In Short: A touching honor.

Lining up near the mortuary. My “quick response vehicle” is second in this line, while one of our paramedics heads up to chat. (Photo: Randy Cassingham)

I heard the ambulance paged out for a severe accident. Out of my response area, but hearing details I alerted my wife, a deputy coroner, that her services may be needed.

One of the problems of working EMS in a rural area: sometimes you know the patient. The man killed was Scott Mills, the sergeant at the police department in our county seat. My wife had worked a case with him the night before, and had said that with his long experience, she always learns things when she works with him. …

In Short: Normal People.

The author with Teller, and Penn. Yeah, I had them sign my program after the show. (Photo: my buddy Christopher Knight — but not the one who played on The Brady Bunch.)

I’ve had the good fortune to meet many famous people, including Star Wars creator George Lucas (long before he was famous), magician and skeptic James “The Amazing” Randi, original Star Trek’s “Scotty” Jimmy Doohan (and “Chekov” Walter Koenig — and “Trouble with Tribbles” writer David Gerrold), Science Fiction Grand Master Larry Niven, magicians Penn & Teller, America’s first female astronaut (and physicist) Sally Ride, Apple Computer co-founder Steve Wozniak, and quite a few others.

How? Lucas was a tenant at a ranch my father co-owned — and where, I’d like to believe, he fell in love with ranches, leading to…

In Short: Accountable.

Photo: gmsjs90 on Pixabay

I was a reserve sheriff’s deputy in rural northern California. At least at the time, a reserve at the level I was didn’t automatically have the right to carry a gun off-duty, but the sheriff was a practical sort: the more responsible citizens that could help, he figured, the better, so he wanted any who went through the academy to get concealed carry permits.

Filling out the application I left one slot blank: the “good reason” to want the permit. I asked the sheriff, Was “reserve deputy” a good reason? He said I should put in that slot, “To comply…

In Short: Fulfilling.

Photo by Randy Cassingham

Even though I’m not a doctor or a nurse, as a volunteer medic in my rural community I do sometimes give people shots (jabs for you Brits). Our county has one full-time public health nurse, and as you can imagine with the pandemic, she’s awfully busy.

One nurse is usually plenty for giving the occasional flu vaccine, but when you’re trying to vaccinate the entire county as rapidly as doses come in, and it takes two doses to get everyone immunized, it’s going to take more than one person for the job! …

In Short: Awesome.

Photo: Nawoot on YayImages.

My wife and I are volunteer medics in our rural community, and were awakened by my pager on a Sunday morning at 1:04 a.m. The report: a 50-year-old man, unconscious, about 5 miles away from our house.

As the garage door rolled up, an update came from dispatch: “CPR in progress.”

As we rolled we discussed our plan: Kit would go in first and take over CPR — whoever was doing it would be tired! — while I got equipment. Based on his location it would take 10 minutes to get there …and the ambulance would be about 20 minutes…

She brought more than 200 new foods to the U.S.

Frieda Rapoport Caplan was determined to break into a business that, especially at the time, was completely male dominated. Caplan didn’t think the way to break in was to try to be like the men.

Frieda busy in her office c2014. (Photo from ‘Fear No Fruit: The Frieda Caplan Documentary’, released in 2015)

“I couldn’t compete with all the boys on the big items,” she told a reporter from the Pasadena, California, Star-News in 2003, “so I built the business selling things that were different.”

What was she selling? Produce, to supermarkets. It’s a tough, cutthroat business. But let me tell you how she got there.

Born in Los Angeles to Russian immigrants in 1923, Frieda Rapoport was…

“Let the public decide”? For large companies, it’s a bad idea.

People think the McNaming trend started in 2016, when the National Environment Research Council of the United Kingdom, which was planning to launch a 128m-long research vessel, let The Public suggest names for the vessel.

Image: a rendering released by the National Environment Research Council, with defacement by the author.

“It’s a brilliant name,” James Hand said of his own suggestion: Boaty McBoatface. Though, he said, “I’ve tweeted the organizers and said I’m terribly sorry; a lot of people have replied to me and said that’s the most British thing ever.”

Because the suggestion quickly jumped into first place — and won with more than 124,000 votes, far surpassing the runner-up with less than 40,000…

What you need instead.

You really don’t need willpower, and relying on it for change is a recipe for failure. So how can you succeed at the things you want to change without it being so danged hard? Well, a psychologist who has studied willpower says there’s a much, much, better, and easier, way.

Photo:Damir Spanic on Unsplash

I got a chuckle when I read the American Psychological Association’s page about willpower. Right up top it says, “With more self-control would we all eat right, exercise regularly, avoid drugs and alcohol, save for retirement, stop procrastinating, and achieve all sorts of noble goals” — and the part that…

An intelligent way to reform gerrymandering.

The original “Gerry-Mander” — we’re still dealing with the political shenanigans of the early 1800s. (Historical illustration via Wikipedia)

Every 10 years — most recently in 2020 — it’s Census time in the United States, and one of the most important uses of the resulting count is to determine our representation in Congress. The people of the state of Colorado, having seen constant partisan manipulations of redistricting in the past — gerrymandering — were fed up enough to actually do something about it, and they did something radical in the process: they exercised Uncommon Sense.

Gerrymandering goes way back, but not enough of us really understand what it means, and hardly anyone knows where the word comes from. In…

Yes, children can have Uncommon Sense.

Nora, about age 9, taking early measurements. (Family photo)

Children can indeed have Uncommon Sense. So much so, they can truly contribute to society. Nora Keegan is 14, and has been doing something extraordinary for more than five years now.

At 8 years old, Nora Keegan of Calgary, Alberta, Canada, noticed something that a lot of kids notice: hand dryers — the ones that blow air really hard over your hands — are really, really loud. So much so that her ears hurt when she was done with them. “I thought maybe the kids aren’t just being oversensitive,” she said later, “the hand dryers are being really loud.”


Randy Cassingham

Writing social commentary online since 1994 at Writers should pitch at

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