Burton Cole column

The best way to learn is mastering by disastering

Years of far-too-personal research have taught me that the best way to learn something is to screw it up. This is not true in all cases. Folding fitted sheets serves as the prime example. Experience makes a lousy teacher when it comes to sheets that frustrate me into fits. I end up wadding the ...

Sharing the wit and wisdom of Mama Bombeck

For a generation — my mom’s — Erma Bombeck was the voice of motherhood. Not the Shangri-la, idealized, TV commercial version of every-hair-and-tablecloth-in-place mothers. Erma wrote about the real-life adventures of mothers with piles of dirty dishes, dandelion bouquets and smuggled ...

Grow up and dig through the stacks set for kids

One of the coolest things about my secret identity as a children’s author is that I get to read kids’ books and pretend that it’s research. “I’m working on my next novel,” I sputter to the librarian. “Oh, I believe you,” she chuckles. She hands me the comic collections of ...

May days bloom with tubas, socks and sea monkeys

May is the month of blossoms, as set forth in the Ohio Revised Code: “April showers shall bring May flowers.” When I was in school, I thought the Pilgrims brought the Mayflower. I refuse to live any longer in that kind of ignorance. I consulted a few offbeat calendars to find out what ...

Wondrous words from children

Why doesn’t God have a cellphone? That’s a question that stumped my friend Lisa the other day. “I’m 73,” she told me. “I was talking to my 5-year-old granddaughter about Heaven because I didn’t want her to be sad when I’m gone. I told her I’d be watching over her from ...

Watch out for black holes in garages, tables, purses

The big news in science this past week was the release of the first photographic image of a black hole. Black holes are those outerspace phenomena that make things disappear. Anything caught in the gravitational pull of a black hole gets sucked in with no hope of return. Just like my ...

Put on pizza when the IRS comes to arrest you

I don’t mean to alarm you, but I need $10,000. Quick. Otherwise, I’m gonna get arrested. See, I got this extortion notice with an official CIA logo pasted at the bottom. For $10,000, the technical collection officer who signed promised that he can make my name disappear from the case file ...

Spring splendor sits in baselines

It’s not the groundhog, the daffodils nor March 21 that tells me when spring has sprung. And it’s definitely not the weather. As the great philosopher Charles Dickens wrote, “Spring is the time of the year when it is summer in the sun and winter in the shade.” Or as the great ...

Words are important so use this guide frequently

That great philosopher Mark Twain once mused, “The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter — ’tis the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.” Exactly. One of those two things is what kids put into jars during the summer to ...

A cellphone’s alarms can tell a lot about its owner

Few things bring out the blush in your cheeks like forgetting your cellphone at someone else’s place. It gives your friends hard evidence of something they’ve long suspected — your synapses are firing a couple of spark plugs short. “Poor ol’ George,” they’d say — providing ...

Cow tipping no joke but there are plenty to go around

Amid a bludgeoning of news about floods, fires, assaults, walls, cheats, liars, murders and other mayhem, a pastoral headline went largely overlooked: Oklahoma City’s airport no longer is selling cow-tipping T-shirts. After more than 10 years, Will Rogers World Airport has sold out of ...

Sweet talking a woman requires more than a sundae

The more a man talks, the less likely he is to say something significant. That’s the word from several experts on the subject, all of whom happen to be female. Most are related to me. According to their standard of worthy talk, I haven’t engaged in a meaningful conversation since 1983. I ...

Mom earns nervous tics from boys’ adventures

It’s not that boys intend to irritate their parents. We just have gigantic imaginations overwhelming teeny tiny filters in our brains. If a notion pops into our heads, we already are embarking on the adventure that will hereafter be known as “the incident” before any flicker of common ...

Loaner spouse good for house, bad for the husband

In retrospect, loaner spouses was a bad idea. I pitched the plan years ago in this space. In my defense, I was single at the time. I based the theory on trips to my auto mechanic. There’s only so long that you can ignore the shakes and shudders, the groans and moans, the passing of gas and ...

Survey says valentines like a box of chocolates

Valentine’s Day wings its way across the calendar this week, but according to a marketing survey more than a third of you — OK, us — won’t spend a cent on it. (The survey said nothing about the after Valentine’s chocolate sales, which is when I spend my loving loot. It may be ...

No matter the question, chocolate is the answer

Ah, February, when a young man’s fancy turns to... Actually, I can’t recall. Too many decades have fluttered past since I’ve been a young man. But I can say with some authority that a cranky old geezer’s fancy turns to chocolate. And why not? The more doses of chocolate with which we ...

Making sense of stinking scents too early in the morning

I opened my underwear drawer and shrieked. “Terry! Somebody’s staring at me from beneath my boxers!” “Shh. You’ll wake the baby,” my wife whispered. “The baby’s 32 years old and lives 10 miles away,” I shouted. Terry patted my forearm. “What has you so worked up?” I ...

Take a five-mile, uphill-both-ways walk through snowy memory

If the forecast proves true, you’re reading this with all the lights on because mountains of snow are blocking your windows. Then again, you might be wearing shorts and sandals, soaking up the sun on your front porch. Weather prognosticators were rather iffy on how much snow was coming this ...

To get good and lost, simply ask for directions

I don’t scream at the sight of a spider. Horror movies bore me. Rather than run, I relish the chance to speak in front of large crowds. But there is one thing that positively sends chills up and down my goosebumps: Someone asking for directions. I freeze. I forget if north is to the left or ...

Pondering theme music, naps and other aids for new year

Random thoughts for the new year: • Life should come with background music. It would clear up a lot of confusion and possibly save lives. In movies and TV shows, when a character utters an important point, Boom! the big crescendo tells us so. We know to pay attention. If we hear the ...