If you’ve been reading my column for a while, you know that I’m a voracious reader. I generally have two books going at all times, usually from the library. I prefer library books because our tax dollars have already paid for them and you don’t have to store them. Those are both big pluses. Hooray for libraries!

One thing I’ve always been proud of is in the more than 50 years I’ve been using libraries I’ve never once had a late fee or failed to return a book. This is really a matter of pride for me.

I’ve read many times about books finally being returned after decades, as if that were a good thing. It’s not! A book never should have been treated so carelessly in the first place.

When I borrow a book, I treat it as my own. I don’t spill stuff on it, crease the pages, or write in it. Treating it as you would if it were your own is just the right thing to do. If you really need to highlight or write in a book, then go buy your own copy.

So the other day I had just finished reading “Approval Junkie” by Faith Salie. She’s a comedian/journalist who appears regularly on the wonderful NPR radio show, “Wait, Wait … Don’t Tell Me,” and she’s also a correspondent on “CBS Sunday Morning News.”

I’ve always enjoyed her and, while the book was great, it was very female oriented — lots of stuff about clothes, hair, relationships, and pregnancy. Because of all that, it didn’t really grab me so much, but I still enjoyed it.

I had been reading this book while sitting in a beach chair with my feet up on the back bumper of my F150 truck. This vehicle has a broad, flat bumper, with multiple heights making it perfect for propping up your feet and providing a place for your phone, drink, or whatever.

It’s my favorite place to read when the weather is nice. The only problem is, every now and then, I’ll forget to remove something from the bumper and then drive off and lose whatever was there. (I lost a really nice ashtray fashioned from an old motorcycle piston this way.)

I’m sure you can see where this is going.

Shortly after reading the book, I had to run out and do some errands. When I came back, I set up the chair, getting ready to start my next book (I really do read a lot) when I realized I didn’t know where “Approval Junkie” had gone to.

We had house guests that weekend, so there was more commotion than usual. I checked all the usual spots but it was nowhere to be found. Finally it dawned on me that I must have driven off with it on the bumper.

I got in the truck and retraced my route. The neighbors must have thought I was critiquing their lawn-cutting techniques. Alas, the book was nowhere to be found.

I was so depressed by this, it was all I could think about for several days. I truly have never paid a library late fee in my life, much less actually lost a book. To finally have to join that club was making me ill.

n my mind, I was using my Toastmasters’ skills to craft a speech for Tim Wiles, the director of the Guilderland Public Library. In the speech, I would apologize profusely, beg for forgiveness, and promise to never let it happen again.

I’m pretty sure I was going to offer myself up for corporal punishment as well. I mean, they trusted me with a valuable library resource and I had let them down.

I was really, really bummed out. It was not a good feeling at all.

Then I was at a concert and randomly decided to check my email when this missive appeared from Heather Nelson, a senior clerk at the Guilderland library:

“Hi Frank, a patron found the book you had checked out, “Approval Junkie,” in the middle of the road near Suzanne St. I checked the item in so it is no longer on your record. I then placed another hold on it for you and you have until July 18th to pick it up here. If you no longer want the item, let us know and we will cancel the hold.”

Holy cannoli, Batman! I could not believe it.

One of my neighbors must have found it and returned it to the library, just like I would have done if I had found a library book in the middle of the road. What a welcome surprise. It was like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders. Now my no-late-fee-and-no-missing-book streak would still be intact. Whew!

Public libraries are one of the great achievements of modern society. These clean, efficient institutions allow the wealth of human knowledge to be shared by lucky community members.

They offer so many services — books, magazines, newspapers, movies, and all kinds of programs — that it’s almost unbelievable. We are so, so lucky to have our community libraries.

Thank you to my neighbor who returned the library book for me. You made my day. Heck, you made my year!


There’s a bit that legendary comedian George Carlin used to do that went something like this: If you don’t like AT&T, build your own.

That’s kind of cynical, of course, but it gets to the frustration we all feel when big corporate behemoths like phone, cable, and utility companies rub us the wrong way. This rang home with me recently, as I didn’t build my own AT&T, but I did build my own MTV.

In case you don’t know, MTV stands for Music Television. This is one of the iconic, original, and groundbreaking cable TV channels.

MTV created the “music video,” the visual equivalent of a song on the radio where you could actually see the performers. This was so cool at the time that “I want my MTV!” became a national catchphrase. It truly was a revelation back in the day, and it’s reverberations are still felt now more than ever, since virtually everyone has digital video — that is, a smartphone — in their pockets all the time.

When MTV first came out, I wanted it bad but couldn’t get it, as my neighborhood in Brooklyn was very late to get wired for cable. I had to visit friends on Long Island to watch MTV, and that’s just what I did. We’d watch it for hours. Some videos were true creative works of art, others not so much, but just to see the faces of the musicians was enough. What an amazing addition to the timeless enjoyment of music.

When I was finally able to get MTV for myself, I used to just put it on and let it play all day. Sometimes I’d watch, but other times I’d cook or clean or pay bills and just listen to it in the background, very much like radio.

Then some corporate “suits” decided that nobody was watching MTV for long enough blocks at a time, so they pulled all the music videos and became more like a regular network. The shows they put on in place of the videos were regrettable and forgettable, for the most part.

The thing is, when MTV played only music videos, my friends and I often had it on all day, never changing the channel at all. So we obviously heard or saw all the commercials. Isn’t that what they want, for you to get their advertising?

I don’t know, it must have worked out in their favor, as the only time they show videos now is in the middle of the night or on an alternate channel. Maybe the suits were right; I don’t know, but I know my friends and I stopped watching it a long time ago.

So the other day I was searching for something on YouTube and just for laughs put in one of my favorite musical artists, and there was the video. One thing led to another and I discovered just about all the old videos are there. So I started saving them, and now I can view them on my TV. Yay. It’s like MTV without the “VJs” (the video equivalent of radio disc jockeys).

The really interesting thing about doing this is, when you search for an artist, they present not only the artist but related ones that you might also enjoy. I’ve discovered several new artists that I didn’t know about since I don’t read the music magazines obsessively these days like I did when I was a teenager. Discovering new artists has been a really great result of this project.

For a little while, I worried if it was legal to save these videos, but then I thought of this: For many of these artists, I bought the vinyl record when it first came out, then I bought it again on tape to play in the car, then I bought it yet again on CD when this much-more-convenient format came out.

I figure, since in many cases I’ve paid for the same music three times, it’s OK to save some videos. And I’m not an iTunes guy either, meaning, when I like an artist, I still buy the physical CD, both to have for myself and some to give as gifts. It’s too bad the artwork is not as enjoyable as it was when vinyl records ruled — the size is just too small to have the same effect.

Even though I now have my own MTV it’s not like the old days, when my buddies and I would watch it in someone’s basement. In my house, I’m allowed to have music play only at a conversational volume.

I have to wait until everyone leaves before I can “crank it up,” as they say. Then it’s just like the old days, except way back then it would have been good old rock ’n’ roll almost exclusively. On “my” MTV, I of course have that, but I also have opera, jazz, even some country and a little rap. It’s an eclectic mix for sure.

Of course, not all my favorite artists came of age in the MTV era. For the earlier artists, it’s interesting what is out there. You might find a clip of them on The Ed Sullivan Show, or perhaps just some pictures of them as the song plays. Whatever it is, it’s just great to know that they’re out there for a new generation of music lovers to discover and enjoy for themselves.

With apologies to George Carlin, building my own AT&T is just too daunting of a task to even consider. Building my own MTV works just fine for me.


I wake up in the morning and catch last night’s sports highlights on TV while reading the sports pages as I eat breakfast. On the drive to work, I tune into one of the sports-talk radio shows.

At work throughout the day, I listen to the radio for more sports talk if I have some time. During the day, my phone vibrates from time to time as my team sends out various alerts.

On the way home, it’s more sports talk in the car. Then, before dinner, I watch the afternoon sports highlight shows. After dinner, depending on the night, there is always some game on TV. How long I stay with the game before reading and then going to bed depends on how good the game is.

Does this make me sound like some kind of a rabid sports nut? You may say I am but I don’t think so.

I know there are many guys and gals who are way more into it than I am: season tickets, flying to other cities to attend games, buying all kinds of sports clothing and memorabilia, etc. Heck, I’ve never even painted my face purple to support my beloved Minnesota Vikings, though I will admit painting my garage doors purple. At least I stopped short of painting the Viking horns on them.

Why I’m bringing this up is it occurs to me the time and energy devoted to sports in this country is so out of proportion to our many other problems and concerns that I just can’t believe it. Think about the coverage sports gets in the media.

Every newscast and newspaper has a sports segment or section. There are entire networks devoted to sports. Same with radio and of course the internet. The amount of time and effort that goes into sports-related concerns is truly mind-boggling. I do like sports a lot, but even I realize this amount of coverage and constant attention is a little over the top.

If you don’t believe me, tune into a sports-talk radio program next time you’re in the car. Often you will hear grown men, and sometimes women, getting in heated discussions over a missed field goal or a bad call from a ref or some off-the-cuff comment some random athlete made.

Can you imagine if all that passion was put into, I don’t know, education? Or health care? What a different world that would be. Just think about that for a minute.

The reason sports are so popular is they create a diversion from our everyday struggle just to survive. Commuting, raising kids, dealing with various rules and regulations, etc. are not easy. They don’t call everyday life “the grind” for nothing. “Happy hour” wouldn’t exist if life were easy.

Sports allow us to get away mentally and sometimes physically for a little while. It’s easy to forget about your problems when you’re watching your favorite team try to get the game-winning score. I’ve been a Vikings fan for close to 50 years and I still can’t get enough of them (I just hope they win a Super Bowl before I die but it’s not looking so good).

There are, of course, many media outlets that are not sports related. There are news-only TV channels, and newspapers still cover a lot besides sports.

But who talks about what’s on C-SPAN (except to point out the constant stream of, shall we call it “spin” to be gracious, from this administration’s daily news briefs). For some reason, people rarely get excited or passionate about the many issues and concerns that affect our daily lives. At least not in the same way they do with sports.

I’ve had occasion to be in court several times over the years. I’ve seen traffic court and small-claims court firsthand, and I know there are criminal and civil cases going on all the time as well. All of this is public information that in many cases directly affects people’s lives.

Yet you rarely see any of it let alone hear about it. Even our highest court, the Supreme Court with justices that are seated for life, is not on TV. Why is that? Why shouldn’t we, the people who they serve, be allowed to see what goes on there?

Many folks probably wouldn’t even let their attention be diverted from something as mundane as, say, a regular season baseball game if it was on, but many I’m sure would love to see it. I know I would.

Sports and sports-related businesses provide a ton of jobs, which is great. Anytime people are working in a thriving industry, you have to be happy.

Yet I’m sick of hearing guys call a sports-talk show and argue that a certain pitcher would be a bargain “if we could get him for ten million a year.” I know you earn what the market will bear, but millions and millions of dollars to play a game is just wrong.

I think of a teacher who has to spend her own money to buy supplies for her kids. Or people who work full-time but can afford to eat or pay rent but not both. Somehow it’s just wrong that you can get paid so, so, so much money to play a game while so many honest, hardworking people can barely get by.

We’ve come to accept this in our society, that certain professions command outrageous salaries out of all proportion to what they are worth, while the hard workers who affect our lives on a daily basis — police, firefighters, government workers, service and retail workers — have to scrap and fight for any kind of increase.

I don’t know what the answer is here. But imagine if all professional athletes were limited to, say, a million dollars a year. Many would balk at this but I’ll bet most of them would still rather play ball for a million a year than work at the bank or the garage or whatever.

Think what good all that saved money could do if it were pumped into education, or to ensure that everyone had health care. Wow.

You could argue that many athletes are just one knee injury away from their careers being over, and you’d be right. Hopefully they learned something else in college besides how to play a nickel defense. That would insure that they can find gainful and productive employment when their career ends eventually. I mean, education is what college is all about, right?

I could go on and on about all of this but the game is about to start and I can tell already it’s going be a good one.


Today I offer you 100 tips for life gleaned from hard-earned experience. Use at your own risk; as they say in the car business, “Your mileage may vary.” Enjoy!

— 1. Be careful in mall and shopping-center parking lots when driving or especially when walking as the normal driving rules don't seem to apply there for some reason.

— 2. If you want to enjoy a hot dog, for God’s sake don’t think of how it’s made.

—3. If there’s any question at all on whether your deodorant is working or not, it’s not.

— 4. Actively practice listening every chance you get. You can never get too good at it.

— 5. Don’t be afraid to try new foods, but if you don’t know what part of the animal you’re eating, it’s OK to skip it.

— 6. Random acts of kindness — letting someone pull out, holding open a door, paying the toll for the car behind you — restore our faith in humanity.

— 7. For women: If you have to even think about if your skirt is too short or your top is too low, your skirt is too short or your top is too low.

— 8. For men: No one wants to see your underwear, so pull up your pants for crying out loud.

— 9. Think about what you wear to the beach. Remember, some of us are planning on eating lunch there.

— 10. If the people in the next car or apartment can hear your music, it’s too loud.

— 11. See a doctor once a year. You’re not as young as you used to be.

— 12. Get over it when your team loses. There is always next year.

— 13. If you don’t have at least one favorite author, you’re not reading enough.

— 14. Get to know what’s in your insurance policy. You’ll be glad you did.

— 15. Don’t go to bed with dirty dishes in the sink. You'll feel so much better the next morning.

— 16. I don’t care what anyone says, it’s OK to wear white socks with dress pants unless you’re trying to impress someone, and if that someone can’t handle white socks with dress pants, find someone else to impress.

— 17. You don’t have to agree with someone else’s religious choice but you certainly should respect it.

— 18. Nothing good ever happens when you’re out after midnight.

— 19. Give driving the attention and respect it deserves.

— 20. Working hard and then relaxing makes you feel like you’ve really earned it.

— 21. Try to make your spouse feel extra special whenever you can.

— 22. Your children watch everything you do and listen to everything you say, though they might not show it. They also remember everything. Keep this in mind.

— 23. Find a business you like and then support it. You’ll both be better off.

— 24. Learn how to make good soup and you’ll always be popular with anyone you share it with.

— 25. You can learn anything if you stick with it long enough and learn from your mistakes.

— 26. Any kind of music is a triumph of the human spirit, and if you can play music all the better.

— 27. Teach your kids to swim; it will provide endless fun and could save their lives.

— 28. When you use the last anything — tissue, egg, toilet paper, etc. — have the courtesy to replace it.

— 29. If you need to criticize, start off with a compliment. You’ll get much better results.

— 30. Sometimes silence is the greatest sound of all.

— 31. Count a friend among your greatest possessions.

— 32. Tell your school board to keep teaching cursive writing. We should all be at least moderately proficient in this timeless art/skill.

— 33. Support your local newspaper. When it’s gone, you will miss it. Nothing beats real journalism.

— 34. If possible, let your favorite teacher know how much he or she meant to you. Teachers do God’s work.

— 35. Your parents might not be perfect, but you wouldn’t be anywhere — literally — without them.

— 36. Fast food is a fast way to pack on pounds. Control yourself.

— 37. Anyone who speaks broken English speaks at least one more language than you and I do.

— 38. Skin color, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, etc. are just categories. It is the quality of the person inside that counts.

— 39. Do not judge a person with a valid handicap sticker if they look fine when they get out of the car. You have no idea what they are dealing with. And don’t park in a handicap spot without a valid permit.

— 40. Put down the phone and do something real — a walk, a jigsaw puzzle, an actual person-to-person conversation. You’d be surprised how interesting the real world can be.

— 41. Travel is always good but, if you need a vacation from your vacation, you’re doing too much.

— 42. Wash your car. Your car will love you and you can use the exercise.

— 43. Positive thinking really works, if you can get in the habit of actually doing it.

— 44. There are so-called “foodies” who go nutso with recipes and gadgets and restaurants, but if you can get your hands on a good sandwich every now and then and maybe a good glass of whiskey on occasion you’ve pretty much got it covered.

— 45. Don’t tell me there are no jobs. If you want to work, you can work.

— 46. Invest in your future by doing two years at a community college. Then you can go to work in an actual career or continue studying. Community colleges are the best thing going.

— 47. People seem to let their heads droop forward as they age. That’s great if you’re looking for old coins on the beach with a metal detector but not for much else. Pay attention to your posture.

— 48. Your words matter. Think before you speak.

— 49. Volunteering is good for the soul.

— 50. Please think twice before reheating a tuna casserole in the office microwave oven.

— 51. Leaving farts on an elevator is never cool.

— 52. Kissing in public: Why? Get a room, as they say.

— 53. Traveling by train is slower, but it’s a lot more relaxing than flying.

— 54. Just like “it’s not the heat, it’s the humidity” — it’s not the cold, it’s the wind.

— 55. Speeding loses its luster the older you get. What’s the hurry?

— 56. Gift giving is completely out of control. Too bad “it’s the thought that counts” is such a cliché.

— 57. Spend a day in a good museum. Good art stirs the soul like nothing else.

— 58. Get to know the Bible. I mean, read it. You can’t begin to understand Western literature without it.

— 59. Please don’t crush my hand when you shake it. Firm is fine.

— 60. You pay for it once but you use it every day. Think about this when you buy your next house, car, or other big purchase.

— 61. If you give your word, stick to it.

— 62. Brushing and flossing are not fun but, unless you want a removable set of choppers like Grandpa, you better do it daily.

— 63. The book is always better than the movie.

— 64. The more you own the more you have to take care of. Get rid of clutter.

— 65. Set some goals. If you don’t know where you’re going, how can you ever get there?

— 66. Pay yourself by saving something out of every paycheck.

— 67. A good foot soak. Trust me.

— 68. Don’t discount good old radio as an entertainment medium. Its pleasures are many and varied.

— 69. Nothing beats a long walk on a nice day.

— 70. You don’t study math because you’ll necessarily need it, you study math because it teaches you to think. Too bad they don’t explain this to you at the outset.

— 71. Reading and studying about a far-off place is in many ways better than going there.

— 72. Nothing says ugly more than an orange pair of Crocs, yet nothing feels so good on your feet.

— 73. Trimming your beard shows you care.

— 74. Any waitress that calls me “honey” automatically gets at least a 20-percent tip.

— 75. Life is too short for bad condiments. If you can’t afford Heinz, Guldens, and Hellman’s, become a vegetarian.

— 76. If she says things are “fine,” they’re not.

— 77. A house is just a house. It takes a wife or mother to make it a home.

— 78. Everyone talks about watching their weight, but put out a box of doughnuts and watch them disappear.

— 79. Don’t worry about things you can’t control, like weather. It is what it is.

— 80. Money is great. Happiness is better.

— 81. A “Celebration of Life” is much better than a funeral.

— 82. I love that you exercise, but you don’t need to post every run and rep on social media.

— 83. Trees are noble, valuable gifts. Treat them with respect.

— 84. If you want to see how well you know something, try explaining it to someone else.

— 85. No one works harder or cares more than a good nurse.

— 86. Helping is fine. Enabling is not.

— 87. Our country being over twenty trillion dollars in debt and climbing is bad financially and bad for the message it sends. We need to tighten our belts.

— 88. The short versions of “In A Gadda Da Vida” by Iron Butterfly and “Light my Fire” by The Doors should be permanently deep-sixed because the longer versions are so, so much better.

— 89. National Public Radio is great but fund drives are not. There has to be a better way.

— 90. A small Swiss Army knife with toothpick, tweezers, and scissors is the handiest thing you can carry.

— 91. Watering a plant is good. Flooding it can erode it. A little TV is good. Too much TV can erode your brain.

— 92. Growing older — as long as you keep learning and take care of yourself — can be a wonderful experience. Stay positive!

— 93. When you need a root canal, you need a root canal, and nothing else matters. Ouch.

— 94. If you don’t vote, don’t complain.

— 95. To avoid getting sick, try not to contact door knobs, gas-pump handles, or shopping carts with your bare hands and wash your hands often.

— 96. GPS is great for point to point, but maps are great for real understanding

— 97. Trying to find a balance between planning and spontaneity is key.

— 98. Read to a child. It’s the best thing you can do.

— 99. Getting out of bed when you don’t want to. It all starts with that.

— 100. Last but not least: Nothing is black or white; it’s all shades of gray. Learn to soften your heart, or “take a chill pill” as the young folks say, before you go off the deep end about something.

BONUS TIP – The toilet paper hangs over the roll, of course.


If you’re like me, you’re always looking for a fresh and affordable way to exercise. Changing your routing every now and then is a great way to keep the fire going and get you on the path to health and well-being.

Well, today is your lucky day, because I’m going to share with you my new workout routine. It’s called the SNO workout, which stands for the “Shoveling is Never Over” workout.

The SNO workout is free from about November (and sometimes October) until about March (and sometimes April) if you live in the great Northeast. Who needs a gym membership when you have the SNO workout? What a great day it is when you find you have something so effective available to you that is free and always there (during the winter, at least).

The great thing about the SNO workout is it’s so easy to fit into your schedule. Wait, you were planning on going to work today? No, no, no, not before you get a SNO workout so you can get your car out of the driveway. This is truly the only workout that plans the schedule for you. How easy is that!

The SNO workout is a total, full-body exercise. You name it — legs, arms, shoulders, and especially lower back. After the SNO workout, your whole body will be quivering as your well-worked and totally depleted muscles beg for mercy. Try getting a workout this good at the gym. No can do!

Don’t think because you have a snow-blower or a plowing service that you can’t take advantage of the SNO workout. There are always the walkways, that narrow space between the house and the fence, the deck, around the cars, and plenty of other places were the SNO workout is the best way to remove snow accumulation and get your exercise in.

Trust me, if you live in the Northeast, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to take advantage of the SNO workout.

But, Frank, you ask, how can I be sure I’ll get the SNO workout each and every winter? Glad you asked. It’s so easy. You only have to remember two things:

— Stop complaining about the cold while threatening to move to Florida; and

— Stop complaining about the taxes while threatening to move to Florida.

If you can do these two things, you can have the SNO workout every winter! Yay!

I know, I know, you still don’t believe the SNO workout can form the basis of an effective exercise program. You want to make sure you get in enough work to burn a lot of calories and really look and feel your best.

That’s the great thing about the SNO workout — you never know how much snow accumulation there will be or how long it will last. Trust me, sometimes you can get the SNO workout for days and days at a time. How great is that?

Then, just when you think your exercise is over, the town plow comes by, and instantly you’re exercising again at the bottom of the driveway and by your mailbox. Just when you thought your SNO workout was over and done for the day, you’re now getting your second round of calorie-burning workout goodness.

Feel the burn, baby! Thank you, Mister Town Plow Man!

Still haven’t gotten enough exercise? No problemo! Go to your neighbor’s house and do the SNO workout there. Heck, come over to my house and do the SNO workout right in my driveway. I won’t mind.

I’m old and I need a break from the SNO workout every now and then. Don’t let me stop you from getting into the best shape you can!

What kind of an investment do you need to perform the SNO workout? Not much, really. All you need besides your normal winter clothes are a couple of snow shovels.

The first should be one of those “pusher” shovels for when we get only a couple of inches of snow. This shovel works the hamstrings great. Get into a rhythm with this shovel and you’ll really explore the aerobic aspects of the SNO workout.

The second one should be a regular snow shovel. This is the one you use when it drops so much snow it’s just a sea of white outside. Now you’re working your entire body, especially your arms and lower back.

Keep up the SNO workout during this kind of snow accumulation and you’ll be the muscle king on the beach when summer finally comes. Try not to kick too much sand in the faces of all those wimpy guys who don’t live in the great Northeast like you do!

Is this the greatest exercise program ever or what? The fun literally never ends during our wonderful, long, drawn-out winters. So if you live in the great Northeast, don’t worry about how to stay in shape when the weather turns cold. Just remember the SNO — Shoveling is Never Over — workout, and you’re good to go for months at a time.

They say: No pain, no gain. We say: No snow, go home!

P.S. Keep a lot of Advil on hand. You’re going to need it.