NOTE: If you want to
tell me I'm full of crap
TO BUDDAIRBUM@COX.NET :
- Small Victories: Progress on the Home Front
When I sat down
to write this, I scanned back over past blogs and re-read
the one I wrote on New Years day. There I said that project-wise
I was only going to work on The Roadster and an iBook.
And now, half way through the new year, I’m pleased
and amazed to report some progress.
The iBook hasn’t moved but the roadster is not
only licensed and insured but I have nearly 20 miles
on it running around an ever-increasing number of city
blocks as I expand its envelope. It’s far from
finished. It still needs paint and interior, but I’m
doing neither of those until I drive it enough to know
what’s wrong with it and fix it as I go. The last
thing I want is finished paint or upholstery on a car
I’m constantly banging on fixing one glitch at
As I backed it out of the garage for the first
time and ran down to the end of the block, I was elated
but, at the same time, worried. The engine didn’t
want to take the throttle on shifts. The clutch (hydraulic)
was/is much too stiff. It’s drivable but too much
work. The steering was just loose enough to be a little
worrisome. And it took me some time to re-acclimate to
driving a three-speed transmission with reverse where
first is in a five-speed car. I was constantly moving
back, when I wanted to go forward. Plus, it’s a ’39
Ford trans so neither reverse nor first is synchro-mesh:
you have to be dead stopped to get it into gear, although
double clutching will let me into first while rolling,
if I’m careful.
I have to admit that after the first couple of miles
(a series of different around-the-block trips), I was
just relieved that it didn’t catch fire or blow
up. So, I did something unnecessary and spent a weekend
getting the grill insert finished. That turned out to
be a MAJOR job that I’ll do a separate story on
when I finally chronicle the building of the car. However,
one thing worth sharing (if you don’t like details,
skip this paragraph): there was a major gap (2”)
at the bottom of the stainless steel strip that surrounded
the insert itself. I hadn’t the foggiest how to
fix that but had a brain storm. I went to the hardware
store where they have those little displays of small
tubing and sheet metal for hobbyists? Sure enough, they
had thin-wall, ½” stainless tubing. Six
bucks! So, I sliced pieces of that down one side, and
flattened one side making a “J” shape out
of it. The straight part would go under the surround
to be riveted in place. But how was I going to join them
in a V-shape to match the shape of the grill? Again,
no idea at all, but again had an idea. I’ve never
actually welded stainless before, especially stuff that’s
nearly paper thin. However, using a tiny weld tip and
stainless safety wire as rod, I fumbled my way through
the welding process and after filing and sanding found
it all polished up great with a buffing wheel and came
out looking like it was factory made!! Something about
pigs finding the random nut fits here.
|This was shot on the Fourth of July, where I celebrated
by taking it around the block for the first time. Very
cool! You can't believe how "right" it sounds.
I now have the engine tuned so it takes the throttle
like a normal car. The loose steering was traced to the
nut holding the steering wheel needing a .032 shim under
it. The battery died a couple of times and then I found
it was only rated to 113 degrees and ambient temp was
106-110 and an exhaust pipe ran right next to the battery
box! Duh! Made a new pipe with more space and a stainless
shield between it and the battery. Also insulated the
battery box. Problem solved. I hope.
Next big steps are to build a new clutch arm for the
transmission with better mechanical advantage and make
a top for the hood. I’m going to leave the sides
open to show off the old flathead.
So, now, I’m going to continually drive it farther
and farther, with the goal of gaining enough confidence
to drive it to the airport and back (nine miles each
way). Right now, the fastest I’ve had it is 40
mph (due to gearing changes the speedometer isn’t
even close, so I use the Speedometer app on my phone,
rubber banded to the steering wheel. I’ve identified
1,200 rpm as 35 mph so far). I need to push that to 50-55
so I don’t hold up traffic. Baby steps.
If I get enough miles on it that I’m satisfied
with its reliability and handling, I’ll pull the
engine out of it this winter to paint the firewall, body
and frame. Then, maybe do the interior and some chrome
(windshield posts and windshield frame).
Hey! ‘Know what? After working on it for 60 years
this month, it’s actually possible I may get this
thing finished! This is a very big deal in my life. bd
I'll be gone the next two weekends at Oshkosh. It's part of my
job. No, really!
June 17 - Long Rifles and the Internet
You’re going to find this next statement hard to
believe: there actually was life before the Internet.
No, really! Before computers too! I was reminded of this,
when a long, skinny crate arrived at my door this week
and an artifact from my earlier life rejoined me.
When the crate, which was about 6”x4” x five
feet (!) arrived, I held my breath. I knew what was in
it and I knew how easily they were broken in half by
UPS. Been there done that. It held the very first Kentucky
muzzle loader I built. The year was 1980 (an unbelievable
37 years ago) and it has been hanging on a good friend’s
wall for the last 20 or 25 years. I hadn’t seen
it for that long. As soon as it came out of the crate
in one piece and I breathed a deep sigh of relief, I
couldn’t help but reflect on what had transpired
in the 37 years since I started hogging on a big piece
of maple. A million things in life have changed, and
many of them can be seen in the rifle. Or at least in
the way I approached the project.
Let’s think of the year 1980. It represents a watershed
period, although wasn’t an important year itself.
Apple opened its doors in 1978, so, if you graduated
high school anywhere in that general vicinity, you’ve
never known life as an adult without computers. However,
although computers immediately became a mental appendage
for most of us, the Internet didn’t become common
place for another decade. Computers changed our lives,
but the Internet turned everything on its head. Suddenly,
everything and everybody was instantly available and
the trend accelerated like a top fuel dragster.
In 1980, I decided I wanted to get good at building Kentucky
rifles (If you don’t know the type, go to http://www.airbum.com/NeatShtpix/LongRifle.html .) and, from this vantage point, it’s hard to believe
how hard researching everything was at the time. We had
libraries, the postal service, telephones and telegraphs.
That was it. In fact, our communication/research capabilities
hadn’t changed one iota since before WW II. And
we fought a war that way! However, being a typical guy,
I hate waiting for answers and I hate reading the directions.
But, in those days, I had a system for getting information.
It was a crude method that did what Google does for you
today. But, not as well or as fast.
When I’d get into any kind of specialized niche
where the skills and knowledge required were hard to
come by, I’d look up the top magazine that fed
that niche (wooden boats, machinist, etc.). Then I’d
buy all the back issues the publisher had available,
usually three to five years. I’d spend the next
month reading nothing but those magazines. Think about
it: If you bought the past five years of Plane and Pilot,
by the time you read all of them, you’d have had
a crash course in aviation. You’d know about all
you needed to know to jump into it. That’s what
I did for building Kentucky rifles. I buried myself in
Muzzle Blast magazine, which is dedicated to those passionate
about recreating black powder weapons.
By that time, I’d been a magazine guy for 12 years,
so, after reading all of those articles, I not only felt
as if I knew the editor’s taste and article preferences,
but I’d singled out the individual whom other authors
often quoted as a point of reference. Read five years
of any airplane magazine and it’s impossible not
to know who Patty Wagstaff, Chuck Yeager and others of
their ilk are. The name that popped up in reading about
black powder rifles was John Bivins of Winston Salem,
NC. So, I pitched an article on Bivins to the editor
(I was pretty good at writing pitches), he bought the
idea and I quickly found myself standing on the porch
of Bivin’s restored 1890s Victorian home knocking
on the door.
To cut to the chase, Bivins and I turned out to have
one of those instant connections you see only two or
three times in a lifetime and he became my friend and
mentor on the rifle building side of things. He was an
incredibly unique individual and known worldwide not
only for his rifles but for his expertise in many other
things like colonial architectural decorative arts.
So, I’d gone through the whole magazine-reading
thing as a way of gaining access to the leader in the
field which would give me instant access to all the knowledge
that individual possessed. He was my personal Google
guy. And I thought of that, as I pulled my old smoke
pole out of the crate and instantly saw a dozen things
about it that I would have done differently had I known
then, what I know now. And the reason I know those things
now is because of all the Google searches I’ve
done on the subject in the last 20 years. I don’t
think I embarrassed myself in building this rifle, but
I would have done it differently, if my friend Mr. Google
had been there to hold my hand, as he does almost every
day in almost every area of my life. And I know I’m
not alone in that.
We’ve become so used to having everything in life
available to us through a key board, from asking Siri
to take us to our destination to finding the caloric
value of a blue berry (less than one calorie/berry) that
we’re psychologically dependent on the Net. This
is very convenient, but I’m afraid it also lets
our brain take the easy way out. Plus, this means we’re
dependent on something that can break down or be shut
off, and invites bad guys to poke around inside our digital
How hooked are we? I don’t know about anyone else,
but we’ll be watching television and I’ll
hear my brain ask, “I wonder how old that actor
is” and the next thing I hear is Siri giving me
the answer. Or as soon as I park my butt in a doctor/dentist
office, out comes the phone and I’m Googling something
or checking out what’s for sale on Backpage.com.
This is not good.
Do I have a solution? Oh, hell no! You don’t ask
an addict how to cure other addicts. He might have to
give up his addiction to cure the other guy. So, if you
have ADD (Active Digital Disease), you’re on your
own. I’m not about to give up my phone or computer.
FYI-I’m kind of sorry the rifle was shipped here
because it has me foaming at the mouth to build another
Kentucky rifle. And I’ve already started. bd
About the rifle: Today you can buy high dollar kits all
day long for a wide variety of blackpowder rifles, but
this definitely wasn’t a kit. I didn’t have
a band saw, so I laid a heavy board of curly maple scaffolding
lumber (3” thick, ten feet long) up on two saw
horses. Then, I stood on top of it and roughed it to
shape with a chain saw. I cut a lot of the fittings out
of brass or 4130 and bought the lock, barrel, trigger
guard and butt plate from Dixie Gun Works. Today we have
Track of the Wolf for that kind of stuff and it’s
mind boggling what they have (https://www.trackofthewolf.com ). Incidentally, the .45 caliber barrel is the usual
Kentucky length of 42”. That’s a foot and
a half longer than a Garand. Very cool!
|I hadn't worked up the guts to do the requisite Roccoco
carving at this point, which is just as well because stylistically
the star and butt plate shape would have been wrong for
it. Mr. Google would have told me that.
|The Lancaster style patch box is
"okay" but not the right historical match. It's actually
brass, but has tarnished to where it looks like steel.
|Flint locks can be frustrating
but once you get them right, they're cool. Click-fizz-bang!
June 17 - It's Summer Time!
It’s June in Phoenix, which means we’re nearly
halfway through summer. What? You say the official first
day of summer is just this week? Summer just started?
I guess that depends on your definition of summer.
Summer in our neck of the woods starts as soon as we
hit 100, which is usually mid-May. It’ll bounce
up and down between 95 and 101 for a month. Then June
arrives where we seem to have one week, only one week,
that the weather goes bonkers. This is that week. I just
checked the ATIS at the home aerodrome and it says it
is 115 degrees and the relative humidity is 6%. This
one week of bat-sh*t weather early in the season seems
to be a desert tradition. It’ll threaten the record
books and make national news and then return to “normal.” If
the forecasters are right, we’ll have 118 tomorrow
and 117 the day after, which I’ve only seen a couple
of times in the last 25 years. Then it’ll drift
back down to what June in the desert usually is: 105-108
with humidity in the 5-8% range. Believe it or not, but
that is usually tolerated well by almost everyone. Even
those from back East that haven’t acclimated yet.
As I say the above I can hear people repeating what they
ALWAYS say, “How can you possibly live somewhere
that it’s hot enough to fry cats on the sidewalk!?” I
used to try to explain that a) it’s not that hot
all day and b) we only have those kinds of spiked temperatures
a few weeks a year. I used to say, “Let’s
have this discussion in January and see what you have
to say.” But, I don’t try to explain any
more. First, they don’t believe me and second,
I’m not doing myself any favors by trying dispel
Arizona’s national reputation. Now I use that reputation
to protect what we have out here.
My approach to the subject these days is to sadly shake
my head and agree with them. I say, yes, it’s a
terrible burden trying to survive out here. And think
of all of those poor fried cats stuck to sidewalks all
over town! It’s such a tragedy! You’re right,
you should never think about moving down here. Besides
the heat, we’re surrounded by nothing but flat,
featureless bare sand, with the occasional cactus breaking
the monotony. And north of us we have this gigantic ditch
they try to glorify by calling it a “grand” canyon.
There’s nothing grand about it. In fact, it has
now been proven that sometime in the late 1930s’s
a bunch of tourists from Brooklyn dug it by hand as a
place to dispose of their trash. It’s such an eye
sore that there’s now a local project aimed at
filling the ditch in and making it into a skateboard
park. They are right now letting contracts to knock down
the tall, skinny rocks in Monument Valley and using them
to fill in the grand ditch. It’s a really boring,
nothing-to-see area and it badly needs a skateboard park,
so it’s a win-win for everyone. Monument Valley
gets cleaned up. The Grand ditch gets filled in. And
all of the skateboarders in the area (it’s a Navajo
tradition) have a place to do their thing.
As if the topography isn’t bad enough, you can’t
step out of your car without the rattle snakes (or the
scorpions) grabbing you by the ankles and dragging you
under the car to lunch on your tender vitals. It’s
just terrible! It’s not fit for man nor beast.
However, during the winter, we do have maybe a bazillion
golf courses and hotels with swimming pools you might
enjoy. So, yeah…come on down and visit, suck down
your fill of Matai’s and abuse some golf balls
in the sun (which almost never actually shines), but
don’t think about staying. You’ll hate it.
Oh, yeah, I forgot: we’re a really rude, obnoxious
people. And we lie a lot. bd
- The Battle Between Love and Grief
This week was unique in a couple of ways. Not the least
of which I was forcefully reminded that grief never actually
goes away, regardless of the years. Regardless of the
This is probably a little too much information, but I
do some of my clearest thinking and planning while I’m
taking a shower in the morning. Hence the SCUBA diver’s
note pad hanging on the shower head. There’s a
floor to ceiling window in our shower that looks into
a little patio that is faced by a glass door into the
bedroom. Since I usually shower around 0430-0500 (depending
on when I walk), I keep the lights off so they don’t
wake Marlene. Having better sense than I do, she’s
not up that time of the morning and she has a hard enough
time sleeping as it is. I’m so damned considerate
I amaze myself. :-)
Standing in the steaming hot water (I like it REALLY
hot!) in the dark, it’s almost as if I’m
in an isolation chamber. The world is far away and exists
only in my mind, so it tends to ramble all over the place.
Sometimes it’s tackling the day’s goals.
Other times it’s picking away at personal long-term
dreams. I have little or no control where it goes. Which
is largely on purpose. Sometimes, however, it decides
to focus on something that catches me by surprise. This
particular morning, it was my late brother, Gary, whom
we lost totally expectantly in 1985 to a massive heart
attack at the age of 42. To say it caught me flat footed
is a gross understatement. And 32 years later, it still
gets to me.
There I was, stark naked, the water doing its best to
boil me and I suddenly found myself crying like a baby.
Sobbing. My body wracked from top to bottom in a way
that it hadn’t felt for years. Everything in my
being was reacting to the grief and it surprised the
hell out of me. I hadn’t seen that coming. At the
same time, I was pleased to know the grief was still
that strong. It felt good. And I felt closer to the bro
I’d always been close to. Then I thought about
my dad. And other dad’s.
The day before I had written the Memorial Day blog about
Ernie Pyle and, standing there in the dark, I thought
about all the gold star fathers and mothers who, on Memorial
Day, had memories that brought forth much more grief
than what I was feeling. I remembered my father at Gary’s
funeral. He was a strong, but at the same time, emotional
man. But, that day he was a shell of the man I had known.
In his early 70s, he was moving and talking in a mechanical,
zombie-like manner. A hard-core, tough Midwesterner who
had weathered the depression and a half-dozen wars, he
wasn’t purposely hiding his grief, as was traditional
with his generation. Now I know that his grief was so
strong and overwhelming, he simply didn’t know
how to let it out. How to deal with it. It was far, far
beyond his comprehension and left him totally numb and
incapable of feeling anything.
As I’m writing this, I feel guilt at not being
able to be there to help him over the mountain that grief
had placed in front of him. However, at that moment,
standing in the shower, I realized that he had never
conquered that mountain. A father or mother losing a
son or daughter never do. As that thought went through
my mind, I momentarily thought about my own kids but
I absolutely refused to let the thought of losing one
enter my mind. I couldn’t. If I did, it would haunt
me for the rest of the day, rather than flitting around
the edges of my thoughts as it does for every parent.
We all know the possibility is there. But we refuse to
let the thought gain traction in our mental processes.
We hold it far out there in a dark place where we put
things we don’t actually want to face. We have
our heads mentally and emotionally buried in the sand,
but the thought never actually goes away.
In retrospect, last week, instead of writing about Ernie
Pyle needing to be remembered on Memorial Day, I should
have focused on the gold star families. Included in the
awful statistics of those killed in war are the innocent
civilians who are always part of the collateral damage.
During WWII, that number was much bigger than the actual
combat deaths. However, a statistic that is never included
in any of the cost of war statistics, is the immeasurable
damage a single death in combat does to those surrounding
it. Especially, the parents. Each death generates grief
that lasts a lifetime, knows no boundaries. It’s
universal on both sides of every conflict. And there
are no monuments to those who suffered the loses. But,
there should be.
The pleasant memories of my brother, Gary, never leave
my mind. Never. But, as the years go on, when I least
expect it, the grief comes to visit. And that’s
a good thing. It proves that I’m still human. Better
yet, it proves that love can go toe-to-toe with grief,
and will eventually outlast it. bd
May 17 - Memorial Day: Remembering the Typewriter Warriors
Tomorrow is Memorial Day and I’m
once again mentally immersed in a million images of long
ago battles. Of strangers faces I know
are gone. And the few I did know who we've lost. Tomorrow
we’re going to remember the blood and guts warriors.
Today, however, I’m choosing to remember another
kind of warrior. Those with the typewriters. Specifically,
I’m betting that the majority of those reading
this are either gray dogs or heading that way. Many will
remember Ernie Pyle. However, I also know of at least
a few millennials reading this who I know for a fact
don’t know of Pyle. I’m also betting that
few in either group give much thought to guys like Pyle,
the war correspondents and photographers who were in
the middle of the fight and brought us the images, mental
and photographic, that have made all of our wars so real
to those of us who cared but weren’t there.
In the world of war correspondents, Ernie Pyle looms
large for a lot of reasons. The biggest being that during
WWII he was the nationwide voice of the dog face. Just
as Bill Mauldin graphical brought the public the war
with his sometimes irreverent “cartoon” drawings
of G.I. Joe, Ernie Pyle kept a steady stream of columns
streaming back from the front to newspapers throughout
the US. Plus, four books came out his efforts, Ernie
Pyle in England, Here is Your War, Brave Men and Last
When I was in Junior High and High School in the last
half of the ‘50’s, Ernie Pyle and his ilk
were my heroes. I devoured every book written by anyone
who was actually there and Here
is Your War and Brave
Men were nearly bibles to me as was Richard Tregaskis’ Guadalcanal
Diary. If you go back and read any of his words, you
can see why Pyle was awarded a Pulitzer for his work.
One of the things that sets his work apart is the voice
he gives war. It is him talking, Mark Twain style, in
a spare, to the point voice that makes you forget you’re
reading something. It’s more as if you’re
hearing it. More important, he doesn’t talk about
the tactics, the high-level planning, or the campaigns.
The Pattons and Eisenhowers of the war are seldom, if
ever, mentioned. He talks about the individual men, by
name, and the experiences he shares with each in their
foxholes. When reading it, you can sense the mud that’s
under his fingernails while he’s writing.
Pyle is a long way from being the only war correspondent/photographer in our
history. Every war, of almost any kind, has had its scribes keeping the action
alive on paper. Most, however, talked about the war in the third person, from
a distance. Only a few were right there on the front lines exposed to the same
life and death combat lottery as the troops themselves. As such, in the enemy’s
eyes they were no different than the infantrymen in their sights and many paid
the price. However, I was surprised when I did a Wiki search and found the number
killed during WWII was only nine. I would have thought it to be higher. Korea
lost five, Vietnam three. However, Iraq saw 27 killed (many local Arab state
reporters) and Afganistan has so far racked up 20 (BTW-I don’t believe
Memorial Day is our time to remember those who died in the service of our country.
This time, I’d like to remember those who died bringing the tales of the
everyman soldier to our country. Ernie Pyle is one of those. On April 18th, 1945,
on a small island next to Okinawa, Lejima, a 7.7mm machine gun bullet caught
him in the left temple just under his helmet and the brilliant, communicative
mind of Ernie Pyle was no more. War correspondents all leave a lasting legacy
out of proportion to their numbers. They should not be forgotten. bd
May 17 - Is Technology Killing our Past and Damaging
We drive a 27-year-old Honda, a 17-year old-Nissan Maxima,
a brand new Maxima and a 1929 hotrod powered by a 71-year-old
engine. Which one do I think will still be running 20
years from now? The old hotrod! Why, because technology
is going to eliminate antique cars for the future because
we won’t be able to service their computers. Same
thing with electronic documents, digital pictures, etc.
Model A Fords and flathead roadsters, of course, are
We have become so addicted to digital everything and
are so accustomed to the absolutely mind-boggling speed
of changes in those fields that we’re slamming
the door on our past. Actually, the door is already part
way closed. Besides the older cars, we have a couple
of older Nikon digital cameras and two higher-end Canons,
one that I use in my work, and every one of them uses
a different storage medium. I have no way of reading
at least one of those, so the personal history represented
by those photos is gone. Ditto for the 5 ¼” floppy
disks on which I wrote the welding book on an Apple IIe
for the EAA back in the dark ages. I haven’t researched
it, but someone like Data Doctor may be able to read
the mess of 3” floppies, Ziequest, Jazz Drives,
etc. that I have around here, but I doubt it. Even the
Word documents I’ve carefully copied to each new
computer and new software variant are about 30% unreadable.
In fact, although I’m writing this blog on my super
new MacPro, I have to put it on the web via my 6-year-old
Mac because the new one was specifically designed to
not recognize nearly half of the software or files/photos
in my nine Tb of storage (If you don’t know storage,
that’s a helluva lot!).
Smart phones are where rapid obsolescence has become
most obvious. The other day I dragged out my old Motorola
Razor flip phone and found I’d totally forgotten
how small and convenient it is. My new 6s iPhone is a
wonderful machine and I depend on it just as I do my
computer. In fact, SERI and I have become close friends.
Maybe too close. But, as fantastic as it is as an electronic
companion, it’s only so-so as a phone. It’s
cumbersome, unnatural and big. The Razor was a great
phone. You just flipped it open to answer it and it fit
in a shirt pocket. It was, however, more than a little
irritating to text on. Technology does have its draw
A tangential phone story: getting into my airplane is
a major physical exercise. I have to get over a 3-foot
cockpit side, whether I’m in front or back. Starting
sometime last year, I found it more difficult getting
in the back. Old age, it seemed, had started to limit
the amount my right hip would move. But, I soldiered
on, forcing it and finding handholds to help me. Then,
a couple of weeks ago I realized that my new iPhone,
which I carry in a BD-designed holster inside my right
hip pocket was about 1.5 inches longer than my earlier
4Gs and was stopping my leg from going up as it should.
I took it out of my pocket, clipped it on the shoulder
harness and found I could swing that leg into the cockpit
like a teenager. So, yes, digital electronics can make
you feel old.
Incidentally, I save all my old phones and my digital
recorder and periodically charge them all up to protect
the batteries. No, I don’ t know why I do that,
but it seems like a smart thing to do.
Our cars, like Marlene’s new Maxima,
are typical of how dependent we are on digits and how
quickly everything is obsolete. It is essentially a four-wheel
computer with a million different systems just waiting
to fail. It’s the first car I’ve ever owned
that the first step, should you have problems, is to
shut it off and reboot it (I think).
Look around you right now. Should we have a big solar
storm or the Krazy Korean succeeds in an EMP attack,
what around you would no longer work? My watch wouldn’t
work. My desk lamp would be kaput. I couldn’t write,
and you couldn’t read, this blog. All of our cars
with the exception of the old hotrod would be doorstops.
Our heating/air conditioning unit would no longer receive
commands from the thermostat, which might be moot because
I doubt if the natural gas plant is shielded from solar
damage. EVEN OUR DAMNED DOOR BELL WOULDN’T WORK!
In essence, should the Sun or The Korean Kook decide
to play electromagnetic games with us, we’d be
back to the stone age in something like 10 seconds and
there would be little or no help coming. Civilization,
as we know it, would cease to exist and we’d immediately
have a dog-eat-dog (or whatever munchies you can lay
your hands on) existence. Estimates are that nine out
of ten of us would be dead in a year. And, I hadn’t
thought about this until just now, but a high percentage
of the survivors would be Amish (horses don’t have
many digital systems) or high country or desert native
Americans who still cling to the old ways (not many of
them left). The rest would die a miserable, slow death,
except for those of us who would go down in a blaze of
something-or-other while defending or acquiring food
for our families.
In short, the more we depend on technology the more we
lose our past and threaten our future. What’s the
alternative? Short of retreating to the hills and becoming
a mountain man, there isn’t one. What’s the
solution? The only one that comes to mind is to use technology
to protect our technology. Come up with a way of “hardening” even
the most elementary devices (pot them in lead-flavored
epoxy?) so they’re protected from EMP effects.
However, there is no way to protect the photo history
of our lives. That was doomed the instant digital cameras
were invented. And on that happy note, enjoy your day!
April 17 - Is 117 Years Enough, or Too Much?
This week, crammed between the North Korean crisis, the
China meetings and ongoing revolts against the Administration,
was the news that Emma Morano of Verbania, Italy had
died. None of us knew Emma, but she was the last known
person to have been born in the 19th century. She was
117 years old and officially the oldest person in the
world. Was living to 117 a good thing or a bad thing?
The whole concept of living is open to definition. What
exactly is “living”? Also, does that definition
change when the pearly gates are staring us in the face?
Will we want to hang on to life, no matter how fragile,
no matter what the aggravations, when there’s a
possibility we won’t see the next sunrise? I have
no damn idea, but I have some thoughts on the subject.
Let’s begin with the definition of “life.” This,
I am convinced, is a very fluid subject that differs
wildly from person to person and is dependent on their
age and quality of life. Even the terms “age” and “quality
of life” are open to definition. BTW, this indicates
that I’m about to walk off of solid ground into
a swamp of intangible definitions.
How old is old? Theoretically, there should be no question
of the definition, but I’m not convinced of that
either. The other day a student was laughing about me
and my hangar-mate and the banter between us that would
qualify as a working script for Grumpy
Old Men II. This
was going on while we were climbing into our respective
Pitts Specials to either work the pattern (the definition
of staring death, or worse, embarrassment, in the face)
or to teach a newby about inverted spins and such. Pitts
aren’t usually seen as mounts for gray dogs.
The student said, “It’s wonderful to see
you still doing this at your age.”
Naturally I pulled myself up to my rapidly diminishing
full height and said, “What age? What does that
have to do with anything? We ignore it. Besides, from
my view point, I’m still in my mid-forties. A person
seldom sees their own age. That’s an external observation
made by others. We see ourselves as Seenagers.”
Even as I was saying that I knew I wasn’t necessarily
speaking for my generation. I don’t have to look
very far around me to see lots and lots of folks who
are younger but think of themselves as much older. The
definition appears to be driven first by how relevant
a person keeps themselves by continuing to function in
the real world. If a person’s definition of “world” is
a living room, a TV set and a beer, they have no choice
but to grow old, no matter how you define it. A sedentary
life is the soil in which old age grows. However, if
your world is a tiny cockpit filled with thunder, a view
over a steering wheel of a pair of chrome carburetors,
a chisel shaping a long range shooting device, or constant
communication with people where your words matter, age
becomes a non-factor. “Functionality” is
all that counts. That is, of course, driven by health.
Some of our health is out of our hands, but it’s
a known fact that sitting in front of a TV, beer in hand
isn’t helping it. There’s a great line in
a current commercial that fits here. It says, “Sitting
is the new smoking.” Enuff said?
Then comes the question of “quality of life” and
I think that may be defined by the functionality issue,
which itself is defined by the individual. How much of
your life style are you willing to give up due to limited
functionality? Some of that is again, driven by health
while some of it is driven by finances. Sooner or later
I know I’m not going to be able to fly but I’m
hoping that, as I’m driven into the narrowing tunnel
of age-related finances, I can still make a keyboard
talk and some income will tumble out as the result (this
blog being one of the less productive, but still necessary,
enterprises.). But, who knows? My dad, at 90, was in
an extended care wing of a hospital for the last years
of his life but continued researching and writing his
newspaper column until his last two weeks, when my mother
died and he slipped into a coma. He was still relevant
up to the end and that sustained him.
At some point, as with Emma, who was bed-ridden for the
last four years and unable to leave her room, is it actually
worth continuing the fight? What we “do” is
what defines us as a person. At least that’s how
I see it, and, if I can no longer do any of my things,
how am I going to cope with that? How does anyone cope
with it? But, many do.
At this stage of the game, I’m thinking a person
should have the ability to say, “Okay, this is
no longer living, I want out.” And they should
have the right and the mechanism to do that with no repercussions
from authorities, friends or family. When I can no longer “do”,
life would no longer be life.
I’m not usually quite this morbid. Blame it on
Emma, who, incidentally, was not the oldest verified
person on record. That would be a Frenchwoman, Jeanne
Louise Calment who died in 1997, aged 122 years. The
official title of oldest living person in the world now
goes to Violet Brown of Jamaica, aged 117, born on March
10, 1900. However, Mbah Gotho, of Indonesia, is unofficially
146 years old and Indonesian records say that is true,
but they have yet to be verified. That would have made
him 43, when WWI started. Zowie! bd
- Big Data Versus the World
This is gonna make your head ache. We all know we have a digital
footprint. So, what? Who cares? After an essay I received yesterday,
I care. I care because those digits that we so thoughtlessly
toss around have become an unimaginable tool that can be used
to alter our world.
What this Thinking Out Loud will develop into is a reading assignment.
I want you to read something that’s on the Web. But, I’ll
give you a Cliff Notes version of the essay before I give you
the link. It’s a little on the long side and a little involved,
but it’s well worth the read because it makes the reader
aware of things that are developing in the background of our
lives. And no, Russia has nothing to do with it. Nor Wikileaks.
Not even Donald Trump. It’s just a way of looking at more-or-less
commonly available information and using it to predict behavior.
This whole thing started with one guy in Europe, Michael Kosinski,
who was doing some data analysis of social media five or six
years ago to determine what it said about the people using it.
Then, almost overnight the concept gave birth to some huge companies
doing “interesting” things with that data. And no,
these aren’t bad guys doing bad things. They’re just
using our habits in interesting ways.
The basic concept is that, using Facebook as an example, they
can tell a lot about your psychology and the way you make decisions
by measuring Facebook data. It’s called Psychometrics.
The Facebook subjects that get your likes, the way you respond,
all say something about you (I say “you” because
I’m on no social media) and allows them to judge five factors:
Directly from the Web, these are: openness (how open you are
to new experiences?), conscientiousness (how much of a perfectionist
are you?), extroversion (how sociable are you?), agreeableness
(how considerate and cooperative you are?) and neuroticism (are
you easily upset?). While the info doesn’t say that much
concrete about the individual, when thousands of these are lumped
together, they can come up with serious conclusions.
The essay says, “In 2012, Kosinski proved that on the basis
of an average of 68 Facebook ‘likes’ by a user, it
was possible to predict their skin color (with 95 percent accuracy),
their sexual orientation (88 percent accuracy), and their affiliation
to the Democratic or Republican party (85 percent). But it didn't
stop there. Intelligence, religious affiliation, as well as alcohol,
cigarette and drug use, could all be determined. From that data
it was even possible to deduce whether someone's parents were
divorced.” That’s pretty wild stuff!
Interesting, but so, what? What can they use that kind of stuff
for that’s of any importance? The short answer is “lots.” They
can do lots of things with it and the concept has given birth
to several companies that have built a form of marketing around
it. One of the more interesting clients they’ve had lately
is the Trump campaign (among many others, including the Brexit
folks, Ted Cruz, etc.). Using psychometrics, they can isolate
the characteristics of groups of people as small as a few square
blocks, which allows folks trying to sell something, like a candidate,
in a much more efficient manner. Rather than casting an advertising
net over large audiences while hoping for the best, using the
web/net, they can fine-tune their message so it exactly matches
tiny audiences that would largely ignore TV-type messages that
don’t match them. This is apparently what Trump’s
people did. The consultants treated him like a product and used
the same message slanted in different ways to exactly match the
There’s an old advertising mantra that my dad repeated
all the time that says “Only 25% of your advertising does
any good, but you don’t know which 25% it is.” The
psychometric approach addresses that problem and increases message
effectiveness like crazy.
This concept is going to be a game changer in so many ways. But,
we won’t know it’s even happening because eventually
everyone who has anything to sell will all be using the same
methodology. But, they’ll be much better at selling. The
question is whether we’ll get better at analyzing whether
what we’re buying is actually what we want. Or it is just
what we think we want.
Here’s your reading assignment. Have at it:
Mar 17 - Stars, Stripes and Dual Exhausts
For those who don’t know, Goodguys
Rod & Custom Association produces something like 20 car show/get-togethers,
all of them huge, in almost every part of the country. It was
at the Spring Goodguys in Scottsdale a couple weeks ago that
I caught a welcome glimpse of Americana: respect for the flag.
To put it in context, there were tens of thousands
of people spread throughout the thousands of cars. It was a
mob scene covering acres of grass and asphalt, with pole-mounted
speakers continuously overlaying the sound of thundering dual
exhausts with vintage rock and roll. Hotrodding has an ever-present
vibe to it and rock and roll is part of the culture. On the grounds,
you couldn’t avoid the music. Or the mob. Or the heat.
Or the pervasive happy attitude. You got to where the music was
just white noise on top of other white noise. Then a song came
on that caught us all by surprise with equally surprising results.
A vaguely rock and roll version of the Star Spangled Banner settled
over the crowd. At first you didn’t notice it because you
weren’t listening to anything. Then someone did listen.
Then another. Then folks started to notice others standing still,
hand or hat on heart, staring at the horizon. In maybe 30 seconds
the entire crowd came to a standstill, hats came off and we found
ourselves searching for a flag. We found them in different places.
On top of distant food stands. Hanging from a chopped Merc’s
antenna, standing tall and proud on the tongue of a teardrop
trailer. Where ever there were stars and stripes waving in the
sun, people found them and focused on them for the duration of
the oh-so-familiar song.
Flags are where you find them. And we found them.
As I looked around, I found myself choking up.
It had been a long damn time since I’d seen such overt
demonstrations of love of country. And it literally brought
tears to my eyes. I don’t go to ball games. Nor, apparently,
am I often in crowds when The Anthem is played. So, I can’t
judge how other crowds behave in these situations. But, I was
so goddamned proud to see the universal reaction of the hotrod
crowd that I couldn’t keep it all in. It was one of the
most gratifying things I’ve experienced in a long, long
time. And I think we’re seeing more of it. It’s
as if there is a rebirth of national pride. Or, more probably,
I’m just more aware
of it and it hadn’t actually been gone.
For far too long it felt as if flying a flag automatically said
something about a person’s politics, when it shouldn’t.
Now, however, I think I’m seeing more flags and less resentment.
That may be a Pollyanna attitude on my part. Or it may be misplaced
optimism, but I don’t think so. I hope it’s not.
Standing there with a cowboy hat clutched to my chest, a Deuce
roadster in front of me and a heavily chopped shoebox Ford behind
me, I felt as if I was home again. And it felt good. REALLY good!
Mar 17 - Random Frustrations
Alright! Who is jacking around with the
calendar?! How did 2017 show up so quickly? I’d see that
far away date on my driver’s license and dismiss it as
nothing to worry about. Until Friday, when the bank notary pointed
out it out that my license had expired! Damn!
That discovery pretty much capped off a week of similar surprises/discoveries/near-disasters.
Monday I did something I NEVER do: I took the entire day off
to make a gigantic leap on The Roadster. I had done barely three
hours of “real” work early in the morning, when my
friend showed up with his truck and trailer to take the little
road toad to the DMV to get a VIN number. Model A Fords didn’t
have them and, even though I had a Nebraska title (from 1962)
in my name, there were no numbers on the car so I was expecting
a real hassle convincing them it was the same car. I took a bunch
of photos to convince them. Me working on it as a 16-year-old
in 1958. It sitting in dad’s Quonset hut covered in junk.
Me pulling it out with a tractor in 2000. Me unloading in in
AZ 2001. Me working on it in 2008. They were convinced (and mildly
amused) and slapped the genuine VIN number sticker on a door
post. I was over the moon!! I thought I had it made! I figured
take my old title in and they’ll convert it to an AZ title.
8 hours later, after driving back and forth across town (125
miles total), $630 paid to an insurance company to give a bond
to the state I still didn’t have a title. BTW, the car
is worth less than $10k in its current condition, but the bond
was to cover $42,300 which is what the State Computer valued
it at including a 50% margin for the State. Now, I have to get
a legal statement from Nebraska that says this is a clear title.
That required a local notary stamping my request application
(plus sending them $1!). And that’s how I found out my
license had expired. This after at least a half dozen State licensing
folks handling that license never noticing it had expired. Whew!
So, now I wait until Nebraska responds.
This was one hassle.
Then I get a phone call Monday from the gunsmith I had sent a
bunch of stuff to as part of my birthday gift to myself that
it hadn’t showed up. It had been ten days and sent Priority
Mail. So, I trace it and find it has gone to California (it was
headed for New Mexico) but was returned to our local post office.
So, I stand in line there for a while. Yes sir, it was here but
it isn’t here anymore. No, sir, I can’t show you
our internal tracking information. Why not? Because!
A call to USPS customer service puts one of the most helpful,
pleasing customer reps on the line that I’ve ever had in
any situation. I was openly amazed! She tracked it down and found
that the post office where I’d mailed the package (it was
a big one) accidentally put their own zip code on it so it kept
going back to them. Two days later it was in NM and I was relieved.
While all of this is going on I’m flying four times a day
which drains me of anything resembling either energy or patience.
This was aggravated by someone again jacking around with the
calendar. The temperatures were in the low-to-mid 90s! Hey! It’s
only March! It’s snowing in New York. We’re only
supposed to see 70’s. And half of that flying was in an
S-2B that has a solarium attached that’s masquerading as
a canopy. Blistering hot! What the hell happened to spring?!
Then every night I was being pestered by those half-awake dreams
we all get where we think we’re awake, but we’re
not. Reality gets seriously blurred. There was something I was
supposed to be finishing for work, but I wasn’t getting
it done and soon someone was going to find out and I’d
be in deep guano. I’d wake up with this horrible feeling
of guilt that I was letting everyone down. I don’t remember
the subject of the first dreams but the last one had to do with
some sort of program I was supposed to be running in which I
was training moles. No, you read right! Moles! The kind that
root around in your yard! I’m feeling guilty because I’m
not training my moles!! Try as I may I can read nothing, sexually
or otherwise, into the symbolism represented by training moles.
The good news is that I got my VIN number and my package made
it to my gunsmith. The bad news is I’m about to start another
week will begin with me standing in line for my driver’s
license. Why do I have such a strong feeling of foreboding over
such a menial project? bd
Mar 17 - Grandma's Parrot
My old friend, banker and former neighbor,
Jay (Johnny) Cattle, who was a year behind me in high school,
just sent me a cryptic e-mail. BUDD - Blog
requests = Skunk hollow and Grandmother's parrot in the old store! That’s the first
time I’ve ever gotten a blog request and both ideas are
The subject of Grandma’s Parrot uncorks a bunch of really
pleasant memories. However, these memories are unlikely to be
shared by anyone who didn’t drift in and out of the House
of Davisson, the big store on the north side of Seward, Nebraska
(population about 4,000) during the late 1950’s.
In those days, if you had walked through the front door, you
would have found a relatively tiny, rounded, gray haired woman
sitting in a rocking chair surrounded by a bizarre blizzard of
merchandise and stuff that’s hard to categorize (antiques,
bear traps, stuffed shrunken bodies, etc.). The first indication
that this is not your normal, bigger-than-average-rural-sell-anything
emporium, is that the woman, my grandmother, always had a parrot
next to her. Sometimes in a cage. Sometimes just sitting on the
back of her rocking chair as if she was some sort of wizened
Looking back at it, I now realize that I didn’t really
pay much attention to the parrot. It had been there as long as
I had been alive, so it was just part of the woodwork. Didn’t
everyone’s grandma co-exist with a parrot? The fact that
it was pretty exotic to my friends and dad’s customer was
lost on me. It’s obvious I pretty much ignored the bird
because, given my propensity for getting myself in trouble at
that age, had I given the bird any thought I would have taught
it to swear like a sailor just because I could. Its name was
Polly. Not a terribly original name, but, it was the only parrot
in town so he/she could get away with it. I also only remember
its vocabulary as barely making it past “Polly want a cracker.” Apparently,
Nebraskan parrots aren’t given to witty, nor creative,
Incidentally, I just did a Google search to find out what kind
of a parrot it was and found myself in Parrott Hell! There must
be a zillion different types and they can live as long as 100
years. Most do about 50 years, which I find pretty amazing. That
being the case, I’ll have to ask my older sister if she
has any idea when Grandma got the parrot, but I’m betting
it may have been before WWII. My dad/mom started the store in
1934 and Grandma had lived with, or around, dad, since he was
The store sat in the middle of something like five acres in a
high-end residential section with a big U-shaped driveway with
the parking lot and store at the apex. Grandma had a warm-feeling
little grandma-house right in the middle of the “U” where
she (and the parrot) lived for the entire time I knew them (16
years). She passed in 1959 (or thereabouts) and the house came
down shortly thereafter. The Time Capsule (http://fox42kptm.com/news/local/worlds-largest-time-capsule-in-nebraska-shows-glimpse-of-history ) now sits where her house did.
Another clue that this wasn’t your normal country store
was that for years, just to the right of Grandma and her parrot
was a substantial sized cage that housed George the Monkey. George
was a Java monkey (My sister, Mona says it was a Mona monkey…no,
really! She may be right.) and had a definite attitude problem.
Plus he was a born kleptomaniac and lightning fast. If anyone
ventured closer than one monkey arm length of the cage, their
glasses and everything in their front pockets immediately became
property of George The Kepto. Immediately! I remember many, many
confrontations between George and my dad, while he tried to retrieve
the lost items. I also clearly remember when Dad had me walking
George on a leash one day and that damn thing turned into an
enraged Doberman. He weighed no more than three or four pounds
but he came screaming at me with sheer hate in his eyes, mouth
open, fangs bared. I was about 12 years old and not prepared
to do battle with a maniacal primate. So, I beat feet and let
dad worry about catching him.
Then for a time there was Napoleon the Mexican burro. He lived
just behind the store and, although passive enough to let us
ride him, he was just as mentally derranged as George. He loved
getting up a head of steam, stiff-legging his front legs, and
unloading the urchins on board by lowering his head. Even though
you knew it was coming, you couldn’t avoid a face-plant
on the ground. As a side note, he was also the only burro in
town. At the time, I didn’t find that unusual either. Now
There was also a Shetland pony behind the store that didn’t
last long. He loved biting you on the ankles while you were playing
Long Ranger and was a generally bitchy little animal. He ran
away one day and dad told the guy who found him to keep him.
FYI-as a kid, I never had a dog. Or a cat. Nothing normal lived
in the Davisson household, which might explain a lot about how
my life turned out. bd
Any more blog requests out there?
Feb 17 - The Ziegarnik Effect
TMI ALERT (too much information)! It was 0500, I was
sitting there tending to my required anatomical introduction
to the day and I found myself reading psychologist Kurt
Koffka on the actual goal of Gestalt psychology. WHAT?!
Koffka/Gestalt is pretty heavy stuff for a small town
boy from Nebraska to be reading while riding the porcelain
pony (told you: TMI).
I wasn’t reading Koffka for Koffka’s sake.
It was part of a research project. Gesalt
is an attempt to understand the laws behind the ability
to acquire and maintain meaningful perceptions in an
apparently chaotic world. That’s a quote from Wiki and it
took me three readings to understand that one sentence.
And the only reason I was reading any of that stuff was
to gain a better understanding of something pointed out
to me by one of my B & B/flying students.
He was a doctor and we were talking about the fact that
my very existence appears to be based upon unfinished
projects. Dozens and dozens of them, big and small. I’ve
mentioned this here before because it’s a constant
irritant. However, he pointed out that my apparent ability
to tolerate a massive number unfinished projects, while
maintaining interest in them all, may well be contributing
to what appears to be my pretty favorable mental health.
This is especially true considering my miles and maintenance.
In short, he was saying that the very fact that I wasn’t
finishing all of those projects was keeping my brain
limber because of what he called, the Zeigarnik Effect.
I’m the first to admit that it takes very little
to remind me that there’s a helluva lot out there
in the world that I know nothing about and the Zeigarnik
Effect was one of them. So, I called on my friend, Mr.
Google, to better educate myself on what he was talking
about. And, yes, he may have something there.
The Zeigarnik Effect was developed by a Lithuanian psychologist
(who knew they even had such), Bluma Zeigarnik, in 1927.
She was studying the ability of people to remember details
about the tasks they were assigned to do. Initially,
she noticed that waitresses had far less trouble remembering
the details of orders that hadn’t been completed
than they did those that were finished and served. In
other words, once a project is finished, it tends to
fade from our memories where one that still has work
to be done on it remains alive in our mental hard drive.
This is because, although we’re not actively working
on the project or task, some portion of our mind is still
thinking about it and mulling over the tasks that have
to be considered and completed when we finally do start
working on the project again.
My doctor friend/student mentioned this and we began
building some theories based on the usefulness of not
finishing projects. You can see where this is headed,
First, basically the brain is nothing more than a muscle.
As such, it reacts to being exercised. Ignore it and
it just sits there, getting fat and flaccid. We were
talking about various older relatives we know who are
sinking into a couch watching television just waiting
to die. To a person, everything having to do with their
cognitive connection to the world is in the process of
being dulled to the point of uselessness. Their brain
is corroding from the lack of being used. It’s
bad enough that we all let our bodies atrophy as we get
older, but there’s no excuse for letting our brains
Almost everyone I know is into building and doing things
so their brains are awash with the details of those projects.
When we’re at lunch, it’s obvious that our
being together, gives them a chance to voice some of
the project-oriented stuff that’s been occupying
their thoughts but they often can’t voice at home.
This isn’t putting our spouses down at all. It’s
understandable that The AZ Redhead wouldn’t be
excited about my finally finding the long-sought-after
old long range peep sight. Nor can she expect to willing
sit through my thought processes in developing a router
guide to be used in quickly inletting Mauser trigger
guards on stock blanks. So, when we’re with a kindred
soul, we start sharing all of those bottled up thoughts
knowing they’ll be understood, appreciated and
possibly improved upon.
The mental health benefits of having a bunch of tasks/projects
always underway is now obvious to me. As are the benefits
of doing work-related tasks (articles, etc.) in several
pieces rather than in one long sitting. When I’m
writing, I always do a bit here, a bit there and it continually
amazes me how, when I sit back down and start typing,
the words seem to come easier than before. That’s
because my brain has been thinking about it and writing
paragraphs while I was doing other things. The studies
on the Ziegarnik Effect clearly point that out. Disruptions/interruptions
are not necessary bad for progress and may actually benefit
the task at hand.
Studies also show that the degree of the effect is determined
by the motivation of the individual to finish. If you
don’t really care if you finish the project, when
your not working on it, your brain isn’t drifting
back to it. If, however, you’re motivated to finish,
your brain is constantly poking at it even though you
aren’t even close to physically working on
All of this being the case, I tracked down a vintage,
long-slide Lyman receiver sight on eBay for one of my
Mauser actions and shipped them off to John McGlothilin,
my recently discovered magic gunsmith in NM. I’ve
always wanted to build a rifle similar to the .308 competition
PALMA rifles where they shoot 800-1000 yards with iron
sights. No glass. This’ll be that rifle (as if
I actually have the time to go shooting).
My excuse for starting yet another project is that I
thought I felt my brain slowing down and had to do something
to stimulate it. So, can I claim this as a medical expense?
I’ll let you know how that pans out.
The Ziegarnik Effect is now my latest go-to bit of rationalization
to start another project. Don’t you just love it!!
Feb 17 - On Being a Piece-Worker
Okay, I’ve been MIA for nearly a month and it’s
driving me nuts. I can’t tell you how many times
I’ve been at the keyboard to write a blog (usually
to get something off my mind) and something happened
to stop me. It’s as if I have zero control of my
life 24 hours a day. But, then, that’s often what
life is all about. Is that a bad thing?
Right now it is 0530 and I went to bed 7 hours ago (lost
a half hour to bathroom necessities after getting up)
with the promise that I’d hammer out a blog. I’ve
been getting “are you okay” notes from readers
and figured I owe everyone a note to assure them that
I’m still kickin’. And still frustrated.
I hope I can finish this and jump over the various digital
hurtles my computers represent in getting it up on the
web. I write it on one computer but have to use a different
one to comm with the web because my new one refuses to
Going back to the losing control of one’s life:
I should probably explain that. Although I often feel
as if I’m a chip of wood being pushed along by
a wave, there are lots of us who feel the same way. Almost
anyone who is in business for themselves feels that way.
Whether it’s a big business or a teeny one, like
me and mine, small business is driven by the never-ending
thought that “I could be doing more. I can’t
afford any white space in my schedule. I have to find
business.” We subconsciously create our own pressure
and, when that pressure isn’t there, we know we’re
goofing off. Or have forgotten to do something.
Every one of us continuously bitches about a sometimes-oppressive
lack of free time. But, given that we’re pushing
hard to fill in the revenue gaps (remember: this is universal,
not unique to me), when we suddenly do stumble upon some
free time, our inner self tells us that something is
wrong. If we have free time, we know it’s not free.
It came from somewhere in our schedule and it’s
not paying for itself. This, I believe is what underlies
the so-called workaholic, which I think is a term that
is often mis-applied.
I’ve heard that term applied to me, when it is
anything but true. To me, a workaholic is someone working
because he/she would rather work than do anything else.
That’s not me. Nor is it most small business owners.
I think most of us have tons of interests outside of
the business that we’d dive into if we didn’t
have that last deadline to meet or that last little bit
of book keeping to complete or that last phone call/e-mail
to take care of. Our priorities are doing what has to
be done, when it is supposed to be done.
One of the difficulties a lot of small business types
have is balancing a family and personal life with the
business life. That’s definitely me. But I think
I more or less have the family/wife part under control.
Even though my office is in the house, The Redhead and
I actually don’t see each other much during the
day (BTW- it’s a helluva big home office, a double
garage long-ago converted to a family room is now a comfortable
work space for Marlene and me). We whiz past each other
in the hall or I’m at the airport. But at night,
we spend a minimum of two hours entertaining ourselves
on the tube or voicing our rage by watching the news
(BTW-has anyone caught the series The Shooter, Lethal
Weapon or Designated Survivor? Surprisingly good). Incidentally,
we miss Meghan Kelly. Then I get back on the computer
for an hour or two before hitting the sack.
My personal life is what suffers, which is I’m
betting is the same with just about everyone making a
living the way I do. When you’re a piece-worker
(magazine guy, plumber, dentist, etc, we’re all
the same), if the crank isn’t turned, no revenue
is produced. So, we give up doing personal projects in
the interest of keeping the pipe-line filled. To me,
this is just about the only aggravation in what is otherwise
a really fun-filled life.
I’ve said this before, but if I were to hit the
lottery tomorrow for a gazillion dollars, there is not
one single thing that I do on a daily basis that I’d
stop doing. This I’m certain is one thing that
separates me from many other small business types. I’m
head-over-heels in love with what I do (edit a magazine,
write articles, flight instruct, etc.). Each of my endeavors
scratch a psychological itch and, as the saying goes, “…they
complete me.” So, even though I’m far past
the point that most people retire and am still regularly
doing 80 weeks, I wouldn’t change it if I could.
I’m only thankful I still have so much work to
do and enjoy it all. Many aren’t so fortunate.
Just a couple weeks ago, when the weather in Phoenix
looked and felt more like New Jersey (cold, wet, raining,
low ceilings), I took off with a student to give the
tower a report on the actual ceiling. My little red toy
rocketed off the runway at 1800 fpm climb and almost
instantly I was in hard IFR. The clouds hadn’t
looked that low and a quick, forceful push at 500 feet
was needed to keep contact with the ground by looking
straight down. A hard turn around the tower kept everything
in sight and I arced around onto downwind and dropped
clear of the clouds (“We can see you now” said
the tower). Then, in a hard slipping turn I put it on
the numbers. As I pulled around the tower in what was
at least a 60-degree bank at less than 500 feet, a little
voice in my head literally screamed, “This is so
damn much fun, I can’t believe I’m being
paid to do this!”
So, I have nothing to complain about. Except I sometimes
have a hard time getting Thinking
Out Loud out the door.
Please, bear with me. bd
Jan 17 - Lottery Losers
For reasons I’m not sure I can articulate, I’m
vaguely disturbed by the series of TV ads being run by
Publishers Clearing House (PCH). Their pitch is that
they give the winner and one of their kids, after they
pass, $5,000 for the rest of their lives. On the surface,
this sounds like a good thing. But is it?
This is a semi dumb subject to be discussing, but I had
to get it off of my chest.
A normal lottery, where you win a lump sum, doesn’t
bother me. I personally know two people who have won
big ones (relatively speaking). One hit it for $25mm
but I can’t comment on how it affected her because
she instantly disappeared. I have no idea what happened
to her. Another got $12mm, which was a little ironic
because he was already a self-made millionaire (and a
nice guy). But, at least he knew what to do with it:
he put it in an account to be used by him and his brothers
to finance further business ventures. At last, a lottery
winner who didn’t squander it all and wind up living
in a cardboard box!
This $5k for life thing bothers me because I can’t
help but wonder what happens to the winners. More often,
however, I’m thinking about their kids.
First of all, although $5k a week is a lot ($260k a year
or about $180k after taxes), it’s not as much as
it sounds. Everyone would like to have an extra $5k a
week. It would make all of our lives easier, but it would
not be big enough to suddenly hang it up and begin living
like a millionaire, which I’m willing to bet is
what a lot of the winners do. I’d like to know
how many Ferraris or Cadillacs show up in their driveways
the next day. That’s a helluva lot more $$ than
I have ever made, but I’d hope I’d be smart
enough to know it’s not enough to go Hollywood
on. If handled properly, it would give a normal working
guy a security blanket for the long haul that he/she
might never achieve otherwise. That would be me. So,
it’s well worth having. However, I can easily see
where it could royally screw up a life. Especially the
winner’s kids. If they know they have $5k a week
coming to them forever, what’s that going to do
to their motivation? Chances are that right from the
beginning, they’d see themselves as rich kids and
would live their lives accordingly.
And then there’s the problem of equitable distribution.
If you have two kids, which one gets it? Also, if the
key to their windfall is you croaking and there’s
a bad seed in your litter, you’d be worth more
to them dead than alive. Not a terribly comforting thought.
BTW, this is definitely NOT the kind of thing I can bring
up to Marlene. Her comment would be, “My God, Budd!
Do you have to worry about EVERYTHING!?”
Hmmm! I guess the answer is yes.
If PCH is thinking about sending me $5k a week, do it.
turn it down (actually $100 a week would be fine). The
concept doesn’t bother me THAT much!
Jan 17 -
Recently, the world lost one of its real characters and
prototypical males: Mike Dillon of Dillon Precision.
I started to write this blog a couple of times in the
weeks since he passed but couldn’t get my head
into it. Now, I guess I can.
Mike was a longtime friend (45 years) and is the reason
I moved to AZ: he had me run his company for a year with
the goal of expanding it, which we did. He and his wife,
Carole, were central to me surviving a really bad time
in my life (divorce, businesses going to hell, two kids
in college, etc.) and I lived in their home (huge house)
for the first three months I was out here until I found
an apartment. They’re family.
Mike was an unusual character. In fact, he was almost
totally unique in my experience. I don’t think
I ever saw him not smiling and chuckling, even when we
were thrashing out some business challenges. He was one
of the most invigorating guys I’ve ever been around
and loved it because his enthusiasm was hyper-contagious.
You couldn’t help but be fired up. And he was enthusiastic
about just about everything. Because of that, he played
as hard, or harder, than he worked and expected those
around him to play with him. It was exhausting in a very
pleasant sort of way. :-)
One of the many aspects that made him so different is
that he was a borderline genius in a number of areas,
including machine design and marketing, which don’t
usually go together. Plus, he basically built his business
so he could fully enjoy his two main passions, airplanes
and machine guns. Because of that, when he and his friends
played, it usually involved those two interests totally
intertwined and included another of his serious interests,
You need to get his Machine Gun
Magic DVD to fully understand
the previous paragraph (Dillonprecision.com, search it
by title). The first half of it is explaining the machine
gun hobby and shows him and his grown kids firing various
vintage machine guns. But, the real reason for making
the video was so a bunch of us could stand on a firing
line in the desert at dusk firing 100% tracer out of
a wide variety of weapons at six and eight-foot R/C model
airplanes trying to blow them out of the air.
Mike was serious about everything he did. Serious to
be point of being border-line obsessive in a sort of
happy, comedic way. When he decided to start shooting
models out of the air, he knew he’d need a lot
of models so set up a full time, one and two-man production
line hot-wiring the delta-wing foam cores and building
models by the dozens. But, these weren’t just any
models. They had Cyalume glow sticks on their leading
edges and tips so we could see them well into darkness.
Eventually, they also had bottle caps filled with black
powder and blasting caps taped onto the airframe in various
places. Hey, if you’re shooting models with machine
guns, you just have to include explosions! It’s
Hitting one of them was incredibly difficult. This, even
though, when firing full auto, full-tracer, you essentially
have a brightly lit, visual fire hose. With six or eight
shooters on the line, the air in front of us was literally
laced with tracer, but we’d repeatedly see a model
fly through a veritable cloud of tracers and not even
get scratched. At one point, I was firing a French Minime
(Mike had two them before the Army adapted them as the
SAW249), and had a guy standing next to me feeding the
belts while I fired from the hip. I waved the visual
string of 5.56mm tracers onto one of the aircraft, literally
keeping the “hose” right on it for a few
long seconds before it split-S’d into the ground.
I just knew it was going to look like screen wire with
dozens of holes in it. However, when I picked it up,
it had exactly one hole that happened to hit a servo.
The only time I ever saw one of them shredded was when
the R/C pilot (who was fantastic by the way) made the
mistake of coming directly at Mike’s son, Steve,
who was firing the .50 cal. quad-mount. But, rather than
having four fifties, the mount was equipped with one
of Mike’s 7.62 Gatling guns. Steve centered the
airplane at 3,000 rounds/minute and it came apart like
a party balloon. Outstanding!!!
The coolest things I ever did with Mike included a number
of occasions, when we were shooting film for a video
he never finished. He owned and flew a bunch of airplanes,
including a Hughes 500 chopper, a fully armed UH-1H Huey,
3 T-34s w/big motors and aTemco TT-1 Super Pinto jet
trainer (Google it). One of the T-34s was a YAT-34. It
was one of three T-34s modified by the Canadian government
(if scuttlebutt is to be believed) to include hard points
under the wings and one gun bay per wing mounting a Browning
.30 cal. We shot video of it firing the .30s, with Huey
Mini-gun pods under each wing (REALLY a kick!) and mounting
chain guns under each wing. I cannot even guess how many
tens of thousands of rounds of 7.62 NATO (.308) we fired
from that airplane.
Our targets were usual 50 gallon drums filled with black
powder and shredded magnesium. A hit was REALLY spectacular,
and always accompanied by a Dillon Chuckle over the intercom.
Those flights are not in my log book only because there
is no “strafing” column!
So many times we’d be out looking for ranch land
for him (he dreamed of having thousands of acres where
he could shoot what he wanted, when he wanted). We’d
be in the Hughes 500 and scooting along in canyons looking
for Indian ruins and possible wrecked warbirds. Or just
looking around for the hell of it.
Mike started as a crop duster pilot, flew 707s for TWA
(and positively hated it), managed to buy and rebuild
a P-40 while living on a shoe string, but all the while
was pursuing a dream. I remember him saying very concisely, “I
didn’t want to be rich. I wanted to be obscenely
rich!” But, it wasn’t the money that attracted
him. It was the freedom the money would give him to buy
and fly what he wanted, when he wanted. But, the process
had to be fun. The work had to be fun.
He designed and built his first ammunition loading machine
in his garage and, while a TWA pilot, would carry one
in the cargo bay so he could demonstrate it to police
departments on layovers. Then he designed one for the
average shooter for pistols. Then one for rifles. One
that does everything but make coffee for you. And on
and on. Dillon Precision became the 800-pound Gorilla
of the ammo reloading community. You might think that’s
a pretty small community but, while I learned a thousand
things working for Mike, one has always stuck with me:
now matter how small the niche market may be, if you
own most of it, you’ll be doing well. And he owned,
or got patent payments on, much of it. And he did well.
Another lifelong lesson was the value of a committed
customer base. Every Dillon machine carries a lifetime
warranty assigned to the machine, not the purchaser.
If you find one in an alley that has been run over by
a couple of trucks and set on fire, drag it into the
lobby or ship it to them and, no-questions-asked, it
will be repaired or replaced. That’s one reason
Dillon customers may be the most loyal customers on the
planet. That and the fact that his machines are really
I also came to value the concept of running your life
by simple rules. He was very much a what-you-see-is-what-you-get
guy. And if he said something, he not only meant it,
but you could count on it. He was as honest as he was
inventive and as much fun as anyone I have ever met,
or am likely to meet.
It took three or four years for the Alzhiemers to grind
him down. And, he fought it all the way. He knew no other
way. He was the very definition of a man and, on so many
levels, set a standard for the rest of us to aspire to.
He was fond of saying “adios.” So, I’ll
do the same: Adios friend. If there’s a heaven,
you’re going to be a super star in it. Just as
you were on Earth. bd
Dec 16 - 2017: A Personal Pivotal Year?
Today, New Year’s eve day, a Saturday, it’s
raining, dreary and doing its best to make Arizona look
like New Jersey on a bad day. It’s supposed to
rain tomorrow too. Not an auspicious beginning to the
new year. Still I feel something I haven’t felt
for a long time on this day: optimism. And it’s
not political optimism. It’s personal optimism
with a tinge of determination.
I have a long standing New Year’s resolution to
make no resolutions. This is mostly because of the personal
disappointment I feel, when I don’t stick to them.
Sound familiar? This year, may be a little different
(he says with great hope in his voice). For reasons I
can’t quite explain, I feel as if I can resolutely
state a few things that sound suspiciously like resolutions.
No, I’m not going to resolve to lose 15 pounds,
which I obviously need to do. That’s an on-going
thought pattern that will come to fruition only when
my brain indexes into that small mental notch it needs
to find before the losing-weight machinery kicks into
gear. And it will. It always has. I’ve lost thousands
of pounds, so I know the cycle will start eventually.
And I’m not going to resolve to finish The Second
City (novel number three) this year. I’m a third
of the way through it and it too depends on a mental
pendulum swinging in the right direction at the right
time. Forcing it would only result in another resolution
I think this may be the first New Years that I’ve
been in position to make resolutions (of sorts) that
I’m confident I can make happen.
Incidentally, I’m writing this more for me to read
than for you to read. I think that part of me knows that,
if I put my thoughts down in black and white, they’ll
be more concrete. Therefore, making more sense and increasing
the chance they’ll actually happen.
What differs this year is that the tattered remains of
many past years’ resolutions have actually produced
enough movement forward that I can make them work this
year. I’ve tried and failed on them, but in the
process, made halting steps forward in several areas
and those steps have put me only a step or two short
of the goals originally set on several fronts.
For the past few years, when I’ve had a half hour
or so available, I’d invest it in The Roadster,
making mini-steps forward. As I look at 2017 for the
little road toad, it’s obvious that I’m out
of little things to do. I crawled around it yesterday
and realized that fine tuning the parking brake, an hour
project, is all that’s needed to take it to the
DMV and get that all-important VIN number that stands
between me, AZ registration, insurance and taking it
around the block. Even though I have a Nebraska title
on it, I can’t transfer it to AZ registration without
a VIN number and Model A’s didn’t have VIN
numbers so I have to physically take it to the DMV for
their blessing and a tag. I’ve already set it up
with a friend to use his car trailer this week for the
all-important DMV trip. A HUGE step forward for the project,
officially anointing it as being ready for the street.
Sure, there are a lot of cosmetics (interior, paint chief
amongst them) to be attended to, but those are unimportant
in the big scheme of things.
I have my first eBook in about the same condition. The
words are all written and ready to be edited, an enjoyable
process. The photos are sorted and ready to be scanned.
It just takes some commitment on my part to take the
final steps to get it layed out and ready to be digitized.
Then, of course, I need to figure out how to market it.
I’m hoping this e-book will give me enough experience
that I can get serious about that market. I haven’t
gotten myself totally educated yet on the marketing process,
but I’ll figure it out. I’m hoping I can
make this into a viable revenue source to cover us, when
I can no longer bounce around the pattern in a Pitts.
Damn! Is that realism sneaking into my thought patterns?
The working title is “Warbirds and Me: A Grassroots
Pilot Flies the Big Iron”. It is a compilation
of my thoughts when I flew solo in such icons as the
Stearman, Texan, Mustang, Bearcat, P-38, etc. and is
profusely illustrated with my photos of each.
Probably the biggest reason I’m confident I can
accomplish these two goals is that I’m not only
down to the wire in terms of work to be done, but they
are the only projects in which I’m going to invest
any significant time this year. Rather than spreading
myself over the dozens of projects I have hanging fire,
this is The Year of the Roadster/eBook. Period.
So, that’s 2017 for me. What about you? Let’s
make it a goal for us to meet 12 months from now and
compare notes on our progress. Deal? bd
Dec 16 - A Weekend Christmas
I have no idea why, but, here it is Christmas Eve day and I don’t have
a hint of Christmas spirit. None. I’m not really in a humbug mood. I’m
in a normal, Saturday morning mood. And that may be part of the problem. Among
First, when Christmas falls on a Sunday, there is no wind-up to it. There’s
no rapid tapering off of everything in our workaday lives leading up to Christmas
Eve like when it’s on a Thursday or Wednesday. Nor any wind down afterwards,
although some businesses are seeing themselves as being benevolent by giving
their worker bees Monday off. That’s a three-day weekend, of which two
were already owed most folks, so it doesn’t feel like they’ve gained
anything. I don’t know why that bugs me, because, being very self-employed,
none of this actually changes my living/work patterns. However, the general feeling
of the population seems to reflect my own. Thanksgiving, always being on Thursday,
creates a sizeable hole in everyone’s calendar and the general vibe changes
as everyone anticipates it. Not so a weekend Christmas.
With the thought of picking a given day of the week for Christmas, as we do for
Thanksgiving, I got to wondering: what day of the week was Jesus actually born
on? Inasmuch as you can Google one of those calendar sites that tell what day
any date in history fell on, I did just that and got hit right between the eyes
with a major lapse in my understanding of history. I have a feeling I may be
the last person on the planet to learn some of these facts, but maybe not.
First: no one actually knows when Christ was born! No one!! I’m not talking
about what day it happened. Not even what month. I mean no one knows for sure
what YEAR he was born in! Here’s some interesting facts from Wiki (who
we all know is ALWAYS right, right?):
Two methods have been used to estimate the year of the
birth of Jesus: one based on the accounts of his birth in the gospels with reference
to King Herod's reign, and the other by working backwards from his stated age
of "about 30 years" when
he began preaching (most scholars, on this basis, assume a date of birth between
6 and 4 BC).
Look more closely at the last sentence “…assume a date of birth
between 6 and 4 BC…”. That’s a shocker, if nothing else because
BC means Before Christ. Holy Crap! Is nothing in our lives cast in concrete?
So, they think Christ was born before he was born?! Or something like that. My
head hurts! This is stomping what little Christmas spirit I had into the dirt.
Wiki goes on to say:
The first recorded date of Christmas being celebrated on December 25th was in
336, during the time of the Roman Emperor Constantine (he was the first Christian
Roman Emperor). A few years later, Pope Julius I officially declared that the
birth of Jesus would be celebrated on the 25th December.
Think about this: the date was chosen out of thin air. It’s arbitrary.
It relates to nothing. For all we know the Pope could have picked the date that
his favorite dog was born. Or made it a celebration of the last time he got laid
(there’s a last time for everything, especially if you’re a pope).
Picking this date had major impact on a huge number of aspects of modern life.
He could just have easily picked August 3rd. Or March 1st (by coincidence, my
own birthday). If he had picked dates during which the weather would be more
inviting, think of how that would impact us today.
— The concept of a “white Christmas” would be shattered
— Santa Claus would be wearing Bermuda shorts and driving a hay wagon
— Some of the best Christmas movie musicals would be made on the beach
— The snow man wouldn’t be a seasonal celebrity
— Jimmy Stewart’s AWonderful Life would have him wandering
the streets in a T-shirt, sweating, rather than freezing.
— I, for one, would enjoy it more if it were warmer. And I live in Phoenix!
That speaks volumes.
Anyway, in the hopes that other folks are feeling more festive than I am, Merry
Christmas to all of you. I truly hope that enough of your loved ones will be
visiting that you can throw your arms around them. The day may be named after
one man, but Christmas is actually a celebration of what that man stood for and
that centers on love of family and friends. So, enjoy! bd
Dec 16 - Talking Tools
This morning I fired up my ancient, but trusty, Rockwell
6 x 48 stationary sander to reshape the nose of an open-end
wrench. As I did, my old friend, Ken Brock, danced through
my mind, as it always does when using this sander. It’s
my everlasting connection to him.
A lot of folks won’t know the name Ken Brock because,
unbelievably, it has been 15 years since we got the sad
news. He was known by many as the guy with the wild airshow
routine in a gyrocopter. To others, he’ll be remembered
as the manufacturer of wide range of specialty parts
for a wide range of homebuilt aircraft. Still others
will know him from his aerospace manufacturing company.
A lot of folks, however, those who knew him, will remember
him as one of the most straight ahead, what you see is
what you get, friendly people in their lives.
When he died and it became obvious to his widow that
she’d be selling their house in the Anahiem area
of So-Cal, she called me with an unusual request: she
told me that Ken would want me to come and browse through
his workshop behind the house and take whatever I wanted.
I was choked up by the end of the phone call. It was
something that had never entered my mind and I almost
I’d never seen Ken’s private workshop and,
when I did, I was blown away. It was about the size of
my current house and contained every tool and machine
known to man. Everything from Pexto box breaks and slip
rollers to big Clausing lathes and DoAll band saws. And
I could have what I wanted. Part of me wanted everything.
But, I recognized two things immediately: this treasure
trove of “stuff” represented a sizable source
of potential cash for his widow. Second, even if I could
figure out how to move something like the lathe or a
metal break, I’d have no place to put it. My shop
isn’t that big and was maxed out for space.
I wound up taking three multi-drawer drill index files
which gave me every drill bit from wire sizes to 1/2 ” in
fractional, numbered and lettered sizes. I also took
the 6 x 48” Rockwell sander which, in typical Ken
Brock fashion, runs microscopically true and I use it
constantly. Now, every time I retrieve some sort of odd
sized drill bit or fire up the old sander, I think of
Ken and Marie and remember some of our good times together.
The walls of my shop/garage are lined with dozens and
dozens of tools from long gone eras and I quite often
find myself using one to solve some kind of problem.
Some of the tools, like the blacksmith tongs that were
part of an old blacksmith shop I bought while still a
teenager, are handmade, each for a special purpose. They
each started out as a thick strip of steel that some
unknown blacksmith stuffed into a coal forge and hammered
into the shape needed to do a specific job for him. A
few have worked for me. The rest just hang there taunting
me with the mystery behind them: who made them and how
long ago? And what were some of their purposes? I don’t
have the Ken Brock connection to them.
I also have a smallish anvil (60 pounds) I picked up
at a hotrod swap meet a few years ago that has seen a
lot of use. It’s chipped and scarred and clearly
shows the hard life working anvils always live. I use
it periodically, but, more important, it’s always
sitting there as I walk in the shop, trying hard to tell
me its background. Who forged what on its anything-but-smooth
surface constantly frustrates me. But, that’s generally
the case with most old tools. They can’t tell us
their history, which is one of the most pleasant things
about the 6 x 48 sander. As I stand there making sparks,
I envision Ken doing the same thing and it’s nice.
It’s a special moment that never loses its attraction
I have dozens of my own wrenches that I’ve cut
and welded, bent and ground on and otherwise mutilated
to serve a specific purpose. Each has a stripe of yellow
fingernail polish around it to identify it as being a “special
purpose” tool. They’re all strung on a gigantic
carabiner ring so they stay together. Years from now,
when my kids are struggling with what to do with all
the crap in my shop (a major problem), I’m certain
there will be an indiscriminate garage sale in which
a bunch of the stuff winds up in boxes on the curb, the
carabiner ring of wrenches among them. Someone will hand
whomever my kids have running the sale a single dollar
bill and walk off with all those wrenches, many of which
will make absolutely no sense to anyone.
My hope is that some rabid “toolie” will
buy those wrenches and hang them on the wall, with the
sure knowledge that the time will come when one of those
tools will solve a problem for him. When that moment
comes, I hope a thought goes through his mind, “I
wonder who modified this and why? If I could find him,
thank him for saving me a lot of work.” If I’m
remembered, even as an unknown, that’s fine. At
least something containing my DNA has worked for someone,
the same way it worked for me. Maybe that’s my
way of paying it forward. bd
Dec 16 - Random Stuff
This has been an “interesting” month in terms
of things just not going right. Or more properly, a whole
bunch of things reaching the point that they’re
worn out. This was made obvious this morning when I bathed
via sponge-bath from a bucket.
No, I’m not camping out but I am doing my best
to survive the latest in a long string of “Guess
what? Everything around you is aging out”. This
time it was hot water bubbling out of the carpet in front
of the master bathroom door. I sensed that was probably
not supposed to happen. That illuminated epiphany was
rapidly followed by “Crap, the carpet is laid on
a concrete slab so, the fix ain’t immediately gonna
be easy or cheap.” And it wasn’t. On both
scores. And the fix hasn’t been completed yet.
So far the recovery process has only been a long day
of plumbers and a guy with an electronic pipe locator
saying things like “Holy, crap! Where does that
pipe go and what does it do? Why would anyone design
plumbing like this?” Very disheartening.
The fix is in sight, as are numerous gapping holes in
both sheet rock and concrete. However, as is ALWAYS the
case, this happened on a Friday so we had three nights
of bucket bathing and pouring swimming pool water into
toilet tanks to endure.
Modern living is so much fun!
It did, however point out how spoiled we are. You don’t
have to look outside of our own borders to find hundreds
of thousands of people who don’t have hot water.
Or maybe even running water. Or worse yet, are wandering
around homeless with nothing remotely resembling a civilized
During the early ‘90’s, while suffering through
what my kids call my “dark period”, when
a money-sucking divorce coincided with just about every
revenue-producing thing in my life taking a hard, left
turn, I spent plenty of time thinking about being homeless.
Although I never was, for a couple of years I was close
enough for it to be a constant worry. I was eyeing vacant
buildings and groves of trees I passed as possible dwelling
sites. I also became acutely aware of how little it took
to put someone on the street. And, how quickly it could
happen. More important, I analyzed how difficult it would
be to come back from that condition. Once you’ve
been on the street for more than about four or five days,
with no shower, no way to shave or clean yourself up,
you’re not in condition to interview for any kind
of job. And, it gets worse from there. It’s a nearly
hopeless situation that only help from family, friends
or institutions can act as a rescue rope. I told myself,
that if it ever happened, I couldn’t bring myself
to ask for help. That I would wander out into the wilderness
and become a caveman or something. But, even that’s
not possible: how do you get out into the wilderness
from a major city? You can’t, so you wind up trying
to survive in the wildness that a city becomes, when
So, this morning, as I was drying myself off in my waterless
bathroom after using a bucket full of the hot water that
was still available in the kitchen, it never crossed
my mind that this was inconvenient. I just remembered
how lucky I was to have that bathroom. And that towel.
And a roof over my head. And the opulent luxury of hot
I will, however, be obscenely happy, when I can take
a shower again!!
And now for some slightly weird stuff I stumbled across
How’s the following for something right out of
science fiction? Russian, Valery Spiridonov, a guy, is
having a team of Italian surgeons do a HEAD TRANSPLANT!!!
Yeah, you read that right. He’s going to have his
head transplanted onto a healthy body. And the head surgeon
(not a play on words) says the process has a 90% chance
of success! Unreal right? I wonder what the guy is going
to think if he wakes up and finds that the original donor
body wasn’t available and they had to substitute
that of a twenty-something, very well constructed female?
The possibilities are endless. See this link!
Now for news of a slight variation on the head transplant
theme, but a different head. The Secretary of the Air
Force has decreed that Air Force pilots who are in the
process of gender re-assignment (read that as removing
their personal pitot tube) can skip physical fitness
tests. Any following typos are the result of me laughing
my butt off. Is this really a problem in the Air Force?
We have so many pilots facing that problem that an official
policy from the head honcho is necessary to deal with
it? Damn! I guess being raised amidst cornfields many
generations ago hasn’t prepared me for thought
processes like that.
And so the world turns. And us along with it. I’d
like to hang around and chat, but I feel the need to
go bounce a happy little biplane around the pattern.
Nov 16 - Forging Ahead
I’m not certain why I’m writing this except
I’m once again watching myself doing things as
if I’m having an out-of-body experience. I’m
physically and mentally taking steps in a direction that
makes no sense and I know I shouldn’t do it, but
I’m doing it anyway. Am I the only one with this
Given the political turmoil of this week, you’d
think I’d be ranting about that. However,
I figure everyone else is beating that horse to death,
so I’m going to explore a totally different mental
factor of my own that has been overshadowing the whole
election thing: my fascination with working steel. Specifically
making knifes and, now, forging steel.
Bear in mind that I’m up to my butt in magazine
deadlines and flying and basically always worried about
paying the bills (THAT everyone can identify with). Add
to that a determination to get my little roadster on
the road and I really shouldn’t be even glancing
at any other projects. I have no such thing as free time.
But, I can’t
help myself. I’ve always been a closet case knife
know that. But, I’d never considered forging because
it’s so much easier to just buy a blank of steel
and grind it to shape. To that end, over the past couple
of years I’ve spent a lot of money buying the specialized
belt sanders, the right steel and building materials
and all that stuff is still in the boxes they came in.
I have the equivalent of a knife factory stacked up in
a corner waiting for the day I have the time to jump
into it. Then, I stumbled across a cable TV show, Forged
in Fire. Bad mistake!
This is a border-line hokey reality show/contest in which
four contestants are given three hours to rough forge
a blade that is to meet the criteria set by the judges.
They have to use steel they salvage from something different
the judges give them each week. One week it was a chain
saw, where the only hardenable part of it was the chain,
so we got to see them chop the chain into little pieces,
load it into a mild steel canister, heat and forge it
together into a form of Damascus steel that would take
an edge. Another time it was the bucket from a back
hoe. Another time a big coil spring. Through forging
they have to make the junk into a blade that can be heat
treated and tempered.
The assigned blade might be a chopper, a stabber, whatever.
It’s never the same thing week to week. Then the
rough blade is judged and one contestant is cut (clever
use of words, right?). Then the blade is finished and
equipped with a handle in another three hours. They are
put through a series of tests that judge its cutting
capability and toughness (severing a huge fish and chopping
at a 50-pound block of ice, for instance). One more contestant
The remaining two are sent home to their own shops with
the order to forge/make some sort of historical cutting “thing” assigned
by the judges that range from wildly-shaped swords of
Indonesian head hunters to Zulu stabbing spears. The
assignments are always something seldom seen and they
have a week to complete it. Then they come back, the
item is put through a torture test and the winner crowned.
And given a check for ten grand.
It’s one of those kinds of shows, like the old
Biker Build-off, where you get to see craftsmen doing
their thing and, in the process learn so much it’s
amazing. In this case, you learn a lot about forging
and heat treating steel, something that’s always
fascinated me. When I was a kid, we had a for-real blacksmith
shop in town and I’d watch the three ancient brothers
working over a coal forge doing everything you can think
of. They let me try my hand at hard facing plows that
involved running a layer of hard arc welding over the
edge, then forging it to shape, heat treating it and
shaping it with a grinder. I was 12-15 at the time. Can
you imagine a parent letting a kid do something like
that today? Can you imagine a worker letting a kid incur
that kind of liability today? Of course not, but that
was then. This is now and I’m again feeling the “steel
disease” boiling up in my system.
This past week I ordered a stack of 2.5-inch-thick fire
bricks, should I ever want to start building a propane
forge (a very "in" thing). Then the yellow sticky pad
on my desk started showing sketches for a tube-shaped
forged lined with the aforementioned bricks (incidentally,
I ordered the bricks through Amazon mid-afternoon and
they delivered them at 10 the next morning. FREE! Damn!).
Originally, I was going to use a piece of 10” square
tubing with 1/4 ” walls. But it would be too heavy
and the inside dimension and curved inside corners would
mean trimming the blocks like crazy. But there was another
Yesterday, in an out-of-body experience, I watched myself
stop writing and take a break at about 0745 and climb
into my car. Then the person that I know was me, found
himself at a steel yard where he ordered 10” wide,
3/16” steel sheared into four 12-inch pieces. At
the same time, he bought a foot of 2”, 1/4 ” wall
DOM tubing. He would use two inches of that to mount
the burner tube that would come in from the side through
the fire bricks. It would heat the 4 1/2 ” square,
one-foot long cavity formed by the fire bricks, when
they lined the square tube that he would eventually
create by welding the steel plates together. This way
the inside corners would be square and exactly dimensioned
to hold the bricks. If he ever gets around to it.
The plate and bricks safely stored away, this guy then scrounged through the
pile of crap behind the garage and pulled out the vaguely-remembered truck spring.
Springs are usually 1095 steel, which forges well and is heat treated by oil-quenching.
So, he could do it all himself. Something he found attractive, it not practical.
The web sources said such a forge could easily produce the 1800-2000 degrees
needed to forge steel. The same guy then brought the bathroom scale out to the
shop and wrestled the old anvil he had bought years before knowing he’d
eventually find a use for it. It tipped the scales at 68 pounds. A little light,
but workable. Now, all he needs is a tree stump to lag-bolt it to. And he knows
where to get one custom cut. If he ever gets around to it.
So, now all that stuff is sitting on shelves and in corners waiting. Biding its
time. I know it’s there. It creates an awareness of its own. How long it
will wait is unknown. But, what we have here is another example of a person who
is clearly not remotely in control of his impulses. I wonder if that’s
illegal. Yet. Please tell me I’m not alone in these kinds of mental lapses!
- A Mary Jane Surprise: If I hadn't Seen it...
A side note in many states during this election cycle,
besides the obvious and catastrophic differences in the
two parties’ views of our future, is legalizing
marijuana. Arizona is one of those states. Last week,
while I was giving some thought to this subject, a very
surprising thing happened.
Incidentally, I don’t understand how something
that is patently illegal under federal law can be made
legal in a state. But, then, think of sanctuary cities
that ignore federal immigration law and nothing happens.
First, a couple of facts to put this in context: I neither
smoke nor drink and may have set a record during the ‘60’s
in that I was a hard core guitar player and never did
ANY drugs of any kind. I’ve never taken even one
toke off a joint. I’d take a little Dexadrene (low
level speed) during those 1,400 miles non-stop drives
to play a club somewhere to keep me awake, but that was
occupational, not recreational. Some part of me has always
rebelled at the concept of giving up any control of my
senses to anything. This may be because I have enough
trouble keeping them under control as it is. I’ve
thought that way since a teenager and I can’t really
explain why. It just is.
Also, I don’t draw a hard line between alcohol
and drugs. Especially marijuana (MJ, Mary Jane). If you
are mentally impaired, I don’t think the cause
is important. Only the impaired state and the problems
it can cause not only for the individual, but for innocents
around them, matter. And, to be frank, that pisses me
off. I think that any drug dealer who sells drugs is
in the same category as those who willfully drive drunk.
If either kills a kid, I think the parents should be
given a hunting license and the offender given a two-hour
head start and the hunt is on. And legal. I have zero
tolerance for either. None.
Incidentally, here are some interesting stats on marijuana,
alcohol and firearms.
In 2014, there were 88,000 deaths due to alcohol, roughly
10,000 were traffic accident related. Alcohol is the
fourth leading preventable cause of death in the US.
At the same time there were 32,000 deaths due to firearms,
with 21,000 of them suicides (which would have happened
regardless). Firearms are the 12th highest cause of death
with homicides being a fraction of that and the vast
majority of those being gang related.
There are apparently zero cases of MJ overdose deaths
with healthy people but a couple that involved a pre-existing
cardiac condition and past alcohol abuse. However, MJ
is starting to be a major cause of traffic deaths, with
Washington state saying they’re seeing 17%. So,
it’s just taking up where alcohol leaves off, which
is to be expected. In my mind it’s also criminal.
All of this having been said, I’ve always considered
myself a fairly open minded type and thought I pretty
much had a handle on MJ and its uses. But, this week
I found that was absolutely not the case. I had lumped
medical MJ in with the recreational use of MJ which is
a totally wrong thing to do, but I didn’t know
it. This was made abundantly clear by a personal experience.
We have a long-time book keeper and friend, female in
her 50’s, that over the years has become positively
deformed because of the pain from her spine and pelvis,
which were damaged while lifting something 25 years ago.
She has had any number of surgeries, none of which helped.
The net result is that her pelvis was so tilted that
one leg was essentially about two inches too short, her
arms and legs had trouble doing what they were supposed
to do and she was in constant, close-to-debilitating
pain and on a wide range of drugs. She needed someone
to drive her everywhere and help her.
Today, she was working here and I noticed she didn’t
seem so “bent” and I asked her about it.
She bounced up out of her chair, did deep knee bends,
balanced on one leg, the other out behind her swan-like.
Her body was completely straight, normal and capable
of anything. And I mean anything. I was astounded!
She’s taking zero pharmaceuticals and hasn’t
had any for well over a year. She switched over to what
we’d usually call medical marijuana, which is not
as I would have expected it to be. They’ve extracted
the CBDs (whatever that is) and put it into salves and
tinctures that she rubs-in or places under her tongue.
There is absolutely no buzz or mental alteration of any
kind. All she feels is relief from the pain.
But, it has done MUCH more than that.
This stuff has totally straightened out her body. Every
joint is normal. I had no idea this stuff could do that.
The results have floored her normal doctor who thought
she was going to be the way she was permanently.
I’m only passing this along because I guess I didn’t
really understand what medical marijuana could do. I
thought it just got people high enough that they didn’t
mind the pain. Here there is no high and no pain. It
has actually cured her. Absolutely amazing!!
Of course, I’ve been told that I’m the last
person on the planet to know this, but I’m betting
I’m not, so I’m passing it along.
I did just a little research and found that the high
associated with MJ comes from the THC in it. CBD, however,
also a major ingredient has no mental effects at all.
It also turns out that they can grow marijuana that has
almost no THC but is CBD-heavy. They can also extract
the CBD and that’s all that’s in the medicines
that are legal in a lot of states, including AZ. Right
now, however, CBD is still a Schedule 1 drug and requires
a permit to purchase.
Inasmuch as marijuana has about the same effect as alcohol
but has negatives attached to it like cartels, black
market, questionable quality, etc., I’ll probably
vote to make it legal for that reason alone (not to mention
the ability to make it a cash crop and tax it). However,
given a choice, I’d prefer the ability to push
a button and make every kind of mind-altering material
like alcohol and drugs disappear. Not illegal. Disappear.
Civilization would be the better for it. However, man
has been fermenting alcohol and chewing cocoa leaves
almost since Neanderthals roamed the Earth, so there
is little chance of that.
Of course, I have my own intoxicants. You haven’t
lived until you’ve experience the high associated
with ripping up off the runway in a high performance
airplane. Or pushed the nose down from level flight curving
into an outside loop. Or experience the total abandon
associated with a three-dimensional machine that is unlimited
in its aerobatic capability that reduces gravity to a
minor irritation. There are highs and then there are
Go here to do a little CBD research: http://www.leafscience.com/2014/02/23/5-must-know-facts-cannabidiol-cbd/
Oct 16 - Coming Full Circle...Sam Phillips, Life and
This from Deadline Hollywood:
EXCLUSIVE: Paramount Pictures has acquired the
Peter Guralnick book, Sam
Phillips: The Man Who Invented Rock ‘N’ Roll. The film
will be developed by Appian Way’s Leonardo
DiCaprio and Jennifer Davisson for DiCaprio to
play the title character, the pioneering music
The release goes on to explain how Sam Phillips
and his tiny Memphis-based Sun Studio made stars
of the likes of Elvis Presley, Ike Turner, Howlin’ Wolf,
Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash and Carl Perkins.
Above all, he was a major player in bringing
black musicians to mainstream America and a force
This is a dream project for my daughter who,
for some unknown reason, picked up on my own
very special connection to Sam Phillips and his
so-called “million dollar quartet.” From
the time I picked up a guitar in the mid-50’s
(I have yet to lay it down), the most influential
musicians to me were those under the Sun Label.
In fact, Scotty Moore, Elvis’s original
guitar player, can be heard resonating in a lot
of the stuff I still play (Chet Atkins too).
Those four, Presley, Cash, Perkins and Lee, were,
and are, the sound track from my youth. And somehow
that bled over to my Hollywood mogul daughter.
And from her to my granddaughter, Alice. Very,
very unlikely match-ups.
In the background of all of this is a subtle
structure that affects both movies and popular
music that is so intimately familiar to everyone
in the universe, yet is generally not recognized.
Rock ‘n roll and so much more of American
music (which then became an art form worldwide)
is based on the blues that came out of the African
American experience. I’m not smart enough
to explain how the music of the slaves during
their dark period evolved into the blues sometime
around the turn of the 20th century. It probably
started with “field hollers” but
it established the soon-to-be accepted musical
structure, which everyone recognizes without
realizing it. It’s commonly called 12-bar
blues, which is almost simplistic, but very comforting,
in its structure: 12-bars of three, four-beat
periods each and three chords. Sing any rock ‘n
roll song you can think of to yourself while
counting the beats, one to four, then starting
over and you’ll see what I mean. It is
the very essence of the majority of popular music.
We all sense the structure, but seldom think
the corner, baby
Match box is holding my clothes.
Yes I’m standin’ on the corner, honey
Match box is holdin’ my clothes.
Ain’t got no matches
but I sure got a long way to go.”
Invisible structures are all around us. Take
the almost cast iron way of telling a story,
which is most evident in the structure of the
majority of movies and novels. They are all three-act
plays with Act I being very short, Act II is
long and Act III, inbetween the two in length.
Act I can be as short as three minutes in a movie
but is more likely 5-15 minutes. It will be as
short as two or three pages in a novel. During
that introductory time frame, all of the main
characters are identified and set in motion and
the conflict/mystery is set in place (a strong
story ALWAYS has some sort of conflict/mystery
to be sorted out, some obvious and big, some
internal and maybe emotion-based). Act I also
sets a goal that must be met to solve the conflict.
Act II is the longer, middle section where the
writer has his main characters flailing around
in various ways focused on solving the mystery
and/or conflict. Then, a light bulb goes off
in the lead character’s mind or something
pivotal happens and the way to solve everything
is clear to the hero. It is this plot point that
kicks off Act III.
Act III is always a fast pace, downhill run during
which a lot of action and solutions resolve everything
that was set in place during Act I.
Very few movies or novels stray very far from
this formula. Just as most popular songs stay
close to the 12-bar, three chord structure. The
Beatles were among the first to wander away from
I had a bunch of the old yellow-labeled, Sun
45’s as a kid and listening to Cash, Presley
and especially Carl Perkins (I like his Blue
Suede Shoes version better than Elvis’.
It’s raw rock-a-billy) really drove home
the 12-bar concept. And Jerry Lee couldn’t
survive without it. As I got into writing I began
to see how the three-act play concept wasn’t
that much different than wailing away in 12-bars.
There was the set-up, the acting out and then
the wrap-up in each verse just as there is in
each novel/movie/play. And, to a certain extent,
life is lived by the same structure.
We spend the all-too-brief first years of our
life, usually entitled “youth”, getting
set up for Act II. During that time, the character
we are going to be and the way we are likely
to develop is clear to us and everyone around
Then we hit life’s Act II: that usually
covers mid-life where we’re raising a family,
struggling to get a career moving, facing our
conflicts, etc. It’s a hyper active period
during which too many of us fail to remember
the lofty goals (also called dreams) we had during
our youth/Act I.
Then, a critical plot point is hit, with 65 years being the artificially imposed
point for many, and we drift into the final chord change/Act III. For many, that
plot point is gleefully accepted as a time to lay the tools down and just “live.” For
me, that kind of finale isn’t a finale. It is a vague, intangible flat-line
existence that, if a person isn’t careful, can become nothing more than
a waiting period, playing the same chord until physically unable. For most reading
this, I suspect that isn’t the case.
I’m guessing that for most folks reading this, their Act III is/or will
be a free form guitar solo where they do and become all the things that life
prevented in Act II.
Personally, I haven’t hit the plot point yet that says Act III is about
to begin. I’m still bouncing from wall to wall solving conflicts and living
adventures that seem to be choruses unto themselves. They are moving the song
along but the finale is nowhere in sight. This is just as well because I don’t
know the last verse so will just keep playing riffs as long as I can manage.
When I can no longer do that, physically and mentally, I’ll know Act III
is about to begin. Hopefully Act III be only a page, or a couple bars, long.
I’m dying to see what my little girl does with the legends on which her
old man’s life and much of musical and cultural society was built.
Oct 16 - Cars, Jerk Politicians and Realities
My wife Marlene, AKA The Arizona Redhead, accomplished
a major goal this week when, after ten years of saving,
bought us our first new car in 16 years. Then, that night
I watched a few minutes of the Al Smith Catholic Diocese
dinner and made a resolution that’s as firm as
Marlene’s desire to have a nice car (which by the
way is a real head trip).
Watching Trump and Hillary savage each other at that
dinner in completely inappropriate ways in the totally
wrong venue sickened me to the core. Whatever happened
to common decency? Both of them should have known better
and Trump didn’t just cross the line, he wound
up in the next county. And I think it’s going to
get worse until this frigging election is over. So, to
protect my mental wellbeing I’m going to do my
best to stick my head in the sand and not watch a single
bit of political television until it’s over. I’m
going to vote, but I’m going to hold my nose while
doing so. This election is where the old cliché about
thinking you can pick up a turd by the clean end fits.
On to happier subjects: a multitude of revelations came
from Marlene’s new ride. First, she’s been
squirreling away (and paying taxes on) her B & B
money almost as long as I can remember with the sole
purpose of us having a reliable, classy car. Our last
new car is still with us. It’s a 16-year-old Maxima
that’s still running and looking great (if a little
frumpy). Further, I’m still driving my own last
new car, a Honda Civic hatchback that is now 26 years
old and couldn’t run better if it tried (234,000
miles). I had the body cherried out a while back so it
looks good too.
Warning: what I’m about to get into concerning
Marlene’s new car is probably really old news to
most of those reading this. However, during a celebratory
drive up to Sedona for Mex food (100 miles each way)
yesterday, I suddenly found myself driving something
several generations ahead of what I’m used to.
Our 2000 Maxima is a good solid road car, although it
has too much wind noise at 80 mph. The biggest change
is that a 2017 Maxima is, as I’m assuming all new
cars are, nothing more than a four-wheel computer. This
thing has so many sensors giving the driver so many informational
inputs and warnings, it’s unreal! The monitor that’s
where the dash should be can even link up to my iPhone
and run all its apps of which there are about 50. I’m
positive that if we keep scrolling through the menus,
we’ll find one that senses when the driver needs
to pee and will give directions on how to get to the
The forward traffic sensors are really wild! Again, I
know every single person reading this has experienced
them, but I find it amusing that I can set speed control
and, when the sensors say I’m about four car lengths
behind the car in front of me, it slows me down and holds
that interval. Then, when I slide into the left lane,
it accelerates back to the original speed.
I played with those in slower traffic and found it worked
as well at 25 mph, as it did at highway speeds. The downside
however showed up immediately in traffic circles (yes,
those damnable things are now popping up in Arizona).
It will happily accelerate you into the path of an oncoming
car, when the car ahead of you moves on.
The car’s dash/instrument panel is a wonder of
technology but I think it’s dangerous as hell.
If we’re not supposed to text while driving, why
should we be allowed to play on a computer while driving?
All that stuff is entirely too distracting. Not to mention
I bet a high percentage of it will die long before the
The Maxima was solved one personal crisis, but my tools
are another crisis-in-the-making because they’re
reaching their own end of life well ahead of when I’ll
reach my own. My trusty old Black and Decker radial arm
saw, for instance, bought new only a little over 40 years
ago, had the audacity to totally fry its motor. The motor
is one of those sealed, exotic looking things and I don’t
know whether it can be rebuilt or not. I need to get
the time to take it down to a motor shop and find out.
All my power tools are over the hill or getting there.
If I expect to be having fun at the work bench as a greying
Gepetto in a few years, I’m going to have make
It’s pretty obvious that I believe in wringing
the last possible drop of use out of every tool or mechanical
contrivance I buy. “New” has no allure for
me. Eventually, however, you reach a point where, if
you want to own something worthwhile during that slow-down
period at life’s end, you’d better buy it
now, while you’re still making money. But, you
have to do it with a different mindset than you’d
use five or ten years ago. We can’t just say, “Screw
it! I’m going to buy it and take my time paying
for it.” I, for one, don’t want to find
myself in my 80’s with monthly payments hanging
over my head. At the same time, some things that we buy
will last a lifetime simply because there’s not
that much life left. For instance, assuming the new Maxima
lasts as long as the old one did (which I very seriously
doubt), it is very likely we just bought the last new
car in my life, which is a scary thought in itself.
Anyway, The Red Head looks good in her shiny new, gun
metal gray, high-tech toy. Fortunately, I still look
like I usually look tooling along in my hatchback antique,
which is just fine by me. bd
- A Trunk Latch Versus the Real World
As I’m sitting here trying to think of something
to write about, I’ve become aware that I’m
sick at heart. I actually feel vaguely nauseated at what
I see around me. But, I think I have a silly, but viable,
temporary escape, and maybe a cure. At least for me.
First, I look at the two candidates and I can’t
help but want to throw up. I’m embarrassed by both
of them. So, I’m going to just ignore the entire
circus. I don’t care who wins any more. In three
weeks it’ll thankfully be over so we can begin
to deal with the realities of the final victory…except
that it won’t be a victory. Everyone loses. But,
I have a fix for my mental/emotional state that has rescued
me multiple times in the past.
People like me have our own kind of “safe place” where
we can go to temporarily escape the crap storm and give
our hearts (and heads) a rest. It’s called The
Work Shop. Or, in this specific case, the escape is called “Coming
up with a trunk latch that’s better than the last
one I came up with.” I’m talking about my
little roadster, of course. And, while I know "trunk
latch therapy" may not sound very profound sounding,
it is part of a type of a mental process that is an excellent
anesthetic for diverting the mind from truly ugly thoughts.
There is simply nothing better for mental health than
forcing yourself to concentrate on solving some sort
of tangible/mechanical problem.
In this particular case, the challenge at hand is, on
the surface, absurdly simply: come up with a latch system
for the truck lid of a lifelong project ('been working
on this roadster for 59 years so far). Should be super
easy. It’s a Model A Ford. How difficult can it
be? But, now it has no trunk handle, so the old latch
won’t work. And any latch designed for it (I picked
up a small “bear claw” latch at a swap meet)
is more or less done in the dark because you have to
be inside the trunk to see it in action. I solved that
by removing the trunk floor (again!).
Without getting into the details, I wound up modifying
the hell out of the swap meet latch and mounting it only
to find that the matching protrusion on the trunk lid
won’t clear the lip of the trunk. But, there’s
another way (there is ALWAYS another way) and I hope
to get time today to start working on that. I estimate
that, when I’m finished, I’ll have at least
30 hours tied up in that stupid latch. But, the first
time it precisely clicks into place and I pull the invisible
handle under the body and it pops open, I know for a
fact that a wave of achievement will roll over me and
make every second invested worth it.
Part of the success of using hands-on work
to cure our mental/emotional aches and pains is just
that: it’s hands-on. It’s tangible as opposed
to being some sort of ethereal, philosophical “thing” (like
politics) that is gossamer in concept. Politics, for
one, have no finite edges and are impossible to quantify
in terms of the effects we have on them. Making sawdust
and sparks (not at the same time) is unbelievably satisfying
because the achievement is clearly quantifiable. At the
end of just a little effort, we find that we have made
measurable headway on a project so we know for a fact
that we are better off today than we were yesterday.
We set a goal and we achieved it. Those kinds of feelings
seldom happen in society today.
So, if you find yourself throwing things and screaming
at the TV, it’s time to take a short trip out to
the garage/shop/garden/whatever. It’s time to get
your hands dirty and your mind clean. You’ll be
the better for it. bd
Sept 16 - The Debate Circus 2.0: Random Observations
It’s interesting to see what has happened to the
concept of truth. We used to think that a person who
lied was the lowest. And then there were the debates
last night. Now, it appears a person who lies is bad...unless
they're a politician or running for office. Or both. In
my book, neither side won the debate. But, we, the people,
This is going to be super short, as I have more important
things on my plate than worrying about The Donald and
Hillary. So, here’s a quick summation of what I
saw last night—nothing new. Trump was Trump and
Clinton was Clinton and never the twain shall meet (what
exactly is a “twain” anyway?)
We didn’t need the fact checkers, who went nuts
the second the thing was over, to tell us the stage was
awash in BS from both sides. So, we’ll ignore that
and call the debate a factual draw.
You could clearly see the difference between the preparation
each received. In Hillary’s case it appeared closer
to indoctrination, or maybe even hypnosis, than strictly “preparation.” I’m
not kidding one bit when I say that, as she answered
her first question, I honestly thought she was reading
from a teleprompter. Even her eyes were tracking the
rehearsed answers being projected on the teleprompter
in her head. And this served her well throughout the
evening. There wasn’t much improvisation in her
act last night because her handlers had foreseen 90%
of what she was likely to run into and had all the tapes
queued up in her head. It was very well done. She did,
however, have a smug, almost contemptuous look on her
face part of the time, while listening. That irritated
the hell out of me and I’ll bet I’m not alone.
They also had her programmed to go on the attack, which
she did well, putting Trump on the defense for most of
the night. That pushed him to the edge of “non-presidential” a
number of times, which I’m certain was part of
their game plan. In general, however, he didn’t
totally derail. He came close a few times though. And
he did land a few good zingers (“I’ll release
my tax returns when you release the 33,000 e-mails you
Donald’s prep appeared to have been mostly sitting
around in a bar somewhere BSing about the world and politics
in general. “Casual” would be the word to
describe his prep. And that didn’t serve him well.
At the very least, Trumps troops have to prep him better
on what to attack and what to do about explaining his
own programs. I was disappointed that he didn’t
leap on the question about bringing companies back into
the country and explain how dropping the corporate tax
rate to 15% would do that. He assumed people would make
the connection between a lower tax rate making us a much
more attractive place to do business than it is now.
We tax corporations higher than any place in the world.
So, it’s only natural they look for safe havens.
Lowering the tax rate is not rewarding the rich. That’s
common sense and will eventually mean more jobs as companies
move back. But, he didn’t spell it out and should
There were lots of missed opportunities like that one
and that tells me his handlers didn’t have him
very well programmed. Wait…did I just say “programmed” and
Donald Trump on the same page? Sorry!
So, what happens now?
There’s a high probability that, while you’re
reading this, Trump and his advisors/family/handlers
are in a dark room somewhere watching game tapes and
going back over what he did right and what he did wrong.
He’s a smart enough guy that when he watches himself
in action with a critical eye, he’ll see what needs
to be improved.
It can’t be forgotten that this was Trump’s
first debate. Nor can it be forgotten that it was far
from Hillary’s first. One of the talking heads
said that Hillary had been involved in over 100, which
I find hard to believe, but a talking head said it, so
it must be true…they never lie.
Let’s see how he does in the second debate. I think
that he’s a quick study and is entirely capable
of upping his game. Hillary was very much at the top
of her game, so the Trump camp now knows clearly what
they’re going to be faced with next time around
and will prepare accordingly.
The next debate might actually be worth watching. Last
night’s wasn’t. bd
Sept 16 - The Debate Circus
I don’t want to talk about politics. In fact, the
first thing I looked up this morning was the guest cameo
of Jack Lord, the original Steve Garrett, that showed
up on the first episode of Hawaii Five-Oh for the season.
I thought he’d be ancient. But, he wasn’t.
WTF? But, the debates are looming out there and ready
to steam roller over us. So, I’ll
make a quick comment or two and revisit the subject on
I doubt if any Presidential debate ever held had the
audience this one will have. I won’t be among those
watching. I try to avoid seeing things that are either
painful or embarrassing. And these debates definitely
have the potential for both. I’ll let the talking
heads on CNN and Fox sum it up for me afterwards. Combining
those two should give me a view from different perspectives.
If there is one word that fits the debates at this juncture,
it is “unpredictable.” And that’s what’s
going to draw the audience.
People aren’t going to be watching to see each
candidate’s position on important matters. They
are going to be watching to see how nuts the two of them
get (both have high “crazy potential”) and
this will depend on several possibilities:
1- Will the moderator, who is a hardcore liberal, go
out of his way to trip Trump up with questions that require
knowledge Trump has been proven not to have? Will he
be baiting Trump trying to set him off? I doubt it, but
2- Will Trump be able to contain himself and maintain
a presidential demeanor? Actually, will he even be able
to remain civil? If he doesn’t, he’s toast!
This is the biggest question every one has about the
3- Is the moderator going to soft ball Hillary or go
for substantive stuff with her? Even though he’s
a liberal, it’s his moment in the media spotlight
and I’m betting he uses it to build his reputation
and he won’t cut either of them any slack.
4- Has Hillary’s preparation team loaded her with
comments she can make which are guaranteed of setting
Trump off? I would, if I were them.
5- Will the moderator be able to ask Hillary anything
for which her team hasn’t pre-loaded her with the
correct answers? I don’t mean the moderator giving
her the questions ahead of time. I mean her team has
been grilling her with all the most likely questions
and will the moderator be able to come up with some they
hadn’t thought of? That’ll be tough to do.
6- Will Hillary be able to stand up there for 90 minutes
under intense pressure without it causing her to deteriorate?
This speaks to the question of her health.
This election cycle is as much circus or Kabuki as anything
else. It is so hard to believe that, as a nation, we’ve
come to this. However, both candidates are there because
voters put them there and that says something about both
sides of the aisle.
Incidentally, and I’ve said this before, the thing
that amazes me most about this cycle is that the Clinton
Machine, which we thought was invincible until BHO beat
it (which might have been part of a Soros-type plan),
is anything but invincible. Ditto the DNC machine. Hillary
was nearly beaten for the candidacy by a 74-year-old
grandfatherly socialist that not a living soul in the
Nation had ever heard of prior to him announcing. Now,
despite her spending millions and millions on advertising
and has a ground crew that is the size of a small army
and very good at what they do, she is neck and neck with
a total non-politician who is continually putting his
foot in his mouth and has even pissed off many in his
own party. How can this be? Again, this is a reflection
of the voters and this too is something we’ve never
I’m going to try to put another Thinking
Out Loud up Tuesday and give a country boy’s opinion on
the circus. And, yeah…I’ll probably watch.
Who can ignore a train wreck in progress?
Jack Lord did a cameo on the new version of Five Oh courtesy
of CGI. It was very convincing and a nice nod to the
original series, which ran ’68-’80 and was
the biggest cop show to that time. Lord died in ’98.
Just thought you’d like to know.
Sept 16 - 911: What Have We Learned?
It is 0600, Sept 11, 2016. 15 years ago at this time,
I was sitting on the floor leaning against my bed, phone
in hand talking to my daughter while we watched our world
changing right before our very eyes on television. It
seemed unreal then. It seems unreal now. But, what have
we learned, and what have we become, since then?
911 is this generation’s December 7th. Both are
dates that will live in infamy, to quote FDR, but December
7th was, and is, unequivocal in its effect and in our
reaction to it. We had been sucker punched at Pearl Harbor
and suffered an extreme act of international, state-sponsored,
terrorism. We lined up behind our country and didn’t
waiver for an instant. Although Admiral Yamamoto didn’t
actually say it (a script writer for Tora, Tora, Tora
did), his attack did indeed “…awaken a sleeping
giant and fill it with a terrible resolve.” To
a very real degree, the attacks of 911 did the same.
At least in the short term.
For several years, after that terrible morning, the American
flag was everywhere you looked. Then slowly and irrevocably
the national enthusiasm began to wither and die. I’m
not sure why. Maybe the war in Iraq wore us down. I don’t
know. By a few scant years later, 2008, we were no longer
the country we were on September 12th seven years earlier.
Our solidarity had withered to be replaced by different
opinions that over the next eight years became a national
divide that was/is the equivalent of a continental drift.
A lot of us came of age in the 1960’s when history
would have us believe that we were terribly divided,
as a nation, and we were. But, it was nothing compared
to where we stand today. I find it difficult to believe
how far apart we’ve drifted and how hard it is
to have civil discourse over our communal problems. And
that is horribly sad.
We were one nation following 911 because we sensed a
common enemy. The planes that hit the Trade Centers didn’t
recognize party affiliation, gender, race, religion
or culture. The pilots of those planes only recognized
that they were attacking Americans, whom they saw as
a monolithic entity, rather than the wildly diverse nation
that we are by nature. America is one of only a small
handful of nations
that actually have no defined ethnicity. We are born
of immigrants who bonded together to form a nation and
following 911 that bond was clearly evident.
Today, we are facing the same enemy but terrorism is
slowly but surely creeping into our consciousness
making us aware of the threat. As I look around, however,
the real terrorism isn’t the
result of radical Islaam. It is the result of our own
peer group-induced dislike for any who have opinions
other than our own. Or who are different than us. It’s
sort of a social terrorism, the result of which is intense
fighting, not squabbling, but actual verbal (sometimes
physical) fighting between every group of every definition.
They might be defined by color, gender, sexual orientation,
political, you name it. If there’s a difference,
there’s an environment of discord surrounding them.
I’m guessing that even folks who are left handed
are beginning to feel put upon by a right handed world.
I know that being chromatically challenged (color blind),
I think it showed some ignorance/arrogance to make red
and green so critical in controlling our lives when 8%
(call that one out of twelve) men can’t tell the
difference. Think of that the next time you pull up to
a stop sign that many of us see as the same color as
the foliage behind it.
If I were to pick any single trait that is causing this
national divide it would be an overall lack of tolerance.
By everyone. Not just the right or left. Even those of
us who are right leaning and claim to just want to be
left alone, find ourselves intolerant of the left. Yes,
we wildly disagree on some subjects, but, we should just
ignore them. Especially the small arguments. Both sides
should be looking for ways to bridge the gap so we can
work together to fight the common enemies of terrorism,
economic development, social unrest, debt, government
over-growth and over-reach and other factors that affect
us all, right or left.
I’ve said it before, but clichés become
clichés because of the truth they contain and
the cliché that fits us right now is “United
we stand, divided we fall.” Never have those words
been more accurate.
Our memorial to those we lost 15 years ago today should
be a national resolve to pull together, to pull with,
not against each other. Our bickering, considering what
we’ve been through together, is an insult to their
Sept 16 - Maybe We Should Let Hillary Win!?
With all the Donald and Hillary crap swirling around
our heads, I suddenly found myself thinking ahead four
years and am starting to see things I’d never thought
about before. I am, right now, finally understanding
the overwhelming importance of maintaining control of
Congress in the event Hillary wins, which I think is
probable. Bear with me on this.
Ignore what the GOP hasn’t done in Congress for
the past two years and think of the way a congress is
supposed to function. Part of the job description for
the Senate is to control decisions like the confirmation
of SCOTUS nominations. On top of that, the House can
control funding on just about everything so essentially
has control of everything in government by approving,
or not approving, funding. So, if the Legislative and
Executive branches of government are working the way
they should (an apparently gigantic IF), a President
can only do just so much on his/her own. He/she has to
work within the framework of the laws created by Congress.
Ignore the rogue Presidential actions of the last eight
years and picture them trying to go against a Congress
that actually exercises the power it has under the Constitution.
Hold that thought. We’ll get back to it in a minute
Now, look at what both candidates are promising: they
are promising to do huge, wonderful things all of which
cost lots of money, which this country simply doesn’t
have. 67% of our budget goes to entitlements (they include
Social Security in that). Debt service is something like
9% (could be 7%, I forget). Regardless, by the time all
the liabilities are covered, the budget has only 6.5%
for discretionary spending. That’s a real number
and verifiable. That would barely build a wall much less
make college free for everyone who wants it.
The net-net of the above is that almost none of the high-profile
projects from either candidate are going to happen. None
of them! Unless, of course, they want to raise taxes
like crazy and it’ll take a huge increase to fund
that much increased spending. Or, they could choose to
keep depending on China and other debtors to fund our
extravagant national life style, but that can only go
on for so long. To do any of these, they have to work
As an aside, I truly believe Trump’s promise of
a 15% corporate tax would, in the long term, result in
a lot of manufacturing returning to the US, because our
corporate tax structure makes our country one of the
most hostile to manufacturing. Increased manufacturing
means increased corporate profits which means increased
tax revenue. But, that takes time, years, actually, during
which time we’d be functioning under a tax revenue
short fall which would make things temporarily worse.
Another way to fund the new projects proposed would be
to cut government spending, but that’s too logical
and not likely to happen. Besides, even if you practically
eliminated government, it wouldn’t let us pay down
the national debt in our lifetimes.
In other words, we’re hearing a bunch of election
promises from both sides that simply can’t be kept,
even if they wanted to. They’re lying to us and
they know it.
Now, let’s look at the overall situation around
us: terrorism is on the rise, our international position
has eroded to nothing, our economy is in the tank, just
about everyone in the nation is pissed off and our social
issues are going off the chart. Everywhere you look are
seemingly insurmountable tasks. Now, ask yourself a question:
can ANY President cure all of this in one term? Can he/she
even make a worthwhile dent in it?
The answer to the above is no. Whichever candidate inherits
this sh*t sandwich is doomed to failure and likely to
be a one-term President. Plus, there’s a probability
that either candidate will actually make the situation
worse. At least in the short term (it takes a while for
even good programs to have wide spread effect).
So, when the next general elections come around in 2020,
what kind of mood is the electorate going to be in? Their
favorite told them things were going to be both hunky
and dory under their reign. But, that is very unlikely
to happen, no matter who wins. So, come the next election,
those folks that are pissed off now are going to be even
more pissed AND they’re going to be joined by folks
from the other side who are also pissed. Who are they
going to blame? Whomever wins this election is going
to be left holding that particular bag. So, four years
from now, whichever party wins this election is likely
to lose the next one. The winner of this election will
have made their party into a loser because that party
will be blamed for the continued mess the US is in and
the other party will automatically become top dog.
Now, let’s say Hillary wins, which is many conservative’s
worse nightmare, but, ASSUMING CONSERVATIVES HAVE A SUPER
MAJORITY IN CONGRESS, it shouldn’t be. If the GOP
holds both the Senate and the House, they can at least
control whom she puts on the Supreme Court, which is
of extreme importance. If she tries to ram through big
tax increases, she can be stopped.
If Hillary wins, the next four years would be essentially
a stalemate IF IT IS A GOP CONTROLLED CONGRESS. If that
doesn’t happen, and she wins, the right is pretty
If Trump wins, we have no idea what or where we’ll
be in 2020 but just his promised reduction of corporate
taxes and the effect that would have on business growth
might be reason enough to vote him in. But, in the long
run, benefits like that may not be worth jumping on the
I know this is a crazy thought, and maybe I’m saying
all of this just to make myself feel better, if Trump
loses (which it appears he will). However, since winning
this election could screw conservatives in 2020, maybe
losing to Hillary wouldn’t be such a bad thing.
So, as crazy as it sounds, to protect our conservative
butts for 2020, maybe we shouldn’t vote for The
Donald. However, we absolutely can’t afford to
lose Congress, nor can we afford a Congress that isn’t
doing their job. So, maybe we’re concentrating
on the wrong race and should be worrying more about those
political races more local to us, the Senate and House
races. They’re the ones that actually control our
Yeah, I know: it sounds nuts but, in a way, letting Hillary
win makes a certain amount of sense. Or maybe not. bd
Aug 16 - Of Flips and Flops
To say that I’m “sports challenged” is
an understatement. I’m just not into sports. Having
said that, I found myself fascinated by the Olympics.
I also found that the best part of the Olympics was that
they overshadowed politics for the entire week.
As far as politics goes, I was getting to the point that
I’d grit my teeth every time I’d see Trump
speak. I’d be asking myself, “I wonder who
he’s going to piss off this time.” The guy
would make a decent leader (I think) but he’s a
lousy campaigner. But, he’s all we’ve got
and Billary is flat scary. Then the Olympics came along.
The AZ Redhead become an absolute Olympic-junkie, and,
if a TV was on that’s all we watched. It was like
taking a TV vacation from reality. Plus, I found myself
really enjoying certain events. I loved the personalities
and the drama involved.
Like most of the world, I suppose, I was absolutely amazed
by the women’s gymnastics: how can a human being
do things like that and do it with such perfection? Seems
We’d been watching the girls for most of the week
and I even got to where I knew some of the names, especially
Simone Biles and Aly Raisman, America’s top dogs.
Whenever I saw Raisman, I’d think to myself, “She’s
a little older and closer to being ‘normal’ size
because Simone, like most female gymnasts is shorter
than average.” I put Raisman at about 5’5”.
Then I noticed a stat on her and saw she was only 5’2” but
she looked MUCH bigger than Simone Biles, so, I asked
my friend Siri (iPhone) about Biles. SHE IS 4’9”!!!
And she appears average for most female gymnasts. What
a joy she was to watch! Pure energy, showmanship and
a smile that won’t quit. Cute as a high powered
At the other end of the scale was one of Marlene’s
favorites, Jamaican Usain Bolt. He’s 6’ 5” and
a runner. But, not just any runner. In almost every race
he’s been in for the last three Olympics, everyone
was racing for the silver because Bolt automatically
took the gold. Yes, he has an ego and loves to show it,
but in a fun sort of way. The guy is a showman as much
as he is an athlete and he’s good at both. He’s
the Michael Jordan of sprinters.
A side fact Marlene picked up from her binge-watching:
the gold medals are reportedly valued at over $9,000
and the winners have to pay taxes on that. Or at least
that’s what commentator’s claimed. I just
did a little digging around and found that the actual
scrap value (they are 494 grams of silver and only 6
grams of gold) is barely $587 at today’s prices.
Looks like politicians aren’t the only ones stretching
the facts. Or maybe not. The medals are valuable in other
Take swimmer Michael Phelps (31 years old), who has won
a total of 23 golds including the 2016 wins. He is officially
reported to have a net worth of $55 million (!!!). That
number is based on his previous 18 gold medals. That
makes them worth about $3million a piece in endorsements,
etc. So, the five golds from the 2016 games should net
him out another $15million. Probably worth it since he’s
considered the best swimmer of all times.
Hey, I used to be a decent swimmer. That should be worth
a few hundred bucks, don’t you think?
The thing about the Olympics is that it’s all about
the winners. Which is pretty much how life is, in general.
But what about the losers? I don’t think any of
us can totally grasp what kind of dedication it takes
to be a competitor at that level. Just being there means
you have won. Every single person who is at the starting
line for any race or competition has essentially given
up their life to be in that position. However, in many
of the events they do so knowing their sport is dominated
by a team or an individual who is essentially unbeatable.
So, why, for instance, would someone give up their life
and train for the 100-meter sprint knowing they have
next to zero chance to beat Usain Bolt? Or what is the
mindset of the swimmer who dives into the water in the
lane next to Michael Phelps? In situations like that,
even giving 110% isn’t
going to be enough. Still, they try.
I look at the competitors from countries who you know
aren’t supporting their Olympic teams well at all.
So, the individual sportsman/women are out there early
in the morning and late at night while trying to hold
down a regular job knowing they probably don’t
have a chance. But there IS a chance. And that keeps
them sweating and straining and giving up so much of
themselves to simply be in the race.
I often wonder what becomes of those people after they
no longer strive for gold. Does their competitive nature
stand them in good stead in life? Or do they feel beaten
and sulk in the corner? I wish someone would do a study
of Olympic athletes after the games are over for them.
I’m betting money that the majority of them, in
all countries, are among the more successful people in
their population. This, of course, assumes they find
a passion that they can throw themselves into. Somehow,
I’ll bet most of them find it and become winners
in their own right. I certainly hope so. bd
- Weddings, Oshkosh, Family and Tattoos
I stirred in bed and opened my eyes: “Holy crap,
there’s someone sitting on my bed.” Instinctively,
my arm flashed back and I was in the process of getting
a hay maker going from a prone position, when I realized
it was Marlene. I wasn’t in a motel/hotel. I was
home. And I was about to sucker-punch my wife. Probably
not a smart thing to do.
Thinking Out Loud is out of synch because today is Monday
and I usually do it Saturday or Sunday. But, I was still
at Oshkosh last Sunday and just got back from a niece’s
wedding in Minneapolis/St. Paul last night. So, the majority
of the last two weeks has been on the road. Somewhere.
Doing something. The result was me trying to ambush my
wife because I didn’t know where I was. So, the
images of the past days are still flicking through my
mind’s eye and some of them are worth discussing.
It’s about this time of year when, once you’re
home, the usual greeting is, “Hey, how was Oshkosh?
(‘ever notice how few people say AirVenture?)” This,
is, of course, impossible to answer. The question is
right up there with “So how are the Rocky Mountains?” although
some of the same adjectives apply: huge, unbelievable,
never seen anything like it, yada, yada, yada. Just like
you can’t get a true sense of the immenseness of
the Grand Canyon or the Rockies without being there,
same thing holds at Oshkosh. You ‘gotta be there
to understand it.
Oddly enough, even though I saw a Martin Mars off the
ground for the first time and a Bell P-39 for only the
second time in 48 trips to aero-mecca north, my favorites
were decidedly lower profile. The one that
sticks in my mind was a Pietenpol by Dan Helsper. Powered
by a modified Model A Ford engine it was “old school” personified.
Dan Helsper created a little chunk
of 1930 aeronostalgia with his Model "A" Ford powered
Pietenpol. It was exactly how they would have done it
back in the day. Hard not to love it! Photo: EAA: M.
Maybe part of the reason
I airplanes like Helsper's Pietenpol is that right down to
carving his own prop, it was totally created by the guy who
flew it in. There were some magnificent antique and homebuilt
airplanes on the grounds, each more perfect than the next,
but few of them were done entirely by the owners.
Four days after OSH I left for Minneapolis/St. Paul for
the wedding. That turned out to be almost as much fun
and as interesting as Oshkosh. Several things stand out
in no particular order. For one thing, no matter where
I turned, I found myself immersed in a digital world.
I don’t know how long it has been since I was in
the Minneapolis airport, but I was IMPRESSSED!! Damn!
You step out of the airplane and it’s as if you
just entered a gigantic restaurant in a massive shopping
mall. Where there are generally lines of uncomfortable,
nondescript seats, there were line after line of eating
counters with iPads permanently attached. The iPads were
not only computers that you could use at will but were
menus that were magically hooked up to a number of “kitchens” scattered
around. You selected what you wanted, paid for it via
credit card, and in a few minutes a young lady walks
up and hands it to you.
Then, when you transit the terminals to the baggage claim,
you realized you’ve covered a mile or two and never
left the aforementioned mall. Everything is new, shiny
and well laid out. The crowning miracle was that our
bags beat us to the carousel. I almost fell over! That
Then we hooked into Uber, yet another extension of new-millennium
digital service. We typed in our destination, a blue
dot gave our location, a computer somewhere found a driver
closest to us and soon we were on our way to the hotel
with a driver named Omar. He was Nigerian, an immigrant
and he filled us in on his whole journey: applied for
a visa while in Kenya, it was over five years before
he was granted a work visa. Then five years after that
he was allowed to apply for citizenship, which he did.
Now he teaches in an elementary school and drives for
Uber during the summer. That’s the way immigration
is supposed to work and he’s a solid addition to
our country. He wasn’t asking for any favors and
worked through the system on his own hook.
While all this was going on texts (which, four years
ago, I swore I’d never do but now live on) were
flying back and forth between family members.
Two images keep coming to mind of the stay in the rather
up-scale (for us) hotel: the first was the literally
hundreds of Zombie-like people, mobs actually, in the
park across the street spilling over into the thoroughfares
on all four sides. They were totally oblivious to everything
around them as they kept their noses to their phones
playing Pokemon Go. This is a game where they try to
capture or kill or something, little “things” their
phone projects on the screen in front of them and they
chase after it. It’s a national addiction but this
was the first time we saw it in action. It’s actually
a little disturbing to see everything from teens to middle-age
people literally giving their lives up to a game and
paying no attention to their surroundings. None!
The second image I thought unusual was that nowhere have
I seen so many tattoos. The hotel had lots of weddings
going on and we’d constantly be running into brides
and maids-of-honor in high-zoot dresses with tattoos
covering almost every bit of exposed flesh. I’m
not talking about seeing it occasionally, there were
full-sleeve tats on young men and women everywhere we
went. The scene was like a cross between a church social
The best part of the weekend, of course was family. Mine
is scattered around every bit of the US, border to border
in every direction, so it is seldom we get together.
This time it was very warm and wonderful. And something
both Marlene and I needed. I haven’t seen my two
sisters or their families for three years. Ditto just
about every other relative at the shindig, so there was
a lot of hugging and occasional tears. I got a lot of
quality time with each of them, which, as the years pile
up for all of us becomes increasingly important. It struck
me that even some of my nieces are technically senior
citizens. That, of course, mirrors back on me, letting
me know I too am building up mileage. Maybe that realization
is what made the weekend so special.
Life’s first get-togethers are built on births,
seeing a baby for the first time. Then it’s events
and graduations. Then weddings and anniversaries. Then
a few grandbaby things. Then, before you know it, it
all grinds to a halt at the final get-together that is
minus one member. Knowing that’s always hanging
out there, it behooves every one of us to spend as much
time as we can with those we love. And, if there are
problems between family members, they should be worked
out before we run out of time. It’s a cliché but,
clichés are clichés because of the truths
they contain. So, saying “life is short” may
well be the most underestimated cliché of all.
There’s always a last hug, so make them count. bd
July 16 - I'm Headed for Sanity
I'm going to miss doing a Thinking Out Loud for two weeks in a row, beginning
right now. I'm leaving the real world, politics and BS behind while I head up
to Oshkosh for my yearly innoculation against reality.
Although I'm leaving all this mess behind, I can't do so without
a couple of passing comments about the last week. There were
a couple of cop shootings, some terrorism in Europe and Donald
Trump, as the old novelists used to say, "...strode upon the
land." Yes, he made his mark, but not nearly as big a mark as
his kids did. What a family!!!
I wasn't prepared for his 38-year-old, oldest
son, Donald, Jr. What an incredibly polished, well thought-out
speaker. AND HE DIDN'T USE A TELEPROMPTER! All of his kids
fit the same mold and, regardless of what you may think of
The Donald and his style, one of the talking heads summed it
up nicely, when he said, "You can't fake good kids." Quality
shows and it has nothing to do with money or position.
The Donald himself spent an hour telling us everything
that was wrong (which was a helluva lot) and what he was going
to do to fix it. And everything he said was right. It's all
wrong for the reasons he outlined. And his fixes sounded doable.
However, there were so many things that need fixing and he
has so many self-induced projects on his plate that I don't
see how he can do even ten percent of them. However, even if
he only does that much, he'll be miles ahead of anyone else
who has held that position.
During the course of the week, between the convention and life
happening, it became increasingly clear what an awful train wreck
we're going to have if Billary gets into office. While The Donald
is an unknown quantity, his agressive "Succeeding is everything"
approach and attitude give me hope. Billary is NOT an unknown
quantity. Whether you vote for her or not is a direct function
of how you feel about where the country is going. If you like
what's happening, you'll love her, because she's going to plow
straight ahead not looking either direction.
One of the big differences between the two candidates, besides
just about everything, is that Trump has an almost overwhelming
love for the country that appears absolutely genuine. In fact,
he seems genuine in most ways. Brash and sometimes hard to take,
Every single thing Hillary does appears scripted.
And every word and every move is being delivered by a second
rate actor. Nothing about her appears genuine. Even if you
totally ignore her 30 years of scandals, even if you had no
idea who she is, she would come off as if she is being who
she has to be for that particular occasion. She's been a politician
for entirely too long and she no longer knows exactly who she
Much worse, I get absolutely no feeling of warmth or love of
country from her. She gives me the very clear feeling that
she is doing this because she wants the position, the power,
the recognition. She's not convincing me that she's doing it
because she wants to help set things right. In fact, she doesn't
seem to think there is anything wrong.
Ignore the importance
of the position she is seeking and try to picture her at the
head of a local PTA or Girl Scout troop. She would be one of
those know-it-all, better-than-thou leaders who make every
one in the room uncomfortable because of the obvious condescention.
She wouldn't be down in the dirt playing with the kids. I can,
however, easily see The Donald doing that.
It's easy to take cheap shots at her based on the scandals and
the obvious platform differences between the two parties. But,
I don't think that's necessary whether it is warranted or not.
The way I like to look at people is I try to imagine them suffering
a badly broken leg and needs a place to rest up for about
a month. Would I be comfortable having them in my home? In this
case, I'm positive I wouldn't be comforable because everything
about her just strikes me "wrong." I can't put my finger on it,
but there's something about her that tells me she's not who she
wants us to think she is. And that's just a little scary.
Damn, looks as if I wrote a blog after all. Sorry, didn't mean
to rant. bd
16 - Is This Our New Normal?
I refuse to believe that, as of today, the Orlando shootings
took place barely a month ago. The weeks since have been
so severely punctuated with escalating tragedies and
unbelievable news events that our lives are changing
daily and we’re watching it all happen in real
time on cell phone videos.
First, I have to blame another long delay producing Thinking
Out Loud on yet another sick computer. Turned out to
be a thoroughly dead monitor. So, it was around the 12th
of July before I was back on line and during the three
weeks that have elapsed since the last Thinking
it seems as if the US has lost its mind. The world too!
First: the Week of Corruption
When so much news happens so quickly, it’s easy
for the fast-changing news cycles to cause some events
to be forgotten much faster than they should be. For
instance, the best thing that has happened for Hillary
is that recent cop killings and terrorist events have
been so overwhelming that we’re already forgetting
the facts that led up to her skating on all aspects of
her e-mail scandal. This was something I predicted would
happen because the fix was in. I just didn’t think
the background intrigue would be so obvious.
Monday: 27 June (two weeks after
Orlando) Bill “casually” runs
Lemme see: she was heading for Colorado from the East
Coast but for some reason stopped in Phoenix, which is
about 600 miles due south of her destination. By sheer
coincidence Bill’s plane happened to be parked
on the ramp too. And their meeting was so casual they
asked everyone to leave the aircraft so, even though
it is standard protocol for all meetings involving the
Attorney General to be documented, this was not done. ‘Just
talked about grand kids and golf. Yeah right!
Saturday: 2 July (Fourth of July Weekend), Hillary is
interviewed by the FBI.
She was not under oath and no notes were taken. There
is zero record of what she was asked or what she said.
However, her comments were moot anyway because she wasn’t
under oath so she could lie and not be committing perjury.
Then, to make sure there was no trail to follow, all
agents signed a Non-Disclosure Agreement.
Tuesday: 5 July at 0900: Comey lets Hillary off the hook.
Somewhere in Washington there is a horse without a head:
that wound up on Comey’s bed. This all stinks to
high heaven! However, Comey’s findings, which he
clearly stated, contradicted everything Hillary had said
in public about the subject and will make great commercials
The net result of these kinds of blatant backroom dealings
is that we’ve apparently entered America’s
third-world-country phase: corruption is rampant and
will be accepted because we have no choice and even less
recourse. A sad, maddening step in our decline.
Then, the Week of Tragedy
In re-reading what follows, I realized that I had left
out some major events because there have been so many,
I can’t keep them all in my head. As you run through
the following paragraphs try to keep the dates in mind.
The rapidity with which things happened is amazing!
Tuesday: 28 June, Turkey Airport Bombing, 41 dead
Viewing it on TV, we have a tendency to look at terrorist
attacks like these as something that only happens “over
there”. The Orlando massacre has told us otherwise.
And then terrorism of another, closer-to-home flavor,
began to take root.
Monday: 5 July the same day that
Comey blessed Hillary,
Alton Sterling was shot and killed by cops in Baton Rouge.
Tuesday: 6 July, the next day, Philando Castile, is shot
by a cop in Minneapolis.
The investigations have yet to be concluded and the facts
are still a little fuzzy, but that didn’t stop
the racial flames being whipped into a fire storm by
the likes of Black Lives Matter. The news coverage of
the protests had radicalizing effects on unstable individuals
watching the coverage from the sidelines. There are those
out there who hear things like “What do we want?
Dead cops!” and, in their own sick minds, think
that’s a viable way of acting out their complaints.
Friday: 8 July: Three days later, Lakeem Scott, Bristol
TN began randomly shooting at white people, one dead,
Sunday: 10 July (five days after Alton Sterling was shot), Micah Johnson snipes five cops in Dallas and wounds many
others. The US goes into a frenzy of finger pointing.
In the background you have activists like Louis Farrakhan,
the leader of The Nation of Islam, urging guys like Johnson
on. Read what Farrakhan said just a few hours before
the Dallas shootings. http://www.theblaze.com/stories/2016/07/08/hours-before-officers-were-gunned-down-in-dallas-louis-farrakhan-posted-this-shocking-message-of-racism-and-violence/ . Chilling!
Since Farrakhan’s rhetoric, and that of so many
others, is clearly crafted to incite violence, I can’t
understand how he has gotten away with it for so long.
The First Amendment definitely does NOT cover that kind
of speech. He gave a speech in the ‘60’s
where I went to college and was shouting the same acid-filled
phrases and that was nearly 50 years ago. That’s
a lot of hate. And he’s made a lot of money from
Tuesday: 12 July, two bailiffs
killed. This was tied
to nothing but was just another bad event stuffed into
the sequence of other sad cop happenings.
Thursday: 14 July, more terror in France. As I began
writing this, the toll from the terrorist-driven truck
in France was still climbing. It was 84 at last count
with 52 on life support and a couple dozen critical.
The President commented on it without pushing for gun
control (sorry, ‘couldn’t
Friday: 15 July, the coup in Turkey is still taking place
with no obvious conclusions in sight.
UP DATE ON COUP: It appears to have failed and commentators are
saying a large reason why is because Ogedon had purged the top
military ranks of any who weren't in lock step with him. Sound
net-net of this is that Turkey (the single most important country
in the region and formerly a strong US ally) which has been
prevented from becoming another hostile Islamic state will now
continue its slide to becoming another Iran. Word is that he
has cut power to our Air Base there and prevented any in or out
traffic. Essentially, he is holding the base hostage and declared
war against any who support or harbor Imam Gulen, whom he says
was behind the coup. Gulen now resides in exile in Pennsylvania
and Turkey is demanding extradition. The following link is worth
I don't many of us on
this side of the pond realize the importance of Turkey and
what the failure of the coup means to the world.
Sunday 17 July - OMG!! AS I WAS TYPING THE ABOVE, THE NEWS
JUST CAME IN THAT AT LEAST 3 COPS HAVE BEEN KILLED!! - Baton
We're in a state of war!
All of this has taken place in less than three weeks!
The world, as a whole, has gone flat out nuts! Worse
than that, here in the US we now appear to have a two-tier
terrorist threat developing: radical Islamist/Jihadists
and cop-killers. And I see absolutely no way to
stop either because they are, for the most part, single
individuals who themselves are psychological soft targets:
they are sick in the head and easily influenced
by inflammatory rhetoric. How do you root out some guy
who is sitting in his bedroom watching ISIS videos or
hyper-dramatic news coverage of events that play to their
mental disabilities? You can’t. And these kinds of individuals
are not necessarily of any specific religion, sex or race.
Mental instability is universal and easy to tilt in a bad direction.
I just hope this isn't an organized effort. That will change
the equation entirely. Also, I’m
afraid the French terror truck has set an example for copy
cats everywhere making mass murder easy. About all we can do
is be aware of our surroundings and be ready to act immediately.
I’m afraid we may be turning the corner into
a new normal. bd
June 16 - Too Much News!
This week an absolute glut of news meant that too many
little happenings were overshadowed by big ones. So,
going to mention a few that should have gotten more attention
than they did and comment on big ones that got more attention
than deserved (In my opinion).
And Then There Was One
One of the more important events that happened with little
or no fanfare was the passing of Staff Sgt. David Thatcher,
94, of Missoula, MT. We are losing WWII vets at a frightening
rate but the loses are generally judged against the total
population of vets, not against a small, limited population.
When Thatcher died, that left exactly one of his fellow
Doolittle Raiders, Lt. Col. Richard “Dick” Cole,
100, to represent the 80 volunteers who, not even five
months after Pearl Harbor, did the impossible: against
overwhelming odds they let Japan know they were not as
invincible as they thought they were. The boost to US
morale was incalculable. Thatcher was engineer-gunner
aboard Captain Ted Lawson’s airplane, the famous “Ruptured
Duck.” Their story was told in Lawson’s book, “Thirty
Seconds Over Tokyo”, and later made into a movie.
Surviving Raider, Dick Cole, was Doolittle’s co-pilot.
All of the other supposedly momentous happenings of the
past week pale beside Thatcher’s passing and what
it says about the warrior generation that is disappearing
before our eyes.
The Supreme Court Versus the President
For the umpteenth time, SCOTUS told POTUS, “No,
that’s not within your power to do.” This
time it was when they struck down his attempt to essentially
legalize 5 million illegal aliens. That was a major loss
to him and a major win for the Constitution. The President
only has the powers which are given him by Congress in
such situations and they didn’t.
What hasn’t been discussed much, however, is that
a Congressional okay for limiting immigration does exist
in Section 212(f) of the Immigration and Naturalization
The act specifically says that, if a given segment of
immigrants/aliens poses a perceived threat to the US,
the President can keep all aliens from a given region
or with particular traits out with the stroke of a pen.
That might come in handy. To read more: http://dailycaller.com/2015/12/08/host-obama-has-legal-power-to-suspend-muslim-immigration-if-he-wanted-to-video/#ixzz4Cba2X4hG
This Seems Like a Really Bad Idea
Apparently the Administration is getting ready to shift
control over parts of the Internet to an international
concern in which entities like Russia and China are major
players. Go here for details. http://www.theblaze.com/stories/2016/06/24/cruz-obama-proposal-puts-internet-freedom-in-hands-of-russia-china/?utm_source=Sailthru&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Firewire%20-%20HORIZON%206-25-16%20FINAL&utm_term=Firewire
Let me get this straight: Britain was a major world player
as a sovereign nation for hundreds of years before joining
the European Union in 1973. However, her dropping out
to again function as a sovereign nation means the sky
is falling around the world. I’m certain I’m
missing some of the finer points here but it appears
to me that, after the initial shock wears off and all
of the entanglements with the EU are sorted out, that
things will return to pre-EU normal.
To me, the entire concept of the EU, in which an external,
non-elected central governing agency can tell all of
the member nations how to run their internal affairs
is total BS. Who wants to give control of their country
over to vague, mostly invisible “managers” who
have no connection to that country. If for no other reason
than immigration, Britain needs to re-establish its borders
to get the invasion that’s in progress under control.
This is true for all EU members, all of which are suffering
horribly under the borderless, free immigration policies
of the EU.
Gun Control Sit In – No Fly,
No Buy and Due Process
When was the last time anyone saw the ACLU on the same
side as the NRA? Like NEVER! But, that’s the case
with the Congressional Sit-in. In what amounts to a petulant
display of naiveté, members of Congress are sitting
around thinking they’re carrying on Dr. King’s
non-violent form of protest but aren’t even coming
close. This is really silly!
First, let me say that with certain modification I’d
agree that if a person is on a No Fly List or a Terror
Watch List, they shouldn’t be allowed to purchase
a weapon. The modification would include making sure
the individual involved has due process available to
him/her just as it is everywhere else in our law.
There is no due process connected with the lists. Which
is unconstitutional under a number of Amendments. As
those lists are now set up, an individual has limited
recourse, should they find themselves on the list, and
can’t even determine why they are on the list or
who put them there. They won’t know the name of
their accuser. Thousands of absolutely “normal” people
have found themselves on those lists and then find that
getting off of the list is damn difficult. Even worse,
they aren’t notified when they’re put on
the list. It pops up when they try to fly so they are
stranded at an airport with no way to solve the situation.
Those sitting on the floor of Congress are pushing a
concept that I don’t think they totally understand.
Or, more likely, they don’t care. They just want
guns kept out of people’s hands and the unintended
consequences be damned.
This all needs more thought given to it before an elected
official, all of whom supposedly deserve a certain amount
of respect because of their position, makes a fool of
themselves by camping on the Chamber’s floor.
Declaration of Independence
July Fourth, Independence Day, is just around the corner
and I’m giving you a reading assignment in preparation
for it. When was the last time you actually read the
Declaration that the Fourth celebrates? If you’re
like most of us, it might have been in high school. Or
possibly never. We just know it exists. I hadn’t
read the Declaration of Independence since a kid but
did earlier this week and it was something of a shock.
It is impossible to read it in this day and age and not
put major portions of it in the context of modern times
rather than colonial times. Read it: it’s where
we came from and holds some truths about where we’re
Did anyone notice I got all the way through this without
mentioning Trump? Or Hillary? Refreshing, isn’t
June 16 - Orlando, ARs, Trump and our Future
A week ago today, unknown to me as I was writing
Thinking Out Loud about aging airplanes, an
incredible tragedy had happened in Orlando. I thought
about writing about it but decided to give it a week
to percolate to see where it went. And it is the Post-Orlando
happenings that have me scared.
Tomorrow, 8 days after the events in Orlando, only a
few days after the identities of all 49 deaths were known,
the Senate is voting on banning AR-15’s. When was
the last time the Senate did anything that fast? ANYTHING?
That kind of knee-jerk speed seems to typifies things
It is no exaggeration to say that all of those bodies
hadn’t cooled to room temperature before the predicable
sources started screaming for gun control. Much, much
worse, they started pointing fingers at political entities
who were said to have caused it with their Republican
rhetoric and not a word was said about those who lost
their lives. Or their families, loved ones, and friends.
By Sunday night every possible news or opinion outlet
had thoroughly trounced the Right and totally ignored
the magnitude of the loss or the ISIS-linking words and
texts sent out by the shooter. With his own words connecting
him to Islamic radicalism, the Left was saying he was
something he was not: a disenfranchised, mentally unstable,
homophobic who should not have had a gun and it all somehow
traces back to the Right. They are wrong. No one is to
blame here except radical Islam.
First, I agree, he shouldn’t have had those guns.
Especially after having been under suspicion by the FBI
(TWICE!). To get the handgun, he had to pass an FBI background
check but apparently the FBI background checks don’t
interface with FBI Investigation data. Yes, I know they
investigated him and found nothing wrong, BUT, they wouldn’t
have been investigating him, if something wasn’t
wonky enough to worry about arming him.
As much as I hate to admit it, I think background checks
do need to be somehow cleaned up, but that’s a
very slippery slope. Who for instance who decides someone
is mentally incompetent? What is the definition of “security
risk” and who defines the definition? Inasmuch
as lots of normal people mistakenly wind up on no-fly
lists and getting off the list can be a pain in the butt,
is that a viable barrier to gun ownership? Initially,
I’d say yes, but….
First, before addressing the whole AR-15 thing (incidentally,
he apparently didn’t use an AR. Reportedly it was
a Sig Sauer, much more expensive and functions differently
but has the same look) I should point out that I personally
own no ARs. I don’t like them. Just not my kind
of weapon, although I do own some semi-automatic battle
rifles. However, I guarantee that what is likely to come
out of the whole the-gun-is-the-problem thought pattern
are rules that pretty much parallel what California already
has in place. The focus will be on semi-automatic weapons
that feature detachable, box type magazines, which obviously
can be expanded to any capacity. This effects a huge
number of rifles and even makes the lowly Ruger 1022
.22 an “assault rifle.” The facts attached
to the ‘90’s assault rifle ban show no decrease
in crime, but when knee jerk political reactions are
in play, when do facts matter?
The net result of draconian gun laws will be turning
totally law abiding citizens into criminals because many,
probably a majority, won’t obey the law. Look at
Connecticut which totally banned ARs. Reportedly approximately
10% to 20% of the total thought to be in the state were
turned in, sold or accounted for. So, a large cadre of
citizens became criminals rather than comply. There are
reportedly five million (!) ARs in the country. That’s
about 1.5 for every 100 citizens (man, woman and child)
or about one for every seven males between the ages
of 20 and 75. That’s impressive as hell!
Howard Stern, who has never been thought of as a paragon
of Conservative thinking said, “So your response
to them using a gun to kill us is to take away our guns.” There’s
some inescapable logic there that leads a discussion
of the concept of Gun Free Zones. Go back and look at
all of the mass shootings over the last few years and
you’ll find that nearly all of them were in gun
free zones. And why wouldn’t they be? If you’re
a bad guy looking to cause deaths, you don’t want
any competition. Even Florida, which has pretty decent
and logical gun laws says that CCWs can’t carry
in a place that serves alcohol. Which is logical on the
surface. However, AZ lets CCWs carry in bars but they
drink and there have been no reports of problems. Approximately
3% of the total population of AZ has a CCW. If that same
percentage holds true in Florida, there could have been
at least nine people in the Orlando crowd that could
have offered resistance to the shooter had it not been
a gun free zone.
Gun Free Zones, along with all other gun control measures,
are obeyed only by lawful citizens. Outlaws, nut cases
and terrorists of all stripes not only ignore them, but
champion them. Gun laws make it easier for bad guys to
accomplish their evil deeds.
As for the concept of Radical Islamic Jihads and immigration:
it’s really sad when you see the recommendations
of leading law enforcement officers of the country (FBI,
CIA, DHS, etc.) being totally ignored by the Administration.
The experts have stated categorically that any refugee
population is impossible to vet and will absolutely include
a percentage of ISIS plants. ISIS has even said as much.
What else do you need to know?
We’re going to have our hands full just with radicalized
American citizens, like the Orlando shooter, without
importing more terrorists who are trained for the purpose.
For that reason, it is nothing short of amazing to see
politicians point out Trump as being a racist because
he’s proposing a temporary hold on accepting refugees
from terrorist nations until we get our processes in
place. Like he says, “Let’s wait until we
know what the hell we’re doing.” A totally
logical thought pattern that has caused him to catch
an incredible amount of grief. Trump was not my first
choice and I really wish he would talk less than he does,
but there is so much logic in an immigration/refugee
moratorium. Why are “they” resisting it?
It doesn’t take much imagination to see where we
are headed: we are joining the rest of the world in which
terrorist attacks are just a fact of life because we're
importing them, our borders don't exist, and the Internet
knows no obstacles. Whether we want to or not, we're
going to have to develop a certain amount of “wild
and conduct our lives accordingly. The Boy Scouts were
right when they adapted “Be Prepared” as
their motto. We should do the same. bd
- Airplanes Can Make us Feel Old
I’m about to make everyone reading this feel old.
Some more than others. This is because I just put together
an issue of Flight Journal and part of it is a salute
to the aircraft and pilots who presently make up our
Armed Forces. Finished, I suddenly realized how so much
stuff I think of as new definitely isn’t. So, neither
First, before I give you the answers, I want every av-guy
to guess (no cheating and looking them up) how old the
aircraft on the list below of current USAF/USN combat
aircraft are. Grab a pencil and scribble them down. I’m
doing them alphabetically, not by age.
-A-10 Thunderbolt II
-F-16 Viper (or Falcon, your call)
If you’re even remotely like the rest of us, you’ll
get in the right decade on one or two (B-52 probably)
but that’s about as close as you’ll get.
Because of Flight Journal, I spend a large portion of
every day messing around with aircraft history and, when
I compiled the foregoing list, I wasn’t even close
on anything but the Buff (B-52). And I suddenly felt
very old because aircraft I have always thought of as
being new, or at least newish, aren’t.
Here are the ages since their first flight.
-A-10 Thunderbolt II – 44 years
-B-1 Lancer – 42 years
-B-2 Spirit – 27 years (that’s un-frigging
-B-52 Stratofort – 64 years (every crew member
is now younger than their airplane and they expect at
least another 20 years out of it!!)
-F-15 Eagle – 44 years (I wasn’t even close!)
-F-16 Viper (or Falcon, your call) – 42 years (Ditto)
-F-18 Hornet -38 years (super Hornet is 21 years)
-F-22 Raptor – This will kill you – 19 years!!
(How can that possibly be?!)
I don’t know about you, but I find some of those
numbers, especially the newer aircraft, to be almost
outlandish. The F-15 at 44 years?! Damn! And it’s
still one of the very best. An F-16 at 42! The Hornet
is such a new kid how can it be approaching middle age
at 38 years? And I remember so clearly the awe-inspiring
photos of the prototype F-22. Man, that was the razor
edge of technology. I had no idea that was nearly 20
years ago. Double Damn!!
Think how many leading edge airplanes have come and gone
in the meantime. I thought the F-117 Nighthawk had so
much Star Wars technology in it that it would last forever.
It was another of Lockheed’s super-secret projects
that didn’t surface until actually operational.
It has been gone for eight years (It lived 27 years).
The F-111 Ardvaark was supposed to be all things to all
services. It lasted 30 years but didn’t make much
of a mark. Almost none of the Vietnam era designs are
still in inventory.
Incidentally, the development period on almost every
airplane listed ran 2-4 years from inception to first
flight and another 2-4 years before going into service.
The F-35 was more than a decade getting to its first
flight in late 2006. Nine years later, although “they” say
it’s operational, they also say it’ll be
another two years before it can fire its guns because
of software problems. Every month news comes out about
this or that software or hardware problem is keeping
it out of combat zones. It’s also by any measure,
the most expensive aircraft acquisition the US has ever
experienced. And it doesn’t work!
Then there’s the hyper old -52 that is still the
answer to serious bombing and the F-15 and F-16 that
still carry on the dual roles of ground attack and air
superiority. Same thing for the Hornet. The A-10, of
course, may be ugly, but it’s the hammer that consistently
hits the ground support role nail right on the head.
And “they” say the F-35, which, according
to Warisboring.com, costs between $148 and $337 million
(USN F-35C) is going to take over the role of the old
A-10 Hawg. What are “they” smoking?! Besides
the fact that the F-35 doesn’t work and isn’t
going to work anytime in the near future, it would be
cheaper to drop huge bails of hundred dollar bills on
the bad guys with dating service 800 phone numbers attached.
Try to introduce them to the concept of luxurious living
and take them out of the fight rather than risk a single
rifle bullet punching a hole in an onboard computer and
downing the government’s
shiniest new toy (and its pilot).
So, now that I have successfully depressed myself, I’m
going to go bang on The Roadster and put a little logic
back into my life. bd
May 16 - The Future is Now
Lately I’ve been feeling a little overwhelmed by
the overall progression of everything. Be it time, age,
deadlines, etc. But, the blinding acceleration of technology
is especially overwhelming and, even though I’m
as tech-savvy as most gray dogs ever get, it is threatening
my peace of mind. It appears, however, that I’m
not alone in that.
What follows is not mine. It has been circulating around
the Internet for the last couple of weeks and does an
excellent job of summarizing the overall effect of technological
advance. It’s longer than the usual Thinking
Out Loud, but I think it is all necessary. Unfortunately,
it’s just a little scary. Especially for coming
I’d like to credit this to someone, but have not
been able to track down the author. However, I’m
familiar with many of his points, so I know most of it
is valid. If anyone knows where this came from, let me
know so I can attribute it.
In 1998, Kodak had 170,000 employees and sold 85% of
all photo paper worldwide. Within just a few years, their
business model disappeared and they went bankrupt.
What happened to Kodak will happen in a lot of industries
in the next ten years - and most people don't see it
coming. Did you think in 1998 that three years later
you would never take pictures on paper film again?
Digital cameras were invented in 1975. The first ones
only had 10,000 pixels, but the digital concept followed
Moore's Law that basically says that data density in
computer stuff will double every 18 months. So, as with
all exponential technologies, the digital camera was
a disappointment for a long time, before it became far
superior and became mainstream in only a few short years.
The same thing is now happening with Artificial Intelligence,
health, autonomous and electric cars, education, 3D printing,
agriculture and jobs, and everything that involves any
kind of technology. Welcome to the Fourth Industrial
Revolution. Welcome to the Exponential Age.
Software will disrupt most traditional industries in
the next 5-10 years.
For instance, Uber is just a software tool, they don't
own any cars, and are now the biggest taxi company in
the world. Airbnb is now the biggest hotel company in
the world, although they don't own any properties.
Artificial Intelligence: Computers are becoming exponentially
better in understanding the world. This year, a computer
beat the best Go player in the world, 10 years earlier
than expected. In the US, young lawyers already have
problems getting jobs. Because of IBM Watson, you can
get legal advice (so far for more-or-less basic stuff)
within seconds, with 90% accuracy compared with 70% accuracy
when done by humans. So if you study law, stop immediately.
There will be 90% fewer lawyers in the future, only specialists
will remain. Watson already allows nurses to diagnose
cancer, four times more accurate than human nurses. Facebook
now has a pattern recognition software that can recognize
faces better than humans. In 2030, computers will become
more intelligent than humans.
Autonomous cars: In 2018 the first self-driving cars
will appear for the public. Around 2020, the complete
industry will start to be disrupted. You don't want to
own a car anymore. You will call a car with your phone,
it will show up at your location and drive you to your
destination. You will not need to park it, you only pay
for the driven distance and can be productive while driving.
Our kids will never get a driver's license and will never
own a car. It will change the cities, because we will
need 90-95% fewer cars for that. We can transform former
parking space into parks. 1.2 million people die each
year in car accidents worldwide. We now have one accident
every 100,000 km, with autonomous driving that will drop
to one accident in 10 million km. That will save a million
lives each year. (BD NOTE: I think this will only
apply to large cities.)
Some car companies might go bankrupt. Traditional car
companies will try the evolutionary approach and just
build a better car, while tech companies (Tesla, Apple,
Google) will do the revolutionary approach and build
a computer on wheels. I spoke to a lot of engineers from
Volkswagen and Audi; they are completely terrified of
Insurance companies will have massive trouble because
without accidents, the insurance will become 100x cheaper.
Their car insurance business model will disappear.
Real estate will change, because, if you can work while
you commute, people will move further away to live in
a more beautiful neighborhood.
Electric cars will become mainstream by 2020. Cities
will be less noisy because all cars will be electric. (BD doubts that)
Electricity will become incredibly cheap and clean: Solar
production has been on an exponential curve for 30 years,
but you can only now begin to see see the impact. Last
year, more solar energy was installed worldwide than
fossil. The price for solar will drop so much that all
coal companies will be out of business by 2025. (BD:
optimistic time frame?)
With cheap electricity comes cheap and abundant water.
Desalination now only needs 2kWh per cubic meter. We
don't have scarce water in most places, we only have
scarce drinking water. Imagine what will be possible
if anyone can have as much clean water as he wants, for
nearly no cost.
Health: The Tricorder X price will be
announced this year. There will be companies who will
build a medical device (called the "Tricorder" from
Star Trek) that works with your phone, which takes your
retina scan, your blood sample and you breath into it.
It then analyses 54 biomarkers that will identify nearly
any disease. It will be cheap, so in a few years everyone
on this planet will have access to world class medicine,
nearly for free.
3D printing: The price of the cheapest
3D printer came down from $18,000 to $400 within 10 years.
In the same time, it became 100 times faster. All major
shoe companies started 3D printing shoes. Spare airplane
parts are already 3D printed in remote airports. The
space station now has a printer that eliminates the need
for the large amount of spare parts they used to have
in the past.
At the end of this year, new smart phones will have 3D
scanning possibilities. You can then 3D scan your feet
and print your perfect shoe at home. In China, they already
3D printed a complete 6-story office building. By 2027,
10% of everything that's being produced will be 3D printed. (BD: he has underestimated here. 3D is already making
major metal components like five-foot pipeline valves).
Business opportunities: If you think
of a niche you want to go in, ask yourself: "In the future, do you think
we will have that?" and if the answer is yes, how
can you make that happen sooner? If it doesn't work with
your phone, forget the idea. And any idea designed for
success in the 20th century is doomed to failure in the
Work: 70-80% of jobs will disappear
in the next 20 years. There will be a lot of new jobs,
but it is not clear if there will be enough new jobs
in such a small time. (BD: in other words unemployment is going to be
Agriculture: There will be a $100 agricultural
robot in the future. Farmers in 3rd world countries can
then become managers of their field instead of working
all day on their fields. Aeroponics will need much less
water. The first Petri dish-produced veal is now available
and will be cheaper than cow produced veal in 2018. Right
now, 30% of all agricultural surfaces is used for cows.
Imagine if we don't need that space anymore. There are
several startups who will bring insect protein to the
market shortly. It contains more protein than meat. It
will be labeled as "alternative protein source" (because
most people still reject the idea of eating insects).
There is an app called "moodies" which can
already tell in which mood you are in. By 2020 there
will be apps that can tell by your facial expressions
if you are lying. Imagine a political debate where its
results are being displayed when the candidates are talking.
Bitcoin will become mainstream this year and might even
become the default reserve currency.
Longevity: Right now, the average life
span increases by 3 months per year. Four years ago,
the life span used to be 79 years, now it's 80 years.
The increase itself is increasing and by 2036, there
will be more than one-year increase per year. So we all
might live for a long long time, probably way more than
100. (BD: with our
current limited medical and social services, a slow die-off
would be a disaster).
Education: The cheapest smart phones
are already at $10 in Africa and Asia. By 2020, 70% of
all humans will own a smart phone. That means, everyone
has the same access to world class education. Every child
can use Khan Academy for everything a child learns at
school in First World countries. We have already released
our software in Indonesia and will release it in Arabic,
Swahili and Chinese this summer, because I see an enormous
potential. We will give the English app for free, so
that children in Africa can become fluent in English
within half a year.
For more info about the future see: http://thefutureishere.economist.com/
So, what’s the takeaway from all of this? I read
it as the following: While there are bound to be tons
of as-yet-unidentified jobs, if you seriously want your
kids to have a job in the future, tell them to become
a plumber or something similar. Many trade skills will
never be automated and will always generate good income.
Plus, you don’t
have to wear a tie to work! bd
May 16 - Rambling: Life and the Art of Luck
Yesterday I had a really interesting and fun lunch with
a couple of guys who were part of making history. One
retired as a Rear Admiral the other as a USN Captain
and both were fighter pilots beginning in 1963 right
through Vietnam and all of the major fracases for the
next 25 years. One lead the Blue Angels (among other
things), the other was a test pilot and CO at Top Gun,
and they covered everything in between.
Since they’d both known each other since flight
training, they flew formation on each other’s comments
weaving an excited, non-stop peek into a community that
the rest of us can only view from afar.
It’s a fact, that just like none of us will ever
have meaningful conversations with a vet who has experienced
hard combat, if you’ve never been a fighter pilot,
you can’t actually be part of their conversations
either. They lived in a world we can’t truly understand,
no matter how many times we watch Maverick and Goose
play the roles. And a major part of their souls still
lives in that world, regardless of how many years may
have elapsed since their last military flight. Just as
there is no such thing as an ex-Marine, a fighter pilot
will be a fighter pilot until the first shovel full of
dirt hits him in the face. And I’m jealous!
Right out of high school, I had a USN college scholarship
(I was a USMC option heading for flight training), but
lost it because I’m color blind. This essentially
took me out of any military flying program. The only
one open would have been as a Warrant Officer flying
choppers, but by this time it was 1965 and it was obvious
this wouldn’t have been what I wanted in terms
of flying. Since that time, I’ve been fortunate
enough to have lived a dream life, when it comes to aviation,
so I don’t actually regret not living out my fighter
pilot fantasies, even though they had been a dream since
a toddler. Still, there are times when I think it would
have been soul-satisfying to be part of that community.
However, as I see how I developed both as a pilot and
as an individual, I wouldn’t have faired well in
I most definitely don’t see myself as an individualist,
rugged or otherwise. However, looking back at my track
record during the last nearly half a century (W-2 income
for only two years), it’s obvious I don’t
function well within the restrictions of an organized
existence. I don’t totally understand why and can’t
explain it any more concisely than that. It’s not
that I don’t play well with others. I do. But,
somehow I feel better doing my own thing. Which is both
limiting as well as totally open ended. It means zero
security while at the same time offers unlimited opportunity
to expand at your own rate. And I know I’m not
alone in this thought pattern. A lot of folks, without
consciously thinking about it, feel the same way. Among
other things, this is what gives rise to small businesses.
I’ve probably talked about this before, but I would
love to see a study done on self-employed people to see
how many were raised in households where the parents
were also self-employed. That was the way I was brought
up and none of the four Davisson kids went out and got
jobs. They all did their own thing. Why?
I theorize that, when your adolescence is built around
seeing mom and dad working for themselves, several basic
concepts alter your view of life. The most important
one is the concept of “security.” Our view
of security isn’t built around a job guaranteeing
an income. In our view, security hinges on our ability
and willingness to hustle our butts off because we know
the next dollar is going to come in the door only if
we get out there and look for it. There is no such thing
as “free” time. Especially, if you’re
doing “piece work,” e.g. a carpenter, electrician,
etc. A free-lance anything means, if you’re not
working, you’re not making money. So, you’re
very jealous of your time.
The risk of failure, when working for yourself, is high
and is always dogging you. You know that risk can only
be mitigated by hustle. However, when you’re brought
up in that environment, this is the norm. The concept
of a regular paycheck is the anomaly. And this is the
basis for those who start any business, large or small.
The foregoing is why our President pissed off so many
people last week, when he made such a big deal out of
the role luck plays in successful business enterprises.
His tone (“…this is one of my pet peeves.”)
clearly said that if it hadn’t been for luck, none
of you would have succeeded. None of you. In truth, to
a certain extent, he is right. But, there is luck and
then there is luck.
So much of life is built around being at the right place
at the right time, but this ignores some basic facts.
Most important of those is that you can easily be in
the right place at the right time (luck), but, if you
don’t have the right skills, the right attitude,
the right product, the right amount of hustle, that opportunity
is going to sail right past you because you weren’t
capable of capitalizing on it.
To very large extent, we manufacture our own luck by
developing our skills and expanding our capabilities
so we are always ready to take advantage of the right
opportunity, when we stumble across it. Or, more likely,
when we look at a market, we realize what it needs, and
configure our skills to supply that need at a profit.
Whether we’re a one-man show, like I am, or a gigantic
corporation, the basic concepts are always the same and
they always carry the same risk of failure: read a market
and supply a need. Or, in the rare cases like Steve Jobs,
Bill Gates, etc, through a flash of genius, coupled with
unreal hustle and market savvy, create your own market
Whatever it is that spurs people to strike out on their
own and create their own luck, we owe many aspects of
the life we live to them and their willingness to take
on risk. And that, Mr. President, is what successful
business are based on. bd
- It's Trump, Deal With it!
This past week has been borderline silly: you can’t
turn on TV, talk to a friend, or walk down the street
without hearing Trump being bandied about. Some act as
if any minute the Earth is going to open up and swallow
us all. I’ve never seen this much panic in so many
flavors, from so many people I’ve respected in
such a short time. If it weren’t so serious, it
would be hilarious.
I want to get out of here and finish fabricating the
windshield wiper mount for The Roadster (a man has to
have his priorities), so what follows is just a random
collection of observations on the silliness. Then I’m
going to give/direct you to some analysis from a couple
of good sources that give different views on the subject. Also,
just for the record, I would have preferred Cruz, but
it's not, so I'm behind Trump, as all Conservatives should
be because, if nothing else, he's not Hillary.
More than anything else, I think everyone concerned needs
to stand back and give the situation time to breathe
and settle down. Right now, we have absolutely zero idea
what Trump is going to do during the campaign and how
he is going to mature. Or not. He’s unpredictable
and that may be his most valuable asset as a President.
In addition, the fact that the RNC hates his guts is
a plus. We need something new and we wouldn’t get
it if the RNC had its
Incidentally, where do people like Speaker-of-the-House
Ryan, get off saying they can't support Trump? What they are
saying is that "We don't care what the voters want, we don't
agree with them." If that's not the definition of "Political
Elite" I don't know what is. The insiders have drifted so far
from doing what they were elected for that the entire election
process means nothing, which seems to be the DC way these days.
Hearing Obama and Clinton both swear they are going to get
rid of guns, for instance, is them perverting the Republic
to a monarchy. It's not their job to
make laws or interpret the Constitution. It's their job to
As far as Trump goes, Burt Rutan, clearly the world’s
most innovative aircraft designer, ALWAYS starts with a clean
sheet of paper when he approaches a problem. Rather than coming
at it in an evolutionary, what-did-we-do-before, manner,
he looks at the facts and the goals and works out ways
to make them fit. Coming out of a business background,
I’m thinking Trump will do a similar thing and,
like Burt, he’ll surround himself with the best
and brightest, rather than those who are clones of himself.
He’s going to “captain" a
team, not “be” the team, which has been Washington's ’s
trademark. That’s a business-like approach and
it’s about time we run the government in a business-like
manner rather than as a political fiefdom.
And speaking of Burt, what follows is an e-mail he forwarded
that came from Brent Regan, whom he considers to be one
of the smartest people he knows. Coming from Burt Rutan,
clearly one of the, if not THE, smartest person I’ve
ever met, that is high praise. I’m pasting the
e-mail below. Then, below that you’ll see a link
to one of the better, new perspectives I’ve read.
Brent Regan wrote:
Friends keep asking my thoughts about Trump. Here they
I like Ted Cruz, and I also like Trump, but for completely
different reasons. In my experience, as a manager, I
have found that if you look for a person’s talents
and then find a way to apply them, then success will
be close at hand. Cruz and Trump have completely different
skill sets but they are both very good at what they do.
I had arrived at the conclusion that Trump would win
the nomination back in December because I could see Trump’s
skill set and how he was applying it to the task. My
experience in business allowed me to recognize Trump’s
marketing and negotiation techniques, which caused me
to read “The Art of the Deal” and conclude
that Trump was approaching the problem in a way that
is never (rarely) done in politics. As a consequence,
his opponents have no effective defense. His victory
was assured before the battle was fought. Very Sun Tzu!
I told my close friends that Cruz was who I wanted to
win but Trump was who I thought would win based on a
reasoned analysis of the situation. First you must understand
that, as Scott Adams points out, reason is what we think
we use to make decisions but emotion is what we actually
use most of the time.
Now, here is where I make some people angry: if you are
in the “never Trump” camp you have made that
decision based on emotion and not reason. You may wrap
it in “reason” and call it “principled” but
what you are saying is that your mind is made up and
there is NOTHING, no new information, which would cause
you to reconsider. This is, by definition, irrational,
which is the inability to make a rational choice based
on all information. It is especially egregious when you
consider that the information you DO have is deeply flawed
and incomplete: it has been carefully filtered by the
media for optimal shock value.
If you watched a modern interpretative dance without
music or sound, you may well conclude the dancer was
having some kind of seizure and perhaps suffering some
pain or disease to cause such unnatural motions. The
truth would be hidden because you lacked all the information.
Because Trump was being viewed through a distorted political “lens” HIS
actions were equally incomprehensible. In the struggle
to explain the situation, many offered ridiculous comparisons;
He is Hitler, he is working for Hillary, he’s a
bigot, and he hates women, on and on. This was fueled
by the media that feeds on controversy, while Trump used
this need to serve his own purposes. He OWNED Fox news.
Even Meghan Kelly got a Trump haircut.
Hillary doesn’t stand a chance against Trump because
Trump will hollow out all the moderate democrats and
men. It isn’t going to be pretty to us conservatives
but there is a big blue pile of democrat electoral votes
and Trump is going after them so gird your loins, it’s
going to be a tough ride.
The good news is that Trump is the asteroid that we need
to kill the political dinosaurs and the smart, successful,
productive conservatives will be able to fill the void.
It is a long game but it has a happy ending.
A Cruz victory would be a happy beginning but the consequences
of eight years of BO would ultimately come crashing down
on “THE CONSERVATIVE”, forever stigmatizing
conservativism as the thing we were doing when the crash
happened. I cannot imagine the media, the liberals and
the establishment not scapegoating conservatives. Better
to have Trump in the breach when the wave hits.
Will Trump make a good president? It’s impossible
to say with certainty. I do think it is highly likely
that a Hillary or Bernie presidency would be VERY bad
for our prosperity. Therefore, I’ll take my chances
with the successful billionaire who is the product of
using persuasion in the free market rather that a socialist
who uses the lethal force of government and the power
of the mob to coerce the people.
Finally, stop heaping all your expectations in one spot.
Government is the product of our culture, not the other
way around. A president can’t change the morality
of a nation, nor should he. Our Republican government
requires a moral people and THAT starts with you and
me. We don’t get to offload that responsibility
to some guy living in a white house.
Of course I could be wrong and, with new information,
I could change my views.
Nicely said, Brent.
Now, click on the below for an unexpected point of view.
Will vs Edmund Burke
April 16 - Sometimes Sleep Ain't Easy
This probably falls into the category of TMI: Too Much
Information. But, I accidentally slept eight hours last
night, I feel like crap and I feel like doing a little
good natured bitching. Sorry!
First, the whole concept of eight hours of sleep being
healthy was invented by someone with a different body
clock than mine. I can’t do it. At six to six and
a half hours, my body clock goes off and I can’t
stay asleep no matter what. This morning I tried. And
it didn’t work. In fact, all it gave me was two
more not-quite-asleep, dozy hours punctuated with crazy
dreams and a lot of time to reflect on sleep itself and
the many details that often constitutes sleep. I doubt
if my sleep is much different than anyone else’s.
It’s just that I had two hours to reflect
on it while in the throes of a worthless sort-of-sleep
and it pissed me off so I want to vent.
It used to be sleep was easy. Lay down, close your eyes,
open them and its time to start another day, all perky
and ready to face the world. Actually, I think I just
lied—I don’t think I ever slept eight hours.
The only thing in my sleep patterns that has changed
over my life is that, when I moved to AZ and was running
a manufacturing facility that started work at 0530, I
purposely reset my body clock to be on deck at 0500.
This was a big deal because it goes against my natural
I once read a study that said we all have two energy
peaks during the day (this is a little like bio-rhythms)
during which we’re sharper and better at doing
what we do. This is what determines whether we’re
morning or night people. Examine how your days progress
and I’m certain you’ll see that’s true.
You’re more capable at some times than at others.
My peaks are very obvious, one at about 4:30 PM and another
around 10 PM. For that reason, until I moved out here,
I was always a night owl. I wouldn’t even try to
do productive writing, for instance, until the late afternoon
and the best stuff was done between 10 pm and midnight
or 0100. But, I wouldn’t get up until 0700-0730.
And when my feet hit the floor I was a borderline zombie.
Some of the above may have been influenced by the three
years, while in college and graduate school, when I had
so much crap to do (school, playing clubs, rebuilding
195 Cessnas, traveling to out of state gigs, etc.) that
part of my routine was to stay up all night three times
a week so I had three 48-hour days. I have no damn idea
how I managed to both survive and graduate. It tires
me out to think it.
Today, I play to the brain-energy peaks by trying to
do most of my creative writing late in the day before
and after dinner. I do the editing and planning early
in the morning, when I seem to be better at mechanical
stuff but creative juices aren’t flowing as well.
Early, I can generally force a little trickle to come
out (it’s now 0645) but it’s not the “good
stuff.” Of course, at least two dual hops in the
little red airplane punctuate the day and, when I fly
four hops (two students), all bets are off because I’m
so beat up by the end of the day my brain is nearly flat
Anyway, this morning, when I was phony-sleeping and kept
re-analyzing sleep (a totally counter-productive endeavor,
while you’re trying to sleep) I came up with a
list of things that affect the quality of my sleep and
I’ll bet most would be on your sleep-list too.
- Peeing – If I drink a normal amount during the
day, I pee once or twice, if I’m really buried
in writing, I drink too much and may be up four times.
- Good Ideas – I try not to think, when I’m
peeing because, if I get a good idea, it keeps me awake
thinking about it.
- Sharing a Pillow – Sháhn-deen often has
one end of my pillow, which is no problem until I roll
over, which is often.
- Underwear Creep (TMI for sure) – why won’t
it stay in one place?
- Cat with no Conscience – Meezer, who is a monster,
thinks nothing of walking the full length of my body
and plopping down on my chest in the middle of the night.
In a weird way, I like that.
- Pillow-Specifics – I didn’t used to use
a pillow, but now use a super thin one but sometimes
like the one that’s a little thicker and I usually
change my mind in the middle of the night.
- Position Changes – I can’t sleep on my
back, which frustrates Meezer. Prefer sleeping on my
left side (Sháhn-deen
slide over) but sometimes roll to the right just for
a change, then back to the left. End the night on my
right so I can read the alarm clock.
Like I said at the beginning. Entire too much information.
And entirely too much thought going into “sleep” which
isn’t supposed to be that much work. Oh, well…at
least sleep gives us something to do until we have to
go back to work. bd
- Heirlooms and Kids
My son surprised me recently by saying he wanted something
that he could visually connect with my life: my old Nikon
35mm cameras. I didn’t create the Nikons, as I
have so many other DIY heirloom type things, but I sure
used the hell out of them and I was unexpectedly happy
to see he wanted them.
Historically, an assumed role of parenting has been to
create wealth or assets that would be passed on to our
kids as some sort of gift. Or as a remembrance. My parents
left a few assets but nothing that would qualify as heirlooms
to remember them by. Which I regret. The closest I come
to something that connects me to my parents is my dad’s
flannel lined denim jacket with a leather collar that
I wear on cold days. I always picture him in that jacket
toward the end of his life.
I’m the direct opposite of my parents: I have close
to zero assets to leave my kids (they’re both financially
very comfortable anyway and they are diametrically opposed
to the way I dress…no hand-me-down jackets.),
but I have spent a life time creating a truckload of
stuff, large and small, some of which is of heirloom
quality that you’d think kids would want displayed
somewhere to remember dad/granddad by. That, however,
is just not the case and it took me some thinking to
figure out why and to agree with them.
Jennifer has dibs on the 1874 cavalry belt buckle I’ve
worn daily for nearly 50 years. However, interestingly
enough, Scott didn’t ask for the Nikons strictly
because of the personal connection (just one body/lens
combination shot over 200 national magazine covers and
the other two chocked up another 100 covers or so). He
has developed a serious interest in photography and,
better yet, my grandson, Mason, is also delving into
the subject in great depth. This couldn’t make
me happier. Both, of course, are working with new digital
cameras. However, it turns out that there is a retro
movement among millennials in which film is being re-discovered
as a medium and they are flocking to it. Just like vinyl
records are now in come-back mode, my old (1969), and
very battle-scarred, Nikon F’s are now an “in” thing.
I never expected that they’d be seeing a second
life 45 years after the fact.
This all raises questions about what exactly constitutes
an heirloom. When I’m pushing wood or metal into
a pleasing shape, be it a car, a rifle, a knife or whatever,
I sometimes find an irritating little voice inside my
head saying, “…why are you doing this? It’ll
just wind up in a garage sale and you don’t have
that many years left. So, is it worth it?” This
is a very self-defeating way of thinking. Eventually,
I looked in a mental mirror and realized I’m spending
all these hours and dollars on what many might consider
silly projects. However, I’m not doing them for
someone else. I’m simply giving dimension to artifacts
that exist only in my mind until I bring them to life
and that effort pleasures me in ways only I can identify.
The whole heirloom question has been bobbing to my mental
surface recently because the last six weeks, or so, has
been another of those pressure cooker periods in which
you can hardly find time to pee. So, none of my projects
have moved forward. Which is frustrating. This is where
the Internet becomes a form of comfort food: every couple
of days I’ll order something specifically for those
projects. Like a classic-looking checkered steel butt
plate, or the little $4 shell plate holder to load a
thoroughly obsolete caliber (38-55). If I take five minutes
to do something like that, I feel as if I’m making
baby step progress.
A few of those projects would come under some people’s definition of “heirloom”,
but only if they are gun or car people. This includes artifacts like a Budd-built,
single shot buffalo-type rifle (read Cobalt Blue: it’s a clone of the rifle
found with Ivan-the-mummy). It uses wood from the tree where I hung my chain
hoist, when building The Roadster as a teenager, and the 1897 rolling block action
Marlene and I found on our three-hour, honeymoon-drive home from the wedding.
Lots of circular connections. But, regardless of how hard I try to rationalize
projects like this, since all I did is build them, I don’t think they qualify
as hardcore heirlooms because I haven’t really used them. They haven’t
actually lived with me. The Nikons have.
Over three decades, I spent thousands of hours peering through each of those
old cameras and they became part of my being. Now that I think about it, that
may be what makes something an heirloom: it is part of someone’s every
day life. Just like my dad’s old jacket and the images I have of him wearing
it, Scott probably has images of me with a Nikon slung from each shoulder and
pockets bulging with film while walking the grounds at Oshkosh.
The final test of an heirloom is probably just that: the images it conjures up
to those it is handed down to. On that score I’m glad he wants the cameras.
They are a good connection between the two of us. Still…I wonder… if
he listens closely enough, will they tell him some of the wondrous, crazy, happy,
hair-raising things they recorded? Probably not. I guess those images are strictly
16 - The App Generation is...All of us.
A minute ago I suddenly got a clear indication that I’ve been
solidly sucked into the Cellphone App Generation: I unconsciously
picked up my cell phone, rather than the remote control, and pointed
it at the air conditioner to turn it on. I’m doomed. As we
all probably are.
First, let me make several things abundantly clear: I think the most
important inventions of mankind include the garage door opener and
TV/Air conditioner remotes. Not long ago I couldn’t find the
TV remote and actually got up and manually changed the channel. Can
you believe that? It felt so Jurrasic! As if I’d stepped back
through a time portal. But the cell phone phenomena, which we sometimes
think of as a generational thing (teens instantly turning to the
cells for gratification), has infected all of society. Whether this
is a good or bad thing has yet to be determined. However, last week
I left the house and five miles later realized I’d forgotten
my phone. The sudden, undeniable feeling that I was adrift in the
ocean out of sight of land, with no means of communication, forced
me to turn around and get it. That’s when I knew I had a problem.
You know you’re hooked when you automatically say “thank
you” to Siri when she answers a question. She floats around
our unconscious mind as a spirit who leaps out of the bottle at our
slightest command. And she’s saved my butt any number of times.
I was driving AZ to LA to meet my daughter at Disney Land and suddenly
realized I’d missed my exit off of I-10. That is tantamount
to vehicular suicide. I’m positive people have turned off LA
freeways thinking they’d find their way back on and have never
been seen again. They’re still out there aimlessly wandering
around. I stayed on the freeway and, for the first time, brought
up Siri and said “How do I get to Disney Land?” It must
have been the plaintive sound of my voice that led her to immediately
start giving me directions, “In two miles exit on…” Half
an hour later I’m in the hotel parking lot. We’ve been
close friends every since.
Then I discovered the App Store: is there anyone reading this who
doesn’t bring up a weather app (I have two) a couple times
a day? And My Radar? Forget it! I live by it! Fore Flight? An absolute
necessity for some. But it is the ability to put websites and such
on our home screen that has been my undoing in so many areas by giving
me unlimited access to far too many sites that sell stuff. I bought
a pre-war Mauser while sitting in the lounge area waiting for an
X-ray. I can’t guess how much stuff I’ve bought on eBay
while on the john (yeah I know, too much information, but time is
too valuable to waste). Or, if not spending money, I find myself
unconsciously looking up stuff like the muzzle energy of a .44 Special
out of a 16-inch barrel (that nags at you, doesn’t it?) or
figuring out how far it is from Santa Fe to Phoenix or anything else
that I’m thinking about.
Am I the only one who will be watching TV and something crosses our
mind prompting us to ask Siri important questions? Things like, “How
old is Jennifer Lopez?” (a good lookin’ 46) or “How
tall is Tom Cruise?” (a shorter-than-expected 5’7”).
In truth, cell phones have become extensions of our computer. In
some cases, because I have so many important websites resident on
the phone’s home screen, I don’t bother looking up stuff
on the computer. I go directly to my phone. I don’t, however,
think smart phones are as good as the old flip phones as pure telephones.
The old flip phones (the Motorola Razor was my favorite) were tiny
and all you had to do is flip them open to answer. No touching buttons
or swiping screens, which is tough, when driving. Also, dialing favorite
numbers back in the day just meant punching a button a specific number
of times. And it was an actual button that clicked so you
could do it without even looking at the phone. Of course, texting
on them sucked!
To tell you how far we’ve come in technology, you and I are
talking about the pros and cons of devices that 20 years ago would
have been looked at as pure magic. We used to think the Motorola “Brick” was
amazing! Unfortunately, we’ve come to expect “amazing” and
the manufactures are engaging in a technology war vying for our technology
dollars. So, obsolescence is to be expected. And hated. My old 4GS
iPhone is dying so I begrudgingly bought a new 6 (the “small” one,
which isn’t small). I don’t even have it on line and
just heard that Apple has done an overhaul on the old 5, which is
smaller and more convenient. If I wasn’t almost done with making
the new leather holster for the 6, I would try to trade it in.
Yeah, I know I’ll acclimate. We always do. But it irritates
the hell out of me that technology is leading us around by the nose.
On the other hand, how would we live without Siri? I don't want to
even think about it. bd
Mar 16 - Reality and New Age Politics Suck
An amazing thing happened to me a couple weeks ago: I
suddenly realized that the miles are piling up and my
body was telling me that, like it or not, age may be
creeping up on me. Then I watched the political nomination
coverage and realized that alone could make me feel old.
And more than a little depressed. And angry. And confused.
Actually, my body wasn’t telling me that I was
getting old. It was telling me that I’m not a Honda:
I won’t run forever. Not even with diligent oil
changes. Parts are starting feel the miles and may need
a little tending to. The fire running from my neck through
my shoulder into my hand was traced to four seriously
deteriorated vertebrae in my neck. I have chosen to ignore
the pain and learn to handle it. However, the experience
has given me a huge appreciation for those millions of
people who have really serious problems and really serious
pain. I’ve been so lucky for so long, this amounts
to having a hang-nail in the big scheme of things.
I don’t know why the health thing is such a new
realization for me, especially considering that when
I’m watching the GOP circus, I’m thinking
back to the first time I voted, which was a helluva long
time ago. I was young and apparently a Democrat at the
time as I voted for Kennedy (given his stances, he’d
be a Republican today). The year was 1960 and I’m
not kidding when I say that I didn’t actually know
the difference between a Republican and a Democrat until
early 2008 when the sh*t started hitting the political
fan. I now DEFINITELY know how their platforms differ.
But that’s only in theory. In reality I have a
hard telling them apart. For instance, it’s next
to impossible to believe the GOP has a super majority
in Congress because they sure haven’t acted like
I find the overall political situation wildly unbelievable.
Let’s run down a greatly simplified list of what
we’re looking at.
-We have a billionaire as the GOP front runner and is ahead by a mile.
Why? He has insulted everyone in sight and not in a skillful manner. If
he were one of his follower’s children they’d have him standing in the corner for
talking so much trash about so many people. The words “decorum” and “Presidential” mean
nothing to him.
-The crowd following him have near-messianic belief in him. “Worship” is
a word that comes to mind and that is precisely how our current administration
came into power. That scares me.
-The reigning GOP elite hate him. HATE HIM!
-The second place contender, Cruz, scares the bejeebers out of the GOP
Establishment because he can’t be controlled. They hate him worse
than they hate Trump.
-The first and second slots comprise probably 75% of the votes cast.
-The GOP Insiders are reported to be figuring a way to get rid of both
via nomination maneuvering at the Convention. In other words, they are
reported to be picking someone who the political leaders are comfortable
with but The People haven’t
voted for. This is dangerous! Probably politically suicidal.
Here are the options we appear to be facing (and remember that I’m
for Cruz, not Trump):
1. The powers-that-be rule that Trump doesn’t have enough electoral votes
so they trump up (odd play on words) another candidate and run him. So, the now
disenfranchised high-profile Trump supporters say “screw you” and
don’t show up. Hillary wins.
2. The “establishment” is far more afraid of a Cruz presidency than
one run by Trump, so they begrudgingly run Trump. Now the bazillion or so GOP
voters who hate Trumps guts (and there are plenty), don’t show up.
3. Both Trump and Cruz are backed by voters who hate the DC status quo,
so, if the GOP runs neither of them, their supporters all say “screw everyone
in sight” and
they don’t show up. Hillary wins.
The whole thing shows the incredible rage of the conservative voter but
the chances that the GOP will screw those very voters is about 90%. They’d
rather live with Billary than someone in their own party who threatens
to upset their highly lucrative applecart.
Confucius, or some one, said something to the effect of “The goal of those
in power is to stay in power,” and therein lies the problem. It has been
this way all the way back to when we were living in caves, but at least in those
days they didn’t have social media to fan the flames.
BTW-wanna see flames being fanned? Follow some of Trump’s Twitter threads.
I just don’t understand him. While I think he really does have the potential
for turning the Nation around, it seems as if he can’t stop himself from
insulting people just because he can. Usually there is no reason for the jab.
This is arrogant and mean spirited and I guarantee is turning a lot of people
against him who would otherwise support him. I’m one of those.
And then there is the liberal competition, which is almost comedic:
-First, a self-avowed socialist is running who promises his voters the
entire store. Never mind that they don’t have the foggiest about where money comes
from, they idolize him. But, who ever thought we’d see the Clinton
Machine being seriously challenged by an ancient, borderline Communist?
-Second, the Dem leader is a hyper-left extension of the current Administration,
who undoubtedly should be headed for jail but probably won’t be. Even if
indicted, tried and found guilty, she’ll be pardoned and none of this will
deter her supporters. It’ll be as if it didn’t happen. Totally
And what of the irony of the Left saying Republicans are just a bunch of
old white men when the original GOP slate included two Hispanics, a black man,
an Indian and a woman. Then the Left fields two ancient whiter-than-white candidates
both of whom are in their seventies, one of which, if elected would be the oldest
to ever be sworn into office.
Me? I’ll vote for whomever isn’t Hillary/Bernie. It’s
no wonder my joints (and head) hurt! They feel a bad moon a’risin’. bd
Mar 16 - I HATE FRIGGING COMPUTERS !!!
I'm lucky I'm not typing this in a jail cell where I'd
be serving time for "computercide." I just
went through the agony of upgrading computers and, to
show you how well that worked, I'm typing this on my
old one. I came within inches of putting a 9mm through
the new one.
What follows is incredibly boring, but I need to vent! This has
been too much!
I've been six weeks wrestling with the new one which wouldn't
let me get into Airbum.com to up date it. Or print my shipping
labels. Or my letterhead. Or any of a couple dozen other daily
chores I have to attend to. Finally, we dragged out my old computer
and got it working so I could get myself working. And
this wasn't cheap!
If anyone is thinking about buying one of the
new hotdog Apple MacPros, do so with this warning: displaying
the arrogance only a gigantic company can afford, their new
operating system categorically refuses to recognize many, many
slightly older softwares. I just counted: I have 31 different
softwares installed. It won't let me use just short of half
of them. This has been a disaster!!
The chonology of events is as follows:
- Was advised my five year old MacPro was going to be hoplessly
out of date by the end of the year. Plus, the start up disk
(1 Tb, that's TERRABYTES, which I thought was huge) was getting
over loaded and didn't want to start. I needed a bigger start
up disk: already had about 7 TB for storage.
- Bought a new MacPro (about the size and shape of a small flower
pot. Very stylish, but...). $3000!!!!
- Started to hook it up and realized its start up disk was only
256 Gb! WTF?!
- Back to store, they can't sell the upgrade in the store so
I had to order it online while standing in the store: $4000!!!
(I was having to borrow money to do this, but too far in to quit...DAMN!)
- Hire my friend who is a high end computer tech to hook it up.
Takes two days! My old computer had 6 Tb of data to be transferred.
Took 8 hours!
- Instantly find that my most-used software is now trash.
- Tech is back at least six times now. Total bill is over $700
and still not working.
- Tried to update website software so I could keep up with Airbum.com.
Updating required inserting the disk I originally loaded it from.
Problem: MacPros no longer have a CD drive.
- Bought external CD drive and installed. $100
- Tried to insert CD but MacPro refused it because it no longer
recognizes those formats.
-Now have to get on phone with Dreamweaver web folks and do upgrade
by hand while on phone.
- Solution: set the old system up on a separate desk and use
it for tasks the MacPro won't let me do. So, approximately $5,000
(which I didn't have) later, I'm still on my old computer.
Excuse me, while I go load a magazine with hollow points! Damn!
Jan 16 - Y2K Revisited.
This is not the blog I started out to write. However,
as I typed “23 Jan 2016” the thought went
through my mind, “Can it possibly be 16 years since
Y2K and we thought our world was going to end the second
that the new millennium began?” That turned out
to be a silly fear but so much has changed since then
that it almost feels as if we did reset the clock on
our lives at that time.
Remember how crazy folks got as Dec 31, 1999 came? The
survivalists moved out into the boondocks to get away
from the cities. Many in the general population were
convinced civilization was going to degrade into anarchy
and total pandemonium. Closets were filled with Spam
and cans of anything that looked edible. Today, most
are still in those closets, which is probably a good
place for Spam. We thought that any mechanism or software
that included a clock, from our stoves to our computers,
were going to simply stop working. Worse, electricity
would stop flowing because the power plant computers
would go crazy at the stroke of midnight. Airliners would,
if not fall out of the sky, no longer be able to find
their way to airports, and every car with a memory chip
of any kind on board would coast to the side of the road,
silent for eternity. But, not a single thing happened.
Nothing. To a certain degree, some of us were a little
disappointed. Much adieu about nothing is always a let
down. However, 21 months later, some of what we expected
of Y2K came true on 9/11. That’s when the new millennium
The ups, downs and changes since then have been monumental.
Even to those of us who came of age in the 50’s
and the supposedly nutzo 60’s, the last 16 years
has been a sometimes confusing kaleidoscope of changes,
some good, some bad. In fact, some of the bad changes
have had good effects hidden within them. Terrorism is
a classic example of that.
We tend to see 9/11 as the horribly negative event that
it was, one that has cut a swath through our world as
no other has. It literally changed our way of life. However,
at the same time, it birthed an incredible number of
industries and spurred others to new heights.
The security industry has gone absolutely bonkers and
there’s no way of knowing how many jobs that has
created. Entire industries have popped up to supply a
dizzying variety of security equipment, from house systems
that work off our cell phones to the big see-you-naked
systems at the airport. Unfortunately, many of the jobs
are at tax payer expense. On the one hand a lot of people
have jobs providing for our security. On the other hand,
TSA and its ilk have proven to as much of a hindrance
as a help. However, even there, there’s a silver
Since 9/11, in response to the combination of terrorism
and body cavity searches, the corporate aircraft industry
has literally exploded with new private jet designs hitting
the market place on almost a monthly basis. They range
from tiny little 6-place birds (VLJs-Very Light Jets)
up to monsters like the Grumman GVI and the Global Express,
which are literally private airliners. And Grumman is
actually working on a supersonic private jet! On top
of that, the fractional ownership concept in which a
company or individual drops a chunk of change on a management
company, essentially buying part of a jet but having
access to all of those managed by that company, has become
To put this in context, NetJets one of the many players
in that market, has 400 jets, 3000 pilots and reportedly
has a couple dozen Global Expresses on order, which is
mind boggling. All a person has to do is call a phone
number and NetJet’s service folks jump on their
computers and find a jet in your general vicinity that
is free to take you where you want to go at the time
you want to go. Bin Ladin, Al Qaeda and the US Government
can be credited with this huge growth. Between terrorists
and the TSA, airline travel has become so difficult that
a monied market segment spawned the development of a
parallel transportation industry that solves the question
of security and lets those with the money move freely
about the country. The employment in that industry is
strong and getting stronger. Plus, think of all the employment
that’s attached to building all those airplanes
and supplying the support services.
For me the most disturbing trend since the initial outburst of patriotism right
after 9/11 is what appears to be a form of “anti-patriotism” and
the incredible divisiveness through-out the country that accompanies it. If you’re
seen displaying an American flag in any way or form, it automatically puts you
in a specific class politically and socially. You’re not only right of
center but are far right of center out into the scary fringe. It appears that
Democrats don’t wave flags. I’m sure a few do, but I’m certainly
not aware of it. And I don’t know why. The left should be as much American
as the right are, but they don’t seem to want to show it. I could be wrong
about this, and I hope I am, but someone is going to have to show me otherwise.
I, also never thought in a million years that I’d see such a strong push
to eliminate a segment of our history from public view. I’m talking about
the gray half of the Civil War. It took less than 30 days for the flags to come
down, the heroes to be disinterred, street names to be changed, and monuments
to be moved. In terms of eliminating history that the ruling political class
disagrees with, that has been a move ISIS couldn’t have done better themselves.
Hmmmm…if this is what millenniums bring about, I’m glad I won’t
see the next one. On the other hand, wouldn’t it be fun to see what the
world looks like in another 1000 years. Either good or bad, I doubt if we’d
recognize it. bd
16 - My Kid's Latest Homework Assignment is Finished
Alright, this is a dad boasting about his kid, so you can hit “delete” if
you want. Or, a better idea would be to go see her latest project,
the movie “Revenant”, with Leo DiCaprio.
For those who I haven’t already beat over the head with
what my daughter does for a living, I’m doing it now:
she co-manages a number of names including DiCaprio, but also
runs his production company, Appian Way. In other words, she
makes movies. Big ones. And a few little ones. Remember last
year’s Wolf of Wall Street? If it has Leo as a producer
or Appian Way in the credits as the production house, that’s
her at work.
We saw Revenant a few hours ago and in a marvelous show of
self-restraint, when they rolled the credits at the end and
there was “Jennifer Davisson” in great big letters
as an Executive Producer, I did not stand up and scream hysterically “That’s
my baby!” I just said it loudly (kidding). But, the temptation
was almost overwhelming.
The word “revenant” is of French derivation and
essentially means “one who has returned”, which
is the central theme of the tale. If there is one thing that
is sad about the movie production it is that very, very few
know that the movie is more than just a little based on the
tale of Hugh Glass, an 1820’s fur trapper, explorer and
guide in the Montana/Dakota/Platte region of western Nebraska.
The incredible nature of the truth, which they portrayed so
well on the screen, seems almost impossible to be real, but “almost” is
the operative word, because Hugh Glass actually did it. If
viewers knew that going in, the movie would have so much more
credibility. However, as it is, it really doesn’t need
Glass was picked up and thrown around by a grizzly that severely mauled him so
his injuries were many but included a broken leg, bite marks everywhere and many
claw marks in his back that laid his rib cage bare. The fur trapping party he
was with figured he was going to die, so they left two of their party with him
to bury him, when he finally checked out. However, the two, which supposedly
included soon-to-be legendary frontiersman Jim Bridger (this is disputed by some
Bridger fans), grabbed his rifle and all his supplies and took off after the
main party leaving him to die. Which he didn’t. In fact, being left with
absolutely nothing and severely injured, he still crawled, limped, floated 200
miles through the wilderness to an Army fort over a six week period, which took
him well into winter. Eventually he faced down the two that abandoned him but
I won’t spoil anything here by giving you the facts. However, the movie
stayed closer to them than they usually do.
I’m several steps closer to this tale than just having a movie mogul daughter
because one of the pieces of literature I was expected to read while in high
school was “The Song of Hugh Glass” a longish poem about the incident.
It was written in 1915 by an uncle of one of my best high school friends and
in the ‘50’s was still considered high literature, probably because
the author was from Nebraska. So, it was fun to have my daughter involved in
the project and even more fun to see the movie, although—viewer be forewarned—this
is not a movie you go to for yuks. It’s serious in every sense of the word.
In fact, you won’t see a single smile anywhere in it. It’s intense
from beginning to end with zero let up, which is part of its magic.
Maybe it was my knowledge of Hugh Glass as a teenager that has always made me
so enthusiastic about the time period and the mountain man culture this movie
epitomizes. In fact, the two books that had the absolutely strongest effect on
me as a teenager were “Two Hands and a Knife”, about an 18-year-old
getting stranded in the Canadian wilderness and his survival (fiction) and the
classic “The Long Rifle” by Stewart Edward White (1933 or so) which
dealt entirely with the mountain fur trade culture (also fiction).
Besides being close to the real deal, the tone and detail of the movie is super
true to the period, which was no-sh*t frontier adventure at its crude, threatening
best. The West was still being explored, Indians were still 100% in control and,
when you were out there trapping beavers for the idiot high-rollers to wear as
hats in NYC, you were absolutely on your own. To get there, you went to the ends
of the known Earth and keep on going for a long, long while. It’s no stretch
to say it would be the equivalent of a private venture to the moon.
Survival in every sense of the word was the name of the game and everything in
the environment was trying to kill you (and probably eat you afterwards) and
the movie gets that truth across in gut wrenching detail. DiCaprio is known for
his “pretty” roles but this one is anything but pretty. In fact,
it’s easy to forget who is playing the role because it is so incredibly
gritty. It’s a dark movie, but in a bright sort of way, if that makes any
It’s a good thing the story and the character development makes you forget
it’s a movie because you’re so tied up in the action that you loose
sight of the awful agony DiCaprio and the other actors went through during the
filming. Stuff like plunging (repeatedly) into icy water, always flopping around
in snow, etc., etc. There’s a great interview with DiCaprio in Wired magazine
this month and it shows how difficult and physically exhausting movie making
can be. It’s a real eye opener.
The blackpowder/muzzle loader shooters will love pointing out some basic misunderstandings
about how a flintlock rifle works, but I’m pretty certain that I’m
the only one in the entire theater that noticed them. Hey, no one is perfect
but this one came close. For instance, I was impressed that during a fight, the
Bowie-type knife that was used was true to form for the period and culture: rather
than being finely finished and threatening, it was roughly hand forged with only
the edge dressed. In mountain man functionality the edge was all that mattered:
the movie tech guys and costumers got almost everything right. I give them a
9.5 out of ten for the way they depicted frontier life (any building was crude
and leaking, clothing was mismatched and worn, everyone was dirty with matted
hair, etc.). Life out there was grim and they portrayed it beautifully.
It’s a great movie with wonderful cinematography and DiCaprio has to get
at least an Oscar nomination for his work. He was so convincing it hurt to watch.
Who knows, he might take home the gold statue for this one. His first.
Go! You’ll like it. bd
1 Jan 16
- Ballistic Procrastination
I had to share this with kindred souls. However, even if you don’t
identify with the hardware, most will identify with the psychosis imbedded
within us that’s called procrastination. And no, this has nothing
to do with a New Years resolution not to procrastination. It has to do
with recognizing that trait for what it is.
Here it is New Years morning and I'm doing my darndest to finish eight
full-length articles, six of which are due either Monday or Thursday.
The other two a week from Tuesday. Unfortunately, a new student checks
in on Monday, so huge chunks of time will disappear. Thank God it's a
three-day workend, all of which will be spent beating on a keyboard.
Knowing this, I've been trying to plan ahead but found myself falling
into the mood that often accompanies a three-day-weekend. It’s
a form of spring fever so my brain is wandering around the universe looking
for anything possible that will let me avoid my responsibilities. The
net effect is that in the last 24 hours I’ve raised procrastination
to a higher art form. Shame on me!
A contributing factor here is that my ex-brother-in-law unexpectedly
died on Christmas day. He was a health freak but was only two years older
than me. That spun my brain into OMG-I'm-running-out-of-time-and-have-so-many-unfinished-projects
mode. I found myself looking around the office and my life at the awful
mess I'm going to leave Marlene, if I get hit by a bus. Or simply age
One of my many major personality flaws is that I'll get up to the last
ten percent of a project, where just a weekend or two will finish it
off, and then drift off to something else. After a lifetime of that,
I’ve wound up with far too much crap lying around that Marlene
would be lucky to sell for ten cents on the dollar compared to it being
finished. This gave my procrastination something to dwell on.
A lot of the unfinished projects are rifles. All kinds of rifles. So,
between trips to the refrigerator (the most required form of procrastination
activity) I started ferreting out rifles tucked into corners and stacked
under couches (futon sofa, actually). However, where the goal was to
commit to finishing the small details on a bunch of project rifles, the
scavenger search rekindled my love of screwing with rifles and odd calibers.
Writing was losing out to fun.
Case in point, I've had an 1884 trapdoor Springfield since a kid that
someone bubba'd and cut the barrel and stock down to carbine length.
Ha, I said. It's not original, so it’s not worthy of my attention.
Then I picked it up early this morning. Hmmm-the metal and wood is actually
in pretty damned good shape and they did a good job with the end of the
stock where they cut it off. Wonder what the barrel looks like? Bear
in mind that I've owned this for around 60 years and never peeked down
the barrel even once. HOLY CRAP! The bore looks brand new! The front
sight is just a shotgun-like sharpened screw but this thing could be
a real shooter.
I know how I’ll waste more time! I'll Google "front sights
for Trapdoors". Oh, sh*t, they're only $15 from Dixie. Gotta have
one. A few key strokes later and it's on the way. Hmmm, ‘wonder
about the front sight hoods the 1884 carbines wore. Damn! Here's an original
for $40. It'll help cover up the bluing where I'll mess it up while silver
soldering the sight in place. A big voice in my head yelled, "Let's
get this thing ready for shooting, YEEHAH!!!"
Then I realize I’m not totally set up for loading 45-70. Some key
strokes later and I have brass and 350 grain slugs inbound. Also ordered
one of those funky-but-work-like-a-charm Lee Loaders where you use a
mallet for most of the loading chores. I have one but haven't seen it
That I got to thinking about Lee loaders in general (remember, I'm supposed
to be writing something in the hopes of being able to pay the rent).
Each one is good for only one caliber but are dirt-simple. So, I looked
them up on eBay. Hey, I didn't realize that there is so much traffic
in Lee Loaders that were no longer being made. OMG, there's one in 8
x 57 Mauser. I'll want to load that some day. And another in 7mm x 57.
Bids went in and now I wait.
Incidentally, just so ya'll know, I love long distance shooting with
iron sights. No glass. However, I also know there’s a very high
chance I’ll never actually take the trapdoor to the range. Same
thing with most other project rifles around me, BUT, having the little
$30 Lee Loader kit laying around I know that if the urge strikes me,
in 45 minutes or so, I can load 30-40 rounds of any odd caliber I want
for a fraction of the retail price. That's a lot of ammo, when shooting
a single shot that, as much as you enjoy it, is very capable of beating
the snot out of you.
This whole long-term, procrastination brain fart started a little over
24 hours ago and, in trying to avoid working, I've already spent far
more than I'll make off the article. Sounds pretty counter-productive,
doesn’t it? But, you know what? I don't give a damn. While procrastinating,
I've scratched a ton of long-time itches. And, I'm fired up and once
again dreaming of the day, when I'll toss a bunch of rifle cases in the
car and head for the range. Better yet, an unfinished project is on the
way to being finished. That’s a great way to start off a new year.
Somehow, I just now finished the article. Absolutely amazing! bd
20 Dec 2015
- A Thank You Note to a Thief
Hi! Although we haven’t been properly introduced, I felt I had
to write you a thank you note for stealing Marlene’s jewelry and
knocking some sense into my head. The next time it won’t be so
I’m still not sure why our friend, who was house sitting for us,
saw fit to let you into our home. You being just out of jail for burglary
and all. I guess you shouldn’t be blamed: you just did what comes
to you naturally and the opportunity was laid right there in your lap.
Don’t you think it considerate that Marlene so carefully arranged
something like 40 years worth of gifts, purchases and inheritance jewelry?
That made it much easier for you to pick out the gold. We’re figuring
you grabbed about $4000 worth. Bummer that you only got about $1,200
for it at the pawnshops we traced it to. We’re a little surprised
your girl friend pawned it under her own name. That ties her directly
to it. Not smart. Oh, well.
Oh, yes…the thank you note. Forgot…sorry. You see, I’ve
been meaning to do a bunch of security-oriented stuff to the house to
back-up our security system for a long time. So, your little escapade
got me off dead center and, little-by-little, I’m tightening up
the gaps. Our area is such a low crime area, that I’d gotten lazy.
The existing iron grates on our windows (just about the only ones in our neighborhood)
are courtesy of the paranoid wife of the guy from whom we bought the house. He
traveled a lot and she wanted the grates. So, I only had to build one big one
for the window we added in the back, plus beefing up all the rest. No biggie.
I enjoy ironwork and came up with some really cool, impossible-to-figure-out
locks. If you want to defeat our gates, windows, etc., you’d better bring
a cutting torch.
I’ve also learned a lot about security systems: it’s amazing what’s
now available on the Internet for ridiculously low prices and how much I could
add to our already killer system for next to nothing
And, the normal sized dog door in the backdoor that you imagined sending your
girlfriend through? It is now 1/8” steel plate and sized to our biggest
cat so you’d better be dating a really tiny person.
Anyway, I just wanted to thank you. There’s nothing like the image of a
known felon standing in our bedroom going through our drawers to make me get
serious about throwing a net around our place. And make us more selective about
who babysits our house. Besides, if the paranoid fantasies of the survivalists
prove to be true and the lights ever do go out in America, you’ve done
a lot to get me better prepared for it.
So, thanks. And one other thing: it would probably be good for you to remember
that this is Arizona, so, if we should ever meet anywhere on our property, the
law is on my side. I’m never more than a step or two from a loaded weapon:
you picked on the wrong goddamn gray dog and I’ll drop you where you stand.
Count on it!
Ya’ll have a good holiday season now. :-)
5 Dec 2015
- Five Steps to a Good Day
What defines a good day? Sometimes it feels as if a good day is simply
one that doesn’t beat you half to death with problems as most do.
It’s similar to not knowing for sure whether “happy” is
just the absence of “unhappy.” Once in a while, however
a day defines itself by leaving no doubt as to what is “good.” I
just had one of those.
Although it’s going to differ for different individuals, I found
that what follows is a recipe for a really good day.
Step one: Have a great
flight. It was absolutely bell clear.
You could easily see 100 miles and the temps hovered around 50 degrees.
Cool-bordering-on-cold by our standards but the airplane loved it: it
clawed upwards flinging pieces of fresh-cut air behind it clearly letting
us know it loves fat air.
Step two: make some headway in life. The lights started coming on in
my student’s mind and he made three back-to-back unassisted landings.
Not perfect, but in the ball park. Progress is a wonderful thing!
Step three: Attend a good gun show. We have
a big one about every six weeks but this one was the annual REALLY BIG
ONE: Christmas with recoil.
Step four: Discover some goodies. I almost
never buy guns at gun shows. Basically, I see them as museums in which
everything has price tags on them. Besides, since the Davisson Household
has been financially bitten in our holiday butt a couple of times lately,
I was determined not to spend money at this show. Well…you
know how that went. It was an unfinished 1867 project rifle: a Remington
rolling-block barreled action, with a new, 31” (!) octagonal barrel
in .45-70, lots of love and labor showed in the way the trigger guard
and hammer were reshaped. It was case hardened and all the metal work
was done and done well. All it needed was the wood and that’s my
specialty. But, buying it wasn’t a snap decision and it wasn’t
because of the finances involved. I walked through the aisles for probably
ten minutes trying to decide if I could force myself to buy something
that I didn’t
build myself. I like to say I did it all, which is one reason so few
of my projects actually get finished. The price was about 20% of what
it would cost me to build it myself. Then I thought, “I’m
never going to get anything finished if I keep thinking I’m going
to get at it ‘some day’.” Like everyone reading this,
I’m running out of “somedays.” So, it followed me home.
The Remington Rolling Block action is one of the simplest, most effective
firearms mechanisms ever designed. The bottom of the hammer rolls under the
breach block locking it in place. There are only major two moving parts in
the whole thing! And this one has had all the "right stuff" done to it. Love
Other goodies included finding a complete
set of the 1960’s series, The
Warplanes of the Second World War by William Green. Green is universally
accepted as the go-to guy for warbird information. This actually made
sense for me because I do a lot of fact scrounging. Besides, for $40
how could I leave them behind? This is exactly what I go to gun shows
for: the out-of-context, non-gun stuff (saddles, antiques, etc.) and
this was a real score!
Step five: find a decent burger
This time I took a gamble on a ½ pounder from the on-site Ptomaine
Wagon. It was a frigging winner, with a capital “W”! What’s
the world coming to when usually terrible food turns out to be great!
If you can’t trust carnival food to twist your colon into knots,
what can you trust?
The best thing about today was that none of the BS that’s going
on in the world crossed my mind even once. That was the biggest goody
of all and the one I enjoyed the most. Sometimes ya’ just gotta
escape, ya’ know? bd
28 Nov 2015
- The Population Bomb and Personal Miracles
This is going to be the shortest Thinking Out Loud on record.
This is because I’m going to give each of you a reading assignment
(actually, mostly watching). These links will pass along some very basic,
very non-political, very important information concerning the least understood,
yet biggest threat to our country.
Essentially, what these links do is explain the math of population growth.
There is no political agenda at all. They simply point out that any land
mass can only support a given number of people and then show how our
current regulations, none of them political in nature, will run head-on
into that limitation. A solution is also shown, so don’t get all
gloomy faced. I may have talked about part of this before but can’t
find a record of it.
To redeem myself, there’s a really heart warming link at the end.
If you haven’t seen it, I’ll guarantee you’ll be forwarding
it. Incidentally, the reason I include the entire link, when I'm passing
them along is so if it doesn't work for you, you can cut and paste it
in your browser.
Immigration By the Numbers
World Poverty and Gumballs
The Islamic Concept of Hijrah
Never Say Can’t
22 Nov 2015
- Wealth, Capitalism and Other Whipping Boys
Like everyone else today’s middle class, I’ve never worked
so hard to make a buck in my life. Still, I have a serious bone to pick
with those who are now screaming about income inequality and have made
both “wealth” and “capitalism” bad words.
Let’s not get into the silliness of people standing in welfare
lines wearing high-dollar sneakers and killing time on their iPhones
while bitching about those f**king millionaires and capitalists. Rather,
let’s focus on what I’ve once again learned from a few recent
encounters with serious money.
My little red airplane and the instruction I give in it attract a really
wide variety of people income-wise. At one end are the barely-making-it
bluecollar guys who are so in love with flying that they have mortgaged
their souls to own a ragged little $15K single-place Pitts. At the other
end are the folks who arrive in their own jets and pay for the instruction
with pocket change. In terms of attitudes and personalities, I’m
pleased to report that I can’t tell one group from the other. They
are uniformly wonderful people who I’m proud to instruct and lucky
to call friends. They are also uniformly attracted to cars as much as
they are airplanes and it’s the cars that reminded me why I’m
happy that there are a bunch of really high rollers wandering around.
One of my students invited me over to see his “cars”, which
turned out to be this magnificent business building that had one purpose:
it housed and supported his car collection. I’m guessing there
were 40-50 cars there, a few of them were high-end antiques, but most
were high-dollar, absolutely perfect hot rods. We’re talking well
over a million bucks between cars and facility. Maybe two. He made his
money in real estate, sold his company for many, many millions and is
now living “the life” (and still running a huge real estate
company). He’s also a helluva nice guy, but the kind some love
to single out as having too much money and not paying enough taxes. Which
is, of course, BS, which I’ll address in a minute.
Then, yesterday at the humungous (3,500 cars!) Good Guys rod and custom
show I found myself in a long conversation with a guy who had a flawless,
chopped ’34 Ford coupe that was obviously something special. I
didn’t know how special until he started describing the work done:
it had won the fabled “Ridler Award” at the Detroit Autorama
and had been selected as the America’s Most Perfect Hotrod in other
venues. He was quick to say, “I didn’t touch it, which is
why it is so perfect. I just wrote the checks.” The legendary Boyd
Coddington started it and the equally legendary Chip Foose finished it.
I then knew approximately what the car had cost him, $400-$500,000 at
the very least. But, now that he’s won the awards, it’s just
his street car: he drove it in and parked it amongst the not-so-perfect ’57
Chevys and rusty rat rods owned by the proletariat, most of whom busted
their knuckles building their rides.
Am I jealous of these rich guys? Not even slightly and no one else should
be either. Yes, they are so wealthy that most of us can’t even
imagine the kind of financial security that is a part of their lives.
However, in building their companies certain things had to happen: they
had to employ a ton of people, all of whom shared in the building of
that wealth in the form of wages, etc.
And their toys? I absolutely love the wealthy and their toys! There were
at least three guys working full time to build and maintain the car collection
I mentioned. Think how many hands were kept busy building the Ridler
coupe. The big houses both of them live in employed dozens of craftsmen
to build them. And you can bet their furniture didn’t come from
Pier One or Ikea, which means a bunch of other craftsmen were employed.
When the rich play, they are engaging in a healthy form of wealth distribution:
yachts don’t just happen. Neither do fancy cars or aerobatic biplanes
or swimming pools or high-end resorts. Supporting the rich at play is
a viable industry and untold millions, worldwide, are employed in that
industry. A segment of every society is prospering because they are feeding
on the elephant that is their employer. Do they get rich? Not usually,
but there is nothing stopping them from starting their own real estate/manufacturing
company, or whatever, and making their own millions.
I absolutely do not understand how Capitalism and wealth have become
political whipping boys. Or are seen as being bad, when they’re
not. They’re actually much less than bad. Capitalism is what has
made this country what it is and much of that has benefited the world
in general. Wealth is something to strive for. It’s a goal that
through hard work and a lot of luck, combined with intelligence and dedication
is available to anyone. So, what’s the big deal?
Wealth re-distribution is a sure way of developing a society where “average” is
the goal. We have a hot room and a cold room and, when we open a door
between, we wind up with a temperature that satisfies no one. This is
NOT what has made this country great. Striving for mediocre is not a
goal. It is settling. Standing amidst a startling collection of cars
shouldn’t make us dislike the person who owns it but should make
us say, “Man, I’m so glad someone had the luck, the vision
and the day-to-day fortitude to make this happen. Maybe I’ll drop
what I’m doing and build the same fortune.”
Right now someone reading this is saying, “Davisson talks a good
game, so why isn’t he rich as he says anyone can be.” I can
answer that easily: I’m not rich because I’m not willing
to totally dedicate my time and life to any given endeavor if making
money is the only goal. Like most folks, I don’t want to give up
what is necessary to really succeed.
We’re not rich. So what? A lot of us have had a good, very rich
life doing what we love to do. Not everyone can say that. Including a
lot of rich folks. bd
15 Nov 2015
- Celebrating a Good Year
Last night I was up until 12:30. It is now 0630 and I have a cupcake
hang-over. I can’t party like I used to, but the night was worth
it: with about 50 of our closest friends and family, we celebrated a
multitude of celebration-worthy events that have occurred in our household
First, Marlene, AKA the Arizona Red Head (her license plate is AZRDHD),
finally reached adulthood having out-grown post-adolescence by reaching
65 years of age last Thursday.
Second, she traded her maple leaf for the red-white-and blue by getting
her citizenship, which we’ve talked about here (6 June 15). The
event itself was heart warming in the extreme. The party even more so.
Cake design (I forgot to photograph it)
Third, she became Grammy for the fourth
time (see last week’s
Thinking Out Loud).
Fourth and final: we paid off the house! This is a cross between getting
a load of cement blocks off your back and the exact moment you finally
solve a week-long constipation problem.
The weather cooperated and the gathering that was milling around the
pool in the coolish, but definitely livable, temps represented an diverse
combination of friends and family. However, it wasn’t until just
this second that I realized something about my contribution to the goings-on:
only about a half dozen of my flying buddies showed up, some from as
far away as California, but every one of them was either building a serious
hotrod or was driving one. These were as diverse as the people: a Studivette
(41 Studebaker sitting on an 86 Corvette chassis and drive line), a ’48
Anglia with a double cam big block Ford, a ’31 Ford roadster with
a Chrysler Hemi, etc. Plus half of them had built the aircraft they were
flying. So, there was a tendency to drift to the garage. Not a bad thing.
Marlene’s contribution, besides family, were lots of her ceramic
friends, some of which seemed drawn to the conversations of my nuts-and-bolts
friends. Plenty of cross pollinating of interests. However, the ceramic
folks didn’t have a chance against the sound of a hopped up flathead
Ford idling in the garage, its dual pipes sticking out of the back door
for all to enjoy the sound.
The participant that had the most fun was Shahn-deen, the Pomeranian. She immediately
found that, if she pawed someone's leg while holding her ball in her mouth,
they'd take it and throw it. Then throw it again. And again. She worked the
crowd like a pro, getting almost everyone in attendance to do the fetch thing. It
was fun to watch.
I know this is a short Thinking Out Loud, but, in all honesty, I’m
dragging butt (in a pleasant sort of way). So, next week we’ll
get back to serious blogging. God knows we’ve had enough national
and global news recently to talk about.
See, ya’! bd
7 Nov 2015
- A New Family Addition
A few months back I mentioned how inspiring Marlene’s citizenship
ceremony was. I had expected it to be an official paper-shuffling event,
but I couldn’t have been more wrong. I think everyone should attend
one to remember what America is all about. A week or so ago The Redhead
and I attended attended another ceremony that should be on every one’s
attendance list: the finalization of an adoption. Better yet, in this
one we officially gained another Davisson.
First a little background: Jennifer The Movie Mogul already has the most
incredible five-year-old you’ve ever met: Alice Willa. A wonderfully
bright, beautiful and entertaining little organism. Jennifer is the ultimate
mother and, among other things, didn’t want Alice to grow up without
siblings. A single mother, she decided to adopt, which isn’t as
easy as it sounds. In fact, it’s super complicated, expensive and
riddled with potential for personal pain: she drove from CA to NC to
pick up a little girl as it was born. She had it for a day or two and
during the grace period the mother decided she wanted her back. A difficult
time that Jennifer handled better than I would have thought possible.
Then another baby popped up in Memphis.
The story of her driving through March ice storms in Texas to get there
could be a novel (she’s totally aerophobic and can’t come
close to flying). What a grind!
She’s a hyper-Elvis fan (interesting considering she’s not
quite 40, hardly someone you’d think would like Elvis), so I’m
not convinced the adoption was as important as her finally getting to
tour Graceland. It was a near religious experience for both Jennifer
and Alice, who is the tiniest Elvis freak.
So, the baby was born and Alice was given the honor of naming her: the
newest addition to our family is Rosie Presley Davisson. I love it!
Rosie Presley Davisson
Kinda knocks you on your butt doesn't she? !
Incidentally, as if this whole thing wasn’t
quirky enough, the baby was supposed to be a boy and they didn’t know
it was a girl until delivered! Go figure!
This whole process was made all the more dramatic by two factors: they
left TN on a Tuesday and Alice’s 5th birthday was to be on Friday
in CA, 1800 miles away. This is a factor because Jennifer would be damned
if Alice’s birthday was going to be spent on the road. This was
further complicated by the fact that California had to give official
permission for the baby to come into the state and Jen, Alice, and five-day-old
Rosie were on our patio in AZ, 400 miles from LA late Thursday afternoon.
The clock was ticking and Jen was on the phone with her attorney non-stop.
The lady in the CA agency was getting ready to leave for the day and
Jen still didn’t have permission. Tensions were increasing as if
we were waiting for a shuttle launch. Jen was covering it up as much
as possible, but she was clearly distraught.
Then, with 10 minutes to go before the civil servant bolted for the door,
the word came. Jen was on the other side of the bushes in the backyard
and Alice was standing on our diving board when she saw her mother break
into tears of joy while blurting “thank you, thank you” over
and over. Alice jumped off the board, threw both hands in the air and
yelled at the top of her voice, “Let’s go home!” It
was a beautiful moment!
California law says the adoption isn’t final until she goes before
a judge after a suitable period (I’m guessing six months) and answers
a few questions. That was the ceremony we attended last week.
I have no idea how the proceedings work with other judges, but this one
made it into an absolutely joyous event, making those in attendance (I’d
guess about 15 family and friends) part of it. She instructed Alice to
go to a bin full of teddy bears and select an “adoption bear” for
both herself and Rosie. She asked the audience if they were behind the
adoption and received a fairly vocal response, but it wasn’t to
her liking. So, she asked again, encouraging more enthusiasm, which she
got in abundance.
It was a warm, personally full-filling experience in which Jennifer was
asked if she understood that from this point on Rosie was be as if she
was born to Jennifer. Jennifer was reminded that she would have sole
responsibility for her health, happiness and education for the rest of
their lives. Jen struggled to answer through tears and I’ll guaran-damn-tee
you that there was no one named Davisson in the room that didn’t
have tears running down their cheeks. We drove 14 hours round trip and
I would have gladly driven for days to be part of that experience.
It’s difficult to describe how those few minutes felt. Just as
Marlene’s citizenship thing made you feel closer to your country,
seeing a tiny (6 months old) officially becoming part of your life somehow
redefined “family” and drew us all closer. It was one human
being given the duty of loving and caring for another and it was beautiful!
If you have a chance to witness one of these shindigs, do it. It’ll
make your month!
19 Sept 15
- In Search of the Perfect Tamale
A while back Marlene and I went to a wedding being held in Sedona, which
if you don’t know it is a unique, vaguely frustrating little town.
But not without its charm, which is enhanced by the area (high country
of AZ) and the people it attracts. In fact, we ran across a couple of interesting
folks in the course of the wedding and they represent something worth discussing.
We were at the after-wedding dinner thing (reception??) that was being
held in a sort-of-funky-but-still civilized Mexican restaurant (can you
still say “Mexican” and not be racist?). Their bar was just
outside of the eating area and I noticed that Marlene was stopping to talk
to a couple of guys there every time she went to the head (she has a bladder
condition so head-trips are more often than usual). Finally, I got up and
went to investigate and found that Marlene was doing things like explaining
why they shouldn’t be eating the clams that aren’t open (or
maybe don’t eat the ones that are open, I forget).
I wound up sitting down at the bar with them and got their story which
everyone reading this can identify with to one degree or another.
They were a couple of old friends, both in their early 50s (I’m guessing)
and they were driving around the country on their Harleys, each having
different goals. Originally from somewhere on the East Coast one was “…looking
for the America I’d only heard about” and the other was “…searching
for the world’s best tamale.”
These weren’t a couple of biker dudes and they weren’t a couple
of office cubicle refugees out looking for a last fling before their perception
of old age sets in. And they’d both made a little headway in their
respective searches: by the time you wind up in a bar in a small town in
Arizona, you’ve already covered a lot of country and you’ve
already had an opportunity to sample a lot of tamales. When they left the
bar, they were going to continue another 30 miles to Jerome and stay in
the Grand Hotel there, also known as the Asylum.
Jerome is a long-time ghost town that is little by little being gentrified,
but it’s still got a lot of funk left. The Asylum is about as unusual
a hotel as you’re going to find. It was originally the hospital for
the copper mining town (which is built on a 50 degree grade and was totally
abandon by the early ‘50’s). Closed in 1950 then reopened
in the mid ‘90’s as a hotel it’s a favorite stop for
ghost hunters because of all the supposed strange goings on there. The
hospital had a lot of deaths occur. As antiquey as the hotel may be, it
also has a honest-to-God 4-star restaurant. It’s small but super
So, our two adventurous bikers were going looking for good food surrounded
by ghosts. We never heard from them again (not victims of the Asylum, I’m
sure) but we can guarantee they didn’t find even one tamale on the
menu. However, our meeting them had its effect on us. We asked ourselves, “Would
we be willing to launch cross country like that with no particular goals
or destinations in mind?”
That’s a helluva good question that just about everyone I know has
asked themselves. Especially lately. With all the BS we hear in the news
and see the government doing, hardly a day goes by that most of us don’t
think about tossing some clothes in the back of our car and just taking
off. No cell phones, no TV, nothing that connects us with our normal life,
which at the moment seems to be under attack by the entire world. We can’t
get away from the bad news that leaves us with the impression that civilization,
as we know it, is going to crumble by next Wednesday. Or maybe the Saturday
Marlene and I both agree, running away is super tempting, but, if we were
to give in and leave the real world, it probably wouldn’t be on Harleys
(she would insist she have her own). Too many joints and vertebrae are
already turning to dust. No reason to accelerate the process. But, a small,
van-sized motor home would work well for us.
At the same time that we’d be having these conversations we also
be casting doubts on the entire concept. My late brother had to close down
his psychology business because he’d contracted Valley Fever (look
it up) that, in his case had the possibility of being fatal. So, he spent
six months driving round in his van practicing bio-feedback that eventually
did arrest and cure the illness. He covered the entire US and spent a couple
weeks with me while I lived in NJ. I remember him saying two things, and
he was deadly serious. “Don’t ever hit the road without a destination.
It gets old, really, really fast.”
He also said, “If you have a choice, don’t ever be alone. It’s
I can clearly see where he was coming from on both points.
In talking about us just cruising around the US, which is a popular activity
(or non-activity, depending on how you look at it) for the age group we’re
moving into, I know for a fact it wouldn’t work for us. I, for one,
can’t go a day without feeling as if I’ve accomplished something.
Once in a while I’ll have a day that's just a waste of time and
it puts me in a real funk, as if I’ve stepped on, and killed, a kitten
or something. But, I know that’s not the way everyone is.
Every time we drive to California, which is quiet often, we pass through
the little sorta-town of Quartzite, which is right on the California/Arizona
border. During the winter Quartzite is a favorite destination for hundreds
and hundreds of trailers and motor homes of all sizes and descriptions.
Some are in the designated motorhome parks, but the vast majority are scattered
round parked out in the desert in random arrangements. Some are close together,
but you see lots that are barely visible by themselves surrounded by miles
This is an area where there is virtually nothing. There are only a few
eating places, no movie (the closest is in Blythe, CA, 20 miles away) and
miles and miles of desert. In January they have a big swap meet and five
or six weeks of a fossil/gem show (out doors), but that’s it! Every
time we go through there I’m always wondering out loud “What
the hell do these people do all day?”
I LOVE prowling around, taking off on side roads, just to see where they
go. In fact, one of my side fantasies is designing a four-wheel drive van
just for that purpose. But, I know I’ll never do it. Some folks just
can’t do-nothing and sight seeing gets old quick. I know, I’m
not alone in that. Even on vacation (we took a 12-day trip to England in
2008, our only pure vacation, although it did include two days of shooting
tanks for a magazine.) and even though I was positively riveted by England’s
history, after about four days, part of me was ready to return to the grind.
So, could I go search for the perfect tamale? Yes, if it were a magazine
assignment. Could I do it, just because I wanted to do it? No way, Jose!
Never happen. And I’m betting many reading this couldn’t do
it either. It sounds good in concept and makes good TV/Movie plot material,
but in real life, most of us want to be doing something relevant. We know
we only have so much time left and need to invest it wisely.
Besides, and please don’t spread this round, I don’t really
like tamales. Enchiladas and burritos, yes. Tamales, no. bd
12 Sept 15
- The Day After and Cool Stuff
I’m not going to dwell on 9/11 because I did it in some depth back on August
2nd, when I ran across the 9/11 Boat Lift video. I’ll comment on it, but
mostly I’m going to pass on a ton of neat links to videos that I find interesting
and some of you may also.
We can all tell minute by minute what we were doing when The Towers came down.
It seems every generation is destined to have at least two moments like that.
One that happens young, one that happens late. For my dad, it was Pearl Harbor
and JFK’s assassination. For me, it was JFK and 9/11. For my kids it’ll
be 9/11 and something that hasn’t happened yet, which is a really somber
thing to think. But, that seems to be the way it works. Two per lifetime.
One thing that was unique about my 9/11 experience was that my student who was
staying in our B & B was from the Netherlands. One from England had just
landed in Phoenix and another was airborne and a few hours out. He was from Luxumbourg,
if I remember correctly. So, I lived The Day After with a bunch of Europeans
who were as shocked as we were. NYC belongs to the world. All non-Muslim nations
felt it almost as much as we did.
It’s nearly impossible for the date to come and go without reliving those
hours and days. We lost our national virginity that day. Unfortunately, our Administration
hasn’t learned a damn thing from it. I’m afraid that terrorism,
as the rest of he world knows it, is being imported to the US by executive
fiat and my kids are going to have to deal with it.
Someday I'll tell all of the silly details having to do with me trying to get
back in the air with those students. It culminated with me being the first VFR
pilot into the air post-9/11 in AZ and almost certainly in the US.
Incidentally, I see where the Phoenix “sniper attacks” have made
the national news. I don’t know anyone here who thinks this is a terrorist
act. It feels more like the actions of a whacko or irresponsible teen.
On to the links. See below. Lots of cool stuff.
His Very Own Undeground City
Easter Island Bodies
Inca Grass Bridge
Abandoned Russian Hangar
American Indian DNA
15 - Visual Progress as a Mood Elevator
This past week or so has been a period during which I rediscovered a guaranteed
method of making yourself feel better: do something that’s been bugging
you for a long time and get it out of the way. There’s nothing like achievement,
no matter how trivial, to make us feel as if we’re getting ahead in the
First, it should be realized, that I, like what I prefer to believe is the majority
of males, can let a mess lay around or watch something deteriorate for years,
continually stepping over it or walking round it, but never doing anything about
it. Stacks of books become part of the woodwork (the floor IS counted as shelf
space, right?). Crap piled up in one area of the shop is ignored because “it’s
always been that way.” A workbench slowly disappears as it’s engulfed
by the ever-growing heap of random stuff being tossed on it.
Every one of our lives (at least those of us who weren’t born with a “tidy” chromosome.)
has these little irritants around us that we’ve managed to ignore until
they reach the point that they finally drive us to do something about them. Unexpectedly,
I reached that point last weekend. What had started out as moving the junk in
front of the roadster around so I could finish installing the head studs (again),
turned into a scratch-the-itch marathon in which, while walking around the garage
working on the little car, in route I took care of dozens of things that had
been bugging me forever.
I walked past the pile of steel scraps and said, to hell with it, and sorted
them into appropriate bins. I took the formed plastic trunk liner for Marlene’s
Maxima that had been lying on top a big pile for about two years, since her accident
and put it back in the car. Uncovered my wood lathe and turned it around to face
the other way (and swept under it) so, if I ever wanted to use it, it would be
facing the right direction. Restacked a bunch of ammo and got it out of the way.
Moved some spare car parts up into the rafters.
All of the tasks I took care of were small. By themselves they were unnoticeable,
but the net effect on my state of mind was stronger than if I’d gotten
the roadster running again. This was because it was visual progress on something
that I see almost every day and had been on-going, pin-prick irritants.
The mantra I lived by that day was , if I walked past something that would
benefit from a little attention, I’d stop what I was doing and take care
of it. I even dumped the big drawer of extension cords out on the floor, neatly
coiled them all up and put them back. I liked the feeling so much that for the
rest of the week, every time I touched or passed something that’s been
bugging me, I’d take care of it. An itch scratched. Take my poor little
Honda, for instance.
Arizona kills car speakers. Turns them to dust in a matter of years. Mine were
in tatters and had been for at least five years and the terrible sound had become
part of the audio woodwork that I totally ignore. Then, one day I took one of
the speaker grills off with the intent of seeing what kind of speakers I needed,
got side tracked by work, and for two years have been driving around with a ragged,
gaping hole in the left door panel listening to a radio that at full volume is
barely audible. This in a good-looking little car on which I had the body cherried
out and painted. Tuesday, I said, “screw it”, and dropped it off
at Audio Express for new speakers and whatever else it needed.
The radio in that car (a 1990 Civic) had been in two previous Hondas of mine
and, as near as I could tell, it was at least 35 years old. A low-end JVC with
a cassette player (remember those?), it had been a birthday present from my kids
as youngsters, so it followed me into every car after that. Yes, I am a sucker
for nostalgic connections. But, when the speakers were replaced this week, the
radio was found to be dead or dying. So, now I have a newer-but-still-cheap JVC
with Bluetooth and more software than my trusty Mac has. Someday, I’ll
figure it out. Maybe.
The A/C in that same car had been in-op for over a year because some over-enthusiastic
mechanic had pulled the threads out of the aluminum idler pulley bracket and
it had been riding around in the trunk while I cooked in 105-plus temps. So,
Monday, I buzzed down to a hotrod buddy of mine, he welded up the valley in the
casting that the threads went through, installed a hi-tech helicoil (the kind
with four locking pins) and I’m
now riding around in air conditioned splendor talking on my phone hands-free
with great tunes. Life is good!
This is all little stuff. None of it terribly expensive or time consuming, but
the psychological pay-off has been huge. It’s disproportionate to the effort.
I absolutely guarantee that every person reading this can turn their head and
look around the room and find something they’ve been putting off for too
long. So, when done reading this, stand up and take care of whatever that is
and your day is bound to be better.
Quite often it’s the little stuff that contributes to visual progress
that seems to count the most. bd
15 - The Link Between Discovering Fire and Inventing Computers
As I was sitting here waiting for the second cup to kick in, I was idly
cruising through some random stuff I had in my Thinking
Out Loud File and I ran
across the below. It is an answer to an e-mail on the Bearhawk group that became
a thread a mile long and got much more serious and philosophical than you’d
expect between a bunch of airplane bums. Which, by the way, is thoroughly typical
for that group.
The thread was kicked off by Dr. Ben Carson’s response to an Atheist who
questioned his view of creation. He said “I believe I came from God, and
you believe you came from a monkey. And you’ve convinced me you’re
This kicked off an in-depth discussion on the chat group about how man has evolved/progressed/etc.
and the question was asked of why man appears to have gotten so smart in the
last couple hundred years or so. The below was my answer. If you’re not
up for numbers and theories, it would be a good idea for you immediately hit
the delete button and go on with your morning. I got off on a tangent (surprised
right?). Re-reading it made my head hurt!
Your question is "What caused what appears to be a sudden expansion in fairly
recent times of our ability to comprehend?" You're hinting that it was God Given.
What caused the sudden, exponential explosion of technology in the last 20 years?
Are we so much smarter than those who came before? Was there a sudden, god-given
change in our ability to think? Of course not. The answer to the question of
increased comprehension is super complex, however, much of it, in my feeble mind
anyway, is rooted in numbers, percentages and shared experience.
From the minute that man stood upright, discovered fire (apparently this happened
with the first humanoids 1-1.6 million years ago) and the concept of tools, he
has been in a technology race not unlike what we've seen in the last couple of
decades. The reason earlier technology phases (stone age, etc.) appear to have
taken so long is partially explained by the small numbers of people involved.
This means the way in which they gained experience in a given technology was
slowed by the small amount of interaction between others. They were inventing
in a vacuum.
With a small, slow moving population, we didn’t have a lot of people watching
what a lot of other people were doing so they weren't feeding off of others'
experience. We learn a lot from others' experience, which, in effect, makes us
not only smarter, but able to think better in terms of solving problems and coming
up with ideas.
Oh yeah, in those days, survival meant that there was a daily push to find the
next meal, which, in turn, meant there wasn’t much spare time to be spent
on expanding knowledge.
This could be looked at as a numbers-driven conversation. It's a given that within
any population, regardless of how primitive it may be, there are always those
individuals that are more intellectually gifted than the rest. Let's say 1 in
1000 is smarter than the rest (a number I just pulled out of my butt). It is
generally assumed that man began to develop into humanoids 1-1.6 million years
ago (yes, I verified all of this, although I wasn’t there at the time).
It is also estimated that the worldwide population at that time was only about
18,500 humanoids. So, by the 1:1000 ratio, there were only 18 people on the planet
with a higher than normal intellect. Not enough to invent television, Hollywood
Early populations didn't grow at the rate that we think of populations growing.
It grew much slower than we're used to. In fact, from the time of Christ, when
the world's population was around 250-300mm, to the mid 1700s, the population
was pretty stable. Then, when "civilization" became more advanced and
food supplies more available and easier to share, the population started skyrocketing
in the early 1800s. The world population today is around 7 billion with 60% of
that being in Asia. The net result is that, although the percentage of smart
people has probably stayed exactly the same, the sheer numbers of them has literally
exploded. This is why China will eat our lunch in a lot of areas: there are four
times more of them than us, so they have four times the brainiacs to work with.
Plus, their communal experience means so much is being shared by so many between
such a wide variety of disciplines that they will grow their national intellect
at an even higher rate.
The numbers, not the individual capabilities, dictate that happening. And, of
course, they steal a lot of good stuff from others, which accelerates the trend.
A classic example of making an individual "smarter" by feeding off
of others' experience and intellect is the Bearhawk group, which is populated
by one of the most varied, most experienced, naturally-smart people I’ve
ever met. I know for a fact, that I've learned far more out of this group than
any other single source: we're building our abilities to comprehend because we're
building on each other's experiences and thoughts.
You questioned: Are you speaking of physical evolution, cranial evolution, or
In my mind the brain developed right along with the body but got a major injection
of the smarts when Cro-Magnon man replace Neanderthal, which was mostly an accident
of evolution that happened about 40,000 years ago. His brain was apparently wired
slightly differently. That’s when “modern” man took the stage.
The spiritual aspect however happened long, long before Cro-magnon came on the
scene. It's only logical that man has always had a difficult time coping with
death and virtually every phase of man's development, from humanoids on, has
had some form of spiritual development attached to it, but the very early humanoids
left little physical evidence of it. In other words, in my opinion, man wasn’t
far from the discovery of fire when he invented religion because he couldn’t
cope the idea of being dead. He wanted more, so he invented it, as did every
civilization from that point on.
So, has our brain suddenly gotten smarter? No, we’re just using more of
it and being more efficient in learning from others.
I didn't mean this to ramble on so long. Too much caffeine too early, so, I couldn't
help myself. Sorry.
…and you thought we just talked about airplanes, didn’t you? :-)
2015 - More American Than America
I stumbled across a video this week that I can’t begin to explain.
Yeah, I can explain the event, but I can’t explain why Swede’s have
such a love affair with the concept of the American big cars of the 50’s,
The video at the end will do that for me.
First, I should warn you: it’s 0345 in the morning and I couldn’t
sleep, so here I am. I know a lot of folks who are habitually up this time of
the morning because, when I roll into the office at 0530-0600, as I usually do,
I always find a bunch of e-mails from them waiting. I also know some borderline
insomniacs who do very creative, worthwhile things with their dark time. Not
me. On mornings like this I feel like Dorothy’s scarecrow “…if
I only had a brain.” The lights won’t come on upstairs until the
second cup kicks in and, even then, I’ll be thinking through a layer of
cotton. Or at least it feels like it.
After night-time peeing, I’m usually sound asleep before my head hits the
pillow. But this morning my brain was in full running mode and I couldn’t
shut it off. All sorts of major things were playing in my head: do I stick with
my baby Glock 9mm, which is my habitual concealed carry piece and also use it
as my open carry piece, or use my Sig 229 for that and convert it from .40
to 9mm so I only have one ammo type? Or, when I’m too old to work, will
I concentrate on making knives or rifles?
I obviously deal with world-shaking
subjects when my brain is left to its own devices.
At some point the never ending problem I’ve been trying to solve in my
little hotrod’s motor popped onto the scene (having to pull and reseal
all the head studs), and then I found images of American ‘50’s,’60’s
chrome boat cars being projected on my mental screen. What the…? This
is not a subject I’m even interested in, so what’s my brain doing?
I guess it was the effect of the Swedish video. I’m not talking about 55-57
Chevys (even as a teenager I thought a ’57 Nomad wagon with a tri-power
283 and four on the floor would be the perfect car). I’m talking about
the BIG cars: the Chryslers, Pontiacs, Cadillacs and such, all of which were
dripping with chrome.
Today we forget how it felt to drive a car that could easily fit three people
abreast in the front seat and four weren’t too crowded in the back. Not
long ago I drove a ’62 Pontiac two-door similar to what I had owned back
in the day and I’d forgotten what it felt like to be pushing a hood around
in front of you that’s the size of a picnic table. “Ponderous” is
the word that comes to mind. Because the change happened so gradually, we don’t
realize how much better even today’s family sedans handle. Marlene’s
lowly Maxima would have been considered a sports car in the ‘50’s.
And then there is Sweden, the country where major chrome wagons go to live again.
Garden variety older American cars, the majority of which are FAR down the collector’s
scale on this side of the pond are eagerly sought-after over there. We’re
talking about original condition, sort-of-running, used cars here. Not exotic,
totally restored gems. And we’re not just talking about the higher grade,
fully optioned versions. A Caddie doesn’t have to be an Eldorado hardtop
or a convertible to qualify. The four-door barges little old ladies are still
seen trundling to the grocery at 10 mph are still hot tickets. Who’d
I’m not sure if the Swedes see these monster cars as some sort of art decoish
link to a simpler time or the bloated architecture each carries is a statement
about an America that was. One thing is an absolute fact however: as much as
America is, and always has been a car culture, the Swedes are reinventing that
culture and keeping a time alive when cubic inches and pure fun mattered.
Go to https://vimeo.com/59718224. You’ll
dig it! If you’re hip that
is. (damn that sounds dumb doesn’t it? Did we actually talk that way?).
2015 - It was Just Another Week...Sort of
For a week during which history was being made left and right, mostly
in politics and shootings, my week was actually a fairly mundane week punctuated
with moments of…oh, I don’t know…oddly interesting personal
happenings. Let’s take the bird first.
I saw him only as a dark streak in front of us. We’re on short final and
this pretty good sized dark “something” darted out in front of us.
It was obviously a bird, but don’t ask what kind. At a closing speed of
around 125mph, you don’t spend much time trying to count the freckles on
its breast to identify it. He swung out in front of us, changed his mind, and
quickly rolled towards us completely reversing course. He disappeared just outboard
of our wing tip. Or so I thought. It wasn’t until we landed and were taxiing back that I
saw parts of mister bird hanging from my flying wires just under the left wing.
At that point, I knew only part of him had escaped. It actually looks as if he
hit just below the nose of the leading edge and he was big enough that part of
him hit the streamlined wire that split him like a knife. It didn’t create
much of a mess, but this wasn’t my first time to the bird strike rodeo:
years ago, I hit six Canadian geese on takeoff taking four of them through the
prop. Now that was a mess!
Zigged when he should've zagged. I'll bet that smarts!
This week was also marked with a streak
of real old fashioned Arizona-style summer heat. We topped 110 degrees four
or five times and supposedly peaked at 117 on Thursday (!). I was flying
super early every day, first hop at 0700, second, mid-morning, but I still
got to see 109 degrees from the cockpit. This doesn’t
bother me at all, but it absolutely sucks the stuffing out of my little airplane’s
spirit. It made my little hotrod into a VW with only three cylinders working. ‘Didn’t
do much for my student either.
I tuned out this week’s political scene because it had turned into National
Trump Month. Not that I’m totally against Trump, but I’m tired
of the circus. On the good side, however, his sometimes-idiotic behavior has
brought a lot of people into the discussion especially about immigration. I
ran into one of those totally unexpectedly.
I was at Burger King with my student cooling off when a Hispanic came up to
the table next to us. As he pulled a chair back, he glanced at us and asked, “Is
this the Republican section?”
Sensing some sort of pending confrontation, my student and I didn’t know
what to say. The guy grinned and said, “Yeah, you gotta give Trump credit.
He’s telling it like it is. Never thought I’d see that in a politician.
I can’t tell you how much that surprised me. He was obviously raised on
this side of the border because he spoke with almost no accent of any kind. He
just laughed and went up to pay for his order. I noticed when he pulled the trucker’s
wallet out of his back pocket that it was decorated with a Confederate flag.
Talk about assimilating into our culture!! Yeehah!
There was one last discovery/happening this week that was probably not good,
depending on how you look at it: I found that tool and hardware giant, McMaster-Carr
(if you don’t know them, you should…Google them), has one-click
shopping just like Amazon does. Do you know how financially dangerous it is
to a guy like me to be able to just click on a photo, then click a box and
know that part/tool is on its way to me. Damn! I have fallen into mail order
Shhhhh! Please, don’t tell Marlene about the hardware thing. bd
2015 - Presidential Debate Trumps the A-Bomb
Overshadowed by the Presidential Debates was the fact that 70 years ago
that same day the Enola Gay ushered in the nuclear age over Hiroshima. Seven
decades ago this weekend the most horrific episode in mankind’s horrific
past was unfolding as hundreds of thousands of Japanese tried to cope with what
had just happened. 140,000 died. Many were painful beyond imagination. Survivors
often wished they hadn’t.
Today we hear many say the US was unnecessarily cruel in dropping the bombs.
I suppose that depends on how one feels about the projected cost of an actual
invasion. The projections of American casualties range from 1.2 million (500,000
fatalities) to the study done for Sec of War Henry Stimson that peaked at 800,000
US fatalities and five to ten million Japanese fatalities. The range was the
result of not knowing for sure how much the civilian population was mobilized
(which turned out to be close to 100%). If the main island invasion death rate
had been only 10% of the US death rate in the Okinawa invasion (less than 500
square miles), which lasted only 82 days, the cost would have been 500,000 US
fatalities. This makes the projections of millions of possible deaths, seem reasonable.
So, was it cruel to kill 140,000 and wound untold thousands, versus killing millions
of the native population and hundreds of thousands of GI’s? In my view
I was a terrible trade off, but a good one for both sides.
We often hear, “They were ready to surrender and the bombs weren’t
necessary”. Historical research proves this to be wrong. The only reason
Emperor Hirohito surrendered, when he did, was because he ignored his advisors.
He also survived an assassination attempt by those who wanted to keep on fighting.
This was unheard of in Japanese culture. Hirohito was a diety to the Japanese
and his word was law. Although Hediki Tojo’s war council pushed for a fight
to the last man, woman and child, Hirohito couldn’t face another Hiroshima
or Nagasaki. Even he had his limits. And so a horrible chapter in history was
closed. And another opened. The nuclear threat is still with us and getting worse
by the day. (A side note: I’m going to be amazed if an outlaw nuke isn’t
detonated somewhere in the next decade)
If there is one thing that we civilians don’t have the right to do, that
is second guess the military’s actions when in the middle of a war. And
in this case, seven decades on, we can’t second-guess Truman. It’s
well known that he didn’t want to drop the bombs. Neither did anyone from
the bombs’ creators to the men on the B-29’s that dropped them. However,
ask the opinion of any one of the Marines that were among the hundreds of thousands
arrayed around the home island knowing that they were going to have to launch
the most costly invasion in history. It would make D-Day look like a cakewalk.
The Germans weren’t suicidal. But after four years of war in the Pacific,
every Marine/GI knew the Japanese preferred death over surrender and had been
whipped into a frenzy. An invasion wasn’t going to be pretty for either
side. The cost of using The Bombs to force the surrender was high, but very necessary,
when put against the realities of the situation.
One of the saddest part of the Hiroshima/Nagasaki events is that we haven’t
learned a damn thing from them. Forget the unbelievable destruction and focus
on the human suffering. A conventional explosion of the same size (15-20 kilotons),
which isn’t possible, would have killed and maimed the same numbers. But
the wounds would have been largely “mechanical” in nature. Burns,
broken bones, concussion damage: stuff that doctors can deal with “easily.” Radiation
is something else. Its effects are long lasting and unpredictable. As part of
the Iran Nuclear Agreement BHO is forcing on us, Iran will regain
the ability to acquire long range ballistic missiles. This in addition to the
huge strides they are making with missiles of their own design using North Korean
guidance systems. Does anyone in their right mind think that if Iran gets the
long-range ballistic missiles it’s
yearning for, it won’t launch them into Israel (Iran’s mantra is, “Israel
must be removed from the map”) with nukes right behind?
A Note On the Presidential Debates
About Trump: I like his maverick stance and I’ve tried hard to line up
behind him, but I just can’t. While I like some of his views, we can't
have someone with a mouth like that speaking for the most powerful nation on
the planet. Had he made even the slightest attempt during the debate to say most
of the same things but in a more civilized manner, I might feel different about
him. But, DAMN!, there has to be at least a little respect for the dignity of
the office. I think BHO and Michelle have dragged it down to the lowest level
I can tolerate.
Also, my BS alarm goes off often with Trump. For him to deliver on the things
he promises, he's going to have to compromise with Congress, etc., but he has
always been the captain of his own ship. A dictatorship is his style and we've
had enough of that. After five minutes watching BHO, even before he announced
he was running, my poser alarm pegged. With Trump, it's a different feeling but
alarms go off nonetheless.
For me, right now, it’s Cruz by a narrow margin over Walker with Fiorina
and Carson as VPs. I did, however, like Rubio. Huckabee pleasantly surprised
me with his rant about transgenders, etc. in the military. But, he doesn’t
have a chance.
We have a long year ahead of us,folks! bd
2 August 2015
- Boat Lift: a Tale Late in the Telling
It was early in the morning, too early, so, when the phone rang, I knew
it was trouble: it was my daughter, Jennifer, in LA. She was frantic. “Dad,
Mom just called, have you been watching the news?” I flipped
it on and, sitting on the floor in my underwear next to the bed, the phone to
my ear, Marlene in the bed behind me, my dog in my lap, we watched the Towers
come down together.
I so clearly remember the disbelief. “Dad, the tower just collapsed!”
“No, honey, it couldn’t have.” Then I realized it had. I refused
to believe it.
I seriously doubt if there’s a single person reading this that doesn’t
remember exactly where they were and what they were doing when they saw, or learned,
of the 9/11 attack. The images in our minds, just won’t go away. For my
parents, that moment was when they heard about Pearl Harbor, for me it had been
when I heard about JFK’s assassination. Now this.
Amazingly enough, even though 9/11 has been sliced and diced every way possible
by the media, some images have, for whatever reason, never been seen. Or, if
they have, the audience has been tiny. The reason I say that is because this
week I was sent a link to a You-Tube video that made my month. Maybe my year.
It showed a side of 9/11 that I didn’t even know existed. The link is at
the bottom of these words. PLEASE take the time to watch it. You’ll be
glad you did and you’ll forward it to everyone you know because of what
it means to us as a people.
I think this video is of particular importance today because, in a short ten-minute
slice of life, it shows America as we like to think of her: selfless, bonded
together by purpose, covering each other’s six no matter what.
Also, when you put it in context against today, it shows how incredibly self-centered
and petty we can be. The 14 years since the attacks started out with our national
head held high. American flags festooned everything that would hold one. During
my lifetime I can’t remember a time when we were as patriotic or as united.
Then politics and personal interests began to erode those proud moments and re-sculpt
us right back into a familiar form. That trend has continued until we’re
now as factionalized and divided as I’ve ever seen us. It’s much,
much worse now than it was even during the ‘60’s. It’s hard
to believe things could deteriorate so quickly, especially considering the grievous
wound we all suffered on that fateful day.
It’s not worth going into how we wound up where we are today. We each have
our own explaination of what I see as a decline, but others don’t. Instead,
take a few minutes out of your day at watch the below. You’ll be glad you
did and it may even re-ignite the flame that’s necessary for us to reclaim
the spirit that I personally believe is still within us straining to get out.
2015 - I Can't Say it Any Better
As I'm typing this, I have one foot out the door headed for Oshkosh, which
I desperately need. I need to get away from the Media and all the incredibly
stupid/bad things going on.
I really don't want to leave on a negative note so I'm not even going to mention
the four Marines that a Jihadist just killed and ISIS being in our backyard.
In fact, I'm not going to write much at all because I ran into a You-Tube video
I want everyone to watch. A young lady says it much better than I ever could
and with much more credibility. The link will be at the end of this text
really upset about this whole Confederate thing and the horrifying things people
are doing or getting ready to do in the name of political correctness, e.g.
dig up Nathan Bedford Forrest and his wife and move them out of Memphis (research
his post-civil war racial equality efforts, you'll be surprised). New Orleans
is talking about renaming all the streets named for Confederate generals and
removing all their statues. The NAACP is demanding that the Stone Mountain, Georgia
monument be erased by sandblasting. We are doing to our own country's history
exactly what ISIS is doing in every historic city they enter: destroy anything
they disagree with. It's amazing the speed with which this whole thing peaked.
Eliminating a flag or a segment of history
that's 150 years old isn't going to change today one damn bit. All it will
do is build resentment where there is none and alienate a huge section of
the country. Not to mention pissing off open-thinking people like me. I like
the fact that Kid Rock and Ted Nugent are recording a record, "Kiss My Rebel
A**". And both of them are from Detroit!
Wanna see an unexpected source of clear thinking? Go to http://chicksontheright.com/blog/item/29867-watch-young-black-woman-explains-the-confederate-flag-to-everyone-and-especially-sensitive-black-people.See you in ten days. bd
4 July 2015 - Independence
Oh, man! It’s mid-morning Phoenix time (same as CA) on the Fourth
of July and I wish I were back in Seward Nebraska. Yeah, it’s my hometown,
but on Independence Day, it’s also my touchstone for the Real America.
not kidding even a little bit, when I say that everyone in our country should
experience the Fourth of July as celebrated there.
Right now, amidst their 4th of July hoopla that has earned them fame nationwide,
their parade is starting. It's just one of the many things I miss about that
day. Seward is
where I go to remember that America is NOT as the news channels or government
would have us believe it is. Just as small business is at the heart of our economy,
small towns like Seward (population, a shade over 7,000) are the central part
of our soul. Those small towns are also where the Fourth of July is remembered
for what it is: Independence Day.
A quiet form of self reliance permeates the atmosphere of every small town and
they seem to subliminally identify with our founding fathers’ decision
they’d had enough of the Crown of England. Inasmuch as those pioneering
colonialists had created this nation out of nothing, they didn’t see
why the fruits of their labors should go to support a foreign nation. Also, since
their unique form of individualism was what had made them successful, they knew
they didn’t need someone else to tell them how to run what they had created.
Small towns are on the forefront of self preservation as it was practiced on
the frontier, a trait that comes in handy during hard financial times. Big government
something they aspire to, nor do they expect it to solve their problems. Personal
and civic responsibility is a given.
Independence Day undoubtedly means different things to different folks, but in
small towns, the overwhelming display of patriotism clearly shows where their
heads and hearts are at.
I find the red, white and
blue extravaganza to be refreshing. And reassuring. National news is dominated
by the Beltway Buffoons and unbelievable news from overseas. The way we are absolutely
pummeled by the worse type of news, it would be really easy to get depressed,
and in some ways, I think the nation is depressed. But, as I look around at small
towns, especially those in agrarian areas, I know that regardless of what happens
nationally, when the dust settles, the small towns and their traditions will
have survived. The big cities may be smoking piles of ash but small town America
will still be up and kicking. That’s
where our nation got its start, and if it proves necessary, that will be where
it gets a fresh start. Just knowing that makes me feel better.
So, here are a few photos that demonstrate what a small town Fourth is all
The quinessential small town square complete with
Civil War statue. The plaques around the base thank those who have fought
in every war since.
The plaques go from the Civil War to today. Iraq and Afghanistan are
An area about six blocks on a side is shut down as
every possible activity you can think of is in process. These are female
highschool pole vaulters showing their stuff.
The parade has been known to last two hours. This in a town that is barely
a mile wide, if that.
Every tiny town has a Czech queen and they all show
up. I think the record is 13 (update: there were
11 this year).
|Sometimes family reunions will be measured in the hundreds when all the
generations show up, and they usually do.
When was the last time you saw Boy Scouts in a parade? Makes we smile
just to think of it.
|Every politician worth his salt knows his future may depend on showing
up in this specific parade.
How can you have a parade without fire trucks? Makes we wonder who is
protecting the surrounding towns.
Old cars, especially Model A Fords, are a big thing
in the plains states. There will be many dozens chugging along.
If you can walk or ride, you can participate.
The rodeo queens are always a favorite.
Seward is about 30 miles west of Lincoln right on I-80.
You should think about visiting next year. You'll be glad you did. We'll
be there for sure. bd
28 June 2015
- A Bloodless Coup?
Holy…! What just happen? Did the Supreme Court just decide to redefine
Separation of Powers and Checks and Balances and, in the process, take over the
United States of America? Did “We the people…” just get replaced
by “We the judges?”
I’ve made an honest effort this year to keep Thinking
Out Loud away from
politics and anything like it. But, this week too much stuff happened to ignore
it. I hope this is the last time I get forced into talking about this crap.
First there is the Supreme Court: The way the US government
was purposely set up by the founding fathers, the Supreme Court of The US (SCOTUS)
was there to judge whether laws met the exact letter of the Constitution. They
are the final authority and are supposed to look at a law, lay it against the
template of the Constitution and make a judgment as to whether it fits or not.
THEY ARE NOT THERE TO TWIST THEIR INTEPRETATION OF EITHER THE CONSTITUTION OR
A LAW TO MAKE THAT LAW MORE PALITABLE TO THEM. They absolutely cannot make or
change laws. That’s
the job of Congress. Unfortunately, no other branch has overview as to whether
SCOTUS is doing its job or not and the mechanism to censure them for questionable “behavior” is
cumbersome and has seldom, if ever, been used.
This week dissenting judge Scalia summarized it best in his brief when he said,
of the Obamacare ruling, “The Court’s decision reflects the philosophy
that judges should endure whatever interpretive distortions it takes in order
to correct a supposed flaw in the statutory machinery. We must always remember,
therefore, that our task is to apply the text, not to improve upon it.’”
He further said that the legacy of the Roberts Court will be "…forever
the discouraging truth that the Supreme Court of the United States favors some
laws over others.” Scalia explained that the Court engaged in "somersaults
of statutory interpretation to save ObamaCare, rather than applying neutral and
consistent rules to all laws equally.”
In other words, SCOTUS not only didn’t do their job, as spelled out in
the Constitution, they redefined their job the way they saw fit. This is a scary
situation because they’re the check valve for the whole system. If they
waiver in their responsibilities, the entire system is weakened to its core.
It’s not so much the Obamacare decision I object to, as it is the manner
in which they did it. However, I don’t like the decision either.
The Gay Rights Decision. I suppose I could react the same way to their gay marriage
decision as I do Obamacare, but, my objections to that are different. First,
let it be known far and wide that I don’t think anyone outside of the couple
involved should have any say on the matter of gay marriage or anything similar.
It’s none of my business what they do. I know this is going to rankle some
readers, but I really don’t care if a guy wants to marry another guy, a
pig or his pick-up. I have zero personal leanings in that area other than one
very big one: I DON’T THINK GOVERNMENT—STATE OR FEDERAL—HAS
ANY DAMN BUSINESS LEGISLATING ANYTHING HAVING TO DO WITH GAY RIGHTS. Their rights
should be the same as anyone else on the planet. Ditto for transgenders or anyone
else regardless of color, creed or sexual orientation, assuming they don’t
present a physical threat to the population. Once you separate out any category
or group of people for special legislation, which we do repeatedly, you’re
on a slippery slope.
By the same token, if a person’s religious beliefs say they really don’t
want to bake a cake for a gay wedding, that’s their business. The government
should butt out. In my eyes, that’s just a variation of the sign on the
door, “no shirt, no shoes, no service.”
Morality and Politics. The entire governmental system is screwed up for one very
simple reason. The way the Constitution sets up the government is brilliant in
the way, that, if it is followed, it keeps any given branch from becoming so
powerful that it negates another branch. However, a flaw in the concept was spelled
out by T. Jefferson at the very beginning, when he stated that this structure
would only work if it was built around “moral men.” The concept requires
a high level of honesty, integrity and dedication to the Constitution and the
people it serves, to keep the roles of each branch well defined so they can keep
watch on the other branches. Judging from many of the actions this week, it would
appear that Tom’s concern is valid.
Moral leaders are the main ingredients of a republic. What we are seeing right
now is that, if a person is in a governmental position for which there is little
to no penalty for performing in a wrongful manner, there are only their own morals
to keep them walking the line. I’m afraid that’s what we saw this
week in so many areas of government, not just SCOTUS. In short, it appears the
morality of government and their commitment to the Constitution has been compromised
in the extreme.
This has been going on for a long time. Recently, we all screamed when the President
unilaterally decided to give an immigration breaks to 5 million illegals. Clearly
not within his power. The whole Benghazi thing smelled to high heaven, but we
let it slide. The ultimate “how dumb do they think we are?” actions
can be seen in the rash of beltway hard drive crashes, hard drive disappearances,
e-mail trashings, etc. And then the SCOTUS rulings this week! On a national level,
it seems as if we’ve very much lost our way and are wandering in the wilderness.
About the Confederate flag thing: I have mixed emotions about that one. Because
the stars and bars has been high jacked by so many racist groups, I can clearly
see why some folks see it in that light. That reference is hard to escape and
I understand and largely agree with their sentiment. Being from Nebraska, my
roots are as a bluecoat (the Kansas-Nebraska act of 1854 helped start the Civil
War.) Some part of me, however, strongly identifies with the anti-government,
rebel aspect of the south but not the slavery. I’m betting that was the
case with 90% of Confederates. They weren’t fighting for slavery as much
as they were fighting simply because they were being invaded. When you shoot
at someone, they have no choice but to shoot back. And that’s what I see,
when I see a Confederate flag: underdogs backed into a corner and being forced
to fight. They did so as bravely as anyone ever has. And they were Americans.
Make no mistake, however, I can clearly see why some folks want that flag removed
and I won’t argue that. But, why now all of a sudden?
We are seeing a tsunami of narrowly defined political correctness sweeping the
land that may see warrior statues being removed and an attempt at re-writing
history by omission ala Japan’s treatment of WWII. Also you can count on
the American flag eventually being targeted. Students at the Univ. of California
Irvine campus have already said they want that symbol of oppression and imperialism
removed. If we don’t recognize the symbols of American pride, both national
and regional, those regions will have every right to resent the PC-Nazi’s
intrusion and eventually, the whole thing will fester until it comes around to
bite us in the butt. This thing goes much deeper than a flag.
I hope this is my last political, Thinking Out Loud. bd20 June 2015
- But, it's a Dry Heat
If you watch the news, some would say that it was hot this past week here
in Phoenix. Others would say it was hot as hell. And, I would have to agree.
It’s important for those thinking about moving to Phoenix to realize that
we have four months where the temps never get below 211 degrees. Celsius. So,
don’t move here. Please!
I can’t count the number of times I’ve told someone I’m from
Phoenix and automatically, they say, “Oh, man! How can you live down there?
It’s always 110 degrees! How can you stand it?” It’s like it’s
a conditioned response. Just as my conditioned response to them is, “Let’s
have this same conversation in January.”
Truth is, we had a really cool, and pleasant, spring, but June marks the start
of serious summer for us where temps go over 100 and pretty much stay there until
mid-September. June also, for some reason, always seems to have at least one
week, like last week, where it stays above 110, which is well above normal, all
week, then drops back to a more normal 105-108.
I know that even 105 sounds ridiculously hot to most folks, but that’s
because they’ve never experienced those temperatures at the kind of humidity
we have here. Last week we saw as high as 114 degrees (and yes, thank you, I
was flying in it) with 111 being an average. But I never saw the humidity above
10 percent. Usually about eight percent. And that makes a HUGE difference. The “dry
heat” thing everyone jokes about is very real. Super real, actually.
FYI- the historical record temp for Phoenix was 122 in 1990, which caused the
main airport to shut down. This because airline performance charts didn’t
go that high.
I’m always flying in these temps with students from out-of-state or out-of-the-country
(I fly VERY few locals. I’ll go a year or two without any.) and it’s
fun to hear their comments on our weather. They’re usually here for a week
and, regardless of the time of year, inevitably they say something like, “Man,
this is like Ground Hog day. The sky almost never has any clouds!” That’s
not 100% true, but close enough.
They also say, when they see the hangar thermometer at 105, “I can’t
believe that’s how hot it is. If I was back home in (insert your state),
we’d be dying, but I’m perfectly comfortable.” However, the
instant the air stops moving, as in shutting off the fan in the hangar, you start
sweating. Even if the humidity is low. Fortunately, there’s usually a slight
breeze and the front seat of my Pitts is open cockpit.
We do have higher humidity (as high as 25-30%) during August and we all bitch
and moan about it. You only have to live here for a couple of weeks to become
a certified weather wienie: we can’t stand temps below 60 and humidity
above 20-25%. And I’m not kidding one bit. If it gets down into the 50’s,
which it will sometimes during the winter, you honest-to-God see folks walking
around with gloves on. I always fly with gloves, when it’s that cool.
The hottest I’ve flown here was 118 degrees with a student from (are you
ready for this?) northern Ontario, Canada. But he was a really game kid and didn’t
complain a bit. I made up a “Certificate of Incredibility” for him
at the end of the week. He’s now flying in the Red Bull races. Additionally,
I’ve flown enough in high temps that I can automatically convert the Celsius
(when did it stop being Centigrade?) on ATIS to “real” degrees (Fahrenheit)
in my head.
One thing I’ve really noticed about myself in the last few years on this
heat thing is how easily I get dehydrated. I mean, to the point that I can feel
my brain shutting down and my body goes weak. So, I go through a minimum of two
bottles a hop, which I never had to do in the past. I’m guessing the miles
I’ve racked up on this old body have opened up some of the tolerances in
my internal fittings so I just need more lubricating.
So, anyway, everybody’s favorite season is here: summer and most folks
will lament the day it passes. Not us. As soon as summer is over we can begin
actually living, not just tolerating.
As Rudyard Kipling said (sort of ), “Only mad dogs and Englishmen (and
turistas) go out in the mid-day sun. Zonies know better.” bd
6 June 2015 -
America: A View From the Outside
I’ve started to write this blog at least six times and I can’t
believe I’ve let two weeks go by in the process. Things just kept taking
me away from it. But in some ways, it has worked out well because today is June
6th, a red, white and blue date that always chokes me up. It’s also a date
that dovetails with what was to be the original subject of this blog: I found
that a good place to have a rebirth of patriotism is to attend the swearing in
ceremony for new citizens. Especially a ceremony as special as this one was.
Two weeks ago last Tuesday, Marlene Elizabeth Davisson was sworn in as a US citizen!
This was something she’d had on her bucket list for a long time and sitting
there, watching the ceremony, affected me more than I thought it would.
The smile of a new citizen
I had been told that it was to be a very cut
and dried, repeat-after-me thing that took more time getting seated than it
did to complete. Wrong on all scores. Very wrong and I have to give the Immigration
Service credit for making sure that those who had decided to become US citizens
and their families would remember the day.
There were 64 people to be sworn in and probably 200 people in the room: every
family, us included, knew this was a very big deal. In looking around the room,
I suddenly realized that I had walked in the door with some preconceived notions
that were wrong. With all the hype about our southern borders and immigrants
pouring in, I had assumed most of those in the room would be Hispanic. But
of the 33 nations represented, Mexico didn’t come close to dominating
the room. There were less than ten Hispanics. In fact, as the administrator
had people stand up as he called out their country, there were as many Iraqis
as Mexicans and the rest was split every way you could imagine. A four-member
family from England, a young couple for Nairobi and on and on.
They asked for volunteers to get up and tell their stories, which was what
brought tears to my eyes. The AZ Redhead was amongst the speakers and, in as
proud and as clear a voice as I’ve ever heard from her, she let us all
know that, she had been in Phoenix since 1958, when her family moved down from
Vancouver, Canada and she considered herself as American as anyone in the room,
but this would make it official.
Two other speakers were the ones who really got to me. One was another Canadian,
a young man who struggled with his words and his emotions as he told his story.
He had had surgery for brain cancer, which effected his speech, and he said
that, as he went through the entire, painful experience, all he could
think about was becoming a US citizen.
The other was a tiny, ancient, gray-haired woman, at least 85 years old, from
some country I’d never heard of in Africa. She told the tale of an America
she had only seen in her dreams and on the TV she saw rarely. When she came to
Phoenix, she said what surprised her most were the people. She hadn’t
expected them to be so warm and to reach out to her so readily. Their sincerity
had touched her and she could hardly believe that she was about to become an
It was about that time that a wave of pride in my country rolled over me.
Like so many others, I’d forgotten what an incredible
country this is. It took voices from the outside to remind me. From the inside
we see only the squabbles, the politics and the problems. We forget that for
all its warts and overt screw-ups, this is still the most fantastic country
in the world. Tony Blair once said that you can judge the quality of a country
by whether people are trying to get into it or out of it. And the very fact
that immigration is one of our major subjects of discussion says that, as nasty
as some groups would like to make us out to be, we are still the “go
As I think about all the young men who died 71 years ago on an Atlantic beach
determined to bring freedom back to an oppressed land, and I think of the hopeful
souls in the room with Marlene last week, I almost get angry at myself. And
at the rest of our population. There’s a very negative vibe throughout
the country that shows we’re losing our confidence in the principles
upon which we as a nation have conducted our lives for 239 years. We’re
losing our faith in The Dream. But, as I sat there with 64 people from 33 countries,
you could almost feel their dreams filling the room. In their minds they were
taking a very large step toward becoming part The American dream. They still
believed in us. And we should too.
2015 - Simplicity Trumps the Need for Speed...Maybe
The other day a shiny new Maserati Ghibli coupe pulled up along side me
at a light. It was being driven by a millennial who sported the requisite unshaven
look. He glanced over and, as our eyes met, I couldn’t help but grin and
chuckle, which perplexed him…me being in my ancient Civic and all. I guess
I wasn’t giving him the respect he imagined his ride deserved. That happens
a lot with me.
First, I have to admit to being a car guy, which is no secret to any reader of
Thinking Out Loud. However, I also have to admit that my four-wheel taste is
a little eclectic (weird might be a better word). As I’ve gotten older,
it has gotten decidedly oddball and unexpected. Unexpected even to me.
First my students often find it strange that someone who spends an obscene amount
of time falling out of the sky in a hotrod biplane drives a 25-year-old (1990)
Honda Civic (I bought it new as I was getting divorced, 240,000 miles!). Much
worse: I seem to enjoy it. And I’ve
lavished far more money than is sensible in returning it to, if not show room
condition, at least to a state that it isn’t totally embarrassing (dents
removed, new paint, etc). The car doesn’t match the personality the airplane
would seem to indicate. And I’m not sure why.
I have to admit that, while I dearly love performance cars and my taste runs
to the slightly cruder machines than the Maserati, for some reason I just don’t
want them in my life. Again, I’m not sure why.
My first new car right out of college was a ’65 GTO (Tri-power, four-on-the-floor,
posi-traction, etc.). Before that it was a ’62 Pontiac Catalina hardtop
from my younger brother that was set up with all the Grand National Stock Car
options that were then available. For a lot of years the Goat shared my garage
with a ’65 Shelby GT350 (Serial number 195). I’d LOVE to have any
one of those cars back, and, of course the Shelby is now worth a very pretty
penny, but, for the life of me I can’t see myself driving any of them.
This isn’t because I’m technically a gray dog and too old for them:
you’re never too old for a boss ride and the majority of high dollar performance
cars I see around here are driven by gray dogs. I think it’s because my
life just doesn’t have room for them. No, let me rephrase that: I wouldn’t
have them because I don’t want to invest the time necessary to effortlessly
house them and enjoy them. I just don’t want the complexity.
This is going to sound incredibly silly, but, some part of me seems to be seeking
some sort of simplicity in life, this even though I’m surrounded by tons
of stuff that breeds complexity. ‘You want to complicate a life? Try owning
an airplane in a big city. It’s a major pain in the butt in every way possible.
Maybe part of aging is the realization that there really are only 24 hours in
a day and we’re not as good at compressing stuff into them as we used be.
It might also be the realization that for a lot of our lives, we would look at
something and say, “Oh, I’ll get at it eventually.” Time was
an intangible, gossamer concept that, while we valued it, we didn’t conscious
see it as having an end. There was always more of it out there.
Of all the things that moving into the last quarter of your existence changes,
it is your concept of time. At some point the fact that time has a finite limit
attached to it creeps into our consciousness and we begin looking at things differently.
We finally realize that at some point there will be the last car, the last dog,
the last hug, the last of everything. And, without thinking about it, some of
us begin setting priorities as to how we’re going to invest whatever time
is left in our bank. And “invest” is the right word. We no longer
think in terms of doing something just to be “passing the time."
We want it to earn us something that’s precious, but not necessarily tangible.
paying more attention to old friends. Or maybe creating something that others
will enjoy when we can no longer enjoy it. I don’t know. Everyone does
Certainly one of the trends that’s creeping into my thought patterns is
coming up with dreams and goals that are more short term in nature: I select
projects and goals that I can logically see where they’ll end, rather than
stretching out to some sort of vague, difficult to control, “sometime” conclusion.
I guess I’m looking for a little simplification in everything because I
then know I can handle what ever it is and do a better job of it. Would I like
to be commuting to the airport in a ’65 GTO? Sure I would, but would I
want to complicate my life? No way.
As I accelerated away from the light, hearing the Honda’s modified exhaust
tone building as I effortlessly snapped it into second gear, I looked at the
Maserati pulling away from me and grinned again. I was having as much fun as
he was with a whole lot less effort or worries. And that’s worth a lot.
The AZ Red Head just read this and said it’s mostly BS. She said, if I
had the money I’d have another big block screamer. In truth, she’s
probably right. So much for profound thoughts and commonsense. :-)
2015 - A Ten Second Period of Grace
I just had a miracle happen to me. It could have just been a coincidence,
but, miracle or not, I’ll take it. This because, without it, there’s
the chance I would have been writing this propped up in a hospital bed hammering
on my laptop. I wouldn’t have been seriously hurt but would probably be
banged up a little. Monday I had the luckiest, unlucky thing I’ve ever
had happen to me and I’m hoping to learn from it.
We were cleared for takeoff and my student was in the process of taxiing from
the crowded run-up area to the empty sanctity of the wide runway. Just as she
curved onto the centerline, throttle at idle, the right rudder pedal fell to
the floor, brake and all, and just that quickly, we had zero directional control
of the airplane! Zero! Since we were barely moving at a walk, but already turning,
the airplane’s center of gravity took control of things and continued pulling
our tail to the right until the tailwheel unlocked and we made a very tight,
very lazy ground loop, eventually coming to a halt sitting crosswise on the centerline.
So, there we sat, on the approach end of an 8,000 foot runway, jets clearly in
sight on final and others lined up on both sides of the runway ready to go. But,
there was this little red biplane sitting in the middle of the runway. I felt
incredibly exposed, obvious and just a hair confused.
It took about a second for me to realize that there was no way in hell that I
could taxi clear of the runway. Any power at all just caused the airplane to
turn tightly. So, we shut down and bailed out of the airplane as if it was on
fire, pushing like crazy people to get it off the runway and across a taxiway
to the ramp as quickly as possible. I’d be go to hell, if I would be one
of those idiots who shut down a runway and back up traffic. I’ve seen them
do that for nothing more than a flat tire. Not me.
As I was pushing, I had no idea what happened, but obviously something had broken.
I suspected a cable or maybe a nicopress had slipped off. When I walked around
to the other side of he airplane, I got my answer: the right rudder cable was
dragging on the ground with half of the turnbuckle that connected it to the rudder
attached. The other half of the turnbuckle was still attached to the rudder horn.
It had actually broken! That’s the first time in my life I had seen one
Some problems are easier to diagnose than others!
Incidentally, as I was inspecting the rudder
cable I became conscious of how hard my heart was beating and the quickness
of my breath. I hadn’t realized
I was in such sorry physical condition. That was a wake-up call.
A tow tractor with a dolly showed up and we started the slow motion towing
trek back to the hangar, about ¾ mile away. During the ten or so minutes it
took to make the trip, I sat on the tractor thinking about the episode and all
the “what ifs” attached to it.
What if it had happened five seconds earlier, when we were taxiing past a Falcon
in the run-up area? We would have been moving much faster and had quite a bit
of power on it. The turn to the left would have been much more violent. I don’t
think we would have had enough room between me and the Falcon for me to hit
the good brake and execute a tight ground loop before hitting it. In all likelihood
we would have stopped with my prop chewing into the fuel filled wing of the
Falcon and with more than a little speed behind me.
If it had happened five seconds later: we would have had full power on the
airplane accelerating rapidly to a 70-80 mph lift off. If still on the ground,
P-factor would have yanked us off the left side of the runway at about the same
time I would have chopped the throttle. It would probably have twisted us into
a very high-speed ground loop as we left the runway. The normal scenario in a
Pitts at that point is it folds the outside landing gear, catches the wingtip
and flips the airplane on its back usually destroying it and ruining the occupant’s
If it had happened 10 seconds later, while we were in the air, I would have been
faced with the challenge of having to land the airplane with no directional control.
I could have gotten it on the ground just fine, but immediately after touchdown,
it would have taken off for the side of the runway at about 70 mph and the upside-down-in-the-gravel
scenario was almost guaranteed.
The turnbuckle had decided to fail during the only ten-second window possible
that there wouldn’t have been dire results. I doubt if any of them would
have resulted in serious injury, but who knows?
I was such a seriously lucky SOB I can’t believe it! And it had some worthwhile
effects on me. Among other things I immediately got more serious about my morning
walks and started looking for hills to challenge me. I’ve even tossed in
some squats and push-ups. I’m also making a very minor mod to the airplane
that won’t let the rudder pedals fall forward and take the brakes away
from me. Most tailwheel airplanes are set up the same way and I’d suggest
a similar mod to all of them.
This wasn’t a life-threatening event. In fact, what actually transpired
was more entertaining than threatening. However, the what-ifs are another matter.
They made me a little more aware of what else is going on in my life and, like
someone who had escaped death (which I hadn’t), made me appreciate the
good things more and not let the bad ones bother me. I guess I’m prioritizing
a little better. The challenge now is make that effect last. bd
2015 - You just gotta love the coyote
One of the most hopeful signs that everything is still right in the world
was on the news last night. The accompanying video was of the NYPD (as in New
York City cops) chasing a coyote that was running around lower Manhattan. As
usual, the Coyote was making the NYPD look silly. Just as they always do with
everyone else. Now that’s funny! Just shows no place is sacred to a Coyote,
which I view as the overall leveling organism in the universe. Next to the cockroach.
I love coyotes. Yeah, like most westerners, I’ve put my share of them in
the ground, but I’ve changed my ways. They, of course, haven’t. Now,
other than the fact that they have CAT (big cats) and dogs (small dogs), which
are my closest family, on the top of their everyday menu, I find them entertaining.
I find it flat out amusing that even a place that’s as sophisticated (or
so they’d like us to believe) as NYC (which actually floats on a veritable
cockroach haven) isn’t safe from El Coyote’. Old Mr. Coyote is the
omnipresent reminder that we don’t actually rule the world. That we’re
just passing through. Mr. C is the thread of continuity that ties yesterday,
today, and tomorrow together.
I would have loved to be there when someone stepped out of a high-dollar NYC
eatery only to have a coyote, being pursued by a herd of cops, flash past them.
Okay, so it’s not hilarious to most, but I think the image is pretty damn
Frank Lloyd Wright said (although it could have been Buckminster Fuller…or
Soupy Sales) that 10,000 years from now, all that anyone will find of our civilization
will be toilet bowls: ceramics are forever. Nothing else manmade is. However,
the cockroaches and coyotes, which were here long before we walked on two legs
and will still be here long after we’re gone, will probably have their
thoughts about us. If they feel like talking they could talk about the tall,
salty-tasting bipeds that used to beat their chests and stack rocks on top of
rocks and live inside the result. Yeah, those funny looking, hairless bipeds
were here. But, now they’re gone.
It’s kind of interesting to think about the coyote and how he has reacted
to mankind taking over his living space. I was born and raised in eastern Nebraska,
which doesn’t mean much except for a couple of unusual facts. First, I
know for a fact that I never saw a coyote in the wild unless we drove out into
the Sand Hills on the other end of a pretty big state (430 miles across). Oddly
enough, same thing holds for deer. It was farm country with lots of food, but
we had to go out west to find deer. Today, of course, both species are nuisances
in the area.
I doubt if we’re going to see deer running down 3rd Avenue on the lower
East side, but the funny, not-so-little, laughing dogs have somehow made the
trip. But, I can’t imagine how.
Manhattan Island is called an island because…well… because it’s
an island. That means it’s surrounded by water. A lot of water. But there
are good sized bridges across that water. However, I cannot, for the life of
me, see a coyote getting up on the George Washington Bridge and trotting into
the Big Apple. Ditto the Lincoln or Holland tunnels. So, how did that guy get
into Manhattan? The video was the final proof that, if you leave a sandwich laying
around, a coyote is going to find it. You can kill ‘em, but you can’t
run them out of a territory were they want to live.
As for coyote populations moving East, that makes perfect sense. Even though
it would appear that we have taken their living spaces, just the opposite is
true. They’re the space thieves: they’ll live any damn place they
please. And it pleases them to live around the edges of mankind because mankind
produces an endless stream of garbage. Which attracts rodents and rodents attract
coyotes. And mankind raises things like cats and small dogs, which might as well
be coyote bait. We lost a cat not long ago to a coyote. Now we keep them in at
I’m certain everyone from farmers to suburbanites to 5th Avenue doormen
are trying to get rid of coyotes. However, if there’s one incontrovertible
fact in life, when it comes to a fair fight (no firearms involved), always bet
on the coyote.
And the cockroach, of course. bd11 April
2015 - Getting Our Lives Under Control (Good luck!)
The human animal is a curious one. We have reshaped an entire planet in
what amounts to the blink of an eye, yet, when it comes to controlling some pretty
basic, personal behavior patterns, most of us suck. Me especially. I’m
admitting this publicly in the hopes that it’ll shame me into doing something
about it. And may help others with the same challenges. I’m talking about
minor stuff like controlling our weight or where our life is going.
There’s something about most of us that we’ll put our heads down
and charge into the unknown ready to take on any challenge. However, give us
a little time and we seem to drift off course and forget where we were going.
A classic example is how quickly the patriotic furor over 911 faded and degraded
back down to the same divisive conservative/liberal way of thinking . Or, on
a more personal level, how we go charging off determined to get in shape. Or,
better yet, lose weight. Or clean the garage. Or whatever. We start off like
a house afire, but in a fairly short period of time lose momentum and there we
are…right back where we started. Granted, there are those amongst us who
can pick a direction and maintain it, resisting all temptations to drift off
course. But that’s not most of us. In fact, I think I hate those people.
You know who you are (kidding).
I, for one, get pretty damned disgusted with myself from time to time because
I know I’m not doing what I should be doing. And right now is one of those
times. I look around at my life and ask myself, “What the hell are you
doing? You’re not even close to controlling your life, which is something
you’ve always prided yourself on.”
I’m absolutely positive others feel the same way periodically. That we’re
letting events set our course rather than controlling it ourselves We’re
letting the winds fly our airplane, when we should be controlling what’s
going on rather than just reacting to what’s happening around us. Why is
I’m not talking about the big things like politics and the madness in our
nation’s capital. I’m talking about all of the smaller, day-to-day
life-factors over which we have total control, but do nothing about. Sometimes
we seem to let them overwhelm us, or they pick at us a little at a time causing
us to lose our heading without our realizing it.
Wait….! For all I know, I’m alone in this up and down, saw-tooth
approach to life. Please don’t tell me that the majority of you start on
a project of some kind and keep fiddling with it until it’s done. Please
don’t tell me you decided to lose 17 ½ pounds ten years ago, lost
it and kept it off! That makes me think you’re some sort of extraterrestrial
because, in my experience, mere mortals can’t do that. At least this one
can’t. I lost 33 pounds about five years ago and little by little have
gained 20 of it back. And I’m seriously pissed at myself. But it goes deeper
than that and I was made aware of similar losses of control while I was messing
with my taxes this morning.
Those of you who are in business for yourselves all have the same problem: since
we don’t actually know what we’re going to make on a yearly basis
we have to exercise a bit of self control and walk a razor blade path that lets
us pay the bills, yet still have enough left to pay the taxes.
I said that backwards: we plan to pay the taxes and hope we have enough left
to pay the bills.
Increasingly, taxes are the big wind that we have to control and, in the last
few years that has become more difficult. But, this is just one of those control-challenged
areas, like my weight, that I’ve lightened my grip on so this tax year
is going to be a tough one. This morning, I found myself brow beating myself
because I’m not doing the job of running my life as I’m supposed
to be doing. On every front I’ve become lax. When that happens, what do
we do about it?
It’s obvious that “lax” is a chronic human condition that I
think lurks around the corners of our personalities and is always waiting to
catch us in a weakened condition so it can lead us off the correct path. In so
many aspects of our lives, we say “screw it!” and pry the top off
a fresh quart of chocolate-carmel ice cream (which should be illegal, by the
way), at the same time saying “Just this once. I’ll only eat an inch
of it now. I’ll diet it off tomorrow.” That NEVER works! Worse…we
know it doesn’t work, but we do it anyway.
It is universally accepted that the human animal is a weak one. Yet, as a species,
we manage to do some amazing things. Even more amazing, most of our accomplishments
are for good. We’re not the scourge of the universe some would have us
believe that we are. Individually, however, we (more correctly “I”)
have difficulties controlling our own tiny universes. So, it’s time for
me to do something about that.
Our current B & B/flying student is leaving in a half hour. Shortly after
that, I’m rousting The AZ Red Head out of the sack with a hot cup of tea
and we’re going to sit on the patio, yellow pad in hand, and plot out a
new course for us. How long the result will stay in effect is hard to tell, but
one fact is absolutely true: if we don’t make the effort, nothing is going
to change. And I can’t live life like that. Could you? bd
4 April 2015
- A Simple Life?
This morning, as I was brushing my teeth, a conversation I had on a plane
a while back floated through my mind. I don’t know if I’ve recounted
it before, but, if I have, I feel like talking about it this again this morning.
I don’t remember where I was going, but when my seatmate made his way to
his roost beside me, his uneasiness was palpable. His eyes had a lot of age behind
them but, as he walked down the aisle, they never stopped moving around the airplane.
He studied the overhead storage, the way the bins opened, he glanced down into
each seat as he passed and a finger rode the overhead rail keeping track of the
seat numbers: he even stopped to read the defibrillator placard on the appropriate
bin. This was a true airline newby. Actually, it was more than that: he was a
stranger in a strange land. And obviously from a different era.
I tried to guess his age, but couldn’t. Everything about him said late
80’s. Maybe even 90’s. But, the quickness in his eyes made me think
younger. His back was straight, his frame thin but wiry. His sun-darkened skin
was the wrinkled texture of old, but well oiled, leather and he carried himself
proud. He was old. There was no way to deny that. But he made old look good.
He wore a faded, but clean and perfectly pressed, flannel shirt, with matching
jeans, a big buckle from a long-ago rodeo and pointy-toed boots that he’d
valiantly tried to polish, but their age and the miles showed through. He carried
a small leather suitcase/bag like you’d see in an antique store in one
hand and his Sunday-go-to-meeting, high-crown Stetson in the other. The hat had
obviously been his traveling companion for a long, long time. Everything about
the old gentleman said “cowboy.” Not the kind you see on the Country
Music Awards, or climbing out of a Cadillac with horns on the hood. The kind
that part of your mind hopes still inhabits far corners of the American Experience
carrying on a tradition that we know is dying and we hate that. He was the real
thing and had been since before I was born.
As he sat down, he fumbled with the seat belt and strained to see out the window.
I introduced myself and stood up, insisting that he slide to the window seat
so he could enjoy the entire experience. I helped strap him in and pointed out
the overhead lights and the seatbelt signs. Initially, he was timid. Almost embarrassed
that he needed help. I sensed an incredibly self-reliant man who was fighting
old age as much as he could and didn’t like the fact that he was so far
out of his element that he needed help from a stranger. Still, he quietly expressed
his gratitude and settled back for the take off, only slightly stiffened with
His nose against the window, the airplane raced down the runway and rotated into
the air. At about 500 feet, his head snapped around with a big grin
on his face, his eyes on fire.“Damn!” Then he was back to the new
world unfolding before him.
As the flight wore on, he relaxed and asked me where I was from. He called me “son”,
which I liked. Little by little, his story came out.
He was born, raised and lived his entire life on a smallish ranch in the mountains
east of Phoenix. This is an area that still offers the open spaces and challenging
life that the general public associates with “The West.” Few, however,
partake of that life because there are far, far easier ways to make a living.
As he described his childhood and the times that followed, I could see the ranch
in my mind so clearly it was as if I had been there. It was nestled into the
back of the foothills on the eastern slope where the wooded mountains fade into
high-country plains. Some of the pasture area could be mistaken for western Nebraska
or the Dakotas except it was an easy 4,500 MSL with the mountains and hill country
much higher than that. This meant their winters were tough and their summers
Without even seeing them, I knew the simple house and barns all needed a coat
of paint. Times had never been good, much less fat enough to allow regular painting
and in many spots the wood had turned gray. His sons had moved to The City as
soon as they were able. He was proud of them. One a mechanic, the other a physician’s
assistant. Oh, sure they visit as much as they can, but, you know…they
have families. And business to take care of. His beloved Amanda is nearly a decade
gone, but he’s doing okay. The Gutierrez boys have acerage next door and
they come over and help, when needed. He doesn’t get TV, but the radio
works real good. The telephone too. The big herd got to be too much, so he’s
only running about 50 head now. His immediate family is an old gray named George
and a couple of dogs who love him dearly: Mable and Ernesto. His eyes lit up
when mentioning the dogs and the lights stayed on, when he ran down the list
of grand children, some of which had actually been out to the ranch. They seemed
to enjoy it. At 92, he didn’t think he’d see them too many more times.
If at all. Some of the light went out of his eyes, when he said that.
And, yes, this was the first time in an airplane. In fact, except for a few rodeos
in Prescott and Texas, he’d seldom left the county. Except during WWII.
He’d joined the Marines with a Navajo friend of his. He hated the Pacific
and hadn’t really known how to swim, when he stepped into the surf at Iwo.
Dreadful place. Lost a lot of friends there. Some nights, when the light is low
out on the back porch, he’ll sit there smoking a cigar and see their faces.
All of them are so young. So damn young!
As I said good by and looked him in the eyes, I hadn’t realized, until
that moment, how much I envied him. He’d lived what most of us would judge
as a simple life. But, it was his life, lived on his terms. And it was a good
life. His years were guided only by the weather, the seasons, his health and
that of his herd. And he’d kept a dying tradition alive. I know I’ve
met lots of guys who think of themselves as cowboys. But, that day, I knew for
a fact, I had actually met one. And I savor that memory. bd
2015 - Cities and Other Social Constructs
There’s a truly interesting character, recently deceased at 93,
Pablo Soleri, who is a part of AZ culture in an unexpected way: a student of
Frank Lloyd Wright (the architect, in case you didn’t know), he spent most
of his long life trying to redefine the concept of “city” and this
weekend, The Redhead and I finally understood what he meant. And that understanding
made me stand back and re-evaluate the way I look at life, in general.
Trying to explain how Soleri looked at buildings and cities is difficult but
I’ll do my best (and I’ll probably get it wrong). At the root of
his design philosophy is the elimination of what he sees as waste: the waste
of land, the waste of building materials, the waste of energy, the waste of the
human experience. So his designs pivot around the concept of sustainability in
which the key ingredient is low waste.
When designing his buildings he seeks to take advantage of everything natural,
both in the support of those buildings (heating, cooling, etc.) and in his construction
techniques. So, rather than strapping on a ton of solar panels, he orients his
buildings to the sun, shapes them to absorb sun, when it’s needed, and
repel it, when it’s not.
His construction is, for the most part, highly non-traditional. Rather than using
conventional build-from-the-inside methods that result in a skeletal interior
frame with a cosmetic covering, most of his structures have an exoskeleton, like
a turtle or a beetle or a tilt slab building, in which all of the loads are carried
by the exterior skin. The way in which he builds that skin is also about as non-traditional
as you can get. He uses what some call the “earth casting” system:
the basic shape of the building (usually some variation of dome) is sculpted
in huge piles of dirt. The piles are dampened and tamped down so workers can
sculpt designs and structural members into the dirt. This includes interior girders
that appear as sculpted trenches in the dirt dome but appear as some form of
artful arch inside the dome. Then the dirt dome is covered in concrete. Re-bar
and steel screen run throughout the concrete, most of which is now sprayed in
place (I’m assuming some sort of gunnite). When the dirt is excavated (which
can be used again for another building), you have a form of sometimes-huge igloo-like
structures. I like that concept, if not the philosophy behind it.
|Arcosanti workshop. The girders and inteior decoration
is sculpted into the dirt mound before the concrete and re-bar is run
over it.The orientation and arch is designed so sun reaches the work
shops in the rear during winter but not summer.
Soleri has two show cases for his architectural
concepts here in AZ, one of which is Cosanti, a five acre tract about a mile
from our house that was originally out in the desert but is now surrounded
by some of the most expensive houses in Arizona. This was his student-supported
architectural campus where he not only taught architecture, but based his
bronze and ceramic bell business, which is also supported and operated by
student labor. We love his bells/windchimes and anyone we know that’s
getting married can count on one being their wedding gift. Google them and
you can buy them on-line. We highly recommend them.
Even though we’d been exposed to Soleri for decades, we didn’t really
understand what he espoused until we finally stopped at his really major project,
a utopian mini-city about 60 miles north of Phoenix, Arcosanti. We’d been
past it dozens of times, but never stopped. We finally stopped this weekend and
that’s when we not only understood his concepts, but came face to face
with our own concepts of “city” and “living.”
|In Soleri's concept of a city, everything anyone
needs would be built into a large rambling building, including entertainment.
Arcosanti's ampitheater often hosts known artists, but the road in is
two miles of rough dirt.
|All buildings, inside and out are raw, unplastered
concrete that is tinted with dirt while being poured so they visually
match the hillsides. They need zero up keep. Cast concrete slabs are
integrated into the dome structures.
In a nutshell, Soleri’s concepts
say that the major problem with cities is the car and the urban sprawl caused
by the car. So, he thought we should all be in what amounts to huge apartment
buildings that maximize energy conservation by not only using green systems
but are within walking/bicycling distances of our jobs (he makes no provisions
for manufacturing plants, etc). Cars wouldn’t
be allowed in the city-center. And that’s what Arcosanti showcases: highly
efficient use of space for large numbers of people who live in close proximity
in a “harmonious way:” his concept also says people get along better
if they share the same experiences and spaces.
He apparently never met me, or the vast majority of people I know.
My feeling about harmonious living can be summed up by a single experience,
which I think I’ve mentioned here before, but is again apropos: my garage/workshop
has a garage door at both ends and my primary work area is against the back
one that opens into the backyard. I had that door open during one of my rare
workshop sessions. Suddenly a head popped up over the cement block wall that
surrounds our backyard (typical for Phoenix). The Head, was eerily reminiscent
of the guy in Tim Allen’s TV show “Home Improvement” that was
always talking to him over their fence. The Head said, “Hi, my name is
Sam, I just moved in. I like building stuff too. Whatcha working on?”
At that instant, I suddenly realized I really don’t like, or want, neighbors.
I value my private time too much. And I’m certain I’m typical of
a large segment of the population.
What Soleri’s concepts don’t recognize is that there are lots
of folks who don’t function well, when hemmed in. They aren’t necessarily
anti-social, but very much want to control their social interaction. If those
folks want other people in their lives, they’ll invite them in. Otherwise,
stay away. In fact, those folks want to control everything about their existence
and don’t want anyone else involved. They don’t need anyone to
provide anything but the basics: electricity and water. In fact, given a choice,
supply that too, if they could. That doesn’t make them hermits. They
just like things the way they like them, and aren’t about to be pigeon
holed. You won’t find them sitting around a campfire singing Kumbaya
and roasting marshmallows with the neighborhood.
Personally, I applaud the majority of Soleri’s techniques and innovations.
In fact, I’d like to use some of them. But, his overall philosophy just
ain’t gonna work with a lot of folks.
I did, however spot a gorgeous desert valley less than a mile from Arcosanti
where I’d love to put a runway with a combination hangar/workshop/house
snuggled into the cliff surrounding it. It would be a perfect application for
Soleri’s earth-casting building techniques. And it’s far enough out
in the boondocks that I wouldn’t have talking heads popping up over my
fence insisting I converse with them.
15 March 2015
- Grandbaby Again
As I mentioned last week, my daughter braved her way through ice and snow
to get to Memphis to await the arrival of her baby-to-be-adopted. It arrived,
and yesterday, she came through with grandchild-four (granddaughter-three) and
the granddad/Grammy thing became real again.
At 6 pounds 9, this one, is, to me frighteningly cute and frighteningly fragile,
even though she’s not. First, it’s been a helluva long time since
I’ve been around a newborn (sitting on our patio, she was five days old!).
Second, both of my kids were relative giants in the
baby world: 9 pounds 6 and 9 pounds 3 respectively. So, I’ve never been
around a baby baby like this one. I find it hard to believe that every single
member of the human race starts out that incapable of taking care of themselves.
That says a lot for mothers. Less for fathers. I couldn’t get over the
tiny fingers and the eyes that roam around that you know are basically seeing
nothing. It’s all about impressions of bright and dark, warmth and closeness.
Her middle name is Presley, which I think is perfect and fits well. Mom is a
hardcore Elvis fan (highly unusual for a 30’s-something) and she and granddaughter-two
had just been through Graceland a few days earlier. When mom asked her five-year-old
what her new baby sister should be named, “Presley” popped out and,
after some discussion, all agreed. Why the hell not? I love it!
So, now, my daughter is the single-mom of two. A hard row to hoe, but she’s
made hoeing hard rows a specialty, so there’s no doubt she’ll be
fine and the new one will be the exemplary human being her older sister is. Not
many kids are that lucky. Not many moms would take on the single-mom role a second
time. But, my daughter couldn’t NOT do it. She was driven. As she always
is. So, all is good.
FYI - I was not aware of the incredible complexity of adopting children until
my daughter went through it. I’m not sure if her experience was typical,
but it was certainly arduous. You don’t just fill out an order form for
a baby and wait to be called to the front of the line. The birth mother “auditions” perspective
parents. My daughter actually made up promotional brochures on herself to present
to birth mothers in an effort at selling herself.
And the process can be cruel: She was selected once, drove to the East Coast
to do the adoption and, in the middle of the night, after spending a day with
the new baby, the birth mother decided not to let it go. Nothing is firm until
the forms are all signed. Like I said, it can be cruel.
Then there is the role of granddad and grammy: we have two grand kids in NJ and
now two in CA. And all are too damn far away. I know lots of friends who are
constantly on the road visiting their grand kids, and I’m out and out jealous.
But, those same friends are at least semi-retired. Most fully retired. We aren’t.
To say the least. I’m not sure whether this is a good thing or a bad thing,
but I know for a fact, it’s not about to change unless some health event
intrudes and makes us slow down. So, we have to work our far-spread family in
around a daily schedule.
I’m eternally grateful that we got that hour or so with the new little
bundle because it’ll be a month before we make another screaming-across-the-desert
trip to grandbabies’ house. That’ll give us a little time to wiggle
ourselves back into new-grandparent mode. We can’t wait.
27 Feb 2015 - Weather or Not
As this is being written, my daughter is threading
her way through freezing fog in south Texas on her way from Hollywood, CA
to Memphis to adopt a baby. I’m sitting here flipping through weather maps and Interstate Weather
sites trying to help her find the soft spots. But, I know full well that
I can’t do much more than advise. Frustrating!
The weather has come close to knocking everything else off the front page.
And there’s a good reason for that. When you can’t find your
car beneath an unbroken field of snow, even though you know about where it
was parked, ISIS, politics and global warming get pushed off to the outer
fringes of your consciousness. Ma Nature has a brutal way of continually
reminding us that we actually don’t control anything. She just allows
us to exist in the calm periods between her calamitous fits of behavior.
When she’s in a bad mood, everything else is irrelevant. And the immediacy
of the Net and media makes us totally aware of the seriousness of the weather
even though we’re not even remotely affected.
Being born and raised in flatland, blizzard country and then moving to lots-of-snow-and-too-many-people
country (NJ), I’ve paid my bad weather dues. Still there are times,
when I not only remember what’s going on in the rest of the country
but very much appreciate what we have here in the Southwest. One of those
days happened this week.
As I’ve mentioned before that one of our favorite events is the Single
Action Shooting Society’s national extravaganza, Winter Range. That
has run for the entire week and provided us with a weather-reminder.
For those not familiar with Cowboy Action Shooting, just picture the police
tactical range training you see in the movies, where they are working their
way through buildings and shooting through windows, etc. Now dress everyone
in Western garb and take away the AR-15’s and hand everyone a pair
of single action handguns, a shotgun of some kind and a lever action Winchester
or the equivalent. It’s a bunch of guys playing cowboy with live ammo
and steel plate targets. Also, there are tons of exhibitors purveying everything
from firearms to Bowie knives, frilly dresses and hats for the ladies and
all sorts of cowboy duds for the guys.
|Guy in back is holding a timer. Note the shotgun laying on the bench.
When finished with these targets, the shooter will grab the shotgun and
dash to another stage
|Mounted shooting is a big deal at the meet with
both men and women competing. They are shooting .45s loaded with crushed
Some shooters really get into character.
This time around the weather was the typical AZ afternoon:
clear blue. We were sitting there with a couple of good friends enjoying
a BBQ elk burger, the sounds of firing all around us and everyone in sight
packing at least one single action. The sun cast kind of a warm glow over
us, the conversation with those around us was engaging and mostly hilarious,
and you could almost feel the relaxation settle over you like a blanket.
However, I was acutely aware that we were part of a very small group of people
in the entire Nation that wasn’t cursing Ma Nature. In fact, we were
falling more in love with her every minute.
The foregoing was definitely NOT being said to gloat. It was said to let
those not as fortunate know that we very much appreciate what we have here.
Actually, the break of getting out of the office and spending an afternoon
in great weather, with good friends, doing something we really enjoy, was
energizing. It was a long time coming and, as I now recognize, was necessary.
We need to do it more often.
To those of you to whom weather is an unrelenting enemy, hang in there. Spring
will eventually get here and just know that those of us who have been in
your shoes feel your pain. Of course, it’s easy to say that when the
sun is almost always shining. Still, we’re thinking of you. bd
21 Feb 2015 - Random Thoughts 2.0
This has been a very confusing week worldwide. It has
been hard to concentrate on any one thing because of all the important and
totally unimportant things that have popped up on my radar. So, if you don’t
mind, I’m going to skip around and hit some random subjects, all of which
include links that I think everyone needs to read. One is deadly serious,
while others are amazing and fun.
First the Fun Stuff
There has been a You-tube thingie bouncing around the Web for a couple of weeks
in which a young Dane takes the simple bow and arrow to new heights as a tactical
weapon. His ability to put three arrows in three moving targets while he himself
is running at full speed is barely matched by doing the same thing with an automatic
handgun. And then there is the image of him splitting an arrow that is fired
at him mid-flight. If you didn’t see it on film, including slow motion,
you wouldn’t believe it. There’s some good historical information
included, as well. See below.
As a comparison/counter-point, I’m including some links for the late Bob
Munden, a six-gun speed shooter, which is also difficult to believe, but still
not up to what the archer is doing. Ditto, Jerry Miculek, which some of you may
know from TV. I have links below of him hitting a balloon from 1000 yards (yes,
one thousand yards) with a 9mm handgun, doing some high speed shooting and hitting
a target at 200 yards with a snub nose revolver while holding it upside down
and firing it with his pinky finger.
This is all impossible stuff but it’s really fun to see how good people
can get at something, when that’s their focus in life. I’m including
the full links so, just in case they don’t work, you can cut and paste
them into your browser.
Bob Munden, speed shooter
A feel-good link
In case you haven't seen this, you'll understand why I've included it, when you
see it. I didn't want readers to miss it
They are dominating the news and increasingly, we’re hearing
people who have a good handle on things saying that we’re seeing the
beginning of WWIII. And it’s
easy to see why they say that. First, if you read the link, http://www.theblaze.com/stories/2015/02/18/former-libyan-dictator-made-ominous-prediction-about-islamist-militants-before-his-ouster-is-it-about-to-come-true/,
which is just a news report of today’s events over “there”,
skim it quickly on purpose. Don’t slow down for the details. It’s
short and the impact is best noticed during a quick skimming: it reads like
a newspaper front page that was printed in 1940, when the war in Europe was
building on all fronts but we were still spectators. The running account of
the various battles on the various fronts is essentially a template for what
the news from overseas sounds like today. Country after country is being attacked
with the battlefront stretching across North Africa with skirmishes throughout
Europe in the form of terrorist attacks. Looked at in that way, we’ve
had some guerilla action taking place on our own shores.
The following link, http://www.theatlantic.com/features/archive/2015/02/what-isis-really-wants/384980/,
is long, 32 pages, but it is hands-down the most important document people
can read to put our current ISIS problem in context. Oddly enough, it is from
the usually-liberal Atlantic Monthly, and the author did a superb job with
the subject. Take your time with it: it'll give you a perspective on ISIS you
won't get elsewhere.
Essentially what the long document says (it’s exceedingly well written
and readable) is that when we use the phrase “Fundamentalist Islam” that’s
exactly what they are. They are so “fundamental” that they are
taking the original version of the Quran absolutely literally and everything
they do and think on an hourly basis is driven by that document, a document
that was compiled from prophet Mohammed’s oral recitations circa 635
AD. So, they are essentially a modern army with the goals of a medieval religion
that allows zero deviation from the script. Zero! If you don’t live a
Muslim life, as dictated by Mohammed in the original version, to the letter,
you are lower than scum and to be eliminated. That’s why they thought
nothing of burning 45 Muslims alive this week: being a Muslim isn’t enough.
You have to be their kind of Muslim or it doesn’t count and is to be
punished. The reason for the beheadings and burnings is because that’s
what their version of the religion, as dictated by Quran 1.0, requires. Every
single action they have taken can be found word for word in that document.
Their goal isn’t really to convert the world to their way of thinking,
although that IS their short-term goal. It’s not their long view because
according to their script, the “apocalypse” is coming and they
want to facilitate it. And, to that end they will do what ever it takes to
rid the world of those they consider unworthy. That’s us, among others.
And they’ll take what ever time it takes. “We will conquer your
Rome, break your crosses, and enslave your women,” Adnani, the ISIS spokesman,
promised in one of his periodic valentines to the West. “If we do not
reach that time, then our children and grandchildren will reach it, and they
will sell your sons as slaves at the slave market.”
Slavery, BTW, is distinctly mentioned and allowed in the Quran. As are beheadings,
burning and rape.
Think of the US, and the world in general, as a gigantic elephant. Now think
of that elephant infected with fleas. He ignores them for a short time because
initially they’re underfoot and he only gets a bite here and there. The
actual gestation of a flea from egg to full-fledged biting member of the flea
clan is over a month. However, when several thousand fleas lay eggs, it’s
only a few short generations before you’re seeing a new crop of fleas
about every 10 seconds. In a short while, they are crawling all over him, biting
everywhere. As soon as he snatches one off, another two or three are born and
begin biting. Soon, even though they are tiny fleas and he’s an elephant,
he’s totally covered and they’re in every crevice and his eyes
making it hard to see. They aren’t going to kill him, but they are making
his life miserable and become the focus of his existence.
Right now the fleas are threatening our ankles and it’s time to get serious
about using every possible means at our disposal to kill them and keep them
from even getting on the soles of our feet. When it comes to ISIS fleas, zero
tolerance right now will keep them from crawling up our national butt in the
not too distant future. They are NOT going to go away on their own.
Enuff said? This really may be the beginning of WWIII. bd
7 Feb 2015 - ISIS/ISIL: a Global
Let’s think about two concepts
for a just a second: the first is burning a man alive. The second is videoing
that event with high level production values and then spreading it across
the world as a sign of pride and achievement. It’s difficult to say
which is worse: the hyper-savage act or their making a public relations
spectacle of it. We have definitely entered a new chapter in world history.
Or have we?
If we look back through history we can find similarly savage acts. Shortly
after the Vietnam debacle, Pol Pot and his Khmer Rouge wiped 1.5 million
Cambodians, out of a total population of around 7 million, from the face
of the Earth. The stories coming out of the various African countries like
Rwanda and the brutal slaughter of Tutsi and moderate Hutu by the Hutu Majority
where close to a million Rwandans were killed in barely three months. And
then there were the Nazis. Nothing needs to be said there.
There is, however, a marked difference between the
way in which ISIL has hacked their way into history and the actions of
perpetrators of similar tragedies.
Seldom has any given group practiced their savagery for any reason other
than brutalizing the population on which they were focused. Pol Pot was creating
a classless, peasant society in Cambodia by eliminating anyone who didn’t
fit that category. Intellectuals, professionals, etc., were toast. The Hutus
wanted anyone in their country who weren’t radical Hutus gone. The
Nazis sought to “purify” their nation by industrializing the
slaughter of anyone who, under their definition, wasn’t “pure.” In
the case of ISIS, however, their focus doesn’t seem to be on a given
group and they haven’t limited their focus to Syria or Iraq. They seem
focused on anyone worldwide who isn’t hard core Sunni Muslim. Actually,
even that isn’t true.
Jordan is predominately Sunni, not Shia (ISIL’s sworn enemy, although
still Muslim) so it can be assumed that the Jordanian pilot they torched
was also Sunni. So, they are absolutely not above killing their own in spectacular
fashion. Ditto the unreal photos that come out of Iraq, like the one in which
a soldier is surrounded by a wall of human heads, every one of them Muslim
(probably Shia) or the videos of shooting hundreds of Iraqi soldiers
in the back. Not only do these acts show that their brand of Islam is apparently
unique to ISIL and their affiliates, but they have made their violent actions
into specific public relations programs to promote their cause. Showcasing
their brutality is meant to cow their enemies but, at the same time, the
videos are designed to appeal to individuals world wide who share the same
thoughts as ISIL. And this is what makes ISIL dangerous to the US.
If it weren’t for social media and the Web, we really wouldn’t
know what ISIS/ISIL is doing except by watered down headlines in the papers
that would appear long after the incidents. Technology, however, has given
ISIL a world wide stage on which to display their brutality in real time
and, in so doing, reach like-minded people on a global scale. Their on-line
Dabiq, is as slick and as sophisticated as anything you’ll
find on any US newsstand http://www.clarionproject.org/news/islamic-state-isis-isil-propaganda-magazine-dabiq.
It is VERY well written and most of the prose very persuasive. It makes ISIS
look like a winner and a hero to be supported. Combine that with their use
of every form of social media and you don’t have a physical army doing
battle in a far away land. You have an ideologically-driven, virtual force
that is essentially a guerilla army that exists in every computer in every
den/bedroom/basement in the world.
Their Web presence is what makes ISIL a real danger to the US, not the
actual combat in the deserts.
ISIL doesn’t need recruits that journey to Iraq to join them in their
fight against the infidels. They can create ISIL soldiers right here in suburbia,
in the inner city and even on seemingly placid farms. The subject matter
in the magazine often explains how to carry out lone wolf attacks and it
is so well produced that it can convince weaker, or more fanatical, minds
that ISIL’s goals are just. Videos of beheadings and the even more
stomach wrenching episodes like burning the Jordanian pilot are recruitment
tools as much as they are aimed at warning others what can happen if they
continue the fight against them. Radicals worldwide, Muslim and otherwise,
are cheering those videos. They are seeing blows struck for what they see
as the downtrodden of the world. They see ISIL rubbing our noses in it.
Even though their videos have pretty much sickened the entire civilized world
and turned that world against ISIS, has that really mattered? What has that
world done to reverse the ISIL tide? At the same time, their propaganda machine
has only to reach a few fanatics in each country for the terror that rages
through out Iraq/Syria to reach right into our own neighborhoods via lone
wolf fanatics. Because of the Web, no place is safe from ISIL. No place.
Even worse, there is no way that ISIL can be completely put out of business.
Let’s assume the good guys (that’s us, just to clarify) totally
chases ISIL out of Iraq and Syria. Lets say we kill every single one in sight.
That won’t change the threat to the US and the rest of the globe. Only
a half dozen ISIL confederates working out of a garage in Yemen/Germany/Brooklyn/anywhere
can keep a web presence going including beheading videos and such.
To those who think the ISIL threat is regional and exists only over “there” and
we should let the locals fight it, you’re wrong. This is a cancer in
the process of metastising and the longer we wait, the worse it is going
to get. As it is, this threat is going to be with us, in one form
or another, for as long as the Web exists, which is another way of saying
we'll be fighting it forever. ISIS has made terrorism a marketable product
and has developed marketing programs to support it. This is the most sophisticated,
devious, effective threat we’ve
We’re entering a new chapter of American history. bd
PS-King Abdullah of Jordan came out swinging after the atrocity
committed to one of his pilots and, in no uncertain terms, let ISIS know
"I'm coming after your a**!" (not his exact words, but close.). He's ex-Special
Forces and a trained pilot. 'Never thought I'd be willing to vote for a king.
I couldn't resist posting the below.
He looks like he means business, doesn't he?
1 Feb 2015 - Spectator Sports and
It is the morning of Sunday,
1 Feb, 2015 and I know for a fact that a lot of you won’t be reading
this until tomorrow because the Super Bowl, or the Super Bowel, as I
call it, is this afternoon. So, you’re lost to the world until
it’s over. I know it’s
totally un-American for me to say this, but you couldn’t pay me
to sit and watch a ball game of any kind. And, if there were 100-dollar
bills stacked on a free seat at the Super Bowl waiting for me, I couldn’t
force myself to fight through the crowds to get them. This, even though
being played only about 15 miles from where I now sit.
I fully recognize that I must have a break in my DNA because my genes
shouldn’t give me that kind of outlook on sports. I was born and
raised less than 25 miles from the U. of Nebraska and went to school
at the U. of Oklahoma (which, by the way, is a near-capital offense in
Nebraska). Logically. I should be a football super-fan: there is no way
I can adequately explain how football is closer to a religion than a
sport in those states. So, I guess that makes me a football atheist.
To put things in perspective: when my late brother was getting married,
he and his bride had the bad sense to schedule it at the same time as
a Nebraska football game. Throughout the ceremony, the Nebraska half
of the clans in attendance, were clustered around a portable radio in
the back of the room. They were not totally successful in muting their
cheers and groans.
I can’t explain my outlook on sports, but I’m definitely
sports-challenged. ‘Don’t know why. Just is. Even though
part of my college career was spent living in an apartment directly across
the street from the OU stadium, I never once set foot in it, except to
visit the architecture school that was built under it.
Given my point of view, you can understand why this weekend I’m
not even going to try to venture out to the airport. Among other things,
to get to my hangar, I would have to fight my way through unreal traffic
and then would have to have a special pass to get on the airport, even
though I’m paying a healthy chunk just to have a hangar there.
And I totally understand their logic: The last time the Super Bowl was
here in Phoenix, the airport was an unreal mess: 208 jets had to be parked
on a fairly small (long but narrow) airport. They had 7 hours delays
trying to get out the next day because the IFR traffic system couldn’t
absorb the traffic from all the Phoenix airports. So, this year every
movement, coming and going, both VFR and IFR, is by reservation only.
The reservations sound like a good idea except they didn’t count
on Mother Nature giving them the shaft. Ceilings have been at, or below,
minimums for a couple of days (very Un-Arizona-like) and right now, 0800
on Sunday, the day of the game, I’m looking out the window at heavy
ground fog, which doesn’t happen once every couple of years out
here. So, right now, their reservation system is going to go to hell
in a hand basket: among other things, even though Scottsdale is supposedly
in the top two airports in the country for corporate jet traffic, it
doesn’t have an ILS system. Mountains at the ends of the runway
preclude it. Only the VOR/GPS systems let folks in with much higher minimums.
Generally, that’s no problem because true IFR weather happens seldom
and usually lasts only a few hours. Not this week.
I can’t imagine the back-ups that have been happening for the last
couple of days or how nuts the airport is going to be when the fog burns
off this morning. There’s sun above it, but a lot of jets are desperate
to get in before the TFR (Terminal Flight Restriction) sets in shortly
Oh, did I forgot to mention (visualize my big grin): while all the Super
Bowl craziness is ramping up, the PGA Open Golf tournament is in full
swing right at the end of Scottsdale’s runway. The area is awash
in sports nuts. We drove past a In ‘n Out burger last night (Saturday)
in that part of town and the line went completely around the parking
lot and attendants were standing out amongst the cars taking orders.
Team jerseys were in abundance and this was the low buck crowd. The high-rollers
were congregating in every major venue in town and circus tents abound.
Every big open space has been turned into Party Central. Given the weather,
I imagine a lot of folks awoke this morning with a severe hang-over.
Papillion Helicopters, normally serving the Grand Canyon, is down here
operating a fleet of choppers ferrying folks from Scottsdale across town
to the game. $600 per 12 minute (a guess) flight, which, given the current
situation, sounds cheap. Even to me.
All of this because people want to watch other people chase or hit balls
of various descriptions. One looks as if it was extruded through a sphincter,
and the other is round with severe cystic acne.
Again, I know I’m in a tiny minority here, but I just don’t
I’m going to spend the day wiring the license plate light on The
Roadster and putting a Timney, adjustable trigger, on a 98 Mauser.
When my day is over, I’ll have something to show for it.
Hmmmm! Maybe that’s why I’m not enamored by sports. Apparently,
in my mind, there’s a difference between investing my time and
spending it. bd
25 Jan 15 –"Manspirin"
to the Rescue
As I’m writing this,
a few miles east from where I sit the Barrett Jackson car auction is
having its biggest day of the week. It’s covered on Discovery Channel
during the day and Velocity TV at night. However, if there’s one
thing that should be understood about the BJ car auction it’s that
it’s not an auction. It’s an “experience.” Yes,
a lot of high and low-buck cars cross the auction block, and a bazillion
dollars changes hands but that’s not a reason for attending in
First an apology: my main computer was down for three weeks, so this
is late and this is a little out of date. Amazingly, although my start-up
disc was a terrabyte in size, I filled it too full and it took major
surgery to get me back on line. My total storage is now five terrabytes,
three in the start-up disc. Amazing!
Now, back to Barrett-Jackson:
The last couple of years we haven’t gone and, to be honest, I’ve
been in some sort of pressure-funk for the last couple of weeks courtesy
of a newly overhauled, 80-hour airplane engine that had to go back to
be rebuilt again. Although they found nothing wrong, it still needed
to be flown a minimum of three hours a day, every day, to break it in
again before inbound students show up tomorrow (Sunday). Plus, magazine
deadline alligators were cruising the moat around the house. So, the
thought of fighting our way through crowds versus making headway on stuff
that absolutely had to be done, didn’t appeal to me. Which, by
the way, pissed me off. How dare the world allow making a living become
an obstacle to having a little fun! Damn!
The Redhead, however, had other ideas. She got on my case and I soon
found myself gritting my teeth as we pulled into the Barrett-Jackson
parking lot. I was not a happy camper and was possibly the only person
on the huge site with a tension headache (except for car sellers, you
just know they were anxious).
Then the experience of being at a major event built around a much-loved
interest began to work its magic.
Barrett Jackson covers a site that’s about (this is a guess) two
blocks by three blocks and that’s not counting the really remote
parking lots. At least half of the main area is under tent. It is frigging
HUGE!! The atmosphere is a cross between carnival, circus and a car lover’s
wet dream. You name it and you’ll find it in the five large storage/display
tents where the cars to be sold are stored and then cycled across the
stage in the huge arena where the actual auction takes place. How about
a smallish, 1950’s school bus restored to the smallest detail except
that it sits about four feet off the ground on a four-wheel drive chassis
pushed by a blown big block of some kind. Or how about the 1966 Super
Snake, the 427 Cobra Carroll Shelby had built for himself. Phoenix uber-collector
Ron Pratte paid $5.5mm (that’s MILLION) for it a few years ago
and this year he decided to dump his entire collection.
The 140 car Pratte Collection included stuff I didn’t know he owned.
This even though his hangar and museum is just across the runway from
where the maintenance on my airplane is often done. Among other oddball
items he had was the Beverly Hillbillies movie car that just sold for
$275,000. A porcelain and neon Harley-D sign went for $86,000! Money
came out of the woodworks by the truckload.
While the BJ cars are super interesting, after a while you get “car
blind:” you’ve seen so many you actually start to lose interest
in them. They have to be something really out of the ordinary to catch
your eye. You can only see so many $100,000 ’57 Chevy convertibles
and sports cars so exotic you can’t identify half of them. It’s
not long before you become overwhelmed.
I was drawn to an Austin Mini station wagon that was towing a finely
finished mahogany hydroplane. Also liked some of the oddball trucks folks
had restored and were hoping they’d make money on, which, usually
wasn’t the case. I saw lots and lots of cars sell for prices that
were about half of what it would cost to acquire and restore or modify
the car. There were definitely some deals to be had on the field. If
a guy had $20-$25k to burn, he could do quite well.
Truth is, we go to BJ as much for the exhibitors as we do for the cars.
At least half the tented area is a swamp of exhibitors hoping to cash
in on the herds of high rollers that were cruising the grounds. There
was zero ticky-tacky stuff being sold, but there was more non-car stuff
than there was automobilia. Want 40 acres of land so high in the Rockies
that your only neighbors would be mountain goats? How about $10,000 adjustable
beds? Lots and lots of folks were selling workshop benches that were
chromed and painted so nicely, you’d have a hard time not feeling
guilty the first time you got them dirty.
I broke down and bought a fairly inexpensive throatless metal shear that
I could probably get cheaper at Harbor Frieght, but it was there, I had
the $120, and they’d deliver it to the house for that, tax included.
The net result of rubbing shoulders (and everything else) with the sweaty
masses who were attracted to the car spectacle was that I was in a great
mood. Of course, it’s impossible to feel funky, if you’ve
just bought a tool. That’s a guaranteed “manspirin.” bd
4 Jan 15 –2015:
So far, so good
Here it is, the fourth day of the new year
and so far nothing catastrophic has gone wrong. At least not in my world. I
have, however, decided I’m not sure I like having our two major holidays
on Thursday. I found myself reacting strangely to four-day weekends.
Actually, looking back over the holiday weekends, here I am, just a few days
after New Year’s eve and I don’t remember any of the holidays having
happened. Somehow, everything being on Thursday left that uncomfortable Friday
gap where I felt guilty, just as I did in highschool when I was ignoring my
homework. I just knew a term paper was due and I wasn’t working on it.
Which definitely wasn’t true.
With no kids in the house, Christmas comes very close to being just another
day with a big dinner at the end of it. However, for some reason, knowing that
most of the world is taking the day off and unlikely to call me, I seize on
the morning and most of the early afternoon to do something that lets me know
I’m getting ahead. In this case it was writing an entire EAA article,
a fairly complex one, in one sitting.
Being able to write something beginning to end is almost unheard of in our
house because of constant interruptions in the form of phone calls and business
e-mails. However, the only way that happened this time was by turning off my
e-mail, because so many other gray dog friends were in the same boat. Dozens
of them were sitting at their computers chatting back and forth because, it
seems that after a certain age, Christmas morning is pure dead time. No ball
games yet. No kids. Dinner isn’t until mid afternoon. So, many default
to the computer, as most of us do, when life slows down.
I had seen the two four-day weekends coming and I was determined to dedicate
every available hour to making massive progress on The Roadster. So, with that
in mind, I spent most of December getting all my articles done, getting Flight
Journal finished and generally clearing the slate so I could indulge myself.
However, as things slowed down on Christmas, and then New Years, eve, I quickly
found I couldn’t force myself out into the shop. I’m apparently
not very good at indulging myself. After nearly 45 years of self-employment,
I, like most people in my position, feel as if free time has to be earned.
And it is earned by TCB (taking care of business). So, at least four to six
hours of every day of both holidays were spent cranking out future articles,
pitching publishers for new articles and planning out 2015. That however put
me out in the shop by around 11 o’clock every day feeling as if I had
earned it, so, yes, I did make, what to me, is huge progress on the little
car. I’m definitely closing in on putting it on the road.
New Years Eve here is always a traditional event: Marlene buys more clams,
crab legs, shrimp and scallops than any ten people can possibly eat, fixes
them and we spend the evening gorging ourselves. Then we struggle to stay awake
long enough to watch the ball come down in NYC (2200 hours our time). We doze
on and off in front of the TV for another half hour or so and then go to bed.
Not terribly exciting but very comfortable and satisfying.
I think it’s interesting that, once you give up going out on New Years
Eve, eventually a lot of us wind up starting our year on New York time, not
local time, and watching that silly ball come down. Every year it’s
almost painful watching people standing around Times Square freezing their
butts off so full of enthusiasm and hope. It’s also amusing watching
20-somethings in their ridiculously skimpy dresses with boobs overflowing while
braving the temps in hopes of getting face time on national TV. Oh, well, you’re
only young once.
New Years day is a recovery period for most people, but it’s a tradition
with me to roll into the office no later than 0530. That’s when I attack
all the tiny, inconsequential stuff I’ve let slide (answering
e-mails I’ve ignored, packing books for mailing that I have let pile
up, clean my desk, etc.) and generally clear the decks for the new year. After
about four hours of that, I’m even with the World and a load of guilt
is off my back. But, having a Friday after that is awkward. I tried working
in the shop but it felt unnatural, so I gave up and made it into a normal workday
and didn’t hit the shop solidly until Saturday. That felt right.
Anyway, even though I barely remember the holidays, as we’re standing
here on the brink of a new year, I’m painfully aware of the way time
is running away from us all. We have to make it all count in every phase of
our lives. This includes nurturing and rebuilding family relationships where
it’s needed. Then we need to keep a watchful eye on our futures and prepare
and plan so we’re not caught unaware. This includes keeping track of
what our leaders are, and are not, doing on local, state and national levels.
However, we need to do this in a way that doesn’t include self-induced
heartburn. In that area, we’re often our own worse enemies.
The New Year in every life is a clean slate and it’s up to us to write
on it and make it read the way we want it to. bd
Honestly New Year
How was your Christmas? And how does the New
Year look to you? Graydog Christmases don’t have kids running around
and being the focus of everything, so, the day is basically just a day. In
some ways that sucks. But, not totally.
We’ve pretty much stopped giving gifts to each other primarily because
all of us, from my wife to my own kids, have pretty much anything any of us
can ask for. My daughter, however, ignored that dictum and stole my day with
two fairly simple gifts. One was a little 50-page photo book she created through
Shutterfly.com in which four-year-old Alice acted out the 12 Days of Christmas
in pictures. Besides being a major piece of production work, it showcased a
granddaughter that we don’t see nearly as often as we wish or should.
It was absolutely killer and really showed The Alice personality and The Jennifer
creativity. I love it so much I ordered two more. One for my office and one
for my older sister.
The other gift gives me the ability to say something not too many fathers can
say: “My daughter gave me a stuffed bat for Christmas.”
I opened it (it has it’s own glass, display bell) and start laughing
immediately. Marlene summed it up perfectly with her first comment, “Well…she
really knows her father.” And, even though we have our differences, she
does, indeed, know that aspect of me well. So, now I have two bats in my office.
Doesn’t everyone? I feel so blessed! J
As for the new year, it’s so unpredictable, I don’t even know what
to say on the national/international level. Between Putin, ISIS, our Administration
and the administrations of just about every other country, the possibilities
are endless. However, for whatever reason, I don’t see any of them having
catastrophic results here. Probably the most dangerous thing here is the way
OPEC is countering the Dakota’s oil shale effect by dropping prices to
the point that the US oil boom might go into the red. Yeah, we’re getting
cheaper gas but it may cost us much more in the long run. This, however, I’m
certain will sort itself out.
Incidentally, I think it’s almost comical what appears to be happening
over the Sony cyberattack: it now appears it may not have been N. Korea, as
the FBI swore it was, but a pissed-off Sony employee. Oops!
Certainly one of the more upsetting trends is the anti-cop thing. The flames
here are being fanned by the media and various organizations and……..
Dammit! You know what? I don’t want to talk about this kind of stuff
any more! I’m bone tired of it! There is so much BS floating around that
it makes me feel as if I’m wading through quicksand, unable to make any
headway because of all the stuff that I’m letting bog me down. That’s
simply not the way I want to start my year.
I don’t know if you noticed or not, but Thinking Out Loud is now downloading
much, much quicker than it has been in the last year or so. That’s because
I built a new, corruption-free file and have been slowly populating it with
blogs from the last year. I’m only a little way into that, but, in picking
through the blogs to put up, I’ve found they are overwhelmingly political
and down beat. They’re not fun to read. And they’re sure as hell
not fun to write. Some of them are basically depressing and reading them is
hard work. And, as has been pointed out by my kids and friends, I appear angry.
And I don’t want to be that way. I don’t want 2015 to be an angry
year for me. And, it’s going to be, if I continue on this track.
I need to start thinking about me, my life, my family and my friends and less
about oh-my-God stuff that’s over the horizon. I’m wasting the
years I have left worrying about stuff I shouldn’t worry about and I’m
preaching to a choir that already knows every single thing I can possibly say
in those areas. I want to go back to being happy, crazy and full of fun.
There are lots of good things happening in the world, but I’m letting
the politics and media blind me to them. And, if it’s happening to me,
it’s happening to others. In fact, I think dwelling on the negatives
has become an unhealthy national mindset and it’s easy to see why: spend
a few minutes surfing the news channels and see how many upbeat stories you
see being covered.
I’VE HAD IT and the resolution I’m making for 2015 (being mindful
that I never make resolutions) is to try to focus more on the good and less
on the bad.
So…picture me smiling!
There, don’t I look better and don’t you feel better?
See, I knew it would work. Have a good one! bd
21 Dec 14 –Solstice Sensibilities
It’s 0430 on December 21. Today the
winter solstice occurs and I feel the need to sacrifice something to celebrate: ‘must
be that my English heritage includes a little druid. So, as I’m typing
this, I’m sacrificing an open face turkey sandwich. Does that count?
Will the Gods look favorably on that? ‘Hope so because they’ve
been screwing with us of late.
We’ve had a two-week run of semi-overcast days. Some barely getting above
60. Gloom in the desert is not becoming. My newly overhauled, and very expensive,
airplane engine continues to exhibit varying degrees of sickness requiring
a mechanical physician’s attention about once a week. Both of my kids
have essentially disowned me because of what I’ve said in blogs. Marlene
was standing on a plastic stool that died right at that moment, dropping her
on to the driveway and chipping a bone in her foot, so she’s hobbling
around in a big boot thingie. Deadlines are eating me a live timewise so the
Roadster no longer recognizes me.
Super minor things, when measured against the big picture, but aggravating
nonetheless. So, I decided to dedicate this sandwich’s life to the Gods
of Nuisance on this, the winter solstice, in the hopes of getting some respite.
Then, I made the mistake of Googling “winter solstice” and realized
I knew even less about my world than I realized and my sacrifice was probably
Stonehenge, the Mayans and many other ancient civilizations that have miraculously
constructed temples where two windows line up with the sun right at the moment
of solstice, are basically full of crap. Winter Solstice in the northern hemisphere
is when the sun is at its lowest point and, because of the Earth’s 23.5
degree tilt and changing orbital speeds, it almost never happens at exactly
the same time. Moreover, it doesn’t even happen on the same day every
time, which was real news to me. So, the ancients weren’t holding a celebration
and sacrificing turkey sandwiches at exactly the same time, same day every
year. There were probably herds of them sitting around in the grass, playing
poker or whatever, watching the sun creep up on their Windows 1.0 sundial thingie
and, whenever they saw the sun line up in the windows, someone blew a rams
horn or threw a spear into the air and everyone started drinking, screwing
everything in sight, yelling and screaming and generally behaving like a frat
Considering that I’m a pilot and an engineer, I’m a little embarrassed
that I assumed the solstices (summer and winter) always happen at the same
time every year. I don’t think I’ve ever really thought about it,
but, when you do, you realize it only makes sense that the exact time wanders
around a little. Oh well, at least I’m not too old to learn something
Just FYI, here in Phoenix, the solstice will happen this afternoon, Sunday
21, 2014 at 4:03 pm. Do I have to eat another turkey sandwich at that time
to make the sacrifice count? FYI-you can forget about using those times as
any kind of guideline because next year it’ll happen at 9:48 pm. The
real head wrecker is that in 2040, it’ll happen a day earlier, on the
20th at 11:33 pm. Somehow, I don’t think I’ll be worrying about
sandwich sacrifices for that one. Go to http://www.timeanddate.com/calendar/winter-solstice.html,
so you know how to time your local sacrifices.
Incidentally, for those who have thought about sacrificing a politician to
the Gods, don’t bother. Those never count because “sacrifice” means
you’re giving up something you value. I value a turkey sandwich. Politicians,
not so much.
So, while you’re out there gleefully engaged in whatever pagan ritual
befits your life style, just know you’re probably doing it at the wrong
Also, even us heathens recognize Christmas on the 25th day of the 12th month
and, although we may not buy into the religious aspects of it, I, for one,
am very glad the religion and the celebration around it exists. Anything that
gives mankind a code of exemplary conduct and brings the family together is
So, go to Merry
Christmas for our best wishes to all of you. bd
14Dec 14 –Ashes
I’ve been sicker’n crap and working
my butt off for nearly two weeks. A miserable combination. There, that’s
my excuse for missing last week. In the midst of all this Marlene and I somehow
started talking about what to do with our ashes, when this whole deal is done.
That’s a weird
topic that brought up some unanswered questions that I’m betting a lot
of folks think about.
The first question for us was one you don’t hear often in these kinds
of conversations: “Do we include Meezer?” Meaning, do we include
his ashes with ours, the way we will the rest of our furry kids? We both said, “sure”,
he finally came around.
Meezer is a big Siamese that we inherited from Marlene’s oldest and was
a first rate gangster initially. He would have nothing to do with anyone, showed
a ton of attitude and absolutely brutalized Smoki Joe, the huge, soft-hearted,
gray that has zero self confidence. Meezer was a Siamese through and through.
However, the more he saw the love that blanketed the other cats, little by
little he became more human and now is constantly begging for scratches, insists
on sleeping on top of us and leaves Smoki pretty much alone. Just shows that
enough love conquers even the most sinister of characters.
We’ve always said that we want our ashes mixed together along with those
of all the loving, canine/feline kids who have shared our life with us. I don’t
believe in heaven, but eternity is out there and we can’t imagine spending
eternity without all of those little characters that have made our life what
it is. Each one of them has a corner of our collective heart and we want to
hold them close forever.
There are, however, other thoughts that surround the above, the first being
what do we have done with the ashes? Marlene and I don’t see eye to eye
on this one. She thinks everyone should leave something that marks their having
been here. Specifically, a tombstone others can visit. I disagree.
Marlene’s brother, Tom, has a tombstone here. He died in the most improbable
form of accident you can imagine while in the Army (flew Snakes in VN, but
died from peritonitis when a litter fell and pierced his fresh appendectomy
incision here in the states). He has a widow and a kid or two locally, however,
Marlene is the only one who ever visits him. It’s a Memorial Day ritual
My folks and brother are buried back in Nebraska and, whenever I’m there
I visit, but that’s only about every five years.
I have no one locally who cares enough to visit and I absolutely guarantee
that neither of my kids will visit even once. Grand kids neither. So, why spend
the money on a tombstone or plot? As for leaving a mark that you’ve been
here, I figure my students and my words will have to be my legacy. A marble
slab isn’t needed.
I originally had high ideals about where my ashes would go, including a pinch
being mixed with the smoke oil in a Pitts doing a show at Oshkosh. Seems fitting
and I’d still like to see it done. Otherwise, I’d just as soon
I was spread out over the Arizona high country, preferably over an Indian ruin.
Spirits meeting spirits and all that.
Also, there’s the thoroughly practical side of the combined-ashes thing:
will a cemetery even let two people’s ashes be buried in a single plot?
Will they let animals be buried in their sacred, but very expensive, ground?
I’m betting they wouldn’t be too crazy about a stone that reads:
The Davisson Family: Eternally United
And the list is bound to get longer.
I’m fairly confident it’s going to be a decade or so before anyone
will have to make any of these decisions, but I’m the king of worrying
about things that don’t need to be worried about. Just part of my wiring.
I was also an Eagle Scout at a time, when that meant something, and our motto
was “Be Prepared.” So, just bear with me. bd
30 Nov 14 –Thanksgiving
got the Crap Knocked Out of it
You know what? Just being alive in America
is really tiring me out. It seems as if once a week (sometimes twice) we have
a new crisis to deal with. It didn’t used to be this way. Yes, we’d
have problems here and there but our news channels weren’t delivering
an almost daily offering of new stuff that to most of us makes no sense and
can be pretty damn upsetting. This has been one of those weeks.
Between BHO’s new immigration Executive Order (EO), also known as a monarch
style mandate, and Ferguson, both of which appear to be specifically designed
to further dismantle the USA, my brain is ready to explode. Thanksgiving came
and went almost unnoticed. It is, however, so very American that news of Black
Friday shopping (how did that get past without being branded racist?) knocked
some of the other crap off the news channels…temporarily.
About Ferguson, let’s get something absolutely straight: if a 6’4”,
290 pound, 18-year-old “kid” roughed up a cop while he was sitting
in his car and then appeared to be charging him (according to the more valid
witness statements), he’d be dead regardless of what color he was. No
one, cop or otherwise, would have behaved any differently. Ferguson-the-event
wasn’t about race. It was about dealing with a “perceived threat” that
was the result of questionable physical behavior.
It’s an absolute tragedy that a kid died, but, Brown had 80 pounds on
the cop, who was also 6’4”, and, if he hadn’t been stopped,
it was going to end badly for the cop, I don’t care how well trained
he might have been. I’m guessing that anyone reading this would have
reacted the same way in the same situation. And the color of the assailant
would have no bearing on the outcome.
Incidentally, reading the trial transcript you have to wonder why perjury charges
weren’t brought against some of the witnesses, some of whom changed their
statements, because they were out-and-out lying. Especially the “shot
him in the back while standing over him”, type that forensics didn’t
even come close to verifying.
Regardless, this thing wouldn’t have blown up the way it has were it
not for 1) on-site aggravations in the form of professional race-baiters like
Sharpton. He is doing the black community so much more harm than good that
it’s hard to believe. The input of the DOJ didn’t help either.
And 2) the presence of news cameras, which, in some cases changed the “protest” into
violent kabuki theater where the attitude was, “You wanna see violent?
Watch this!” Not once do I remember seeing footage of those protesting
peacefully and, believe it or not, there were plenty of those.
Most of what went on wasn’t protesting. You only have to watch the footage
of the market/liquor store being trashed to know that those involved weren’t
protesting anything. They didn’t even appear to be angry about anything.
They were having a great running off with bottles of booze and anything else
that wasn’t nailed down. They weren’t protesters. They were looters,
criminals-at-large doing nothing more than taking advantage of the situation.
Incidentally, why weren’t storeowners standing in front of their businesses
with shotguns? I’d heard rumors that the police had told them not to
do that, but that was never verified. And a few business owners did mount a
guard and it worked out well for them. Looters will always take the low hanging
fruit and are never going to mix it up with even the most fragile form of guard
And then there’s BHO’s immigration executive order and some unintended
consequences hidden therein. At least I “think” they were unintended.
In essence, one of the things the new EO does is give business owners a $3,000
incentive to hire illegals who are being granted work permits over US citizens.
This is because it will now be legal to hire an illegal immigrant, but, since
they don’t qualify for Obamacare, the business owner can’t provide
them health coverage AND the company won’t be fined for not doing so.
If they hire a US citizen and don’t give them coverage, they pay a $3000
fine for each. If they hire an illegal that’s carrying a nice, new work
permit they avoid the $3,000 fine AND the cost of health car. THIS IS NUTS!!
Further, even though the EO supposedly applies only to those parents of legal
permanent residents or citizens (their kids were born here) and have been in
the country illegally for five years (this is a reward for being crafty enough
to successfully avoid being caught for that long) it’s not going to work
out that way. There are already well-established underground businesses that
produce difficult-to-spot phony rent receipts, utility bills, etc. So, as it
stands now, someone has only to make it across the border to one of these document
factories, waltz over to the INS and declare “Hey, I’ve been here
five years and can prove it. Give me my work permit.” If you don’t
think that’s going to be a HUGE magnet to future immigrants, you’ve
been drinking the Kool Aid too long.
And then there was Thanksgiving and just a little respite from reality. It
was in the low-80s here in Phoenix (about 5 degrees above normal) and I had
the back garage door open, a little breeze coming in and classic rock and roll
coming out of the shop radio. I was whittling out little parts for the roadster
(steel grommets for where the shoulder harness comes through the rear bulkhead).
And I couldn’t have been more relaxed and satisfied if I tried.
Regardless of the tons of BS coming down and an overall lack of trust in the
government, we, as a nation and as a people, have a HUGE amount to be thankful
for. So, I guess the best we can do is periodically turn off the news and glory
in the lives we each have built, love our family and friends, and soldier on.
One way or the other, we’ll survive. bd
23 Nov 14 –On
Surviving a President
Oh, Gee: I wonder what Budd’s going to talk about this week? Could it
be the weather? Could it be Syria and/or Iraq? Hmmmm! Do you think he’ll
touch on Obama’s little Wednesday night message to the proletariat (us
common folks) over which he rules? Damn straight Budd will. He/I can hardly
First, let it be said that as much as I’d like to be able to wave a magic
wand and have every illegal person in the US magically transported to their
homeland, that just ain’t gonna happen. The reality is that the numbers
are too big to be dealt with by deportation. It is logistically impossible.
11 Million people would be the equivalent of shipping the combined populations
of 12 states (WY, VT, DC, ND, AK, SD, DE, MT, RI, NH, MN HI), out to a wide
variety of destinations. If illegals wanted to really screw with our heads,
they should all just show up in the Washington Mall agreeing to be deported.
What a mess that would be!
At the same time, there’s no way in hell we should be giving them a short
cut to citizenship any more than we should be giving them benefits for just
being here. Let’s not forget: they broke our laws to be here and we are,
if nothing else, a nation of laws. We don’t reward people for breaking
them. Further, we are a “republic” not a democracy, which means
we have this do-not-disturb guidebook called the Constitution that pretty much
spells out how everything should be done. Or at least it did until Wednesday
I have to admit something right up front: I was prepared to ignore the speech
and not watch it because I figured it would be so much BS. But, it turned out
to be so much more. At first, I was taken by BHO’s ability to appear
to speak from the heart and some of the content of the speech. Like providing
a pathway for the parents of kids born here at least five years ago (citizens
by birth…we’re one of only two or three countries that allow that),
to first get working papers and then work their way towards citizenship. Bring
them out of the shadows, as he put it, and make them tax paying contributors.
He stopped deportation on that class of individuals. An estimated 5 million
Then he said deportation would only be aimed at felons and other bad people.
In fact, under his program people with skills that could contribute to the
national well-being would NOT be deported, regardless of when they arrived.
A theoretical mathematician could wade across the Rio Grande tomorrow and be
guaranteed of staying. So we’re going to have thousands of people streaming
across the border claiming to be theoretical mathematicians. BHO had it pretty
much worked out who he would deport and who he wouldn’t.
As he talked I heard myself saying, “Hey, some of this makes sense. It’s
a beginning on sorting out the immigration mess.”
Then, he droned on and on about how compassionate he was and how the country
had a long history of compassion and how this affected a kid he knew, yada,
yada, yada. If he had shut up right after making his points it would have taken
longer for me, and so many others, to realize that we’d just been had.
He is so good in front of a teleprompter that we were taken in like every one
else, when it was just more of his super-slick, condescending rhetoric.
It was during the rambling, sophomoric closing that a a brilliant neon sign
lit up in the theater of my mind that said, “Just a damn minute! He can’t
do the things he just suggested! The Congress can, and, to one degree or another,
probably should, but he can’t.” He was altering and making laws
even as he stood there staring into the teleprompter that surrounded the camera.
He was talking like a king making decrees that he was certain would please
the most mentally challenged amongst us.
He was on camera less than 15 minutes, and, in the process. proceeded to absolutely
shred the Constitution. He stood up in front of the American people and, in
so many words, said that he wasn’t going to follow the rules. He wasn’t
going to respect the governmental framework of checks and balances that insured
no single branch had enough power that they could do what they wanted. Every
branch (executive, judicial, legislative) could reach out and slow the others
down. But, not him. He was going to write his own rules and run his own game.
Never mind what he said about immigration. The focus should be on the way in
which he plans on putting those ideas into motion. People continually point
out that both Reagan and Bush used executive orders (EOs) on immigration matters.
What virtually none of them realize is that in both cases Congress had already
voted on the issues and presented a law that the presidents were expected to
put into action, which is the President’s job (something BHO mentioned
dozens of times in recent times). So, an EO put those versions of amnesty into
action. BHO quite literally ignored the process and acted as if Congress had
no say in the matter.
“They” also say that the Senate passed an immigration bill several
years ago but the GOP House refused to vote on it. However, according to the
Washington Times, Monday, Nov 17, that’s not the whole story.
Senate Democrats keep own immigration bill from House,
urge Obama executive action By Stephen Dinan -
Senate Democrats say Republicans could head off President
Obama's immigration plans by passing the Senate's own immigration bill — the
only problem is the Democrats still haven't sent the measure to the House for
a vote. Known as S.744, the 1,200-page bill has been bottled up by Majority
Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, in a bit of legislative gamesmanship that
has clouded much of the debate over the past two years. Now, that bill has
become the centerpiece of last-minute chiding as Democrats say they have exhausted
all alternatives except for having Mr. Obama go it alone.Again, ignoring what he says he’s going to do, think of the motivation
behind his actions. Why do it now? Why do it in such an arrogant, even petulant,
manner? He looks as if he’s spoiling for a fight and is sticking out
his chin inviting us to swing the first blow, thereby becoming the bad guy.
I pray that some of the GOP hotheads don’t take the bait. We have an
opportunity here to make our case stronger or destroy it completely and it’s
going to require balancing on a razor for two years to make it work. He is
obviously going to go out of his way to make the GOP’s life even more
miserable than it is already and the challenge to the GOP big wigs is to prove
to us that they are as smart as they think they are. And are smarter than BHO
gives them credit for. Some serious blows need to be dealt but somehow they
have to appear to be hugs and caresses aimed at making the Country better. BHO’s speech was nothing more than the opening gun in what is going
to be an unbelievably nasty, complex, drawn-out battle. The way in which it
is handled is going to decide which party wins the golden apple in 2016. Unfortunately,
I don’t have a good feeling about any of this. I hope I’m wrong.At the very least, it’s going to be interesting and will provide a true
WTF moment for future historians to ponder. bd
16 Nov 14 –The
Hotrod Gene Yesterday was Good Guys car show day: a gathering
of those individuals who, like me, see everything mechanical as something to
be modified to our personal taste. In this case, the final result is rods and
customs, vehicular genres totally unique to America. And, I think they are
indicative of some kind of specific gene that exists in only some people.
First, let me say that much of what I’m about to say is based on my own
feelings about “stuff,” especially mechanical stuff. Which is to
say that there are very few things I can look at without seeing how I would
change them. Or how I would build something similar from scratch that would
better suit my specific tastes. This applies to firearms, guitars, knives,
etc., etc., but especially cars and especially older ones. BTW- “Older” is
defined as something from the ‘80’s on back with pre-70’s
cars being of particular interest and pre-48’s reigning supreme. But
the same thing applies to just about anything I’m associated with, not
Let’s take rifles as an example: for $500 I can buy something new, like
a Mossberg MVP that is reputed to be a tack-driver right out of the box (although
some apparently aren’t). But, as much as I admire highly accurate rifles,
I can’t just buy one. I have to start with something inferior and worn
out. Generally it’s something ex-military and old. I’ll totally
rebuilt and modify it and, even though I know it’ll cost at least twice
as much as something I can buy over the counter, will take several years to
complete and it may not be as accurate as the store bought version (accuracy
is often elusive no matter how much you spend), I’ll do it anyway. I
can’t even begin to explain why I have a lifetime of the foregoing. It
makes absolutely zero sense. But, right now I have about a dozen M98 Mausers
of many varieties (WWI and WWII), all of them basically junk rifles (non-original)
going all the way back to 1900, awaiting custom barrels, stocks and all the
other hotrod goodies that will make them into rifles that reflect my taste.
Going to the Good Guys car meet is delving into another, but better recognized,
orgy of modification. The Good Guys meets are held all over the country and
each will attract over 3,000 cars, trucks and whatever. Every single one of
those vehicles has had far more time and money invested in making it unique
than is rational. Yet, not one of the tens of thousands of spectators on the
grounds questions the rationale behind the cars they’re viewing. Even
though the majority of attendees wouldn’t even dream of devoting so much
of their lives to creating/re-creating a vehicle, they nonetheless admire the
result. They understand the need to modify, to re-create something that matches
the image someone has in their own mind.
What got me thinking about the modification gene was a comment my current Pitts
student made. He’s a car guy (and airplane guy, obviously) from England
and he said, “…however, I really prefer to see cars restored to
what they were when they came out of the factory.” And I couldn’t
disagree: I very much admire fully restored cars. But, I can’t do it
myself. And I think I’m typical of that part of the car culture, the
hotrod/custom part, that seems uniquely American.
Lately, because my airplane was down for two months I’ve had weekends
off, so I’ve gotten a HUGE amount done on the roadster. In fact, I thought
I was going to have it ready to go to Good Guys in an unfinished form. Unfortunately,
the pressures of making a living intervened, when the airplane came alive again.
But, I’m close. In the process of working on it, from time to time I
literally grin, when I hit an snag, search around the shop for a piece of this
or that, that I can cobble together and solve the problem. I love solving problems
and I’m free to do what I want to the car at any time in any way.
In restoring a vehicle to original, there are basically only two problems,
both of them potentially huge: beating rust and finding original parts. Hotrodding,
original hotrodding where you take something you’ve found in a junkyard
or ditch, not in a catalog or website, and make it perform a new function,
shares the common enemy of rust. However, there is nothing that constrains
us to use any specific part in any application. We can do it any damn way we
please. There are no rules and few conventions.
These days, even the conventions that sometimes vaguely dictate the style of
a given class of hotrods, e.g. highboy and low boy street roadsters, are being
ignored courtesy of the rat rods and rat rigs (funky, modified big trucks).
And I love it! While I could never bring myself to discard craftsmanship in
favor of oddball creativity, as with rat rods, I enjoy the hell out of them.
I enjoy that you just never know what a rat rodder is going to build.
As I typed that last sentence, I realized that some part of my rifle-building
brain is that of a rat rodder. Years ago I bought a badly beat-up Mexican built
7mm Mauser (M98, small ring) that had a really long barrel and the much-abused
stock was broken clean through right under the action. I glued it back together
and shot it some because I admired its tenacity: it had obviously lived a hard
life, which the barrel unfortunately showed. But it had survived. And I can’t
bring myself to destroy the patina and signs of struggle by restocking and
refinishing it. So, right now I’m getting ready to put a new, long barrel
(26 inches) on it and leave the funky, I’ve-been-there look alone. But,
the new caliber 6.5 x 55 is a tackdriving round and I’m installing a
super accurate, but well worn, receiver peep sight on it and a finely tuned
trigger that will be invisible from the outside. To complete the image, I’m
finishing the barrel to look old. My goal is to take a crappy looking rifle
that will group at less than 1 inch at a hundred yards to the range and amaze
people. It’s kind of a rat rifle that will make absolutely zero sense
and not be worth a dime to most people. This is okay with me. It’s just
something I’ve built to match an image in my head. And that’s all
Sometimes, when it comes to things mechanical, change for change’s sake
is impossible to avoid. It’s in our genes. bd
7 Nov 14 –Let The Mouse Do
it Other than handing the Democrats their asses,
what else went on this week? Quite honestly, I can think of almost nothing
because my life has been eaten up by watching political coverage (actually,
I think I just like Meghan Kelly) and dealing with a newly overhauled airplane
engine that refuses to behave. Oh, and one other thing: I discovered what I
think is a way we can save our country.
Last Friday I worked and flew my butt off then jumped into my car and rocketed
to LA. By 0700 the next morning I had met my daughter and granddaughter at
our Disneyland hotel, checked in and was standing at the gates of Walt Disney’s
orgy of organization, creativity and fun. Because we were staying in a Disney
hotel, we could get in at 0700, an hour ahead of the common folk, the sweaty,
unwashed masses, which usually includes me. Looking through the gates at a
totally empty, seemingly abandoned amusement park made me feel as if I was
Clark Griswald and I’d just arrived at Wally World not realizing it was
closed. Eerie! What I didn’t know was that I was about to become part
of a mouse-driven machine that would impress me at every turn. This started
right at the turnstile going in.
A sweet, middle-aged lady ask me for my hotel key and a photo ID. She ran the
key through a card reader and clicked what looked like a cell phone in my face.
From that point on, every time we changed parks or went through some sort of
Disney-guest-only function, they’d take a second (no longer) to scan
the key and my face would pop up on their little handheld card reader verifying
that I hadn’t strong-armed some pink-haired old lady out of her room
key. This process didn’t come close to slowing anything down. It was
totally seamless. The system would work perfectly for voter ID. If, of course,
that wasn’t racist. Same thing could be tied to credit cards to cut down
credit card fraud.
From that point on, every time I turned around I saw overwhelming evidence
of the Disney organization’s ability to do things right and make monstrous
amounts of money in the process.
First, my two-day pass was about $190 plus $40 (I think it was) so I could
hop back and forth between the two parks. That was a choker for me, but, as
I looked around there were tens of thousands of folks that just looked like
normal working stiffs from the area. There were also a huge percentage of kids,
17-22, I’m guessing, that were there having a helluva good time. I was
astounded at how many normal-looking families were there with multitudes of
kids, each of which cost a fortune to support for the day. Who knows? Maybe
the economy actually is recovering. However, you couldn’t prove that
from my personal point of view. Of course, these could also be people either
living up their foodstamp money or they’d given up, said “screw
it” and are having one last fling.
The quality of the parks, the quality of the thousands of employees staffing
it, the overall complexity of the whole thing was nothing short of overwhelming.
Incidentally, I’ve been to Disney World in Florida probably a dozen times,
when I was still living in the East. However, I hadn’t been to Disneyland
since probably the 60’s. I’d forgotten how the entire thing is
crammed into what amounts to a fairly small area so it took a lot of imagination
and planning to squish everything together yet make it feel as if you actually
had a lot of room. I couldn’t stop myself from looking at details like
how the hand rails were constructed and the massive amount of planning, engineering
and manufacturing, it took to build just one ride or amphitheater and there
were dozens and dozens of everything.
I should also make mention of the fact that Disney REALLY hires to a profile
in a lot of their positions, but it’s most obvious in picking the young
ladies (and guys) who play some of their well known characters on the streets.
They had to be some of the most beautiful, perfect behaving young ladies I’ve
ever seen in one place.
Little by little, as I wandered through the never ending, overarching quality
of the experience, I couldn’t help but think what a mess the country
was in by comparison. Here was a massive, really huge, operation that was working
like a well-oiled machine. However, virtually everything in which our government
gets involved turns into an oversized, bloated, slow moving ox cart that continually
breaks down and costs ten times what it should. It also almost always moseys
aimlessly across the landscape and quite often winds-up moving in circles.
But, I have a solution. Let’s hire Disney run America.
Here is a company that really has its finger on the pulse of America. They
make it their business to really know and understand the population and what
it wants because, if it doesn’t, it’s not going to make a profit.
This, of course, is true of every business of any kind, from the local cupcake
vendor in Keokuk, Iowa, to giants like Microsoft. They can only survive if
they make a profit and they can only turn a profit if they read their market
correctly and satisfy its needs accordingly. This is not true of a government.
A government is a business but it runs on other people’s money and doesn’t
have to worry about a balance sheet, much less a profit. And, of late, they’ve
apparently decided they don’t have to operate on a budget either. They
seem to think taxpayers are a bottomless piggy bank that will always be there
for them to dip into. It’s a mindset that would put them out of business
in a heartbeat in the real world outside the beltway. If more politicians had
come out of the private sector, rather than politics, the lawyer community
or academia, they’d understand how a government is nothing more than
a special kind of business and would recognize how important efficiency is
to stretch the supposedly limited resources they have. But, of course they
The solution is to farm the country out to Disney. Let them run it and their
pay would be a small percentage of any surplus created. They’d be constrained
in terms of being given an exacting list of services they have to provide.
Also, I don’t think we should let them put a mouse outline on top of
either the capital building or the Washington Monument. Maybe put it on the
five dollar bill or something. In my eyes, a Mouse is probably good for America.
So, now that the GOP is the temporary top dog in town and it looks as if BHO
is going to dig his heels in and flaunt his power, what do we do? I think we’re
in for the craziest ride we’ve ever seen in our history, in terms of
a President running amuck while he still has a lame duck congress. And even
more so for the next two years. TWO FRIGGING YEARS!! This is going to be nuts!
No matter what happens, it’s going to be hard to maintain our emotional
balance. So, I suggest we all take a couple of days off and hit Disneyworld
or Disneyland. Hey, it can’t hurt! If all the politicians were to go,
they might learn a thing or two. However, neither BHO or Biden would be allowed
to wear mouse ears. They’d be redundant. bd 7 Nov 14 –AloneAs I’m writing
this, it’s 0800 and Marlene’s flight took off about 15 minutes
ago. She’ll be gone for a week visiting her sister and I already feel
This is really a strange feeling, mostly because I don’t think she’s
ever been gone for more than three days since we got together 22 years ago (married
16). It’s even stranger considering that I usually hit the office around
0530 so on a normal day it’s at least three or four hours before I even
know she’s in the house. Right now, however, I can sense her absence. Some
part of me knows she’s not there.
It’s interesting how all mammals form some sort of psychic connection with
another and often know when that connection is broken. How else do you explain
the number of times a dog will sleep on his master’s grave? Or a child
will know when a parent has died thousands of miles away? A wife subliminally
senses when her warrior husband has departed this life?
On a more positive side, I’m guaranteed to choke up, or even have tears
running down my cheeks, when I see some of the videos about men/women returning
from overseas and surprising their mates at home or their kids at school. There
is something so tangible about that connection that it touches us all.
However, I’m not sure which touches me the most, the human connections
or the unspoken, hard to explain connections between dogs and their owners. We
can easily enough explain the family connections between kids and parents, husband
and wife (well, no, we can’t really explain that either), and between friends,
but the bond between dogs and humans is simply unexplainable but so wonderful
it adds a warmth to life that is unavailable from any other source. Even from
a baby. Maybe it’s the unquestioning love and devotion a dog will show.
So, this week, it’s just me, Sháhn-deen and the cats. So, I won’t
But, you know that’s a lie, don’t you?
Watch the below and if you don’t get choked up at least a couple of times,
drop me a line. I’m pretty sure I won’t get a single e-mail. bd
We were concerned enough about putting Marlene on an airplane, given the ebola
situation, that she has surgical masks in her purse and, if she doesn’t
like the situation, I’m certain she’ll use them. She’s already
paranoid about everything she touches, thanks to the news coverage on the disease.