29 January 2012

That First Step-

On the phone Wednesday I made the arrangements...
We will Winter in Destin, Florida this year. The plans now are to arrive in November and stay there until the end of February.

It's a huge step... so huge, Sara Jean cried all day stressed with the thought of such change in our lives. We've since had long discussions about how this will work and she has settled to the idea.
Me? I'm just disappointed the old rule is true that "the plan will work perfectly until contact with the enemy is made"...
My retirement plan went all to pieces over the last two years.

It was never my plan to quit work completely. Sara Jean's work is physical, so I wanted her to be able to quit completely if she wanted. But I always figured I'd continue to work at least part-time until my body assumes ambient temperature...
Flight/Ground instruction.
Buying and selling used aircraft.
Scavenging aluminum cans from the roadside.
Being "Greeter" at the WalMart.

I like work and feel no work is beneath me. We'll be fine so long as there is enough money.
But there is the rub we all face...
How much is "enough"?

Most of us are facing the same scenario...
Our 401K's have become 200.5K's.

Until two years ago I felt phat...
We'd have had more income in retirement than while preparing for it. The market downturn means my years of preparation will provide just enough income to continue our present standard of living. Supplementing retirement funds with part-time work will put gravy on the mashed potatoes and will also provide a second benefit... I'll be out of Sara Jean's hair much of the time.

Now the "elephant in the room" question...
When do I actually retire? I still love my job. I respect most of my co-workers. It's the petty politics and the attitude of a few people that irritate me and keep my job from being perfect.
And that's my burr beneath the saddle...
I've never been good about keeping my mouth shut when I get irritated, and it gets harder as I get older.

So I'm working to pay off our debts. I'm shuffling money around to conserve it.
And as we realize we'll be fine, we're adjusting to the idea of spending next Winter on the balcony overlooking the Gulf of Mexico with an adult beverage close at hand.

"Welcome to WalMart. Enjoy your shopping experience!"

26 January 2012


Bob Dole says a Newt nomination would be disastrous.
John McCain has endorsed Mitt Romney.
That certainly helps make up my mind.

25 January 2012

January 25, SR-71

I don't remember the incident.
Perhaps it was because I simply wasn't paying attention.
Or maybe it slipped by unnoticed in all my birthday celebrating. But until recently I was unaware we had ever lost one of
these fabulous machines.
Ejecting at mach 3.8?
More here.

I prefer to think of them in
"faster than a speeding bullet" mode.

Forty-six years later we still appreciate your sacrifice, Jim Zwayer.
Rest in peace.

23 January 2012

General Spruance

In the early '70's I had the privilege of seeing this man in person with 300 or so of my peers at a safety seminar at Hunter Army Airfield in Savannah, Georgia.
At the time he was what we affectionately called a "Crispy Critter"...
No hair. No ears.No eyebrows. His burns looked MUCH worse then. Oddly, I think his warnings had more impact when he looked less like a human being.

I've looked for this video for a while...
His talk had a dramatic impact on me then, and if/when you watch it, it will have an impact on you. (Got kids? His auto accident tips are worthwhile so you may want teens and older to watch too.)
The video is almost 90 minutes long, so you'll need to set aside the time to watch it at some point in the future.
Take the time. You may, like me, find yourself remembering some pieces of it at the oddest times. And at those times you'll be glad you are human and have the ability to learn from the mistakes of others so you don't become a "Crispy Critter" yourself.
He's humorous at times. Enjoy:

20 January 2012

Watching Science Fiction Become Science Fact.

I don't know why, but it troubled me from the time I saw it. I think the reason it troubled me was that I could see, fantastic as the idea was at its core, there was a frightening reality there.
It was a "Star Trek" episode called
"A Taste of Armageddon". In the episode, two tribes are warring with one another. The "gimmick" of the story is that the two warring factions have come to an agreement to "war" in a civilized fashion:
Why destroy one another's infrastructure and face the ugliness of having to clean up and bury dead bodies? Why not fight one another via computer simulations?
A catchy idea and neat solution, right? But these two tribes went even further-
When the computer simulation indicated X number of citizens had been killed in an attack, that tribe, by treaty, had to line up that number of citizens and send them to the "disintegration booth". Inspectors from the warring tribes were there to insure the contract was fulfilled.
A clean, intelligent alternative to settle disputes.
"Our computer versus your computer".

I've been reminded of that episode a lot lately. We've been using unmanned drones quite a while in dangerous missions so that we don't have a pilot at risk. At first, these missions were for reconnaissance... then someone realized we could attach a missile to the drone and actually use them as fighter/bombers.

One of our drones recently succeeded in "saving" itself by landing virtually undamaged in Iran. It's easy to see where this progresses, "Star Trek" style...
Our enemies "reverse-engineer" our technology... maybe even tweak it a little here and there to improve it, and the next thing you know OUR leaders are being blown up by stealthy pilotless aircraft flying unseen, overhead.

For some time now the "weak link" in fighter aircraft has been human capabilities. Our "Electric Jet" F-16 fighters actually have the ability to sense when the pilot has been subjected to forces rendering them unconscious, and are programmed to try to save aircraft and pilot under these circumstances. We know that future fighters will either have to find a way to overcome human frailties or get the job done without a human onboard. Having no pilot at risk is so attractive, it's easy to see that we'll soon be fielding "unmanned" fighter aircraft to do that dirty job.
And surely we'll then see "our unmanned fighters versus your unmanned fighters"...
Who can build the best flying computer?

We use computers because they are better/faster at calculating than we are. In 1997, chess champ Gary Kasparov was beaten by
Deep Blue, a computer developed for the task by IBM. Deep Blue simply could crunch more numbers
than Kasparov... calculating thousands of different permutations for each move and planning hundreds of possible future moves. I'm told great chess champions can plan five or so future moves.
That was in '97, and computers have not been idle...
They're getting better and faster every moment. Some are predicting that computer "thinking" power will exceed that of man
by the year 2020.
What happens then? Do we resign ourselves to our machines and let them take over? Will we face "disintegration booths"?
Or will our computers be smart enough to finally resolve the problem and point out how stupid we are by wasting our material and human resources in useless wars?
That is my hope.

So now the question is, can we make it to the year 2020 without destroying our world so our computers have something to save?
Meanwhile, the "Doomsday Clock" continues to tick!

18 January 2012

Who Owns It?

It's an interesting day on the innertubez.
Wikipedia is unavailable.

Google is up, but management there is expressing its displeasure with government tampering by covering their logo with a black band.
I wish this was a "black and white" issue. It's not. I can see truth in both sides of the argument.
But for me, FREEDOM always comes first.

I just tried to go read a couple favorite blogs and find they are also down.
If I owned those blogs I'd be angry and frustrated, and I'd be inquiring about my 1st amendment rights.

Obviously, that's not a problem here.
Thank you "BLOGGER!"

14 January 2012

Curtis Mathes, Muntz, Sylvania, Zenith... On And On.

I pushed the button on the remote control and the TV came on but the picture was about half its normal size, and although it still displayed colors the overall tint was blue, like viewing it through blue sunglasses. I pushed the button again, then again, to reset it...
How old was this set? Wow... lemme think.
It's a non-HD set. We bought it on sale "a while" ago. It was on sale because the remote was missing. I initially bought a "universal" remote for it that worked most of the functions, but when we started using "Dish Network" I was able to make the Dish remote work all the functions but "picture on picture".
No big deal.

Its first duty station was downstairs in the living room, then we moved it to the Master B-room when we bought the new flat screen and installed that downstairs.
It was heavy. I was a blockhead and wanted to prove I could move it upstairs by myself, and I did too...
One step up. Stop and rest. Another step up. Stop and rest.

Thirteen steps. Stop and rest, wheezing.
Finally, lift the thing four feet into its new cabinet.
Wheeze some more.

But the memory of that move makes me realize how quickly time has passed and how old this set is.
Is it even worth fixing? I haven't seen or talked with my old friend Jim the TV repairman in YEARS... is he even still in business?
Grab the phone book and EUREKA, he's still listed! I sheepishly call him...
"Whatd'ya think Jim? Is it even worth the effort?"

"Well, bring it in and I'll look at it, but I'll have to charge you $40 to open it up. If it's worthwhile to fix it, the forty bucks will pay part of the bill."

This set is a Sanyo. You tell me... Korean?
I think Zenith was the last brand made in the USofA and I bought one of the last sets they made within our borders. (Got good service out of it too.) Zenith moved their factory, I believe to Mexico, years ago. Can you even buy something with the name "Zenith" on the front now?
Samsung. Sanyo. Vizio. Magnavox! (Where is that old American name now made?)

And we all know the "problem" don't we?
We can go into Wally World and buy a brand-spanking new (HD!) TV for nearly nothing...
Why fix an older non-HD set?

But having called Jim I feel obligated to give him a shot.
I lug the thing downstairs...

Step. Rest. Wheeze. Repeat. And load it into the rear seat of the car.
More wheezing at his shop, I hand over forty bucks cash and he hands me a receipt and tells me he'll call with the diagnosis.
I shudder at the thought of having to tote the thing back upstairs and secretly hope he calls to tell me it's dead.

Unfortunately, he's able to fix it. And it only costs me another $20...
A bad capacitor or somesuch.

That was a couple years ago, and the old soldier soldiers on.

We pretty much invented TV. For years we were the leaders in the technology. Sets were so expensive you repaired them when they broke. I can remember when "remote control" meant Mom or Dad telling me or my sister to "change to channel 4".
Now? They're not worth fixing. (And they're much lighter... easier to put out alongside the garbage cans on "trash pick-up" day.)

We're told by REALLY SMART people that this global market is a good thing...
That cheaper goods from other countries means we have more discretionary income to spend if we want more cheap goods from Korea, Viet Nam, or China.

Maybe I'm not so smart.
But the fact we don't make our own cars, motorcycles, electronics, etc. still scares me.

I fear we'll one day look back at the 1950's with nostalgia in many ways.
Please. Let me be wrong.

13 January 2012

Peeing In A Cup

Born January 1947... 65 this year.
My flight physical is scheduled today at 1800 hours.
Until recently I didn't worry about visiting my friend (and former student) Dr. Rich.
But last year I finally broke down, put the cheater/reading glasses away, and popped for a real pair of bifocals. (The improvement in my seeing was considerable, particularly chart-reading at night.)
What's that? My hearing? Were you asking about my hearing?
Forty-four years of being exposed to one of the noisiest environments known to man...
But if you WERE asking, thanks for your concern.

My blood pressure last time around was 110/70. My weight is up since last year, so I'm keeping my fingers crossed those numbers will increase only slightly.

Diabetes runs in my family.
On both sides.
And my diet and exercise program lately has gone the way of Barack Obama's economy.
Peeing in the cup is always a concern.

But I look around me at peers and realize the blessings of health I have had to this point, and know that if I fail this physical I won't be able to complain...
I've had a great run.
But I don't know what I'd do if I had to grow up and actually start working at a JOB.

12 January 2012

"No Reserve!"

There is so much to learn, and some things don't come easily to me.

I want to buy another bike. There is no room in the garage, so the purchase of another (smaller, maybe an 883 Sportster) bike is dependent on the sale of the older GoldWing.
A couple folks were interested enough to come and check it out in person. Both wanted to make trades for vehicles I'm not interested in, so their purchase of my bike is dependent on the sale of the vehicles they wanted to trade me. Still, I'm checking eBay daily, just to insure I know what prices bikes I'm interested in are bringing. And that's where I need your help-

"NO RESERVE!" it says at the top of the narrative for the bike.
Yet under the bid box we are informed, "Reserve not met", even though 14 people have bid on this machine. And you see where I'm confused...

If there's no reserve, how can the reserve not be met?

I'm sure there's a simple explanation this simple mind can understand.
Hep me somebody!

06 January 2012

I Now Believe in Global Warming.

Temps were in the mid-sixties yesterday, and again today.
Normal highs in these parts are mid-forties.
I took advantage of the weather and rode the Pizza Bike to work last night, even though I had to arrive at my workplace 90 minutes early in order to avoid riding in the dark.

It was worth it. It felt like Spring and was invigorating. (Going home this morning was a little "nipply"!)

The Winter has been unbelievably mild so far in our part of the world. Yesterday's high temp actually was a record breaker. Today's high came within four degrees or so of being another record high.
Maybe the climate is getting warmer. But you still cannot convince me man is the cause.

When we start breaking record highs on a daily basis, then maybe I'll consider all this shouting and spittle-spreading "settled science".

John B., where are you?
When the "spitters" were caught trying to fudge the data, you kinda fell off the earth, pal!

04 January 2012

"Oh (Deleted Expletive)!"

Cool heads, both in the cockpit and on the ground.
Airliners have great anti-ice systems to deal with this. The rest of us try to avoid it all all costs.

02 January 2012

I "Assumed".

In many ways I'm still VERY naive.
I have cut back on the number of folks I call close and allow within my "wall".
And among those folks were friends I included in my circle because we share a great deal... assuming we shared political views because we were so much alike in so many other ways.

And then in a discussion about my hope for smaller, more efficient government my friend said "Well, they are trying to help people".
This, from someone who ran a business and knows full well how efficient (not!) government, ANY government is.

Then, the icing on the cake...
In a discussion re: the poor investment decision-making of mutual friends who had lost all of their retirement savings I hear the comment, "Well, government should insure that cannot happen."

I don't want to live in that world.
And I'm VERY uncomfortable with anyone who can even make such statements.

We live in a world where "Jersey Shore" and "Keeping Up With the Kardashians" are top-rated TV shows.
With that in mind, why are we surprised Barack Obama was elected in 2008?
I won't be surprised at ANY outcome in 2012.