Thinking Out Loud:
a blog of sorts
This is more of a running commentary on life than a blog. It is my chance to editorialize with no limits and no editors. I can even say sh*t, if I want to, but I won't. Well...not often.

Who Is Budd Davisson? A blog bio

NOTE: If you want to tell me I'm full of crap

(Take note that this is a Temporary posting while I rebuild the site to make it faster and cleaner - Dec 2014)

I'M BACK!!!! After a month of screwing around with my ISP and the software manufacture, who spent most of the time pointing fingers at each other, we finally got the problem sorted out (it was the ISP's fault). Sorry, but really glad to be back!

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 this year.

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)
cake design

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 good.

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 after.

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 not healthy.”

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 of desert.

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
Easter Island

Underwater Pyramids

Underwater Cities

2000-Year-Old Shipwreck

Roman Wreck

Inca Grass Bridge

Michigan Shipwreck
Michigan Wreck

Abandoned Russian Hangar

American Indian DNA

6 Sept 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 game.

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

29 August 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 right.”

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 or Starbucks.

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 spiritual evolution?

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? :-) bd

22 August 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, 60’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 a thunk?

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 You’ll dig it! If you’re hip that is. (damn that sounds dumb doesn’t it? Did we actually talk that way?). bd

17 August 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!
Bird Strike

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. He’s alright!”

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 heaven.

Shhhhh! Please, don’t tell Marlene about the hardware thing. bd

8 August 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. bd

18 July 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

I'm 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
See you in ten days. bd

4 July 2015 - Independence Day Blues
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. I’m 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 isn’t 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 about.

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 on order.
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.
Parade Tractors
The parade has been known to last two hours. This in a town that is barely a mile wide, if that.
Czech queen
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.
Model A Club
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.
rodeo queen
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 American.

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 to” country worldwide.

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.

16 May 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. Maybe it’s 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 it differently.

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. :-)
7 May 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 break.

S-2A Turnbuckle
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, the airplane’s 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 underwear.

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
26 April 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 funny.

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 night.

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 that?

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 well-hidden anxiety.

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 hot.

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

2 March 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, they’d 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.

Bah-humbug! bd

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. And eating.

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.

SASS shooter
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 walnut shells.

Some shooters really get into character.

This time around the weather was the typical AZ afternoon: high 70’s, 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.

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

Jerry Miculek

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,, 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,, 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.

7 Feb 2015 - ISIS/ISIL: a Global Threat
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 magazine, Dabiq, is as slick and as sophisticated as anything you’ll find on any US newsstand 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 ever faced.

We’re entering a new chapter of American history. bd

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?
King Abdulla

1 Feb 2015 - Spectator Sports and Me
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 it’s 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 after noon.

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 get it.

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 person.

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

27 Dec 14An 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 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 in naught.

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 house.

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 that’s obvious.

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, 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 time.

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 worthwhile.

So, go to Merry Christmas for our best wishes to all of you. bd

14Dec 14 –Ashes to 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 with her.

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
Smoki Jo

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 detail.

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 ignore it.

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 night.

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 people.

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 just cars.

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 that matters.

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 don’t.

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 incredibly incomplete.

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 be alone.

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.