Ake's Pains debuted in the University of Akron Buchtelite in September of 1977. The school's reputation as an institute of higher learning has still not recovered. Ake's Pains returns after a brief 32 year hiatus. It's back, baby!

Sunday, January 28, 2018

A Tribute To Midnight, My Dog: Part One – I Never Wanted A Dog

(Note: These are the most difficult posts I have ever written. I am counting the number of breakdowns during the series. (bd#))

I never wanted a dog.

My dad grew up in the woods of Pennsylvania and always had dogs as pets, including hunting dogs. But I never had a dog growing up.  We lived in the city and my dad believed that dogs needed freedom and it wasn’t good to coop and chain them up. Dogs were happy when they were free to roam the woods of Pennsylvania, but not in the city. So my dad was willing to forgo any enjoyment we would get from a dog because it would cause discomfort to the dog.  My dad was a great man.

But we had cats, lots of cats, for as long as I can remember.  We never went more than six months without having a cat in the house.  So when I formed my own household, we had cats as pets. 

And my experience with dogs was contentious. I had been cornered, but not attacked, by two vicious dogs at my friend Chuckie’s house as a young teen.  Then I was attacked and bitten by a large German Shepherd when I was 18.  No, I did not like dogs and never desired to own one.

However, my youngest daughter, a pre-teen, now wanted a “puppy”.  We had moved to a large lot in the suburbs, so my dad’s argument about having enough space was less relevant. And of course, my daughter emphasized this would be “her dog” and she would take total responsibility for it.

I still was strongly against this, but my wife and other daughter were enthusiastically on board.  When you live with three females, you tend to lose a lot of family votes by 3-to-1 counts.

But if I am paying for and putting up with this creature, I was choosing the dog breed. Only of course, I knew nothing about dogs. I could only really identify a few breeds, and most of those (including German Shepherds) were not possibilities.  I asked my friend Brent for advice because he owned dogs. Based on my needs, he recommended a Miniature German Schnauzer.

I had no idea what this apparently tiny, foreign dog was, so I Googled it. And after researching the breed, I instructed my wife to get a Schnauzer.  It would cost $450, which I was not at all happy about.  But a father will pay some ridiculous, enormous costs just to make his daughter happy.

The dog entered our lives on a Friday evening.  My daughter would be returning late from a week at church camp and the dog would be a huge surprise. She was delighted to meet her new pet at 11:45 that night.  But the puppy needed a name. She looked at black dog, she looked at the clock, and christened the pooch “Midnight” (bd1).

I was totally unimpressed with my $450 purchase. I saw just a small fur-ball with two big eyes peering out.  The thing couldn’t even walk, it just sort of scooted across the floor.  When I questioned the cost, my wife replied, “He cost that much because he has papers, in case we ever want to show him.” Papers? He has papers all right. They are scattered all over the place and I now have to watch where I step in my own house.  I don’t want to show him, in fact I don’t even want to see him. 

But my daughters enjoyed their new puppy, so maybe it was worth it.  I still totally avoided the “fur-ball with eyes”.

Our relationship (you don’t truly own a dog, you have a relationship) began unexpectedly.  My wife and I were watching television downstairs in the family room, she had Midnight on her lap. 

“I have to go upstairs, so you need to watch the dog,” she said.

Watch the dog?  No, I didn’t sign up to watch this or any dog.  But before I could protest, she placed Midnight on the arm of my large chair and left the room.

I looked down at him nervously, thinking “I am very uncomfortable with this. You are not going to do something stupid, are you?”

Midnight rolled his eyes up and looked at me. He looked distressed. Somehow this dog had already sensed I was unhappy with his presence, his look said:

 “I am very uncomfortable with this. You are not going to do something stupid, are you?”

For the next 15 minutes, we stared at each other nervously.

I continued to avoid interaction with the dog as much as possible. (bd2) I would carry him up the stairs when he was stuck at the bottom – okay I’m not totally heartless, but that was it.

However, soon I was forced to interact with the dog. Because puppies misbehave and need to be disciplined. And the females in the house were not going to do anything that would harm that puppy. But I was still raising two children, so I understood the concept of discipline.   It would go like this:

Puppy does something bad.

All the females express wide-eyed, jaw-drop, worried expressions.

I would then swat the puppy with a rolled-up newspaper.

The females would then turn their wide-eyed, jaw-drop, worried expressions to me, because I had struck their puppy.  To counteract this, I began to carry Midnight to the downstairs hall to administer the punishment.  But the dog learned the routine and when I set him down in the hall, he would lie on his back with his four legs sticking up which said:

Don’t swat me bro! Hey, I’m sorry. Please don’t swat me bro!  C’mon, I know I was bad. Don’t swat me bro!

It was at this point I realized the dog was very intelligent, and it’s really difficult to administer discipline when you are laughing so hard. So to the dog, I was the “heavy”.

But the relationship was about to take a dramatic turn ……

One day I arrived home from work and opened the door from the garage on the lower level. At the top of the half-flight of stairs was Midnight. He was wildly running and jumping from side to side. His tail was wagging so forcefully his whole back end was shaking. I was reluctant to climb the stairs.

“What’s wrong with the dog?” I shout to my wife who was in the kitchen. She sticks her head around the corner, surveys the room, and replies, “I think he’s glad you're home. He’s happy to see you.”

Happy to see me? That is totally ridiculous. Why would this dog be happy to see me when I purposely ignore him and often swat him with a newspaper?  Is the dog actually that stupid? 

I really had no interest in greeting this animal, but he would not let me enter the room until I did.  This greeting became a daily ritual, which of course, I learned to enjoy.  My wife and kids did not greet me with this much enthusiasm, but Midnight did.

And then the dog introduced me to playtime. My wife had bought some dog toys (including a rope contraption that I labeled “ropey toy” (bd3)) and found a few old tennis balls in the garage. I did enjoy watching my daughters have fun playing with the dog.

One day when I was intently reading the newspaper, I felt something against leg.  I lowered the paper to find Midnight staring at me with a tennis ball in his mouth.  He dropped it at my feet and looked at me as if to say:

Hey, let’s play some ball. Now throw the ball, please.

Well let’s not, since I’m busy okay, and I went back to reading the paper.  But I was interrupted again as the dog forcefully thunked the ball down a second time. I put my paper down and the dog looks at me all agitated and is like:

Are you stupid? The game is very simple. You throw the ball and I chase the ball.  Get it? Now just throw the ball.

Well, I guess I can throw this ball one time. Little harm in that.  Except you can’t throw the ball only one time.  Because he aggressively chases it like a mad dog, then races back to you, drops it at your feet and expects you to throw it again, and again, and again.  You end up sometimes throwing the ball ten times or more until the dog has run himself into exhaustion.

And then a few days later, my newspaper reading is interrupted again when I am presented with “ropey toy” and the dog is like:

Hey, got a new game for you today. Here’s the rope, you take it!

But it’s a trick. You grab the rope but the dog grabs the other end and you begin a vigorous game of tug-of -war.  The dog clamps down on the thing with his powerful jaw and growls. He is having a blast! As soon as you let go, the dog revels in his victory and then slyly offers you the rope again so the game can be repeated.

And thus, the bonding process began and as you can see (bd4) it was the dog who was doing all the work to turn this relationship into something special.

Next: Part Two – The Bonding of Man and Dog

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

It’s Not Too Late To Get The Flu

I remember reading an article on the flu season beginning in Northeast Ohio. It was expected this year would be “bad”.  It listed the symptoms of the flu: high fevers, body aches, congestion, coughing, and fatigue. It said sufferers were converging on emergency medical facilities and it was expected there would be some deaths.

This all confused me.  A fever? Take some aspirin.  Body aches? How bad could that be?  And why would you go to the emergency room if you already knew you had the flu? Are people that stupid?  And those deaths e are probably just extremely old people and the flu just pushes them over the edge. The article ended by saying “it’s not too late to get a flu shot”.  But I didn’t have to worry about all these terrible things because I had dutifully gotten my flu shot in October, just as I had for the past 24 years.

But Then Something Went Wrong

It started with a cough.  A minor, nuisance, cough upon waking.  I reasoned it was caused by sinus drainage during the night. But the cough persisted throughout the day.  I started running a mild fever that evening.  I sensed I could be getting sick, but the symptoms were rather weak.

The next morning the fever was higher, the cough more persistent and I had a bad headache.  I took some naproxen, naively expecting it to eliminate all my discomfort, like pointing a garden hose at an approaching forest fire.

Then in the afternoon, the body aches arrived.  These were not harmless muscle aches.  It felt like my whole torso had been placed in a vise and I was being crushed.  It hurt to breathe. Coughing resulted in such intense pain that I gasped.  If this had been a torture chamber, I would have quickly confessed to colluding with the Russians. Heck, if they promised to stop this agony, I would have gladly agreed to go collude with the Russians, especially if a hot secret agent named Natasha was involved.

The pain was so intense I did consider going to an emergency facility.  However, this is me, so you would expect there to be complicating factors.  It happened to be 4 p.m. on New Year’s Eve.  All the doctor’s offices were closed so the doctors could prepare for their exquisite New Year’s Eve parties (no doubt involving loads of shrimp). That meant everyone who had the flu today be descending upon the facility at the same time. I reasoned that the medical operation would be staffed by a skeleton crew, because who the heck wants to work on New Year’s Eve?   

I imagined the crowd to be so massive that cars would be lined up out on the street. I would probably get care sometime around January 3, unless I died first.  I sensed it would have been a waste of time but my dear friend Cheryl suggested that I should have gone and got some Tamiflu. According to the numerous amateur doctors on Facebook, Tamiflu is either a wonder drug or poison.  You decide.  (I went to high school with Tammy Flew.  I never thought she would be much of anything, but now they have named a drug after her.)

I decide to stay home and take some Ibuprofen for the severe body aches. Fortunately, it works and the body aches never return. So no, I did not collude with the Russians and I did not spend the night in a hot dalliance with Natasha. (Those leaked emails are forgeries, fake news!). 

The next morning, the flu hits me with its full sadistic strength. My fever is up to 101.7 degrees.  I stumble downstairs fully expecting to receive pity from my wife.  However, my wife was not in the living room, she had slept in the bottom-floor family room so she would not catch the germ.  But then I heard the cough.  I knew that cough.  It was the same cough I had been experiencing for two days.

I drag myself downstairs and ask “Are you sick?”.  She gives me a menacing glare.  She has a temperature of 101.8, so much for getting any pity.  Now technically, I am much sicker since my normal body temperature is 97.2.  But this is not something you want to argue when you have made your wife this ill. 

I know she is furious at me for giving her the flu. I had also infected her with a bad cold germ last year. But she had given me two nasty germs previous to that. So we are now even, right?  Alas, another argument I’m not going to win.

I labeled our house as the “Ake Infirmary” on Facebook and household duties were handled by whoever wasn’t sickest at the moment.  The most challenging being walking the dog in negative 15-degree wind-chills. The statistician in me hoped my high fever would cancel out the freezing temperatures, and in a way, it did.  When the arctic wind freezes your face, you do temporarily forget how lousy you feel.  I remember thinking “I hope the dog appreciates what I am doing for him.”  Then I realize that he’s my dog, and if the situation were reversed he would faithfully do anything to help me. Because of course, that’s what dogs do.

My wife even made our traditional sauerkraut and knockwurst dinner on January 2. (I tell people my wife always presents me with two large, juicy knockers to start off the new year).  She made the food, but I have no idea who she expected to eat it.  If I had eaten this, I’m sure I would have died.  Therefore, my wife prepared this meal either out of her strong love and devotion to me, or she was so furious at me for giving her the flu that she tried to kill me.  Fine line between love and hate.  I don’t really want to know which one it was.

Fortunately, my wife recovered much faster than did. (I took 6 days longer) When I posted on Facebook that my wife was better, but I was still sick, there was a bizarre reaction which will be the subject of my next blog post.

I now understand how people die from the flu.  There were a couple times when I wondered ….  It usually kills old people, but the new calendar indicates I am no longer a young man.  I was frightened when my subconscious reminded me that I needed to update my will.  I was concerned my subconscious was telling me I was going to die. Then I realized that it was actually good news.  If my subconscious was telling me about something I needed to do in the future, there would be a future. I was going to live! 

This virus is nasty. It dove into my chest and started ravaging my body like a madman.  It is not the B Phuket virus that I wrote about in 2015, although I B-Phuketed up really badly. I have been twice vaccinated against the B Phuket. 

But apparently, I was not protected against the flu I caught because somehow it was not included in this year’s vaccine.  The Center For Disease Control (CDC) never saw this strain coming. This year they whiffed. Whiffed as bad a rookie wailing away over a Corey Kluber sinker. You failed CDC! You failed so very, very, badly.

Now I am a professional forecaster so of course I do understand how difficult these things are to predict. BUT I DON’T CARE BECAUSE SOME DWEEB GUESSED WRONG AND EVEN THOUGH I GOT YOUR STUPID SHOT, I GOT THE #$@&ING FLU!

They will tell you this year’s flu vaccine is only 11% effective. This is a lie based on a guess of what happened earlier this year in Australia. Trust me, this year’s flu vaccine is 0% effective. 0%, none, nada, zippo. Z-freakin’-0.  But they can’t admit it is worthless because this would make them look inept and moronic, which of course they are.

Hello! You are the Center For Disease Control and you are not controlling this disease.  If you need to identify this strain, I have some excess bodily fluids I can send you, provided I can find some bio-waste bags at my local drugstore.  I will find out which strain I had next year when I’m sure it will be included in the new flu shot. The proverbial barn door being sufficiently shut.  

The most ridiculous thing is that medical professionals are still proclaiming: “But it’s not to late to get a flu shot.” Give it up people. just give it up. It may not be too late, but it won’t help you a bit. Z-freakin’-O. And that part about the vaccine offering partial protecting and reducing the symptoms? Not for this strain! Crapola, major crapola.  

Ironically, next October, I will dutifully get my flu shot for the 26th consecutive year. Why? Because anything that gives me any chance of avoiding repeating this awful experience, is well worth it. I just hope the stupid nerdlies at the CDC guess better next year.


Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Cougars, Clusters and Bad Velcro – 2017 In Review (Part 2)

Some more funny topics that didn’t warrant a full post in 2017

The Endorsement of the Year

The business networking site LinkedIn lets your connections (equivalent to Facebook friends) endorse you for various business skills.  They even send you an email when someone endorses you.  For example, 51 of my connections have endorsed me for “Marketing Strategy”.  It is odd that I have only 24 endorsements for “Forecasting”, which is the most important skill needed in my job. And it is incredible that only one person has endorsed me for blogging. Can you believe that? Uh, okay, let’s forget I even brought that up.

But imagine my delight when I opened my inbox one morning and saw this:

That’s right losers.  You may be glad to be endorsed by Phil in accounting, but I, Don Ake, have been endorsed by Jesus!  Jesus has endorsed me.  I immediately posted the news on Facebook and had a strong boost of confidence the rest of the day.  And you can be sure I put this on my resume -- the top of my resume.  I mean the rest of the resume is sort of irrelevant if Jesus has endorsed me.  Next time I’m in a job interview, competing with a Harvard MBA, I’ll just say: “Sure, you can pick the guy with the great degree. But I must point out that Jesus has endorsed me, and not him. So you can reject me, as long as you are not worried about fire, brimstone and declining profits – stuff like that”.

For the record, my Mexican colleague, Jesus Morales, believes I am skilled at “Competitive Analysis”.

A Most Difficult Job

I noticed this sign in the parking lot of a local company.

Wow!  This place is so messed up they need a Cluster Director to fix all the cluster-farks they produce.  How would you like to be in charge of fixing all the clusters produced by your co-workers?  It’s the equivalent of being the mop-boy at the supermarket.  “We’ve got a major cluster produced by marketing! Send it to our Cluster Director Ken.”  You can fix it, can’t you Ken?”  The sign may look stupid, but if the poor sap is responsible for fixing everyone else’s clusters, then he sure as heck deserves his own parking spot and a big salary too!

Performer of the Year

My wife and I were taking an after dinner walk when we stopped to listen to a singer, Chad, performing in the open-air (3 sides) bar/café under our hotel. He had good voice, was skilled on the acoustical guitar and covered a wide range of music.  I felt bad when we moved on because there were few people listening in the cafe, being this was the off-season.

When we finished our walk, I was delighted that I could hear Chad clearly from my nearby third-floor balcony as he neared the end of his set.  I could not see into the café, but I could tell by the comments, laughter and applause, there was now a small, older, but enthusiastic audience.   And they were enthusiastic because there were some drinks with dinner followed by some after-dinner drinks.  Oh yeah, they were sloshed. But that was fine because they didn’t have to drive home, they just had to make it back to their rooms without falling in the pool.  And they were really enjoying Chad.

Chad had finished all his staple material, so he opened it up for requests.
“Play thum Rod Stewarttttttt”, one of the ladies blurted out. Now Rod Stewart would not be my first choice in an acoustical setting, but without hesitation Chad broke into one of Stewart’s more obscure ballads.

Chad then asked for the next request.

A guy, who no doubt was chugging a large, strong, tropical concoction, loudly and proudly slurs out, “Plaa da Piano Man by Billy Joellllllllllll”!

Now Piano Man is a great song, by a great pianist, Billy Joel, but IT IS CALLED THE PIANO MAN BECAUSE THE SONG WAS WRITTEN TO BE PLAYED BY A MAN ON A PIANO – and definitely not on an acoustical guitar - you stupid, drunk, moron.

Now I have my hand over my mouth to keep from laughing out loud (I was close enough to be heard), wondering how Chad was going to politely deny his request.

But to my utter surprise, Chad replies, “Just give me a moment to download the lyrics”.

I’m astonished! Chad is going to give it a go.  I think this is a huge mistake and anticipate a train wreck.

But the next thing I hear is:

♫ It’s nine o’clock on a Saturday ♫

And then something truly remarkable happened.  Chad delivered an outstanding performance of Piano Man, on the acoustical guitar! Complete with the:

 La la, di da da da dum♫.  

I wanted to stand up and cheer!

Chad foolishly asked for a final request and one of the drinkers stupidly requested a song he had already played. (Gee, I wonder why that song was stuck in her head).  Chad concluded with a song of his choosing.

The show was over, but the entertainment was heating up as one of the “golden girls” put her cougar moves on young Chad as he was packing up.
She kept repeating:


Now the Rod Stewart request made sense.

Yes, she thinks he’s sexy

Yes, she wants his body

And now, she was letting him know.

Chad is darn lucky he didn’t try to play an acoustical version of that one!
I couldn’t see if Chad left alone, but I sense that he did.

Sing us song, you’re the acoustic guy
Sing us a song right here
Well we’re all in a mood for another drink
And they’re serving us plenty of cheer

They Fought The Hunger – And The Hunger Won

For several years the “Fight Hunger Bowl” was the college football bowl game played in San Francisco in December.  This year it was replaced by the “Frisco Bowl”, sponsored by DXL.  But DXL is a men’s clothing company that specializes in “double extra-large” attire (I may or may not be a customer).  So it would appear that even though they tried to fight hunger for numerous years, hunger has won.  Pass the chips and dip, please.

Worst Beach Game

I was lounging on the beach when a young couple (late-teens?) appeared about 30 feet in front of me.  The woman said to her boyfriend “I brought this game for us to play. This isn’t the ball that came with it, but it should work.” 

This statement caught my attention (but not the skimpy bikini she was wearing, I didn’t notice that at all) because this was a Velcro catch game, but instead of a Velcro ball, she had a solid plastic one.  I was now interested in how this game was literally going to play out.

The woman starts off by tossing the ball to the guy.  He catches the ball by trapping it against the Velcro mitt with his bare hand, realizing that it’s not going to stick.

The guy then tosses the ball back.  The woman enthusiastically swings the mitt at the ball --- and WHACK!  The plastic ball ricochets hard off the mitt and rolls down the beach.

Unbelievably, she repeated this effort two more times, with of course, similar results.  After the third failure, the woman yells out: “IT’S NOT WERRRRRKING!”

You may laugh at this woman’s lack of understanding of Velcro, but how many times in 2017 did you repeatedly try to force reality to match your perceptions instead of adjusting your perceptions to match reality?  When I find myself shouting “IT’S NOT WERRRRRKING!” in 2018, I’m going to think about this woman on the beach and try a new strategy.