivity” firmly in my top five strengths (anyone surprised?). My rose-colored glasses may have faded a bit over time, but you can’t convince me that there isn’t potential for good or fun or something nifty in most everything.

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      1. Okay, Anna and Jacque. Where can I find some rose colored glasses so that I can get out of the Grumps Club and join your new Optimists Club?

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      2. You can start your own anytime. Start now: look out your window and find three good things. Ignore all those pesky things that might make you grumpy – extra credit for finding something worthwhile in what otherwise might make you grumpy (see above: farming – cows and crops are always producing while you sleep).

        If you need remedial work, find a place where children are playing – kids in the 3-8 age range are probably best. Watch them and observe their wonder and delight in the world. Become the four (or five or six) year old. Prescribe yourself a chocolate ice cream cone (be sure to get some ice cream on your chin and nose) and a swing on a swingset if you are unsure how to find your inner kid.

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      3. Thanks, Anna. With those suggestions I should be able put the Grumps Club behind me start my chapter of the new Optimusts Club.

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  8. Good mornin g to all,

    If I don’t think too hard about all the things I would like to do and things that need to be done, I remain fairly optimistic. When I do too much thinking about all the things I think I need to do, I am no longer optimistic. Then I tell myself I need to do some planning and get to work. Sometimes I do mange to decide what I need to do and I get it done. Then I look around and see all the other things that I still haven’t found time to do and I am back to being less optimistic.

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  9. I consciously try to see the glass as half-full, I really do, but it sure can be a downer when I go for a refill and discover the pinot gris is all gone.

    A few years ago when I was in Iowa visiting my parents, I picked up their Reader’s Digest and read an article that said most of us are overconfident. We wear rose colored glasses and think we’re better than we are, except for those who are depressed. They tend to be realists. Does that mean that cheerful, optimistic people are all out of touch? Bimbos?? Or worse, LIVE with GOATS???

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    1. Oh…I’m an optimist and I’m okay
      I grin all night
      And I smile all day
      I live with goats
      I play with kids
      I will not get depressed
      I’d rather be a bimbo
      Than be a realist…
      (Sung to the tune of the Monty Python “Lumberjack” song)

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      1. Very good, Anna!

        Today’s Cliffy: Although the word bimbo commonly refers to a woman, it is entirely acceptable and often necessary, to modify the term, when addressing an unintelligent male, to himbo.

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      2. love this – and Donna’s “cliffy” for the day. you folks are great!
        i’m waiting and waiting. nothing yet. but Lassi was considerate and did not begin in the rainy, chilly night hours. looks like today. her sides are more sunken – looks like the kids have dropped and are getting lined up. oops i mean kid. don’t want more than one this first time!

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    2. Many of those pessimists stayed in Iowa, farming, of course. I think the optimists all moved to MSP, which is why so many of us are from Iowa.

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  10. Is that photo a picture of your home, Dale? If so, you better anticipate a visit from BSOR’s cousin, EAP, the Energy Audit Police. You seem to be running with the type of Christmas bulb that cooks the planet and sends the electric meter spinning with dizzy delight.

    On wine glasses, I think Donna and I are on the same page. I’m a “Damn! The glass is empty again!” sort of guy, and it is smart to drink with the bottle within reach.

    My hunting and fishing buddy is an OCD worrywart who anticipates disasters that never happen, while I confidently resist planning for disasters that almost surely will happen. I once went on a four-day Lake Michigan fishing trip with a boat that was heavily dependent on electric gear. A buddy got concerned about the way I was packing for it. “I don’t see a battery charger here,” he said. “I’ve got one,” I said, “but it’s in the garage. Bill is coming. He’ll probably have two battery chargers, just in case.” And he did.

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    1. That is, in fact, my home and those are my lights. They’re the kind we had on my parents’ house when I was a kid, so naturally I like them best. They’re certainly better looking to my eye than the harsh, intense light given off by LCD’s.
      However, I am just about to run out of replacement bulbs. We’re completely depleted on reds and getting very low on blues and greens. I have a whole bucket of unused orange lights because I took those off the strings when they were new. I suppose when the red, blues and greens are gone I’ll retire these lights from Christmas use and re-purpose the strings as Halloween decorations using only the orange bulbs. When those run out I’ll be forced to buy a completely new set that is much more energy efficient. Fussy, I know.

      Will the planet be dead by then?

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      1. You can get LED lights that have that same shape if that helps.

        I’m trying to find the professional version; high strength, non fading, super bright LED version rather than the cheap superstore version that fades before January and still quite working. mumble mumble grumble…

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      2. Gerten’s usually has baskets of the bulbs sorted by color so you only have to buy the ones you want. Much better than when my oh so proper mother who made us switch out the bulbs in the 4 packs at the drug store since she only wanted blue bulbs.

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  11. As I said yesterday, “Expect the best; plan for the worst.” In reality, I’m pretty much too lazy to do much advance planning, so I not only expect, but depend on the best. A truism I forgot to mention yesterday is “Worry never robs tomorrow of it’s sorrow, it only saps today of its strength.” I haul that one and a bunch of other anti-worry sayings out for my worrywart family members and friends. None of them is overly impressed or converted, but I maintain that if I could be shown a single thing that could be improved by application of worry, I’d be right there. Haven’t found anything yet. Enjoy the sunshine on the trail today!

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  12. Greetings! Very funny piece, Dale. In general, I tend to be cautiously optimistic. I’m too much of a German pragmatist to be totally optimistic and my dear mother was a champion worrywart. I like Caroline’s quote about worry — so very true — so I try not to dwell on worrisome things too much.

    We were at a karate competition all day today at the Mpls Convention Center. Very fun but rather tiring. Took home two First Place Trophies — unfortunately I didn’t have any competition in my division. It was just me in Traditional Form and only one other competitor in Weapon Form. But I still go all out and do my best. There’s tons of kids competing, but not many adults that compete, which I think is unfortunate. I guess I’m odd that way. Let’s enjoy the day …

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    1. Cool, Joanne!

      We spent the day at another competition, the First Robotics regionals at the U. S&h not old enough to be on a team at this point, but we had friends competing and wanted to see what it was like.

      Really fun event promoting science and technology along with a healthy dose of cooperation and sportsmanship-made me feel really optimistic!

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  13. Morning all – enjoyed everyone’s comments yesterday. We were so busy and when we were home, the computer was being hogged by the teenager, who has to build a model of the Globe Theater.

    I’m also a half-full person, although not in a cockeyed, optimist kind of way, but a that’s the reality kind of way. I learned at the master’s knee (my mother) that what you have is what you have, accept it and deal with it and get on with it. But not in a head-down, slogging pessimistic way. Hard to explain. But it works really well, because I normally expect things to go well and they normally do!

    However, this realism is why I don’t work from home. I’d be too easily distracted by yardwork, housework, that old movie on TNT, an old recipe that I want to try and then I’d be catching up w/ the work at 2 a.m. It’s also why I don’t have holiday lights – I’d put them all up the first year and then I’d never get around to taking them down or at least not until April!

    Everybody have a great Sunday!

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  14. R and S Baboons:

    Yesterday me and my optimistic self went to the now melted backyard to perform poop patrol. 3 bags later it was mostly done–much more than expected! Didn’t that turn out well? Once the grass dries off it requires some raking.

    Then my organic farmer (a rare optimistic farmer!) nephew brought us a load of organic composted manure. What a find. And his boss gave it to us for free.

    Next we went to my office and mounted shelves, white boards, and mail boxes on the new work room walls. We unpacked boxes and threw away junk. Then we loaded up the new/used bookcase and file cabinet I scored at a garage sale for $12.50 on Friday to get them into the new office we added. (Garage sales are great places for optimists). 5.5 hours later Lou and I were so exhausted we could hardly drive home. I was in bed at 8:30 pm, then asleep by 9:00 pm. That is where optimism will get you. But this work week I will bask in the order of it all while I try to catch up. I welcome the return to routine in my life.

    Today I’m napping a lot!

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    1. Jacque… we also had PP here yesterday, but I’ve brokered a great deal w/ the teenager. If she does a seriously good job each time I ask her throughout the month, then I pay for her portion of the insurance, now that she’s driving. Teenager will do A LOT to avoid having to give ME money! Of course, when she goes off to college, I’ll have to think up another scheme, but I plan to enjoy it while it lasts!

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  15. thanks for the story ben, good stuff. farmers are the gamblers of america. they shake the dice every year and are afraid to jinx themselves by saying things are looking good. like when you are driving down the road and you are surprised that it is so free of traffic backups. no sooner do you make this observation than it backs up for 30 minutes minimum. baseball players don’t step on the lines going on or off the field. farmers never say things look good. means hail or flood or tornado for sure. jacque, good productive weekend. put some compost on those raspberries for the vodka raspberry project. that was goooood. sherrille youare an optiomist every time you give your kid the keys. gotta be. i laugh at my trying to stay positive then i get to whining about all the jerks out there making it hard for me to be optimistic. tough to soar with the eagles when your stuck with the turkey kind of mentality. linus and his i love people its mankind i cant stand quote ring true. i love positive people and try to hang with them and their aura whenever possible. the negative vibes kill me man. oddball from kelleys heros was my favorite donald sutherland role. well ordinary people was good too. nice to be home from a week of travel in my cheesey hotel that spell checker wanted to get involved in the discussion on, i got to pull off my shirt and work int he yard yesterday and the garden is the better for it. doing hosta plotting and perrenial searching. i think i should start a perrenial trade group. i have a feeling that people stop splitting stuff because they don;t want any more of it. ill take it and resplit it every 3 or 4 years to max the expanse. looking optimistically forward to the kids from blackhoof. sherrilee you have to be an optimist with a new driver in the house. im hoping that when i was called timbo that was not a derivative of the bimbo brain mentioned earlier. the little that lose their color are the minis not the led. led do not burn hot enough to melt the color off like the mini version. if you get some duck tape and tape the bulbs to the post i think you can ride it out to july dale. hank in there.

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      1. If tim leaves anything, I’m always in the market – my long term goal is to have no grass to cut in my yard.

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  16. Good Sunday to the Good Baboons!

    I was moved to take down my own Christmas lights yesterday. My son put them up in November (sweet boy) but he’s not around now, so I pretended I wasn’t afraid to be up on the ladder, and except for the string attached to the highest peak on the south side that called my bluff, mission accomplished.

    Dale’s “abiding with cheeses” remark on Friday was so darn clever! I thought about it this morning when our attention was drawn to a typo in a prayer printed in the bulletin that the congregation was to read together. It said “God’s miracle sin” instead of “God’s miracles in”. Speaking of miracles, I recently became a church member. It’s a wonderful old church in our old downtown. Here’s part of its Welcome Statement:
    “Our members represent diversity in sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, color, ethnicity (be ye human or primate), age and ability. Whoever you are, wherever you are on life’s journey, you are welcome and accepted into full participation in our faith community.”

    And now a confession: You know that saying I posted on Friday – the one about not being convinced Jesus was a Christian? I don’t think that’s a common saying. I may have even made it up. At any rate, maybe I should have clarified, “Christian right”.
    Capiche?

    P.S. Timbo and Bimbo are alike only in rhyme.

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    1. Wonderful welcome statement. You can do amazing things if you lose a pope. Jesus mom was not a Christian. Glad it’s only a rhyme, what do you say jimbo

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  17. I can’t say that I expect ‘the best.’ But I do expect thoughtful, considerate, mindful of others, common sense driven, or just plain reasonably intelligent. Notice I used the conjunction ‘or.’ I expect any of these…not all and not even a combination of one or two. I must confess to being rather consistently disappointed. Which, in turn, leads to my being rather cynical. In fact, when people berate me about being a self-confessed cynic, I tell them that my definition of a cynic is a realistic optimist. In my mind, people that are cynical keep hoping for the best or, at least, improvement. Yet reality intrudes and declines to fulfill that optimism. Ironic, really. What’s the difference between ‘better’ and ‘bitter?’ An ‘I.’

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    1. I like realistic optimist. I too am an optimist who realizes disappointment is likely. People do what they do without thinking. Too often that means me me me. We have to keep hoping though don’t we?

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