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4 July 2015 - Independence
Oh, man! It’s mid-morning Phoenix time (same as CA) on the Fourth
of July and I wish I were back in Seward Nebraska. Yeah, it’s my hometown,
but on Independence Day, it’s also my touchstone for the Real America.
not kidding even a little bit, when I say that everyone in our country should
experience the Fourth of July as celebrated there.
Right now, amidst their 4th of July hoopla that has earned them fame nationwide,
their parade is starting. It's just one of the many things I miss about that
day. Seward is
where I go to remember that America is NOT as the news channels or government
would have us believe it is. Just as small business is at the heart of our economy,
small towns like Seward (population, a shade over 7,000) are the central part
of our soul. Those small towns are also where the Fourth of July is remembered
for what it is: Independence Day.
A quiet form of self reliance permeates the atmosphere of every small town and
they seem to subliminally identify with our founding fathers’ decision
they’d had enough of the Crown of England. Inasmuch as those pioneering
colonialists had created this nation out of nothing, they didn’t see
why the fruits of their labors should go to support a foreign nation. Also, since
their unique form of individualism was what had made them successful, they knew
they didn’t need someone else to tell them how to run what they had created.
Small towns are on the forefront of self preservation as it was practiced on
the frontier, a trait that comes in handy during hard financial times. Big government
something they aspire to, nor do they expect it to solve their problems. Personal
and civic responsibility is a given.
Independence Day undoubtedly means different things to different folks, but in
small towns, the overwhelming display of patriotism clearly shows where their
heads and hearts are at.
I find the red, white and
blue extravaganza to be refreshing. And reassuring. National news is dominated
by the Beltway Buffoons and unbelievable news from overseas. The way we are absolutely
pummeled by the worse type of news, it would be really easy to get depressed,
and in some ways, I think the nation is depressed. But, as I look around at small
towns, especially those in agrarian areas, I know that regardless of what happens
nationally, when the dust settles, the small towns and their traditions will
have survived. The big cities may be smoking piles of ash but small town America
will still be up and kicking. That’s
where our nation got its start, and if it proves necessary, that will be where
it gets a fresh start. Just knowing that makes me feel better.
So, here are a few photos that demonstrate what a small town Fourth is all
The quinessential small town square complete with
Civil War statue. The plaques around the base thank those who have fought
in every war since.
The plaques go from the Civil War to today. Iraq and Afghanistan are
An area about six blocks on a side is shut down as
every possible activity you can think of is in process. These are female
highschool pole vaulters showing their stuff.
The parade has been known to last two hours. This in a town that is barely
a mile wide, if that.
Every tiny town has a Czech queen and they all show
up. I think the record is 13 (update: there were
11 this year).
|Sometimes family reunions will be measured in the hundreds when all the
generations show up, and they usually do.
When was the last time you saw Boy Scouts in a parade? Makes we smile
just to think of it.
|Every politician worth his salt knows his future may depend on showing
up in this specific parade.
How can you have a parade without fire trucks? Makes we wonder who is
protecting the surrounding towns.
Old cars, especially Model A Fords, are a big thing
in the plains states. There will be many dozens chugging along.
If you can walk or ride, you can participate.
The rodeo queens are always a favorite.
Seward is about 30 miles west of Lincoln right on I-80.
You should think about visiting next year. You'll be glad you did. We'll
be there for sure. bd
28 June 2015
- A Bloodless Coup?
Holy…! What just happen? Did the Supreme Court just decide to redefine
Separation of Powers and Checks and Balances and, in the process, take over the
United States of America? Did “We the people…” just get replaced
by “We the judges?”
I’ve made an honest effort this year to keep Thinking
Out Loud away from
politics and anything like it. But, this week too much stuff happened to ignore
it. I hope this is the last time I get forced into talking about this crap.
First there is the Supreme Court: The way the US government
was purposely set up by the founding fathers, the Supreme Court of The US (SCOTUS)
was there to judge whether laws met the exact letter of the Constitution. They
are the final authority and are supposed to look at a law, lay it against the
template of the Constitution and make a judgment as to whether it fits or not.
THEY ARE NOT THERE TO TWIST THEIR INTEPRETATION OF EITHER THE CONSTITUTION OR
A LAW TO MAKE THAT LAW MORE PALITABLE TO THEM. They absolutely cannot make or
change laws. That’s
the job of Congress. Unfortunately, no other branch has overview as to whether
SCOTUS is doing its job or not and the mechanism to censure them for questionable “behavior” is
cumbersome and has seldom, if ever, been used.
This week dissenting judge Scalia summarized it best in his brief when he said,
of the Obamacare ruling, “The Court’s decision reflects the philosophy
that judges should endure whatever interpretive distortions it takes in order
to correct a supposed flaw in the statutory machinery. We must always remember,
therefore, that our task is to apply the text, not to improve upon it.’”
He further said that the legacy of the Roberts Court will be "…forever
the discouraging truth that the Supreme Court of the United States favors some
laws over others.” Scalia explained that the Court engaged in "somersaults
of statutory interpretation to save ObamaCare, rather than applying neutral and
consistent rules to all laws equally.”
In other words, SCOTUS not only didn’t do their job, as spelled out in
the Constitution, they redefined their job the way they saw fit. This is a scary
situation because they’re the check valve for the whole system. If they
waiver in their responsibilities, the entire system is weakened to its core.
It’s not so much the Obamacare decision I object to, as it is the manner
in which they did it. However, I don’t like the decision either.
The Gay Rights Decision. I suppose I could react the same way to their gay marriage
decision as I do Obamacare, but, my objections to that are different. First,
let it be known far and wide that I don’t think anyone outside of the couple
involved should have any say on the matter of gay marriage or anything similar.
It’s none of my business what they do. I know this is going to rankle some
readers, but I really don’t care if a guy wants to marry another guy, a
pig or his pick-up. I have zero personal leanings in that area other than one
very big one: I DON’T THINK GOVERNMENT—STATE OR FEDERAL—HAS
ANY DAMN BUSINESS LEGISLATING ANYTHING HAVING TO DO WITH GAY RIGHTS. Their rights
should be the same as anyone else on the planet. Ditto for transgenders or anyone
else regardless of color, creed or sexual orientation, assuming they don’t
present a physical threat to the population. Once you separate out any category
or group of people for special legislation, which we do repeatedly, you’re
on a slippery slope.
By the same token, if a person’s religious beliefs say they really don’t
want to bake a cake for a gay wedding, that’s their business. The government
should butt out. In my eyes, that’s just a variation of the sign on the
door, “no shirt, no shoes, no service.”
Morality and Politics. The entire governmental system is screwed up for one very
simple reason. The way the Constitution sets up the government is brilliant in
the way, that, if it is followed, it keeps any given branch from becoming so
powerful that it negates another branch. However, a flaw in the concept was spelled
out by T. Jefferson at the very beginning, when he stated that this structure
would only work if it was built around “moral men.” The concept requires
a high level of honesty, integrity and dedication to the Constitution and the
people it serves, to keep the roles of each branch well defined so they can keep
watch on the other branches. Judging from many of the actions this week, it would
appear that Tom’s concern is valid.
Moral leaders are the main ingredients of a republic. What we are seeing right
now is that, if a person is in a governmental position for which there is little
to no penalty for performing in a wrongful manner, there are only their own morals
to keep them walking the line. I’m afraid that’s what we saw this
week in so many areas of government, not just SCOTUS. In short, it appears the
morality of government and their commitment to the Constitution has been compromised
in the extreme.
This has been going on for a long time. Recently, we all screamed when the President
unilaterally decided to give an immigration breaks to 5 million illegals. Clearly
not within his power. The whole Benghazi thing smelled to high heaven, but we
let it slide. The ultimate “how dumb do they think we are?” actions
can be seen in the rash of beltway hard drive crashes, hard drive disappearances,
e-mail trashings, etc. And then the SCOTUS rulings this week! On a national level,
it seems as if we’ve very much lost our way and are wandering in the wilderness.
About the Confederate flag thing: I have mixed emotions about that one. Because
the stars and bars has been high jacked by so many racist groups, I can clearly
see why some folks see it in that light. That reference is hard to escape and
I understand and largely agree with their sentiment. Being from Nebraska, my
roots are as a bluecoat (the Kansas-Nebraska act of 1854 helped start the Civil
War.) Some part of me, however, strongly identifies with the anti-government,
rebel aspect of the south but not the slavery. I’m betting that was the
case with 90% of Confederates. They weren’t fighting for slavery as much
as they were fighting simply because they were being invaded. When you shoot
at someone, they have no choice but to shoot back. And that’s what I see,
when I see a Confederate flag: underdogs backed into a corner and being forced
to fight. They did so as bravely as anyone ever has. And they were Americans.
Make no mistake, however, I can clearly see why some folks want that flag removed
and I won’t argue that. But, why now all of a sudden?
We are seeing a tsunami of narrowly defined political correctness sweeping the
land that may see warrior statues being removed and an attempt at re-writing
history by omission ala Japan’s treatment of WWII. Also you can count on
the American flag eventually being targeted. Students at the Univ. of California
Irvine campus have already said they want that symbol of oppression and imperialism
removed. If we don’t recognize the symbols of American pride, both national
and regional, those regions will have every right to resent the PC-Nazi’s
intrusion and eventually, the whole thing will fester until it comes around to
bite us in the butt. This thing goes much deeper than a flag.
I hope this is my last political, Thinking Out Loud. bd
20 June 2015
- But, it's a Dry Heat
If you watch the news, some would say that it was hot this past week here
in Phoenix. Others would say it was hot as hell. And, I would have to agree.
It’s important for those thinking about moving to Phoenix to realize that
we have four months where the temps never get below 211 degrees. Celsius. So,
don’t move here. Please!
I can’t count the number of times I’ve told someone I’m from
Phoenix and automatically, they say, “Oh, man! How can you live down there?
It’s always 110 degrees! How can you stand it?” It’s like it’s
a conditioned response. Just as my conditioned response to them is, “Let’s
have this same conversation in January.”
Truth is, we had a really cool, and pleasant, spring, but June marks the start
of serious summer for us where temps go over 100 and pretty much stay there until
mid-September. June also, for some reason, always seems to have at least one
week, like last week, where it stays above 110, which is well above normal, all
week, then drops back to a more normal 105-108.
I know that even 105 sounds ridiculously hot to most folks, but that’s
because they’ve never experienced those temperatures at the kind of humidity
we have here. Last week we saw as high as 114 degrees (and yes, thank you, I
was flying in it) with 111 being an average. But I never saw the humidity above
10 percent. Usually about eight percent. And that makes a HUGE difference. The “dry
heat” thing everyone jokes about is very real. Super real, actually.
FYI- the historical record temp for Phoenix was 122 in 1990, which caused the
main airport to shut down. This because airline performance charts didn’t
go that high.
I’m always flying in these temps with students from out-of-state or out-of-the-country
(I fly VERY few locals. I’ll go a year or two without any.) and it’s
fun to hear their comments on our weather. They’re usually here for a week
and, regardless of the time of year, inevitably they say something like, “Man,
this is like Ground Hog day. The sky almost never has any clouds!” That’s
not 100% true, but close enough.
They also say, when they see the hangar thermometer at 105, “I can’t
believe that’s how hot it is. If I was back home in (insert your state),
we’d be dying, but I’m perfectly comfortable.” However, the
instant the air stops moving, as in shutting off the fan in the hangar, you start
sweating. Even if the humidity is low. Fortunately, there’s usually a slight
breeze and the front seat of my Pitts is open cockpit.
We do have higher humidity (as high as 25-30%) during August and we all bitch
and moan about it. You only have to live here for a couple of weeks to become
a certified weather wienie: we can’t stand temps below 60 and humidity
above 20-25%. And I’m not kidding one bit. If it gets down into the 50’s,
which it will sometimes during the winter, you honest-to-God see folks walking
around with gloves on. I always fly with gloves, when it’s that cool.
The hottest I’ve flown here was 118 degrees with a student from (are you
ready for this?) northern Ontario, Canada. But he was a really game kid and didn’t
complain a bit. I made up a “Certificate of Incredibility” for him
at the end of the week. He’s now flying in the Red Bull races. Additionally,
I’ve flown enough in high temps that I can automatically convert the Celsius
(when did it stop being Centigrade?) on ATIS to “real” degrees (Fahrenheit)
in my head.
One thing I’ve really noticed about myself in the last few years on this
heat thing is how easily I get dehydrated. I mean, to the point that I can feel
my brain shutting down and my body goes weak. So, I go through a minimum of two
bottles a hop, which I never had to do in the past. I’m guessing the miles
I’ve racked up on this old body have opened up some of the tolerances in
my internal fittings so I just need more lubricating.
So, anyway, everybody’s favorite season is here: summer and most folks
will lament the day it passes. Not us. As soon as summer is over we can begin
actually living, not just tolerating.
As Rudyard Kipling said (sort of ), “Only mad dogs and Englishmen (and
turistas) go out in the mid-day sun. Zonies know better.” bd
6 June 2015 -
America: A View From the Outside
I’ve started to write this blog at least six times and I can’t
believe I’ve let two weeks go by in the process. Things just kept taking
me away from it. But in some ways, it has worked out well because today is June
6th, a red, white and blue date that always chokes me up. It’s also a date
that dovetails with what was to be the original subject of this blog: I found
that a good place to have a rebirth of patriotism is to attend the swearing in
ceremony for new citizens. Especially a ceremony as special as this one was.
Two weeks ago last Tuesday, Marlene Elizabeth Davisson was sworn in as a US citizen!
This was something she’d had on her bucket list for a long time and sitting
there, watching the ceremony, affected me more than I thought it would.
The smile of a new citizen
I had been told that it was to be a very cut
and dried, repeat-after-me thing that took more time getting seated than it
did to complete. Wrong on all scores. Very wrong and I have to give the Immigration
Service credit for making sure that those who had decided to become US citizens
and their families would remember the day.
There were 64 people to be sworn in and probably 200 people in the room: every
family, us included, knew this was a very big deal. In looking around the room,
I suddenly realized that I had walked in the door with some preconceived notions
that were wrong. With all the hype about our southern borders and immigrants
pouring in, I had assumed most of those in the room would be Hispanic. But
of the 33 nations represented, Mexico didn’t come close to dominating
the room. There were less than ten Hispanics. In fact, as the administrator
had people stand up as he called out their country, there were as many Iraqis
as Mexicans and the rest was split every way you could imagine. A four-member
family from England, a young couple for Nairobi and on and on.
They asked for volunteers to get up and tell their stories, which was what
brought tears to my eyes. The AZ Redhead was amongst the speakers and, in as
proud and as clear a voice as I’ve ever heard from her, she let us all
know that, she had been in Phoenix since 1958, when her family moved down from
Vancouver, Canada and she considered herself as American as anyone in the room,
but this would make it official.
Two other speakers were the ones who really got to me. One was another Canadian,
a young man who struggled with his words and his emotions as he told his story.
He had had surgery for brain cancer, which effected his speech, and he said
that, as he went through the entire, painful experience, all he could
think about was becoming a US citizen.
The other was a tiny, ancient, gray-haired woman, at least 85 years old, from
some country I’d never heard of in Africa. She told the tale of an America
she had only seen in her dreams and on the TV she saw rarely. When she came to
Phoenix, she said what surprised her most were the people. She hadn’t
expected them to be so warm and to reach out to her so readily. Their sincerity
had touched her and she could hardly believe that she was about to become an
It was about that time that a wave of pride in my country rolled over me.
Like so many others, I’d forgotten what an incredible
country this is. It took voices from the outside to remind me. From the inside
we see only the squabbles, the politics and the problems. We forget that for
all its warts and overt screw-ups, this is still the most fantastic country
in the world. Tony Blair once said that you can judge the quality of a country
by whether people are trying to get into it or out of it. And the very fact
that immigration is one of our major subjects of discussion says that, as nasty
as some groups would like to make us out to be, we are still the “go
As I think about all the young men who died 71 years ago on an Atlantic beach
determined to bring freedom back to an oppressed land, and I think of the hopeful
souls in the room with Marlene last week, I almost get angry at myself. And
at the rest of our population. There’s a very negative vibe throughout
the country that shows we’re losing our confidence in the principles
upon which we as a nation have conducted our lives for 239 years. We’re
losing our faith in The Dream. But, as I sat there with 64 people from 33 countries,
you could almost feel their dreams filling the room. In their minds they were
taking a very large step toward becoming part The American dream. They still
believed in us. And we should too.
2015 - Simplicity Trumps the Need for Speed...Maybe
The other day a shiny new Maserati Ghibli coupe pulled up along side me
at a light. It was being driven by a millennial who sported the requisite unshaven
look. He glanced over and, as our eyes met, I couldn’t help but grin and
chuckle, which perplexed him…me being in my ancient Civic and all. I guess
I wasn’t giving him the respect he imagined his ride deserved. That happens
a lot with me.
First, I have to admit to being a car guy, which is no secret to any reader of
Thinking Out Loud. However, I also have to admit that my four-wheel taste is
a little eclectic (weird might be a better word). As I’ve gotten older,
it has gotten decidedly oddball and unexpected. Unexpected even to me.
First my students often find it strange that someone who spends an obscene amount
of time falling out of the sky in a hotrod biplane drives a 25-year-old (1990)
Honda Civic (I bought it new as I was getting divorced, 240,000 miles!). Much
worse: I seem to enjoy it. And I’ve
lavished far more money than is sensible in returning it to, if not show room
condition, at least to a state that it isn’t totally embarrassing (dents
removed, new paint, etc). The car doesn’t match the personality the airplane
would seem to indicate. And I’m not sure why.
I have to admit that, while I dearly love performance cars and my taste runs
to the slightly cruder machines than the Maserati, for some reason I just don’t
want them in my life. Again, I’m not sure why.
My first new car right out of college was a ’65 GTO (Tri-power, four-on-the-floor,
posi-traction, etc.). Before that it was a ’62 Pontiac Catalina hardtop
from my younger brother that was set up with all the Grand National Stock Car
options that were then available. For a lot of years the Goat shared my garage
with a ’65 Shelby GT350 (Serial number 195). I’d LOVE to have any
one of those cars back, and, of course the Shelby is now worth a very pretty
penny, but, for the life of me I can’t see myself driving any of them.
This isn’t because I’m technically a gray dog and too old for them:
you’re never too old for a boss ride and the majority of high dollar performance
cars I see around here are driven by gray dogs. I think it’s because my
life just doesn’t have room for them. No, let me rephrase that: I wouldn’t
have them because I don’t want to invest the time necessary to effortlessly
house them and enjoy them. I just don’t want the complexity.
This is going to sound incredibly silly, but, some part of me seems to be seeking
some sort of simplicity in life, this even though I’m surrounded by tons
of stuff that breeds complexity. ‘You want to complicate a life? Try owning
an airplane in a big city. It’s a major pain in the butt in every way possible.
Maybe part of aging is the realization that there really are only 24 hours in
a day and we’re not as good at compressing stuff into them as we used be.
It might also be the realization that for a lot of our lives, we would look at
something and say, “Oh, I’ll get at it eventually.” Time was
an intangible, gossamer concept that, while we valued it, we didn’t conscious
see it as having an end. There was always more of it out there.
Of all the things that moving into the last quarter of your existence changes,
it is your concept of time. At some point the fact that time has a finite limit
attached to it creeps into our consciousness and we begin looking at things differently.
We finally realize that at some point there will be the last car, the last dog,
the last hug, the last of everything. And, without thinking about it, some of
us begin setting priorities as to how we’re going to invest whatever time
is left in our bank. And “invest” is the right word. We no longer
think in terms of doing something just to be “passing the time."
We want it to earn us something that’s precious, but not necessarily tangible.
paying more attention to old friends. Or maybe creating something that others
will enjoy when we can no longer enjoy it. I don’t know. Everyone does
Certainly one of the trends that’s creeping into my thought patterns is
coming up with dreams and goals that are more short term in nature: I select
projects and goals that I can logically see where they’ll end, rather than
stretching out to some sort of vague, difficult to control, “sometime” conclusion.
I guess I’m looking for a little simplification in everything because I
then know I can handle what ever it is and do a better job of it. Would I like
to be commuting to the airport in a ’65 GTO? Sure I would, but would I
want to complicate my life? No way.
As I accelerated away from the light, hearing the Honda’s modified exhaust
tone building as I effortlessly snapped it into second gear, I looked at the
Maserati pulling away from me and grinned again. I was having as much fun as
he was with a whole lot less effort or worries. And that’s worth a lot.
The AZ Red Head just read this and said it’s mostly BS. She said, if I
had the money I’d have another big block screamer. In truth, she’s
probably right. So much for profound thoughts and commonsense. :-)
2015 - A Ten Second Period of Grace
I just had a miracle happen to me. It could have just been a coincidence,
but, miracle or not, I’ll take it. This because, without it, there’s
the chance I would have been writing this propped up in a hospital bed hammering
on my laptop. I wouldn’t have been seriously hurt but would probably be
banged up a little. Monday I had the luckiest, unlucky thing I’ve ever
had happen to me and I’m hoping to learn from it.
We were cleared for takeoff and my student was in the process of taxiing from
the crowded run-up area to the empty sanctity of the wide runway. Just as she
curved onto the centerline, throttle at idle, the right rudder pedal fell to
the floor, brake and all, and just that quickly, we had zero directional control
of the airplane! Zero! Since we were barely moving at a walk, but already turning,
the airplane’s center of gravity took control of things and continued pulling
our tail to the right until the tailwheel unlocked and we made a very tight,
very lazy ground loop, eventually coming to a halt sitting crosswise on the centerline.
So, there we sat, on the approach end of an 8,000 foot runway, jets clearly in
sight on final and others lined up on both sides of the runway ready to go. But,
there was this little red biplane sitting in the middle of the runway. I felt
incredibly exposed, obvious and just a hair confused.
It took about a second for me to realize that there was no way in hell that I
could taxi clear of the runway. Any power at all just caused the airplane to
turn tightly. So, we shut down and bailed out of the airplane as if it was on
fire, pushing like crazy people to get it off the runway and across a taxiway
to the ramp as quickly as possible. I’d be go to hell, if I would be one
of those idiots who shut down a runway and back up traffic. I’ve seen them
do that for nothing more than a flat tire. Not me.
As I was pushing, I had no idea what happened, but obviously something had broken.
I suspected a cable or maybe a nicopress had slipped off. When I walked around
to the other side of he airplane, I got my answer: the right rudder cable was
dragging on the ground with half of the turnbuckle that connected it to the rudder
attached. The other half of the turnbuckle was still attached to the rudder horn.
It had actually broken! That’s the first time in my life I had seen one
Some problems are easier to diagnose than others!
Incidentally, as I was inspecting the rudder
cable I became conscious of how hard my heart was beating and the quickness
of my breath. I hadn’t realized
I was in such sorry physical condition. That was a wake-up call.
A tow tractor with a dolly showed up and we started the slow motion towing
trek back to the hangar, about ¾ mile away. During the ten or so minutes it
took to make the trip, I sat on the tractor thinking about the episode and all
the “what ifs” attached to it.
What if it had happened five seconds earlier, when we were taxiing past a Falcon
in the run-up area? We would have been moving much faster and had quite a bit
of power on it. The turn to the left would have been much more violent. I don’t
think we would have had enough room between me and the Falcon for me to hit
the good brake and execute a tight ground loop before hitting it. In all likelihood
we would have stopped with my prop chewing into the fuel filled wing of the
Falcon and with more than a little speed behind me.
If it had happened five seconds later: we would have had full power on the
airplane accelerating rapidly to a 70-80 mph lift off. If still on the ground,
P-factor would have yanked us off the left side of the runway at about the same
time I would have chopped the throttle. It would probably have twisted us into
a very high-speed ground loop as we left the runway. The normal scenario in a
Pitts at that point is it folds the outside landing gear, catches the wingtip
and flips the airplane on its back usually destroying it and ruining the occupant’s
If it had happened 10 seconds later, while we were in the air, I would have been
faced with the challenge of having to land the airplane with no directional control.
I could have gotten it on the ground just fine, but immediately after touchdown,
it would have taken off for the side of the runway at about 70 mph and the upside-down-in-the-gravel
scenario was almost guaranteed.
The turnbuckle had decided to fail during the only ten-second window possible
that there wouldn’t have been dire results. I doubt if any of them would
have resulted in serious injury, but who knows?
I was such a seriously lucky SOB I can’t believe it! And it had some worthwhile
effects on me. Among other things I immediately got more serious about my morning
walks and started looking for hills to challenge me. I’ve even tossed in
some squats and push-ups. I’m also making a very minor mod to the airplane
that won’t let the rudder pedals fall forward and take the brakes away
from me. Most tailwheel airplanes are set up the same way and I’d suggest
a similar mod to all of them.
This wasn’t a life-threatening event. In fact, what actually transpired
was more entertaining than threatening. However, the what-ifs are another matter.
They made me a little more aware of what else is going on in my life and, like
someone who had escaped death (which I hadn’t), made me appreciate the
good things more and not let the bad ones bother me. I guess I’m prioritizing
a little better. The challenge now is make that effect last. bd
2015 - You just gotta love the coyote
One of the most hopeful signs that everything is still right in the world
was on the news last night. The accompanying video was of the NYPD (as in New
York City cops) chasing a coyote that was running around lower Manhattan. As
usual, the Coyote was making the NYPD look silly. Just as they always do with
everyone else. Now that’s funny! Just shows no place is sacred to a Coyote,
which I view as the overall leveling organism in the universe. Next to the cockroach.
I love coyotes. Yeah, like most westerners, I’ve put my share of them in
the ground, but I’ve changed my ways. They, of course, haven’t. Now,
other than the fact that they have CAT (big cats) and dogs (small dogs), which
are my closest family, on the top of their everyday menu, I find them entertaining.
I find it flat out amusing that even a place that’s as sophisticated (or
so they’d like us to believe) as NYC (which actually floats on a veritable
cockroach haven) isn’t safe from El Coyote’. Old Mr. Coyote is the
omnipresent reminder that we don’t actually rule the world. That we’re
just passing through. Mr. C is the thread of continuity that ties yesterday,
today, and tomorrow together.
I would have loved to be there when someone stepped out of a high-dollar NYC
eatery only to have a coyote, being pursued by a herd of cops, flash past them.
Okay, so it’s not hilarious to most, but I think the image is pretty damn
Frank Lloyd Wright said (although it could have been Buckminster Fuller…or
Soupy Sales) that 10,000 years from now, all that anyone will find of our civilization
will be toilet bowls: ceramics are forever. Nothing else manmade is. However,
the cockroaches and coyotes, which were here long before we walked on two legs
and will still be here long after we’re gone, will probably have their
thoughts about us. If they feel like talking they could talk about the tall,
salty-tasting bipeds that used to beat their chests and stack rocks on top of
rocks and live inside the result. Yeah, those funny looking, hairless bipeds
were here. But, now they’re gone.
It’s kind of interesting to think about the coyote and how he has reacted
to mankind taking over his living space. I was born and raised in eastern Nebraska,
which doesn’t mean much except for a couple of unusual facts. First, I
know for a fact that I never saw a coyote in the wild unless we drove out into
the Sand Hills on the other end of a pretty big state (430 miles across). Oddly
enough, same thing holds for deer. It was farm country with lots of food, but
we had to go out west to find deer. Today, of course, both species are nuisances
in the area.
I doubt if we’re going to see deer running down 3rd Avenue on the lower
East side, but the funny, not-so-little, laughing dogs have somehow made the
trip. But, I can’t imagine how.
Manhattan Island is called an island because…well… because it’s
an island. That means it’s surrounded by water. A lot of water. But there
are good sized bridges across that water. However, I cannot, for the life of
me, see a coyote getting up on the George Washington Bridge and trotting into
the Big Apple. Ditto the Lincoln or Holland tunnels. So, how did that guy get
into Manhattan? The video was the final proof that, if you leave a sandwich laying
around, a coyote is going to find it. You can kill ‘em, but you can’t
run them out of a territory were they want to live.
As for coyote populations moving East, that makes perfect sense. Even though
it would appear that we have taken their living spaces, just the opposite is
true. They’re the space thieves: they’ll live any damn place they
please. And it pleases them to live around the edges of mankind because mankind
produces an endless stream of garbage. Which attracts rodents and rodents attract
coyotes. And mankind raises things like cats and small dogs, which might as well
be coyote bait. We lost a cat not long ago to a coyote. Now we keep them in at
I’m certain everyone from farmers to suburbanites to 5th Avenue doormen
are trying to get rid of coyotes. However, if there’s one incontrovertible
fact in life, when it comes to a fair fight (no firearms involved), always bet
on the coyote.
And the cockroach, of course. bd
2015 - Getting Our Lives Under Control (Good luck!)
The human animal is a curious one. We have reshaped an entire planet in
what amounts to the blink of an eye, yet, when it comes to controlling some pretty
basic, personal behavior patterns, most of us suck. Me especially. I’m
admitting this publicly in the hopes that it’ll shame me into doing something
about it. And may help others with the same challenges. I’m talking about
minor stuff like controlling our weight or where our life is going.
There’s something about most of us that we’ll put our heads down
and charge into the unknown ready to take on any challenge. However, give us
a little time and we seem to drift off course and forget where we were going.
A classic example is how quickly the patriotic furor over 911 faded and degraded
back down to the same divisive conservative/liberal way of thinking . Or, on
a more personal level, how we go charging off determined to get in shape. Or,
better yet, lose weight. Or clean the garage. Or whatever. We start off like
a house afire, but in a fairly short period of time lose momentum and there we
are…right back where we started. Granted, there are those amongst us who
can pick a direction and maintain it, resisting all temptations to drift off
course. But that’s not most of us. In fact, I think I hate those people.
You know who you are (kidding).
I, for one, get pretty damned disgusted with myself from time to time because
I know I’m not doing what I should be doing. And right now is one of those
times. I look around at my life and ask myself, “What the hell are you
doing? You’re not even close to controlling your life, which is something
you’ve always prided yourself on.”
I’m absolutely positive others feel the same way periodically. That we’re
letting events set our course rather than controlling it ourselves We’re
letting the winds fly our airplane, when we should be controlling what’s
going on rather than just reacting to what’s happening around us. Why is
I’m not talking about the big things like politics and the madness in our
nation’s capital. I’m talking about all of the smaller, day-to-day
life-factors over which we have total control, but do nothing about. Sometimes
we seem to let them overwhelm us, or they pick at us a little at a time causing
us to lose our heading without our realizing it.
Wait….! For all I know, I’m alone in this up and down, saw-tooth
approach to life. Please don’t tell me that the majority of you start on
a project of some kind and keep fiddling with it until it’s done. Please
don’t tell me you decided to lose 17 ½ pounds ten years ago, lost
it and kept it off! That makes me think you’re some sort of extraterrestrial
because, in my experience, mere mortals can’t do that. At least this one
can’t. I lost 33 pounds about five years ago and little by little have
gained 20 of it back. And I’m seriously pissed at myself. But it goes deeper
than that and I was made aware of similar losses of control while I was messing
with my taxes this morning.
Those of you who are in business for yourselves all have the same problem: since
we don’t actually know what we’re going to make on a yearly basis
we have to exercise a bit of self control and walk a razor blade path that lets
us pay the bills, yet still have enough left to pay the taxes.
I said that backwards: we plan to pay the taxes and hope we have enough left
to pay the bills.
Increasingly, taxes are the big wind that we have to control and, in the last
few years that has become more difficult. But, this is just one of those control-challenged
areas, like my weight, that I’ve lightened my grip on so this tax year
is going to be a tough one. This morning, I found myself brow beating myself
because I’m not doing the job of running my life as I’m supposed
to be doing. On every front I’ve become lax. When that happens, what do
we do about it?
It’s obvious that “lax” is a chronic human condition that I
think lurks around the corners of our personalities and is always waiting to
catch us in a weakened condition so it can lead us off the correct path. In so
many aspects of our lives, we say “screw it!” and pry the top off
a fresh quart of chocolate-carmel ice cream (which should be illegal, by the
way), at the same time saying “Just this once. I’ll only eat an inch
of it now. I’ll diet it off tomorrow.” That NEVER works! Worse…we
know it doesn’t work, but we do it anyway.
It is universally accepted that the human animal is a weak one. Yet, as a species,
we manage to do some amazing things. Even more amazing, most of our accomplishments
are for good. We’re not the scourge of the universe some would have us
believe that we are. Individually, however, we (more correctly “I”)
have difficulties controlling our own tiny universes. So, it’s time for
me to do something about that.
Our current B & B/flying student is leaving in a half hour. Shortly after
that, I’m rousting The AZ Red Head out of the sack with a hot cup of tea
and we’re going to sit on the patio, yellow pad in hand, and plot out a
new course for us. How long the result will stay in effect is hard to tell, but
one fact is absolutely true: if we don’t make the effort, nothing is going
to change. And I can’t live life like that. Could you? bd
4 April 2015
- A Simple Life?
This morning, as I was brushing my teeth, a conversation I had on a plane
a while back floated through my mind. I don’t know if I’ve recounted
it before, but, if I have, I feel like talking about it this again this morning.
I don’t remember where I was going, but when my seatmate made his way to
his roost beside me, his uneasiness was palpable. His eyes had a lot of age behind
them but, as he walked down the aisle, they never stopped moving around the airplane.
He studied the overhead storage, the way the bins opened, he glanced down into
each seat as he passed and a finger rode the overhead rail keeping track of the
seat numbers: he even stopped to read the defibrillator placard on the appropriate
bin. This was a true airline newby. Actually, it was more than that: he was a
stranger in a strange land. And obviously from a different era.
I tried to guess his age, but couldn’t. Everything about him said late
80’s. Maybe even 90’s. But, the quickness in his eyes made me think
younger. His back was straight, his frame thin but wiry. His sun-darkened skin
was the wrinkled texture of old, but well oiled, leather and he carried himself
proud. He was old. There was no way to deny that. But he made old look good.
He wore a faded, but clean and perfectly pressed, flannel shirt, with matching
jeans, a big buckle from a long-ago rodeo and pointy-toed boots that he’d
valiantly tried to polish, but their age and the miles showed through. He carried
a small leather suitcase/bag like you’d see in an antique store in one
hand and his Sunday-go-to-meeting, high-crown Stetson in the other. The hat had
obviously been his traveling companion for a long, long time. Everything about
the old gentleman said “cowboy.” Not the kind you see on the Country
Music Awards, or climbing out of a Cadillac with horns on the hood. The kind
that part of your mind hopes still inhabits far corners of the American Experience
carrying on a tradition that we know is dying and we hate that. He was the real
thing and had been since before I was born.
As he sat down, he fumbled with the seat belt and strained to see out the window.
I introduced myself and stood up, insisting that he slide to the window seat
so he could enjoy the entire experience. I helped strap him in and pointed out
the overhead lights and the seatbelt signs. Initially, he was timid. Almost embarrassed
that he needed help. I sensed an incredibly self-reliant man who was fighting
old age as much as he could and didn’t like the fact that he was so far
out of his element that he needed help from a stranger. Still, he quietly expressed
his gratitude and settled back for the take off, only slightly stiffened with
His nose against the window, the airplane raced down the runway and rotated into
the air. At about 500 feet, his head snapped around with a big grin
on his face, his eyes on fire.“Damn!” Then he was back to the new
world unfolding before him.
As the flight wore on, he relaxed and asked me where I was from. He called me “son”,
which I liked. Little by little, his story came out.
He was born, raised and lived his entire life on a smallish ranch in the mountains
east of Phoenix. This is an area that still offers the open spaces and challenging
life that the general public associates with “The West.” Few, however,
partake of that life because there are far, far easier ways to make a living.
As he described his childhood and the times that followed, I could see the ranch
in my mind so clearly it was as if I had been there. It was nestled into the
back of the foothills on the eastern slope where the wooded mountains fade into
high-country plains. Some of the pasture area could be mistaken for western Nebraska
or the Dakotas except it was an easy 4,500 MSL with the mountains and hill country
much higher than that. This meant their winters were tough and their summers
Without even seeing them, I knew the simple house and barns all needed a coat
of paint. Times had never been good, much less fat enough to allow regular painting
and in many spots the wood had turned gray. His sons had moved to The City as
soon as they were able. He was proud of them. One a mechanic, the other a physician’s
assistant. Oh, sure they visit as much as they can, but, you know…they
have families. And business to take care of. His beloved Amanda is nearly a decade
gone, but he’s doing okay. The Gutierrez boys have acerage next door and
they come over and help, when needed. He doesn’t get TV, but the radio
works real good. The telephone too. The big herd got to be too much, so he’s
only running about 50 head now. His immediate family is an old gray named George
and a couple of dogs who love him dearly: Mable and Ernesto. His eyes lit up
when mentioning the dogs and the lights stayed on, when he ran down the list
of grand children, some of which had actually been out to the ranch. They seemed
to enjoy it. At 92, he didn’t think he’d see them too many more times.
If at all. Some of the light went out of his eyes, when he said that.
And, yes, this was the first time in an airplane. In fact, except for a few rodeos
in Prescott and Texas, he’d seldom left the county. Except during WWII.
He’d joined the Marines with a Navajo friend of his. He hated the Pacific
and hadn’t really known how to swim, when he stepped into the surf at Iwo.
Dreadful place. Lost a lot of friends there. Some nights, when the light is low
out on the back porch, he’ll sit there smoking a cigar and see their faces.
All of them are so young. So damn young!
As I said good by and looked him in the eyes, I hadn’t realized, until
that moment, how much I envied him. He’d lived what most of us would judge
as a simple life. But, it was his life, lived on his terms. And it was a good
life. His years were guided only by the weather, the seasons, his health and
that of his herd. And he’d kept a dying tradition alive. I know I’ve
met lots of guys who think of themselves as cowboys. But, that day, I knew for
a fact, I had actually met one. And I savor that memory. bd
2015 - Cities and Other Social Constructs
There’s a truly interesting character, recently deceased at 93,
Pablo Soleri, who is a part of AZ culture in an unexpected way: a student of
Frank Lloyd Wright (the architect, in case you didn’t know), he spent most
of his long life trying to redefine the concept of “city” and this
weekend, The Redhead and I finally understood what he meant. And that understanding
made me stand back and re-evaluate the way I look at life, in general.
Trying to explain how Soleri looked at buildings and cities is difficult but
I’ll do my best (and I’ll probably get it wrong). At the root of
his design philosophy is the elimination of what he sees as waste: the waste
of land, the waste of building materials, the waste of energy, the waste of the
human experience. So his designs pivot around the concept of sustainability in
which the key ingredient is low waste.
When designing his buildings he seeks to take advantage of everything natural,
both in the support of those buildings (heating, cooling, etc.) and in his construction
techniques. So, rather than strapping on a ton of solar panels, he orients his
buildings to the sun, shapes them to absorb sun, when it’s needed, and
repel it, when it’s not.
His construction is, for the most part, highly non-traditional. Rather than using
conventional build-from-the-inside methods that result in a skeletal interior
frame with a cosmetic covering, most of his structures have an exoskeleton, like
a turtle or a beetle or a tilt slab building, in which all of the loads are carried
by the exterior skin. The way in which he builds that skin is also about as non-traditional
as you can get. He uses what some call the “earth casting” system:
the basic shape of the building (usually some variation of dome) is sculpted
in huge piles of dirt. The piles are dampened and tamped down so workers can
sculpt designs and structural members into the dirt. This includes interior girders
that appear as sculpted trenches in the dirt dome but appear as some form of
artful arch inside the dome. Then the dirt dome is covered in concrete. Re-bar
and steel screen run throughout the concrete, most of which is now sprayed in
place (I’m assuming some sort of gunnite). When the dirt is excavated (which
can be used again for another building), you have a form of sometimes-huge igloo-like
structures. I like that concept, if not the philosophy behind it.
|Arcosanti workshop. The girders and inteior decoration
is sculpted into the dirt mound before the concrete and re-bar is run
over it.The orientation and arch is designed so sun reaches the work
shops in the rear during winter but not summer.
Soleri has two show cases for his architectural
concepts here in AZ, one of which is Cosanti, a five acre tract about a mile
from our house that was originally out in the desert but is now surrounded
by some of the most expensive houses in Arizona. This was his student-supported
architectural campus where he not only taught architecture, but based his
bronze and ceramic bell business, which is also supported and operated by
student labor. We love his bells/windchimes and anyone we know that’s
getting married can count on one being their wedding gift. Google them and
you can buy them on-line. We highly recommend them.
Even though we’d been exposed to Soleri for decades, we didn’t really
understand what he espoused until we finally stopped at his really major project,
a utopian mini-city about 60 miles north of Phoenix, Arcosanti. We’d been
past it dozens of times, but never stopped. We finally stopped this weekend and
that’s when we not only understood his concepts, but came face to face
with our own concepts of “city” and “living.”
|In Soleri's concept of a city, everything anyone
needs would be built into a large rambling building, including entertainment.
Arcosanti's ampitheater often hosts known artists, but the road in is
two miles of rough dirt.
|All buildings, inside and out are raw, unplastered
concrete that is tinted with dirt while being poured so they visually
match the hillsides. They need zero up keep. Cast concrete slabs are
integrated into the dome structures.
In a nutshell, Soleri’s concepts
say that the major problem with cities is the car and the urban sprawl caused
by the car. So, he thought we should all be in what amounts to huge apartment
buildings that maximize energy conservation by not only using green systems
but are within walking/bicycling distances of our jobs (he makes no provisions
for manufacturing plants, etc). Cars wouldn’t
be allowed in the city-center. And that’s what Arcosanti showcases: highly
efficient use of space for large numbers of people who live in close proximity
in a “harmonious way:” his concept also says people get along better
if they share the same experiences and spaces.
He apparently never met me, or the vast majority of people I know.
My feeling about harmonious living can be summed up by a single experience,
which I think I’ve mentioned here before, but is again apropos: my garage/workshop
has a garage door at both ends and my primary work area is against the back
one that opens into the backyard. I had that door open during one of my rare
workshop sessions. Suddenly a head popped up over the cement block wall that
surrounds our backyard (typical for Phoenix). The Head, was eerily reminiscent
of the guy in Tim Allen’s TV show “Home Improvement” that was
always talking to him over their fence. The Head said, “Hi, my name is
Sam, I just moved in. I like building stuff too. Whatcha working on?”
At that instant, I suddenly realized I really don’t like, or want, neighbors.
I value my private time too much. And I’m certain I’m typical of
a large segment of the population.
What Soleri’s concepts don’t recognize is that there are lots
of folks who don’t function well, when hemmed in. They aren’t necessarily
anti-social, but very much want to control their social interaction. If those
folks want other people in their lives, they’ll invite them in. Otherwise,
stay away. In fact, those folks want to control everything about their existence
and don’t want anyone else involved. They don’t need anyone to
provide anything but the basics: electricity and water. In fact, given a choice,
supply that too, if they could. That doesn’t make them hermits. They
just like things the way they like them, and aren’t about to be pigeon
holed. You won’t find them sitting around a campfire singing Kumbaya
and roasting marshmallows with the neighborhood.
Personally, I applaud the majority of Soleri’s techniques and innovations.
In fact, I’d like to use some of them. But, his overall philosophy just
ain’t gonna work with a lot of folks.
I did, however spot a gorgeous desert valley less than a mile from Arcosanti
where I’d love to put a runway with a combination hangar/workshop/house
snuggled into the cliff surrounding it. It would be a perfect application for
Soleri’s earth-casting building techniques. And it’s far enough out
in the boondocks that I wouldn’t have talking heads popping up over my
fence insisting I converse with them.
15 March 2015
- Grandbaby Again
As I mentioned last week, my daughter braved her way through ice and snow
to get to Memphis to await the arrival of her baby-to-be-adopted. It arrived,
and yesterday, she came through with grandchild-four (granddaughter-three) and
the granddad/Grammy thing became real again.
At 6 pounds 9, this one, is, to me frighteningly cute and frighteningly fragile,
even though she’s not. First, it’s been a helluva long time since
I’ve been around a newborn (sitting on our patio, she was five days old!).
Second, both of my kids were relative giants in the
baby world: 9 pounds 6 and 9 pounds 3 respectively. So, I’ve never been
around a baby baby like this one. I find it hard to believe that every single
member of the human race starts out that incapable of taking care of themselves.
That says a lot for mothers. Less for fathers. I couldn’t get over the
tiny fingers and the eyes that roam around that you know are basically seeing
nothing. It’s all about impressions of bright and dark, warmth and closeness.
Her middle name is Presley, which I think is perfect and fits well. Mom is a
hardcore Elvis fan (highly unusual for a 30’s-something) and she and granddaughter-two
had just been through Graceland a few days earlier. When mom asked her five-year-old
what her new baby sister should be named, “Presley” popped out and,
after some discussion, all agreed. Why the hell not? I love it!
So, now, my daughter is the single-mom of two. A hard row to hoe, but she’s
made hoeing hard rows a specialty, so there’s no doubt she’ll be
fine and the new one will be the exemplary human being her older sister is. Not
many kids are that lucky. Not many moms would take on the single-mom role a second
time. But, my daughter couldn’t NOT do it. She was driven. As she always
is. So, all is good.
FYI - I was not aware of the incredible complexity of adopting children until
my daughter went through it. I’m not sure if her experience was typical,
but it was certainly arduous. You don’t just fill out an order form for
a baby and wait to be called to the front of the line. The birth mother “auditions” perspective
parents. My daughter actually made up promotional brochures on herself to present
to birth mothers in an effort at selling herself.
And the process can be cruel: She was selected once, drove to the East Coast
to do the adoption and, in the middle of the night, after spending a day with
the new baby, the birth mother decided not to let it go. Nothing is firm until
the forms are all signed. Like I said, it can be cruel.
Then there is the role of granddad and grammy: we have two grand kids in NJ and
now two in CA. And all are too damn far away. I know lots of friends who are
constantly on the road visiting their grand kids, and I’m out and out jealous.
But, those same friends are at least semi-retired. Most fully retired. We aren’t.
To say the least. I’m not sure whether this is a good thing or a bad thing,
but I know for a fact, it’s not about to change unless some health event
intrudes and makes us slow down. So, we have to work our far-spread family in
around a daily schedule.
I’m eternally grateful that we got that hour or so with the new little
bundle because it’ll be a month before we make another screaming-across-the-desert
trip to grandbabies’ house. That’ll give us a little time to wiggle
ourselves back into new-grandparent mode. We can’t wait.
27 Feb 2015 - Weather or Not
As this is being written, my daughter is threading
her way through freezing fog in south Texas on her way from Hollywood, CA
to Memphis to adopt a baby. I’m sitting here flipping through weather maps and Interstate Weather
sites trying to help her find the soft spots. But, I know full well that
I can’t do much more than advise. Frustrating!
The weather has come close to knocking everything else off the front page.
And there’s a good reason for that. When you can’t find your
car beneath an unbroken field of snow, even though you know about where it
was parked, ISIS, politics and global warming get pushed off to the outer
fringes of your consciousness. Ma Nature has a brutal way of continually
reminding us that we actually don’t control anything. She just allows
us to exist in the calm periods between her calamitous fits of behavior.
When she’s in a bad mood, everything else is irrelevant. And the immediacy
of the Net and media makes us totally aware of the seriousness of the weather
even though we’re not even remotely affected.
Being born and raised in flatland, blizzard country and then moving to lots-of-snow-and-too-many-people
country (NJ), I’ve paid my bad weather dues. Still there are times,
when I not only remember what’s going on in the rest of the country
but very much appreciate what we have here in the Southwest. One of those
days happened this week.
As I’ve mentioned before that one of our favorite events is the Single
Action Shooting Society’s national extravaganza, Winter Range. That
has run for the entire week and provided us with a weather-reminder.
For those not familiar with Cowboy Action Shooting, just picture the police
tactical range training you see in the movies, where they are working their
way through buildings and shooting through windows, etc. Now dress everyone
in Western garb and take away the AR-15’s and hand everyone a pair
of single action handguns, a shotgun of some kind and a lever action Winchester
or the equivalent. It’s a bunch of guys playing cowboy with live ammo
and steel plate targets. Also, there are tons of exhibitors purveying everything
from firearms to Bowie knives, frilly dresses and hats for the ladies and
all sorts of cowboy duds for the guys.
|Guy in back is holding a timer. Note the shotgun laying on the bench.
When finished with these targets, the shooter will grab the shotgun and
dash to another stage
|Mounted shooting is a big deal at the meet with
both men and women competing. They are shooting .45s loaded with crushed
Some shooters really get into character.
This time around the weather was the typical AZ afternoon:
clear blue. We were sitting there with a couple of good friends enjoying
a BBQ elk burger, the sounds of firing all around us and everyone in sight
packing at least one single action. The sun cast kind of a warm glow over
us, the conversation with those around us was engaging and mostly hilarious,
and you could almost feel the relaxation settle over you like a blanket.
However, I was acutely aware that we were part of a very small group of people
in the entire Nation that wasn’t cursing Ma Nature. In fact, we were
falling more in love with her every minute.
The foregoing was definitely NOT being said to gloat. It was said to let
those not as fortunate know that we very much appreciate what we have here.
Actually, the break of getting out of the office and spending an afternoon
in great weather, with good friends, doing something we really enjoy, was
energizing. It was a long time coming and, as I now recognize, was necessary.
We need to do it more often.
To those of you to whom weather is an unrelenting enemy, hang in there. Spring
will eventually get here and just know that those of us who have been in
your shoes feel your pain. Of course, it’s easy to say that when the
sun is almost always shining. Still, we’re thinking of you. bd
21 Feb 2015 - Random Thoughts 2.0
This has been a very confusing week worldwide. It has
been hard to concentrate on any one thing because of all the important and
totally unimportant things that have popped up on my radar. So, if you don’t
mind, I’m going to skip around and hit some random subjects, all of which
include links that I think everyone needs to read. One is deadly serious,
while others are amazing and fun.
First the Fun Stuff
There has been a You-tube thingie bouncing around the Web for a couple of weeks
in which a young Dane takes the simple bow and arrow to new heights as a tactical
weapon. His ability to put three arrows in three moving targets while he himself
is running at full speed is barely matched by doing the same thing with an automatic
handgun. And then there is the image of him splitting an arrow that is fired
at him mid-flight. If you didn’t see it on film, including slow motion,
you wouldn’t believe it. There’s some good historical information
included, as well. See below.
As a comparison/counter-point, I’m including some links for the late Bob
Munden, a six-gun speed shooter, which is also difficult to believe, but still
not up to what the archer is doing. Ditto, Jerry Miculek, which some of you may
know from TV. I have links below of him hitting a balloon from 1000 yards (yes,
one thousand yards) with a 9mm handgun, doing some high speed shooting and hitting
a target at 200 yards with a snub nose revolver while holding it upside down
and firing it with his pinky finger.
This is all impossible stuff but it’s really fun to see how good people
can get at something, when that’s their focus in life. I’m including
the full links so, just in case they don’t work, you can cut and paste
them into your browser.
Bob Munden, speed shooter
A feel-good link
In case you haven't seen this, you'll understand why I've included it, when you
see it. I didn't want readers to miss it
They are dominating the news and increasingly, we’re hearing
people who have a good handle on things saying that we’re seeing the
beginning of WWIII. And it’s
easy to see why they say that. First, if you read the link, http://www.theblaze.com/stories/2015/02/18/former-libyan-dictator-made-ominous-prediction-about-islamist-militants-before-his-ouster-is-it-about-to-come-true/,
which is just a news report of today’s events over “there”,
skim it quickly on purpose. Don’t slow down for the details. It’s
short and the impact is best noticed during a quick skimming: it reads like
a newspaper front page that was printed in 1940, when the war in Europe was
building on all fronts but we were still spectators. The running account of
the various battles on the various fronts is essentially a template for what
the news from overseas sounds like today. Country after country is being attacked
with the battlefront stretching across North Africa with skirmishes throughout
Europe in the form of terrorist attacks. Looked at in that way, we’ve
had some guerilla action taking place on our own shores.
The following link, http://www.theatlantic.com/features/archive/2015/02/what-isis-really-wants/384980/,
is long, 32 pages, but it is hands-down the most important document people
can read to put our current ISIS problem in context. Oddly enough, it is from
the usually-liberal Atlantic Monthly, and the author did a superb job with
the subject. Take your time with it: it'll give you a perspective on ISIS you
won't get elsewhere.
Essentially what the long document says (it’s exceedingly well written
and readable) is that when we use the phrase “Fundamentalist Islam” that’s
exactly what they are. They are so “fundamental” that they are
taking the original version of the Quran absolutely literally and everything
they do and think on an hourly basis is driven by that document, a document
that was compiled from prophet Mohammed’s oral recitations circa 635
AD. So, they are essentially a modern army with the goals of a medieval religion
that allows zero deviation from the script. Zero! If you don’t live a
Muslim life, as dictated by Mohammed in the original version, to the letter,
you are lower than scum and to be eliminated. That’s why they thought
nothing of burning 45 Muslims alive this week: being a Muslim isn’t enough.
You have to be their kind of Muslim or it doesn’t count and is to be
punished. The reason for the beheadings and burnings is because that’s
what their version of the religion, as dictated by Quran 1.0, requires. Every
single action they have taken can be found word for word in that document.
Their goal isn’t really to convert the world to their way of thinking,
although that IS their short-term goal. It’s not their long view because
according to their script, the “apocalypse” is coming and they
want to facilitate it. And, to that end they will do what ever it takes to
rid the world of those they consider unworthy. That’s us, among others.
And they’ll take what ever time it takes. “We will conquer your
Rome, break your crosses, and enslave your women,” Adnani, the ISIS spokesman,
promised in one of his periodic valentines to the West. “If we do not
reach that time, then our children and grandchildren will reach it, and they
will sell your sons as slaves at the slave market.”
Slavery, BTW, is distinctly mentioned and allowed in the Quran. As are beheadings,
burning and rape.
Think of the US, and the world in general, as a gigantic elephant. Now think
of that elephant infected with fleas. He ignores them for a short time because
initially they’re underfoot and he only gets a bite here and there. The
actual gestation of a flea from egg to full-fledged biting member of the flea
clan is over a month. However, when several thousand fleas lay eggs, it’s
only a few short generations before you’re seeing a new crop of fleas
about every 10 seconds. In a short while, they are crawling all over him, biting
everywhere. As soon as he snatches one off, another two or three are born and
begin biting. Soon, even though they are tiny fleas and he’s an elephant,
he’s totally covered and they’re in every crevice and his eyes
making it hard to see. They aren’t going to kill him, but they are making
his life miserable and become the focus of his existence.
Right now the fleas are threatening our ankles and it’s time to get serious
about using every possible means at our disposal to kill them and keep them
from even getting on the soles of our feet. When it comes to ISIS fleas, zero
tolerance right now will keep them from crawling up our national butt in the
not too distant future. They are NOT going to go away on their own.
Enuff said? This really may be the beginning of WWIII. bd
7 Feb 2015 - ISIS/ISIL: a Global
Let’s think about two concepts
for a just a second: the first is burning a man alive. The second is videoing
that event with high level production values and then spreading it across
the world as a sign of pride and achievement. It’s difficult to say
which is worse: the hyper-savage act or their making a public relations
spectacle of it. We have definitely entered a new chapter in world history.
Or have we?
If we look back through history we can find similarly savage acts. Shortly
after the Vietnam debacle, Pol Pot and his Khmer Rouge wiped 1.5 million
Cambodians, out of a total population of around 7 million, from the face
of the Earth. The stories coming out of the various African countries like
Rwanda and the brutal slaughter of Tutsi and moderate Hutu by the Hutu Majority
where close to a million Rwandans were killed in barely three months. And
then there were the Nazis. Nothing needs to be said there.
There is, however, a marked difference between the
way in which ISIL has hacked their way into history and the actions of
perpetrators of similar tragedies.
Seldom has any given group practiced their savagery for any reason other
than brutalizing the population on which they were focused. Pol Pot was creating
a classless, peasant society in Cambodia by eliminating anyone who didn’t
fit that category. Intellectuals, professionals, etc., were toast. The Hutus
wanted anyone in their country who weren’t radical Hutus gone. The
Nazis sought to “purify” their nation by industrializing the
slaughter of anyone who, under their definition, wasn’t “pure.” In
the case of ISIS, however, their focus doesn’t seem to be on a given
group and they haven’t limited their focus to Syria or Iraq. They seem
focused on anyone worldwide who isn’t hard core Sunni Muslim. Actually,
even that isn’t true.
Jordan is predominately Sunni, not Shia (ISIL’s sworn enemy, although
still Muslim) so it can be assumed that the Jordanian pilot they torched
was also Sunni. So, they are absolutely not above killing their own in spectacular
fashion. Ditto the unreal photos that come out of Iraq, like the one in which
a soldier is surrounded by a wall of human heads, every one of them Muslim
(probably Shia) or the videos of shooting hundreds of Iraqi soldiers
in the back. Not only do these acts show that their brand of Islam is apparently
unique to ISIL and their affiliates, but they have made their violent actions
into specific public relations programs to promote their cause. Showcasing
their brutality is meant to cow their enemies but, at the same time, the
videos are designed to appeal to individuals world wide who share the same
thoughts as ISIL. And this is what makes ISIL dangerous to the US.
If it weren’t for social media and the Web, we really wouldn’t
know what ISIS/ISIL is doing except by watered down headlines in the papers
that would appear long after the incidents. Technology, however, has given
ISIL a world wide stage on which to display their brutality in real time
and, in so doing, reach like-minded people on a global scale. Their on-line
Dabiq, is as slick and as sophisticated as anything you’ll
find on any US newsstand http://www.clarionproject.org/news/islamic-state-isis-isil-propaganda-magazine-dabiq.
It is VERY well written and most of the prose very persuasive. It makes ISIS
look like a winner and a hero to be supported. Combine that with their use
of every form of social media and you don’t have a physical army doing
battle in a far away land. You have an ideologically-driven, virtual force
that is essentially a guerilla army that exists in every computer in every
den/bedroom/basement in the world.
Their Web presence is what makes ISIL a real danger to the US, not the
actual combat in the deserts.
ISIL doesn’t need recruits that journey to Iraq to join them in their
fight against the infidels. They can create ISIL soldiers right here in suburbia,
in the inner city and even on seemingly placid farms. The subject matter
in the magazine often explains how to carry out lone wolf attacks and it
is so well produced that it can convince weaker, or more fanatical, minds
that ISIL’s goals are just. Videos of beheadings and the even more
stomach wrenching episodes like burning the Jordanian pilot are recruitment
tools as much as they are aimed at warning others what can happen if they
continue the fight against them. Radicals worldwide, Muslim and otherwise,
are cheering those videos. They are seeing blows struck for what they see
as the downtrodden of the world. They see ISIL rubbing our noses in it.
Even though their videos have pretty much sickened the entire civilized world
and turned that world against ISIS, has that really mattered? What has that
world done to reverse the ISIL tide? At the same time, their propaganda machine
has only to reach a few fanatics in each country for the terror that rages
through out Iraq/Syria to reach right into our own neighborhoods via lone
wolf fanatics. Because of the Web, no place is safe from ISIL. No place.
Even worse, there is no way that ISIL can be completely put out of business.
Let’s assume the good guys (that’s us, just to clarify) totally
chases ISIL out of Iraq and Syria. Lets say we kill every single one in sight.
That won’t change the threat to the US and the rest of the globe. Only
a half dozen ISIL confederates working out of a garage in Yemen/Germany/Brooklyn/anywhere
can keep a web presence going including beheading videos and such.
To those who think the ISIL threat is regional and exists only over “there” and
we should let the locals fight it, you’re wrong. This is a cancer in
the process of metastising and the longer we wait, the worse it is going
to get. As it is, this threat is going to be with us, in one form
or another, for as long as the Web exists, which is another way of saying
we'll be fighting it forever. ISIS has made terrorism a marketable product
and has developed marketing programs to support it. This is the most sophisticated,
devious, effective threat we’ve
We’re entering a new chapter of American history. bd
PS-King Abdullah of Jordan came out swinging after the atrocity
committed to one of his pilots and, in no uncertain terms, let ISIS know
"I'm coming after your a**!" (not his exact words, but close.). He's ex-Special
Forces and a trained pilot. 'Never thought I'd be willing to vote for a king.
I couldn't resist posting the below.
He looks like he means business, doesn't he?
1 Feb 2015 - Spectator Sports and
It is the morning of Sunday,
1 Feb, 2015 and I know for a fact that a lot of you won’t be reading
this until tomorrow because the Super Bowl, or the Super Bowel, as I
call it, is this afternoon. So, you’re lost to the world until
it’s over. I know it’s
totally un-American for me to say this, but you couldn’t pay me
to sit and watch a ball game of any kind. And, if there were 100-dollar
bills stacked on a free seat at the Super Bowl waiting for me, I couldn’t
force myself to fight through the crowds to get them. This, even though
being played only about 15 miles from where I now sit.
I fully recognize that I must have a break in my DNA because my genes
shouldn’t give me that kind of outlook on sports. I was born and
raised less than 25 miles from the U. of Nebraska and went to school
at the U. of Oklahoma (which, by the way, is a near-capital offense in
Nebraska). Logically. I should be a football super-fan: there is no way
I can adequately explain how football is closer to a religion than a
sport in those states. So, I guess that makes me a football atheist.
To put things in perspective: when my late brother was getting married,
he and his bride had the bad sense to schedule it at the same time as
a Nebraska football game. Throughout the ceremony, the Nebraska half
of the clans in attendance, were clustered around a portable radio in
the back of the room. They were not totally successful in muting their
cheers and groans.
I can’t explain my outlook on sports, but I’m definitely
sports-challenged. ‘Don’t know why. Just is. Even though
part of my college career was spent living in an apartment directly across
the street from the OU stadium, I never once set foot in it, except to
visit the architecture school that was built under it.
Given my point of view, you can understand why this weekend I’m
not even going to try to venture out to the airport. Among other things,
to get to my hangar, I would have to fight my way through unreal traffic
and then would have to have a special pass to get on the airport, even
though I’m paying a healthy chunk just to have a hangar there.
And I totally understand their logic: The last time the Super Bowl was
here in Phoenix, the airport was an unreal mess: 208 jets had to be parked
on a fairly small (long but narrow) airport. They had 7 hours delays
trying to get out the next day because the IFR traffic system couldn’t
absorb the traffic from all the Phoenix airports. So, this year every
movement, coming and going, both VFR and IFR, is by reservation only.
The reservations sound like a good idea except they didn’t count
on Mother Nature giving them the shaft. Ceilings have been at, or below,
minimums for a couple of days (very Un-Arizona-like) and right now, 0800
on Sunday, the day of the game, I’m looking out the window at heavy
ground fog, which doesn’t happen once every couple of years out
here. So, right now, their reservation system is going to go to hell
in a hand basket: among other things, even though Scottsdale is supposedly
in the top two airports in the country for corporate jet traffic, it
doesn’t have an ILS system. Mountains at the ends of the runway
preclude it. Only the VOR/GPS systems let folks in with much higher minimums.
Generally, that’s no problem because true IFR weather happens seldom
and usually lasts only a few hours. Not this week.
I can’t imagine the back-ups that have been happening for the last
couple of days or how nuts the airport is going to be when the fog burns
off this morning. There’s sun above it, but a lot of jets are desperate
to get in before the TFR (Terminal Flight Restriction) sets in shortly
Oh, did I forgot to mention (visualize my big grin): while all the Super
Bowl craziness is ramping up, the PGA Open Golf tournament is in full
swing right at the end of Scottsdale’s runway. The area is awash
in sports nuts. We drove past a In ‘n Out burger last night (Saturday)
in that part of town and the line went completely around the parking
lot and attendants were standing out amongst the cars taking orders.
Team jerseys were in abundance and this was the low buck crowd. The high-rollers
were congregating in every major venue in town and circus tents abound.
Every big open space has been turned into Party Central. Given the weather,
I imagine a lot of folks awoke this morning with a severe hang-over.
Papillion Helicopters, normally serving the Grand Canyon, is down here
operating a fleet of choppers ferrying folks from Scottsdale across town
to the game. $600 per 12 minute (a guess) flight, which, given the current
situation, sounds cheap. Even to me.
All of this because people want to watch other people chase or hit balls
of various descriptions. One looks as if it was extruded through a sphincter,
and the other is round with severe cystic acne.
Again, I know I’m in a tiny minority here, but I just don’t
I’m going to spend the day wiring the license plate light on The
Roadster and putting a Timney, adjustable trigger, on a 98 Mauser.
When my day is over, I’ll have something to show for it.
Hmmmm! Maybe that’s why I’m not enamored by sports. Apparently,
in my mind, there’s a difference between investing my time and
spending it. bd
25 Jan 15 –"Manspirin"
to the Rescue
As I’m writing this,
a few miles east from where I sit the Barrett Jackson car auction is
having its biggest day of the week. It’s covered on Discovery Channel
during the day and Velocity TV at night. However, if there’s one
thing that should be understood about the BJ car auction it’s that
it’s not an auction. It’s an “experience.” Yes,
a lot of high and low-buck cars cross the auction block, and a bazillion
dollars changes hands but that’s not a reason for attending in
First an apology: my main computer was down for three weeks, so this
is late and this is a little out of date. Amazingly, although my start-up
disc was a terrabyte in size, I filled it too full and it took major
surgery to get me back on line. My total storage is now five terrabytes,
three in the start-up disc. Amazing!
Now, back to Barrett-Jackson:
The last couple of years we haven’t gone and, to be honest, I’ve
been in some sort of pressure-funk for the last couple of weeks courtesy
of a newly overhauled, 80-hour airplane engine that had to go back to
be rebuilt again. Although they found nothing wrong, it still needed
to be flown a minimum of three hours a day, every day, to break it in
again before inbound students show up tomorrow (Sunday). Plus, magazine
deadline alligators were cruising the moat around the house. So, the
thought of fighting our way through crowds versus making headway on stuff
that absolutely had to be done, didn’t appeal to me. Which, by
the way, pissed me off. How dare the world allow making a living become
an obstacle to having a little fun! Damn!
The Redhead, however, had other ideas. She got on my case and I soon
found myself gritting my teeth as we pulled into the Barrett-Jackson
parking lot. I was not a happy camper and was possibly the only person
on the huge site with a tension headache (except for car sellers, you
just know they were anxious).
Then the experience of being at a major event built around a much-loved
interest began to work its magic.
Barrett Jackson covers a site that’s about (this is a guess) two
blocks by three blocks and that’s not counting the really remote
parking lots. At least half of the main area is under tent. It is frigging
HUGE!! The atmosphere is a cross between carnival, circus and a car lover’s
wet dream. You name it and you’ll find it in the five large storage/display
tents where the cars to be sold are stored and then cycled across the
stage in the huge arena where the actual auction takes place. How about
a smallish, 1950’s school bus restored to the smallest detail except
that it sits about four feet off the ground on a four-wheel drive chassis
pushed by a blown big block of some kind. Or how about the 1966 Super
Snake, the 427 Cobra Carroll Shelby had built for himself. Phoenix uber-collector
Ron Pratte paid $5.5mm (that’s MILLION) for it a few years ago
and this year he decided to dump his entire collection.
The 140 car Pratte Collection included stuff I didn’t know he owned.
This even though his hangar and museum is just across the runway from
where the maintenance on my airplane is often done. Among other oddball
items he had was the Beverly Hillbillies movie car that just sold for
$275,000. A porcelain and neon Harley-D sign went for $86,000! Money
came out of the woodworks by the truckload.
While the BJ cars are super interesting, after a while you get “car
blind:” you’ve seen so many you actually start to lose interest
in them. They have to be something really out of the ordinary to catch
your eye. You can only see so many $100,000 ’57 Chevy convertibles
and sports cars so exotic you can’t identify half of them. It’s
not long before you become overwhelmed.
I was drawn to an Austin Mini station wagon that was towing a finely
finished mahogany hydroplane. Also liked some of the oddball trucks folks
had restored and were hoping they’d make money on, which, usually
wasn’t the case. I saw lots and lots of cars sell for prices that
were about half of what it would cost to acquire and restore or modify
the car. There were definitely some deals to be had on the field. If
a guy had $20-$25k to burn, he could do quite well.
Truth is, we go to BJ as much for the exhibitors as we do for the cars.
At least half the tented area is a swamp of exhibitors hoping to cash
in on the herds of high rollers that were cruising the grounds. There
was zero ticky-tacky stuff being sold, but there was more non-car stuff
than there was automobilia. Want 40 acres of land so high in the Rockies
that your only neighbors would be mountain goats? How about $10,000 adjustable
beds? Lots and lots of folks were selling workshop benches that were
chromed and painted so nicely, you’d have a hard time not feeling
guilty the first time you got them dirty.
I broke down and bought a fairly inexpensive throatless metal shear that
I could probably get cheaper at Harbor Frieght, but it was there, I had
the $120, and they’d deliver it to the house for that, tax included.
The net result of rubbing shoulders (and everything else) with the sweaty
masses who were attracted to the car spectacle was that I was in a great
mood. Of course, it’s impossible to feel funky, if you’ve
just bought a tool. That’s a guaranteed “manspirin.” bd
4 Jan 15 –2015:
So far, so good
Here it is, the fourth day of the new year
and so far nothing catastrophic has gone wrong. At least not in my world. I
have, however, decided I’m not sure I like having our two major holidays
on Thursday. I found myself reacting strangely to four-day weekends.
Actually, looking back over the holiday weekends, here I am, just a few days
after New Year’s eve and I don’t remember any of the holidays having
happened. Somehow, everything being on Thursday left that uncomfortable Friday
gap where I felt guilty, just as I did in highschool when I was ignoring my
homework. I just knew a term paper was due and I wasn’t working on it.
Which definitely wasn’t true.
With no kids in the house, Christmas comes very close to being just another
day with a big dinner at the end of it. However, for some reason, knowing that
most of the world is taking the day off and unlikely to call me, I seize on
the morning and most of the early afternoon to do something that lets me know
I’m getting ahead. In this case it was writing an entire EAA article,
a fairly complex one, in one sitting.
Being able to write something beginning to end is almost unheard of in our
house because of constant interruptions in the form of phone calls and business
e-mails. However, the only way that happened this time was by turning off my
e-mail, because so many other gray dog friends were in the same boat. Dozens
of them were sitting at their computers chatting back and forth because, it
seems that after a certain age, Christmas morning is pure dead time. No ball
games yet. No kids. Dinner isn’t until mid afternoon. So, many default
to the computer, as most of us do, when life slows down.
I had seen the two four-day weekends coming and I was determined to dedicate
every available hour to making massive progress on The Roadster. So, with that
in mind, I spent most of December getting all my articles done, getting Flight
Journal finished and generally clearing the slate so I could indulge myself.
However, as things slowed down on Christmas, and then New Years, eve, I quickly
found I couldn’t force myself out into the shop. I’m apparently
not very good at indulging myself. After nearly 45 years of self-employment,
I, like most people in my position, feel as if free time has to be earned.
And it is earned by TCB (taking care of business). So, at least four to six
hours of every day of both holidays were spent cranking out future articles,
pitching publishers for new articles and planning out 2015. That however put
me out in the shop by around 11 o’clock every day feeling as if I had
earned it, so, yes, I did make, what to me, is huge progress on the little
car. I’m definitely closing in on putting it on the road.
New Years Eve here is always a traditional event: Marlene buys more clams,
crab legs, shrimp and scallops than any ten people can possibly eat, fixes
them and we spend the evening gorging ourselves. Then we struggle to stay awake
long enough to watch the ball come down in NYC (2200 hours our time). We doze
on and off in front of the TV for another half hour or so and then go to bed.
Not terribly exciting but very comfortable and satisfying.
I think it’s interesting that, once you give up going out on New Years
Eve, eventually a lot of us wind up starting our year on New York time, not
local time, and watching that silly ball come down. Every year it’s
almost painful watching people standing around Times Square freezing their
butts off so full of enthusiasm and hope. It’s also amusing watching
20-somethings in their ridiculously skimpy dresses with boobs overflowing while
braving the temps in hopes of getting face time on national TV. Oh, well, you’re
only young once.
New Years day is a recovery period for most people, but it’s a tradition
with me to roll into the office no later than 0530. That’s when I attack
all the tiny, inconsequential stuff I’ve let slide (answering
e-mails I’ve ignored, packing books for mailing that I have let pile
up, clean my desk, etc.) and generally clear the decks for the new year. After
about four hours of that, I’m even with the World and a load of guilt
is off my back. But, having a Friday after that is awkward. I tried working
in the shop but it felt unnatural, so I gave up and made it into a normal workday
and didn’t hit the shop solidly until Saturday. That felt right.
Anyway, even though I barely remember the holidays, as we’re standing
here on the brink of a new year, I’m painfully aware of the way time
is running away from us all. We have to make it all count in every phase of
our lives. This includes nurturing and rebuilding family relationships where
it’s needed. Then we need to keep a watchful eye on our futures and prepare
and plan so we’re not caught unaware. This includes keeping track of
what our leaders are, and are not, doing on local, state and national levels.
However, we need to do this in a way that doesn’t include self-induced
heartburn. In that area, we’re often our own worse enemies.
The New Year in every life is a clean slate and it’s up to us to write
on it and make it read the way we want it to. bd
Honestly New Year
How was your Christmas? And how does the New
Year look to you? Graydog Christmases don’t have kids running around
and being the focus of everything, so, the day is basically just a day. In
some ways that sucks. But, not totally.
We’ve pretty much stopped giving gifts to each other primarily because
all of us, from my wife to my own kids, have pretty much anything any of us
can ask for. My daughter, however, ignored that dictum and stole my day with
two fairly simple gifts. One was a little 50-page photo book she created through
Shutterfly.com in which four-year-old Alice acted out the 12 Days of Christmas
in pictures. Besides being a major piece of production work, it showcased a
granddaughter that we don’t see nearly as often as we wish or should.
It was absolutely killer and really showed The Alice personality and The Jennifer
creativity. I love it so much I ordered two more. One for my office and one
for my older sister.
The other gift gives me the ability to say something not too many fathers can
say: “My daughter gave me a stuffed bat for Christmas.”
I opened it (it has it’s own glass, display bell) and start laughing
immediately. Marlene summed it up perfectly with her first comment, “Well…she
really knows her father.” And, even though we have our differences, she
does, indeed, know that aspect of me well. So, now I have two bats in my office.
Doesn’t everyone? I feel so blessed! J
As for the new year, it’s so unpredictable, I don’t even know what
to say on the national/international level. Between Putin, ISIS, our Administration
and the administrations of just about every other country, the possibilities
are endless. However, for whatever reason, I don’t see any of them having
catastrophic results here. Probably the most dangerous thing here is the way
OPEC is countering the Dakota’s oil shale effect by dropping prices to
the point that the US oil boom might go into the red. Yeah, we’re getting
cheaper gas but it may cost us much more in the long run. This, however, I’m
certain will sort itself out.
Incidentally, I think it’s almost comical what appears to be happening
over the Sony cyberattack: it now appears it may not have been N. Korea, as
the FBI swore it was, but a pissed-off Sony employee. Oops!
Certainly one of the more upsetting trends is the anti-cop thing. The flames
here are being fanned by the media and various organizations and……..
Dammit! You know what? I don’t want to talk about this kind of stuff
any more! I’m bone tired of it! There is so much BS floating around that
it makes me feel as if I’m wading through quicksand, unable to make any
headway because of all the stuff that I’m letting bog me down. That’s
simply not the way I want to start my year.
I don’t know if you noticed or not, but Thinking Out Loud is now downloading
much, much quicker than it has been in the last year or so. That’s because
I built a new, corruption-free file and have been slowly populating it with
blogs from the last year. I’m only a little way into that, but, in picking
through the blogs to put up, I’ve found they are overwhelmingly political
and down beat. They’re not fun to read. And they’re sure as hell
not fun to write. Some of them are basically depressing and reading them is
hard work. And, as has been pointed out by my kids and friends, I appear angry.
And I don’t want to be that way. I don’t want 2015 to be an angry
year for me. And, it’s going to be, if I continue on this track.
I need to start thinking about me, my life, my family and my friends and less
about oh-my-God stuff that’s over the horizon. I’m wasting the
years I have left worrying about stuff I shouldn’t worry about and I’m
preaching to a choir that already knows every single thing I can possibly say
in those areas. I want to go back to being happy, crazy and full of fun.
There are lots of good things happening in the world, but I’m letting
the politics and media blind me to them. And, if it’s happening to me,
it’s happening to others. In fact, I think dwelling on the negatives
has become an unhealthy national mindset and it’s easy to see why: spend
a few minutes surfing the news channels and see how many upbeat stories you
see being covered.
I’VE HAD IT and the resolution I’m making for 2015 (being mindful
that I never make resolutions) is to try to focus more on the good and less
on the bad.
So…picture me smiling!
There, don’t I look better and don’t you feel better?
See, I knew it would work. Have a good one! bd
21 Dec 14 –Solstice Sensibilities
It’s 0430 on December 21. Today the
winter solstice occurs and I feel the need to sacrifice something to celebrate: ‘must
be that my English heritage includes a little druid. So, as I’m typing
this, I’m sacrificing an open face turkey sandwich. Does that count?
Will the Gods look favorably on that? ‘Hope so because they’ve
been screwing with us of late.
We’ve had a two-week run of semi-overcast days. Some barely getting above
60. Gloom in the desert is not becoming. My newly overhauled, and very expensive,
airplane engine continues to exhibit varying degrees of sickness requiring
a mechanical physician’s attention about once a week. Both of my kids
have essentially disowned me because of what I’ve said in blogs. Marlene
was standing on a plastic stool that died right at that moment, dropping her
on to the driveway and chipping a bone in her foot, so she’s hobbling
around in a big boot thingie. Deadlines are eating me a live timewise so the
Roadster no longer recognizes me.
Super minor things, when measured against the big picture, but aggravating
nonetheless. So, I decided to dedicate this sandwich’s life to the Gods
of Nuisance on this, the winter solstice, in the hopes of getting some respite.
Then, I made the mistake of Googling “winter solstice” and realized
I knew even less about my world than I realized and my sacrifice was probably
Stonehenge, the Mayans and many other ancient civilizations that have miraculously
constructed temples where two windows line up with the sun right at the moment
of solstice, are basically full of crap. Winter Solstice in the northern hemisphere
is when the sun is at its lowest point and, because of the Earth’s 23.5
degree tilt and changing orbital speeds, it almost never happens at exactly
the same time. Moreover, it doesn’t even happen on the same day every
time, which was real news to me. So, the ancients weren’t holding a celebration
and sacrificing turkey sandwiches at exactly the same time, same day every
year. There were probably herds of them sitting around in the grass, playing
poker or whatever, watching the sun creep up on their Windows 1.0 sundial thingie
and, whenever they saw the sun line up in the windows, someone blew a rams
horn or threw a spear into the air and everyone started drinking, screwing
everything in sight, yelling and screaming and generally behaving like a frat
Considering that I’m a pilot and an engineer, I’m a little embarrassed
that I assumed the solstices (summer and winter) always happen at the same
time every year. I don’t think I’ve ever really thought about it,
but, when you do, you realize it only makes sense that the exact time wanders
around a little. Oh well, at least I’m not too old to learn something
Just FYI, here in Phoenix, the solstice will happen this afternoon, Sunday
21, 2014 at 4:03 pm. Do I have to eat another turkey sandwich at that time
to make the sacrifice count? FYI-you can forget about using those times as
any kind of guideline because next year it’ll happen at 9:48 pm. The
real head wrecker is that in 2040, it’ll happen a day earlier, on the
20th at 11:33 pm. Somehow, I don’t think I’ll be worrying about
sandwich sacrifices for that one. Go to http://www.timeanddate.com/calendar/winter-solstice.html,
so you know how to time your local sacrifices.
Incidentally, for those who have thought about sacrificing a politician to
the Gods, don’t bother. Those never count because “sacrifice” means
you’re giving up something you value. I value a turkey sandwich. Politicians,
not so much.
So, while you’re out there gleefully engaged in whatever pagan ritual
befits your life style, just know you’re probably doing it at the wrong
Also, even us heathens recognize Christmas on the 25th day of the 12th month
and, although we may not buy into the religious aspects of it, I, for one,
am very glad the religion and the celebration around it exists. Anything that
gives mankind a code of exemplary conduct and brings the family together is
So, go to Merry
Christmas for our best wishes to all of you. bd
14Dec 14 –Ashes
I’ve been sicker’n crap and working
my butt off for nearly two weeks. A miserable combination. There, that’s
my excuse for missing last week. In the midst of all this Marlene and I somehow
started talking about what to do with our ashes, when this whole deal is done.
That’s a weird
topic that brought up some unanswered questions that I’m betting a lot
of folks think about.
The first question for us was one you don’t hear often in these kinds
of conversations: “Do we include Meezer?” Meaning, do we include
his ashes with ours, the way we will the rest of our furry kids? We both said, “sure”,
he finally came around.
Meezer is a big Siamese that we inherited from Marlene’s oldest and was
a first rate gangster initially. He would have nothing to do with anyone, showed
a ton of attitude and absolutely brutalized Smoki Joe, the huge, soft-hearted,
gray that has zero self confidence. Meezer was a Siamese through and through.
However, the more he saw the love that blanketed the other cats, little by
little he became more human and now is constantly begging for scratches, insists
on sleeping on top of us and leaves Smoki pretty much alone. Just shows that
enough love conquers even the most sinister of characters.
We’ve always said that we want our ashes mixed together along with those
of all the loving, canine/feline kids who have shared our life with us. I don’t
believe in heaven, but eternity is out there and we can’t imagine spending
eternity without all of those little characters that have made our life what
it is. Each one of them has a corner of our collective heart and we want to
hold them close forever.
There are, however, other thoughts that surround the above, the first being
what do we have done with the ashes? Marlene and I don’t see eye to eye
on this one. She thinks everyone should leave something that marks their having
been here. Specifically, a tombstone others can visit. I disagree.
Marlene’s brother, Tom, has a tombstone here. He died in the most improbable
form of accident you can imagine while in the Army (flew Snakes in VN, but
died from peritonitis when a litter fell and pierced his fresh appendectomy
incision here in the states). He has a widow and a kid or two locally, however,
Marlene is the only one who ever visits him. It’s a Memorial Day ritual
My folks and brother are buried back in Nebraska and, whenever I’m there
I visit, but that’s only about every five years.
I have no one locally who cares enough to visit and I absolutely guarantee
that neither of my kids will visit even once. Grand kids neither. So, why spend
the money on a tombstone or plot? As for leaving a mark that you’ve been
here, I figure my students and my words will have to be my legacy. A marble
slab isn’t needed.
I originally had high ideals about where my ashes would go, including a pinch
being mixed with the smoke oil in a Pitts doing a show at Oshkosh. Seems fitting
and I’d still like to see it done. Otherwise, I’d just as soon
I was spread out over the Arizona high country, preferably over an Indian ruin.
Spirits meeting spirits and all that.
Also, there’s the thoroughly practical side of the combined-ashes thing:
will a cemetery even let two people’s ashes be buried in a single plot?
Will they let animals be buried in their sacred, but very expensive, ground?
I’m betting they wouldn’t be too crazy about a stone that reads:
The Davisson Family: Eternally United
And the list is bound to get longer.
I’m fairly confident it’s going to be a decade or so before anyone
will have to make any of these decisions, but I’m the king of worrying
about things that don’t need to be worried about. Just part of my wiring.
I was also an Eagle Scout at a time, when that meant something, and our motto
was “Be Prepared.” So, just bear with me. bd
30 Nov 14 –Thanksgiving
got the Crap Knocked Out of it
You know what? Just being alive in America
is really tiring me out. It seems as if once a week (sometimes twice) we have
a new crisis to deal with. It didn’t used to be this way. Yes, we’d
have problems here and there but our news channels weren’t delivering
an almost daily offering of new stuff that to most of us makes no sense and
can be pretty damn upsetting. This has been one of those weeks.
Between BHO’s new immigration Executive Order (EO), also known as a monarch
style mandate, and Ferguson, both of which appear to be specifically designed
to further dismantle the USA, my brain is ready to explode. Thanksgiving came
and went almost unnoticed. It is, however, so very American that news of Black
Friday shopping (how did that get past without being branded racist?) knocked
some of the other crap off the news channels…temporarily.
About Ferguson, let’s get something absolutely straight: if a 6’4”,
290 pound, 18-year-old “kid” roughed up a cop while he was sitting
in his car and then appeared to be charging him (according to the more valid
witness statements), he’d be dead regardless of what color he was. No
one, cop or otherwise, would have behaved any differently. Ferguson-the-event
wasn’t about race. It was about dealing with a “perceived threat” that
was the result of questionable physical behavior.
It’s an absolute tragedy that a kid died, but, Brown had 80 pounds on
the cop, who was also 6’4”, and, if he hadn’t been stopped,
it was going to end badly for the cop, I don’t care how well trained
he might have been. I’m guessing that anyone reading this would have
reacted the same way in the same situation. And the color of the assailant
would have no bearing on the outcome.
Incidentally, reading the trial transcript you have to wonder why perjury charges
weren’t brought against some of the witnesses, some of whom changed their
statements, because they were out-and-out lying. Especially the “shot
him in the back while standing over him”, type that forensics didn’t
even come close to verifying.
Regardless, this thing wouldn’t have blown up the way it has were it
not for 1) on-site aggravations in the form of professional race-baiters like
Sharpton. He is doing the black community so much more harm than good that
it’s hard to believe. The input of the DOJ didn’t help either.
And 2) the presence of news cameras, which, in some cases changed the “protest” into
violent kabuki theater where the attitude was, “You wanna see violent?
Watch this!” Not once do I remember seeing footage of those protesting
peacefully and, believe it or not, there were plenty of those.
Most of what went on wasn’t protesting. You only have to watch the footage
of the market/liquor store being trashed to know that those involved weren’t
protesting anything. They didn’t even appear to be angry about anything.
They were having a great running off with bottles of booze and anything else
that wasn’t nailed down. They weren’t protesters. They were looters,
criminals-at-large doing nothing more than taking advantage of the situation.
Incidentally, why weren’t storeowners standing in front of their businesses
with shotguns? I’d heard rumors that the police had told them not to
do that, but that was never verified. And a few business owners did mount a
guard and it worked out well for them. Looters will always take the low hanging
fruit and are never going to mix it up with even the most fragile form of guard
And then there’s BHO’s immigration executive order and some unintended
consequences hidden therein. At least I “think” they were unintended.
In essence, one of the things the new EO does is give business owners a $3,000
incentive to hire illegals who are being granted work permits over US citizens.
This is because it will now be legal to hire an illegal immigrant, but, since
they don’t qualify for Obamacare, the business owner can’t provide
them health coverage AND the company won’t be fined for not doing so.
If they hire a US citizen and don’t give them coverage, they pay a $3000
fine for each. If they hire an illegal that’s carrying a nice, new work
permit they avoid the $3,000 fine AND the cost of health car. THIS IS NUTS!!
Further, even though the EO supposedly applies only to those parents of legal
permanent residents or citizens (their kids were born here) and have been in
the country illegally for five years (this is a reward for being crafty enough
to successfully avoid being caught for that long) it’s not going to work
out that way. There are already well-established underground businesses that
produce difficult-to-spot phony rent receipts, utility bills, etc. So, as it
stands now, someone has only to make it across the border to one of these document
factories, waltz over to the INS and declare “Hey, I’ve been here
five years and can prove it. Give me my work permit.” If you don’t
think that’s going to be a HUGE magnet to future immigrants, you’ve
been drinking the Kool Aid too long.
And then there was Thanksgiving and just a little respite from reality. It
was in the low-80s here in Phoenix (about 5 degrees above normal) and I had
the back garage door open, a little breeze coming in and classic rock and roll
coming out of the shop radio. I was whittling out little parts for the roadster
(steel grommets for where the shoulder harness comes through the rear bulkhead).
And I couldn’t have been more relaxed and satisfied if I tried.
Regardless of the tons of BS coming down and an overall lack of trust in the
government, we, as a nation and as a people, have a HUGE amount to be thankful
for. So, I guess the best we can do is periodically turn off the news and glory
in the lives we each have built, love our family and friends, and soldier on.
One way or the other, we’ll survive. bd
23 Nov 14 –On
Surviving a President
Oh, Gee: I wonder what Budd’s going to talk about this week? Could it
be the weather? Could it be Syria and/or Iraq? Hmmmm! Do you think he’ll
touch on Obama’s little Wednesday night message to the proletariat (us
common folks) over which he rules? Damn straight Budd will. He/I can hardly
First, let it be said that as much as I’d like to be able to wave a magic
wand and have every illegal person in the US magically transported to their
homeland, that just ain’t gonna happen. The reality is that the numbers
are too big to be dealt with by deportation. It is logistically impossible.
11 Million people would be the equivalent of shipping the combined populations
of 12 states (WY, VT, DC, ND, AK, SD, DE, MT, RI, NH, MN HI), out to a wide
variety of destinations. If illegals wanted to really screw with our heads,
they should all just show up in the Washington Mall agreeing to be deported.
What a mess that would be!
At the same time, there’s no way in hell we should be giving them a short
cut to citizenship any more than we should be giving them benefits for just
being here. Let’s not forget: they broke our laws to be here and we are,
if nothing else, a nation of laws. We don’t reward people for breaking
them. Further, we are a “republic” not a democracy, which means
we have this do-not-disturb guidebook called the Constitution that pretty much
spells out how everything should be done. Or at least it did until Wednesday
I have to admit something right up front: I was prepared to ignore the speech
and not watch it because I figured it would be so much BS. But, it turned out
to be so much more. At first, I was taken by BHO’s ability to appear
to speak from the heart and some of the content of the speech. Like providing
a pathway for the parents of kids born here at least five years ago (citizens
by birth…we’re one of only two or three countries that allow that),
to first get working papers and then work their way towards citizenship. Bring
them out of the shadows, as he put it, and make them tax paying contributors.
He stopped deportation on that class of individuals. An estimated 5 million
Then he said deportation would only be aimed at felons and other bad people.
In fact, under his program people with skills that could contribute to the
national well-being would NOT be deported, regardless of when they arrived.
A theoretical mathematician could wade across the Rio Grande tomorrow and be
guaranteed of staying. So we’re going to have thousands of people streaming
across the border claiming to be theoretical mathematicians. BHO had it pretty
much worked out who he would deport and who he wouldn’t.
As he talked I heard myself saying, “Hey, some of this makes sense. It’s
a beginning on sorting out the immigration mess.”
Then, he droned on and on about how compassionate he was and how the country
had a long history of compassion and how this affected a kid he knew, yada,
yada, yada. If he had shut up right after making his points it would have taken
longer for me, and so many others, to realize that we’d just been had.
He is so good in front of a teleprompter that we were taken in like every one
else, when it was just more of his super-slick, condescending rhetoric.
It was during the rambling, sophomoric closing that a a brilliant neon sign
lit up in the theater of my mind that said, “Just a damn minute! He can’t
do the things he just suggested! The Congress can, and, to one degree or another,
probably should, but he can’t.” He was altering and making laws
even as he stood there staring into the teleprompter that surrounded the camera.
He was talking like a king making decrees that he was certain would please
the most mentally challenged amongst us.
He was on camera less than 15 minutes, and, in the process. proceeded to absolutely
shred the Constitution. He stood up in front of the American people and, in
so many words, said that he wasn’t going to follow the rules. He wasn’t
going to respect the governmental framework of checks and balances that insured
no single branch had enough power that they could do what they wanted. Every
branch (executive, judicial, legislative) could reach out and slow the others
down. But, not him. He was going to write his own rules and run his own game.
Never mind what he said about immigration. The focus should be on the way in
which he plans on putting those ideas into motion. People continually point
out that both Reagan and Bush used executive orders (EOs) on immigration matters.
What virtually none of them realize is that in both cases Congress had already
voted on the issues and presented a law that the presidents were expected to
put into action, which is the President’s job (something BHO mentioned
dozens of times in recent times). So, an EO put those versions of amnesty into
action. BHO quite literally ignored the process and acted as if Congress had
no say in the matter.
“They” also say that the Senate passed an immigration bill several
years ago but the GOP House refused to vote on it. However, according to the
Washington Times, Monday, Nov 17, that’s not the whole story.
Senate Democrats keep own immigration bill from House,
urge Obama executive action By Stephen Dinan -
Senate Democrats say Republicans could head off President
Obama's immigration plans by passing the Senate's own immigration bill — the
only problem is the Democrats still haven't sent the measure to the House for
a vote. Known as S.744, the 1,200-page bill has been bottled up by Majority
Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, in a bit of legislative gamesmanship that
has clouded much of the debate over the past two years. Now, that bill has
become the centerpiece of last-minute chiding as Democrats say they have exhausted
all alternatives except for having Mr. Obama go it alone.
Again, ignoring what he says he’s going to do, think of the motivation
behind his actions. Why do it now? Why do it in such an arrogant, even petulant,
manner? He looks as if he’s spoiling for a fight and is sticking out
his chin inviting us to swing the first blow, thereby becoming the bad guy.
I pray that some of the GOP hotheads don’t take the bait. We have an
opportunity here to make our case stronger or destroy it completely and it’s
going to require balancing on a razor for two years to make it work. He is
obviously going to go out of his way to make the GOP’s life even more
miserable than it is already and the challenge to the GOP big wigs is to prove
to us that they are as smart as they think they are. And are smarter than BHO
gives them credit for. Some serious blows need to be dealt but somehow they
have to appear to be hugs and caresses aimed at making the Country better.
BHO’s speech was nothing more than the opening gun in what is going
to be an unbelievably nasty, complex, drawn-out battle. The way in which it
is handled is going to decide which party wins the golden apple in 2016. Unfortunately,
I don’t have a good feeling about any of this. I hope I’m wrong.
At the very least, it’s going to be interesting and will provide a true
WTF moment for future historians to ponder. bd
16 Nov 14 –The
Yesterday was Good Guys car show day: a gathering
of those individuals who, like me, see everything mechanical as something to
be modified to our personal taste. In this case, the final result is rods and
customs, vehicular genres totally unique to America. And, I think they are
indicative of some kind of specific gene that exists in only some people.
First, let me say that much of what I’m about to say is based on my own
feelings about “stuff,” especially mechanical stuff. Which is to
say that there are very few things I can look at without seeing how I would
change them. Or how I would build something similar from scratch that would
better suit my specific tastes. This applies to firearms, guitars, knives,
etc., etc., but especially cars and especially older ones. BTW- “Older” is
defined as something from the ‘80’s on back with pre-70’s
cars being of particular interest and pre-48’s reigning supreme. But
the same thing applies to just about anything I’m associated with, not
Let’s take rifles as an example: for $500 I can buy something new, like
a Mossberg MVP that is reputed to be a tack-driver right out of the box (although
some apparently aren’t). But, as much as I admire highly accurate rifles,
I can’t just buy one. I have to start with something inferior and worn
out. Generally it’s something ex-military and old. I’ll totally
rebuilt and modify it and, even though I know it’ll cost at least twice
as much as something I can buy over the counter, will take several years to
complete and it may not be as accurate as the store bought version (accuracy
is often elusive no matter how much you spend), I’ll do it anyway. I
can’t even begin to explain why I have a lifetime of the foregoing. It
makes absolutely zero sense. But, right now I have about a dozen M98 Mausers
of many varieties (WWI and WWII), all of them basically junk rifles (non-original)
going all the way back to 1900, awaiting custom barrels, stocks and all the
other hotrod goodies that will make them into rifles that reflect my taste.
Going to the Good Guys car meet is delving into another, but better recognized,
orgy of modification. The Good Guys meets are held all over the country and
each will attract over 3,000 cars, trucks and whatever. Every single one of
those vehicles has had far more time and money invested in making it unique
than is rational. Yet, not one of the tens of thousands of spectators on the
grounds questions the rationale behind the cars they’re viewing. Even
though the majority of attendees wouldn’t even dream of devoting so much
of their lives to creating/re-creating a vehicle, they nonetheless admire the
result. They understand the need to modify, to re-create something that matches
the image someone has in their own mind.
What got me thinking about the modification gene was a comment my current Pitts
student made. He’s a car guy (and airplane guy, obviously) from England
and he said, “…however, I really prefer to see cars restored to
what they were when they came out of the factory.” And I couldn’t
disagree: I very much admire fully restored cars. But, I can’t do it
myself. And I think I’m typical of that part of the car culture, the
hotrod/custom part, that seems uniquely American.
Lately, because my airplane was down for two months I’ve had weekends
off, so I’ve gotten a HUGE amount done on the roadster. In fact, I thought
I was going to have it ready to go to Good Guys in an unfinished form. Unfortunately,
the pressures of making a living intervened, when the airplane came alive again.
But, I’m close. In the process of working on it, from time to time I
literally grin, when I hit an snag, search around the shop for a piece of this
or that, that I can cobble together and solve the problem. I love solving problems
and I’m free to do what I want to the car at any time in any way.
In restoring a vehicle to original, there are basically only two problems,
both of them potentially huge: beating rust and finding original parts. Hotrodding,
original hotrodding where you take something you’ve found in a junkyard
or ditch, not in a catalog or website, and make it perform a new function,
shares the common enemy of rust. However, there is nothing that constrains
us to use any specific part in any application. We can do it any damn way we
please. There are no rules and few conventions.
These days, even the conventions that sometimes vaguely dictate the style of
a given class of hotrods, e.g. highboy and low boy street roadsters, are being
ignored courtesy of the rat rods and rat rigs (funky, modified big trucks).
And I love it! While I could never bring myself to discard craftsmanship in
favor of oddball creativity, as with rat rods, I enjoy the hell out of them.
I enjoy that you just never know what a rat rodder is going to build.
As I typed that last sentence, I realized that some part of my rifle-building
brain is that of a rat rodder. Years ago I bought a badly beat-up Mexican built
7mm Mauser (M98, small ring) that had a really long barrel and the much-abused
stock was broken clean through right under the action. I glued it back together
and shot it some because I admired its tenacity: it had obviously lived a hard
life, which the barrel unfortunately showed. But it had survived. And I can’t
bring myself to destroy the patina and signs of struggle by restocking and
refinishing it. So, right now I’m getting ready to put a new, long barrel
(26 inches) on it and leave the funky, I’ve-been-there look alone. But,
the new caliber 6.5 x 55 is a tackdriving round and I’m installing a
super accurate, but well worn, receiver peep sight on it and a finely tuned
trigger that will be invisible from the outside. To complete the image, I’m
finishing the barrel to look old. My goal is to take a crappy looking rifle
that will group at less than 1 inch at a hundred yards to the range and amaze
people. It’s kind of a rat rifle that will make absolutely zero sense
and not be worth a dime to most people. This is okay with me. It’s just
something I’ve built to match an image in my head. And that’s all
Sometimes, when it comes to things mechanical, change for change’s sake
is impossible to avoid. It’s in our genes. bd
7 Nov 14 –Let The Mouse Do
Other than handing the Democrats their asses,
what else went on this week? Quite honestly, I can think of almost nothing
because my life has been eaten up by watching political coverage (actually,
I think I just like Meghan Kelly) and dealing with a newly overhauled airplane
engine that refuses to behave. Oh, and one other thing: I discovered what I
think is a way we can save our country.
Last Friday I worked and flew my butt off then jumped into my car and rocketed
to LA. By 0700 the next morning I had met my daughter and granddaughter at
our Disneyland hotel, checked in and was standing at the gates of Walt Disney’s
orgy of organization, creativity and fun. Because we were staying in a Disney
hotel, we could get in at 0700, an hour ahead of the common folk, the sweaty,
unwashed masses, which usually includes me. Looking through the gates at a
totally empty, seemingly abandoned amusement park made me feel as if I was
Clark Griswald and I’d just arrived at Wally World not realizing it was
closed. Eerie! What I didn’t know was that I was about to become part
of a mouse-driven machine that would impress me at every turn. This started
right at the turnstile going in.
A sweet, middle-aged lady ask me for my hotel key and a photo ID. She ran the
key through a card reader and clicked what looked like a cell phone in my face.
From that point on, every time we changed parks or went through some sort of
Disney-guest-only function, they’d take a second (no longer) to scan
the key and my face would pop up on their little handheld card reader verifying
that I hadn’t strong-armed some pink-haired old lady out of her room
key. This process didn’t come close to slowing anything down. It was
totally seamless. The system would work perfectly for voter ID. If, of course,
that wasn’t racist. Same thing could be tied to credit cards to cut down
credit card fraud.
From that point on, every time I turned around I saw overwhelming evidence
of the Disney organization’s ability to do things right and make monstrous
amounts of money in the process.
First, my two-day pass was about $190 plus $40 (I think it was) so I could
hop back and forth between the two parks. That was a choker for me, but, as
I looked around there were tens of thousands of folks that just looked like
normal working stiffs from the area. There were also a huge percentage of kids,
17-22, I’m guessing, that were there having a helluva good time. I was
astounded at how many normal-looking families were there with multitudes of
kids, each of which cost a fortune to support for the day. Who knows? Maybe
the economy actually is recovering. However, you couldn’t prove that
from my personal point of view. Of course, these could also be people either
living up their foodstamp money or they’d given up, said “screw
it” and are having one last fling.
The quality of the parks, the quality of the thousands of employees staffing
it, the overall complexity of the whole thing was nothing short of overwhelming.
Incidentally, I’ve been to Disney World in Florida probably a dozen times,
when I was still living in the East. However, I hadn’t been to Disneyland
since probably the 60’s. I’d forgotten how the entire thing is
crammed into what amounts to a fairly small area so it took a lot of imagination
and planning to squish everything together yet make it feel as if you actually
had a lot of room. I couldn’t stop myself from looking at details like
how the hand rails were constructed and the massive amount of planning, engineering
and manufacturing, it took to build just one ride or amphitheater and there
were dozens and dozens of everything.
I should also make mention of the fact that Disney REALLY hires to a profile
in a lot of their positions, but it’s most obvious in picking the young
ladies (and guys) who play some of their well known characters on the streets.
They had to be some of the most beautiful, perfect behaving young ladies I’ve
ever seen in one place.
Little by little, as I wandered through the never ending, overarching quality
of the experience, I couldn’t help but think what a mess the country
was in by comparison. Here was a massive, really huge, operation that was working
like a well-oiled machine. However, virtually everything in which our government
gets involved turns into an oversized, bloated, slow moving ox cart that continually
breaks down and costs ten times what it should. It also almost always moseys
aimlessly across the landscape and quite often winds-up moving in circles.
But, I have a solution. Let’s hire Disney run America.
Here is a company that really has its finger on the pulse of America. They
make it their business to really know and understand the population and what
it wants because, if it doesn’t, it’s not going to make a profit.
This, of course, is true of every business of any kind, from the local cupcake
vendor in Keokuk, Iowa, to giants like Microsoft. They can only survive if
they make a profit and they can only turn a profit if they read their market
correctly and satisfy its needs accordingly. This is not true of a government.
A government is a business but it runs on other people’s money and doesn’t
have to worry about a balance sheet, much less a profit. And, of late, they’ve
apparently decided they don’t have to operate on a budget either. They
seem to think taxpayers are a bottomless piggy bank that will always be there
for them to dip into. It’s a mindset that would put them out of business
in a heartbeat in the real world outside the beltway. If more politicians had
come out of the private sector, rather than politics, the lawyer community
or academia, they’d understand how a government is nothing more than
a special kind of business and would recognize how important efficiency is
to stretch the supposedly limited resources they have. But, of course they
The solution is to farm the country out to Disney. Let them run it and their
pay would be a small percentage of any surplus created. They’d be constrained
in terms of being given an exacting list of services they have to provide.
Also, I don’t think we should let them put a mouse outline on top of
either the capital building or the Washington Monument. Maybe put it on the
five dollar bill or something. In my eyes, a Mouse is probably good for America.
So, now that the GOP is the temporary top dog in town and it looks as if BHO
is going to dig his heels in and flaunt his power, what do we do? I think we’re
in for the craziest ride we’ve ever seen in our history, in terms of
a President running amuck while he still has a lame duck congress. And even
more so for the next two years. TWO FRIGGING YEARS!! This is going to be nuts!
No matter what happens, it’s going to be hard to maintain our emotional
balance. So, I suggest we all take a couple of days off and hit Disneyworld
or Disneyland. Hey, it can’t hurt! If all the politicians were to go,
they might learn a thing or two. However, neither BHO or Biden would be allowed
to wear mouse ears. They’d be redundant. bd
7 Nov 14 –Alone
As I’m writing
this, it’s 0800 and Marlene’s flight took off about 15 minutes
ago. She’ll be gone for a week visiting her sister and I already feel
This is really a strange feeling, mostly because I don’t think she’s
ever been gone for more than three days since we got together 22 years ago (married
16). It’s even stranger considering that I usually hit the office around
0530 so on a normal day it’s at least three or four hours before I even
know she’s in the house. Right now, however, I can sense her absence. Some
part of me knows she’s not there.
It’s interesting how all mammals form some sort of psychic connection with
another and often know when that connection is broken. How else do you explain
the number of times a dog will sleep on his master’s grave? Or a child
will know when a parent has died thousands of miles away? A wife subliminally
senses when her warrior husband has departed this life?
On a more positive side, I’m guaranteed to choke up, or even have tears
running down my cheeks, when I see some of the videos about men/women returning
from overseas and surprising their mates at home or their kids at school. There
is something so tangible about that connection that it touches us all.
However, I’m not sure which touches me the most, the human connections
or the unspoken, hard to explain connections between dogs and their owners. We
can easily enough explain the family connections between kids and parents, husband
and wife (well, no, we can’t really explain that either), and between friends,
but the bond between dogs and humans is simply unexplainable but so wonderful
it adds a warmth to life that is unavailable from any other source. Even from
a baby. Maybe it’s the unquestioning love and devotion a dog will show.
So, this week, it’s just me, Sháhn-deen and the cats. So, I won’t
But, you know that’s a lie, don’t you?
Watch the below and if you don’t get choked up at least a couple of times,
drop me a line. I’m pretty sure I won’t get a single e-mail. bd
We were concerned enough about putting Marlene on an airplane, given the ebola
situation, that she has surgical masks in her purse and, if she doesn’t
like the situation, I’m certain she’ll use them. She’s already
paranoid about everything she touches, thanks to the news coverage on the disease.