No Penny For Your Thoughts


            Well, it finally happened: President Obama said something I agree with.

            He wants to get rid of the penny.

            A penny for your thoughts, Mr. President? “The once-cent piece has Lincoln on it, and our Founding Fathers are no longer relevant.” I’m kidding; he didn’t really say that – sounds more like something Joe Biden would say. No, the POTUS has – brace yourself – a practical reason for doing away with the penny, as he said in an interview: “Anytime we’re spending money on something people don’t actually use, that’s an example of things we should probably change.”

            Well, there goes most of Congress.

            Of course, people do use pennies, if they use cash at all, because they have to. Part of that is psychological: pricing something at $4.99 makes people think they’re getting a bargain, while $5.00 seems like so much more. Without the penny, retailers might have to price their produce at – gasp! -- $4.95. Or, more likely, $5.45.

            The biggest argument for getting rid of our smallest coin (well, not physically smallest – what’s up with that?) is that while a penny is only worth one cent, it costs almost two and a half cents to produce.

            That’s right, sports fans (to coin a phrase): In 2012, it cost 2.41 cents to make every 1.0 cent piece. Instead of spending it, you’d make more money melting your penny down to sell the component metals. Which is why the government made it a crime to do so. It’s also a crime to take more than $5 in pennies or nickels out of the country, probably under the assumption that you’re planning to melt them down. After all, Japanese vending machines don’t take pennies.

            Actually, almost no vending machine takes pennies anymore, another good reason to get rid of them.

            Pennies used to be made of 95% copper and 5% zinc, but when copper prices started going up it was changed to only 2.5% copper and 97.5% zinc. Then zinc prices started going up, in part because China is using the metal more and more to manufacture stuff that they then sell to us, which makes cents to them.

            Despite the value of their metal, pennies have been outraced by inflation so much that “See a penny, pick it up,” is now a laugh-inducing phrase, which might be why America doesn’t seem to be having much luck these days. Instead of using a piggy bank, young people don’t think for a second about tossing them at each other, and don’t bother picking them up afterward. After all, what are they good for except for weighing down your pockets? What machine of any type takes pennies, these days?

            (I’m told there’s such a thing as “penny slots” in casinos. Come on! Go to the nickel machines, you penny pinchers.)

            Canada, Australia, and New Zealand have already stopped making pennies, under the theory that a penny saved by not making a penny is a penny earned. Which you wouldn’t earn in those countries, because they’re not making it.

            American Army and Air Force base stores have rounded their prices up or down to the nearest 5%, essentially nickel and diming the penny to death.

            On the other hand, the zinc lobby thinks getting rid of pennies would be a terrible idea. I wonder why? Yes, there are actually people fighting to keep the penny, and some of their arguments make a bit of sense – the main one being that retailers will round up, not down, leading to inflation. The group Americans for Common Cents (I know, but what can you do?) points out that the penny also has a cultural and historical significance.

            (Full disclosure: I collect what pennies, which were manufactured from 1909 to 1956, and I can only assume their value would increase if the government stopped producing new coins. As it is, most of my wheat pennies – just like the modern ones – are worth up to twice their face value.)

            NBC News, in one of those moronic clich├ęs that make my teeth grind, points out that the total cost of minting pennies was “only” $58 million last year – less than one-tenth of a percent of federal spending.

            Oh, is that all? For two cents, I’ll clobber the next person that makes such an idiotic statement, with a sock full of … dimes. If anything followed by “million” is “only”, then what harm would there be if the government gave me some? Yeah, that’s what I thought. A million dollars starts with a penny, and a million savings starts with “only”.

I like that, let me write that down.

            By saving the penny, we’re being penny wise and pound foolish. So there you go, I’m walking a mile is Barry Obama’s penny loafers. Just one thing puzzles me: I thought he liked change?

            That’s just my two cents worth.

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Three Stars Are Shining

More Amazon reviews have come in for Storm Chaser:

My first three star review! Wait, that’s not good. Ah, but you can’t satisfy everyone, and she did use the word “good”. So my review quote shall be: “Good!” – Laurel.  Yep.

Thirteen five-stars out of fifteen reviews is okay. I’ve heard it can even be good to have bad, to show people your reviewers aren’t all sock puppets and close relatives. (By the way, where’s your review, mom?) Hopefully I’ll get more reviews for Storm Chaser Shorts, even if they’re -- *ahem* -- short ones.

Noble Relay For Life kicks off February 21st

            Everyone needs a little color – especially this time of year – so the 2013 Noble County Relay For Life theme is “Colors of Hope”.  It’s fitting for a fund raising effort that’s about not death, but life.

Everyone’s invited to the 2013 kickoff event February 21st, 6:30 p.m., at the Albion branch of the Noble County Public Library on East Main Street. Cancer never sleeps, so American Cancer Society Relays are overnight events, lasting up to 24 hours. This year’s Noble County Relay takes place May 18th and 19th at the West Noble High School track and football field, south of Ligonier, and lots of help is needed.

 Team members raise funds to fight the disease and take turns keeping on the track to celebrate those who’ve battled cancer, remember those lost, and fight back. Each year more than 3.5 million people in 5,000 US communities and 20 other countries take part in Relay events to raise funds for research, treatment, and other assistance.

The Relay is family friendly, uniting the entire community to celebrate those who’ve had cancer, remember loved ones lost, and provide an opportunity to fight back against the disease.

Team members are encouraged to find varying ways to raise funds, and at the Relay itself they often camp out around the track (although members aren’t required to be there the whole time), and take part in food, games, and activities. More information and a chance to register online can be found on the Relay For Life website at:

For more information contact Melissa Stephens at or by phone at 260-471-3911, or Carla Fiandt at the Community State Bank in Albion, at, or 260-636-3744.

Mark R Hunter, Promotions Chair

No flow, oh no

I'm sure I've said this before, considering the frequency of this event in my life, but nothing brings every aspect of life to a screeching halt like a sewer backup. No laundry, no dishes, no showers, no toilets -- instant Third World status.

After a pain-inducing but pointless exercise with a hand cranked sewer router, and so much chemical application that my property has been declared a brown zone, I'm back in -- *ahem* -- business. My problem is usually roots, and this is only the second time in 22 years that things have started flowing again without the use of a powered hundred foot root-chewing router. Thus, I'm suspicious, and will probably spend much time over the next few weeks in the basement, staring down at the lowest drain, waiting for the worst.

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Sing, Sing a Song ... Or Not


Daddy was a cop
on the east side of Chicago
Back in the U S A
back in the bad old days

The Night Chicago Died” was one of my favorite songs when I was a kid. Sung by the group Paper Lace, it was on my favorite 8-track up until I got the “Star Wars” soundtrack. In fact, I assumed at the time that all their songs must have been huge hits, only to discover later that here in America they were a one-hit wonder.

            I should point out that “my favorite 8-track” isn’t saying much, as I only had about half a dozen at the time … later I’d accumulate an outrageous collection of over two dozen cassettes! We were not a rich family.

            A great shock came years later, when I discovered an association of radio DJ’s had voted “The Night Chicago Died” as their number one song – the one they hated most of all.

            I was shocked. Shocked! How could no one love this story of a cop’s wife, waiting at home while he battled Al Capone’s gang?

            Okay, when you put it that way …

            My problem with music is that I’m sentimental, I have low standards, and I’m easily entertained. There are over ten thousand songs in my list of top ten favorite songs. They cover almost every genre, from the critically acclaimed to the stunningly bad. I also have a weakness for novelty songs: Those funny/strange ditties that crack people up the first time they hear them, and drive them crazy the fifth time.

            So it should come as no surprise that, when a CNN music critic polled his coworkers on what they thought were the top ten worst songs ever, several of my favorites landed on the list. I’m trying not to take it personally.

            The critic, Todd Leopold, chose “Honey”, by Bobby Goldsboro, as the worst song of all time. Narrowing it down must have been a tall order, but this song, from the point of view of a man whose wife planted a tree and then died … well, it’s high up there. If anything, it’s certainly the most depressing song of all time.

            Here are some of his coworkers’ least favorite songs:

            Afternoon Delight”, by The Starland Vocal Band.

            I loved this song. Had it memorized. I loved the way the group blended their vocals together. The entire song’s about a guy who’s sneaking off with his lover for a little afternoon tryst, and it’s so slow moving that it would have fit in with that interminable closing sequence from 2001: A Space Odyssey. The group parleyed this one hit into their own summer replacement variety TV show, which demonstrates what a wasteland summer TV was at the time.

            Achy Breaky Heart”, Billy Ray Cyrus.

            This is one I actually agree with. Cyrus had some later songs I liked, but for some reason this one just annoyed me from the moment I first heard it. Maybe part of that has to do with its extreme catchiness: I kept catching myself singing it, leading to much self-loathing.

            Broken Wings”, Mr. Mister.

            I actually had to look this one up, and when I did, I realized I used to play it during my short stint as an air personality. I didn’t like it or hate it: It was just forgettable, like vanilla ice cream or vice-presidents.

            Heartbeat”, Don Johnson.

            It’s always dangerous putting an actor into a music studio. Riding the crest of “Miami Vice” fame, Johnson got behind the mike to record a song about a guy looking for love – because nobody’s ever done that before.

            Convoy”, C.W. McCall.

            I have to cry foul on this one. Should novelty songs even be on this list? Of course, with this genre you either love them or hate them, which is the whole point of the list. “Convoy” tells the lighthearted story of a trucker just driving down the highway, gathering a group of similar minded CB nuts who break every traffic law, destroy property, and get into a pitched battle with the Illinois National Guard. All so you can find your favorite goods at Wal-Mart.

            I’m Too Sexy”, Right Said Fred.

            Give this guy a break: His parents, Mr. and Mrs. Fred, named him Right Said. That would screw up anybody.

            It’s all about a guy who’s too sexy. For anything.

            Disco duck”, Rick Dees.

            Instant classic, people. It’s about a duck – who discos! Come on, there’s nothing but fun in that. It may be the best disco song ever. Or maybe all the rest of them are the worst.

            My Humps”, Black eyed Peas.

            Ummmmm … It’s about sex, and people wanting to get it. And there’s something about cereal.

            MacArthur Park”, Richard Harris.

            Ah, interesting choice, here. In the great entertainment world tradition of rewarding art that’s thick, metaphoric, an unintelligible to the average consumer, “MacArthur Park” got a Grammy Award and was redone by many other artists. How could it qualify as a worst song? Well, let’s take a look at some of the lyrics:

Someone left the cake out in the rain.
I don’t think that I can take it,
‘cause it took so long to make it,
And I’ll never have that recipe again.
Oh Noooooooo …

            Dude. They’re called antidepressants, take some. You want to borrow my Zoloft?

            Maybe Harris recorded it after listening to Bobby Goldsboro sing “Honey”. Or maybe Goldsboro, wanting a song to be more depressing than his, left the cake out in the rain.
            Doesn’t seem as serious as Chicago dying.