I have a cold…again

I have a cold…again

I have a cold…again.

I hate having a cold.  This one started just two weeks after my last cold finally left my system.   I’ve been cycling through colds separated by brief hiatuses (hiatusi?) for several months now.

It’s not hard to figure out why.  It’s an occupational hazard. Two and a half years ago, I was shanghaied into a new job.  Grand-parenting.  My official title is “Grandfather,” but never one to stand on ceremony, I prefer the  informal, “Pop.”

For the first 63 years of my life, I was not qualified for this job.  My resume was strong but it lacked one absolutely-mandatory-no excuses-accepted qualification – a grandchild. I was an honorary Grandfather, a title I still proudly hold, but in order to qualify for the bona-fide Grand Certificate and the 401K opportunity* that come with the real thing, I needed one more credit.

*[Update: I just learned there’s no 401K opportunity, but I’m expected to establish a College Fund for each grandchild. Shanghaied again.]

Finally, in late 2014 my wife Doris and I were invested with full rights, privileges and responsibilities of Grandparenthood. Our names were added to the on-line version of the Official Grandparents Directory/ US Division/ New-bees Chapter: www.diaper-changers (the national equivalent of the British Division’s famous www.nappy-changers).

There are now three acorns after my name and Doris’s.  So far all of our acorns reside under one roof.  For  good reasons, Doris and I were enlisted for temporary duty to assist in acorn management under that roof.   At least for the time being, we are a household of seven family members, two of  whom typically labor weekdays nine-to-five in “Day Care.” (Their artwork and paper hats can be stunning.)

I’ve learned that it is wise to inquire as to how many other acorns are in a Day Care. The chance that one of our acorns will catch another one’s cold and bring it home for us all to share is inextricably related to the number of acorns there. We are vulnerable to colds incubated in Day Care for export as well as the home-grown kind. Only a miracle combined with a total ban on kissing might break the cycle of colds passed around in our present environment.

Tired of grabbing tissues to clear mucus from my stiff upper lip, I recently decided to buy an over-the-counter cold remedy.  I was amazed at the number and variety of cold remedies on Walgreen’s shelves.  Each item’s label listed the specific combination of symptoms that the remedy was supposedly designed to manage: congestion, headache, runny nose, sneezing, coughing, sore throat, general aching, fever, sleep deprivation, halitosis.

(Okay, one of these wasn’t among any product’s targeted symptoms – can you find it?)

Amazingly, each product touted its prowess with typically only three or four among the universe of cold symptoms.  I found not one product claiming to relieve all cold symptoms; the most I saw was five.

I guess if you have six or more symptoms you should go to the hospital, not the drug store.

Before going out to buy a cold remedy, I suggest you should list and prioritize your symptoms.  Not including the mystery entry, my list of ailments two paragraphs ago names nine different cold symptoms.  Among products with labels advertising special effectiveness for three symptoms, there are exactly 84 possible combinations of three symptoms that could be offered. (So says a permutation calculator on the Internet.  Impressed?)

This inventory of 84 possibilities is considerably more than the 50 or so cold relief products on Walgreen’s shelves.  I suspect some odd combinations of symptoms, like headache, general aching, and halitosis, didn’t make the cut.  Nonetheless, if you are hunting for a remedy to cure your three most acute symptoms, your hay stack is 84 differing three-symptom combinations and the needle you seek, may not even be in a store that stocks only 50 or so combinations.

Make sure to bring your glasses when you go to buy; symptoms listed on the front of the package are alphabetized on some labels, but not all. No uniform code of for symptom labels addresses this issue.  Finding a package claiming to have been made for your three priority symptoms could take some time. Plan accordingly.

Alternatively, however, you can look at the lists of ingredients in the various products, like I did. There you may be surprised to find, despite the symptoms listed on the front labels, most of the mainstream cold products list the exact same active ingredients in the exact same proportions!

So why do manufacturers put the same ingredients in so many different bottles?  Well, if you see a product that appears to specialize in Runny Nose, Sneezing, and Congestion, and those are your symptoms of greatest concern at the moment, wouldn’t you choose it over other products touting their effectiveness against symptoms you don’t have?  If you don’t know the pills are essentially all the same, wouldn’t you be willing to pay more for a product that appears to have been customized specifically for YOUR symptoms? Wouldn’t that increase the product’s profit margins?

In the end, it appears that the only thing associated with a cold remedy that has been customized is its label. 

This slick trick is a shining example of American Marketing Ingenuity at the Top of its Game.

This is what Makes Money for investors, which is what Makes America Great.  

Let’s see China, Russia or North Korea top that!






Just My Luck You’ve been one of my readers

Well, that’s about it for this initial solo performance by Blowin’ My Own Horn.  Front to back I have shared every segment of every chapter of my manuscript, Just My Luck. 

If you hung in there and read all 45,000 or so words (roughly the equivalent of a +/-200 page book), I thank you profusely for your generous attention.  If you chose to read selected parts that you felt might interest you, I applaud you for your discretion and hope you found your selections worthwhile.  If you gave up in disgust after a while, you’re probably not reading this, so I really don’t care.

I know that a lot of this writing was very, very personal – too personal in a few places (pointed out by Doris) that I amended after their initial postings.  It had to be personal to validate why I learned what I’ve learned.  I’ve been happy to share that with you.  If it was helpful to you in any way, finding out you are not alone in some of your own situations or views, or giving you food for thought, or giving you a dartboard at which to unleash your frustrations at idiocy, I’m happy.

Reiterating a notion from the Introduction, what I learned from the experiences that I was lucky to survive  grew from my own, unique “core me” perspective and rationale.  I would be stunned if any two people on this planet shared identical “core me” perspectives, even identical twins.  So what is of value to you may differ a tiny bit or a whole lot from what is of value to me.  I invited you to take what you want and leave the rest.   I hope you found some value in the work.

Now a Plea

I would like to bring my manuscript to the attention of some literary agents who might find it worthy of representing to publishers.  In a bold faced plea for your help, only if you think this book might interest others, please send me an e-mail or an attachment or whatever that I might include in a testimonial package supporting Just My Luck.  Please also indicate rogers quoteif you would prefer not to have your note, letter or whatever, made available on the Internet for prospective agents or publishers to access.  I hope you will help stuff my inbox at jash1221@gmail.com.

Thanks for stopping by my blog.  I have more to write and post including how my efforts to publish Just My Luck may fare.  So stay tuned.

Many thanks for now,


Thank you. Thank you. Glad to be here.

Just My Luck – Introduction

For whatever reason or more likely for no particular reason, I’ve had far more than my fair share of luck. Have I deserved it? Not really. In a just world certainly many folks deserve good fortune more than I do. Am I thankful for it? You bet I am; my luck has arrived just when I’ve needed it the most.

I have survived more life threatening situations than I have any right to expect. Absent my luck, my final birthday could well have been in the single digits.

Mine has been no ordinary luck. I have emerged still breathing by means of some extraordinary coincidences not of my making, i.e., plain dumb luck. I’m no daredevil. I’m not a thrill seeker or even a moderate risk taker. I’ve just had my mortality lit up in neon on several occasions as I’ve gone through my day-to-day living.

Buster KeatonMy good fortune operates like a scene from a well-choreographed Buster Keaton silent movie. Just as he’s about to be clobbered by a big lug, Buster slips on a banana peel. The lug throws a massive roundhouse punch at Buster’s head at exactly the right moment to barely but completely miss its falling target. The swing’s momentum carries his adversary past Keaton, over a guardrail, and down a hill. Buster then picks himself up, carefully dusts off his clothes, looks around, and peers over the guardrail. When he finally realizes what happened, he gazes bewildered at the aftermath of the skirmish and scratches his head.

That’s me. Dumbstruck by dumb luck.


There is nothing admirable about dumb luck. When I stumbled in and out of life-threatening situations, I didn’t make my luck, I just benefited from it.

People have a penchant for personifying difficult concepts, either to help grasp their significance or to trivialize them. A prime example is when Death is personified as the Grim Reaper or the Angel of Death who will personally visit each of us when it’s time and escort us one-by-one away from life.

The Reaper comes on schedule as if he has a daily To Do List of souls to remove from the living. The Grim Reaper usually carries an ancient scythe – presumably to cut down and harvest us when it’s our time to expire. A nice image, don’t you agree?

With this allegory in mind, on four separate occasions in my adult life and once as child, I slipped on Buster Keaton’s banana peels at just the right time. In each instance, the Grim Reaper was nearby. In some, he was already in the middle of a well-practiced swing when I luckily stumbled under it. Sometimes I didn’t realize he had been in my vicinity until after the event. Other times he has been front and center, raising his sharp old blade and leering right before my eyes.

Like Buster Keaton, after the dust settled in each instance in my adulthood I have been bewildered and bemused as I faced what might well have happened. Each time while processing the extent of my jeopardy from the past tense, I’ve done a lot of thinking about life and death. Until I actually do depart this life I will do a lot more.

This book/blog series recounts my Life & Death incidents and other luck, the observations about my self that they have kindled, and what I have so far come to believe is important in living and dying. My thoughts on these matters are heavily influenced by all of my experiences, those involving my mortality and others that do not. My conclusions are solely mine and I respect that you may differ with them. As an old friend once advised me, “take what you want and leave the rest.”

We are born in different places, with different genes, at different times, and have our own unique set of experiences that shape our perspectives. Mine include a growing familiarity with the Grim Reaper. We’re not quite good friends, but he scares me a lot less than he did before. He knows me as an ordinary guy who’s had some extraordinary luck, but he’s patient.

He’s got all the time in the world.



©2016 James Ash

Note:  The is the introduction chapter of a book I have written entitled Just My Luck.   I will present the chapters (or portions thereof) of this book as a series in this blog. 

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cropped-blowing-my-own-horn1.jpgWelcome to Blowin’ My Own Horn, a compilation of observations and learnings that I have made over the more than six-and-a-half decades of living currently under my belt (right next to the results of six-and-a-half decades of poor eating habits that also reside under my belt).

Blowin’ My Own Horn topics range from politics, life observations, my beliefs about the relationship between here and the hereafter, and some rants and laughs. I describe some unique experiences I’ve had, especially as connected to my health and survival (so far).

Hopefully, the blog is thought provoking and even more hopefully it will be response provoking as well. If you think I may be onto something, let me know. If you think I am way off base, let me know that too. If everyone agrees with me, I will know that I am a reporter of the obvious just wasting my time and yours.

Feel free to let me know one way or t’other in the Comments segment and/or directly at jim@jim-ash.com.

Let me dispel one potential misinterpretation up front. I am not a musician; I don’t know how to play any horn. When I blow a horn, random, senseless sounds come out. So be forewarned. Blowin’ My Own Horn may not be pretty, but it will always be honest.

Jim C. Ash

Actual Cabinet photo - 1






©2016 James Ash