23 October 2014

Car and Driver

I'm what "Car and Driver" magazine would call an "Enthusiast"...
I pretty much love all cars. I LUST after cars I'd like to own, and at least tolerate and try to understand vehicles like drastically lowered pickup trucks that make me scratch my head in wonder why anyone would do that.
I cherish the memory of my '68 Oldsmobile 442 and the good times I had in it, driving in such ways that I have no right to still be among the living.

That 442, a "muscle car",  heavily influenced my thoughts toward our latest new car purchase-
A Ford Taurus SHO.
Seven-hundred horsepower Dodge Challengers and 500+ horsepower Camaros tempted me, but they eat premium fuel by the boxcar load and their rear seats are pretty much useless for entertaining guests you'd like to keep as friends.
We needed a new car. We needed something practical. But I wanted something with cojones.
The SHO fills that bill nicely.

There are 353 horses lurking beneath that hood.
It prefers premium but will run just fine on 87-Octane... just expect lower performance when the engine control computer realizes you've put it on a low-carb diet.
It gets 25-or-so miles per gallon.
And it has a back seat that can't be considered cruel and unusual punishment.
We're still trying to figure out how to use many of the gadgets this car has that can do "stuff" for us. One of the first things we sorted out was the SHO's ability to parallel park itself-
Push the button designated for this purpose. Turn on the turn signal to signify where the car should be searching for a parking spot, right or left side. When the car finds a spot it likes it will signal you to STOP on the center Nav/Phone/Climate/Entertainment display. It will then tell you to engage reverse and slowly depress the accelerator. Keep your hands OFF the steering wheel so you don't cause the system to cancel the parking process. Sit back and watch as the car's sensors back the car perfectly into the available space.
It's freaky to experience.

Now, as an "enthusiast" I'm thinking of the future...
Google already has self-driving cars operating in California, I've heard. Watching our car park itself has made me realize we're just a few steps from that technology (and more) being used widely around the world.
What happens to those of us that enjoy driving our cars?
How long before human mistakes cause accidents that will legally be considered negligence on our part?

I miss my old Olds 442.
But more and more, I'm the old FART that pines for the "Good Old Days".

22 October 2014

Hillary in '16

So, what's goin' on?
We've got the accelerator on the floor and we're headed for a crash, THAT'S what's goin' on!

Like you, (I hope), I watch a lot of stuff on TV to educate myself.
Unlike so many of my fellow citizens, I DON'T think Jon Stewart is a good source for current events.

The other day I watched an interview of Peter Thiel, who was instrumental in creating Facebook and actually founded PayPal.
Peter is obviously a brilliant dude. I like it when I find that geniuses agree with my thoughts.
Peter thinks we're headed for BIG trouble.

In the interview, Peter also made a comment that I've been thinking about for some time now...
Basically, he wants democrats to sleep in their own feces.
For those not so quick on the uptake, here's what that means:
The economy WILL collapse. Progressives are the reason the economy WILL collapse. Virtually all democrats are progressives.
It WILL happen.
Let's try to insure that a progressive is in office when the world goes to Hell, so the history books, (written mostly by progressives), will have to do the wildest tap-dance we've ever seen in order to put lipstick on this pig.

It took a "Village" to get us into this mess.
Let's make Hillary the Mayor of the village so she can try to fix it when the chaos starts.
Vote HILLARY in '16!

22 August 2014

In The Toilet

"You've not updated your Blog in quite a while",  my friend said.
Yeah. Obviously.

In many ways it's been a tough year+ for the Old Man.
I retired January of 2013.
My business partner of 26 years died Spring of 2013. His wife had no interest at all in picking up his work, so we sold the business.
My Mother died a couple months later.
I was Trustee of her Estate and had to fight a battle with an insurance company to get what we deserved. Then I had to fight with my own family about spending money that belonged to others
When a parent dies and there's suddenly "found money", families that have never been really close can be destroyed. 'Nuf said about that.
This Spring we sold the Condo we've owned in Destin since 2000.
So, there have been MAJOR changes in our life.

I LOVED my work.
I HATED what was happening in my industry.
Government regs intended to make things safer/better... WON'T do any such thing.
Lawyers are making it tougher to do the job well while covering their own asses.
It was time to quit.

We've been traveling.
We bought a new car. I may Blog about that soon. (Ever own a car that can park itself? We now have one.)

Oddly, the biggest reason I haven't written here is because I'm dismayed at my fellow citizens.
I rant and rave about what is going on politically, but I'm finding many of my neighbors are Marxist/Socialists/Communists and are happy with this "Fundamental Transformation".

I'm watching as many of those I respect in the military are "Getting their fill" of the B.S. and are getting out. At the same time, the Obama administration seems to be purging the ranks of military leaders who don't agree with his "Fundamental Transformations".
If you want to destroy this Nation, how would you do it?
How does that differ from what this leadership is doing?

I'm feeling beaten right now my friends.
And frustrated. And dismayed.

I love this country.
I love my like-minded friends and will defend them to the death.
But more and more, it looks like I may have to do just that.
"No Justice! No Peace!"

God be with us.
I hope I'm WRONG.

24 May 2014

Ignorance, Or The Presence of Evil?

Long-term readers are aware of my frequently-updated post "The List".
There, I ask WHY entertainers are willing to alienate fully HALF the folks that might be interested in buying their produce by openly expressing their political views.
Do they have the right to do it? Certainly.
I, and millions before and after me have put our lives on the line for these misguided souls' right to openly illustrate their views (which, if allowed to come to fruition, would quickly put a stop to their ability to openly express political views).

The post immediately before this one is an example.
On "AXS TV" I watched a show called "The Big Interview", hosted by Dan Rather. The evil Mr. Rather was interviewing members of the band "Crosby, Stills, and Nash" individually and as a group.
During the individual David Crosby interview, Mr. Crosby profusely thanked Rather for his courage (HA!), in continuing to promote the truth. (!!!!)
Rather nodded and tried to act humble.

One of the very first things I did when I got home from Viet Nam was buy CS&N's first album. I played it on my new (bought while I was in Viet Nam) stereo system as loud as I could without incurring the wrath of neighbors.

But they'll not get another dime of my hard-earned cash.
How did we get here?

18 May 2014

"Low T"

We men are told beyond a certain age we lose some percentage of our "Man Juice" yearly.
I have no doubt that's true, because I see both physical, and emotional evidence of it almost on a daily basis.
I'm not physically as strong as I once was.
I don't have the stamina I once had.
My physical attributes are changing. (We won't dwelve into that anytime soon.)
And the thing I, and those closest to me, see most readily is the change in my emotions.
I cry at some of the most ordinary, beautiful things in life.
Present me with something MORE than mundane, and I may be impacted to the point of speechlessness. (Giving up my POW/MIA bracelet bein' a prime example.)

I just watched Crosby, Stills, and Nash on "The Big Interview" with Dan Rather (Gag!) on AXS Tv.
Rather asked Nash about how he was motivated to write songs and he told THIS STORY in his own words.

I'm glad you weren't near.

I'd have been embarrassed.

16 May 2014

"But It's A Dry Heat"

We're now in a Phoenix suburb called Gilbert, Arizona.
We're indoors in air-conditioned comfort, watching "The Five" on television.
Ambient temperature outside is 105 degrees Fahrenheit.
People familiar with this area will try to convince you this heat is bearable because the humidity is so low...
"But it's a DRY heat."

Yeah, it is. Humidity is 8%!
But an oven is also dry.

If you are outside in this "dry" heat, you literally feel like you are cooking.
How did anyone ever live here before the invention of Air Conditioning?

11 May 2014

May 2014- On The Road Again.

We loaded the truck.
Now that our son is FULLY settled in his own home, (which also happens to be newer, bigger, and nicer than ours), we decided to make room for more STUFF at our house by taking all his STUFF to him. Where will he put it all? That's HIS problem, not ours!

Old Tonka toys. A container of "transformer" toys that probably cost as much as a month's groceries.
Books. Videotapes. The bed of the truck contains 20 years of memories. It'll be interesting to see what ends up for sale on eBay.

"Preflight" the truck for the trip:
Changed the oil- It takes 10 quarts and two containers of STP!
Check the tires- Air pressure and general condition. The rears are only a few months old. The fronts are gonna be a concern... they still have good tread on 'em, but the previous owner lived in Palm Desert, California and the heat there has taken its toll on the sidewalls;
Weather cracked, I hope they give me the same amount of warning the rears did before I changed 'em. I'm bettin' they'll make this trip and last through the summer so I can buy new in the Fall.
Coolant level is good.
Windshield washer reservoir is full.
Headlights, wipers, turn signals and brake lights all okay.
GPS and Sirius XM on board.
Let's light this fire and get on the road!

Headed West at 0930, that's actually early for us. We always have good intentions but ALWAYS seem to find last minute things we forgot that MUST be attended to before departing.
We checked the weather and it looks like smooth sailing all the way.
A full tank of diesel, a cup of hot coffee in each cupholder and Lucy navigating, (that's a joke! She sleeps ALL the way...) we're on our way.

Two hours into our journey, Sara Jean asks, "Is that a siren I hear?"
"I don't think so", I respond. "I think that's alternator noise in the radio."
And it was. A few minutes later the "GEN" warning light came on.
Battery voltage still reading 13 volts, I shut down all the unnecessary power users and took the next exit off the Interstate.

At these times your mind races...
"What's the best way to handle this?"
I considered my options-
If the alternator is shot, I could do what I've done in the past- stop at an auto parts store like "AutoZone", and buy an alternator. Purchase the parts there and they'll loan the tools to do the job.

We're on a busy arterial street, there SHOULD be an AutoZone here somewhere.

Instead, a Guardian Angel intervened-
Just ahead on the right I see a big sign indicating there's a "Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep" dealership, and their Service Center is in the rear. We pull up and I go inside. This is a BIG, BUSY place...
There are FOUR service writers!

I approach the closest one and he asks, "How can I help you sir?"
"We have a minor emergency. We have motel reservations in Amarillo, Texas for tonight and we have an electrical problem in our truck."
He says, "Wow. Well, we'll get to you as soon as we can, but that may be an hour and a half or so."
"Beggars can't be choosy", I respond.

I go back out to the truck and try to start it, thinking if it'll start I may still act on my "AutoZone" option. Nothing.
And I mean when I try to start the truck I get NOTHING...
No click. Nothing.
It's only then I notice when I open the door the dome light doesn't come on. This truck has two batteries... can they both be THAT dead? I pop the hood, start poking around, and find a loose cable to the primary battery. I have Sara Jean hold that cable tight to the terminal and open the door...
The dome light works! I turn the key and the Cummins roars to life.

After 30 minutes the "technician" comes out and I show him what I have discovered, and ask him if he can also hook up a multi-meter to the system to insure the alternator is still working.
He drives our truck into the service bay and raises the hood. In twenty minutes he's finished.
Ninety minutes and $89.96 later, we're back on the road.
When I review how this unfolded I realize, IF we had first encountered an AutoZone, I'd almost certainly have bought a new alternator- $$$$$$$, and that would not have solved our problem.
We arrived at the Amarillo "La Quinta Inn" at 0030 hours, tired, but happy to have more than half our trip behind us.

Do you believe in Guardian Angels?
When I review my life experiences believe me...
I have ABSOLUTELY NO DOUBT they exist, and mine sometimes works overtime!

30 April 2014

I Feel Naked

She was the Lifeguard at the Officer's Club swimming pool.
I was the Officer's Club manager.
She was almost 5' 2" tall, weighed 104 pounds, and looked good in a two-piece bathing suit.
We talked.

Spending the summer with her folks in Savannah, her full-time job was teaching kids at a school in Alpharetta, Georgia. She was smart, funny, and cute as a newborn pup.
I asked her out. She allowed as to how that might be fun.

It was June of 1972.
For it or against it, most everyone in the country had decided the way we were prosecuting the war in Viet Nam sucked, and wanted our troops to come home, including several hundred Prisoners of War.
I had noticed an outfit called "Viva" was offering bracelets with the names of P.O.W.'s and M.I.A.'s designed to bring attention to their plight. I mentioned this to the Lifeguard, the gal that would later become my 1st wife, and she replied, "Let's get two of the same name to wear!"
So I put a check in the mail for two, requesting they have the same name on both.
Two weeks later they arrived. I put hers on her wrist, she put the second bracelet on mine.
We both vowed we would not take them off until our guy's status was determined.

Keeping the bracelet on my wrist was sometimes a struggle;
At my annual flight physical with the ARMY, the technician giving me the EKG would invariably say, "Take that off", pointing to the bracelet. And after I explained that wasn't gonna happen, most of them would acquiesce and wrap the bracelet in tape, then continue with the procedure. There was never a problem.

One summer day in 1982 I was mowing a lawn for a friend. The temp that day was in the 90's and the humidity was almost that high. Finished mowing, I was hot, sweaty, and covered in dust and grass clippings. To rinse off I dived into our pond.
Instantly I realized the bracelet wasn't on my wrist. Under those circumstances the bracelet would have held a little residual heat, but this time my wrist felt instantly cool.
I panicked, retraced my steps and couldn't find it. I gave up the search and started to walk away, but something in my head said, "Take another look".
I walked straight to a Honeysuckle bush attached to a fence in the rear of the yard and there it was...
The bush had reached out and grabbed my bracelet!
I put it back on, and in 42 years that was the ONLY time it was ever off my wrist.
Now and then I'd do an internet search to see if I could find any news about my guy.
It always ended up the same; they had found bones/DNA from his navigator, but nothing on him.

This week I searched again.
They've officially declared him K.I.A.. I was shocked to see one site even reporting they had found his DNA at the crash site. More importantly, that site had comments from his nephew, including a home town. Another search netted me a phone number, I called and left a message.
The nephew called the next morning. We talked for half an hour about his Uncle, the war in Viet Nam, and my experiences there. I told him of my intent to not remove the bracelet until his Uncle's status was determined, then to send it to a family member. He told me the report they had found DNA was not true. Still, he's been officially declared dead.
The nephew was excited to hear I'd send the bracelet.and gave me his full address.

I removed the bracelet yesterday and boxed it up for its journey.
It's like a part of my body is gone. Washing my hands, I always bump-bumped against the bracelet to remind me it was there.
Now every time I wash my hands I'm reminded.

Forty-two years.
Well over half my life.
A spot on my wrist needs a tan.

I  can only hope this brings peace and closure to this hero's family.

25 April 2014

Selling. Reluctantly.

"You guys are welcome to stay a few days in our condo."
We left home late, and arrived Destin at about 2 A.M..
We grabbed an adult beverage and went out on the balcony. Overcast... no light at all, we couldn't see much. BUT...
We could hear the murmuring of water hitting the beach and could smell the sea.
We finished our drinks and, worn out, retired to bed.
In the morning we returned to the balcony and our jaws dropped...
We were separated from the beach by old highway 98, but the view was absolutely breathtaking!
Sugar white sand. The water ranged from deep emerald green to aqua in color.
Where can we sign up for more of this?

So we went to the manager and asked, "Do you have a list of people who would like to buy when units become available?"
She answered, "Yes, and I'd love to see some new, YOUNGER faces around here." She recorded our phone number. I expected a call in a year, maybe two.
Three months later I answered the phone and heard, "The unit next door to the one you stayed in is for sale. I've talked with the owner and the price is reasonable. Act NOW!"

But "reasonable"?
Try as hard as I might, crunching the numbers didn't make me comfortable with the purchase.
So, knowing they had the money and might be interested in a second unit, we called our friend that had generously allowed us to stay in their unit those months earlier...
"We can't afford it. If you want the condo, here's the number to call."

"Would you be interested in owning half of it?" they asked.
And the answer to that question put me smack in the middle of my comfort zone.
That was April of 2000. Together we bought the condo with the gorgeous view of the Gulf, put a solid week of sweat equity into painting, wallpapering, repairing, replacing old appliances;
All intended to make the place attractive to add to a rental program so others would pay the bills.
At least that's how it was supposed to work.

In 14 years, the place has never fully paid for itself.
Oh, don't take me wrong...
We've LOVED owning it.
We've loved the idea that at some point in "the future", we'd be able to come spend Winters here, away from sub-zero temps and snow plows running up and down the road.
But every time we came down to spend time here we've had to bring a hammer, screwdriver, and a paint brush. The blinds inevitably have been screwed up by renters. The carpeting ALWAYS needs minor or major cleaning.

In 2005, if our crystal ball had been working, we could have sold the property for three times what we paid.
But our crystal ball at that point was just an interesting piece of glass. The market pretty much collapsed and the value of the condo returned to just about what we paid.
But it has slowly, surely, been going up since.

And then came the anxiety.
Our country is changing. Our economy is changing. Seemingly EVERYTHING is changing.
I don't like what I see.
As much as I love being here looking at that gorgeous beach, I think having money in hand to buy things we might need in case of "trouble" might be more important than owning a piece of property most of a day's drive distant.

We burned the mortgage two months ago.
We have what appears to be a solid contract for the condo.
The sale won't make us rich, but will put some money in the bank and, almost as important, will take the worry/expense of always having to fix something renters have broken off our shoulders. 
This week we're spending what may be our last week in this second home as "owners"...
The table where I wrote the first post for "Pitchpull"  in April of 2005 will no longer belong to us.
Our sadness is somewhat tempered by the fact that money in the bank will allow us to come rent here most anytime, anyplace we want.

And we DO still LOVE Destin.
We'll be back.

10 March 2014


Yes... "Springbutt".

Not familiar with the term?

You may not be familiar with the term, but you certainly have seen "Springbutt" in action.
Let me set the scenario for you:
You're at a seminar or class you MUST take. You may be an expert in the subject matter.
No matter, you have to be there for whatever reason. Some would call it a "ticket punch"...
The fact you've attended the class clears the way for you to either continue, or progress. Maybe even be promoted.

Pro pilots have to do this all the time. FAA requirements force them to constantly train. Annual check rides. Semi-annual refresher rides. Computer-driven academics on survival, weather, instrument flying procedures...
Sometimes the work you have to do is the same work you did last year, the year before that, the year before that, the year...
You get the idea.
But ya gotta do it for whatever reason in order to keep the paychecks flowing.

So I was in this class devoted to keeping me and my fellow pilots SAFE.
There were about 40 in the class. I was sitting next to a contemporary I had known for 25 or so years.
Up front, in the second row, was Mr. Springbutt...
An enthusiastic new CFI who had just accrued enough time to get a job with one of our local helo companies.

Every chance he had, Mr. Springbutt would raise his hand and interrupt the person providing the information most of us were being "refreshed" with, because we had heard it a thousand times.
Mr. Springbutt wanted to share "How his company was now doing it", or a method he had learned that might improve the way the rest of us were doing our jobs.
Each time he'd raise his hand, I'd glance at my friend seated next to me, just in time to see him roll his eyes.
As hours droned on, the rolling of eyes began to be accompanied with a sigh.
There was no question, my buddy was beginning to be tired by Springbutt's interruptions...
The sooner we got outta here, the sooner we could have an icy-cold brewski in our hands!

But the information from the second row continued to be forthcoming. Springbutt was VERY impressed with himself. More eyes rolled. Sighs throughout the class started to be more audible.

At the break before the last hour of class my peer had had enough. When I saw him working his way toward Springbutt I followed along in his wake.
My buddy introduced himself to Springbutt with a smile and asked, "How much time ya got in your logbook?"

"1600 hours".

"My friend, I have more time in my log than that at night, in a 30 degree right bank, in a light mist with 1 mile visibility! Please, no more questions or suggestions."
I had difficulty stifling my guffaw.

Springbutt stayed seated the next hour.
And the cold beer tasted wonderful.