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

Who Is Budd Davisson? A blog bio

 

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


14 June 2021- Small Town Thoughts…Again
These days I find myself listening to a lot of country music and I’m becoming more aware of the pictures that the lyrics often paint of life in a small town. That, in turn, has caused me to realize that, as measured by the rest of the world, I really am from a small town. Only, at the time I didn’t realize it was a small town. It was just MY town.

According to Wiki, when I graduated in 1960 the population of Seward, Nebraska was 4,208. This is larger than I expected, but, courtesy of song lyrics, I guess it actually was quite small. Further, it was, and still is a “water tower town”, which country songs seem to venerate. Today, it has ballooned to over 7,000 and it feels positively huge. However, in the big scheme of things, it’s still a tiny town.

I don’t have a clue as to what percentage of folks in the US come from smallish towns, but I’m betting the percentage is getting smaller by the day. So, excuse me, if I pontificate on a subject a few readers may not relate to. Others, however, will totally get it.

To put a few things in perspective, Seward Country, Nebraska is the first county west of the capital city of Lincoln and is 578 square miles so it is roughly 24 miles square. It is composed of a combination of rolling hills and table-flat farm lands with several major (for the area) rivers and creeks (“cricks” in Nebraska-speak) coming together where the town itself is located. Most of the downtown area sits on a huge, wide, flat hill that overlooks the confluence of the rivers. Incidentally, all Seward County license plates start with the number 16. You can tell which cars in Nebraska are from which counties because the first number on their license plates were assigned in 1922. They were based on where a given county ranked in the hierarchy of the number of licensed vehicles in the state. Omaha is number one. Lincoln number two. Seward was 16th in the state, hence the license plates. I never actually knew that. Thank you, Wiki!

I started thinking about my old hometown as I was driving to the airport for the umpteenth time this week. Since I started flying again in early March, I’ve been commuting to the airport (nine miles) in the pre-dawn light on a daily basis. My students and I (most are bunking with us) try to be there at 0515 so we can get in the air and beat the build-up of traffic in the pattern. As the sun creeps over the mountains to the East and the sun warms the line of Cessnas, they all appear to awaken and flutter into the air at the same time creating the illusion that I’m flying through a cloud of hatching Cicadas. So, I try to beat them to it.

During one of the recent commutes, while listening to my country station, it dawned on me that not once in my adult life had I lived anywhere but in a major metropolitan area. Here in Phoenix, I’m adrift in the ocean of suburbs that flow out from the relatively small central city area. Unfortunately, PHX is five million people and growing. Fortunately, only a couple dozen of the locals are on the road at 0515 between me and the airport.

On the run to the airport the day before Memorial Day, Seward, Nebraska was heavy on my mind. As it will be again come July 4th. As a youth, both days were periods during which the town came together to recognize what the days meant to us. In my younger days, Memorial Day found me as part of the crowd gathered around a flag, listening to noted speakers, in the middle of the smallish cemetery north of town. The local National Guard unit, which now has a museum in town, would fire its salute and I’d be scrambling through the grass seeking out the empty 30-06 brass casings (blanks). In high school, as a trumpet player in the band, I’d be playing taps for the proceedings, with a fellow band member in the distance echoing the familiar notes. Flags were everywhere you looked in town. Thank God, the same is still true today. National pride is very much alive in the Midwest.

July 4th is an amazing period for small towns, but especially for Seward. In the past, I’ve talked about the huge celebration the Fourth has become in my old hometown and I’m going to be visiting it this year, but only in my heart and soul. Unfortunately, physically I’m going to be stuck down here. However, I’ve made up my mind that next year I’m going to be traveling north. It has been entirely too long and I sorely miss my roots.

I’m certain that no matter the size of the town/city a person grows up in, the size is exactly what that person needed as a youth. A kid from Brooklyn or Van Nuys is likely to have the same feelings for where he/she grew up as I have for Seward. For most of us, it’ll be a warm, soft place in our memories that will forever be “home.”

As I’m now looking back on a life that has been lived in the extremes of American culture (Midwest, East Coast, West Coast, now Southwest) I have to say that, as an adult, being a small-town kid has given me a perspective on life that has always been a serious positive. Never a negative. The skills that are physical, mental, social and cultural, were baked into me amidst the cornfields and small businesses have helped me in ways that I’m still discovering. The concepts of self-reliance and personal responsibility were givens. The feelings for the flag and the country were part of the surroundings. The respect for your neighbor and the unconscious offering of a helping hand was, and is, just “there.” Probably the most important thing I’ve been given is the pride in knowing that there is nothing small about being a small-town kid.

Side notes on the Class of 1960:
There were 66 in my graduating class. Without doing even a small amount of investigation, the few I’ve followed in later life include a federal judge whom Warren Buffet chose to do his last nuptials, a lawyer, a doctor, a federal agent (DEA among other things), a national known ethnic musician (polka), at least one recognized artist, an Ivy League professor, a successful real estate investor. That’s eight out of 66 and I’m sure there are others with similar accomplishment. Like I said, nothing is small about a small town. bd

5 June 2021 - They Never Leave Us
This morning Marlene shook me awake. She said I was crying, sobbing actually, in my sleep. I was having a bad dream. Or, as I reflected back on it, maybe it was a good one.

As with most dreams, this one was disjointed and hard to remember, but I was staying in a hotel and was in some sort of panic because I couldn’t get my car out of the garage. On one side it was blocked in by a ’29 roadster hotrod, that looked exactly like mine and the other was blocked by a highly modified 1950 Ford business coupe that was a duplicate of the one I took to college. I was running back and forth between the garage and the main hotel lobby trying to find someone to help.

At the end of the dream, I was standing in the lobby frantically punching numbers into my phone and someone walked past me to lean against the opposite wall. I ignored him. Then, I flicked my eyes up and focused on him as he did the same and our eyes met. Recognition flashed through both us and we rushed forward and wrapped ourselves around each other, both sobbing. It was my brother, Gary, who had left us at the age of 41 from a massive heart attack. It was at that point Marlene shook me back into the real world. At that moment, I re-ran the morning of November 2nd, 1985.

It was 2:30 in the morning, when the phone rang. At first, I didn’t realize it was the phone. Then, as I picked it up, I rotated up to sit on the edge of the bed. The voice on the other end was my brother-in-law. In a very measured voice he said, “Budd…Gary has died.” His words made no sense to me and I had him repeat them. Then I repeated them back out loud and my wife (first wife), said, “Gary who?” and I blurted out “Gary! Our Gary!” She was shocked and started crying.

I didn’t know what to do or what I felt. In fact, after several minutes of me being shell shocked, my wife said, “Say, something. Do something!” I said, “I will. Later.”

A week later, I reacted to that phone call and wrote a Grassroots column about it. After Marlene shook me awake, I wandered out to the office and scrolled down through the Grassroots menu in the very website you’re now reading to reread what I had written while the wounds of Gary’s passing were still fresh. And raw. It has been 36 years since I got that phone call and I jotted down those words and they are as true today as they were then.

When you lose someone, they are never actually gone. They just hide within us to resurface, when we need them most. And 100% of the time, we learn something from their passing. And in this case, we learn from the times they come back to visit. Love never dies.

MY WORDS AND THOUGHTS FROM 36 YEARS AGO:

GRASSROOTS
Kid Brother
Good-by is a little too final

by Budd Davisson

Saturday mornings and I don't usually get together so early. The late fall sun was barely out of the sack when I twitched my wrist and felt the cool, fat air above shove me away from the runway. It was a fantastic time to be alive. The cockpit of the Pitts fit like it always did. Like an old shoe. A comfortable feeling. I was going aloft with a dear old, somewhat raucous, friend. I was home, but at that moment I didn't know exactly how much a home it was.

When it came, I really wasn't prepared for it. Going through 2000 feet, as I climbed away from the pattern, I felt it well up inside of me and suddenly I was sobbing. Not just misty eyed or crying, but I was racked with the deepest, most gut-wrenching sobs I've known as an adult. Maybe ever. I was alone for the first time in a week and I was suddenly faced with the true knowledge that my brother was gone. I wasn't wrapping my arms around my mother trying to comfort her. I wasn't holding his wife Betsy, feeling our tears run together. I was alone. In my entire life I had never felt so alone.

It had been exactly one week since that awful call had come in the middle of the night. It wasn't supposed to happen to my family. The stories about men dying in their prime, at 41 years old, were about other people Not Gary. Not tall, good looking, so damned sensitive, Gary. It just wasn't supposed to happen. But it did. And there, at 2000 feet, I knew the set had been broken. I would never again know that feeling of walking into a room as The Davisson Kids. We were a pair. Now I was alone.

Somehow through the numbness of the week I managed to grieve the only way I knew how, with my arms around another loved one who hurt as much as I did. What I didn't know was that I was grieving not for Gary and not for me, but for those he had left behind. For Betsy. For his three step-kids. For the literally hundreds and hundreds of people he had touched in his life, every one of whom knew they had met someone special.

Through our entire adult life, it was almost embarrassing the way he could get inside somebody's head in a matter of seconds. If you met Gary for five minutes, you knew Gary. And what's more, try as you might to hide, he knew you. I guess that's why he became a shrink, a PhD in cowboy boots and Levis who practiced the art and theory of love and made it work for other people. Especially kids. Most especially kids.

I pushed my way through the week. It was a blur of airplanes: Newark/O'Hare/Omaha, Omaha/Dallas/Phoenix, Phoenix/Denver/Lincoln. Then, finally, Lincoln/O'Hare/Home. Home! The trip was punctuated with tidal waves of hugs and tears. With kind words and kinder caresses. It was one hell of a long, hard week.

And then I was home and it was an absolutely beautiful Indian summer day, It was a day made for Pitts Specials and one I wasn't going to waste.

As I was taxiing out, I had forgotten my first impulse of the week before. Seven days earlier the phone rang in the dark and I answered. The shock and disbelief took their toll and, without thinking, I started to put on Levi's and my leather jacket and head for the airport. But, I didn’t. As the sun came up, the press of having to be someplace else in a hurry and the dense ground fog combined to make me forget why I was walking around the house in a flight jacket. I forgot a lot of things that morning.

Then, a week later, as I pressed my head against the side of the canopy and let the pain exit my body anyway it wanted, I remembered where I was headed that morning. I had wanted to be alone. I wanted to be where it was just me and nobody else. Where I could let go of my emotional control and wouldn't be embarrassed at the consequences. Still, I was surprised, and relieved at the strength of the sobs, the profusion of tears. And the sound of my own cries over the Lycoming. Oh God, how I hurt! He was gone and, at that moment, climbing through the early morning sun over Andover. New Jersey, I let myself believe that fact for the first time. And I didn't like it.

I've never been a true romantic about aviation. I've heard a million people say they get up in an airplane and all their troubles disappear. I've never really felt that way. When I'm flying, it's an experiment, a challenge, to see if I can fly better than I did the last time. In a way it's a competition in which I'm the only contestant Flying is a long way from being work for me, but it's not necessarily a mystical experience either. Not usually anyway.

That one flight made me realize that I didn't have a clue as to how important flying was to me. Gary, in his always subtle way, had made me reach inside to see how the pieces really fit together. For the first time, I was seeing how the emotions actually dovetailed without the sugar coating of logic or rationality. I was seeing that flight was much more important to me than I had ever known. Damned, I wished he'd picked an easier method of analysis!

One of the real tragedies of my life is that I really didn't get to know my brother until we were in our late thirties. Being less than two years younger than me, it shouldn't have been that way. Brothers being what they sometimes are, however, we were so different it took half a lifetime to grow together. And the tragedy is I didn't have time to learn from him nearly what I could and should have.

He taught me two very serious and useful things in his passing; The first is that, in the final analysis, when all the hugs and rituals are over, you grieve alone. That's the grieving which really counts.

The second thing I learned from Gary that day is I now know where I have to go to be alone. I now know how to visit those private places which exist only within my own mind.

Gary and I were never big on good-byes. We'd hug and mumble ". . . see ya later." Never good-bye. It was too final then, and it's too final now. I don't know how many more flights it's going to take to work that one out, but at least I know where to start. bd

30 May 2021 - Memorial Memories
I was in the process of sitting down to rattle off something for Thinking Out Loud, when something landed on my desk that summed up Memorial Day better than anything I could cobble together. It’s simple and to the point: A lot of American’s have lost their lives so we could have ours.

THE WALL TALKS

A little history built around the statistics off the Vietnam Memorial Wall. The same statistics exist for the American Armed forces going back to 1776. These are typical. Not atypical.

There are 58,267 names now listed on that polished black wall, including those added in 2010.

The names are arranged in the order in which they were taken from us by date and within each date the names are alphabetized. It is hard to believe it is 57 years since the first casualty.

The first known casualty was Richard B. Fitzgibbon, of North Weymouth, Mass. Listed by the U.S. Department of Defense as having been killed on June 8, 1956. His name is listed on the Wall with that of his son, Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Richard B. Fitzgibbon III, who was killed on Sept. 7, 1965.

There are three sets of fathers and sons on the Wall.

39,996 on the Wall were just 22 or younger.

8,283 were just 19 years old.

The largest age group, 33,103 were 18 years old.

12 soldiers on the Wall were 17 years old.

5 soldiers on the Wall were 16 years old.

One soldier, PFC Dan Bullock was 15 years old.

997 soldiers were killed on their first day in Vietnam ..

1,448 soldiers were killed on their last day in Vietnam ..

31 sets of brothers are on the Wall.

Thirty one sets of parents lost two of their sons.

54 soldiers attended Thomas Edison High School in Philadelphia . I wonder why so many from one school.

8 Women are on the Wall, Nursing the wounded.

244 soldiers were awarded the Medal of Honor during the Vietnam War; 153 of them are on the Wall.

Beallsville, Ohio with a population of 475 lost 6 of her sons.

West Virginia had the highest casualty rate per capita in the nation. There are 711 West Virginians on the Wall.

The Marines of Morenci - They led some of the scrappiest high school football and basketball teams that the little Arizona copper town of Morenci (pop. 5,058) had ever known and cheered. They enjoyed roaring beer busts. In quieter moments, they rode horses along the Coronado Trail, stalked deer in the Apache National Forest . And in the patriotic camaraderie typical of Morenci's mining families, the nine graduates of Morenci High enlisted as a group in the Marine Corps. Their service began on Independence Day, 1966. Only 3 returned home.

The Buddies of Midvale - LeRoy Tafoya, Jimmy Martinez, Tom Gonzales were all boyhood friends and lived on three consecutive streets in Midvale, Utah on Fifth, Sixth and Seventh avenues. They lived only a few yards apart. They played ball at the adjacent sandlot ball field. And they all went to Vietnam . In a span of 16 dark days in late 1967, all three would be killed. LeRoy was killed on Wednesday, Nov. 22, the fourth anniversary of John F. Kennedy's assassination. Jimmy died less than 24 hours later on Thanksgiving Day. Tom was shot dead assaulting the enemy on Dec. 7, Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day.

The most casualty deaths for a single day was on January 31, 1968 ~ 245 deaths.

The most casualty deaths for a single month was May 1968 - 2,415 casualties were incurred.

For most Americans who read this they will only see the numbers that the Vietnam War created. To those of us who survived the war, and to the families of those who did not, we see the faces, we feel the pain that these numbers created. We are, until we too pass away, haunted with these numbers, because they were our friends, fathers, husbands, wives, sons and daughters. There are no noble wars, just noble warriors.

Please pass this on to those who served during this time, and those who DO Care.

7 May 2021 - Post-Pandemic Changes
I don’t even know where to start on this one because, as we come out of lockdown, it seems as if everything everywhere is changing. Some for the good. Some not so much. Some we’ve talked about. Some we haven’t.

What follows first is a tale that is being repeated across the nation and has nothing to do with politics. It has to do with an age discrimination protocol that threatens the very soul of aviation.

Today I had a heart-to-heart with my aviation insurance agent about how insurance companies’ changing view of age is in the process of becoming an aviation catastrophe. Although even the top dog at AVEMCO Insurance has said that there is zero data that says age is playing a role in accidents, those of us over 65-70 are in the process of being removed from aviation via the insurance route. Next time around for me, my insurance company has said it is going to drop me because the number that is typed in the box labeled “age” is one they don’t like. Hey, I don’t like it any more than they do. However, as I told my agent, I’m absolutely willing to go toe-to-toe with any insurance executive and let him try to prove that my age is a detriment of any kind. Better yet, let that executive try to follow me around for a day and see how long it is before his tongue is hanging out. Or let’s get into a debate over any subject of his choosing and let’s see if his cognitive abilities are super superior to this gray dog’s. Just because the number in the age box is one they don’t like, that absolutely does not describe every single one of us who has the same number. Some will be ancient beyond their years and will clearly show their age. Others will be a long way from fitting the profile the insurance folks are attaching to that age. In some cases, a very long way.

Okay, that was the bad news of the insurance thing. There was some good news. Sort of. Basically, I ignore my flight time. It’s kept track in my airplane logs and my yearly insurance applications. This time, however, even though the Pandemic stole a year and surgery the year before soaked up a couple of months, when I added the airplane’s recorded time to the prior insurance totals, I found that I had reached a couple of worthwhile plateaus: In the “Time in Make and Model” column (Pitts Special) the number was 7,080 hours. So, I officially have 7,000 hours in Pitts Specials. Then, when the same number is added to the “Total Flight Time”, the number is 10,050 hours! For a lot of pilots, like airline jockeys, 10K means nothing. However, I think it’s cool! Also, in my case, the vast majority of the time is giving flight instruction, so it’s a bazillion one-hour hops with very little cross country. Also, about 8,500 hours and most of the Pitts time is comprised of approximately six or seven landings an hour. Do the math!

Thinking back over that much flying, it takes very little to trip off memories that I’ll never outgrow. I, like everyone else, clearly remember my first solo takeoff. Mine was in 1959 in a Piper Tri-pacer that was brand new and smelled like it. I can still feel my hand wrapped around the cylindrical throttle of my first Mustang, absolutely enthralled with the ensuing cacophony of sound that was flowing over me. The image through the Bearcat’s windshield of the runway streaking past, then, abruptly disappearing as the world rapidly fell behind often repeats itself in the theater of my mind. The awesome feeling of four negative Gs slowly bleeding off as I settled back into the seat on the top of my first outside loop. The smell of the jungle as I stepped out of the Evangel 4500 deep in Brazil occasionally wafts through my imaginary nostrils. It was sobering knowing that we were on the edge of the world. Civilization was many hundreds of miles away. Further, the tiny, breach clouted natives coming out of the edges of the miniscule runway were real and not a photo in Nat Geo. And on, and on, and on. It’s been a great aero-life, and I’m not about to stop now. I’m going to beat this insurance thing, one way or another.

On another post Pandemic (I’m capitalizing it because it has become a proper noun in the language of the shared experience) front are the incredible changes in retail purchasing. I absolutely don’t know how brick and mortar retail stores can compete with the Internet. This became very clear this week, when my trusty, battery powered Milwaukee 3/8” drill finally gave up the ghost and died. This after something over 25 years of being beaten to death by God knows how many major projects. This happened at about 0645 in the morning. I walked in the office and, after doing a little research on corded drills (I’m past the battery, portability thing), ordered what was lauded as the best of the breed, an 8 amp Dewalt through Amazon. FIVE HOURS LATER IT WAS DELIVERED!!!! Five frigging hours!!! We have a couple of Amazon warehouses in town, so this probably isn’t typical in other parts of the country, but it certainly makes it difficult to wait until the stores are open and then saddle up to start looking at drills. One click shopping and it’s on the way. ‘Hard to believe.

One way or the other, every soul on the planet is in the process of learning to live a new life. Will the small business folks who lost it all try again? Will those who lost loved ones regain their balance quickly or will the scars be too deep? Will the super-big tech companies who gained total control of our communication and much of our lives while we were all suffering be challenged and brought into a semblance of balance? Will our political pendulum swing too far and start back in the near future?

The questions ahead of us are numerous and challenging. However, the truth is that it is all going to be livable because the aero-faithful will once again be converging on Oshkosh in July. Knowing that makes the rest of the challenges both bearable and beatable. See…I’m not hard to please! bd

24 April 2021 - A Long ago Beginning
This is another those weeks when there are no spaces between the gotta-get-done parts of life and the wanna-get-done parts. In an effort to get my back log of students cleaned up, I’m overbooked and under-rested, but very much in the groove. So, I’m once again re-running one of my long-ago Grassroots columns (Plane and Pilot, 2000) in this space. I’m hoping many can identify with the following.

Grassroots:
In the Beginning


The signs had been everywhere but that morning in the motel room I knew we had crossed a major threshold.

Early sun was pouring through the windows, as bright and clean as the high altitude of Prescott, AZ could make it. I was putting off the inevitable lurch out of bed for my 0700 hop as long as possible. The Pitts and a student would be waiting.

As I lay there, floating in that delicious semi-conscious state between sleep and wakefulness, I caught The Redhead staring at me. She arched her eyebrows seductively.

"And what is that look supposed to mean?" I was certain I knew the answer.

But, I didn't. I wasn't even close.

She smiled, "It means I remember Jim Clevenger saying he had enough extra steel tubing to start building the fuselage for our Desert Hawk."

I started laughing and pulled her close. Talk about words a man dreams of hearing! My redhead had popped out of sleep with visions of round-motored airplanes dancing in her head. I had died and gone to aerial heaven!

Too much information, you're saying? Maybe so, but I had to share the incident to remind us all how much effect the first few hours of flight instruction can have on a person. Learning to fly often changes a person's outlook on life and it's always for the better.

The day before, The Redhead had taken her first 2.5 hours of serious dual instruction. What I was seeing that morning was the result of her first now-you-are-a-real-student instruction. The effect was immediate. And intense. And, I think we will find in the long run, it's super beneficial.

What I was seeing in my lady was typical. The first steps through aviation's door almost always have major effects on a person's mind. Especially those who have been around aviation, but never a functioning part of it.

When they step through the portal and become a functioning part of aviation, so much of the conversation that, in the past, had flowed invisibly past begins to take form. A totally foreign language before, individual words now have meaning. Entire phrases paint pictures. And raise questions. Lots and lots of questions. In my lady's case, we'll now be driving down the street and out of nowhere she'll say something like, "...now let me get this straight, the trim tab's that little thing on the elevator and it..."

It would be easy to say she was riding the first flush of excitement at discovering a new experience. It would be even easier to say she was doing this to make me happy because aviation is such a part of my life, but neither is correct. I didn't introduce her to aviation. She's been around aircraft her entire adult life. However, life has a way of squashing dreams like learning to fly. It's a common affliction. Kids, household, making a living and so many other things are custom made for sucking the life out of dreams.

Then we stumbled into the situation in Prescott and everything dovetailed. I was going to be up there several weekends a month instructing in the Pitts and she could learn to fly at the same time. I had forgotten how strong the impact of learning to fly can be on people. It has done wonderful things for her. And us.

Learning to fly is an extremely intense psychological experience and it affects different people in different ways. But it's always positive. In most cases, it is the one experience in which a person can clearly see that it is "their" experience and belongs to no one else. The cockpit excludes anyone else. The emotions and fears must be dealt with on a one-to-one basis. No one can do it for them.

Certainly, the thing most folks don't expect is the way in which the experience rekindles their interest in life in general. For most folks, it is as if a veil has been lifted from everything around them and they see everything more clearly. And have more confidence. It's not unusual for a person to suddenly find it's possible to take control of heretofore uncontrollable aspects of their lives, once they've started flying. It uncorks psychological reserves that may have remained hidden for a lifetime unless the people had to come face to face with themselves in the act of learning to fly.

The excitement and freshness I'm seeing in The Redhead is what I see in others, as well as myself, when I get a new rating. Or strap the Pitts on after an absence. Or when I discover a new facet of aviation like flying the Sherpa in the bush. That experience alone has made me feel like a born-again student for over a year.

The very act of flying must release some flavor of endorphin into our brain, which gives us the same mental high runners supposedly feel. And we have to continually recharge that experience by putting ourselves back into the student role. Back into that exciting front edge of a new experience.

In watching a new student, like my lady, climbing those first rungs of the ladder, I find myself rediscovering flight. I'm seeing it fresh and new and tasting some of her excitement myself. I only wish I could reach out to the rest of the world and drag them in to experience the therapeutic value of aviation. It has so much more to offer the troubled mind, the bored soul, the un-focused emotion than outsiders could possibly imagine.

Like so many before her, The Redhead (AKA Marlene) is just now discovering a part of herself she never really knew existed. And, I'm just discovering The Redhead. bd

18 April 2021 - The First Week of a Crazy Sort of Normalcy
We just finished the first full week of returning to our pre-pandemic life. And I’d forgotten how crazy life had been before it got positively Covid-bizarre. It was, and is, both harder and better than I remembered. Some observations follow.

Actually, I’d bet any amount of money that those reading this who have been vaccinated and are experiencing a return to a more or less normal life are feeling much the same things we are. Ours might be a little different because of the flying and B & B, but any one of us who are gingerly peeking out of the pandemic tunnel are experiencing the same sudden light shining on us: Hey, there actually IS a life out there!

The Davisson household returned to normalcy in a purposely graduated sort of way: I spent all of March flying local students because social distancing and masks would work. But we reopened the B & B a week ago and had our first couple living with us in addition to them flying. I flew the out-of-state B & B student twice a day and stuffed a local student between those hops.

At the same time, I officially announced that I was no longer going to fly on Sundays. This was a drastic effort to shorten my work weeks and give me some time in the shop. After making that change, at the end of the week I added up the hours I had been on the job and it turns out that I’m now working a 78-82 hour week and it feels shorter. Hmmmm…!

The Redhead and I had both forgotten how much we enjoy our B & B guests. Invariably, after they check in and we have some short conversations with them, we say to each other, “Damn! Once again, we have really outstanding guests! How do we keep getting so lucky?!” It is amazing how they are ALWAYS interesting, funny, high-verbal guests with fascinating backgrounds that almost instantly become really great friends.

These two were from Montana and he flew for the Navy (A-4s) for a time, left to become a Park Ranger but joined the Air National Guard and flew F-106s and F-16s in aggressor roles until retiring from that recently. Not only did he have a ton of stories to tell, but he and my hangar mate (ex-USAF, Vietnam F-100s, etc) bonded instantly. Even better, a hangar neighbor, also from Montana, and he had an amazing number of communal friends. Having the couple around was a load of fun. He had never flown anything like the Pitts, which really lit his fire, so a good time was had by all.

We’ve been doing the B & B thing for close to 20 years, which means we always have a revolving cast of characters that usually show up on Sunday and leave the following Saturday. As I’m typing this, at 0600 Sunday morning, our last B & B’rs left two hours ago and the next ones check in later this afternoon. We’re booked solid until July 6th, when the City shuts down the airport to rebuild the runway. They say 45 days but I’m expecting two months, plus. So, I’m now booking September and October guests. So, for the next nearly three months we’ll be welcoming a wide variety of people from all over the country (and some overseas) into our lives.

Until we open the front door, we don’t have a clue what kind of folks we’re going to be splitting our house and our animals with. History, however, tells us that because they’re here to fly an unusual kind of airplane that has an unusual reputation that they themselves are going to be some flavor of “unusual”. Your average pilot has no interest in Pitts Specials or tailwheel airplanes. In fact, they often look at the Pitts as an indication that the pilot may well be a Hells Angel gone to seed. Or they are some other type who is on the edge of social norms due to a form of mental aberration that makes them think that flying upside down and pulling Gs is a good thing. Yes, we probably do have a mental aberration of some sort but we’re damn proud of it! So, on that score, before we open the front door, we at least know something about whomever is standing on the other side. We assume they are going to be interesting people and so far, we’ve never been wrong.

Anyway, it’s good to be on the other wide of the pandemic curve and back in the saddle. Unfortunately, those who are still locked down will never know how badly we feel for them. However, buck up, folks. Normalcy is just over the horizon. bd

4 April 2021 - Experience Vs Teaching
I made a really interesting, and fairly obvious, discovery this week. I proved that just because you have a lot of experience in something doesn’t mean you actually know how to do it well enough to teach it. It’s just another of life’s truths.

Let me say that again: You may know how to do something really well, but, it’s not until you try to teach it that you realize all that experience has made your skills instinctual and not necessarily intellectual. This means you may not be good at explaining them. As I re-read that last sentence, I realized that’s not entirely true either. It’s a complicated subject.

What brought this into focus is a curious family situation in which I found myself teaching someone to do something—welding and working steel—that I’ve been doing for as long as I’ve been able to stand up. My 43-year-old step son is out of work and had an opportunity for a job interview that would require him to know how to MIG weld and repair ornamental and security steel work on rental properties. He had never done either and asked me for help, which I was glad to do. Welding and steel work is my thing and MIG welding is incredibly easy learn, at least when doing the kind of work that would be expected of him.

I gave him the basics and, between that and You-Tube videos, he quickly got to where he could at least lay down a bead that wasn’t embarrassing. He went for the interview and was given an assignment to do a specific project and return it to the potential employer. I have no idea where they got the idea (probably You-Tube), but it was, in my eyes, an excellent way to evaluate a person’s ability to repair or fabricate, a residential railing or security door. He was to construct a cube that was twelve inches square and made of 2” x 2” x 1/16” square tubing. Not a terribly complicated job but it would definitely show the employer how well he could work steel and how well he could weld. No big deal! Or so I thought.

He sat down, starting cutting with my favorite steel working tool, an angle head grinder with cut-off disks and I walked off. When I returned, he had cut the ends that were to be joined in a manner that had never even crossed my mind. Instead of making butt welds or mitering the corners, he had cut 2” off of each end but left one wall of that cubic cut intact so the resulting joint had metal around the edges but an empty square in the middle of it. It would join the tubes in an externally clean manner but was structurally weak and required about ten times as much work for each joint as a simple miter would take.

When I mentioned mitering the corners, I had to explain how you could just lay one piece on top the other, draw a line, then draw a line from the end of the tube to the other end of that line and he’d have a 45-degree cut line. Or, failing that, simply use the 45 degree, sliding guide on the combination square I had loaned him. Neither possibility had occurred to him. Why did I automatically think to miter the corners? Because I’d made those same joints probably ten thousand times in my life. So, it was a no brainer.

I walked away again, leaving him to make his cuts.

Next time I show up, he has made the cuts and welded three pieces together into a “U” shape utilizing miters but one corner was entirely out of square because he was completely welding each corner, as he went, so the weld shrinkage was pulling corners out of square. All he needed was to tack weld the corners, not finish welding, as he went, making sure each was square and not finish welding any joint until the entire cube was tack welded together.

He started welding the joints, but fortunately I came back before he’d gotten very far and had to explain how to control warpage. Do this by spreading the finish welds around the tack welded unit so, as the welds shrink on one side, you’re welding on the other so the shrinkage cancels each other out, rather than pulling the cube way out of square.

It was in the process of teaching him all of this that I realized that, although I teach people how to fly and how to gas weld, and am hyper-focused on the nuances of both, I’d never taught MIG welding or how to control the warpage and beads on structures like this. I do it on teaching gas welding all the time, but not on this. I hadn’t realized how many of the steel-working skills are automatic thoughts. These details range from clamping tubing to the bench or in a vice before cutting, or tack welding identical pieces to each other so they are all trimmed to length at the same time, down to sanding the burrs off the ends before aligning for a weld so the burrs don’t throw off the measurements. I had to stress that to hold dimensions when cutting, you have to make the decision to either leave the line, center it in the cutting wheel kerf or barely take the line. I even had to point out that, when you draw a line with a straight edge, the resulting line is a small distance away from the straight edge and it’s necessary to compensate for that for the lines to be exactly placed. Precision is the build-up of tiny details like that. However, after you’ve done the same kinds of procedures for a lifetime you don’t realize you’re doing it until you try to show someone else how to do it. It’s only then that we see how necessary it is that all of the tiny nuances that experience has tucked away in the corners of our thought processes be passed along.

At this point, we still don’t know if he got the job. However, whatever he learned from building that cube, I learned twice as much. In teaching it, I came away much smarter than I went in. That’s always a side benefit of teaching anything. bd

27 Mar 2021 - A Long-ago Tale of Fly-in Friends
It’s 5:31 Saturday morning and I’m late getting out the door for a full morning (four Pitts hops) and I’m hoping to get back shortly after noon for an afternoon of Banger Blacksmithing. I was flipping through some old files, just now, and ran across one of my old Grassroots columns from 2002 and, as we’re all gearing up for post-Pandemic fly-ins, it seemed apropos. It is, however, a little sad seeing how many friends have since passed. So, here it is.

Grassroots:
Plane and Pilot, May 2002

Fly-in Friends
With some friends it’s quality, not quantity that counts


There’s a blank page staring back at me. Images of the first day at a fly-in are hiding behind it. This time it’s Sun ‘n Fun 2002, but there have been other fly-ins. Hundreds of them. And after each one, a blank page stares at me expecting me to fill it. And each time, it somehow gets filled. Just as this one will. But I don’t yet know how.

As I sit here, free-associating and remembering, I think back to the people of the day. There were Mike and Margaret Wilson. He’s 82, flew P-38’s during The War, and flies a PT-22 today like it’s a super-slow magic carpet that wafts him over any horizon and any distance. Following not far behind, and often passing him, is Margaret, almost his age, in her fire-breathing TransAm. When they aren’t doing that, they are logging 20,000 miles a year on their matched Harleys (hers is chopped so she can touch the ground). Everyone I know wants to be Mike and Margaret when they grow up. No forget that—neither of the Wilsons has grown up, so we just want to be them, when we’re the same age. (Editor’s note from 2021: they were two of my favorite people!)

Curtis Pitts, he who has made our lives so special with his little biplanes, asked Tom Poberezny, who was driving him, to stop, while he got out to said hi. I gave him a hug. How could I not? So many would like to do the same, so my hug was from all of us to the man who has given us so much. We miss you Curtis!

K. T. dropped her head over my shoulder and gave me a little nuzzle while The Redhead and I were having lunch. We were delighted to see her. She and Syd were there with the B-25 and we made a date for dinner. There is so much about their lives I want to know. Among other things, they were part of Mel Fisher’s crew that found and salvaged the Spanish treasure ship, Atocha, and its millions in gold. But they have found gold in so many other ways. They are treasured friends.

Someone was asking about Yak 55Ms, when I glanced up and saw Patty striding through the crowd towards me. Her smile was as wide as the ramp and as bright as the polished Mustang behind her. We were glad to see one another and she swapped hugs with The Redhead (Patty calls her Marlooney) and me. Some people make you glad they are friends with nothing more than a smile and the sure knowledge that they are always there.

Carl popped up unannounced and we were so glad to see him that the electricity was instantaneous. The words were short. The time even shorter. Why don’t we see him more often? Gotta remedy that.

Then was Jim. We’ve been close friends for thirty years (Note from 2021; Now it’s nearly 50 years) but it seems like only thirty days. Or a couple of millenniums. At least a lifetime. Swirls of air show smoke obscured the horizon while we sat under the Grumman Avenger he had flown in and ironed out airplane building problems, cursed airport security and generally BS’d. We laughed. We picked on each other. It was an easy exchange in which we melded together as we always do. Nothing particularly important happened, other than the fact that we were at home with one another. That was important enough.

Fly-ins are people places, but, of the thousands milling around, you know only a few of them. They are like grains of sand on a huge beach, but somehow, year after year, you keep running into them. You’ll be walking along and someone hails you down. Hey, what’s new? How’s the project coming? Flying much? How’re the kids? You smile, you’re glad to see them. And you go on your way, knowing you probably won’t see them again until next year, although fortune may smile and you’ll bump into them at the next fly-in. You never know, but you look forward to it.

All of us know people whom we see only at fly-ins. A few of them, in our case, the Patty/Jim/Curtis category, are friends of the heart, and we work hard to hook up with them outside of the air show circuit. Sometimes we do, but not nearly often enough. The rest of the faces we search the crowd for might be labeled Fly-in Friends. They occupy a special corner of our hearts and minds and, even though time spent with them during the year can be measured in minutes, we see them as more than mere acquaintances. They are an erratic constant in our lives and hitting Oshkosh/Sun ‘n Fun/Watsonville/Etc. without seeing them makes those events seem a little smaller.

In all of these cases, our conversations are continuations of one we started last year. Or the year before. A few of those conversations have been in process since before the EAA Convention moved to Oshkosh in 1970. Added, up they probably total less than an hour in length. Still, I’m certain that both of us see our relationship as a strong one.

As I look back over the first day of this fly-in, I realize it has been a full one. And a good one. We touched base with many points in our friendship circle so we feel as if the day has been well invested. Fly-in friends make it that kind of a day.

PS
There were some airplanes there too.

15 Mar 2021 - Hat Symbology
Am I the only one who feels that we’re being judged for things we’ve never been judged for before? For instance, we’re now being classed by the way we wear our hats. However, even I see some sort of symbology in that.

Let’s take the lowly baseball hat as an example of hat-discrimination. Ignoring the concept of wearing a baseball hat backwards (I’m not sure what that says), and ignoring what’s emblazoned on the hat, let’s just take a look at the way the bill of said hat is shaped.

Both sides of the political aisle can be seen wearing baseball hats. No matter the politics nor the geographical location, every level of our culture and our society wears them. However, there seems to be a multi-level divide in how the bill should be curved. The curve of the bill seems to communicate something of the person’s possible cultural affiliation, their attitude and even their age.

There are two basic bill shapes: curved (with tightly-curved being a sub-set of curved), and absolutely flat. What do each say about the wearer? If anything.

Incidentally, I haven’t the foggiest why a hat bill is called a bill? Maybe because of the similarity to a duck bill? That’s not one of life’s facts that I’m going kill any neurons thinking about.

Also, in case you haven’t noticed, this is not a subject of Earth-shaking importance. ‘Just thought I’d ruminate on it.

Absolutely Flat Bills. Wearing the hat with a stone-flat bill is, to me anyway, a new phenomenon. I’d never seen anyone, anywhere wearing a hat like that, but now they’re all over the place. However, you never see them at rodeos, NASCAR races, honky-tonks, hotrod meets, shooting ranges, country music festivals, etc. Culturally, the right side of the aisle seems to want nothing to do with flat hat bills. Besides that, it appears that it’s universally understood that an adult looks pretty damn silly wearing a hat with a flat brim. Have you ever seen a gray dog wearing a flat-brim hat? No!! However, increasingly, they seem to be the proper social attire for the young. But, we all know how silly those folks are!

Tightly Curved Bill:
There are a couple of variations of the curved hat bill. They include mildly curved bills and curved-tighter-than-hell bills. Here’s a given: anyone can wear the normally curved bill and look fine, although some of us shouldn’t be wearing hats at all (I look like Mr. Potato Head in one but I wear them when flying anyway). However, the only folks who can get away with the super-tightly-scrunched bills have to have a physical look that matches the tight bill. You to be slim, with longer than normal hair and it helps if you have a couple days growth and are leading a horse behind you or getting out of a truck that has more rust than paint. You can’t be wearing silk shirts or pegged pants. And definitely not shorts. Denim is the obvious match to the hat.

Normal Curved Bill: You’ll see the normally curved bill showing up everywhere in society and in every culture. However, of late, we’re seeing a drift away from cowboy hats to worn baseball hats amongst country singers. This is okay as long as they are advertising John Deere, Colt or Ruger. Or even C. F. Martin or Gibson. However, a Titleist, Ping or Mercedes hat looks wildly out of place on a country stage. It may even be illegal!

Flat Bill
This is how a baseball hat is supposed to look!
flat bill.1
This is just WRONG!

And now for cowboy hats: One way of finding me at a fly-in is to look for the well-worn Stetson. I live in cowboy hats, when outside. Part of this is because I’m a small-town, country boy. Also, I wear them for the same reason cowboys do: At fly-ins we need the shade. However, in the last five years or so, even cowboy hats are going through a style change that I don’t quite understand, but it is neither cultural nor political. However, cowboy hats definitely belong to a specifical part of the political/cultural American spectrum. Politics doesn’t have much to do with them. For instance, when was the last time you saw Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer in a 4X (that’s high quality) Stetson? Think about that image. That’s actually pretty damn funny! Better yet, picture long time Congressman Jerry Nadler (5’3”) in a hat like Charlie Daniels’. That’s hysterical!

The change in cowboy hats I’m referring to is that there’s an emerging change in the way the brim is being shaped at the front. Increasingly, we’re seeing a shift away from the brim roll tightening as it comes to the front forming a sort of point, as opposed to a squarish shape in front. Truth is, is if you Google “Old Cowboy Pictures” and look at 1800s cowpunchers you’ll find that the true cowboys had no specific style to their hats. They were of the “form fits function” variety. So, the brims often had very little curve front to back but often had just a little rim around the brim, maybe to keep rain water more controllable.

When most of us think “cowboy hat”, we are visualizing hat brims that tighten toward the front. We think of them that way because it’s a shape favored by Hollywood. Those of us who have hats that show sweat stains from many decades of wear, seem to favor that shape because we came of age watching Westerns. Truth is, although I have three or four actual Stetsons, I’m most often seen in a hat that was custom made for me (at half the price of a real Stetson) by an exhibitor at a gun show who specialized in making hats that are apropos to the shape of the face under it. I have chubby cheeks so mine is a chubby-cheek hat that tones down the Mr. Potato Head effect. That having been said, I should mention that this week Hasbro announced that Mr. Potato Head has suffered gender elimination. He’s no longer a mister. Bummer!

I tend to associate the squarish brim cowboy hat with a younger generation, many of whom are actually working the land. So, they can get away with any shape they want. However, I see hats like those worn by country singers like Tim McGraw, that are actually hard-formed out of some sort of plastic and cost close to $1000, as costume hats. They are not of the cowboy variety.

Hat-Open Range
Hollywood Hats, but I love 'em !!
Hats-square front
The new look in working guy hats. I can live with it.

The Flag. The saddest trend in wearable symbology is the way that wearing the flag, either on a shoulder patch, as a tie or on a hat, evokes a negative thought pattern in some folks. Especially those on the left side of the aisle. Who ever thought that wearing the flag would be a problem? It denotes patriotism, which, itself somehow has a negative connotation in some quarters. Who’d a thunk?

Hat-Flag.Blue Line
A hat with a terrific message

The times, they are a changin’! Sometimes I can tolerate change. Sometimes I can’t. However, I’m willing to develop a little flexibility, but not when it comes to the flag. Enuff said? bd

7 Mar 2021 - On Rejoining the Work Force
This is being written at 0430 Sunday, March 7th, the day before I officially re-enter the work force by re-opening our little flight school. Like so many others, I’ll be changing mental gears to re-engage with the rest of the world and I have interesting, sometimes conflicting, thoughts about it. I’m not sure how typical they are, but I thought I’d share them.

As I said last week, the pandemic and the associated shutdowns constituted a form a stay-cation for us. For exactly 50 years, which is the time that has elapsed since I had my only W-2 type of job (and that one had me on the road 100% of the time), my businesses have ALWAYS been home based. So, being shut down wasn’t actually being shut down. Fortunately, during the shutdown, magazine editors were hard pressed for content, so my writing output was greatly increased. I did a ton of feature articles during the shutdown. A ton! So, I wasn’t sitting around doing nothing. However, I had the extreme luxury of free time because I wasn’t flying.

To fly one hour of Pitts dual-given takes two hours and fifteen minutes minimum because of the pre and postflight briefings, ground school, transit time, fitting cushions to saddle up, etc. I do that a minimum of twice a day which means that five hours a day, seven days a week, are consumed by flight instruction. That’s a 35-hour chunk on top of the 40-50 hours sucked up by the magazine business. So, beginning this week, I’m back to the 70-80 hour work weeks that have been the norm for my entire adult life. I’m not sure I’m ready for this. And I have a few negative feelings about it. However, it’ll be a huge relief to add the B & B income back to our revenue stream.

Oddly enough, the flight instruction, like the writing, doesn’t kick out enough revenue to even come close to paying the bills. However, I can’t NOT flight instruct! When the airplane was being rebuilt in 2006, it was down for 93 days and I was getting pretty antsy by the time it was ready to go. I was partway through the first test flight when a thought crossed my mind, “It wasn’t the flying I’ve been missing, but the instructing!” That sort of surprised me, but then, again, it didn’t.

I guess some people are just hardwired to be teachers. If they weren’t, we wouldn’t have teachers in our schools (most of them anyway), because there are a lot of aspects to that role that are a long way from being enjoyable. However, the dedicated teacher will tell you that they do it because they want to. Not because they have to. They look forward to it. In so many ways it is their identity. That’s exactly the way I see my flight instructing. I can’t imagine not living that role on a daily basis.

Also, to be honest about it, inasmuch as the Pitts has the reputation of being the hardest airplane in the world to land and that’s what I specialize in, I glory in meeting the challenge. Also, I’m fairly convinced that the little red airplane, combined with my having to meet so many editorial deadlines, has gone a long way towards keeping my thinking apparatus working. Both are challenges. Both are centered on problem solving, some of which requires instantaneous action on my part. I’m tempted to say that keeps me young, but, unfortunately, I don’t think anything can actually do that. However, I’m certain the challenges are at least slowing down the natural aging process. At least, when I’m on short final wondering whether this is going to be the one that bites me in the butt, that’s what I keep telling myself.

Even though I’m looking forward to sliding down into the cockpit with a student tomorrow, which I know is the one place where I’m supposed to be, I’m going to miss a few pandemic positives. I’m going to miss watching the news with Marlene over lunch. Even though both of our work days are spent in the house, usually on computers, we only see each other, as we breeze past in the hall racing to meet our next commitment. So, thanks to Covid, we’re reconnected. I’m going to miss the feeling on Friday nights of knowing that the next day is going to be spent entirely in the shop making sparks as the Banger car forges ahead. I’m going to miss the comfortable feeling of knowing, when I sit down at the keyboard, that I’ll have the day to do the article and do it right. Starting tomorrow, I’ll be constantly comparing the words on the screen to what the clock in the upper right hand of the screen says. And I’ll know that almost every weekend will be a combination of writing and flying. That’s hardly a bad combination, but my workshop projects will suffer. Not a good feeling considering that the age-clock that every graydog has ticking in his head is continually getting louder.

The good news is that the nation still exists and is coming out of hibernation. Some parts of it are more awake than others, but the people are stirring. Plus, just FYI, even though the Redhead and I have our vaccinations, we’re going to continue to distance and wear masks as the B & B reopens. Why not? It can’t hurt.

So, look out world, we’re back! bd

27 Feb 2021 - A Banger Report
And now for news on a much less complicated, of no importance, doesn’t need a vaccine front: A couple of readers have asked how The Banger car project is going, so this is going to be a short progress report. If you’re not into nuts and bolts, hit delete and I’ll see you next week. I understand.

As I’ve mentioned, the Pandemic, for our household at least, was a form of stay-cation and, for the most part pretty enjoyable. We don’t make have an eating-out habit and, in truth, don’t have much of a social life. Our B & B guests fill that role, but that stopped in March of last year. It will start up again this year on April 4, when our first B & B guests of 2021 arrive. So, not splitting our house with someone else and me not leaving for the airport early every morning, let us concentrate that was going on within the four walls of ourselves. That included The Banger race car project.

I don’t remember where I was the last time I talked about the car, but it has made major moves forward courtesy of the pandemic lockdown. I built the frame from scratch and I mean by scratch: The entire thing was made of flat 10-gauge cold roll steel (.134) not rectangular tubing, like you would a hotrod frame. I was trying replicate the way it would have been done around 1932-34, which is the supposed period of the car I started with.

I purchased the car thinking I’d be able to use most of what was there, but, it didn’t take long to realize it was not only a non-running car but just about everything about it was not worth trying to restore. It was at least two and probably three cars, that someone had tried to cobble together to race, but they never came close: Nothing was joined in such a way that it could have been driven. The rear radius rods and suspension, for instance, besides being laughably crude, were dimensioned all wrong: The radius rods were pivoted a full six inches behind the front U-joint so things would have broken the first time it hit a bump. Plus, most of the welding couldn’t have been more poorly done. Everything about the engine and transmission mounting was bogus and I didn’t know whether the engine itself, a 1930-31 Model A , was worth trying to save either. So, inasmuch as this was going to be the only old race car project I’d ever do and I planned on driving it on the street, I had a 1930 Model A race engine (still a flathead, not an overhead conversion) built. I adapted that to a 1939 3-speed Ford transmission, which would give me sychromesh gears in 2nd and 3rd. A stock Model A trans has no synchro anywhere.

The car’s saving grace was that the cowl and tail aluminum had great lines and were definitely worth saving, if given a lot of welding and massaging. I thought I could save the nose too, but it turned out to be horribly cracked everywhere and wildly out of line. Also, I loved the wheels which are actually 1930 Model A 19” centered laced to 16” Ford V-8 rims. Very rusty but period looking and would clean up. The steering box also was worth saving.

I finished the frame, got the engine, suspension and transmission mounted and totally rebuilt the steel framework that framed the cockpit and mounted the firewall. There were many yards of cutting and welding to make that framework square and presentable. I made up new steel angles (actually split 1/16” wall rectangular tubing so they’d have square corners) for mounting the aluminum body work to the frame.

So, a month or so ago I had a car that looked more or less like a car but needed stuff I couldn’t do. I can’t do the aluminum work but I have a friend here in town who is an aluminum wizard and can make aluminum do anything wanted of it. The car just returned from a couple weeks at his place where he hammered out a new nose, , repaired and mounted the cowling and tail and hooked up the steering arm to the front end I had put together. Now it not only looks like a car, but IS a car.

An alignment issue popped up while he was doing that and after it came home I had to strip everything off the frame to check it for square again thinking that might be the problem. But, it’s not. The diagonals are less than 1/16” different. However, I found that the center bolt in the rear spring was nearly 3/8” off center (!) so the differential was off to one side and, with the old Ford torque tube, where the differential is always rigidly mounted 90 degrees to the drive shaft and won’t correct alignments, it changed the wheel base from the left to the right. So, right now I’m fabricating another rear crossmember that will compensate for that.

When the new rear crossmember is in, the car will need all of its systems fabricated and installed, (brakes, electrical, fuel, radiator, etc.), but that’s duck soup compared to all the designing, measuring, welding, etc.that’s been going on for the last year or so. Plus, everything about the car is right out in the open so working on that kind of stuff is embarrassingly easy compared to the same thing on The Roadster, where everything was crammed together and impossible to get at. Even when it’s totally assembled, the Banger is like working on a naked car.

Banger in Street


I was hoping to have it finished by my birthday next year, which is 1 March, but I don’t know if I’ll make it. I get my second Covid shot March 3 and will go back to flying March 8, which means I’ll be back to 80-hour work weeks and no weekends. So, work on the Banger will slow down.

I’m probably one of the very few who, in some ways, has negative feeling about seeing lockdowns and pandemic restrictions coming to an end. Now, I actually have to go back to work. Oh, well, I knew that sooner or later I was going to have leave Disneyland. bd

19 Feb 2021 - Perseverance and Hozro
Right up front I want to say how incredibly impressed I am with the human race this week: There we were watching a manmade object land on Mars. It’s just another of the science-fiction-come-true things we’re become accustom to.

The Perseverance landing had an emotion edge to it because we were in the control room sharing the tension and the excitement with those who made it happen. It’s like we were all sharing a miracle we had helped create. I got choked up just watching.

However, the most amazing bit of science fiction to come to life was last year when I watched two of Space X’s boosters back down to landings at the same time in perfect unison. Ming the Merciless had arrived! Only the gray dogs among you will get that reference.

On a different tact, but sharing a little of the spiritual/emotional stuff was something that came out of an e-mail I received a couple days ago. The writer was trying to locate a Grassroots column I had written years ago and could I forward it to him. Another absolute miracle happened when I was able to find the original draft of it. I had written it in 2002!!! In reading it, I felt as if it was something worth sharing. So, here it is.

Grassroots 2002
Hozro

Hozro: now there’s a word you don’t run across every day. It’s an interesting word, because in two syllables it sums up something that would make many of us much happier if we worked towards it. Hozro is the Navajo word, which, if I understand it correctly, denotes a concept in which you strive for balance within yourself, with the natural world around you and with the spirituality which that world contains.

I mention this because, as I look around my own life and those of my friends, I’m becoming increasingly conscious of some sort of thematic thread that ties the many aspects of their lives together. Yes, we’re almost all aviators. But, more than simply being aviators, we are serious aviators and our interest is more than an interest. It’s not something we do. It’s who we are.

I remember hearing The Redhead on the phone a few years back, when it looked as if selling the Pitts would be a smart financial move. She was talking to a friend, and said, “...and I told him no way! The Pitts is part of the man I fell in love with and he’ll never be without it. Not, if I have anything to do about it.” Early on, she had gained an appreciation for how things fit together in my life and what part the little red airplane plays in it.

Aviation, however, is really only a small part of the harmony I’m seeing in those around me because there’s something there that indicates an Anglo form of Hozro, of an effort to seek a balance. Each of the people I’m close to have many different interests which go in many different directions and it would be easy to say the only common trait between them is aviation. But, that’s wrong. There is something much less tangible there that indicates a subliminal understanding that to maintain a balance there’s more to life than flying.

Most of us Anglos have a difficult time understanding the way cultures like the Navajos’ look at life. They definitely do not see themselves as one entity, their environment as another and their spirtual beliefs as yet another. They see them all as parts of a whole. Their religious beliefs and their identity as a people spring from the land and everything blends together with no borders between spirituality, life and the world. Their religion, if you want to call it that, is simply the way they live their lives.

In a way, that’s what I see in those people around me who have attained their own form of hozro. The people whom I see as being truly satisfied with their lives have all developed a delicate balance between their passions, what they do and who they are. These people radiate a quiet confidence that has nothing to do with how much they earn, what they say, how they dress or what they fly. In fact, we run across those kinds of personalities so seldom, they often stick out because, in a world full of high profiles, they don’t feel driven to establish a profile at all, and that’s unusual. They are just there, quietly doing what they do and enjoying their lives.

I said aviation wasn’t the unifying trait between these people and it’s not. If there’s a unifying trait it is their passionate interest in, and an urge to understand, just about everything they come in contact with. They have a total appreciation for their lives and they know they can’t focus on just one thing and be the person they want to be. If they did, the balance wouldn’t be there. Even if aviation is their central interest, they know there are many other factors which must be included in their lives or there would be no balance. It would be a good life, but not a balanced one. And, when a life is unbalanced, an almost imperceptible anxiety often lurks within and reminds us things aren’t quite right.

I’d like to say I’ve attained a state of Hozro , but, I haven’t. Few Anglos do. Still, the most important thing about not being in total harmony with your world is realizing that’s the case and refusing to accept it. Those of us who constantly seek a balance eventually reach it. Those who don’t feel it’s necessary, however, don’t stand a chance. bd

7 Feb 2021 - Insecurity as a Way of Life
As a rule, I don’t get depressed or anywhere close to it. And I don’t get up-tight. I can let lots of stuff roll off my back. Sometimes it’s stuff I should probably react to more than I do. Oh, wait…I may have just told a couple of lies.

First, most of my friends and students have said I’m very laid back but in a very intense sort of way. I’m not sure how to interpret that, but it’s a common evaluation. I think it has to do with the fact that, although I’m hyper passionate about the stuff I do, it’s sort of a quiet but very strong passion. It’s not an evangelistic form in which I’m on a soap box pushing it on others. The sole exception might be how I feel about perfecting flying skills.

All that having been said, I want to describe a surprising, but, fortunately, short term, episode that happened last weekend that showed me a forgotten side of myself. I’m sharing this only because I’m certain some of the readers here are moving into the same phase of life and are having the same thoughts. Not one thing I’m going to mention is unique to me.

I haven’t flown a student since last March because of Covid, but I’m supposed to get my first vaccine shot this week and, hopefully, I’m going to get the needle jockeys to do Marlene at the same time. Then I can start flying the more than 30 folks on my Pitts waiting list. In support of that, I’ve made it a habit to fly at least twice a month to make sure neither the airplane nor I develop any rust. One of those hops was early last Sunday.

It had been a decent hop during which I made five landings. all of which were above average for me, so I should have been in a good mood. However, as I was driving home, I had a series of disturbing thoughts invade my mood.

The plan for the day was that, when I got home I was going to concentrate on the final shaping of the butt stock for one of my rolling block single-shot rifle projects, of which I have five in process. This in addition to four muzzle-loading rifles, two Mausers bolt actions (one a 1000-yard target, iron sighted target piece) and one Martini range rifle. As I drove, my brain was skipping from rolling block to rolling block trying to decide which one to jump on as soon as I got home. As I mentally monitored the selection process my brain was going through, a really sad, totally disruptive and totally unexpected thought popped up and overwhelmed the thoughts in progress: As plain as day, my brain said, “There is no possible way you can finished all of the rifles you’re working on in the time you have left. None! You won’t live that long. You’ll be lucky to finish The Banger car and The Roadster.”

It was as if some outside force was using my brain to make a logical observation that I had obviously been keeping from myself.

DAMN!!!! That was a really upsetting thought. In a nano second, I was in a funk. At that moment, I suddenly realized, why my father, who died at 91, was on Prozac for the last decade or so of his life: When “The End” is close enough that it is no longer a theoretical concept and is staring you in the face, it’s hard not to develop a “Why try?” attitude. Nothing has any worth because the time is so short. Who gives a crap!?

By the time I got home, I was a total waste of space. I wandered into the front room, slumped into a chair, and just sat there. My brain was awash in negative thoughts. I hadn’t seen that side of me in over 30 years, when my first marriage and much of my life had split-S’d into the ground. What the hell?! I don’t get depressed. Who/what had invaded me?

My hand automatically flipped the TV on and the images of the guys on Iron Resurrection constructing a new frame to put under a heavily modified ’55 Chevy popped up. Sparks were streaming out of angle-head grinders with cutoff wheels. MIG welders were making the so-identifiable bacon-frying sounds. Bits of unrelated steel were being combined to create something very unique and cool.

There was something very calming and affirming about the process I was watching. In about ten minutes I was very conscious of my negative thought patterns fading. The sure knowledge that I was never going to get everything finished was mutating into something else. The negativism was slowly being replaced by a plan of action. The plan in hand, my attitude changed from one of defeat to one of facing a challenge: Time is short, so I can’t waste any of it. That was hardly a new thought. Out of that came a new set of Rules of Engagement in terms of finishing projects.

The Banger Car and The Roadster would be top priority, in that order. However, short periods of time, an hour or so, would be interspersed between automotive endeavors and aimed at the rifles. Without any conscious thought, those were also prioritized. The new butt stock for the 38-55 was number one as it was already fitted, had the butt plate attached and was half way through final shaping. The pecking order of the other rifle projects fell in behind that one.

Negative thoughts and funks are hard to avoid. I fight ‘em like everyone else, but I’ve found that if I start wrestling them as soon as they arrive, they don’t turn into real depression. In my experience, depression is often the culmination of us creating, and then feeding on, our own negative thoughts. The way I beat them back is to step into the shop and start making sawdust or sparks.

By the time the Resurrection Iron guys (the Martin Brothers) had the Chevy together at the end of the show, I had wrestled my negative thoughts to the ground and hustled out to the shop with a goal in mind: I’ll work as hard as I can, as fast as I can, for as long as I can and, when I hear them closing the oven door at the crematorium, I’ll know the race is over and I can stop pushing.

BTW – Never finish all of your projects. We always need something to look forward to. bd

30 JAN 2021 - Night Owls vs Morning Folk vs the World
This week I was in a conversation with a friend about work habits and sleep patterns and it reminded me of something that semi-revolutionized my work habits. I didn’t invent it, but I certainly live by it and others may benefit from hearing about it.

First, however: Now that we’re into the new administrative regime and we see which direction it’s going, I’m going to try not to talk about politics. There’s enough of that on the web and the news and frankly I don’t think any of it is helping our mental health. However, I am going to put a You-Tube link at the end of this treatise that I think every 2nd Amendment supporter should watch.

About work habits: Years ago, I stumbled across an article in a medical journal that was talking about what makes some folks “morning people” while others are “night owls”. What it explained sounds like bio-rhythm theory but it’s not. It said that most people have two energy peaks during the day that may be two to four hours apart. We have no control over when they occur, how strong they are or anything else. They are simply baked into our DNA, and when they occur is what determines whether you’re a morning or a night person.

Like a lot of folks, without understanding them, I’ve always been very aware of those peaks and for most of my life I’ve scheduled my days around them. They are at 4:30 pm and 10:30 pm so, like it or not, I was a night owl, continually working until midnight or 0100 and not getting up until 0700-0730. Those were, and still are, my most creative hours and when I do most of my drafting of articles, etc. My first wife was a morning person there was constant conflict in that area.

Then, in ’92, I moved to AZ.

When I came out here, I was instantly put in charge of running a 75-man operation (manufacturing and mail order sales) that started at 0530. If I’m running something, I want to be there before the crew arrives and be the last one out the door at night. So, I arrived at 0515, forcing myself out of the sack at 0430 or so. This was six days a week for nine very intense months and it reset, or at least revised, my body clock. However, my most creative hours were still late in the afternoon and evening.

I should also mention that my body clock has always been cast in concrete and lets me have six to six and a half hours of sleep. Period! I never use alarm clocks. I just wake up. I know that at my age, I’m supposed to get eight hours, but you’d have to drug me to make me sleep that long. I don’t do that on purpose. It just happens.

During the period, when I first got here and my body clock was being reset, I became very aware of a difference in the way my brain worked early morning versus early evening. I wrote better and easier in the late afternoon/evening, but I was much better at editing and doing any kind of detailed analysis, engineering, planning, etc. in the early morning. I also start drinking a half dozen cups of coffee a day. When I left that company, I had to cut back on the coffee and retrain that part of my system because it was so dependent on the caffeine that I’d have a slump after lunch and my body begged for more caffeine. Now I’m doing two cups in the early morning and that’s it for the day.

So, now I run my days based on what I learned during that period and have kept my body clock set to what it became during that time: Up 0430-0500, depending on what my body feels like doing, but I try hard to give myself a six and a half window to sleep. And I do all of my detailed, left-brain stuff in the morning and my more creative, free-thinking, right-brain stuff in the late afternoon/evening. I do the editing of what I’ve written the morning of the day after it’s written.

I’m positive that most folks reading this are aware of their morning/evening differences without thinking about it. Hopefully, the foregoing explains those differences and ya’ll will find it helpful.

Here’s the link I mentioned. It’s a pretty damn unbelievable bill, H.R. 127. Google it and you’ll find the text in a lot of places. Supposedly, it’s not likely to pass, but it definitely shows what’s being attempted and where the government’s head is at! https://youtu.be/BNtiFDQTTNM

24 JAN 2021 - We'll Survive!
I’m sitting here, four days after the inauguration, trying to organize my thoughts but am finding I can’t. They are going in too many directions. However, the central one goes back to the last line of the Thinking Out Loud I did two weeks ago. “View all of that outside crap as distant entertainment and ‘Let that Sh*t go!’

Surprisingly, I’m neither upset nor full of dread. It’s a classic case of “it is what it is.” I do see the character of half of the population being assaulted from many sides. They’re calling us all sorts of names and proposing all sorts of penalties and restrictions. But, you know what? I can’t, and you can’t, immediately do a damn thing about it. Denigrating half of the population has become the norm and we’d better get used to it. If we don’t let it roll off our backs, we’ll be a nation of ulcers.

Right now, we have to hope that those who we sent to Washington do what they were sent there to do. They have some major chores ahead of them but the most important may be, as I’ve said before, verifying the election process. Personally, I think that, given what has happened in DC in the first four days of the new era, I’m fairly certain many of the announced policies will have the effect of eventually changing many voters’ minds so the mid-terms should help right the ship. That, however, assumes the electoral process works as it should. If it works, the mid-term elections will solve a lot of our perceived problems. Or at least prevent them from getting worse.going to have to live with. Among them, much higher taxes, a border that might as well not be there, a government size that will grow in leaps and bounds and a ton of regulations and policies that will slow the economy, cause businesses to go overseas (again), etc. Again, that train has left the station. There’s no way to

Although the mid-terms may help, until then, there are some things we’re just prevent it so it shouldn’t raise our blood pressure. However, the important stuff—our home, family and friends—are the things over which we have some control and affect us directly. Those we need to worry about. The rest we have to continue to monitor, but we can’t let them consume us. Nothing is less effective than a warrior who has let his/her emotions overcome their logic and tactical awareness (Davisson, 2021).

While this is all going on, like so many of my peers, I’m battling increasing personal pressure from insurance companies about my age and my flying. This is becoming a nationwide problem that I’ll get into in a later blog as soon as some of the facts become clearer and I see what the road ahead entails. However, believe me, this has the makings of a disaster for a large segment of the flying public.

If there is any good news out there, it is that the vaccines are starting to roll out. Marlene and I start ours in mid-Feb and I think I’ll have the flight school and B & B in full operation by the end of March. That’ll make it exactly a year since I’ve flown a student. Who’d a thunk?! Right now, I have over 30 students on the waiting list, so I’ll go back to not having weekends or easy week days, but that’s not a bad thing.

Another piece of personal good news, is that my 1930s race car that I’m putting on the street, The Banger (so-called because it’s powered by a 1930 Model A Ford four-banger flathead), is presently in the aluminum hospital. We have one of those rare craftsmen in town who can make aluminum sheet do anything he wants it to do, so he’s doing the body repairs and upgrading. He’s also doing a little machine work (chopping drive shaft, rebuilding steering box, etc.). So, when it comes back to me in a couple of weeks the project becomes one of fabricating and installing systems (brakes, electrical, fuel, etc.), which is super simple compared to building the frame, the gas tank, etc. because, being an open wheel race car, all of those systems are right out where you can see them.

Circling back to the political stuff: The world has not, nor will it, come to an end. Although there are going to be some dire changes that make many of us unhappy, we will survive (I think). Just know that the American spirit that has taken us through pandemics, wars and political upheavals in the past is still healthy enough to see us through again. So, hang in there! bd

16 JAN 2021 - Thoughts From the Fog of War We're Living in
What a week! However, we’ve had a lot of those. What the hell is going on?! For nearly a year, every Saturday, we’d be thinking that we’ve just seen the week of all weeks but, they just seem to keep coming. What follows are thoughts from the fog of war ingulfing us.

I started writing this a week, ago, Jan 9, but life got in the way and I’m just now, Jan 16, finishing it. That’s another amazing week gone by. This is a helluva way to start to start a new year!

First, the topic of the month: the DC invasion. Regardless of how you spin it, Trump was wrong to fire up the crowd. However, from a transcript of the speech it would appear that what transpired went well past what he expected to happen. And investigations appear to be saying that the early reports about what happened may not be correct. However, telling something like 45,000 people to march down to the Capital and make their displeasure known was almost guaranteed to backfire. I think the phrase “unintended consequences” fits here.

As part of the invasion aftermath, a major truth has surfaced via the actions of the tech companies that is, in my mind, more important than the event itself: I’m talking about the clear understanding of the degree of control a very small number of tech company presidents have over the nation—they control the information flow so they control the country. Social media Has absolute control of what the country sees and thinks. They dwarf network or cable news in terms of information flow and their control of it. Today, social media is more than social. It is an armor-coated intertwining of politics and culture and that doesn’t bode well for our future.

This week we’ve heard vague mentions of monopolies and restraint of trade, but, what we should have been hearing is huge outcries and officials pledging to look into tech company collusion. I’m saying this even though I feel that corporations are too often targets of unwarranted anger. However, in this case, I don’t think enough anger (and fear) is being demonstrated by the public or the media. But, then, we’re transitioning into an entirely new time that has a different way of seeing the world and we have little or no control over it. I’m not sure I can adequately adjust to that.

Normally, right here I’d inject something about the way a population controls its government is via the ballot box. However, for the first time in our history, much of the population is doubting the ballot box. This is not healthy for us. It is not even remotely the America we know and love.

The same thing could be said about the whole logic of impeaching an executive who only has a little over a week in office left (now just four days). Congressional vitriol of this level aimed at destroying a single individual has never been seen before. This is also not healthy. However, the most threatening aspect of it is the precedent it sets. By taking such a dramatic action with neither an investigation nor giving the accused a chance to defend himself and zooming through the entire procedure in a single day has set the stage for the same thing to happen should the other party be in control. It has made implementing snap decisions on a national level into a norm. This is not only scary but drives the wedge between the two factions even deeper. I started voting in 1960, 60 years ago, and I’ve never seen the country even close to being so divided. It is sad in the extreme.

What the most recent facts to come out of the investigations into the capital invasion pointed out to me is several things. First, I’m amazed and appreciative of the way in which the FBI has found and prosecuted those responsible for the invasion of the Capital itself. Second, it points out how many crazies are taking advantage of the situation, not to enforce their beliefs or to make a point, but simply to destroy and generally engage in anachronistic, anti-government behavior. As I sit here right now, four days from the inauguration, that statement about the past couple of weeks is what worries me the most. There is a crazy element out there that belongs to neither side and is raising hell just because they can.

Actually, I’m more than simply worried about the crazy element. I’m terrified that they’re going to do something dangerous and stupid during the inauguration that will give the left even more ammunition against the right. Or vice versa. Both sides have their share of crazies.

Regardless of who does what, anything that goes wrong is going to widen a divide that already looks as if it is too wide to bridge. The last sentence is exactly what the ANTIFA mindset is trying to accomplish. They want to divide us and destroy America. We can’t let that happen. If the anarchists win, both sides have lost.

I’m hoping that next Saturday I can reflect on a week in which a smooth/peaceful transition of power happened with no drama. As a nation, we desperately need a boring week. bd

1 JAN 2021 - So, How is the New Year Going so Far?
As I’m sitting here, the first day of the new year is just now drawing to a close. How is your year going so far? Is 2021 living up to your expectations? So far, 18 hours into the new year, my version of 2021 is actually pretty good. I wonder if I can keep it that way?

Official local sunrise was 0732. My watch said it was 0734 when my left hand started forward and the bark of an unmuffled IO-360 Lycoming proceeded to wake up the neighbors. The tower had verified that the OAT was 38 degrees. In Zonie-speak that translates as “damn cold” with the alternative translation being “Fat air! It’s going to be a kick-butt flight.” And it was. My little red mind-blower blasted through pattern altitude long before we reached the end of the runway. It was glorious and at that moment I decided that 2021 was going to be whatever I would make it to be. I wasn’t going to let things I couldn’t control alter my mood or my mindset and I’ll minimize what they do to my life. To quote the title of a cute little book by Monica Sweeney (Castle Point Books) that someone had given the AZ Red Head, I’m going to ‘Let That Sh*t go!” I wasn’t going to let national external happenings infect my personal life.

It could be said that 2021 has an easy act to follow: 2020 didn’t make anyone happy. It is so hard to remember that the past year actually saw some monumental things happen, many of which are fading in our memory. It’s hard to remember, for instance that, while Covid lurked in the background and had yet to grab any headlines, that the President was being impeached. That’s a landmark event, that seems like it happened in another lifetime because we’re now remembering the developing phases of Covid as a way of remembering time.

The word “pandemic”, which was previously seldom heard in normal conversation, is now in common usage. However, hidden within the textbook definition of “pandemic” is the phrase “…prevalent over the entire country or the world.” Looking at it that way, it could be said that we actually had three or four pandemics all happening at the same time because worldwide things were going to hell in a handbasket.

Underlying the life threatening, soul-sucking aspects of Covid 19 was a pandemic, or maybe an epidemic, of politicization. Everything having to do with everything was infected with politics. Every aspect of what remained of our lives was viewed through a right or left prism, which fractured our views in such a way that no matter how something turned out, it left a bad taste in your mouth.

An additional infection that’s the result of politicization was the pandemic level of distrust that has altered the way in which we look at just about every form of authority. It’s difficult to name anything that a majority of the country doesn’t distrust. This begins with the media (including the purveyors of social media, the mega companies) and works up through our various levels of government. A lot of previously sacrosanct bodies, from the church to the Boy Scouts to the NRA, whatever, now exist under an umbrella of distrust. There is nothing at the national level in which we have total, or even partial, faith. For instance, who on God’s green Earth ever thought there’d be a debate about whether we needed law enforcement or not! Damn! Maybe Shakespeare had it wired, when he said 'Now is the winter of our discontent', the first line of Richard III, 1594. The second line of the play is 'To be made a glorious summer by the son of York', referring to a politician or whatever who was going to save the day.

Given our current situation, is there anyone on either side of the aisle who honestly believes someone is going to gallop in and right our ship? Nope, we’re still pretty much adrift in a perfect storm of wildly divergent views of the direction our country should take in the future. This is pretty damn hard to believe, given that for most of our lives whether the words were coming down from a pulpit, a DC chamber or our local Boy Scout troop leader, right or left, they all pointed in the same general direction: The goals were a happy, healthy population and a country with a solid belief in the worth of its people and the concrete guidance of our Constitution. That’s no longer true. Now everyone in power at any level seems to have an agenda that is focused more on power for the party or the corporation than the good of the people.

Basically, I guess what I’m saying (I think) is that in 2021 we can no longer depend on any official body to look out for our wellbeing. To a certain extent I feel as I imagine the Pilgrims felt when they stepped off the Mayflower and realized they truly were strangers in a strange land and they were on their own. They had to develop a beachhead and what happened from that point on was totally dependent on their own resourcefulness and determination. To a certain extent that’s how I’m feeling right now; Semi-alone and focused on my life-partner, my family and my friends. I’m going to first, ignore the wolves at the door and, at the same time, develop the mental and financial firepower to stop whatever wolf comes through that door dead in its tracks.

When the air is fat and something like a Pitts Special is speaking to you, although you’re barely touching it, there is a feeling of oneness, a solidarity that’s difficult to describe. For whatever reason, that’s how I’m feeling about the life that lays ahead. Regardless of what happens in Georgia in a couple of days, which will be monumental in terms of what happens in DC, the truth is that it still comes down to our own personal beachhead and those with whom we’ve chosen to surround ourselves in defense of our own lives. We have little or no control over anything past that. So, we can’t let those outside factors color our lives or our thoughts. View all of that outside crap as distant entertainment and “Let that Sh*t Go!” bd

25 Dec 2020 - Welcome to the Humbug Zone

It’s Christmas day. More correctly, as I start typing this it is exactly 0356 Christmas morning. No, I’m not up waiting for Santa. I’m up because I woke up at 0330 and couldn’t shut my brain off. A mind is a terrible thing to waste. So, here I am.

Christmas 2020 might as well have been cancelled. At least in our household, which hopefully doesn’t reflect what’s happening in many others. The pandemic, the politics, the pressures of making a living and an overall feeling of…I don’t know how to describe it…maybe, “nothingness” has just sucked the air out of the season. For the first time ever, we don’t have a tree and didn’t even make the effort to put up our exterior Christmas lights (note, that I don’t say Xmas, even I think it should be called what it is). This is indicative of our general lack of cheer and energy because our neighborhood is afire with decorations and blow-up Santas, elves and things that look like a cross between the Michelin Man and cupie dolls. Even when we’re not in humbug mode and have our lights up, they are nothing but those laser projectors that shoot moving, multicolored dots all over the cacti and front of the house. They are the lazy man’s way of decorating. So, when we don’t even do that, which makes us the dark spot on the street, that shows how low our seasonal energy is.

For whatever reason, me sitting here in the dark typing conjures up the image of one of my better Christmas mornings when I was about eight years old. I had sneaked out to the tree before anyone got up and retrieved one of my presents. It was a mechanized, die-cast, wonderfully detailed WW I artillery piece. About eight inches long, it had a working breech system that, when opened, accepted the cast lead artillery shells that were made in two pieces: slug and casing. The casing contained a spring and a hook-shaped part of that spring protruded through the slug and locked it in place. After locking the breech closed, when I moved a lever on the breech, it unlocked the slug and fired it half way across the room. I had a flash light in bed with me and my covers over me like a tent while I played with my new toy. I was in heaven!

That artillery piece and all its accessories, including the loading plate for the “cartridges” sits on the shelf to my right, as I type.

To a certain extent, that memory saddens me. I hate to see Christmas reduced to being just another day, and in many lives, that’s what has happened. The first step is always when your kids are no longer kids. Kids are the magic that makes the day. The second step is when the family splinters as everyone begins their own lives and scatter. Then, if a divorce is involved, that divides that family, further fracturing the life forces that make Christmas day a family affair. And then the pandemic came along. The Chinese Christmas Curse flattened the lead-up to the day and pretty much sucked the life out of it. However, I have a suggestion that, at least in our household, may help. Let’s not cancel Christmas. Let’s just postpone it.

So, as of today, Christmas 2020 for the Clan Davisson, is being moved to July 4th, 2021. This year’s stand-out Christmas gift, one that will keep on giving, is the arrival of the vaccines. I’m hoping that by mid-summer a semblance of life, which includes the wonderfulness of the Oshkosh Fly-in, will return us to something close to normal. So, during today, Christmas 2020, I’m going to root around in the storage shed out back, find our Christmas wreaths and laser lights, and put them where I can find them in July.

I’m not kidding one damn bit. Come July, we might be the only house on the block with Christmas lights and more than our usual one American flag, but at least a little of the right kind of spirit will have returned to our household. If any of you reading this agree, let’s start a national Christmas-in-July movement. You can sign up by hanging your Christmas lights in July (however, I hate those blow up things) as a sign that the pandemic cocoon has opened and the long-overdue butterfly of the American spirit is once again aloft. Screw politics! Screw China! Hooray America! Hooray family! We may not be there yet, but we’re on the way and let’s make July our returning-to-life celebration. We owe it to ourselves.

God help us, if China’s gift to humanity is still standing on our chest in July! bd

20 Dec 2020 - A Tooth, a Life Span and Ugly Decisions
Life, beginning-to-end is a series of decisions, many of which involve the age-old question “How much does it cost and how long will it take to pay it off?” The time-versus-cost ratio is always in the back of our minds. Usually money is the deciding factor. But, not always.

There comes a time in life, and I’m betting many of you reading this are coming into that period, when time becomes a bigger factor than cost. When most of us financed our first car in our 20’s and saw that we’d be paying on it for three to five years, we just shrugged our shoulders and soldiered on. When our first house mortgage was for 30 years, we totally ignored the time it would take to pay it off and focused on what it was going to cost a month. We live most of our lives making those kinds of decisions: The cost per month far out-weighs any time concerns. Then, that thought pattern begins to change. I had a rather startling example of that recently.

Inasmuch as Covid shut down my little flight school and, more important, the B &B where Marlene routinely makes more money/day than I do flying, our cash flow took a pretty good hit. This is on top of bailing from Flight Journal last year. However, the writing income has expanded because editors are starved for material. So, we’re keeping our heads above water. On the good side, progress on the Banger car has accelerated rapidly because not flying means I have weekends. Fortunately, the Banger hasn’t affected our cash flow at all because I had it totally covered by having sold some assets including my artillery piece (sniff, sniff) and some guns combined with money I had squirreled away in the past. Then, last week I went in for a $150 teeth cleaning and came out with a future bill of over $5,000. That also won’t affect our cash flow but knocks the crap out of the Banger project. However, I can figure the Banger stuff out. What is difficult is comparing the total cost of putting in a new post and tooth against the length of time it’ll be used.

Again, I’m betting a lot of you reading this can identify with what I’m about to explain via a little tooth-history. BTW – I’ve written literally hundreds, maybe thousands, of articles on historical airplanes, guns, cars, etc but this will be the first historical treatise on a tooth. Hang in there, I’ll be making a point.

The tooth in question, which is technically known as Number Three (third from the back, top right) and is the first one in front of the molars. Prior to the latest dental drama, it had been capped at least twice. Around $1,500/each. We’ll average that at a total of $2,500.

Then in a matter of a few months This one tooth needed
- A root canal through the cap to protect the tooth next to it - $1,700
- A tooth cleaning revealed decay. New cap: $1,700
- Two weeks ago, X-rays said that tooth had to come out and a post installed, $5,400

So, the grand total spent on that one tooth, which is going to disappear is $11,300 during its life!!! HOLY CRAP!!!

The $5,400 for this current excavation project has to come out of the Banger account, so I’m lucky I have the money to pay it.

In one year I will have spent $8,900 on one frigging tooth! I figure I’ll only be using that tooth for another ten or twelve years so my cost of hanging onto that one tooth for the rest of my life is approx. $900/year, $75/month which isn’t tax deductible so I have to make right at $100/month pre-tax to afford that one tooth. Damn!

This is where the time thing comes into play. Am I willing to pay $100/month for the rest of my life to have that tooth working for me? Inasmuch as chewing right now without it is a real pain in the butt I would say, yeah, I’m willing to do that. But I don’t like to let time become part of my decision making process. I’ve never done that before. Now, I have to.

It used to be that saying “…for the rest of my life” really didn’t mean that much. However, now it does because evaluating time is based on a logarithmic scale in which the value of time increases exponentially as we watch it disappear. The less we have, the more we value it. Or at least we should. Sadly, many don’t.

I know entirely too many people my age who sleep late and spend their days in a lounge chair in front of the TV with a six pack at hand. Retirement is slowly and insidiously killing them. However, those who are in my circle of close friends aren’t part of that group. They’re out there kickin’ butt and takin’ names doing stuff about which they are passionate. They have a driving interest and, when I look at those guys and then I look at a few of my in-laws that are part of the easy-chair/TV gang, even though they’re the same age, there is no comparison in their attitudes or looks. The easy-chair gang looks old and acts old. Those who are engaged in life and are still living it seem to belong in an entirely different, younger age group. The big difference is motivation and interests.

The concept of motivation and interests has always mystified me. I have no idea why some people are fired up about being alive and others just sit there letting it pass them by as if it means nothing. In truth most have always been that way. Beginning at birth, they have basically been in storage waiting for Ma Nature to haul them away. My friends, on the other hand, are having a helluva good time fighting time and making it pay for itself. Why? I don’t know. I’ve found it’s impossible to motivate most people but you can’t slow those down who are naturally motivated. It seems to be baked into their DNA. It would appear that people are either motivated or they’re not.

I wish there was a way that motivation could be processed into a pill and swallowed. If that were possible, a massive number of people may not live longer, but they’d certainly live better.

So, the question I’ll leave you with is “Threat of violence and/or money can promote external motivation, but how do you get people to motivate themselves? bd

11 Dec 2020 - Remembering the Day the World Changed
I wrote this last week, but screwed up my computer and couldn't post it.
Today, Dec 6th, 2020 is the 79th anniversary of the day before the whole world changed. It was a sunny, normal weekend in Hawaii and the rest of the US was just living life. The next day, via radio, our parents and grandparents learned that the world, as they knew it, was gone and a new one was in the process of taking its place, even as they listened.

I’m not certain how the majority of the US looks at that day or the history it represents. As far as that goes, I’m not sure how most of the under-50 crowd look at history, in general. Especially something approaching 80 years old. My generation, that which is characterized as Bomb Babies, born right after WW II, is the last generation that might have had parents who had personal remembrances of a time, we can only imagine. Putting it in context, for me (Technically, I’m not a bomb baby…born in ’42. Dad jumped the gun.), growing up in the 1950s (I’m the class of 1960), Pearl Harbor, the Battle of the Bulge, fuel rations and such were just part of normal conversation amongst adults. That said, however, the times during which I heard an adult talk about their experiences in combat were few and far between. Just like today, we seldom hear a Vietnam combat vet talk about their experiences. The combat-experience is something that is usually shared only with those who had been there and can understand. The rest of us can’t.

To a certain extent, I can understand why today’s youth has no apparent interest in something that happened 80 years ago. When I was 16 years old, 80 years earlier would have been 1878 and the Indian Wars were peaking and, sadly, would draw to a close over the next decade. The West was well into the process of being settled. As a teenager, even though I was heavy into hotrods, guns and guitars, I had a lot of interest in that period. I’m not sure why, but I can almost guarantee you that I was the only one in my class of 66 souls who cared about it.

That having been said, I do have to say that my old hometown, Seward, Nebraska seems to have a more obvious pride in its past than many towns of its size. There are monuments memorializing the dead of every war going back to the Civil War, visually, the town square and the surrounding shopping area have changed little since 1910-1920 and they’re proud of that. Plus, they have a county museum and the National Guard Armory features a small museum and a Sherman and a Patton tank out front. Part of this historical pride may be because for a town of its size (7,000 now, 3000, when I graduated), it is far more financially fortunate than most of its peer group. Going back to shortly after WW I, it has had a strong industrial manufacturing base that seems to keep getting stronger. So, it has the tax revenues and can afford the pride that shows in almost every square block of the town. Plus, the people, in general, seem to value their history more than many do.

To my generation, Dec 7th still means something because it was a life altering event in the lives of our folks. Every person of the post-war generation who is reading this remembers hearing their parents telling them how it felt to be sitting around the radio listening to news reports of the attack and then FDR declaring war for all to hear. Their tales were an integral part of our upbringing. I remember one of my friend’s father, showing me a piece of shrapnel that had been dug out of his hip, the result of his Stuart tank taking an anti-tank round. To this day, I can picture that thumb-sized, jagged piece of steel laying in the palm of his hand. Threads of his uniform were still jammed in the crevices. One of my best friend’s brother brought back a Japanese helmet with a bullet hole in the front, blood stains inside. Another friend’s father was a Seabee in the Pacific and had a knife he’d made out of a Zero’s prop blade, the handle being stacks of Plexiglas wafers cut from the plane’s canopy. He also had a loaded feeder strip of 7.7mm cartridges for a Nambu machine gun. Pearl Harbor and WW II was still a living memory for my generation, but those memories lose their meaning as additional generations are added to the que.

I know that next year, on the 80th Anniversary, there will be lots of flag waving, parades and speeches. Old movies will be replayed. There will even be a few stooped, old warriors who try to remind us of the reality of the day. I’m going to be paying particular attention to see if we can pull any youngsters’ noses away from their cell phones and game boxes long enough to appreciate what’s going on around them.

Oh well: They may not remember or appreciate. But, you and I will. bd

PS

Another reason I’ll remember the date is that it’s my son’s birthday. He was late for his own birth, so he was induced. The doctor gave us a three-day window as to which date we’d want for his birthday and I picked the 7th. That way it’s hard for me to forget it.

29 NOV 2020 - Where Did the Actual Cell Phones Go?
Would I be doing the world a disserve by being so un-American as to not mention Trump, Biden or Covid in this blog? Yes, I’m going to bitch about something but, believe or not, the aforementioned triumvirate of frustration aren’t part of it.

Here’s a flat statement, and remember, its coming from a guy whose life has somehow become wrapped around his iPhone: Smart phones are absolutely wizard-like in their capabilities and have, in my life at least, become as depended upon as my computer. However, as smart as they may be, they are actually pretty marginal telephones. In fact, in some ways they are flat-out lousy.

I’ve had the above thought for a couple of years now, but on Turkey Day, something happened that clarified the situation enough to write about the foregoing observation/opinion. One of my stepsons and I were talking about the problems with The Redhead’s Samsong phone, the primary one being that it’s not an Apple so neither I, nor either of her grown sons, know enough about it to help her. Then I remembered that I still had my last iPhone (I’ve kept all of my phones and periodically charge them up…don’t ask why…I don’t know). That phone was an 8 and was a really good phone but had some sort of problem, so I went up to an Xs. Then I had a brainstorm about The Redhead’s phone! We get the 8 fixed and give it to her.

So, I dug through my desk drawers and excavated the 8, however, in the process, my old Motorola Razr flip phone surfaced along with my first iPhone, which was a 6. It had been a while since I had seen either and was immediately struck by the difference in size. By comparison to my Xs, which is the smaller of the iPhone line, they were tiny. Then I picked up the Razr and realized what a perfect telephone it was. It had all the features you want on a phone.

To answer it, you just flip it open. To hang up, you just close it. To dial often-used numbers, you just remember how many clicks represents a given number and you’re connected. 1 was home, 2 was The Redhead, 3 was ATIS, etc. At no time did I need to look at the phone, which was so convenient. Especially while driving. Of course, texting was in its infancy, so texting was a real exercise in dexterity and patience.

To make a call on my fantastically-capable, hot dog Apple Xs, first I have to wake it up, so I tap the screen. Then I have to swipe up to get to the App screen. Then I have to tap the Phone app. Then I have to go to Favorites. Then scroll down and tap on the requested number (Home is the first one, The Redhead, the second). This is a damn dangerous thing to be doing while driving and it is far too long and drawn out to use even sitting in the office.

And then there’s the question of size: Okay, so having a little bigger screen is necessary, if you’re dealing with photos and such. It’s not necessary as a phone but it’s a Godsend when doing anything requiring graphics. However, how big is big enough? I think we’ve gone past the point of diminishing returns. An illustrative story:

A few years back I began having to work really hard to get into my airplane and I came to accept it as being an unavoidable part of aging. Climbing into either cockpit requires swinging my right leg high to clear the cockpit side so I can step over and drop down into the seat. However, I was having problems with my right hip getting my leg high enough and was having to grab my pants leg and pull the leg up to get it to clear. This went on for six months until I took a phone call while standing by the airplane and dropped the phone into my jacket pocket rather than back into my right hip pocket where it usually lives. When I got into the airplane, it was as if I was a teenager again. Zero problem getting my leg to swing over the cockpit side. I hadn’t realized that the extra inch in the iPhone 8’s height over the 6 was getting in the way and was making me act like an old man while trying to board. In terms of functionality, I lost about fifteen years with that discovery and now my phone goes flying clipped to my left shoulder harness.

When we were playing with all of my old phones this week, I also realized how perfectly sized the 6 was. It wasn’t so small as to be difficult to see or use, but it fit both a pocket and a hand almost perfectly. The camera, however, was okay, but just okay. I have to admit that the camera on the Xs is fantastic and I use it constantly for photos that accompany my articles in magazines. In a lot of situations, it’s better than my Canons. I’m also using it for doing podcasts and videos for the new website.

Like I said, the current crop of smart phones are incredible devices, but they’re computers and entertainment devices first and the fact that they are also telephones is just a fortunate accident. Would I want to carry the old Razr and give up the whiz-bang stuff? No way!

Right now I just wish the Smart Phone people would spend just a little more time improving the Phone part of Smart Phone and stop trying so hard to make them smarter. bd

22 NOV 2020 - Of Flames, Choices and Risk Management
The past week was interesting. The coming one is going to be even more interesting because a lot of us are going to be forced to make what are hard choices for some, easy choices for others, depending entirely on your definition and ways of handling risk.

What brought this up was a conversation I had yesterday with one of my stepsons. The Redhead and I had already made the decision and announcement that we weren’t going to attend the Thanksgiving dinner hosted by one of their friends where we would get the rare opportunity to socialize with his recent bride aœnd him. There would be about 25 people expected and we just didn’t feel as if it was a Covid-safe environment for we gray dogs. Then, I heard they were flying her mother in from Florida for the event.

To say that The Redhead and I are being cautious is a gross understatement. Except for the occasional run for food and “serious essentials” that are necessary for our (actually my) wellbeing (essentials such as nuts, bolts, steel, etc), we are, for all intents and purposes, quarantined/locked down/hunkered down/etc. Arizona, like so many other states is setting records for cases and our death rate is steadily climbing. This is Ma Nature telling us that she’s still in control and we’d better get our act together. And it bothered me that our stepson’s mother-in-law was being flown in. So, I did something I NEVER do: I stuck my nose into something that is none or my business and, in a text, voiced my concerns to my stepson. She has to be somewhere in the category they now call “vulnerable”, which is a kind way of saying “older”. I just didn’t think it was worth the risk. A hard decision for all concern.

To my stepson’s credit, he called and we had a warm, heartfelt discussion about their decision. Woven into that discussion was my personal way of looking at “risk” and how it relates to my decisions about my Covid behavior.

As I pointed out to him, risk management in my life is more obvious than in lots of others’ lives. Even though I seldom voice it, I’m very aware that what I’m doing on a daily basis, both in the workshop and more so at the airport involves an element of risk. Especially when instructing people who have less than zero ability to handle my little red flying machine (Pitts Special) and giving them control of it. A part of that procedure includes me having to let them make mistakes, give them time to correct those mistakes, while, at the same time, giving me time to save our bacon. For the pilots in the audience, this is NOT like you saw while learning to fly in a Cessna/Piper, etc. Everything in this airplane, especially in landing mode, happens at lightning speed. To the uninitiated it is one blinding flash of activity followed by another blinding flash of activity. The difference between right and catastrophically-wrong happens in nano seconds and you’re stone-ass blind for about a 60 degree arc dead ahead. That said, it’s amazing how everyone, after four to five hours starts to catch up More or less. However, there’s a reason we call the first three hours of flight instruction “The deer-in-the-headlights flights”.

Okay, so, I’m operating in a high-risk environment, but there’s not a moment, when I’m in that airplane, that I’m not expecting and preparing for the worse. I’m managing the risk. At the same time, it would be easy to look at my flying operations as some sort of hair-on-fire way of approaching aviation. Some would also brand me as being a hair-on-fire pilot, when just the opposite is true. As Pitts pilots go (a genre unique unto itself), I’m incredibly conservative. For instance, I’ve never rolled an airplane on takeoff. When I’m doing akro, generally teaching it, I’m much higher than I need to be because altitude is my insurance. I don’t go cross country in a Pitts in anything but the best weather. I’m never down to less than 45 minutes of gas, which means I’m flying legs just a little over an hour in length. The basis of this conservative way of looking at aviation is exactly the same way I look at life’s decisions: I always look at the consequences of being wrong. If making the decision includes a risk of being wrong that has unacceptable consequences, maybe we shouldn’t make that decision. “Yeah, we probably have enough gas.” If wrong, that’s an unacceptable consequence. If bringing someone into a higher than normal threat environment to be with family, strangers, and a dead bird, and the theoretical consequences (Covid) are high enough, maybe the bird’s funeral ceremony should be via Zoom. However, we’re all adults and make our own decisions.

In my opinion, whenever possible, every decision should have an upside for the decision maker. Analyze the downside of decisions carefully.

And now for the flames I mentioned in the title and an unintended example of workshop risk: This is one of those moments, when I wish I had surveillance cameras in the shop to record the sequence of events.

I spend a lot of time cutting steel with an angle-head grinder with a cut-off wheel. And I mean A LOT of time. Yesterday, I was cutting across a ½” piece of 1018 that was 3” wide. So, lots and lots of sparks were involved; a steady, very heavy, continual stream. This is nothing new. That stream of sparks can be very hot, so I try to stand to the side so I don’t scorch another T-shirt or burn a hole in an apron. Did I say it’s hot?

This time I was dutifully standing to the side. However, I didn’t realize that the light weight, long sleeve shirt I was wearing unbuttoned with a T-shirt under it was dangling directly in the line of sparks. Usually cloth, in that situation will send off signals as it starts to smolder before breaking into flames. You can smell it. This time it gave zero warning.

By the time I knew what was happening, I had serious flames racing up my shirt between my arm that was holding the grinder and my chest and was setting the sleeve on fire. These were real flames as if I was wearing a frigging bonfire!! This is where I would like to see a video of what happened next.

Looking back at it, I clearly remember a sequence of three thoughts that flashed through my mind, all three seemingly resolved at one time. 1. I’m wearing gloves, can I beat the flames out while wearing the shirt. No, it’ll burn me, if I squash them. 2. I have to get out of the shirt. So, I dropped the still running grinder, which shut off because it has a suicide switch on it and started ripping the shirt off. 3. While doing that, I decided I couldn’t let that by-now flaming shirt hit the floor or it would set something else on fire, so, while stripping the shirt off, I bolted for the open rear garage door. By that time I got there, I had it off and threw the flaming wad into the gravel and the event was over. Total elapsed time had to be under four seconds! ‘Sure wish I had that video. It’s interesting to look back and see how the human brain works.

A few minutes before writing the above I ordered a leather welding apron to be worn, when grinding, not welding. I can’t afford to lose any more shirts or singe any more hair. bd

14 NOV 2020 - So, What Did You Do During the Pandemic?
Covid has pretty well screwed up every aspect of everyone’s lives. So much so that worrying about it and hiding from it has become a new normal. However, Thumper says we’ll see a vaccine soon. And I believe him. Then what?

First, I’m amazed at how even the vaccine has become political. Pfizer isn’t an unknown quantity to the population. Ditto for most of the other companies working on their own vaccine versions. And the FDA isn’t going to pass something onto the population that might have a glitch. Them, I almost trust. Almost. Still, something like half of the population says they aren’t going to take it because they don’t trust the administration. What the hell does the administration have to do with it? It’s the FDA and the drug companies that are making and approving it. Trump or Biden, it makes no difference. It’ll be proven. So, the second it’s available and plebians like me finally work our way to the front of the line, I’m going to get it. If playing the age-card will buy me a position farther up the line, I’ll gladly play it. I want to get back to work flying and I’m not going to re-open my little flight school until I feel safe. This is one time being a gray dog may work to my advantage and I’m going to utilize it to the fullest.

The current situation is that even though we all have Covid surges surrounding us, we know there’s an end in sight. Still, we can’t let our guards down. Because of the surge, we cancelled attending a family Thanksgiving dinner. It’s not worth the risk. Now, Turkey Day at the Davisson household will just be me, the AZ Redhead, two cats, a little red dog and a dead bird. I think I’ll like this one. As with all things in life, it starts with our immediate family and works its way out.

As a year, 2020 is one for each of our personal record books. I’m also certain we each see it from a different perspective with the memories colored by how it affected us personally. Or what happened while hunkering down under the Covid umbrella.

Until March of this year, nearly every year for the past 25 or more I’ve flown at least 300 hours. As I’m typing this, I put exactly 74.5 hours in my log book this year, all in the first quarter. I’ve had to struggle just to get an hour or so a month in since March to keep both the airplane and me from rusting. I’ve been so used to losing at least five hours a day to flying seven days a week, that it wasn’t until I stopped doing that that I realized I was so used to 13-14 hour work days that cutting back to 10 hours a day was like being on vacation.

Because of the radical change in my daily routines, I’ve gotten a HUGE amount done on The Banger race car. All the running gear is done and in, power train is pretty much finalized and mounted. Next month it’s going down to my aluminum wizard, Don Marks, who is going to iron out the cowling and mount all of the original as well as new aluminum to the frame. When it comes back to me, I’ll be installing systems, which on something as crude as a 1930’s dirt track car, are all pretty rudimentary. It will, however, be one of the first cars of its generation to actually have turn signals and lights. It’s going on the street, remember?

Also, since I wasn’t flying much, I tackled some long-standing medical issues I’ve been dancing around with the FAA for years. Both of these conditions are worth a little bit of discussion because I’m absolutely positive that some who are reading this have the same conditions, but don’t know it unless they routinely see their doctor. They are very common.

CKD, Chronic Kidney Disease, is a very gradual decrease in the filtering action of your kidneys that often comes with age. In simple terms, it’s long term renal failure and we’ve been tracking mine for going on 30 years. It has never been bad but anything less than normal is a factor with the FAA. This, even though it has zero effect on a person’s ability to perform. It’s generally indicated in blood tests as a filtration ratio (GFR), which tells you at what percentage your kidneys are functioning. According to www.kidney.org, it causes more deaths than breast or prostate cancer and is THE under-recognized public health crisis (their words not mine). It affects one out of seven adults (!) and approximately 90% of those with CKD don’t even know they have it because there are no symptoms until it gets really bad. At that point, you’re screwed! It can be slowed, but not eliminated. It is slowed entirely by diet. In my case, it’s not even close to being life threatening or debilitating. What it has done is make me be more critical of what I eat. I’m required to lower salt, potassium, and phosphorus intake and limit protein. I say again, there are no symptoms, so make sure you get tested for your GFR filtration ratio.

This year I was diagnosed with Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease. This is also extremely common and, according to the experts, affects 25% of the population, also with no noticeable symptoms until it’s really bad. The reason mine is tagged as “non-alcoholic” is because the usual cause is drinking too much because alcohol converts to sugar in the body and too much sugar is the primary cause of the disease, along with obesity (which I don’t have) and diabetes (which I also don’t have). I don’t, and never have, consumed alcohol in any form so it’s Non-Alcoholic. This is reversible at the levels I have it via diet. This is something I’m certain I caused myself by having entirely too much artificial sweetener (Splenda), which the body recognizes as sugar, in my diet.

The first line in all of the on-line sites that address either of these conditions is “lose weight”. So, since my pandemic high several months ago, I have dropped 32 pounds!!!! Losing the weight was easy because, between the two diets, almost everything on the planet is eliminated. For instance, I can have spaghetti/pasta and white bread on the CKD diet, but can’t touch either on the liver diet. This is true pretty much right down the line. So, I eat a lot of apples, egg whites, small amount of chicken and turkey. As a side benefit, my blood pressure which averaged 128/80 is now routinely 110/70!!!

The FAA bought off on all of the above with no problem, but I decided to go with Basic Med anyway. It was much less complicated.

So, what did I do during the shutdowns besides writing my brains out? I did a lot of grinding, welding and apple slicing. The net result is that I’m in better shape and farther along than when this whole thing began. And that’s a good thing!

Now, if I can just start flying students again, life will be REALLY good. bd


7 NOV 2020 - SURPRISE...CAUGHT IN MID WORD!!
As this is being written the election statistics haven’t changed for four days. The conspiracies and law-suits are assaulting us in banzai waves, and, more than anything else, my distrust and sadness are being overwhelmed by election fatigue. When is enough actually enough?

Not a single word that follows is going to add any information of value to that which we’re all being bombarded with. At the same time, however, since the post-election drama is literally engulfing us, I don’t know how I can opine on anything without at least mentioning it. At the same time, I have to emphasis that life is going on. And will continue to go on regardless of the results.

As it happens, psychologically I’m already living in the new, Biden, era. That’s the pessimist in me that always protects me from disappointment. Expect the worse and it’s never a surprise. My psychosis is tempered by the fact that it appears there won’t be a super majority. And moderates made themselves heard in the House, which hopefully signals that they aren’t having it with the whole socialist, Green New Deal stuff.

HA! AS I WAS TYPING THE LAST PARAGRAPH, I RECEIVED A TEXT THAT SAYS PA HAS GONE TO BIDEN SO HE IS NOW OFFICIALLY THE PRESIDENT ELECT. Good thing my pessimism has me protected!

This is setting the stage for some unprecedented and highly interesting periods in our history. First up is the roughly three last months that Trump will still be in office. God knows what that is going to look like. However, I’m glad my name isn’t Hunter Biden.

My hope is that Trump shows more grace than anger over this. At the same time, there have to be some rigorous investigations mounted aimed at purifying the election process so it is uniform across the country and more difficult to infiltrate. There’s not a doubt in my mind that, if we can get into the systems, we’ll find some fraud. It’s always there but we don’t know how much. To protect future elections and maintain the nation’s trust in them, we need to find out what actually happened during this one.

Judging from the fact that the predicted Blue Wave wasn’t even a ripple and we actually gained seats in the House, I’m hoping that shows that the electorate isn’t buying into the whole left-wing thing. Further, I’m hoping that Sanders and his crew will try to push Biden further to the left and the electorate objects to it enough that, when the mid-terms come, we’ll retake the House.

And then there’s 2024. A couple of days ago we were already hearing rumblings about Trump for 2024. In fact, I’m betting that before the weekend is out, T-shirts and hats with that on them will be for sale. I didn’t realize it, but twice before, Presidents have been defeated, sat out a term, then ran again and won. That would make Thumper 78, which is what Biden is now. This makes it all the more important that the process by which he leaves office paints him in a pleasant way. This is especially important since he is now the supreme leader of his party, whether he wants to be or not.

I’m also betting he begins looking into starting his own Television network.

Enough! The shoe has finally dropped. We know what we’re dealing with, so we can now start living our lives. So, let’s do. bd

31 Oct 2020 - Predictions
I debated with myself whether to wait and write this one after the election is over or not. That’s three days from now, so I thought, what the hell, I’d make a few predictions. A year or two ago, I promised my kids I wouldn’t talk about politics because mine and theirs are polar opposites, but this is going to be short and I won’t touch on the politics of the situation. Only the philosophies of those involved.

First of all, the chances of us actually knowing who won this thing on Wednesday morning are next to zero. Less than zero! The delayed input of mailed in ballots is going to drag this thing out for weeks or months. I’m betting that even if one of the competitors has a stunning land slide victory, and it’s obvious he has 350 electoral votes or so, which makes it mathematically impossible to win, the other side is still going to contest it heavily. If dragged out to Jan 20, the House will have to make the decision and Pelosi will be POTUS for a period of time. Think on that for a while!! I’m sorry! Was that a political comment? What I don’t know is whether that decision is made by the House as it existed before the election or the one that takes over after the election.

There is also zero doubt as to what’s going to happen if Trump wins. We’re going to see violence in the streets like we’ve never seen. This is so obvious that lots of cities, including DC, are already boarding up stores and have riot plans in place just in case. It’s going to be serious, folks!

If Biden wins, the real winners will be the liquor industry. Repubs will bitch and moan and lots of suds and hard stuff will be sucked down. Then, they’ll shrug their shoulders and go on with life. They won’t be happy, but they’ll do their best to live life under the radically new rules they know are coming. I guarantee there will be no windows broken.

Oh, wait, on that last sentence about no windows being broken: I may be wrong. There are atypical parts of the population (which are disavowed by both sides) that look for any reason whatsoever to hit the streets and raise hell. So, in celebration of their win, they may set some fires and break some windows.

As to the one big prediction…who is going to win…I don’t have a clue. It is so tight in so many states and the winning margin in those states was almost microscopic in 2016, I feel as if the entire country is up for grabs. All we can do is hide and watch.

I’ll be glad when this damn thing is over and we can return to TV coverage that is NOT real-time coverage of someone’s rally. That is getting REALLY old!

Come Thursday or Friday, when the realities of Tuesday are a little more concrete, I may be back on the Thinking Out Loud soap box. I’ll have to just wait and see. bd

26 Oct 2020 - Birds of a Feather Live Longer!
This morning Nat Geo had an article on their newsfeed that I found super interesting in the way that it could affect us as a species and as a nation: They talked about Moai, a Japanese version of Birds of a Feather and a concept of living that too many are without.

I’m putting the link to the article at the end of this missive so I don’t lose you too early. The article basically covers research that has been done into why the population of a few areas scattered around the world experience longer than normal longevity and health. One of those is the island of Okinawa, the scene of some of the most brutal fighting in WW II, so it has seen a lot more than the average amount of stress. Still, their population has a far higher number of folks who live healthy, happy lives into their 90s and 100s than most countries. Much of the research yielded things we all know is important so it’s not surprising: diet and genetics are on the top of the list. No big news there. However, they found that much of the population has divided itself into associations, almost clubs, in which friends with common interests band together which unintentionally yields communal emotional support in their later years. They call this concept Moai. This makes a lot of sense. It especially makes sense, when I look around and realize that a version of this concept is what makes parts of our own population more likely to make it through life’s stresses, like the pandemic, better than others.

First, let me toss a caveat out there: My personal exposure to the normal world is very limited. So, any wide-ranging comments I make about changing someone’s life may or may not be grounded in fact. They are grounded only in the facts as I see them in the small segment of society in which I’m involved. I’m saying that because everyone I know is into some sort of special interest and, to a person, they’re passionate about it. I’m positive I don’t know a single person whose idea of fun is habitually hanging out at bars. This because they’re all too busy doing “something.” For all I know, the entire world behaves exactly the same as those I know, but I doubt it. If they did, bars couldn’t keep their doors open.

If the pandemic has done nothing else, it has isolated people with themselves and brought just how capable each individual is at entertaining themselves into focus. Or better yet, how good they are at making spare time pay for itself. For most, their primary companion is the person they see in the mirror in the morning and those they are isolated with, usually family. However, of course, as long as you have a computer and a circle of friends you don’t need to be truly isolated.

About that circle of friends.

Hidden within the prior paragraph is what I see as a determining factor as to how well people fair when locked down: Do they have a passionate interest, does their environment allow them to indulge in that interest, and do they have a circle of like-minded friends they can communicate with via Internet so they aren’t actually alone?

Living in an apartment and being a fabricator of “stuff”, as I am, can be frustrating. I had a couple of years living in a two-bedroom apartment by myself after moving out here and I wound up putting a heavy work bench in one bedroom and crafting the best Mannlicher stocked (claro walnut) Mauser (.308), I’ve done to date. I cut the stock from a board and couldn’t use many power tools because of the neighbors. Just handsaws, chisels, rasps and sand paper. Lots of sand paper! I had the passion and made it work for me. It really kept my spirits up. Now that I have a decent workshop and no neighbors, I hardly noticed the lock-down. Plus, I’m in constant contact with about ten guys who are doing some of the same stuff I am, so human-like contact is always there.

To sum up my theory which ties into the article: People who are passionate about a special interest and habitually associate with others with the same interest live longer. Or, at the very least, live happier during the time they live. Those without an interest, run the risk of filling their time with mind numbing TV, alcohol or comfort food, which recent statics seem to bear out. Right there is a bumper sticker in the making, “Hobbies Help You Live Longer.”

Here’s the article link. https://apple.news/AVolCNzS8TDKv78oYpTTiQQ

Are you watching The Right Stuff on Disney+ Channel?

It’s a REALLY well done eight-part dramatic series on the Mercury Seven astronauts. Yes, my daughter, as executive producer, helped create and ran the production, but even so, I’d still highly recommend it. It is really well done! Each new episode is loaded onto Disney+ channel on Fridays. They’re now through episode four and those are all available now.

20 Oct 2020 - He's Baaack!
I just looked at the date above and realized that I actually started writing this exactly two month ago. Exactly! Like everyone else on the planet, I’m finding someone else living inside my head making believe it’s me, but isn’t. I’m more than a little discombobulated!

This is going to be a rambling mess of random thoughts and pronouncements because I’m just not in the mood to beat my brain into submission and make it do something logical. Although I do seem to be getting better. What about you? The world is definitely a full bubble off of plumb. The concept of Normal just ain’t what it used to be.

We are in the eye of a perfect storm in terms of stuff going wrong. The population is suffering. Some more than others. However, as much as I bitch, I know for a fact that I am one of the fortunate few. I don’t have kids in the house, I have a ton of room, rather than being an apartment or condo and I have my version of a stairway to heaven…a reasonably well-equipped workshop. Better yet, I have tons of magazine stuff to work to do. And then there’s the new website, which is finally moving ahead. So, to the guys/gals who have dropped me a line to make sure that I’m okay. I’m more than okay. Just a little bit scattered in my thinking is all.

As I sit here watching the world outside of my property lines going crazy, I’d like to make some logical comments, but, truth is: I don’t even know where to start. There are, however, two current metrics that say as much about the mental state of the Nation as any of the high-brow statistics quoted by the “experts”: Ammo sales and toilet paper. The AZ redhead came back from Costco yesterday and announced that they were again out of TP. It’s de ja vu all over again! They were fine for months. Now they’re not. As soon as Covid wiggled around and raised its ugly head again, like the reptile that it is, people again decided to make pooping into a national crisis. That is an oh-my-God-we’re-heading-down-the-tubes-and-may-be-locked-down-again way of Covid-driven thinking.

Relax folks! I know this thing can be dangerous as hell but, again, regardless of what the experts say, if we stick with the basics, wear a mask, distance, wash our hands, we’re going to come out the other side okay. Yeah, I know masks are controversial, but I say, what-the-hell, they can’t hurt, so wear ‘em. Also, I think bars are probably responsible for a lot of the problems we have in getting this thing beat back into a corner for two reasons: The first is the obvious lack of distancing and second is that alcohol inevitably leads to a give-a-sh*t-attitude and we’ll conduct ourselves in a less than Covid-safe manner. Incidentally, I think I’ve said it here before, but, if I were to have a tombstone (I won’t), my epitaph would be “I’ve never seen a situation where the addition of the FAA or alcohol made it better.”

That’s metric No. one. Metric No. two is the obvious deterioration of the population’s feeling of safety as revealed in the fact that ammo is basically gone. I don’t mean sort of gone. I mean it’s nearly impossible to find. Even the oddball calibers I work with like .44 Special and 38-55 would put me in scavenger-hunt mode to find it, but I load it so don’t go looking for it. This is strictly caused by the same thought pattern that makes toilet paper hard to find: hoarding! Listen, folks, we can only poop just so many times. Do we actually need 200 rolls of toilet paper? And none of us needs 2,000 rounds of 9mm (or 30-30, .308, 32 ACP, yada, yada) to protect ourselves and our families.

When it comes to safety, I’m a very much in favor of having the means to defend yourself, but let’s be realistic: Unless you habitually walk through the bad parts of town at mid-night, the chances of you being accosted are right up there with getting hit by lightning. So, avoid danger zones and don’t golf in a lightning storm. Yes, if you want to, go through concealed carry training and carry when in crowds or other possible terrorist targets. That’s about the only time I carry. However, you don’t need 2,000 rounds to do that.

The average firearms encounter is generally over in three to five rounds. So, I like to have at least ten rounds onboard because I assume the first five rounds will be adrenaline-rounds: I’ll be so ampted up I’m not going to be very effective. The last five, I’ll have my head together. So, get a Glock 19, which has 15 rounds. I’m not actually a Glock guy, but that’s what I carry because, as long as you have the ammo in the magazine pointy end forward, it’ll work every time. And it doesn’t have a safety to worry about. Just point it and pull.

A box of 9mm is 50 rounds. That’s three Glock mags. So, you buy two boxes and shoot up one learning the weapon. Unless you plan on spending a lot of time at the range, you sure as hell don’t need 1,000 rounds. Calm down! And, if you’re worried about Antifa coming to your neighborhood, don’t get an AR-15, which is going to put rounds into the houses around you. Get a Mossberg 590 12 gauge and load it with no.2 or 3 shot. Not 00 buckshot. 00 also travels too far. #2 or #3 buckshot will more than discourage an intruder and the 590, which is as reliable as a hammer, carries nine rounds. Get a speed loader for it if you want more rounds, which you are VERY unlikely to need.

So, calm down folks. We’ll make our way through this. However, if Trump wins, don’t be surprised if the weeks and months after the election see us wading through more street violence. So, stay out of those neighborhoods. If you live in one, pick up some more fire extinguishers and an extra box of 12 gauge. For less lethal choices Google “Bean bag ammo.”

And, on that happy note, hopefully we’ll talk again next week, rather than next month. bd

14 August 2020 - Mud, Memories and Hydroplanes
I don’t know about you, but I’m bone-tired of the first word of every news report being either “Trump” or “Covid”. That’s why today I’m doing something I never do: I’m revisiting a subject I’ve covered before: A chapter in the history of growing up when life was supposedly simpler (I’m not sure it ever was). At least we made it seem that way.

What kicked this thought pattern off was www.bringatrailer.com . This is a daily auction site that I visit first thing every morning. Normally, it features exotic/vintage cars and bikes of wildly divergent, but always expensive, types but actually features almost everything including boats. This morning a museum was selling a 1960 Dawes, kit-built, two-point hydroplane with a Mercury short shaft motor. The instant the photo popped up on the screen, an endless series of memories stampeded through my brain. In each, one of those little beasts played an active role in the lives of a bunch of 1950s Nebraskan teenagers. The years bracketed 1960 and the memories blur together as a warm sequence of muddy water escapes and a creaking old shack and dock. It was a marvelous time during which fate took a holiday and spared us all what should have been a litany of serious injuries.

Hydroplane
This little plywood bullet is about ten feet long, if that, and goes like the hammers of hell. It's a little scary but so much fun you can't stand it!!

First, we’re talking about a pond here. Not a lake. A pond. A lake is an actual measurable body of water. Here, we’re talking about maybe 80-100 yards of water. Probably much less. It was basically a wet spot in the middle of corn fields. And one end was barely wide enough turn a boat with a skier while the other was far too narrow. Worse yet, it had a definite “L” shape with the too-narrow-to-turn part at the base of the L. However, in that part of the country, if its wet, you strap on skis and go for it. Especially, when you’re too young to know better.

Before we started using it, someone got creative with a bulldozer. They let the pond dry out and cut through the corner of the “L” creating a very narrow channel that allowed the boat and skier to make a wider radius turn that was completed through that channel. A skier who swung even slightly wide wound up impaled in the bank at the edge of a corn field. When we started using a single “banana peel” ski, which has no skeg fin so it slides sideways in a turn, every one of us ate mud at that point a lot more than once.

Thanks to my friend’s dad, we had a whole flotilla of boats, the main one being an old wooden Thompson that was maybe 18 feet. However, the two we used the most in testing our mortality were the hydroplane and a craft I don’t even know what to call or how to describe. I’ll try.

Picture this: You take a bunch of aluminum irrigation tubing about 12 feet long ranging from about six inches in diameter down to maybe three inches. You lay that tubing side-by-side, the bigger tubes in the middle. Then you arch the tubes up in a shallow “U” with the smaller tubes on the upper sides. These are all artfully welded together. It’s like a dished raft except the tubing at the front has been cut so it can be bent upwards to form a prow. At the back, the tubing goes straight back and is capped. There is no transom except for a little area in the middle where a foot-square panel sticks up and an outboard motor is mounted. A perfectly smooth and extremely slick aluminum bench spanned the top of the “U” with basically no gunwhales on the ends. Remember this point.

Now picture this: You’ve got a fairly high horsepower motor on the back of what is an aluminum version of an inflatable pool raft and you’re pushing it at speeds that aren’t even remotely safe. Actually, at that age, “safe” speed doesn’t exist. Only “more” speed exists. It was one of the dumbest, most unpredictable water craft ever created so it was ready-made for us. When it got up to speed, which was almost immediately, nothing was touching the water but the center tube. When you turned, even slightly, it instantly rolled on its side and planed on the outermost tubes. If you didn’t have a death grip on the seat, you went right over the edge, none of us giving any thought to the possibility of the prop running over us in the turn.

We had all sorts of “trick” moves on that stupid thing. If you got two guys on the front, with their legs hanging down in the water, you could force the bow to run under water with nothing but the back five or six feet of the “boat” above water. One of our favorites (did this in the Thompson too) was to get going as fast as we could and jump over the side to land flat on our backs with our feet up trying to skip like a flat rock. Mostly what we got were mud enemas. But we were having fun!

You kneeled, didn’t sit, in the hydro plane and the second you nailed the throttle it would jump up on the step and be absolutely hauling a**! It was way in the hell too fast for such a small stretch of water and, looking back at it, it was actually damn dangerous. But not to us. When you were trying to turn into the channel, it would skip sideways and I can’t count the number of times I wound up sliding sideways into the trees. Same with everyone else. Never once thought we’d get hurt. And we seldom did but not for a lack in trying.

Hot sun, lots of laughing, boys, girls, the occasional .22. If you didn’t count the dangerous stuff, nothing was going on we couldn’t tell our folks. No beer. No messing around. Nothing but high-jinks as only kids could have them back in the day. But things were about to change. We were the classes of 1960 and 61 and, without knowing it, we were standing in the doorway of a future we would have had trouble believing at the time.

We were blithefully ignoring the contrails overhead of the B-47s going into Lincoln AFB 25 miles down highway 34 or the B-52s marking their paths to SAC HQ at Offutt, 80 miles to the East. At least some of them carrying nukes. I’m fairly certain not one of us had even seen a joint, a smoking joint, not a drinking joint. Our blessed naivete was teetering on the edge of cold war calamity and we didn’t have a clue what would be swirling around us in a few years. If anyone had told me that in a few years I’d be getting a little buzzed while playing on stage in clubs because of all the grass the audience was smoking, I would have laughed. If they had told me we’d have friends go overseas but never come back I’d have been incredulous. Not one of us could have found Vietnam on a map.

The small town we lived in was slow coming into the turbulent ‘60s. And just a few miles of gravel road from there, at our hyper active little mudhole, the outside world and the future definitely didn’t exist. It was a momentary, peaceful hole in time.

I now wish I had bid on that little hydroplane. It would have looked good floating in my pool. I could have lounged in it in the dark and made believe I was 16 again. Sometimes, I wish I drank so moments like that would actually flow over me. But, I don’t. So, I’m stuck with reality. As we all are. bd

18 July 2020 - Tools, Temps and Digital Visuals
This has been a fairly eventful week in our household. A little mechanical death. Some overheated moments of mechanical pleasure. And a little digital visual disappointment.

Here’s an amazing fact we tend to forget: between the pandemic, the politics and the riots, each of us is still living our lives. Regardless of how the media makes it sound as if our world is coming to an end by noon tomorrow (depending on your point of view, that won’t actually happen until Nov 3), we are still alive and kickin’. While learning to deal with the earthshaking events around us, we’re also surviving our own personal mini-crises. And I’ve had a few.

Death of some Old Friends...Sort of

I’ll cut right to the painful chase: my 4” angle head grinder died last night! A Makita, he had given me something like 15 years of hard work and, in the process, became one of the most indispensable tools in my shop. To me it’s a handheld milling machine, band saw, rust-removing wonder that I use so much that I could do dental work with it. But, he’s gone to that great tool room in the sky. I hope he wouldn’t feel bad knowing that I hit Home Depot at 0730 this morning and replaced him. I can’t go a weekend without an angle head grinder.

He was preceded in death by my Black & Decker, 10” radial arm saw. Old B/D had been with me for something like 40 years. Maybe longer. Then, mid-cut, sparks and smoke started leaping out of the motor housing. He was all done! I took the motor apart as best I could but he was cooked. No way to resuscitate him. That said, I couldn’t bring myself to consign him to the junk pick-up last month, which was a good thing. Since then, the gigantic, and complex looking, old ¾ hp motor on my 6 x 48 sander got terribly sick and stopped working. No smoke or sparks and I found an armature hospital that has him working perfectly. So, maybe there’s hope for B/D’s motor too.

Records Set
Night before last, I used the last of an 11-pound roll of .023 MIG welding wire! That’s one hell of a lot of wire and The Banger racer car remanufacturing project has eaten most of it. It also gobbled up about half a roll of .030 wire. You’d think I’d know how to weld after all of that, but I don’t.

In another of life’s arenas, I stepped on our bathroom scale this morning and found that courtesy of the pandemic and my total lack of self-control, I now weigh the most I’ve ever weighed in my life: 215 pounds! 12 pounds I can blame on the pandemic. And the aforementioned lack of self-control. I started my diet and exercise routine about ten minutes later. Let’s see if I can stick to it. This is two pounds heavier than I was when I had my last big-gut epiphany and lost 35 pounds. My weight-loss secret is what I call the Don’t-Put-Crap-in-Your-Mouth Diet. Hard to do when sitting at a computer, 50 feet from the refrigerator while trapped indoors.

I may be trapped, but I’m still getting stuff done. Because I grounded my flying school back in March, I discovered something I’ve been told is actually pretty common, but it has been 25 years or more since I experienced it. It’s called a “weekend.” WOW! What a concept! It means I can, and have, put eight hours a day on weekends into the shop banging on The Banger.

Inasmuch as the last couple of weeks it has been between 108 and 112 in the shop, I’ve also discovered the thing in our backyard called a swimming pool, which I NEVER use. But, have recently. After three or four hours at 110 degrees while welding or something, I walk out the back door of the shop, taking off my clothes as I go. At the pile of towels, I hang a right and fall into the pool. Five to seven minutes later, I’m back in the shop. We’re still trying to figure out how to clean off the ring I leave around the pool, every time I do that.

BD Webinar Inbound: Next Friday, July 24, 11:30 PST/1:30 CST

The EAA has talked me into doing a webinar titled “Mastering the Tailwheel”, which is a forum I’ve done at Oshkosh for more than 30 years. However, I’ve never done a Webinar. This means I can’t see the audience and they have to ask me questions through the moderator. This’ll be tough because I feed off the audience, while doing forums, which keeps my energy up.This is going to be very educational for me. I want to branch out and do some You-Tube work so this’ll let me see if I can work in that kind of environment where I don’t have someone to bounce off of.

The downside to this is that we did a dry run and I got to see myself on the screen: Damn I’m old! I’m not sure I want people to know that. Oh, well… bd

5 July 2020 - Random Thoughts on the Fourth
As I watched Trump in front of Mount Rushmore I found myself loaded down with contradictory thoughts. Some good. Some not so good. Many were surprising.

I can add nothing new or enlightening to what the Media has said. However, I thought I’d mentioned a few things that went through my mind both during and after the speech.

By far the most important effect on me was one of overwhelming thankfulness for the luck of being born in America. No matter what her failings and the chinks in her armor, she’s still the shining light of the world and I’m immensely proud of her. UK Prime Minister, Tony Blair, said it best, when he said, “The way you judge a country is whether people are trying to get into it or out of it.”

No country is perfect. Especially the US and I started thinking about our transgressions and areas of conflicts. Many of these have been brought to the fore by protesters using founding fathers’ wrong doings as reasons for toppling national statues and removing them from our memory.

First, after giving it some thought, I can see, but not agree with, their points of view: He owned slaves so must have been a racist, so he’s gone. He oversaw relocation of Native Americans, so, he’s gone. And so forth and so on. Every imperfection is grounds for erasing an individual from our history. I think this is a mistake. We shouldn’t be erasing history just because, when judged against today’s standards, an individual isn’t perfect. They are icons because they were perfect for the time. Judging them by today's standards is Monday morning quarter backing on a grand scale.

In the course of having those thoughts, I found myself looking back over our history and realized that there has probably never been a decade, or possibly even a year, that wasn’t marked by history-making short falls and screw-ups, when judged by modern standards. Given our record in some areas, we seem to have succeeded in spite of ourselves. We should remember those episodes just so we know how we got to where we are now and then vow not to repeat those mistakes. It’s a real cliché, but clichés are clichés because of the truth they contain. The one that fits here is, “He who forgets his past is bound to repeat it.” Let’s not hide it or, as ISIS and some current day violent protesters (not the peaceful ones) do, destroy our history just because it doesn’t fit a modern narrative. Learn from it.

Here are a few random historical factoids and observations that popped up while I was researching our past. Some are surprising:

There is no doubt that slavery is a heart-wrenching blot on American’s history, but we tend to look at it from a purely American perspective. Slavery is actually a blot on the world’s history, America included.

According to the writings of Henry Louis Gates, the noted African American historian and author, in total approximately 12 million individuals were caught up in the trans-Atlantic slave trade. Many were sold into slavery by their own, or neighboring, tribes. Tragically, two million died in route!! Of the total, 388,000 (4%) came to North America with the rest being enslaved in the Caribbean and South America. Brazil was the biggest importer. So, the US isn’t unique in having that moral scar on their history. The US Is, however, unique in that the North sacrificed approximately 360,000 of its young men (620,000 both sides) to maintain the Union by stopping secession and put an end to slavery.

BTY - According to Wiki, 170 countries throughout the world still don’t have statutes that specifically criminalize all forms of slavery.

Right behind slavery as a national shame, or possibly at the same level, is our treatment of our indigenous people, both past and present. We forget how unusual our history is in that area and the way in which “Civilization” was well underway in the East in the 1800s while the West’s civilization was still in question.

The first “World’s Fair” to be held in America was the International Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia in 1876 which show cased the industrialization that was part of America’s incredible achievements. While the Exhibition was underway, the Battle of the Little Big Horn, where Custer got his egotistical ass handed to him by the Lakotas and Cheyenne, took place.

The World’s Fair in Chicago kicked off in 1893, which was lit by Edison’s light bulbs and, among other things, the Ferris Wheel, Wrigleys Chewing Gum, Budweiser beer, the automatic dishwasher and the hamburger debuted. Barely two years before and 900 miles to the west, the US Cavalry massacred several hundred Lakotas, men, women and children at Wounded Knee in South Dakota. A sad chapter! Just one of many.

Civilization has been a long time coming to America and I’m not sure we’ve achieved it yet.

A bunch of gender-related issues popped up, while I was digging around, that I’d either forgotten or flat didn’t know. Some are pretty damn amazing.

Prior to 1880, the age for consensual sex varied from state to state but it always fell in the seven (you read that right, seven) to 12 years of age range.

African Americans got the vote in 1870. Women, however, didn’t get it until 1920

1923 ­– the Equal Rights Amendment give women equal rights under the Constitution. That gave them equal rights in owning property, employment, etc., however it wasn’t fully ratified until 1972 and even then, three states didn’t sign on to it. SCOTUS said it was then legal.

1938 – Fair Labor Standards act said employment couldn’t be limited by sex.

1947 – women were qualified for jury duty, but they were given a choice whether they’d serve or not.

1963 – Equal Pay Act – equal pay for equal work. Reportedly, that still isn’t being enforced.

1965 – SCOTUS said there was no doctor prescription required for using contraception.

1971- SCOTUS said no private employers can refuse to hire women just because they have pre-school age kids.

1973 – SCOTUS said help wanted ads couldn’t designate gender to be hired.

1973 – SCOTUS, Roe vs Wade gives the right for abortion.

1974 – Housing discrimination based on sex was eliminated.

1974 – Prior to this law a woman couldn’t get a credit card without her husband’s permission!

1977 – Harvard finally allowed women to enroll. Yale and Princeton let them enroll in 1969.

1978 – Pregnancy cannot be a determining factor in hiring.

1987 – SCOTUS, it’s okay to hire on sex or race, if an imbalance exists within the company.

2013 – Ban on women in combat roles is dropped

I skipped a whole bunch, but it surprised me that some of what we assume to be women’s inalienable rights were so late in coming. A lot of these changes had women marching in the streets. So, peaceable protests actually are an American tradition, as guaranteed in the Constitution.

It’s really too bad that recent events are giving the right to protest a bad name. bd

29 June 2020 - On Being a Cop
Clearly since I wrote my last blog three weeks ago, which focused on the difference between protesting and rioting/looting, things have gotten more intense and have lost focus. Now, one of the biggest questions in my mind is why any young, intelligent person would want to be a cop?

First, let me explain why I’m so late getting this blog up: To put it simply, it’s because everything has been changing so quickly that I have been overwhelmed by the incredible increase in unchecked lawlessness with “unchecked” being the operative word. Also, things have devolved to the point that no matter what words you use, they’re going to piss someone, somewhere, off. I feel as if we’re walking through a vocabulary minefield where the definitions are changing daily and that makes writing difficult.

And then there are those who have no definite meanings to their words. These are not the actual protesters. This group is either angry over everything or are raising hell for the sheer fun of raising hell. Statues are a case in point: When they are tearing down statues ranging from Columbus and Washington to Lincoln to Grant to Hans Christian Heg, an avowed abolitionist who died in the Civil War, you know you can’t have a civil conversation with those involved because a good percentage don’t actually know why they’re doing what they’re doing. The protesters have a focus, a subject and a cause and have every right to be out there. You can have a valid argument with them. The rioters and those causing damage don’t have a specific goal and can’t carry on a coherent conversation about anything. The exception is Antifa and their ilk: They have a very different and clearly announced focus: the overthrow of the government. They don’t want to talk.

Mixed in with this mess are the local police. I have no idea why they don’t just say “screw it” in mass and disappear. Name a job where, besides having the possibility of being shot dead every single day, your shift may have local citizens throwing water on you, or lobbing bricks and frozen water bottles at your head. Name another job where you have to stand there and have someone stand nose to nose with you, calling you every foul name in the book purposely trying to antagonize you into loosing your cool. Name another job where you’ll go on a service call only to find it’s a set up for an ambush.

Then name a job where you’re just trying to accomplish your mission and the managers of the company you work for, the City, not only don’t support you, but actually put restrictions on you that stop you from doing what the citizens expect from you. Then they say you’re not needed and they’re going to cut your pay and eventually phase out your job. There’s not a helluva lot of incentive to show up for a job like that.

It’s difficult for normal folks like us to stand on the sidelines and hear city governments say they’ve going to do away with their police force. Or drastically cut their funding. That is so incredibly naïve it’s hard to believe anyone would actually say that out loud in public. Much less mayors and city councils. These kinds of comments display a complete ignorance of the nature of the human species. Since before civilization came out of the caves, there has always been a warped element that is a different kind of human. It is bred into them that preying on the rest of society is central to their own survival. To that segment of society, criminality is a job. It’s what they get up in the morning to do. They have to be laughing their butts off hearing city governments talking about doing away with the police. The anarchists, which are proliferating like crazy and are forming themselves in to an insurgent-type of force, are cheering the anti-police factions on. Politics are making their over-throw of the government easier.

Yes, law enforcement reform is absolutely necessary. There are always a few bad apples in every barrel and the regulations have to be there to both guide the force and define processes for drumming the bad apples out. So, Congress has to get their act together and come up with a bipartisan level of reform that makes sense. However, it appears that the concept of bipartisanship is seemingly impossible to apply these days.

The concepts that are going to absolutely destroy this country are political correctness, politics in general, and a lack of understanding that lawlessness feeds on success. If law and order doesn’t prevail, we’ll be the wild west all over again in every major city.

So, with all of this as a backdrop, why would any 20-something that’s looking for a worthwhile career consider law enforcement? When cities like Minneapolis and New York see their streets become war zones, they’ll realize the thin-blue line that has protected them all along is actually necessary and they will try to rectify the situation. By that time, however, their experienced LEOs will be gone and the new talent won’t be available to them. I’d like to think those politicians will get voted out of office, but so what? That won’t harm them. It’s the people who will suffer and the politicians will just drift to another high paying job. They always do.

Normally, I would say we have a solution: The ballot box. However, with the media leading the electorate by its nose, I’m not sure that’s still true. We might have a really rough patch ahead, folks, so, keep your mags loaded and protection close at hand.

31 May 2020 – Rioting vs Protesting
Referencing last week’s Blog: It didn’t take long for “Civil Disobedience” to take on an entirely different definition this week, did it? However, as the week worn on, there was a clarification of the definitions: We are clearly seeing the difference between protesting and rioting.

I want to make this one as short and clear as I can. First, there’s not a person in the country, whether he’s politically right, left or in the middle who doesn’t support the basic concept of protesting. It’s written into the constitution. What is not written into the constitution is the wanton destruction of property, both personally and publicly owned. What we have seen this week is a noble protest against the actions of an obviously out of control officer being high-jacked by a combination of anarchists (ANTIFA), bad actors just capitalizing on a situation for personal gain and entertainment, with possible involvement by a criminal element. Here in AZ, we’re thinking the cartels are also taking advantage of the situation, but I haven’t seen proof of that.

What we have to recognize is that every kind of population has a small number of individuals who basically bear more resemblance to animals than humans. They are our criminal and socially unbalanced elements and they will take any opportunity to strike out against the rest of society, but only if they think they can do it with no consequences attached to their actions. Riots give them this cover and I think this characterizes much of Antifa’s membership. Some bad actors may be acting out of anger at perceived inequities of the system, some of which can be understood. However, from watching the videos, all we’re seeing is individuals acting out of some sort of animalistic urge to destroy. This is not protesting and with all the coverage of it, I’m hoping America is clearly seeing the difference between protesting and rioting: One has its place and serves a purpose. The other is neither.

A quick photograph of what points out different views of this is, as I was typing this, Marlene called me into see something on TV where celebrities are raising funds for rioters who were arrested. I know none of the details, but that makes little or no sense.

It’s also worth noting, and I’m certain this is true nationwide, that, as our local protests gained population, loads of whites started trashing stores including a HUGE mall and especially their Apple store. Is this Antifa’s contribution to the local situation? This calls for some careful research.

It’s also worth noting that one of our jewelry stores quickly put together a little security force of their own. They stood around inside the store where they could clearly be seen through the windows carrying ARs and handguns. The looters skipped past them to the store next door. Remember what I said about their actions and consequences. They’ll never take credit for their actions nor will they take any chances. They have no particular convictions so have no courage to back-up their actions.

I could be wrong, but I don’t see this whole thing as a long-term threat, however, cities like Minneapolis will be a long time recovering. A number of low-income areas have lost their primary retail and grocery stores and, considering the threats associated with the area, companies may be a long time returning, if at all.

What I do see emerging out of this is a serious re-thinking of the use of police in these situations by some cities. Many suffered far more than they would have, had they responded to the rioters in kind sooner. I also see a spike in security companies renting out quick-response combat teams to large targets such as gigantic malls. As soon as a target goes from being passive to having a risk attached to it, most of these groups will avoid it and go for easier pickings.

I’m certain that everything I’ve written here will be made obsolete by events over the next few days. This, however, is how I see it today. Who knows about tomorrow? bd

PS
Notes from after the weekend. You don't have to watch many of the videos of people rushing out of broken windows and doors, their arms loaded with loot to know that George Floyd is no longer part of this episode in history. Then, when you see young people cruising the street and attacking single individuals, knocking them out and bloodying them up it's easy to see that this has all divolved to pure anarchy and hoodlumism. It is attracting the most extreme and violent elements of our society because they feel they can do what they want because there is almost no chance they'll be caught. The cities hae become their playground. This kind of violence knows no logic and the authorities are going to have to get seriously tough to keep it from spreading.

PPS

Did anyone notice the incredible launching of our first privately owned and operated space launch? It got lost in the shuffle. To me, the most incredible part is the technology of them landing the boosters vertically on barges. That looked like CGI. It’s like trying to balance a pencil, point down, on your finger tip while running down the road. The complexities to be overcome are mind numbing and SpaceX did it! Nice going Elon!!

26 May 2020 - Civil Disobedience: an American Tradition
It’s really interested looking around America today. We have protests everywhere you look that are populated by basically normal people, not radicals, all of which are talking about freedom and financial survival. Is this what our colonial revolt looked like in 1773?

Think about it: The Revolutionary War, which could easily be renamed, The Freedom Fight, started off with regular people getting fed up with The Crown levying taxes and the population getting nothing for them. So, in 1773, they turned Boston harbor into iced tea. Distaste for the Crown’s dictatorial approach to governing continued to grow. Then, in 1775, the Crown decided the colonials were becoming too uppity so they marched to Concord to confiscate their arms. The skirmishes at Concord and Lexington, rightfully known as “The shots heard ‘round the world” were the result. At that point, the fight for freedom from The Crown was inevitable and a nation was suddenly in the process of being borne.

When looking back at our Colonial History, the protests we’re seeing in so many places in the US seem a little familiar don’t they? What’s interesting, however, is that the protests aren’t aimed at the federal government. Amazingly enough, you see few signs being carried by protestors with “TRUMP” in the opening line. The protests are almost exclusively aimed at governors who, under the concept of states’ rights have been recognized as being the final arbiters of how their state shall open up. In effect, they have become the final authority on how freedom shall return to the people. And some appear to have gotten power hungry and approached the process in a mindless, dictatorial fashion: Do it MY way or suffer the consequences. And “their” people don’t like it. They are forgetting who put them in the position to govern in the first place.

The single most glaring error in the way they are approaching the opening up of local businesses is they are ignoring the fact that their people and their economy is approaching a tragic go/no-go point. This, however, appears to mean little or nothing to them but means everything to the population of their states. Another few weeks and their fiefdom, as they apparently see their state, won’t be able to recover. The business operators are close to being in panic mode and some governors don’t seem to care.

The news is full of stories about gyms, restaurants, beauty salons, etc, all of which have gone overboard to guarantee social distancing and mask wearing. The owners understand the risks involved and are trying to lower them as much as they can, but they are desperate to survive. Customers recognize the risk as well. They are desperate to be free. However, when an entrepreneur opens, when the rules say they shouldn’t, some have gotten their licenses pulled, the locks on their doors changed, thrown in jail. Yes, they broke the rules but the response has been over-kill. It feels as if some governors are taking such actions as personal assaults on their authority. “Oh, yeah. They think I’m kidding? Watch this!” And the hammer comes down. They are, in too many cases, showing zero compassion towards those involved. The voters who put them in office.

In most cases, the local authorities have difficult decisions to make. The law is the law. For the most part, we all agree on that. I just think some of them are going about it the wrong way while showing little or no empathy. They are prosecuting good people, not criminals, all of whom have their backs against the wall and going to work is the only way out.

All that having been said, it’s absolutely driving me nuts to see people crowding together at beaches, board walks and bars with not a mask in sight and zero consideration being given to distancing. Many Memorial Day crowds acted as if they don’t think this thing is real. I don’t think anyone is going to be surprised to see major out breaks erupt. In fact, I think some folks consider getting sick as nothing more than the price of freedom.

BTW- if you haven’t seen it, here’s a link to a review of the 1969 Pandemic and how it was handled. It’s interesting reading. Too bad we don’t have infection follow-up data on the crowd at Woodstock that year. Talk about ignoring self distancing! https://nypost.com/2020/05/16/why-life-went-on-as-normal-during-the-killer-pandemic-of-1969/

18 May 20 - Random Thoughts: And Life Goes On
This is going to come as a shock to some people, but we WILL survive Covid 19. The big question is whether we’ll survive the shutdowns and the advice of so many “experts”. More important, will we remember that other things are equally as important.

Five-Year-Olds Scare me!

I had an incredibly new experience this week and felt an emotion I hadn’t felt but a few times in my life. I’m not a natural at a single thing that I do in life. Nothing. But, I’m really good at correcting mistakes/editing, which applies to everything in my life. Do it, then fix it. The only thing that seems to come naturally, is public speaking. Wind me up, put me on stage, tell me the subject as I’m walking to the mike and I can bumble my way through it with a minimum of embarrassing gaffs. That said, this week I had to get involved in a presentation situation that had me nervous as hell for the entire week leading up to it: I had to do a digital Zoom presentation to my granddaughter, Rosie’s, Kindergarten class about airplanes.

Five-year-olds! Damn! Talk about being outside my comfort zone! It was also my first experience with digital communication where I couldn’t see the audience. You’ll never know how nervous I was before hand. Do you know how hard it is to talk for 10 minutes about aviation without using one piece of jargon (on which all of av-speak is based) or swearing at some level? However, I didn’t get a single e-mail from parents that I had traumatized or embarrassed their kids. I’m surprised.

Friday Night Emergencies
I almost dread Friday night showing up because that’s when every single frigging emergency that we have happens. For instance, about every 18 months our main sewer line gets plugged up and we have to call Rotorooter. However, it ALWAYS happens at 10pm Friday and ALWAYS, when we have a house guest and I have to tell them they can’t flush the toilets.

The air conditioning is in cahoots with the sewer line because it conks out between the sewer episodes. Remember, we’re in Phoenix. AC is not a luxury. Again, it always dies on Friday night when we have visitors. Never any other time.

Every single time Marlene falls and breaks a bone (Wrist, shoulder blade, last month a rib, the month before a vertebrae) it’s Friday night late and we spend the night in the ER.

Last night it was our beloved Nikki, the puppy that refuses to grow up and absolutely owns our hearts. Usually bouncing around like she’s on speed (or acid…does that date me?), we suddenly realized she was laying on the living room floor like a doorstop with her tongue hanging out. In a heartbeat, we were emergency mode and racing to the 24-hour animal hospital. And it was 10pm! And it was Friday. We left the vet’s parking lot for home at exactly mid-night.

Nikki stayed overnight and finally, at 2 AM, they told Marlene to stop calling them. They couldn’t get anything done between calls. And I couldn’t get any sleep between calls. So, I’m dragging a** today from lack of sleep.

They let us pick her up at 0930. Had “food bloat”, which appears to be caused by cat litter and her less than whimsical habit of playing with cat poop. Not eating it. Just playing with it.

Car manufacturers as data source

This morning I heard a really interesting bit of tech/data news: The car companies are going to be back in business this week and each of the line workers will be wearing a bracelet that talks to other worker-bracelets letting them know when they are closer than six feet. That’s really cool, but what is outstanding is that there are some production line situations where social distancing just can’t be held. The bracelet information about distancing is also being fed to a computer and they are going combine that information with follow-ups on the workers involved and quantify the correlation between distance and those who get sick. That, I think, is going to answer a lot of questions about Covid 19.

Proving a Point with Data

There aren’t a lot of good points to come out of the pandemic but one is that the entire population is becoming aware of data and the importance of it. In addition, they are being beat over the head with conclusions drawm from that data. Normally data makes sense out of situations, but not always. And this is one of the classic cases where the more data we have, the more confused we get. This is because a good percentage of the data isn’t totally understood. For instance, an increase in cases isn’t necessarily caused by more people getting sick. For the most part, it’s because more people are being tested so, the number of cases climb.

As in so many other situations that are data driven, it’s also easy to stand back and watch “dueling experts.” They’ll take the same data and use it to prove different conclusions. Or you can take different sides of any of the arguments and easily find data that supports that side.

Eventually, this is all going to sort itself out, but right now there’s too much emerging information as we learn more about the bug. It’s too bad that both politics and commercialism is attached to the cure and that may be the most serious pandemic of all.

Thousands of Pigs but no Butchers

I was talking to my sister who still has a business in our little home town in Nebraska and she says local pork producers have run into a real bottle neck (Nebraska is the 6th largest pork producer in the US and the 2nd largest beef producer). With the major processing plants shut down or barely running farmers had no one to buy their pig inventory so they were offering them to locals for $100 each but had no takers. Why? Because there are no longer any local butchers to process them for purchasers. The skill has simply disappeared. The age-window during which a pig is viable for market is quite narrow so they had to kill them all and bury them. Damn! No one knows how to butcher a hog!? I can probably still hog dress a deer and I’ll bet there’s a You-Tube video on butchering So, I can learn that. Maybe in my old age, I’ll become a butcher. Oh, wait…too late. I’m already at that age.

9 May 20 - This Damn Thing is Getting Serious!!
You know the world is definitely going to hell, when the EAA cancels Oshkosh (That’s AirVenture to you young’uns,). There has been a lot of talk about what they were going to do and that shoe finally dropped earlier in the week. Now those of us who have made it the seminal annual event have to deal with a new reality: Life without Oshkosh!

First, before January, if you had asked me if I’d ever write that last line, I would have answered “No, frigging way!” Oshkosh is and always will be. Until, of course, it isn’t. And that’s where we are right now.

Actually, this doesn’t come as a total surprise to me. As stay-at-home orders cascaded down on us and we started to see body counts of a thousand a day or more, Oshkosh timing became more and more critical. Sure, it’s two months off, but that’s not nearly enough time for the pandemic to subside and for them to prepare. Actually, there were two things happening at the same time: First, it takes the EAA nearly two months to get things ready to go and the work force during those two months is almost entirely volunteers. An entire army of volunteers descends on Oshkosh and become working residents. Hundreds of them. The first hurtle was how many would be willing to be part of a work crew, given the situation.

The second hurtle had a similar decision point: The aviation population is, if not freaked out, at least they are very wary of crowds. At least the intelligent ones who are taking this thing seriously are. Even if the government were to wave a magic wand and suddenly there were no new cases and no deaths to report, the population would still be spooked about large gatherings. So, the EAA management had to ask themselves, “What if we put on a fly-in and no one comes?” Oshkosh is a major revenue spike for the organization, but it costs a helluva lot of money to put the little shindig on. The cost/benefit ratio was beginning to look bad.

More important than all the above is the humanitarian side of this thing. The EAA membership may be focused on airplanes but the organization itself is focused on its membership. This whole aviation fraternity thing is based on people functioning with people. It’s more of an enormous family dynamic than anything else. EAA HQ had to decide whether they were going to take chances with people’s lives and they made the correct decision. If there’s a chance the event is going to cause a spike in cases and deaths, shut it down.

I’m glad they did what they did. Otherwise I was going to have to show up in a full hazmat suit with a forced-air painting hood. Plus, any one above 61 is, by government decree, “elderly” and at higher risk. And I’m a few years (decades almost) past 61 so I’m technically “elderly”. Bastards! Still, I’m taking this thing seriously enough that I’m willing to play the age card and accept whatever protection they’re offering.

This having been said about people avoiding large gatherings, one of the silliest things I’ve seen so far is people protesting the lock down in crowds packed so tightly that they are breathing each other’s breath. WTF?? I’m hoping that when some of those protestors become infected that they’ll own up to their own mistakes.

This thing is passed from person to person, person to doorknob to person, person to five-dollar bill to person, etc. However, for the most part, we could be making mud pies out of Covid19 with our bare hands and, as long as we thoroughly wash/disinfect our hands before we touch our faces, we’ll be okay. Everyone on the planet knows all of this. Too many just don’t do it.

There are so many bad things going on over which we have little control that this week has seemed as if we’re doing a dress rehearsal for the end of days. Things, we didn’t need on top of the pandemic, like murder hornets and gypsy moths, are far more likely to kill us all by disrupting the natural food chain and those are difficult to control. A virus isn’t. We know how this works and, give us time, and we’ll know enough about it to at least limit its effects.

The biggest drawback to them cancelling OSH is that the majority of us airplane gray dogs date our year from that week. Not January one. We date things as being either before or after Oshkosh. It’ll take us a while to reset our thinking. But, we’ll make it work. bd

PS
One thought has definitely been re-enforced during the last weeks: I don’ t know how retailers can possibly stay in business. People who had never ordered on line now have dozens of empty Amazon boxes laying around their recycle bins. This morning I ordered a half dozen cut-off disks for my angle head grinder. They showed up around two o’clock!!! In the middle of a pandemic I’m still getting my hardware. McMaster-Carr is doing the same thing. One click shopping with no shipping costs. I ordered four 7/16” bolts and they showed up the next morning with no shipping charge. Even Aircraft Spruce shipped some tubing to me that I had ordered Sunday night and it arrived Wednesday. It’s no longer worth it to climb in the car and drive over to pick something up. Buying patterns were already changing but this has been a tsunami of change. Brick and mortar retailers are going to take it in the shorts. …and the times, they are a changing.

26 April 20 - Confessions of a Newbee Germaphobe
Alright, this is it! I’m tired of thinking, living, watching and generally being immersed in Covide19 everything. Right now, if you scan through your e-mails and The Media (of any kind) there will only be three subjects being covered Covid19, Trump and Covid19-combined-with-Trump. Enough already!

I made a quick foray out last night to get a couple of Subs so Marlene wouldn’t have to cook. She’s on the first week of recovering from a broken rib (not cracked, actually broken) and anyone who has ever damaged a rib will tell you it’s one of the most painful minor injuries you can have (I’ve done it twice). Every movement is an exercise in pain. And God help you if you sneeze or cough. Anyway, this was probably only my third or fourth journey out into the new world which has been re-sculptured by Covid19 and I ran head-on into a new me. It was a me I didn’t really recognize and I was having a little trouble coping with me. And the world around me.

First, I put my mask and gloves on and went into the Subway only to find the two teenagers running the show who were about to make my sandwich weren’t wearing masks and were lollygagging around behind the counter in a way that made me very uncomfortable. I asked why they weren’t wearing masts and they said, “Because we don’t have any. They haven’t arrived yet.”

Aaarrrggh!

Then, even though the pleasant young man started to don gloves to make my sandwich my brain went into a spasm of okay-he’s-wearing-gloves-while-actually-making-the-sandwich-but-what-has he-breathed-on-who handled-the-bread-how-often-have-they-disenfected-the-food-trays. On went the uncontrolled mental rant. Then I heard what I was rattling around inside my brain coming out of my mouth, “Nah, forget it. I don’t want to take a chance.”

Ha! I surprised myself! I usually sluff that kind of thing off.

I went out the front door, mask and gloves still in place, hung a left and walked into a local grocery chain, Bashas. I was going to buy sandwiches from their meat/deli counter. It was too late for the butchers so I had to take a couple of the pre-made, in a plastic container, sandwiches. My mind took off again: who-handled-the-plastic-containers? Was that me over-thinking things?

Off to checkout and the check-out lady wasn’t wearing a mask or gloves although they did have a Plexiglas screen dividing us (even my steel supply yard has those now). My oh-sh*t paranoia meter pegged. As I ran my card into the reader, I was acutely aware of pushing buttons half of the universe had pushed and sneezed on. I was mentally repulsed and very aware that I had handled my card and my wallet after pushing the final key. Then she dropped my purchase in a plastic bag and all my brain could see were herds of bugs (most were black, a few purple and one very aggressive yellow one) running all over the plastic, just waiting for me to pick up the bag. By this time, I was beginning to doubt even my sandwiches. Who had butchered the pig? Had they breathed on the ham while making the sandwich?

I had never seen this me before!

Back at the car, I took the gloves off before opening the door but then realized I had touched both my wallet and card with the gloves that were probably totally coated with germs. So, I ripped a Lysol wipe out of the ever-present box in the other seat, got out, wiped the door handle, my wallet, my credit card, my hands, the steering wheel, the start button, the shift lever, etc., etc. I think I wiped the rearview mirror because I had looked at it. Well…you never know.

While all of this was going on, a part of me was hovering about five feet above me, like a ghost observing the goings-on, and I heard my own voice coming from the apparition saying “Gheez, Budd! Is that really you? Have you gone nuts?”

At that point I realized I had become a germaphobe.

This was an entirely new concept for me. And was probably being too paranoid. However, the operative word in that sentence is “probably.” I’m knee deep in the demographic that is considered hyper-vulnerable to Covid19. With too many miles behind me and mild hypertension, I’m the poster child (hardly a child) for possible bad things happening should I catch the bug. So, we’re sheltering in place and are definitely not looking forward to the state opening up.

Will we, as a nation, eventually come out of our social burrow and into the sunlight? Yes. Probably. But, I’m not sure when. The decisions being made by us and the federal, state and local governments are uniquely critical. None of these kinds of decisions have ever been made before. I don’t envy the decision makers. If they go too far, people will die. If they don’t go far enough, the economy dies and higher death rates will be the result there too, but for different reasons. Damned if they do, damned…etc. However, it’s up to us, as individuals, to still socially distance and wear masks.

The most damning aspect of this entire experience, which I’m certain the majority of us will survive, is the way in which a civilization-wide tragedy has become politized. The political hate and divisiveness have further divided an already-divided country at a time, when both sides should be pulling together. At the same time, most of that division, but definitely not all, exists primarily inside political ivory towers. And the media. Especially inside the DC beltway. Outside, in the real world, it is heartening to see how we’re trying to support one another and we’re united in giving thanks to those doing battle for us, from truck drivers and first responders to the janitors keeping our hospitals and grocery stores clean. The People are still The People, which is a very American way of thinking. At ground level, political views don’t seem to matter. This is as it should be.

We’re going to come out of this period greatly changed, but we WILL come out of it and we’re going to be smarter and more determined to right our ship than ever before. Our politicians had better show that they’ve learned from this because the populous has definitely seen politicians for what they are. The sweaty-unwashed-masses, you and me, regardless of political persuasion, have clearly seen where governments, and more often specifically, politicians, have forgotten who put them in office and whom they are supposed to be working for. Especially their actions in delaying critical funds for troubled businesses for political gain.

The old cliché, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” applies here. Unfortunately, we’ve lost too many friends and loved ones in the process and I hope we’ve learned what we need to learn. Time will tell.

November is going to be very interesting and will say a lot about who learned what during this trying time. bd

16 April 20 - Road Kill: a Different Kind of Blog
This is a highly unusual Thinking Out Loud. What follows (it’s a long read) is the first few chapters of a book I pitched to publishers something like 18 years ago. Most publisher’s reps are female and based in New York City and they rejected it out of hand as being too implausible. The concept of the country falling apart because the truckers weren’t running was, to them, too silly to contemplate. Looking around right now, I wonder if they’ve changed their minds. And I apologize for there being no indents. They disappeared, when I took it into HTML format.

Road Kill
By
Budd Davisson

Prologue


“Mr. President?” The presidential advisor had delivered difficult news from nuclear stand-offs to assassinations, but he really didn’t want to be the messenger this time, “I have some bad news about the state dinner tonight for President Umbabi.”
President Thomas McAlvery Buchanan looked up from his desk, his round, featureless face a question mark, “Now, what?”
“Sir, the cook says the planned menu of fillet mignon can’t be served.”
“Why the hell not?” Buchanan snapped. Buchanan, being from Mississippi, didn’t consider it food if it hadn’t once been alive and covered with hair.
“Sir, the truckers strike has prevented deliveries to our normal suppliers so there are no fillets available anywhere in town.”
“Goddammit, do I have to do all the thinking around here?” the most powerful man in the world roared. “Do T-bones then. How obvious is that?”
“Sorry, sir, no T-bones either.”
Buchanan, wrinkled his brow and put his face down into folded hands as if saying a prayer. This trucker strike was becoming a pain in the butt, but he’d be damned if he’d give in to those sonsabitches. Quietly, from behind his hands he said, “Okay, then, what exactly does the chef say he can serve?”
“Spaghetti.”
Buchanan looked up with big eyes, “Spaghetti? You have to be kidding! With meatballs?”
“No, sir, just spaghetti.”

Chapter One

“Ladies and gentlemen, this is the Captain speaking. We’re about twenty minutes out from landing and we have a highly unusual situation developing at Kennedy. Don’t be alarmed, as it shouldn’t affect our landing or safety at all, but I thought you should know about it in advance.”
Molly Slattery looked over at her husband, Jack, and squeezed his arm.
“As you know,” the pilot continued, “the trucking strike has gone on for over a month now and it appears the lack of deliveries to supermarkets and grocery stores has spread to the point that people are leaving their posts to care for their families and we just got word that includes air traffic controllers as well.”
A slow mumbling amongst the passengers could be heard over the engines.
The pilot hesitated, cleared his throat and continued, “The airport is officially closed and there is no formal air traffic control. However, we’re talking to all the other aircraft inbound to JFK and we’ll just follow each other in. It is, however, going to be crowded because weather has diverted traffic from other cities to Kennedy. The local New York weather is perfect, however, so there should be no problem.”
“No problem, my ass,” Jack Slattery hissed as he imagined what was going on in the cockpit. A pilot himself for over thirty years, he had his own thoughts on the matter. “I’ll bet there’s not a pilot inbound to Kennedy who can remember the last time they made a landing without having radar covering their butts. This ought to be a lot of fun.”
He didn’t try to hide the sarcasm.
Molly knew the signs: Jack was just getting up a head of steam. She’d do her best to calm him down, but the trucker’s strike and the way President Buchanan was handling it was one of his soapbox subjects.
Dammit,” Jack Slattery said. “I knew we should have left earlier. As soon as I saw how badly that jerk Buchanan was screwing up, we should have packed up and left England right then.” He was fuming. “I don’t know what the hell Buchanan thought was going to happen. It’s been damn near six weeks and grocery stores can’t last nearly that long. Same thing with gas stations. We should have learned our lessons with the gas shortages. Or Katrina. Let a population think they’re about to run out of something and everyone starts hoarding. Then, guess what? They do run out of everything. Then it’s every man for himself.”
Molly, put a finger to her lips making Jack aware that people were looking at him. He didn’t care and was on a roll, “Don’t kid yourself, this is happening everywhere in the country. Everywhere! Things started to go to hell a couple of weeks ago. And, what did Buchanan do? He just sat there acting like God. Now, not even the truckers are eating. Damn! We should have headed for home right then.”
Molly knew what was bothering him. “Jack, Debbie will be just fine. She’s a level headed kid and can take care of herself.”
Jack wasn’t convinced, “Yeah, but we should never have left her alone. I absolutely guarantee you that we’re one step away from gangs cruising neighborhoods looking for food. And she’s stuck at the house. At least I hope that’s where she is. I don’t…” he was interrupted as the captain continued delivering more bad news.
“We’ve been in contact with aircraft that have landed ahead of us and they advise us that all of the boarding bridges are full so we’ll have to deplane you on the ramp and will probably have to use the emergency slides. Again, this will be no problem and our flight attendants will assist you and give you instructions on how to use the slides. We apologize for this inconvenience, but we’ll do our best to help in every way we can.”
Jack Slattery had dealt with serious adversity from his days as a young Marine to his rough and tumble life as a commercial building contractor in the New York metropolitan area and he was thinking far past the words being said by the captain.
“Babe,” he said, moving closer to Molly so others in first class couldn’t hear him, “I think there’s a real shit storm going on and we’d better be prepared for it. Take a look down there.”
As Slattery was speaking, the airplane was in a bank giving them a clear view of a river with a number of big bridges spanning it. Traffic filled every lane of highway as far as their eyes could see.
Jack said, “That’s the Triboro Bridge and it doesn’t look as if anything is moving. The tunnels have to be a disaster. This is just great! It’s so clear we can damn near see our place,” he indicated the far horizon on the other side of the unmistakable outline of New York City, “but you can bet we’re going to have a helluva time getting there.”

Even as Jack and Molly Slattery stared out across New York at their home in far western New Jersey, Bo Black, a twenty-nine-year-old youth with the build, complexion and demeanor of a short Mike Tyson was sitting in the back of a Department of Corrections van handcuffed to the seat. He couldn’t help but grin as a bulky guard yelled into the radio.
“Dispatch! Dispach! Is that you, Jackson? What the hell do you mean; the station is leaving?
A tinny voice came out of the speaker, “Yeah, Things are going to hell in a hand basket around here. Maloney got word that a gang was moving down his street in Secaucus cleaning the food out of every house as they go. He wanted to roll a couple of black and whites to stop it, but the Captain said they didn’t have the manpower, so Maloney told him to stuff it and left. Most of the other guys are gone too. Heading back to their places. Hey, man! We’re supposed to be protecting the people but just who in the hell is protecting us? I’ll talk to you. I’m splitting. Later.”
“Jackson! Jackson, what the hell am I supposed to do with this load of jail birds?” his answer was random static.
“Dammit!” He dropped heavily into the driver’s seat, a bewildered look on his face.
Bo Black was enjoying the display immensely. The van was sitting on a side street in Hoboken where the driver had stopped after being forced off the Jersey Turnpike because of a near riot at a traffic jam. It was pretty obvious that getting to the prison was going to be nearly impossible. Even Black, himself a product of the inner city and used to a high level of localized chaos, was amazed at how quickly the area was unraveling. It seemed as if every block had its own little battle in progress.
The guard abruptly picked up a clipboard fastened to the dash of the big van. He scanned down it, his lips moving as he read. Satisfied, he reached into a lock box and came out with a ring of keys.
He was shaking his head in disbelief as he moved down the aisle unlocking handcuffs and leg chains as he went. The nametag on his khaki uniform shirt said, “Datillo.” He was talking in a near-shout as he worked.
“Alright, you dirt bags, this is your lucky damn day! The frigging world is going down the toilet and I don’t want to be nurse-maiding you assholes while one of your homies is out there burglarizing my place or hassling my family, so I’m outta here. For two œ cents I’ve leave you all chained up in here, but I’m such a nice frigging guy, I’m not going to do that. I’ve checked all your sheets and none of you are rapists, murderers or really bad guys, so you’re on your own.”
As Officer Datillo finished speaking, the key clicked in Bo Black’s cuffs. He was free! He’d been on his way to serve two years for armed robbery and now he was free, courtesy of stubborn truckers who wanted to overturn regulations he neither knew nor cared about.

Bo Black stood on the curb watching Officer Datillo drive away in the van with New Jersey government license plates. He had to swerve to miss a slow-motion fistfight between two elderly white women. A broken grocery bag was at their feet. Black looked around at a part of Hoboken he knew well and rubbed his wrists where the cuffs had been. Life was suddenly very good, even though his old neighborhood was beginning to like a combat zone complete with a couple of burning cars.
As Black watched the van disappear, he saw something very symbolic in it: the law had just decided to abandon their jobs and return home to tend to family business. Bo Black grinned his signature toothy grin. This was a career opportunity of massive proportions and he wasn’t going to let it pass without engaging his natural bend towards entrepreneurialism. People had to eat. People had to travel. New Jersey had just become a commodities-based economy with the only two commodities that counted being food and gasoline. Yes sir, with the law at home guarding their own gates, there were some real opportunities here.
Bo Black had a plan. Get his guys together, get a few guns and get going. Corner the food and gasoline market and he would be czar of New Jersey. He grinned again. This was going to work!
As if endorsing Black’s concept, a Hispanic woman came screaming out of the brownstone directly behind him. She was driving a middle-aged white male in a well-pressed business suit down the steps while beating him with a broom. “You sonuvabitch, that’s my bottle of milk and I don’t give no damn how much dinero you got. We can’t eat money. It’s mine! I catch you in my building again and my man gonna cut you good!”


Chapter Two

“I don’t like this one damn bit,” Jack Slattery said under his breath. He had his nose glued to one of the airliner’s windows. “Look down there. I can actually see mobs of people around the stores. It looks like wall-to-wall riots and…oh, shit!”
A moving shadow cut quickly across the ground beneath them and Slattery snapped his head up. A United Airlines 757 was barely 100 yards away slowly converging on them.
“I don’t believe this!” Slattery blurted. Molly leaned over his lap and looked out. Jack said, “I think he’s trying for the same runway we’re going for! Oh, man! This isn’t going to work!” Then, the other airplane stopped moving toward them and held position. He was flying a very tight formation with Slattery’s airliner, which let Sam know the pilot had them in sight although he couldn’t guess why the pilot insisted on flying so close.
Slattery’s Boeing 767 was grumbling along, gear and flaps down on final approach to runway 17 Right at Kennedy International. Slattery could imagine the runway dead ahead, but could see none of it. He wasn’t looking anyway. He couldn’t take his eyes off the airliner that seemed glued to their wing tip. Even as he watched, a quick puff of dark smoke came from the left engine.
“Damn! One engine just flamed out. He’s running out of fuel,” Slattery blurted. “That’s why he’s so close. He’s planning on landing right behind us. He must have been diverted from someplace else. I hope he has…oh, oh, there goes the other one. Oh, my God! It looks as if he’s trying for the taxiway.”
Its source of propulsion gone, the giant airliner began sliding back and Slattery had to lean forward to see, unable to take his eyes off it. The airplane sank lower and Jack knew he was in serious trouble—they weren’t yet over the airport boundary and there was nothing below but buildings and the occasional boulevard. And airliners on final approach don’t glide.
Out of the corner of his eye, he caught the paved end of the taxiway just ahead. But it was too late. Just before crossing the muli-lane highway bordering the airport, one of the aircraft’s landing gear hit a light stanchion and the airliner slewed sharply right. The pilot corrected with a left bank but he was out of airspeed, altitude and luck all at the same time: the down wing tip caught the edge of the raised earthen berm at the airport boundary. The last Slattery saw of the airplane it was a cart wheeling mass of flame that catapulted wreckage up onto the taxiway.
“They didn’t make it,” Slattery quietly breathed, as he slammed back in his seat and stared straight forward. “They didn’t make it! Dammit!” He immediately wondered how many other desperate pilots were out there staring at fuel warning lights.

“Sir, just cross your arms in front of you and jump feet first, the slide will catch you.”
Standing in the open door looking down, Slattery only half heard the shaken flight attendant. He was having trouble processing what he saw. The massive JFK terminal was over a quarter mile away and the usually empty ramp between was a hodgepodge of aircraft parked at odd angles, like giant insects trying to build a nest. Noisy groups of people were milling around not knowing what to do, and the occasional airport vehicle could be seen in the distance drawing a beeline for an exit somewhere.
Before jumping, he looked across the confusion and mentally marked the route he and Molly would have to take to make it to the parking lot where he hoped his truck was still parked. The situation was much worse than he had imagined.
Standing at the bottom of the slide, Slattery caught Molly’s arm, as she slithered to a stop and jerked her to her feet before a portly old lady squashed her.
“Let’s go. We have to get out of this mob before it gets really ugly,” he said.
Even as Jack spoke, an overly tan, middle aged man with too many gold chains, too much chest hair and too much attitude was screaming at one of the flight attendants, “Hey, lady, I don’t give a damned about your problem, here. I want my goddamn bags! I wear thousand-dollar shirts, ya know, and you don’t think I’m going to leave my stuff in the belly of your goddamn airplane do you?”
As Jack pulled Molly through the disorganized crowd, she had to shout to be heard, “Jack, what about our baggage”
“Forget it,” Jack yelled back, “When people realize they’re stranded in the middle of an airport, it’s really going to get crazy out here. I hope to hell someone disarmed the ramp side security door locks, or we’re not even going to be able to get off the ramp. What an incredible mess!”

The mobs were everywhere on the ramp and Jack was acutely aware of palpable panic floating in the air. People were just beginning to understand the desperate nature of their dilemma. Airports are not designed to have large numbers of people on the ramp. In fact, post-911 airports are specifically designed to keep people off the ramp and away from the airplanes, which creates a weird sort of reversal—once people are inside a fence that was designed to keep them out, there’s no logical way to escape because every door and gate is locked.
As Slattery dragged Molly through the frantic crowd, he was trying to apply what he knew about airport security and the way buildings are built to getting past the terminal to the parking lots. It was as if everything he’d done in his life, from the Marines to construction had led up to surviving in this situation.
Everywhere he looked panicked mobs were beating on locked doors at the elevated ends of jetways and ground level personnel doors. They were crammed against one another as if thinking that by shoving the people ahead against the doors they could somehow gain entry. But it wasn’t working.
Jack’s eyes scanned the lower levels and spied a way in.
“Molly,” he pointed to where some equipment was backed up to a wall where there were no people, “there’s a baggage loading dock. Let’s go.”
Molly immediately saw what he was thinking and changed direction. A British national, when she and Jack met several years earlier, she’d been working for British intelligence as a field agent, so she was also used to handling unusual situations and had received training most women couldn’t even imagine. They were a good match. Without Jack saying a word, she hopped easily up on a belt loader, clambered over some baggage and crawled through the heavy plastic drapery that kept the weather outside from following baggage through the small portal. Her small, but athletic, frame fit easily. Jack was close behind, but at six feet and one-hundred-ninety pounds, he didn’t slide through as easily.
“Oh, this is charming!” Molly said, as she smoothed her short-cropped auburn hair. Jack dropped off the conveyor belt beside her in a darkish room that was a mess of baggage, conveyors and baggage carts. Although the murmur of the crowds could be heard through the walls, a gloomy silence lay thick around them. “What now, Mr. Slattery? You know it’s going to be pandemonium as soon as we get into the terminal.”
Jack stood for a moment looking around. Thinking. She was right. They needed a plan. They couldn’t just go barging out there and get swept away by the crush of people that undoubtedly filled the terminal. There had to be a hundred airliners clustered on the ramp in addition to those already on boarding gates, so the problem of people getting out of the airport was reaching critical mass. He tried to picture what was happening on the other side of the terminal wall and what it would take to make it to the parking lot.
“Okay, here’s the plan,” he said. “Let’s do the baggage thing and follow the conveyor. That will put us on the lower baggage claim area. That’ll be away from most of the crowds. I hope. When we hit the terminal floor, we can count on every door and stairwell being packed to the point they are dangerous. Once we’re out of the terminal, I think we’ll be okay. So, let’s make our own door.”
As Jack was talking, he was walking slowly amongst the loaded baggage carts. He was looking for something. Molly didn’t even try to guess what. “Aha!” Jack said. “This’ll do the trick.” Hefting a baggage cart tow bar in his hands, he said, “Yeah, this’ll do it. Let’s go.”

As the Slatterys crawled through the small baggage conveyor door into the baggage claim area and dusted themselves off, not one person in the frantic mob even noticed them. Nor did they question why Jack Slattery was dragging a heavy steel tow bar behind him to the center of the concourse. They were all too intent on forcing their way into the impenetrable mass of humanity that was trying to wedge itself through the hopelessly jammed revolving doors. Between the doors, huge windows offered an unobstructed view of people outside running one way or the other on the sidewalk.
“You ready?” Jack asked Molly, who was standing directly behind him holding the other end of the tow bar. She nodded. “Then, let’s do it!” he said.
In unison, the pair lunged toward one of the glass walls of the terminal. Jack guided the tow bar into the exact center of a panel, which was designed to survive decades of careless skycaps and passengers but not the onslaught of a tow bar. Jack stopped abruptly and let the tow bar do its job. The results were spectacular.
The tow bar pulverized the lower four feet of glass, causing the glass above to collapse and cascade down, the wide sheets shattering like ice, as they hit the floor. Just that quickly, they had a way out and took advantage of it. Now all they had to do was hope their truck was still there and prepare for becoming part of the lemming rush to nowhere they had seen from the air.
As they dashed down the sidewalk toward the distant parking lots, Jack was thinking about the nightmare of trying to get through New York City and said, “This is going to be a very long day.”
Molly wrinkled her freckled, pug nose and answered, “What do you mean ‘going to be?’”

A note from 2020 to Airbum readers: I haven’t written the rest of this book, but it’s all outlined.

Briefly, Jack lives on a farm in the west side of NJ, which has been converted into an actual island by the surrounding states. In an effort to protect themselves from the onslaught of paniced NJ and NY citizens trying to get across the rivers that surround the entire state of NJ (except the northern 30 miles or so), the states have blockaded or blown all the bridges. No one can get out of NJ. It instantly degrades to science fiction grade, dog-eat-dog anarchy.

From where they are in JFK, Jack doesn’t even try to get through NYC to NJ. He hot wires a motor cycle in the parking lot and cross countries his way east, rather than west to a friend’s potato farm that has a grass runway on it. He hot wires a Cub and puddle jumps his way back home only to find his daughter is gone and left a note, she’s gone to friends’ house in the middle of the state, which has turned into a dangerous, urban battlefield. In the meantime, Bo Black gets his thugs together, steal a ton of arms from a Nat Guard armory and occupy every Costco, Home Depot and major food storage facility in the northern half of the state.

It becomes a war zone with ex-Marine Jack Slattery and his rural friends on one side and Bo Black and his urban troops on the other. This carries on for an extended period of time because, once the country descended to this level of anarchy, getting the truckers running and up to speed is much more complicated than it sounds. The producers have to start producing to have something to carry in trucks and the outlets have to reorganize and get back up to speed to sell/distribute their goods. NJ and NYC, which are combat jungles by this time, are the last to be taken care of simply because the military, with its manpower depleted by understandable desertions, has to get the rest of the country on its feet before they can jump into a commitment the size of the NY/NJ metropolitan area.

And so it goes.

29 Mar 20 - Personal Responsibility in the Covid Age: Kids can Kill us
I was determined not to talk about CV19 this time around but couldn’t do it. This thing has so totally enveloped our lives, that it’s hard to think about anything else. And this time I’m thinking about personal responsibility and how young people don’t seem to have it. This is hurting us all.

There was an interesting map put together by a tech company that showed the travel patterns of cell phones that had been in Florida during Spring Break. It clearly showed that a few weeks after the kids returned home that there were Covid spikes where ever bunches of them went. Youth is a wonderful thing, however, for the time being, they have to try to not yield to the traits that make youth what it is or we’re all going to pay for it.

One of the central themes to being young is that we think of ourselves as being invincible. And we think the old folks, those over 30 or so, exaggerate everything. The “Don’t trust anyone over thirty” thought pattern wasn’t invented in the ‘60’s. It’s always been with us but ebbs and flows and appears to have something to do with how different generations have experienced life while young.

The vast majority of those pictured frolicking on the beaches or strolling drunkenly down the streets during Mardi Gras were in the 18 to 25-year old bracket. I think back to several interviews of those in Florida and them voicing the attitude that they don’t care about the Virus. Even if they catch it, it won’t be a big deal. The concept of them being carriers and bring it home to their parents, grandparents, and friends never occurs to them. That’s part of being young. It’s also part of never actually lived through a major event that affects a population.

It’s hard to believe, but 9/11 is just short of 20 years ago. So, if we say that a person has to be 15 years old before an event actually becomes a burning memory for them, that means that anyone below the age of 35, doesn’t have the same memory the rest of us do. There hasn’t been a heart-stopping national event since then. So, there’s an entire generation that doesn’t know the feeling of time coming to a stop for a long period of time. Of instantly remembering where they were and what they were doing, when it happened.

There isn’t a person reading this that doesn’t clearly remember watching the towers come down and how it seemed absolutely unbelievable. As if we were watching a sci-fi movie. We remember how, when the realization that we were under attack, settled into our brains, we came together as a nation. Same thing for when we first heard Kennedy was killed. Those are moments are frozen in time. Our parents all tell similar tales of listening to the news on the radio of Pearl Harbor being under attack and FDR’s speech the next day that, in so many words, said the world had forever changed.

Those kids who are staring into a camera and proclaiming their freedom by totally ignoring the whole Cornoavirus thing aren’t about to give up their partying for anything. They do so out of an overwhelming amount of self-importance and a total lack of understanding of the severe possibilities this pandemic embodies. There appears to be a disconnect that is partially grounded in their not even knowing what’s going on in the world, nor do a percentage of them care.

I’m betting that some of this has changed since spring breaks ended. Part of the change may be because I hope they caught a tremendous amount of crap when they returned home and, in the time since, they can’t ignore colleges shutting down, states demanding they shelter in place, and their favorite bars being closed. Plus, a percentage of them may be hospitalized, as we speak.

But there is still a segment of society that still doesn’t think this thing is real, so they party on. And they foster the spread of the demon.

Certainly, one of the scenes that drives the reality of the situation home is that of refrigerated trucks backed up to hospital loading docks. You know those trucks can’t be neatly lined with gurneys or cots that are desperately needed elsewhere. You know body bags are just stacked in there as gently as they can because they have no other choice. The morgues and coroners have to be as overwhelmed as all other systems are.

The millennials are just now entering into the real world, courtesy of a bug none of us had ever heard of. Let’s hope they are getting the message. If they aren’t and they persist in rebelling against the always-ignored standards of society, this thing is going to last longer than it should. And some of them and those they love and know are going to pay the so-called ultimate price.

BTW – Where were their parents during spring break?

Incidentally, I’m going to be pissed, if I lose someone I love because of some drunk kid. bd

22 Mar 20 - Surviving The Great Toilet Paper Panic of 2020 and Other Ridiculous Stuff
The engineer in me kicked in this morning during my morning ride on the porcelain pony. I actually counted the number of sheets I used and came up with some worthwhile conclusions. Potty-thinking is sometimes productive.

Much of what follows definitely falls under the heading of TMI (Too Much Information). Proceed at your own risk.

As part of my early morning research, I found that I use five sheets per pass and there’s generally two passes (told you…TMI). That’s 10 sheets a day. Shortly after that bit of fact-finding research, I wandered into our TP storage area (also known as the back bedroom) to evaluate the TP rolls, most of which have been in the house for a couple of years. It turns out that there is a variation between the brands with from 221-300 sheets per roll. Why 221, rather than 220, I haven’t the foggiest. That was Charmin. So, at 10 sheets per day that means each roll should last 20-30 Budd-days. Looking around the bedroom, in which The Redhead had increased our supply by only a few packs (there are 12 rolls per pack), I’d guess we have enough for a minimum of two to three years for two people at normal poop rates. 300 sheets per roll is a month per roll or a year per pack. So, why are we seeing people coming out of Costco with five or six packs? What do they know that we don’t? On the other hand, they may have five kids and a puppy. Nikki, our pup, decimated two months of TP in 24 hours making the room look like a TP blizzard had hit.

Just for the record, I have a certain amount of prepper in me. I’m certain that’s left over from my teenage years in the ‘50s, when I was prepping for the Russians to invade Nebraska. Not likely but, I was ready for it. And this was long before the movie Red Dawn was produced. At 14-15 years old I had my own bug-out foot locker ready to toss into dad’s pick-up and head out to the acreage we owned, and I still own, out in the country a few miles. I’m wondering if lots of others brought up in the same paranoid environment carried that trait with them into adulthood.

The result of the above is that, as long as we’ve been in this house, 22 years, I’ve continually preached how the veneer of civilization is incredibly thin and, at a low level, have prepared for it being challenged. We’re getting a small taste of that right now through our social distancing and shelter-in-place experiences: We interrupted the natural flow of commerce by keeping people out of the workplace and that effect is going to be felt for years.

As this is being written, hoarding is the problem not supplies: when people panic and overbuy “just because”, without giving any serious thought as to how much is actually needed, you wind up with temporarily empty shelves. For that reason, some thought has to be given to the fact that, when the shelves are emptied, they have to be refilled and that brings us to the most important cog in civilization: Truckers.

The shelf-filling apparatus assumes two things: First, it assumes that the people who produce the products can keep producing. This has to be difficult because shelter-in-place dictums, sickness and fear of The Virus all work against that. Second, if they can produce the stuff to fill the shelves, it’s assumed that the trucks will be running to move the product to the shelves needing to be filled. The truckers are the blood vessels that carry the blood from the heart to the extremities where the blood allows the muscles to do their jobs. Interrupt the flow of blood and everything else screeches to a halt.

This thing we call “civilization” is dependent on a complex interweaving of functioning parts, none of which will work if the truckers aren’t doing their thing. At the same time, truckers have to be the least appreciated and sometimes most looked down upon segments of society. At the very least, they are terribly taken for granted. And don’t give me the crap that they’ll soon be taken out of the cycle by autonomous trucks. I spend lots of hours sandwiched between trucks in the middle of the night going to and from LA and even on straight highway sections, too many odd situations arise to let AI try to figure out a solution. Mixing autonomous multi-ton vehicles with un-predictable civilian traffic at 80 mph is a real “recipe for disaster”. Yeah, I know that’s a cliché but clichés exist because of the truth they contain. And the concept of autonomous big rigs mixed in with high speed traffic, especially in an urban environment like LA, is almost impossible to envision. It’ll work, when they get their own highways, but not as highways exist today.

BTW-I’m predicting that the two-week shutdown is going to be extended to at least four weeks or maybe six. As painful as that is, we can’t let up the pressure until the virus is convincingly forced into retreat. It’s going to take what it takes and anything less is going to see us going back into the escalation mode we’re in right now.

When the shelter-in-place thing is extended, the supply situation will probably tighten. However, by that time, hopefully, all of those with hoarding instincts are going to have filled their back bedrooms to the point that even they know they have enough. There is, however, an unknown tipping point: If the economy remains shut down too long, what started as a cancer in business is going to metastasize and our economy and our finances are going to get really bad, really fast.

Is this the bug that’s going to kill our species? I’m certain it’s not but it’ll lead to working remote being much more acceptable than it is now. On top of everything else, it’s going to be really interesting to see what political effect it has in November. No one can predict that one.

Remember the supposedly Chinese curse “May you live in interesting times”? That’s exactly what we’re living right now. The next year will prove conclusively whether we’re as smart as we think we are and I’m betting we actually are that smart. We’re Americans, remember? Surviving bad situations is our thing. bd

14 Mar 20 - The Virus: Toilet Paper and Other Random Thoughts
At 0530 this morning, as I picked up the remote for my half hour daily dose of Fox and Friends, the thought suddenly flicked through my mind, “Damn, who touched these buttons last?” Then I remembered: No one else is in the house. Marlene and I touched them last. That’s how complete The Virus has altered our daily thinking. And I’m already tired of it. But we’d better get used to it.

It’s unbelievable how quickly things changed. Only seven weeks ago we had a student/B & B guest who had a really severe, hacking cough. He traveled extensively for his business and we just figured another guy with a cold. Two weeks later, I commented to Marlene how my ever-present allergy-based cough had gotten much worse and seemed to have shifted to my chest from my sinuses, which was odd. I commented that it was a dry cough not unlike the time I had pneumonia years ago. We didn’t yet know enough about The Virus to even be alarmed. Did I have The Virus? We don’t know because I did what I usually do in that situation: I just rode it out. No big deal. If that had happened in the last couple of weeks, I would have had my doctor in the loop and been self-quarantined. And, being one of the over-60 targets, at the very least, I would have been nervous.

Marlene didn’t get the cough, so obviously I didn’t have The Virus. Or did I? We’ll never know, but this kind of possibility has certainly altered the entire world’s way of thinking.

We’ve entered a time where FDR’s famous quote that all we have to fear is fear itself rings very true. Today, what we have to fear is unnecessary hoarding. Empty shelves scare the hell out of people.

Random Thought Number one:

When was the last time you gave any thought to how many of the little sheets of toilet paper you use per poop? Since TP is on the verge of becoming a blackmarket, over-priced item, we’re all downsizing our TP usage. Here’s a hint for any ladies reading this: Marlene has shifted to paper napkins when she pees and, since they can’t be flushed down, puts them in a paper bag. Napkins are still plentiful. Not a store in town has toilet paper. How crazy is that?

In just the last few days the length of toilet paper lines has become a more important source of conversation than politics. Poop concerns always outweigh political ones. This is as it should be.

Number two:
It’s a myth that most toilet paper comes from China. 90% is US produced (Google tells us that). Still, it has become common knowledge that 95% of our antibiotics and medicines depend wholly, or at least partially, on China. And there have been rumblings from over there that they may jack up the prices or embargo us. In a rare flash of international insight, politicians are heard saying, HOW THE HELL DID WE GET SO DEPENDENT ON A COUNTRY WHO IS BASICALLY OUR ENEMY? Yes, even politicians can have moments of commonsense clarity.

Probably the best thing that will come out of this pandemic is the realization that we need to give serious consideration to bringing some of those cheap-labor jobs back into our own borders, even if it’s not financially advantageous. Inasmuch as even Apple has come to a halt because of component supply problems they have to be thinking of the same thing.

Number three:

The overall damage to the economy is going to be so big it’ll be nearly impossible to project. Think about it: every single thing, from movies to sporting events to every kind to music festivals will be cancelled. Businesses based on those kinds of events are already crashing as their business evaporates. That’s billions of dollars! However, it comes right down to things as basic as our local burger joints. In actuality, the country has become paranoid about stepping out of our own front doors. On-line is going to be our savior but will even farther crush local businesses.

BTW: As part of Virus Paranoia, the Davisson household religiously disinfects every package that’s delivered.

A useful fact: A recognized DIY disinfectant is a combination of alcohol and aloe oil. 2/3rds cup of alcohol (at least 90% alcohol…that’s important) and a 1/3 cup of Aloe oil as a form of moisturizer.

Random, unimportant Observation:
I just saw an ad for a menopausal medication and the spokesperson endorsing it was Mary Lou Retton! That really made me feel old!

Canned goods evaluation:

This is probably already understood by everyone reading this, but the expiration date on canned good is just a suggestion to retain top quality. It has little to do with how long they’re actually okay to eat. I did extensive study on this and most of them can go 5-7 years or more past those dates and still be good. The way you should judge them is to avoid cans that have any bulging or dents and, when you open them air should be sucked in (they are in a vacuum) not pushed out. And, if it smells wrong, don’t eat it.

Hopefully, we won’t be talking about this same subject next week, but I bet we will. Regardless, it’s important to follow all the handwashing, personal behavior type rules that we’re being inundated with. The coverage on this might be overblown, but what if it isn’t? Let’s all err on the side of safety. bd

8 Mar 20 - Re-Visiting theVirus
This past weekend, we made a very difficult decision: we decided to forego driving to LA to see my 10-year-old granddaughter, Alice, in the lead in Fiddler on the Roof. At the same time we were to attend another granddaughter’s, Rosie, 5th birthday and to meet our new granddaughter, Tessa for the first time. I wish I had read what follows before we cancelled.

First, we’re as spooked as anyone about this thing. Partially because they say only the feeble and “elderly” are at risk. I was fine with that until I found they defined “elderly” as anyone over 60! Bastards! I was 60 once. For about 15 minutes, it seemed.

However, as everything I’ve read is distilled, several relevant facts seem to be confirmed over and over. It is not airborne so we pick it up by our hands and transfer to our system through our mouths, nose or eyes. They all say wash our hands often. Stay out of big groups. You know all the rest. However, the root cause is basically letting our hands get dirty. So, now we have sanitizer within reach everywhere we go and during everything we do. EVERYTHING we might touch is suspect so we either don’t touch it or remind ourselves to sanitize our hands before we touch ourselves. Simple as that.

Read the below and you’ll feel better.

This is reprinted from American Thinker and it makes sense.

An infectious disease doctor has a message about the real epidemic out ther
e
By Andrea Widburg

You know that someone has struck a nerve when his Facebook post about coronavirus has well over 632,000 shares. That’s the case with a post that Abdu Sharkawy, an infectious diseases specialist, wrote about coronavirus. His is the modern version of Franklin Roosevelt’s famous warning to Americans on the occasion of his First Inaugural Address, that “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

Sharkaway works for the University Health Network, which is affiliated with the University of Toronto Faculty of Medicine. It is also the largest health research organization in North America. An infectious disease specialist at this organization must be presumed to have a better knowledge about coronavirus than talking heads on the news or the writers at the New York Times and Washington Post.

Whatever you’ve been thinking about coronavirus, this post will give you some rare clarity on the issue:
I'm a doctor and an Infectious Diseases Specialist. I've been at this for more than 20 years seeing sick patients on a daily basis. I have worked in inner city hospitals and in the poorest slums of Africa. HIV-AIDS, Hepatitis,TB, SARS, Measles, Shingles, Whooping cough, Diphtheria...there is little I haven't been exposed to in my profession. And with notable exception of SARS, very little has left me feeling vulnerable, overwhelmed or downright scared.

I am not scared of Covid-19. I am concerned about the implications of a novel infectious agent that has spread the world over and continues to find new footholds in different soil. I am rightly concerned for the welfare of those who are elderly, in frail health or disenfranchised who stand to suffer mostly, and disproportionately, at the hands of this new scourge. But I am not scared of Covid-19.

What I am scared about is the loss of reason and wave of fear that has induced the masses of society into a spellbinding spiral of panic, stockpiling obscene quantities of anything that could fill a bomb shelter adequately in a post-apocalyptic world. I am scared of the N95 masks that are stolen from hospitals and urgent care clinics where they are actually needed for front line healthcare providers and instead are being donned in airports, malls, and coffee lounges, perpetuating even more fear and suspicion of others. I am scared that our hospitals will be overwhelmed with anyone who thinks they " probably don't have it but may as well get checked out no matter what because you just never know..." and those with heart failure, emphysema, pneumonia and strokes will pay the price for overfilled ER waiting rooms with only so many doctors and nurses to assess.

I am scared that travel restrictions will become so far reaching that weddings will be canceled, graduations missed and family reunions will not materialize. And well, even that big party called the Olympic Games...that could be kyboshed too. Can you even imagine?

I'm scared those same epidemic fears will limit trade, harm partnerships in multiple sectors, business and otherwise and ultimately culminate in a global recession.

But mostly, I'm scared about what message we are telling our kids when faced with a threat. Instead of reason, rationality, openmindedness and altruism, we are telling them to panic, be fearful, suspicious, reactionary and self-interested.

Covid-19 is nowhere near over. It will be coming to a city, a hospital, a friend, even a family member near you at some point. Expect it. Stop waiting to be surprised further. The fact is the virus itself will not likely do much harm when it arrives. But our own behaviors and "fight for yourself above all else" attitude could prove disastrous.

I implore you all. Temper fear with reason, panic with patience and uncertainty with education. We have an opportunity to learn a great deal about health hygiene and limiting the spread of innumerable transmissible diseases in our society. Let's meet this challenge together in the best spirit of compassion for others, patience, and above all, an unfailing effort to seek truth, facts and knowledge as opposed to conjecture, speculation and catastrophizing.

Facts not fear. Clean hands. Open hearts.

Our children will thank us for it.

Also, remember that, while panic can be a useful short-term incentive (although it often leads to bad decisions), it’s not a sustainable long-term emotion. Marie Vassiltchikov’s Berlin Diaries, 1940-1945 tells about her time working in Nazi Germany and helping groups within Germany that were fighting Hitler. One of the points she makes as she writes in real-time about the paranoia of the Third Reich and the terror from Allied bombings is that people adjust. What induces panic in the beginning eventually becomes tolerable, no matter how awful it is.


If Sharkawy is correct about coronavirus and the mainstream media is wrong, it won't be the end of the world and we’ll learn to live with it.

End of quote: There, I feel better already. bd

9 Feb 2020 -- High School: Where It all Begins
The other day I was involved in a three-way e-mail conversation with friends I’ve made during my adult life about our high school experiences. Out of it came a sort of self-examination by all of us of what and who we were in high school and what and who we are today. Out of that, an obvious fact surfaced.

As each of the other two guys talked, I couldn’t help but look around my office at all the crap hanging on the walls and piled on various desks, all of it speaking to long-held interests. At the same time, I was reading what the others said about their high school days. I was putting that against what I knew of them today and what they said about who they were back then. In all three cases, what we were then, we pretty much are today. I couldn’t judge the intimate details of their lives, but I could of my own, and a visual search of my surroundings had me asking, “What have I done since I left high school that wasn’t based on what/who I was during those four years?” The answer is nothing. Absolutely nothing! I couldn’t clearly identify a single thing in my life that didn’t have very firm roots in my high school days. Is that normal? I think it is, but can’t confirm that.

I wish I had instant feedback from everyone reading this to see how common this is. I’m betting it is very common but probably not universal.

I’m am absolutely certain that there are lots of folks out there who will say that they’re now doctors or whatever, which they definitely were not in high school. But, if they look back at those four years, especially the last two, can they honestly say that the interest wasn’t there? Will they say that right after their senior year, they decided they’d go into medicine, or engineering, or social work in some sort of sudden epiphany with no pre-thought. I think most of us already had a feeling of who we were and had a generalized feeling what we’d like to be by the time we graduated.

At the same time, there were those who came out of high school with little or no idea of who they were. As any of us look around at our high school classmates and compare them with how we saw them in high school versus how we see them today, it is highly unusual that there is a surprising difference. Those whom we saw as well-defined personalities or characters in high school have been just that well defined in their adult life. Those who were vague in their interests or were not sure who they were and what they wanted have lived lives that are usually just as vague and undefined.

Neither of these approaches to life is better or worse than the other. There is no good or bad. It’s just that there is an observable difference.

In my own case, I can look at my life, as characterized by the literally tons of knick knacks surrounding me as I type and see that virtually all of it was in my life in high school. A good percentage of it goes back into junior high, the 12 to 14-year-old period. That period is where I think most folks begin to experience the passions and interests that set the course for their lives. That period of my own life may be a little unique because my parents, their attitudes and their life style gave me unlimited opportunities that probably weren’t available to others. The result was that casual interests could be actively pursued.

My passion for firearms was aided and abetted by a seemingly endless supply of WW II Mausers and Japanese Arisakas that floated through the family store. They were five and three dollar guns respectively and I butchered far more than my share. Sad, but the way it was in the ‘50s.

The roadster, which has been my constant companion, although often in mind only, was a rusty farm field artifact that came by way of my dad’s radio show. However, the times and the area had a never-ending supply of Model A Fords. $25 was the going price.

Control-line flying models and plastic Mustangs and Messerschmitts filled my basement work bench alongside the rifles.

Teen Age Book club (TAB) at school, a national organization that visited the school once a month, sold paperback books for twenty-five cents apiece and each month saw five to ten of them with my name on them.

By 11-12 years of age I was paid $11.76/month for assembling (folding and heavy-duty stapling) the cardboard shipping containers for the baby chicks dad shipped all over the country. That was just short of an hour and a half of flight time at an airport outside of Lincoln that is long gone. The folk’s rule was I could do whatever I wanted, within reason, as long as I could figure out how to finance it. The net-net was that the chick boxes and hot rod work, gave me my pilot’s license the summer I graduated.

So, look around at the period since you were in high school and see what you’ve added that didn’t start back in the day. When I look back at the last 60 years, I have to admit that I haven’t done squat to advance myself. ‘Guess that means that since today is the first day in the rest of my life, I should start something new. First, however, I need to do some work on the roadster. The future can wait. BD

3 Feb 2020 -- Random Super Bowl Thoughts
As this is being typed it is early on Super Bowl Sunday. I know that virtually every TV in the nation is tuned to the hyper activities surrounding it. But, not all. I won’t be watching and, as I found out, neither are a bunch of others. Does that make us less manly (as if that makes a difference)?

Just make sure what I’m about to say is not just another blogger seeking to build his public image by going against the public grain, I ran a little poll. I sent the following out to the group of guys who I hang out with at Oshkosh and on line. We’re all airplane, car, firearms, nuts and bolts guys. All are conservative, all middle age and up, well above average in intellect, and all with more than a little dirt under their fingernails. I asked them, “I’m doing a little research on the popularity of football for my blog. How many of you will watch the Super Bowl today and who won’t?”.

I received answers such as,
“Nope. I don't watch sports unless nitro is the main ingredient.”
And
“ …that old quote men use so they don't sound like outsiders to the meatheads, "Yeah, College ball is much better," is bullshit. No different and don't care about either.”
And
“I won't watch it. My 13-yr-old daughter might but my 18-yr-old son probably doesn’t even know it's happening today.”
And
“Oh, is that today?”

Of the twenty or so folks I who responded, only two were going to watch. What does that mean? If anything?

Personally, I won’t watch. The level of my interest in sports, and football in particular, can be judged by the fact that I was born and raised in Nebraska (a Corn Husker) but graduated from their arch rival, Oklahoma U. (a galvanized Sooner). I just don’t care. This even though my family are all football fanatics. It’s part of the Corn Husker DNA. And, yes, I have to get a visa from the Nebraska governor to visit my sister.

As it turns out, the fact that I’m severely sports-challenged isn’t all that unique among a certain group of guys. They all share similar interests, starting with airplanes, but as individuals they are wildly individualistic and prone to following their passions. But, sports isn’t one of them. Nothing wrong with sports. It’s just not one of this group’s hot buttons.

These guys do, however share one uniting characteristic. They are, without exception “doers.” They do things. From building cars, airplanes, guns, motorcycles, guitars, etc. to diving into almost anything that piques their interest with gusto. I guess what I’m saying is that they are big on participating but not big on spectating.

I do, however, have to admit that I part from this group in several minor ways. This to the extent that I fully expect this group, and guys in general, to consider taking a vote to void my “man card.” This because I don’t drink and can’t stand beer. And don’t like bacon. Not sure why. Just don’t. I’ve been told that makes me un-American, or something. And it casts doubt on whether I’m actually a pilot. Oh, well!

PS
I do have to admit to watching the half time show. Jennifer Lopez and Shakira demonstrated how much punishment lower lumbar vertebrae can take while butt-swiveling, or whatever it’s call. And J. Lo makes being 50 years old look really good! However, at 43, Shakira wasn’t far behind.

26 Jan 2020 -- Chromatic Prejudice
Why are many of our most critical decisions based on red being bad and green being good? From traffic signals to aircraft operations everything is based on those two colors, which is clearly prejudicial against a certain minority. I am now giving voice to that minority as one of its born-to members.

I am color blind. That makes me part of that minority that includes one out of twelve men and one out of two hundred women. We are an unacknowledged minority, yet we are constantly being discriminated against. Okay, so “discriminated” may be a little strong. However, if we want to be over sensitive about it and fall in line with other minorities, we can claim discrimination. But, only for the purposes of a silly blog.

Given today’s political environment, where everything is an “ism” it could be said that both parties are guilty of colorism. So, I’m hereby claiming that the government, and society, in general, recognize this downtrodden group. And do something to help us.

As part of that effort, I’m organizing a walk on Washington to bring attention to our plight. I’m hoping to point out that even the Green New Deal is obvious colorism (besides being totally stupid and impossible). There, again, a color backs us into a corner. I’ve received overwhelming response to my announcement of a massive CVD (color vision deficiency) March for Freedom. Current projections say attendance is likely to exceed 23 to 27 individuals and the DC PD is already developing security protocols.

All silliness aside, it’s a fact that 8% of the world’s population of men is, to one degree or another, color blind. It is passed down from mothers to their sons and may range from simple red/green difficulties to folks like me who are around 60% color blind. My late brother was worse. Very few people are colorblind to the point that the world is shades of gray. The rest of us just can’t tell some colors from the others. To put that in context, to me and the vast majority of color-challenged men, a really lush lawn or golf course is the same color as a stop sign or a fire truck. Stop signs fade into the foliage behind them for us. Think of that the next time you pull up to a four-way stop: 8% of the drivers coming the other way may not see the stop sign. Or a stop light.

A familiar example is the FAA’s colorblind book that contains about ten circles of colored dots that are supposed to portray a number: I don’t see a single one. Folks with mild red/green color deficiency can see some of the numbers. Not me.

This gives rise to a number of tales of my personal trauma that are designed specifically to generate a wave of sympathy for me. However, a Go-Fund-Me-Page is not warranted. Unless you insist in which case the money will go to my favorite charity: Me!

I remember the exact moment it was discovered that I was color blind. I can clearly picture myself standing in front of my first-grade class doing a painting of a boat. I had made the water purple and the insuring conflagration between me and Mrs. Dowding had them calling my mother to come to school to help calm me down.

When I got my pilot’s license my medical had restrictions on it because of CVD: I couldn’t fly at night or by color control. I had taken three tests to get the restrictions removed with a waiver but they were invalidated because of various technical flaws in the testing equipment. Frustrated, in one of my life’s truly outstanding acts of adolescent bravery/stupidity/audaciousness, I discovered that the director of the FAA’s medical division lived in the same town where I was going to college in Oklahoma AND I CALLED HIM AT HOME!!! Looking back at that, all I can say is, DAMN!

He was unbelievably nice about it and suggested that he and I fly together and he’d conduct a test. I was instructing for Oklahoma U., so I got one of their Cherokees and we went up. I identified runway, threshold and taxiway lights and when the beacon was green or white and he wrote out the waiver. Ten years later I need a first-class waiver, dropped him a note and he sent it out by return mail.

After the above, all the time I was in college, if the FAA was going some sort of color study and they needed subjects, he’d call me and I’d be part of it. In one of those I discovered an important fact: they had a display that looked like a line of small hockey pucks in a horizontal line. Each represented one of the several hundred hues in the color spectrum. There I discovered I could see each of the primary colored pucks, but as soon as I went one way or the other colors got confused. So, a pure green, for instance, I could see, but one puck over I’d confuse it for red. Ditto on the red pucks. Green/tan/brown, the same. All colors involving any blue, etc., etc.. Each of those groups merge.

When driving in Hollywood, where the stop lights are horizontal and line up with the street lights at night, the AZ Redhead has to call them out for me.

I can’t begin to read wiring that is color coded or resistors, etc. Ditto the muzzle energy charts of one of my favorite websites, Ballistics By the Inch.

However, most colorblind folks are more sensitive to other factors. For instance, the instant someone finds out you’re colorblind, they invariably grab something, hold it up and blurt “What color is this?” That happened in a friend’s house whose father was a high-end lawyer and had a huge wall full of sets of books, each set a different color. He asked how many sets were there and I quickly counted and gave him the right answer. He asked me how I could do that and I answered, “All of the titles are at different levels.” I’m hyper sensitive to, lines, gaps, etc on airplanes but may not even notice what color it is.

BTW - CVD cost me a Navy scholarship. A major regret.

So, yeah, like so many other folks, I am chromatically-challenged but I’m making it okay. Still…why use red and green for so much important stuff? That’s just a little cruel. bd

12 Jan 2020 -- A New Year and a New Human Adventure
As I’m writing this, my daughter, Jennifer, is barreling through Memphis. Virginia Beach, VA is in her rear view, West Hollywood over her far horizon. She has her whole family onboard, which just got bigger.

Crammed into the seats behind her and her mother, who is riding shotgun for the 5,500-mile circular journey, she has her two daughters and a new, life-long adventure named Tessa March Davisson. She is three days old and heading for a new place she’ll call home for the rest of her life. Jen adopted her at birth and, in so doing, altered not only the little bundle’s life, but her own life as well. And that of Tessa’s sisters, Alice (10) and Rosie (4). In fact, when a new child is added to any family, by whatever method, the changes ripple out and affect everyone in the family circle.

It is unknown what Tessa’s life would have been if she and Jennifer hadn’t crossed paths. However, it’s not hard to guess that her new life is likely to be radically different from that which fate already had in store for her.

Tessa at 3 hours
Tessa March Davisson three hours into her new life.

For one thing, Jennifer is not your average mother. For her, motherhood is not something that happens by chance. It is something she seeks out. Something she makes happen. Two of her three children (she’s a single mother, BTW) are adopted, which is another way of saying that she is passionate about playing the role of mother. I’ve often heard her say that she was born to be a mother, which considering her life style, is a little surprising. The concept of a a working mother is far from unusual. However, beginning with her first child, she built a nursery and a playroom into her office complex, where she employs something like 15 people. She doesn’t want to raise her kids via remote control. She wants them to be part of her life and vice versa. The border between work and family is non-existent.

Alice (10) was six weeks old, when she went on set for a movie Jen was producing in Canada for four months. She’s been on movie sets all over the country including Puerto Rico and Europe. She has spent endless highway hours with Mom because Mom has a phobia about airplanes. Last year, she, Rosie and Mom took the train to NYC, the Queen Elizabeth II to London and a train to Budapest where they attended an “English School” for half the school year while Jen produced another movie. Where does a kid get that kind of experiences?

The kids go where Jennifer goes and in a few weeks that means that Tessa will become the company mascot as she spends more time in the office. The tight group of creative movie people Jennifer has attracted to her will form a relationship with her that will make her feel as if she is part of a huge family. Just as Alice and Rosie have. She won’t think it unusual that she sees pictures of one of Mom’s friends on a huge billboard over Sunset Blvd. She will think that young kids in every family crowd around the TV on Oscar night to see if Mom is seen in the audience or one of those people they know well walks off the stage, golden statue in hand.

Tess is taking a long ride to where she will start the even longer ride we call “life” and it’s going to be unique. And fun.

BTW: The name “Tessa” came from Alice and “March” was the name of the sisters in Little Women, which they watched together while waiting for the as yet unnamed individual to make her entrance. Jen says they are her little women.

In a matter of days Tessa will learn that her life will be all about family. And she’ll love it.bd

23 Dec 19 -- America, "The Car" and Christmas
This is being written on the Sunday before Christmas and I’ve had ample opportunity to observe a few American traits that might be unique to us. Not sure.

First, and this is the one I think might be unique to us: America is a nation on wheels. Our life styles and, to a certain extent, our culture is formed by the automobile. I didn’t invent that thought but this Friday and Saturday I was again made very aware of it: During one 24-hour period, I spent 14 hours in a car going to and from West Hollywood, CA on the Friday before Christmas. That would appear to have been an obviously bad decision as it put me going into LA during the afternoon on what is probably the worst traffic day of the year. However, there was no decision to be made: One of my granddaughters, Alice (9), was going to be in a play at five o’clock that afternoon and that wasn’t going to happen without me being there.

On the way in, I witnessed, and was part of, one of the most mentally destructive experiences mankind continually subjects itself to: LA traffic. The last 100 miles of the 383-mile one-way trip could be Dante’s definition of a descent into hell. It is always bad and frustrating but this time, it was horrible and absolutely the worst traffic I’d ever seen in my more than 50 years of driving into the LA basin. That was the bad news. The good news was that I was inbound not outbound.

My side of the huge interstate (I-10 that runs from the Pacific to the Atlantic) was moderate to heavy crazy. The outbound was flat out, 100% crazy. I saw miles of stationary, bumper to bumper traffic on the other side and finally thought to note my position so I could measure how long it was. What I measured was over 30 miles of essentially parked traffic and there was probably another ten miles I didn’t measure. It was a perfect storm of LA traffic: Friday afternoon commuter traffic, just before Christmas, and a few very minor spots of construction. DAMN! I was going to be on that side the next day! DAMN! That scene totally altered my plans for the next morning.

I hadn’t told anyone I was coming to this play so my granddaughters, Alice and Rosie, were suitably surprised and loving in their responses. That made the trip totally worth it. Then I put my exit plan into motion.

The next morning my feet hit the floor at 0241 (digital alarm clocks make everything wonderfully exact). By 0310 I was on I-10 headed east and was amazed at the mount of traffic. It wasn’t overpowering and was blasting along as only LA traffic could blast. However, at that time of the morning I had expected to own the freeway, but most definitely didn’t. A lot of folks apparently had the same exit plan I had developed. And they were all in a hell of a hurry. I was very aware that neither my brain nor my eyes were fully awake yet so I had to work to keep up with traffic. The speed limit was supposed to be 70 mph, but that apparently was some sort of whimsical suggestion because I was doing 80 and was holding up traffic. A lot of it. All of it with some serious places to be.

Although it was dead dark, the highway lighting and hundreds of headlights made it easy to discern the character of my fellow travelers. Close to half of the traffic was SUVs and virtually every vehicle of any kind was carrying stuff they couldn’t get inside strapped on the outside. I’m talking about regular cars with stuff tied to the roof AND THE TRUNK LID. A lot of the SUVs had bumper-hitch racks that would normally have held bicycles but now had God knows what wrapped in blue Home Depot tarps and yellow nylon rope. And they were all going like the hammers of hell.

At one point, my rearview mirror became a fascinating display of motoring madness. I first saw this particular set of headlights nearly a half mile behind me. They separated themselves from the hundreds of other headlights because they were constantly changing lanes. Constantly! Sometimes, going as many as three lanes in a change, threading themselves through the rest of traffic and rapidly getting bigger. Very rapidly!

Suddenly, there he/she was crossing from right to left immediately behind me. I was doing 80-85 with the rest of the traffic but he blew past me like I had the parking brake on. If he was doing less than 100, I’d be amazed. As he got slightly in front of me, he cut through the relatively narrow gap between me and the car ahead and I could clearly see that he had a Christmas tree lashed to the roof of his nearly new SUV. A Christmas tree at 100 mph! Even worse, the pointy end of the tree was facing forward and the slip stream was trying open the branches! He disappeared from sight, constantly weaving back and forth, so quickly it was hard to believe.

This was Saturday morning so very few of the hundreds and hundreds of headlights that I could see in front and behind were lighting the way for someone going to work. Plus, we were leaving the population center, not going into it. These were almost all people getting the hell out of Dodge for the holidays. And it was 0330 in the morning! Thankfully I hadn’t given in to the urge to sleep “…just another half hour.”

At that point of time, I was seeing a tiny microcosm of what was happening everywhere in every corner of the US: It was the Christmas mobilization of the population. The effect is just overly concentrated in the LA metro area, which, at 33,000 square miles, is larger than 12 of the states and the same size as the smaller six combined.

A few hours later I was crossing the desert surrounded by nothingness. LA was 200 miles behind me and Phoenix 200 miles over the horizon and the traffic was still fierce. Not as bad, but fierce. It was a testament to the way in which distance means very little to Americans because of The Car. And I was a prime example of that. I had thought nothing of driving 400 miles to spend a few hours with my daughter and granddaughters and then buzz back home. The rest of the world, especially in Europe, views distances differently and The Car isn’t seen as viable long-distance transportation. Trains fill that role. London to Berlin is just over 500 miles. London to Paris is less than three hundred. Major trips for most Europeans. A half day’s drive for us.

America is unique for a lot of reasons. Especially when compared to Europe. The diversity of our population might be one of the things that makes us different, but, in terms of culture, the way in which our distances have elevated The Car to be such a major component of daily life, sets us apart from much of the world. More than that, The Car itself has evolved into a cultural artifact of its own that is so diverse that no level of society is without its own unique version of it, whether it be low riders or Bentleys.

To those who call the LA metroplex home: You have my condolences! It’s a beautiful, wonderful, exciting place, but…well…it’s LA and, even though my home town had at least three stop lights, making it a mini-metropolis for the area, we country boys like a little less traffic. BD

18 Dec 19 -- "Overwhelming" Defined
Certain relatively simple tasks in life defy being completely accomplished. Or being even partially accomplished and, for that reason, they bug the crap out of all of us. Some of us, me included, eventually just give up on them and live with the consequences. Let me explain.

As I’m typing this, I’m sitting in my spacious office (a long ago converted double garage attached to the house). I’m working on an ergonomic keyboard, one of the “broken” looking things, at my trusty Mac, which sits at the intersection of two eight-foot desks in a giant “L” configuration. So, basically, I have 16 feet of desk. I have about 600 square feet of office space (that’s 25 x 25). In other words, it’s huge. The Redhead’s desk area is behind me on my left, to my far left is another normal sized desk with another computer and a glass coffee table on a stump sits in the middle of the room with a two-foot model of a Stuart tank sitting on it and a bear trap under it. Three saddles, a few rifles and an ancient tombstone are scattered throughout the mix. There’s a helluva lot of flat surfaces. Especially if you include the floor. Therein lies the problem.

Flat surfaces attract stuff. In this case, lots and lots of stuff. Tons of stuff. Magazines, rifle cases, boxes of books, stacks of paper stuff I don’t want to throw away. And on and on. This is a time driven problem. As time goes by, the piles get deeper. As they get deeper, I, like anyone reading this, vow to clean them up. We envision our spaces clean and well ordered. However, for most of us it’s a dream, not a plausible reality. However, I now have a reason to make good on my clean-it-up dreams.

In the process of the rehabbing of Airbum.com, I’ve started sorting through slides I’ve shot over the last 50 years (50 years. WOW! That’s really hard to believe!). I figure I have something like 250-300,000 of them stuffed under beds and filling several big closets. Holy…! Talk about overwhelming!! To support this effort, I told myself I’ll clean up and/or reorganize the office area to make the slide sorting process more manageable. For that reason, As I’m typing this, one of the city’s blue, curbside recycling bins is looking very much out of place as it sits in the middle of the office right behind my typing chair. It is sitting there eager to gobble up all the excess stuff I can find to feed it. And there’s plenty.

Sunday, I devoted most of the afternoon to the clean-up efforts. I concentrated on the multitude of two-foot tall stacks of magazines flowing out from the base of everything in the room (we all see the floor as storage space, right?). The magazines are not unlike The Blob oozing across Smalltown, USA absorbing citizens in the process. Will I fall asleep in my chair (a common occurrence) and awake to find up I’m up to my knees in pissed-off paper pulp?

Of course, throwing away magazines is similar to the problem everyone has when putting down newspaper in preparation for painting. We keep stumbling across interesting articles we are compulsed to read. You can’t lay hands on a magazine to toss it without skimming through the content. We’re talking hundreds of magazines, from knife making, to hotrods, to antique cannons to whatever. “Wait! I can’t chuck this. It has an article about converting a Model A to 12 volt!” or “This one talks about the way in which fluorescent lighting lowers our sperm count while we’re in the workshop.” On the last, is that a bad thing?

For every five magazines tossed in the bin, there are four secreted back in a special pile. At the end of five hours of backbreaking labor (if you don’t count reading time), the room looked exactly as when I started. Then I made a major mistake: I decided to take a break and do something in the workshop.

I was already in overwhelmed-mode, but, as I turned the shop lights on, reality rose up and smacked me right in the forehead: The shop is worse than the office! And everything is heavy. OMG!!!!

At that point, I did the logical thing, as dictated by the circumstances: In a defensive move I said to hell with it and went flying.

Now I don’t feel as overwhelmed. So…life is good!

Anyone have a use for a couple thousand magazines?

PS
The exact same conversation exists for most of us but the subject will be losing weight, getting in shape, etc., etc. They just never get done.

17 Nov 19 -- Aging Doesn't Have to Mean We're Old
One of the side benefits to the B & B we’ve operated for nearly 20 years in conjunction with our Pitts training is what we’ve learn from the hundreds of people who shared their lives with us for a week. This week we learned tons about what being a serious senior citizen means and what it doesn’t mean. And it’s all good.

First, a word about running a B & B that’s housing nothing but aviation folks: it’s wonderful! We average 150-200 nights a year, which is 35-40 different individuals or couples. If you figure 20 years in operation, that’s pushing 1000 people. The most amazing part about that is that only once in all those years did we have someone who was a clinker. Without exception, every single one of the rest, both male and female, have been interesting, intelligent, worth-while people. Every one of them has become a life-long friend.

We don’t have many local friends so the B & B is our social life.

When I received the check-in form from Wayne Keahey of Star City, Arkansas it was for two B & B rooms. It listed him and his mom. HIS MOM!? I had no idea what to expect. At first, I thought I was getting a teenager until I looked at the pilot resume that’s part of the check-in form: With over 15,000 hours of tailwheel time as an ag-pilot, I knew this was no kid. So, what the…?

When our doorbell rang and I opened the door I was greeted with two almost identical smiles beneath matching mops of snow-white hair. I actually had to concentrate on the faces to see the age difference because Mom (as I called her for the rest of the week), Kathryn, was literally beaming. The combination of her smile and the intensity of her brilliant eyes did much to erase the 89 years I knew she carried. Here was a woman who made old age look good. I mean REALLY good.

Mom Pix
"Mom": Kathryn Keahey-The butt-kickingest 89 year-old you'll ever meet.

It was impossible not to like her immediately. Her personality and bearing drew you in. And her obvious intellect and ready ability to converse definitely did not fit the image most of us have of that age. Naturally, she and the Arizona Redhead (AKA Marlene) bonded immediately. More important, our eight-month puppy immediately attacked her with kisses and she showed an incredible patience and training ability that affected Nikki almost immediately.

During the week, the most glaring example of the goodness she exuded was when our kitten-that-won’t-grow up, Abigail, who at 10 years of age is not only tiny but VERY selective, jumped up in her lap. I’ve never seen her do that to anyone. Not only that, she stayed there for a long, long time, enjoying the attention she was getting. Animals are a much better judge of character than humans are and that was the strongest compliment Mom could be paid.

Incidentally, the reason Wayne brought her with him is that she really enjoys the trips, still drives, and is a near perfect traveling partner. The fact that she’s his mom, a female and, in the eyes of most folks, past the traveling age, had zero bearing. He was traveling with his best friend and it very much showed. They both enjoyed sharing the experience of seeing The West and meeting new people. And she several times said she so enjoyed seeing Wayne live out one of his bucket list items: Flying a Pitts Special.

By far one of the most important things she brought to our household was a willingness, coupled with the ability, to talk about old age: Through her, we learned what it means and how to enjoy it rather than fear it. I’d be lying, if I didn’t admit that both Marlene and I look down the road with some concern. Sometimes with a lot of concern. As we wend our ways through various relatively minor skirmishes with Ma Nature (Marlene with a cracked L-1 vertebrae and me with joints beginning to show their mileage and abuse), we wonder, “Is this the beginning of the slow down. Are we actually getting old?”

Mom had no unheard-of secrets to having your brain and your body last well past the normal warranty period. Everything she said, we’d all heard before. However, her saying that she had ridden her bike five miles every single morning for most of her life made us believe in the concept of exercise. The way in which she always had a book in her lap, voraciously reading confirmed that the brain is just another muscle and needs exercise to keep it in shape. The way she totally enjoyed laughing her butt off made it obvious that humor was another of life’s elixirs.

Through Mom, we basically learned the cliché about age being just a number is actually true, providing you treat it properly.

Excuse me: I have to speed walk two miles now before leaving for the airport. I don’t expect to reach 89 but, if I expect to continue doing what I’m doing until I reach whatever my final number turns out to be, I’m going to have to put forth some effort.

Thanks, Mom! You make a difference everywhere you go. bd

3 Nov 2019 - As a Frog Sees Hotter Water
Here’s a random thought: As the end of their thousand-year empire began taking shape, did Romans know the empire was in the process of failing? I doubt it. I think it happened so slowly that they didn’t see it coming. It took so long for the process to run its course, the degradation of the empire was just part of daily life. Sound familiar?

It is hard not to look around the US at the chaos at every national level and not wonder whether we’re going to survive as a nation. It is pretty much universally understood that modern nations hang in there for about 300 years before things come apart. Going back to the Egyptians, while in theory they ran for several thousand years, in reality, they’d do pretty good for 300 years, then have a century or so of anarchy, get their sh*t together and have another 300 good years and so forth and so on. It wasn’t a continuously grand history. We’re coming up on 300 years on the continent and we’re coming up on around 240 years as a nation, depending on where you measure it from. That means we have about three generations between now and the 300-year mark (20 years per gen). A helluva lot can change over that time.

I’m not smart enough to actually single out the most likely cause of our demise, if there is a demise and there is a cause, but I can come up with some guesses, which are just that: pure guesses.

Number one in my mind is our overall divisiveness as seen in the national press. I say “...as seen in the national press” because I’m not convinced that the different parts of the country hate the other parts as much as it appears. Yes, there are HUGE differences between the fly-over states and the coasts, but at the normal “people level”, I don’t think the animosity is as great as we’re seeing between the politicians from those states. When you look at the vitriol being spewed at each other in Congress you’d think we had a civil war in the making, but I don’t think we do. Politics is one thing but the attitude of the population is something entirely different. Of course, politics at the national level is where the rot begins and it spreads down.

I’ve always said that the likelihood of a racially based civil war, which is often talked about, is zero. The likelihood of a right versus left conflict “feels” a little more likely but again, I don’t think that’ll happen. However, I can easily see a series of localized conflicts breaking out if DC were to do something incredibly stupid (and logistically impossible) like firearm confiscation. I say it’s stupid because it will cause far more problems than it solves and it’s logistically impossible because of the sheer numbers and geographical immensity of such a program. I’m certain cooler heads of states will prevail (he says with great hope in his voice). The same thing applies to deporting illegals: too many and too spread out. A different solution has to be developed.

I’ve also said that the biggest threat to every country in the world right now is the difference in birth rates between the various cultures and that of the Islamic community. I don’t know of any European country, for instance that has a birth rate that is even close to being high enough to maintain their cultural identity. We need 2.1 births per family to make it work and most of Europe is around 1.5. We’re higher than that but our Hispanic population pushes us up over the 2.1 level, which is fine with me. I’m very pro-Hispanic because their cultural values mesh nicely with those we brought over from Europe and every experience I’ve ever had with them has been excellent. The birth rate of the Islamic community in Europe, however, is reported to be 2.2 and they are projected to double their percentage of the European population by 2030. In the US it is said their birth rate is much higher.

Mathematically, birth rates say the world will have no long-term choice but, to eventually be ruled by Sharia Law. If/when that happens in the ’States, which would be many generations down the road, that will result in major changes and who knows what the effect will be. However, it’s not going to happen overnight and will creep up on us slowly. If we let it.

Another damaging trait is the “Entitlement mentality” where too much of the population thinks government owes us a life rather than us going out and getting it ourselves. It has been reported that this contributed to Rome’s demise: the population depended too much on the treasury and, when that went to hell, they were too far removed from the roots that helped them build into greatness so they were incapable of starting over.

Underlying the general deterioration of the whole stinking mess today is politicians ignoring what the people voted them into office to do and are running the country for their party, not their constituents. In other words, our politics will be the death of us.

In essence: Are we the frogs in the water that’s getting increasingly hotter? I’m not sure how you judge that, but we seem to be accepting increasingly unacceptable behavior in DC and in society in general (ANTIFA, opiods, etc.). Will we recognize it when we’re reaching the boiling point and it’s too late to hop out of the pot? Who knows? However, it’s worth thinking about. bd

16 Oct 2019 -- An Important Subject
A Change of pace for Thinking Out Loud: I'm running an important and wonderfully written blog from my buddy Rich Davidson of Lee Bottom Air Field. It concerns a critical aviation issue that I think needs more attention.

And The Wind Was Gone

Rich Davidson
NORDO News

Among the greatest aspects of aviation is the secret of what lies behind the curtain. Flying is an otherworldly experience - a universe within a universe with rules and colors not shared with the grounded. Aviators don’t think outside the box, they live outside it. Existing among the elemental gears of an ethereal machine painting backgrounds for mortals, they are also, unfortunately, inconsiderate of their realm.

Years ago, when power lines threatened our stretch of clear-span river, we notified the FAA, construction stopped, and a proper site and airspace study was begun. Along with the study came the all-important opportunity for pilots and enthusiasts to file comments with the FAA.

At the time, our fly-ins were attracting over 400 aircraft and thousands of people. Additionally, over 7000 “regulars” were on our email list. “Let’s enlist them,” we thought. And, we did. By giving out all the ways our airport followers could comment on the proposed wires, we were sure to offer a hefty swing. The many followers who were openly unhappy with the notion of the wires would surely come to our defense. And, they did – Can you guess how many? Here’s a hint. It wasn’t one and it wasn’t ten thousand. The answer is below.

The number of people who wrote in was three. Think about that the next time there is a threat to a local airport, a senator speaks out against your activity, or some local group decides they don’t like your plane flying overhead. Think about it and realize that if it happens to your community nobody is going to come to your defense. Because, for all its hot air, aviation does a horrible job of working as a team to promote the sport, and an even worse job of standing up for its own.

Posts on social media are nothing but the worst kind of messages in a bottle, tossed into a closed loop puddle. They may make your feel as though you are doing something, but you aren’t. To be effective you must expend your time, often some money, and a sincere effort to support the greatest freedom known to man. If you love it, stand up for it.

Here’s where I’m going with this…

For many years, people who knew me thought I was anti-warbird. No matter where I went guys would bring it up and make jokes about it. My belief is that notion developed from my desire to question everything. In today’s society, if you aren’t blindly loyal to a single point of propaganda, then you’re against it. Question how things work, well then, you must be against it. Right? Wrong.

My passion for antiques was the result of several factors. First, they’re challenging, fun, and have real history. Two, they are most often chaperoned by down to Earth people. Finally, I couldn’t find a warbird group where I fit. Then, one day, a friend invited me out to the Collings Foundation Wings of Freedom Tour. I’ve been involved ever since.

What did I find that made me want to do more? What about the group makes me stay? In short, it was the great group of people committed to keeping the soul of aviation alive, nurturing freedom in the hearts of millions, that made me stay. Some people say it, some live it. The Collings Foundation lives it.
Along the way I’ve met amazing people, worked with amazing pilots, and learned much more than I imagined. I have also watched, with great admiration, as the Collings Foundation mentored more next generation aviators than all other groups combined. Yes, it may be my observation but I stand by it. The organization believes in its mission and it shows. That brings me to my point.

As I’m sure you know, the Collings Foundation’s B-17, “909,” was recently involved in an accident. It was a tragedy. For those of us who knew the pilots, it was heartbreaking. Yet, we also cannot help but think of “our passengers.” To those who volunteer with the organization, every person that celebrates freedom with a flight in a foundation plane feels like family. Thinking of any them being injured, or worse, is crushing.
However, with heavy hearts the organization must go on. Were the foundation to stop promoting the history of our great nation, and the ideas of freedom that accompany it, it would be an admission of defeat, or at the very least an indication of insincerity. Fortunately, that’s not the case. However, for the Collings Foundation to continue its mission it must have the FAA’s approval.

Recently, Rob Collings, Executive Director of the Collings Foundation, sent members a letter addressing this very subject. In light of recent circumstances I cannot fathom the weight he is carrying. However, as you read his words, I believe you’ll see his commitment shows through in concern for both those in the recent accident and the ongoing mission of the foundation.

Upon reading his closing words (below), I hope you’ll remember our Lee Bottom story about the wires which now cross a once clear-span stretch of river. For those of us in aviation to nurture the freedom of flight we must all positively participate in standing up for it. There are no other people out there who will. It is up to each of us. It is up to you.

AN IMPORTANT MESSAGE FROM COLLINGS FOUNDATION
Dear supporters,
Please join the Collings Foundation in our thoughts and prayers with those who were on the tragic flight of the B-17 Flying Fortress “Nine-O-Nine” on Wednesday, October 2nd. We will be forever grateful to the heroic efforts of the first responders at Bradley International Airport and the assistance of all local agencies in the days after the crash.

The Collings Foundation team has been and remains fully cooperative with officials to determine the cause of the crash and we will comment further when facts and details become available. We have suspended the Wings of Freedom Tour for the remainder of the 2019 season and the aircraft have returned to our winter maintenance base in Florida.

The mission of the Collings Foundation remains steadfast in the goal of making history come alive as we have for over 30 years. Since 1989, the Wings of Freedom Tour has touched the lives of millions, as we have made visits to over 3600 communities in that time. Tens of thousands have flown aboard our Living History Flight Experiences (LHFE) on the B-17, B-24, B-25, and A-1E and flight training on the TP-51C, TF-51D, and TP-40N. In the past week we have received many stories on how powerful and life-changing the tour has been for families and as we move forward, and we expect there are thousands more who have been touched by the Wings of Freedom Tour.

In the coming months, federal agencies will be reviewing the LHFE program for not only our organization, but many other organizations nationwide who continue to fly vintage aircraft as a part of their educational mission. As these reviews take place, we feel it is important for the voices of those impacted by the Wings of Freedom Tour over the years to be heard. We need to let federal agencies know that the LHFE program is important to you and other American citizens as an educational tool.

Please take a moment to add your comments to the current docket regarding the renewal of the Collings Foundation LHFE program with the FAA at the Federal Register. You may do so online at the following link:
https://www.regulations.gov/comment?D=FAA-2001-11089-0096


As you write your comment, please review the tips for submitting effective comments from Regulations.gov at https://www.regulations.gov/docs/Tips_For_Submitting_Effective_Comments.pdf

Thank you for your support of our living history mission.


Rob Collings

29 Sept -- An Unimportant Subject
I just found this blog in a file from 2010 and I don’t know if I ran it or not. I don’t think I did, but I found it interesting to read and still terribly relevant to some of us.

The other day I went to lunch with a friend who is very serious about self-defense. When we got in my car to go meet another friend, I took note that he casually grabbed a rifle case out of his trunk and tossed in mine. He explained, “...an AR. You just never know.”

The episode got me thinking about guns in the real world and likely scenarios. Later, as I got out of the car with Marlene, my trusty Glock in my back pocket, I picked out a flower pot that looked like a likely distance for something bad to start to happen, in that situation. I paced it off and what looked like a long way was only 75 feet. I thought about the Glock in my pocket that did a good job at the standard seven yards, but 25 yards…?

Next time at the range, I cranked the targets back to 75 feet and about all I would have done to a bad guy that far away was make him nervous. And that’s with no adrenaline involved.

So, for a couple of weeks I climbed in and out of both Marlene’s Maxima and my old Civic with a wide variety of rifles trying various ones on for size. In so doing I came up with some guidelines for car rifles. Okay, so this isn’t a serious subject, but it’s worth thinking about anyway. These were my thoughts on different types.

1. Must carry in passenger compartment not trunk because, bad guys aren’t going to wait for me to open my trunk.

The Honda has a nice little “cove” to the left of the driver’s seat that will accept any narrow carbine type rifle. A Winchester or Marlin 30-30 carbine is perfect. Ruger Mini-14, less so. SKS is a little long but okay. In the Maxima, all would have to lay in a top-loading scabbard on leading edge of back seat.

2. Has to be quick to handle getting out of car.

All the above fit the bill. In this case, short is very important.

3. It couldn’t look “menacing” so during traffic stops or in court so it wouldn’t look as if I were out hunting bad guys.

The M94/336/92 lever guns won this hands down. I have a Winchester 92 in .44 magnum I had converted in the ‘60’s that would fit all the above points perfectly plus it held 8 rounds and could shoot .44 specials in the city to keep the power down.

SKS looks too menacing and no matter what I did to it, it would still look menacing.
Same thing for the Mini-14, although it’s close. However, .223 in the city has the advantage that it’ll fragment on ricochets and won’t over penetrate houses and such. It’s still a possibility.

4. It would have to be fairly disposable because if it’s actually used I’ll never see it again so it can’t be too expensive or too dear to my heart.

This ruled out the M92. And the 94 30-30 carbine I own is too good of an antique to want kicking around in a car.

5. We’d be talking about a 50-100 yard rifle, not a sniper-quality piece. If the bad guys are that far away, I can, and will, out run them.

What I really wanted was a pistol caliber lever gun, ideally .357, which would work fine, pack 9 rounds (and I can build speed loaders), be reasonably quick to fire.

6. It would have to be fast firing, meaning not a bolt gun. Lever guns and semi-auto top this list.

This caused me to lean toward Mini-14, so I sent my trigger group out to Jim Clark to get it cleaned up as the trigger was a little crude. Still, I wanted less “menacing” caliber that would do the job.

Obviously, at this point, I’m terribly conflicted.

THEN I REMEMBERED A RIFLE I HAVEN’T HAD OUT OF THE VAULT IN 15 YEARS: AN M-1 CARBINE.

Okay, now, don’t laugh. I know the .30 cal carbine cartridge is the butt of a lot of jokes. However, it turns out that the soft point commercial rounds are 110 grains and clocking along right at 2,000 fps, which, if you think about pistol rounds, not rifle, is really moving. And in terms of energy, it’s fifty percent higher than a .357 magnum. That’s serious muzzle energy.

An M-1 carbine, however, is terribly military looking and still fits the “menacing” category. Or most do. BUT NOT MINE!!!

In the early 1960’s there was an outfit selling them mail order (boy, weren’ those the days?!) through Popular Mechanics with sporterized walnut stocks, complete with mone carlo cheek piece. I got rid of the military looking barrel band and put on a cocobolo tip piece like a regular sporter stock and retained the barrel with a threaded stud on the bottom of the barrel that the forward sling swivel threaded into. So, it has a very civilian looking stock.

I replaced the military sights with a Williams peep sight. Even with the standard 15-round mag in it, it looks very civilian. With a five-round mag, it has no military appearance at all.

The downside is that it has never been truly reliable, so, I shipped it off to Fulton Armory to have it gone through and made super reliable. However, the magazines are 90% of the reliability problem, so, I selected them carefully.

I’ve had this piece over 50 years, and it shows it, so getting beat up riding around in the car won’t hurt it any. At 50-100 yards it is essentially a .357 mag. It’s light, has zero recoil, and handles like a pistol. And it won’t scare a cop who finds it. Plus, if it’s confiscated, it won’t be the end of the world.

Search is over. That’s my car gun (which I’ll probably never carry).

Okay, let the arguments begin. bd

23 Sept -- Graying Out
We are watching an interesting time developing in our culture: Age is becoming a determining factor in the survival of certain businesses. They may not continue on because the customers are dying and/or the businessmen themselves are aging out and have no one to pass their business along to.

I’m certain I’ve talked about some aspects of the graying of special interest activities, e.g. the airplane/car/train model hobby market and how it has nearly disappeared. How the hotrod market is mostly gray dogs these days. How the prices of the bigger vintage airplanes have plummeted because younger aviators have no interest in them and the guys with money are going away. As far as that goes, aviation, when placed against the growth of the general population, is getting smaller and smaller. Today the industry might be proud of shipping 1700 airplanes (2018) where in 1978, the number was nearly ten times that for a national population that was a third smaller than it is today. It was a monster industry!

Official FAA av-stats: In 1980 there was one pilot for every 273 people. Today there is one pilot for every 533. That means, when put against the population, there are roughly half as many pilots today as in 1980. No wonder there’s a pilot shortage.

What brought this to mind was a month ago I was doing research for an article on the warbird restoration community. In the process of doing that, company after company talked about how the market has changed so radically in the last few years. They said that for years, they’d be doing restorations for a relatively large number of individual airplane owners. Now they say that those have almost disappeared to be replaced by a much smaller number of individuals who are having relatively large numbers (four or more airplanes over a period of time) restored.

Those kinds of businesses are very much affected by “the statistics of small numbers.” They might be making good money, but a variation of only two or three customers can put them in the red.

I’m hearing the same thing from the antique airplane restoration folks. They’re seeing fewer customers for big restorations because the people who have the money AND the interest are dying out. I’m hearing exactly the same thing from my friends in the vintage car restoration field.

The only segment in aviation that is continuing to enjoy growth and nearly unbridled enthusiasm is the sport aviation segment, as represented by the EAA.

The really sad aspect of this is that I’ve had two detailed conversations, one with the owner of a huge warbird restoration business, the other a long-time, nationally respected antique airplane restoration company owner and both were bemoaning that they didn’t know what to do with their businesses. They are in their 70’s and are looking for a way out but there doesn’t appear to be a way out. One has kids who don’t give a crap about airplanes. Plus, because his business depends on a smaller number of viable customers, he can’t sell it for a number that makes sense (plus he has a HUGE inventory of airframes and parts). The other, the antiquer, sees his business more or less continuing with his kids, but at a much smaller level. He says the people with the money are definitely out there, but the interest level is declining so the number of possible customers is also going to hell and the statistics of small numbers again takes over.

Is there a way to reverse the way in which we’re seeing interest in what are mostly mechanical endeavors declining? Sadly, I don’t think so. The motivation and interest in dirt-under-the-fingernails activities in young people has fallen off a cliff. There also seems to be a similar loss of interest in the historical nature of most these activities.

Whether it be model airplanes, hotrods, restoring or enjoying old cars or airplanes or whatever, an interest in history seems to be a driving factor and that appears to be missing in younger generations. Those generations simply have significant less interest in mechanical stuff. Actually, as is often said, it’s hard to see what interests they do have past social endeavors, sports and the digital world.

Most of us gray dogs have lived through a number of fascinating, golden eras. For those of us in aviation and so many other mechanically-based activities, there have been decades during which we were up to our necks in really wild and wonderful hardware. And most of us reveled in it. Had we known so much was likely to disappear in our lifetimes, we would have dug deeper into what was going on. If that was even possible.

At least we can say we’ve been there and done that. Of course, millennials say, “…done what? And why?” Is that worth answering?

No, it's not! bd

9 Sept -- And the Carnival Moves on
It’s a cliché that a change of scenery and surroundings is good for the soul and can actually help personal productivity. I know and espouse that. However, as with most folks, I seldom, if ever, do it voluntarily. The operative word there is “voluntarily.”

This is being written sitting at a picnic table in the courtyard of a hotel in Pismo Beach, California. It’s a delightful 71 degrees (at home they’re expecting 105 degrees), and we’re on the Pacific coast about 175 miles north of LA. However, considering the extreme difference in topography, attitude and civilization between the two locations, we could be on another planet. It is really easy to forget that this, the most populous and third largest state in the Country, is, for the most part, actually quite rural and often quite beautiful. The urban sprawl, homelessness and the immigration controversies affect a relatively small portion of the 196,000 square miles that comprise the state.

We’re up here as part of the wedding celebrations for Marlene’s nephew, who is one of our favorite people (to show how favorite, he is willed one of my custom made Martins!). The rehearsal dinner was held outdoors last night at a small farm, with a sky so devoid of light pollution that Venus stood out like a navigation light for the moon. Beautiful! The wedding this afternoon will be on a working cattle ranch, so my Sunday-go-to-meeting boots under my only suit will fit right in. I’m looking forward to a pleasant celebration with the subtle ambiance that only the aroma of hay and manure can give it.

If it hasn’t come through by now, yes, I’m enjoying myself, which is totally unexpected. Like so many others, the pressures of business and local/personal challenges too often make us totally unaware that we’re letting them rule our life. We deem meeting and conquering those challenges so important that we can’t possibly let up on our efforts to win that never-ending battle. It’s like we’re on a football practice field, shoulder to a blocking sled, pushing like crazy and fully aware that, if it was during a game, the sled would be pushing back so we can’t let up for a second. We have to keep it moving. The majority of us know that most of the time that feeling is actually illusionary. Yes, there are times when something absolutely, positively has to be done (to paraphrase FedEx), but most of the time, whomever we’re trying to please probably won’t do anything with our efforts for a couple of days anyway. So, the rush exists mostly in our heads. We’re pushing because we think that’s what we’re expected to do, when, in truth most of the time no one else is measuring us that way.

When Marlene began reminding me we had to start packing for this trip, my automatic OMG ICSW (I Can’t Stop Working) alarm went off. What?! Stop working for several days just because a kid we both love is getting married? Don’t they understand? I’m doing important stuff! I can’t stop!? Come on!

This was definitely going to be an involuntary weekend.

A tension headache dogged me all the way to the airport, through check-in, landing and renting the car. Then, about 15 minutes later, as SIRI was holding our hands as we snaked our way through beautiful, partially forested hills to a location farther out in the boondocks than expected (I’d forgotten that even California has boondocks) the headache began to cure itself.

No, wait. The headache didn’t cure itself: The new surroundings, the realization that the office was far behind me and I couldn’t do anything about it began to push the headache to the sidelines. Then, as I turned into the dirt driveway and found a place to park in the worn grass next to the humongous, wood fired pizza oven hitched to a 5th wheel, Ford dualie, where there had been pain, there rested a feeling of comfortable relaxation. Of being in the right place at the right time.

I’m old enough and have gone through similar internal battles enough times that I should know better. I should remember that forcibly keeping your nose to the grindstone does nothing for you except create a sore spot on the end of our nose. It crowds your mind to the point of dulling it.

Something about stopping to smell the roses, or, in this case, the red woods, fits here. Will I remember that in the long run? Like most of us, probably not. But, the AZ Red Head will. And she’s the ring master in this particular circus. She’ll know when it is time to put the “temporarily closed” sign on the ticket booth and drag me out of town. Thankfully, she’s really good at that. bd

1 Sept -- On Passing Down Values
One of life’s truest clichés is that the only absolute constant in life is change. Even though we all know that, it wasn’t until watching TV this morning at 0500 that the degree and types of changes coalesced into a more or less single thought for me.

Part of my get-the-brain-working morning routine is eating my oatmeal while watching Fox and Friends for a half hour or so before hitting the keyboard or leaving for the airport. This morning, they were discussing a national poll that had some “interesting” results.

Values that Matter Most

Now versus 1998
Patriotism 61% 70%
Religion 50% 62%
Having Kids 43% 59%

Consider Religion Important
18-38 Years old 30%
Over 55 years old 67%

They were talking about what they saw as an alarming drop in some areas, and I guess it’s something worth thinking about. However, I didn’t find any of the findings surprising. In fact, I was a little surprised that Patriotism was still at 61%. It has gotten to where, if you have an American flag on your car or sewed to your jacket (which I do in both cases), you feel as if you stick out in a crowd, which is sad. I’m also not at all surprised that the religion poll showed that only 30% of younger folks see any importance in religion. However, the most important thing to come out of the discussion of the polls had nothing to do with the numbers.

One of the talking heads on the panel was a pastor and he said something that was also not surprising but seldom discussed. He said, and I paraphrase, “Only one generation separates a society from being one with worthy morals and behavior and a society that is barbarian in nature. If one generation ceases teaching the high-level behaviors and values that most religions espouse, we’ll devolve into an unrecognizable non-society.” The long-term effects of not teaching proper morals and behavior to the young is something few of us probably think about. However, the concept makes perfect sense: Skip a generation and an embolism is created in the traditional flow of cultural values

I didn’t agree with him in one area because I don’t think, as he stated, that proper morals, values and behavior can only be learned from religion. I think they can be taught by any parent who has a solid personal code of conduct. However, speaking as a non-believer I do have to admit that when I learn an individual has religious beliefs, I find that a positive virtue. This is because I know they have bought into to a belief system that, assuming they follow it, will make them better human beings. The question is: What does the low level of religious interest shown by the young say about the future?

Good question! I’d like to see a similar poll taken that lays the Ten Commandments out in front of a bunch of young people and asks them how many of the commandments they follow. Believing in a god isn’t what sustains a society. The way in which we conduct ourselves vis a vis our fellow man is what determines the character of our civilization. It makes no difference whether that behavior comes from a sacred book or from an internal cowboy-style code of conduct. It is the way in which we practice that code that counts. It may well be that we’re mis-judging the young and, in the absence of a spiritual belief system, millennials have switched over to a self-generated, unwritten code of conduct that accomplishes the same thing. However, if you can believe what we’re seeing in the media and on line (and we all know how accurate the media is), it appears that many are just drifting with no particular anchor or direction.

So, what does the foregoing say about the future? Are we witnessing the growth of the generation the pastor described that will give so little direction to their kids that they will have questionable behavior control and morals so barbarism is just around the corner? I seriously doubt anyone can answer that question accurately.

What makes the changes pointed out by the poll disturbing is that they are taking place at the same time practically everything in our world is becoming unrecognizable. From population demographics to the divisive nature of politics, as a nation and a society we’re under tremendous pressure. In this kind of situation, it is the basics of personal morals and conduct that will bring us through. If, however, we’re watching a wayward generation of parents being developed who can’t, or won’t, pass along those social skills and values that have built this nation we may be in trouble. I prefer to believe that isn’t the case. However, only time will tell. bd

24 Aug 2019 - Changes: Puppies, Daughters and Careers
Damn! I just noticed it has been nearly a month since I poured a bunch of words into this space. Time flies, when you’re having a good time, but creeps, when you’re not. We’ve had lots of both in the past three weeks. Explanations to follow.

First, a major milestone in our house! Yesterday, Nikki the loveable little sh*t machine, went out the doggie door and pooped in the backyard rather than in the dining room!!! A monumental achievement! Everything else pales by comparison. So, there IS light at the end of the dog dung tunnel!

Here are a bunch of brief explanations that note highlights of the month, ranging from not-so-good to absolutely spectacular.

Aggravations first: Marlene and I both have been basically laid low by what started as a cold and turned into a marathon of coughing. For the past two weeks, an hour of sleep a night has been considered a luxury. This on top of Marlene cracking her L-1 vertebra. This is getting old!

In a major career move, I officially resigned as Editor-in-Chief of Flight Journal magazine. I’ll do one more issue. I’ve been really proud of what we’ve done in the 23 years I’ve been at the helm, but 23 years is a long time. I’m now very excited about the digital future I’m building for us. This starts with greatly improving Airbum.com and trying to establish “Airbum” as a brand. You’ll be kept abreast of the process as we get deeper into it. I’m also going to try to monetize Airbum.com (the dogs and cats must be fed) and may start charging a buck or so for pilot reports. Let me know what you think about that. I have another 30-50 to add to the 143 that are there now and will be expanding the site in a number of different ways starting with more content. You’re going to like the changes. I should have done this five years ago.

By far, the most spectacular happening in the last month is when I spent three days in Orlando, FL watching my daughter, Jennifer, filming a TV series she’s producing for the History Channel. In case you missed it in the past, she runs Leonardo DiCaprio’s production company Appian Way. The series is an adaptation of Thomas Wolfe’s book (and then movie), The Right Stuff. It chronicles the beginning of the US space program and deals with the first astronauts, the Mercury 7.

This is the first time I’ve actually seen her at work. It’s hard to get your head around the fact that the little girl whose butt you used to powder, is now an executive producer honchoing 200 people on a $55mm project. They’re filming eight episodes. More, if they’re picked up for a second season.

The high point of the month was the e-mail I received from her that’s below. I still can’t read it without choking up. By far the best e-mail I’ve ever received.

Dear Dad,

Tomorrow I start shooting The Right Stuff.

It’s taken three years, a relatively short time on the Hollywood clock but it’s been intense and informative and become my passion.

What I realized over the past three years is how much of this is because of you.

I hate to fly, yes. But, I love pilots. I always have. The bravery, the intellect, the bravado all things that I know because of you. Things I loved because it was your world. Your different, unique, strange, exciting world that I got to peer into.

So why not make a show that is for you. About you.

It’s my love letter to you. Something that I hope you’ll watch and be proud of. Something that I hope you see and think “My kid did this for me”. It’s the ultimate drawing to tape on the fridge door.

So, thank you dad. Thank you for inspiring me to do what I love— because I saw you do that. Thank you for telling me the sky’s the limit— because it is for you. And thank you for being the first pilot I ever loved. And the one I will always love the most.

I can’t wait to show you what I made for you.

I love you.
Jennifer

28 July 2019- About This Birds-Of-A-Feather Thing
I returned from Oshkosh last night and my brain is just beginning to function again. Barely! However, as the sub-title for Thinking Out Loud says, “There’s more to life than airplanes…but not a helluva lot more.”

The reason I say that is because it’s not the airplanes, nor the gargantuan size, that amazes me about the aerial version of Mecca: It’s the people.

To put it into a single sentence, I seriously doubt that you’ll ever see a crowd that big (500,000/week, about 200,000/day) that is composed almost entirely of such high quality, intelligent people.

Stand by while I proceed to sing the praises of a really unique group of people. This, incidentally, includes everyone reading this. I feel safe in that statement because, if you weren’t part of that group, whether at OSH or not, you probably wouldn’t be reading this.

What about this group of people makes me think so highly of them? First has to be the way in which they keep their home-away-from-home surgically clean. As I’m writing this, the event has just officially ended and where there were tens of thousands of aircraft and people yesterday at this time, the fields are now bewilderingly empty. The highspeed evacuation is jarring and just a little sad. However, the spirit of the event is left behind in the ghostly outlines of airplanes imprinted in the grass.

Equally as jarring and totally unexpected is the eerie cleanliness of the grounds. The gathering covers an area that’s approximately two miles long and about a mile wide. However, as the area is vacated, it is as if the slipstream of people and aircraft leaving has vacuumed up any trace that they were there. Not a single gum wrapper, not a soda can (that’s pop to you mid-westerners), nothing has been left behind.

Can you name any event of this size that leaves the grounds so sterile that no clean-up is necessary? Remember the images of the post-Woodstock grounds? The “gentle, loving” generation left it literally knee-deep in trash. That is universally true for any event. Except this one.

So, EAA folks score high in the cleanliness category. What else? For one thing, inasmuch as airplanes, no matter their size, aren’t cheap, two things can be assumed: either they are above average in their annual income or they are so determined to be in the air that they overcome their lack of cash with pure determination and creativity. These are people who know how to make things happened.

Also, airplanes weave several flavors of complexity together. There is the mechanical complexity that has to be understood and mastered. Then there is the overarching artificial complexity that is created by the FAA and its million regulations. That REALLY turns off a lot of people. It takes a person with a stronger will than most to plow through all the artificial obstacles.

Then there is the risk that has to be managed each time someone leaves the ground. The actual act of learning to fly isn’t all that complex (if you ignore the FAA’s contributions) but the very act of flying puts the pilot and everyone onboard in a totally unforgiving environment. Just as water is waiting to kill a scuba diver, putting more than 20 feet between a pilot and the ground threatens him just as surely as water threatens the diver.

I contend that if aviation were suddenly totally free, we’d see only a minor spike in activity. The majority of people don’t want to work that hard or spend that much money to put themselves in a position where their very survival depends on a both a questionable mechanical contrivance and their own skills. They don’t have that kind of self-confidence.

Also, and this is a horribly elitist thing to say, but if you scan back through the foregoing paragraphs, it becomes obvious that there has to be a higher than average level of intelligence involved. Having higher intelligence, however, doesn’t say they have commonsense to go with it. In fact, if we all had commonsense, we’d never leave the ground. But, we do, so…

The intelligence thing crossed my mind every time I had dinner with the same seven or eight guys from all over the country. Over the years we have settled into a semi-routine. We have lunch and dinner together but go our separate ways in between. The last couple of years, however, have seen a 3:00 pm get-together develop at the ice cream stand mid-field. It’s GREAT ice cream. This also speaks to the intelligence involved. At least in our minds.

As I was listening to these guys going off in some of the most ridiculously creative directions with their humor and insults, the thought crossed my mind, “Damn, these guys are smart.” The average person tells jokes. However, I’ve never heard one of them search for laughs by telling a pre-canned joke. They invent the humor on the run, all of which is sharp and quick. That takes some intellect.

As far as intellect goes, I’m betting there wasn’t an IQ below 135 at that table and some were much higher. To put things in perspective who care about such things, 115-130 is considered to be “gifted” to one degree or other. If you don’t know Mensa, it’s an association that wears its intelligence on their sleeves and loudly proclaims, “Hey, look at us. We all have IQ’s 132 or higher so we’re smarter than 98% of the people in the world. We’re so smart, everyone envies us.” Wrong! Looking at the guys around the table and the several hundred thousand that were on the field with us, I had to laugh. Any one of them could eat a Mensa nerd for lunch.

Oshkosh is where we all go to feel a togetherness that doesn’t exist anywhere else. Yes, we’re there because of the airplanes, but it is more than that. There is an easiness between us that makes us all feel as if we’re kin to everyone in sight. It is a terrifically comfortable feeling I’ve never felt elsewhere.

This year was number 53 for me (four in Rockford) and, as long as I’m able to stand, I’ll be there. The birds of a feather thing is very real and worth revisiting on a yearly basis. bd

19 July 2019- Foul -Mouthed female soccer players - There's a time and a place
About the title to this one: right up front I should admit that I’ve been accused of raising swearing to a higher art form. But I’m different in different environments. I’m not a swear-anywhere kinda guy. So, what I’m seeing and hearing lately rubs me the wrong way. Am I being a prude? Or what?

For reasons I can’t explain, my dad NEVER swore. In fact, I only heard him say damn or hell one or two times in my entire life and every time it was at me for doing something over-the-top stupid. Like pushing my younger brother through the glass in our kitchen door. That having been said, if you are around me in an informal environment, which is the only kind I live in, you’d think both of my parents were sailors or stevedores. However, I have my limits, e.g. I’m not comfortable swearing around women, even those who swear more than I do. So, when I hear the way some of the female soccer players have been splashing the “F”word around and the attitude that they’re accompanying it with I’m embarrassed for them. I’m embarrassed for us. They’ve managed to cut the totem pole on which we’ve placed them down a couple of notches with their rhetoric. It really said about who they are when one of them, speaking directly to the young people in the watching audience and addressing them as “kids”, used the “F” word three times in in the two-sentence lesson he was trying to teach them. She was talking about how working hard allowed her to have the key to NY City, which has, in their word, automatically become The Mother F**king City. Her attitude said it was only right that The City bow down to them.

And then there’s their ace player, Megan Rapinoe, who took a knee when the National Anthem was being played. As far as I’m concerned, we all have the right to express our dissatisfaction with someone or something in anyway that’s legal, although I wasn’t crazy of the venue in which she decided to do it. I can get past that. However, when being interviewed, she too was throwing the F-word around, as if the entire world is okay with that. Or that she somehow comes off tougher by talking that way. In every way, her obvious self-importance overpowered the importance of her representing her country. If you’re going to be controversial, which is everyone’s right, do it with class. That was not classy. To see someone in a victorious situation using that kind of language is vulgar.

This was just the wrong place and the wrong words.

I feel the same way about celebrities like DeNiro who never miss a chance to yell out “F**ck Trump” using those exact words. And then there’s the Congressional Representative who, facing a phalanx of reporters and cameras emphatically stated that her goal was “…we’re going to impeach that mother f**ker.” I totally understand their frustration with the man. I can see why he irritates the hell out of them and that’s okay with me. But, when stating their case, it’s as if they feel they have elevated themselves to the stature of social warriors by using language usually associated with people far below their social status. They think talking like a Marine in a foxhole (who, by the way, are my heroes), they are, in their own language, “woke”, and therefore cool.

Incidentally, that word is being tossed around as if everyone knows what it means, but I didn’t, so, I just looked it up. It means “Alert to injustice in society, especially racism.” Hmmm. Without knowing it, I’m “woke.” However, I don’t wear it like a hair shirt but with the hair on the outside: A phony way of expressing concern while crapping on people with whom you don’t agree.

Incidentally, I may be proving that I’m so far outside of what has become the mainstream of life that I don’t understand how the world has changed. Maybe I don’t realize that it’s no longer expected that we respect others with the language we use. In fact, it appears to have become a way to accrue brownie points if you can verbally shock those around you. I don’t buy into that. At the same time, while sometimes I’m not proud of my language, I am proud of the fact that I don’t have little old ladies whacking me with umbrellas because of the way I’ve said something. I do get the occasional whack because of WHAT I’ve said, but not because of the words I use. I guess that’s something.

I’m leaving for Oshkosh in the morning. Basically, gone for two weeks, then have a tooth scheduled to be pulled and a post put in the day after I come home. So, I may be little bitchier than normal. We’ll see. bd

1 July, 2019 - Are Politicians People Too?
This is a bipartisan political rant. Or maybe not a rant, but an overarching question the answer to which may explain why, to one degree or another, virtually everyone in the universe hates politicians.

The question I’m asking is: Do politicians have hobbies like real people? Or are they just politicians?

The reason I’m asking that question is because, as I look around at my personal universe, I realize that it is comprised of multiple special interest niches. Some people call them hobbies. However, in my world the word “hobbies” trivializes the interest. These interests might best be defined as “focused passions.” They are an interest that lives just under the veneer of life that civilization forces on us. There is the “job” and/or “career” then, just under that, is something in which we are so severely interested and on which we are so focused that it helps balance the rest of our life by fostering a fire of its own. It is strictly “our” interest and has nothing to do with our day job or daily existence. It might be flying, hunting/fishing, building stuff like hotrods/firearms/model-airplanes-railroads-R/C cars/etc. However, I can’t actually imagine a national level politician out in the garage busting knuckles or whittling wood into something that exists only in their imagination.

Why am I asking this question? Because you can’t name a passionate interest (my substitute term for “Hobby”), such as cars, motorcycles, etc., etc. that doesn’t exist within a fairly expansive community of like-minded souls that are devoted to that interest. The social aspect of most passion-driven interests is definitely a birds-of-the-feather thing. Without meaning too, it puts you in contact with lots of people you’d never run across were it not for the interest. And most often, the conversations held are not necessarily focused on the interest that draws those people together in the first place.

There is an easiness to the relationships borne of a shared interest that enables conversations you can’t have with random strangers or casual relationships. My almost daily conversations with my antique/custom firearm, aviation and hotrod friends are almost never are on aviation or hot rods. We cover the whole spectrum of what ‘s happening in the world at that time. Do national level politicians have those kinds of non-family social contacts?

I’d have to believe that the higher an individual climbs on the political ladder, the farther they are removed from whatever it is that causes people to have the narrow passions the world labels as “hobbies.” A mayor of a small town is just as likely to have a motorcycle he’s rebuilding in his garage as anyone else. However, the bigger the city the less likely that will happen. And, as they flash through governor to Senator or Congressman, I’m betting that the number of politicians that get grease under their fingernails decreases to almost zero. At the same time, their contacts with the sweaty unwashed masses who congregate around those focused passions, also drops to zero.

In other words, as their life becomes driven by politics, those politicians who used to be “normal” people lose close contact with a lot of the common folk. Yes, they’ll show up at the requisite social functions and talk to a lot of people. But, that is mostly glad handing. The conversations aren’t the same, nor as in depth, as just hanging out with folks with whom they have a common, non-political interest.

A caveat here: golf can be a focused passion but it is essentially a social sport. At upper levels of politics and business it is driven by the need to network and conduct business, not develop the skill. It is a necessity, no longer a passion.

As I’m typing this, knowing full well that I have no real point to make, my brain has been searching for any reference in any political context that mentions a politician’s avid interest in common-folk subjects. That may be because their PR flacks think that telling their constituency that their candidate knows how to weld or can build a closet shelf or loves dirt biking or cruising with his buddies on a chopped Harley runs against the necessary image. Maybe they feel it would make their candidate sound more common and not of the aristocracy. Or maybe that interest simply isn’t there.

Personally, if I thought a politician walked out of his office or returned from a gala ball and changed into jeans and made sparks or sawdust for a while, I’d think much more of his abilities to lead. I like the idea of a well-rounded individual deciding how to spend my tax money and lead our nation. I don’t like the idea of an individual climbing the ladder for the sheer sake of climbing the ladder and the power it gives him/her.

Hmmm! It’s seldom I meet a hotrodder, biker, pilot, etc., that I don’t like. It’s also seldom I see a politician, I do like. bd

23 June 19 --Of Puppies, Poop and Traffic
It’s interesting how once in a while we’ll look around and suddenly find that something that has been with us most of our life suddenly has a risk or irritation factor associated with it. This week it was first traffic, then how much work it is to love a puppy.

I took another of my 30-hour round-trip banzai runs to LA last weekend to watch granddaughter, Alice, 9 years old, be one of the leads in a class play. 383 miles each way. I was solo because The Red Head is grounded by a compression fracture in her L-1. According to the doc, her osteopenia just graduated to osteoporosis. We’re dealing with it.

I can’t count the number of times I’ve gone blasting down that same stretch of highway: through Palm Springs and the Banning Pass on I-10 into the automotive maelstrom that is the LA metro area. Literally, hundreds of times. First it was as a college student in the ‘60’s zipping into Anahiem or San Diego (different highway) to play little clubs for a Friday/Sat gig leaving after the last set to be back in OK in time for class Monday morning. 2,800-mile round trip. Lots of all-night slogs. I’ve watched LA improve its air quality while just about every other aspect of their life style has ground downhill. Especially their traffic. No…wait…I can’t say it has gotten worse because it has always been oppressive. This trip, however, as I was heading for home, I had a different reaction to the traffic. I suddenly realized the realities of the situation. I can’t believe it has taken this long for commonsense to open my eyes.

Being from Nebraska/Oklahoma, where everything worth seeing (or so we thought) was 500 miles away, so, high speed, long cross countries were just part of your up-bringing. Fortunately, the new Interstates made it much easier. IIRC, while in college, the speed limit on I-35 was 85 mph, although I understand it is now a more sedate 70 mph. However, that’s more of a minimum for most drivers than a maximum. Right now, AZ is 75 mph (at 85 you’re holding up traffic) and CA is 70, with 65 in some stretches. Back in the day, when I was doing the mid-night banzai runs to clubs, I thought nothing of running across the desert and plains at 100 mph for hours on end (’65 GTO and over-equipped ’62 Pontiac hard top could do that effortlessly in very safe fashion). And yes, I got my share of speeding tickets. I’m mentioning this just to point out how unusual my reaction was to the outbound LA traffic last week.

There I was, blasting along in the left lane of a hyper-familiar stretch of eight-lane highway. The flow was flawless at about 80 mph in near bumper-to-bumper conditions in a 65-mph zone. I’d done this for tens of thousands of miles in my life but, all of a sudden, the ridiculousness of the situation dawned on me. There I was with something like four feet separating me from the cars on my right. There were a numerous 90 mph runners mixed into the flow, so there was a lot of lane changing going on, which forced me to do some of the same. Then, for whatever reason, I took a close look at the situation and the river of steel in which I was floating and realized that what we were doing was ridiculously dangerous! Holy, crap, was it ever dangerous! The tiniest glitch would be catastrophic!

In those conditions, a disaster was only nano-seconds away because the vehicles around me were a silly combination of new and decrepit and the drivers were the same. Their condition varied all over the block. Young to old. I was constantly having to slide sideways to avoid someone who had accidentally crossed into my lane or who barely missed my front bumper as they wedged into the too-short space between me and the car in front of me. I like a fair amount of distance between me and the car in front of me, which is an invitation for drivers to insert themselves into that space.

All of a sudden, I found my traditional distrust of other drivers to be sucking much of the fun out of the drive. I was surrounded by hundreds of total unknowns, at least a percentage of which absolutely shouldn’t have a license. Plus, according to info from the AZ DMV, nationally, at any time of the day or night, one out of twelve drivers is DUI. In AZ it’s one out of ten. I’m not sure what that says about AZ. Since I was wading around in a high-speed swamp that within my visual area included probably 100 cars, that meant at least eight of the drivers I wasn’t trusting were legally drunk. Just frigging great!

I’m sorry I had this epiphany! It’ll make future trips that much harder. Once in a while, commonsense can be vaguely detrimental.

A totally different epiphany hit me this morning at 0445 as I was standing in the back yard urging a puppy to poop. I had forgotten that at the beginning, loving a puppy can be hard work. 0445 is actually just after my normal wake up time, but now I have to find my way out of the sack earlier in the hopes I can get dressed and log a little time on the porcelain P-51 myself before Nikki starts squealing in her cage. Yeah, I know: Too much information. The last time we went through this we were 13 years younger. It’s surprising how much different it now feels. Nikki is a real lover but is also a very free spirit, challenging us at every turn. That’s okay. We love spirited personalities, but, I’m not sure if it slows down, or speeds up, our aging process. Only time will tell. Literally. bd

1 June 19 --Niki
This Thinking Out Loud has been a while coming. We lost our beloved Sháhn-deen about two months ago and we grieved as only man can grieve when he loses a member of his immediate family. To call a dog a pet, trivializes the relationship. The house felt empty. Our lives felt empty. Until now.

Last Tuesday Niki came to live with us and just sitting there, watching her race around the yard like a furry water bug, is a joyful experience. Then, for no apparent reason, she’ll brake to a stop and jump up to lick your nose and you know all is right with your world. Ten weeks old (Pomaranian), she’s only a little more than a handful. As my son said, she’s basically a ball of fur with a tongue and always smiling.

Niki
Niki

When you lose a dog, Sháhn-deen was our second, it creates a hole that is the exact shape of their personality. She was one of the most unique little people I’ve ever met. Loaded with personality and almost unreal human traits. For instance, those who don’t have dogs, sometimes say that they are incapable of feelings. That’s BS! If I live to be a thousand (unlikely), I’ll never forget something that happened one evening. She was probably five years old at the time and was a puppy until the day she left us at 13. This night we were watching TV and Sháhn-deen was playing at our feet bugging Marlene for attention. Marlene had had a bad day and snapped at her “Sháhn-deen, dammit! Leave me the hell alone.”

Sháhn-deen froze, staring at Marlene with a shocked look on her face. Then tears welled up in her eyes and started running down her cheeks. As that happened, her entire body seemed to slump and she dragged herself under the coffee table and collapsed on the rug, her nose down and tears streaming. I doubt if we’ve ever felt as bad as we did at that moment. We both started crying and scooped her out to cradle her. Don’t try to tell a dog owner that dogs have no feelings!!!

When we lost her, we were certain, as we were when losing Nizhoni, that we’d never again have that kind of relationship with the next one. Even though we knew better, we thought no dog of any kind could fill Sháhn-deen’s footsteps. Which, of course is wrong. It’s wrong because a new dog isn’t supposed to fill the last one’s footsteps. They don’t need to because each creates footsteps all their own. Niki is already her own person. We always regarded Sháhn-deen as a fur covered three-year-old child that, in some mysterious way, we had given birth to. We treated her as a human and she responded as one.

Niki has been with us four days and she has already created her own little nest in our hearts that is very definitely her own. We still find ourselves periodically and unexpectedly choking up when thinking about Sháhn-deen, but at the same moment we’ll be laughing about Niki. She’s not a replacement. She’s a welcome addition.

I know so many others who have lost dogs and the grief, as it always is, is so hard to bear that they don’t want to get another and go through that again. When we lost Nizhoni, I was at the Arlington Fly-in, and the loss nearly killed me. Only losing my brother was worse. But, I had to leave for Oshkosh five days later but, before I did, Sháhn-deen came to live with us. One of the best decisions we’ve ever made. But, when we lost her, we dragged our feet. Did we really want to go through the puppy process and what’s involved in raising another child only to lose her and feel so bad again? After two months, we decided the answer was yes and she wasn’t in the house an hour before we knew we had made the right decision. Our life was/is whole again. The joy they bring is easily worth the pain.

About the name Niki: As everyone knows, we always give our dogs Native American names. Nizhoni was Navajo for “Something Beautiful”, Sháhn-deen is Navajo for “Ray of Sunshine”. Originally, we named the new one Maicoh, which is “wolf” because of her facial coloring. Then a little more research revealed it did indeed mean “wolf” but it was a spirt wolf that could use its powers to influence people for good or bad.

So, we named her Miki, which is Inuit for “small”. However, when Marlene had her name tag made for her collar, she misspelled it and she is now Niki. And it seems to fit. She really is a Niki.

To all who have decided to avoid the pain and not get another one, I beg you to reconsider. Man is not complete without his best friend. You won’t regret it. bd

19 May - Don't Let the Old Man In (Clint Eastwood: 2018)
I had an incredible realization flash through my brain the other day: I’m actually getting older! Sonuvabitch! When did that happen? And why did it suddenly dawn on me?

Actually, I know exactly why it occurred to me: I had an unexpected come-to-Jesus episode this week that came from a totally unexpected source and taught me something. Actually, I learned a number of “somethings” at least a couple of which might be helpful for greydogs-in-the-making, which includes all of us.

As I look around at a lot of my friends, I see some who are being very logical about approaching their golden years, a misnomer if there ever was one. There’s nothing golden about them. Still, I see the logic in my friends’ downsizing and getting a smaller, easier-to-maintain house or living arrangement. I also see them unloading a lot of possessions for which they know they’ll have no use. Sometimes those possessions are a needed source of revenue.

Marlene and I don’t have a retirement plan as such and I’ve always been a lousy money manager. Basically, our retirement plan is not retiring. Work until the first shovel full of dirt hits me in the face. However, what we have done, starting back when IRAs went to hell, is put money into tangible items we know we can sell for a profit later. That includes things like the right kind of vintage firearms, etc. I’m not crazy about selling them, but, when the time comes, I know there’s a ready market for most of them. They are essentially fun cash that you enjoy while they increase in value. If I get hit by a bus, she needs only to contact a couple of our friends and they can guide her in converting our fun items into cash. But, that’s not the case for at least one of them.

Of all the stuff I own, the hardest to sell would be my rusty, trusty artillery piece, a Model 1885 U.S. 3.2” Field Gun. It’s the very first breechloader the US produced in series. It’s a powder bag gun, so you slam the projectile in from the rear. Follow it with a bag of powder, lock the breech and fire it with a fuse or rotary match just as they did in the Civil War. My friends would be of no help to her unloading that. I mean, how many of you know a cannon merchant?

The gun is a serious, yet to be started, restoration project that will require a ton of welding and fabrication on the carriage. A ton! Ten years ago, I did have new wheels made for it. They hang on the wall next to the barrel and my heart skips a beat every time I look at them. I’ve always pictured that gun as the ultimate personal artifact. It was my “silly treasure.”

I loved the idea of simply owning it. No matter how unlikely it was, that I’d actually start working on it, it was always there waiting for me. Lately, however, I found myself analyzing our future and thinking about the difficulties of getting our money out of that gun. So, I sent out exactly two e-mails to guys saying it was for sale. I don’t think I seriously thought it would sell. I, however, knew I was doing the responsible thing and was being honest about our future. However, when the e-mail came in saying a gentleman in Georgia would take it, the effect was the same as, when my first marriage was in trouble and I was fighting finances, I stood at the top of our drive watching my last vintage midget race car being towed down the drive behind its new owner’s truck. I had an overwhelming feeling of failure. I had truly screwed up my life and selling my favorite possession clearly pointed that out. I had the same feeling when I realized I had just sold the artillery piece. However, I wasn’t feeling failure. I was feeling depression because the reason I sold it was that my years are too limited to finish it. Damn! That moment I had accepted the fact that I was actually getting old! I had unwittingly let the old man in.

Initially, when your projects start piling up, some of which are going to take years to complete, the time they’ll require has no value. You’ll get at it eventually. If you’re lucky, something comes into your life that for some reason or other transcends being a mere mechanical object. Owning a cannon/artillery piece had been number two on my bucket list since I was a kid. It was right under owning an M3-A1 Stuart tank! 43 years ago, when I finally swapped a hundred dollars in fives and tens for it, and the gun was sitting in my driveway it was a major achievement! A constant companion for the rest of my adult life, I always thought I’d get at it “eventually.” Then I read that e-mail and knew I wouldn’t. I shed a few tears at that moment. I’m not sure why, but my heart said I should. So, I did.

That’s when I learned that you should never accomplish all the goals you’ve set forth in life. Your bucket list should never be empty. If it is, you have nothing left to look forward to. One of the dangers of living in an elderly world is that there may be nothing sitting on the hill ahead, constantly goading you on. As I sat on a stool in the shop, knowing my big old gun was about to leave, I was wondering if I should start counting backwards from five. Or ten. Or whatever unknown number of years are left me.

Then I looked around at my cluttered surroundings. A Remington rolling-block action, soon to be a .44 Special carbine was in the vice right next to me. On the big work table in front of me was the finally-finished buck around which the new aluminum nose for The Banger race car would be formed. In front of that, The Roadster needed to be taken around the block and a minor carburation issue sorted out.

I dried my tears and laughed. My bucket list is so long that I don’t have to worry about running out of projects. At the same time, however, I’ve learned the value of always having at least one major, treasured project sitting out there begging for your time and feeding your emotions. Whether you’re working on it or not, simply knowing it’s out there waiting for us beats the hell out of taking Prozac and watching game shows. However, and this is a fact, no more of my silly treasures are going away while I’m still vertical. Not a one! I had almost let the old man in my front door and I’m not going to do it again. bd

6 May 19 - Chapped Asses and Other Fun Stuff
This is a very difficult time in which to be a thinking human being. Or, better yet, one who follows the news. Almost anything that is happening anywhere is going so wrong it chaps my ass.

When reading this, bear in mind that I’m a hardcore Independent. Right leaning on some subjects, left leaning on others (left on a few social issues, right on financial/political). So, I don’t actually have a dog in this hunt. I’m just trying to protect my butt.

One thing actually worries the hell out of me: the absolute impossibility of bipartisan anything. However, we need to clarify that. When we say bipartisanship, we’re automatically talking about a political problem that exists only in Washington. Which isn’t the way it’s supposed to be. Politicians exist for one reason: To get together to carry out the will of their constituents. If you’re watching what’s happening via the news media, however, it would appear that the left and the right can’t come close to getting along in any area. However, since politicians are supposed to mirror the population’s desires, doesn’t it then mean by extension that the people can’t get along either? Of course not! 50% of the population is NOT ready to go to war with the other half of the population. Only the politicians are on a war footing and willing to fight to the last vote over almost everything. If the Republicans are in favor of something, the Democrats automatically hate it. And vice versa. Neither side is blameless. What ever happened to listening to those who voted you in and spending your time leading the country rather than carrying on endlessly about personalities and political agendas.

And talking about leadership getting off on tangents: I’m betting that even many Democrats are uncomfortable with the way the Democratic POTUS hopefuls are being led to extremes by inconsequential players. We are five months into the service period of freshman congress people and three or four of them, AOC in particular, have totally molded the mindset of the DNC POTUS front runners. I’m hoping that’s just a ploy. You aren’t going to tell me that intelligent people like Harris, Booker, etc., actually buy into the Green New Deal and think the planet will end in 12 years. Or that in a single decade we can eliminate airplanes, rebuild every structure in the US to be more energy efficient, eliminate cars and fossil fuels, etc. These are the thoughts of an adolescent liberal on their first acid trip. Liberal or not, every one of those running for POTUS is smarter than that. Whether we agree with them or not, you don’t get to their positions in life by being stupid. They’re playing a role that they think will get them the DNC nomination. I have no fear that any of these thoughts will come to fruition because all of the players are smarter than that. And I don’t fear Socialism taking over because voters are smarter than that.

We have some sort of kabuki theater being played out on the national political stage just for the effect but it will begin to make more sense when the nominee is selected. And, yes, if Bernie gets the nod, forget everything I just said. I was obviously wrong.

Another thing that is maddening is that, when climate change is brought up, we see the discussion placed in a political framework, when it shouldn’t be. Is Climate Change real? Of course, it is! Climate is constantly changing. Is man causing it? Who knows? When you look back at the acknowledged climate changes for the last several thousand years and overlay man’s effect on them, you can’t definitively say we’re causing it. However, it’s only logical that we’re not making things any better either. The general environmental trends would be there whether we existed or not. Still, it only makes sense to conduct ourselves in a way that minimizes our impact. We can do this without getting so nuts about it that we’re putting fart-filters on cattle to reduce their emissions and compromising our economy or well-being for insignificant improvements. Climate Change is an argument that should be driven by stone cold hard facts, neither emotions nor hearsay, nor “scientific” arguments that have underlying agendas. It’s hard to identify the arguments that have agendas, but it’s easy to peruse identifiable historical trends that are defined by physical, immutable evidence, like ice cores. Take a look at the graphs in this presentation and try to identify man’s contribution to them. The takeaway from the evidence is that we’re entering a cooling period. Smallish, short term events like Antarctic melting or oceanic temperature increases are out there, but the long-term outlook is cooling, not warming. Check this out. The Sun is going to sleep last grand solar minimum 400 years ago(3)

Then , in the interest of balanced reporting look at this for the other side of the arguement https://www.theguardian.com/environment/climate-consensus-97-per-cent/2018/jan/09/the-imminent-mini-ice-age-myth-is-back-and-its-still-wrong.

All of us should also have a bone or two to pick with the media (can’t leave them out, right?) and their role in the social unrest we’re seeing. Somehow, we’ve allowed opinion journalism to become confused with news journalism. A news show in which the commentators continually harp on a given point of view isn’t news: It’s opinion. Some channels, like Fox, have admittedly biased programs, but they also have those that are strictly about facts. They make no effort to camouflage which is which. Some, like Sheppard Smith and Neil Caputto, in the midday programming, are openly Trump-critical, while others like Brett Bair are just the facts. Their evening programming is obviously right leaning. However, even in the right leaning programming, they include more than just a few left-leaning commentators and guests in an attempt at balanced coverage. Some of the debates get pretty fiery and interesting. Click over to CNN and the lean is entirely one direction with opinion being the primary ingredient in what are often purported to be newscasts. Few facts are presented without an opinion being attached. This is confusing the hell out of the audiences and borders on being brain washing propaganda commentary.

Unfortunately, none of the above is going to change and there’s nothing any of us can do about it. So, I guess we’d just better prepare for it and lay in a supply of Chap Stick to reduce the discomfort of ass chapping. bd

21 April 2019 - Oatmeal, Katmandu and New Beginnings
The last two months have been interesting beginning with the afternoon of Feb 26 when I was coming out from under the anesthetic. The surgery was interesting and not terribly painful but the recovery and lifestyle changes it entailed have turned out to be even more interesting. And hopefully, fruitful.

As this is being written, I’m totally back up to speed. It was at least two weeks before the full effect of the anesthetic wore off and my brain and internal systems returned to more-or-less normal. It was six weeks total before I was back in the cockpit and I’m glad to report that nothing had suffered. But then, after nearly 7,000 hours in type and about 45,000 landings I would have been disappointed (and a little terrified), if there had been any problems. However, I found a bunch of other things had definitely changed.

For one thing, the first two weeks I couldn’t do anything but sit in front of the TV like a doorstop. Most of the time, I was holding Marlene’s hand and had a cat sitting in my lap (we missed our sweet Sháhn-deen terribly during that period). It had been forever since we spent that much time together and it was wonderful. A reconnection of sorts.

I also discovered that there is actually life in the rest of the world at 0500 in the morning. I pushed my usual wake-up time of 0430 back and restructured it. Rather than rushing to the computer, I actually learned to make oatmeal (lemme see: boil water, dump in oatmeal, stir occasionally, dump out when thick enough…got it!), which was actually 50/50 oatmeal and frozen blueberries w/half ‘n half cream. I’d be doing this to the sound track of Bob Seger leading off with Katmandu. Then, while eating, I’d sit and watch Fox and Friends for 45 minutes before I hopped on the computer. I have been eating breakfast at the keyboard for so many decades I’d forgotten what life was like without a computer in front of me. I like it and am still doing it.

It seems as if a little of the sense of urgency that permeates life has gone away and I can occasionally cool out. In fact, even when I finally got back to the regular work routine before flying started, I was perfectly willing to take an hour off in late afternoon and sit and watch The Five with Marlene. This was a resounding indication that something different was happening inside my head. Prior to that, everything was push, push, push. That doesn’t seem to be coming back, although ensuing deadlines competing with flying may change that.

A work frenzy had led up to the surgery because I didn’t know when I’d be able to work again and that actually resulted in a slight work-vacuum post-surgery: I had gotten so much done ahead of time that, for a few weeks, I almost didn’t have enough to do. The result was that I did a lot of thinking in which I re-evaluated life and our future and that resulted in some hardcore decisions on some thoughts I had been having for years. And I’ve begun acting on them. This is where, dear reader, I’m hoping for some input from you.

For a long time, I’ve realized I need to develop another business, a source of revenue or two that, when I can no longer fly, will kick out a few dollars without me needing to turn the crank every single day. I’ve come up with some possibilities, all of which would be web-based. And I’m hoping some of you will chime in with your thoughts on what follows below.

It’s basically impossible to actually make money with a website with content alone. If it’s on the web, the public is used to getting it for free. However, websites DO make money by selling advertising. And that’s the first thing I’m going to do: clean up Airbum.com and seek advertising. I know readers hate advertising, but I have to make a living somewhere. Readers will benefit, however, because I just contracted with a professional company to bring Airbum.com out of the digital stone age. It is close to 20 years old and contains all sorts of ancient code and features that slow it down and irritate the reader. The goal will be to make it faster and totally adapted to every form of presentation including phones, iPads, etc.

More important than anything else, I haven’t added any new content to Airbum in well over five years. That is death to a website. So, I’m going to make an effort to add more articles, especially pilot reports. But I’m also thinking of some new features and will need your thoughts on them. Then, I’m going to pitch an entirely new business, publishing eBooks, and see what you think.

Possible new web ideas

This is just me doing pie-in-the-sky, truly thinking out loud. I find I think better when I see my own words on the screen.
- Vlogs. Video blogs have become a major part of the web community. That would be me bitching and moaning in front of a camera on whatever’s on my mind. They’d be short. I’m thinking less than a minute or so. And, until I try it, I don’t even know if I’m capable. Besides, who wants to watch a geezer gabbing about anything? I don’t know. I’ll probably try one or two and put them on Thinking out Loud. What do you think?
- Video pilot reports: these would be longer, about 10-15 minutes depending on the airplane. I might put those on You-Tube.
- Podcast Pilot Reports: I already have about 15 pilot reports recorded that had originally been on Flight Journal’s website. But, they stopped using them, so I’ll present them here. Then I will start adding more. They run about 15 minutes.
- Shop Oriented Videos: I’m always doing something odd in the shop (modifying a C-clamp for a special mission, etc.) and wondering how many might benefit from these tips. They would all be based on working steel and wood. Although these would be mostly car and firearm based, they would be applicable to almost anything.

Entirely New Product Lines
I want to establish an eBook/digital publishing company (just me):
- Warbirds and Me: A Grassroots Pilot Flies the Big Iron. I have flown all of the trainers and will take readers through the trainers into Mustang, Bearcat, Spitfire, etc. and I’m type-rated in B-25s and P-38. Will be heavily illustrated in a coffee table type format. Would be available both digitally and hard copy.
- Novels: I have Cobalt Blue and The Stonewall File I can go digital with right now and am working on another, The Third City, using the Cobalt characters. I’d like to keep that going.
- Gas Welding Made Easy -Video: I’m pretty decent with a gas torch and have been giving welding forums at Oshkosh for over 20 years. This would get into the real nitty-gritty that I feel is usually skipped over. Would include very up-close videos

If you have the time and inclination, give me your thoughts. Also, let me know if you have any new ideas I could get into. This is my first effort at Market Evaluation, so any thing would help. bd

24 March 19 - Of Floods, Healing and Grieving
The past ten days has been a chaotic period of history-making events infused with personal and national grieving. I’m going to comment on each separately, but remember, this is all from a personal point of view.

The Floods
My hometown, Seward, Nebraska is at ground zero for the flooding that will have such long term national impact that we’re only just now beginning to get our heads around it. All of this took far too long to become national news. It was nearly a week before the media pulled their heads out of their politically-oriented butts and glanced down at fly-over country. They have yet to realize that what we’re watching is a large part of America’s bread basket being taken entirely off line for the foreseeable future.

I’m certain that what the parts of America that aren’t affected are saying is, “Oh, that’s really too bad. After the water goes down all the flooded houses will need rebuilding just like Houston.” But this isn’t just like Houston. It’s not just like anything we’ve ever seen. Forget the number of farm buildings lost. Forget all the horribly expensive equipment that has been lost. Focus on the hundreds of thousands of acres of farm land, some of the best in the nation, that won’t be producing crops this year. And may not be producing crops for years to come because the people who worked that land, who had been trying to cope with the effects of trade wars so were stock piling last year’s crops will have a minimum of two years of lost income and that doesn’t take into effect erosion damage of the fields. It has been estimated that it might take ten years for some areas to recover to full productivity. Some farmers won’t recover.

And then there is the lifestock lost. Thousands and thousands of heads of cattle, hogs, etc have been lost. A huge percentage of this year’s calves have been washed away. The full extent of that damage has yet to be calculated but it’s known to be unprecedented. This is all going to be reflected in food availability and prices in coming months.

Every state in the upper Midwest has been decimated, but I keep thinking about my little hometown, Seward, population 7,200, which is about 75 miles south and west of Omaha, 25 miles west of Lincoln in the southeast corner of the state. Part of me still lives there. Every state in the area is suffering about the same, but Seward has weathered the flooding far better than many other similar towns in the state because the founding fathers appear to have understood the character of the waterways in the area and located the town on high ground.

Wiki says Nebraska has more miles of waterways than any other state in the union, regardless of size. What Wiki doesn’t say, or know, but which every Cornhusker does know, is that the state has a large number of actual rivers but an almost incalculable number of little creeks (“cricks” to us locals) that that like capillaries, feed into the rivers. The area, especially the hilly eastern third of the state, is spider webbed with all of these little creeks that might be 10-20 feet wide or less most of the time, but they collect all the run-off from the surrounding area. So, in times like these, they might suddenly flood and gorge the rivers with far more water than they can handle washing out rural bridges and back roads in the process. I own a little piece of land (Skunk Hollow) that is encircled by a tight bend of the Blue River. The banks are usually 10 to 15 feet above the water, but right now that land is under probably 10 feet of water and you can’t get within three-quarter mile of it. That’ll change quickly but how long before they can plant the fields around it? This is the big question and it is said that more rain is on the way and the snow out west hasn’t melted yet.

My sister runs a furniture/appliance store in Seward and she’s in good shape but says, “We can’t use GPS for deliveries; the rural roads aren’t there. We don’t get loads of merchandise because the trucker can’t find a way down from South Dakota. Little things that turn into big issues.”

There is zero doubt that the area will fight its way back. They always do, but don’t let anyone kid you: This is a national/personal disaster in so many ways.

Some Nebraska Facts
These concern Nebraska, but I'm positive they are close to the same for Iowa and many of the states in the area. Most of this will be lost this year.

- #1 in the country for percentage of agricultural land. 91% is used for either farming or ranching.
- #2 for beef production with Texas being #1 but is 3.5 times bigger.
- #3 for corn production.
- Exports 50% of its 46 million harvested bushels of wheat annually.
- #4 for agricultural exports to the world market. $7.2 billion.
- Contributes $104 billion to the US GDP

The Mueller Report
It’s in, but, at this time, no one knows what it says. Regardless, I’m tired of hearing about it. Besides, we know it’s just the starting point for another round of right versus left clashes and politics will continue to devour the nation with little worthwhile being accomplished. I’m glad I’m a registered independent and, with the reassignment of gender and such becoming so accepted, I’m thinking about re-identifying myself as a Martian. I don’t like who we’ve become.

A Personal Loss
The week before my surgery, about a month ago, we had to put the love of our life, our dog, Sháhn-deen, down. We had known she had a heart problem for a while, but regardless, it was hard. Terribly hard! I honestly thought Marlene was going to stroke out over it. I wasn’t much better. Marlene had to deal with that and her fears of me going under the knife (actually, it was just a couple of mini-robots with Xactos) at the same time. Not good. Will we adopt another? We’re about half way through my recovery phase (I expect to be flying in about a month) and will decide after that. I think we will. Every dog owner on the planet can identify with this. There’s a lot of truth to the cliché, “The reason God gave dogs such short life spans is because the grief at their passing would be fatal.” And I believe it. bd

9 Mar 19 - There's Always a First Time
There’s a reason I’m months behind on Thinking Out Loud. Several actually. I know my chronic excuses make me sound as if I’m lazy, so I’ll just start this apology with the line, “I got out of the hospital about a week ago.” Does that work? Did it get the sympathy flowing so it covers up for me being so late?

First, a caveat: I know for a fact that a high percentage of those reading this have had much more severe hospital experiences than mine. However, this was the first time in a hospital for me. So, even though the surgery wasn’t on the level of the open-heart stuff, just the fact that I was a newby makes it worth noting in my life-experience notebook. Much more important is the fact that there was a lot of new-to-me technology involved, all of which made the experience wildly interesting.

A note about the new-to-me aspect of this thing: even though I knew they were going to be burrowing around inside my chest removing something that wasn’t supposed to be there, not for a single second was I nervous or fearful. The newness of the experience and the technological-interest involved prevented that. I was actually looking forward to it. And it showed. Which thoroughly pissed Marlene off, as she was a bundle of nerves/fears/forebodings beginning to end.

What was the purpose of the bodily invasion? The explanation begins with a question that I bet only a few of you can answer: Do you know what and where your Thymus gland is located? The reason most don’t know they have such a gland (including me) is that its original function was to kick-start our immune system, then, as we age, it gradually withers away and becomes non-essential like our appendix. Except our appendix is right there almost in plain sight under a layer of muscle (and fat) just waiting to be plucked out. Not so, the Thymus. It is hiding behind our sternum, high in our chest between our lungs and snuggled up against our heart and trachea. Not very accessible.

I have a bunch of totally unremarkable physical anomalies including zero sign in my jaw that I’d ever have wisdom teeth, I have a longer than normal colon (“redundant” colon so, yes, I’m always full of sh*t), color blind (about 65%) yada, yada. I bring this up because the thymus generally ceases to be a player in our physiology but, according to Wiki, in three out of two-million people, the thymus becomes a trouble maker. The most common problem being a thymoma. Three out of two million! That figures! I guess I won the lottery in reverse. The prize being a mass about the size of two golf balls sitting on top of one another where the thymus was. As I go back and re-read the last paragraph I realize I just redefined the term “too much information – TMI”. Sorry.

I had absolutely no symptoms of anything and we only found it by accident. Marlene has been badgering me for a long time about a cough I have and I finally gave in and went to the doctor for it. A CT scan showed the slowly-building mass.

From that point on everything is a blur primarily because I knew I was going to wind up losing a ton of magazine and flying time to both the surgery and the recovery. Never having been cut on, I had no idea how I would react and deadlines are deadlines, flying is flying. This whole thing started the Friday before Christmas so the time after that was multiple doctor visits, scans, tests, etc while I was running like a crazy man trying to get as far ahead of myself as possible. I flew something like 40 hours, wrote about a dozen articles and got a new Flight Journal started. And that’s the reason I’m late.

A couple of observations: while I was cooling out waiting for the radioactive stuff in my blood to circulate for a PET CT scan I was in one of those curtained-off “cells” hospitals always have. In the cube next to me I heard a 350-pound woman of impossible-to-determine age I’d seen in the lobby having great difficulty communicating with the caregivers and being told that for the third time, she couldn’t get her scan done. Her blood sugar was still too high. As I sat there I continually thanked my lucky stars that I was so frigging healthy. When the Thymus thing was diagnosed my doctor did two things: he shook my hand saying I had just added a never-before-seen-thing to his resume and he’s been practicing 30 years. He also said this was a helluvalot better than getting a diagnosis of diabetes or something that would haunt me the rest of my life. And he’s obviously right. They’d creep in there, rip out the offending part, stitch things up and that’s that.

I could talk for pages about my reaction to the hospital experience, almost all of which was wildly positive. But I won’t. I was in three nights, four days but slept in a bed only one night because I couldn’t find a position that didn’t hurt. Have slept in a bed only once since returning home. Usually in a recliner.

The only bad part of the surgery was that I wasn’t there to watch. It was done laparoscopically, which fascinates me. Three holes cut in left side of chest circling the arm pit. Two about an inch, the other around 2.5”. As I understand it, they shoved a tube in the big one and the robotic arm and tools went in the tube and he did the entire surgery sitting at a robot control console. One of the smaller holes was for the drain tube, the other to stuff a garbage bag in to collect the stuff he was cutting loose. I’m thinking about having placard-like tattoos done over the scars (they were all glued, not stitched): “Drain Here”, “Tooling Access”, “Refuse Dump.” As it is, that side of my body looks as if I brought a pen knife to a machete fight and lost.

I’m setting up an appointment with the surgeon (a really good guy) to see the actual tooling involved. Very, very cool!

The first few days home, I was your basic TV zombie, but am now getting very much up to speed. However, I don’t see getting into the cockpit for another month or so and part of that depends on the feds.

There was another major event just prior to the hospital foray and I’ll get into that next week. bd

3 Feb 19 - Big Boys Toys and the Real world
First, what I’m about to discuss, I know I’ve touched on before. I also know it smells of politics, which I swore to my kids I’d stay out of. But, I don’t consider it politics. I consider it a form of short sightedness that affects a lot of current discussions and comes from people doing only half the equation on too many subjects. This is not a right, left issue. It's a human nature issue.

An example of doing half the equation surfaced a while back while the “Cash for Clunkers” trade-in thing was going on and is just now resurfacing here in Phoenix. I was being urged by some to trade in my 1990 Honda Civic hatchback, which runs like a sewing machine and has a nearly perfect body, for a new Prius. My argument back to them was for them to do the entire equation. To replace my old Honda with a new Prius would mean unnecessarily burning up the resources to build an entirely new car with a battery that we still don’t know exactly how to recycle and do it all to get 40-plus miles to the gallon. This when the existing car gets 33 mpg in the city with the A/C running and will use no additional resources to continue. The best way to cut down pollution, etc. is to stop building new stuff to replace something that is performing its duties perfectly. “New” or high-tech is not always the green way to go.

Then there’s argument that the rich guys are the enemy of the not-rich folks, which includes the middle class and down. Some want to super-tax the rich guys saying that’ll create a major increase of our tax revenue (it won’t) and will help even-out the income inequality. What it’ll actually do is remove the motivation to become rich and force “them” to invent new ways around paying taxes. When some people see items like the late Paul Allen’s 414-foot mega yacht, “Octopus”, reportedly worth $250 million dollars, they see a rich man’s toy. What I see is the hundreds of jobs it created in building it in the first place, from artistic design to welding, and the massive number of jobs that are involved in the support of such an amazing contrivance. I absolutely love it when rich guys buy stupid-expensive toys. That kind of extravagance creates a job market that spiders out through the economy in hundreds of unseen ways. Let’s take the roughly $65 million Grumman Gulfstream G650 jet an acquaintance of mine bought to fly his family around in. Extravagant? Absolutely! A bad thing? Absolutely not!

Octopus
Paul Allen's "Octopus". $250mm, 414 ft long, has two heliports, double hangars, moon pool to facilitate its under sea exploration. It was used in finding the wreckage of the USS Lexington, WWII carrier. A lot of jobs are in this photo.

The program to develop the Grumman G650 reportedly cost $800 million. It took many years and kept who knows how many engineers and prototype manufacturing technicians employed before the first airplane flew. Then, a manufacturing plant needed to be built/modified to crank them out at a reasonable cost, during which time a lot of food was, and is being, put on a lot of tables. It’s a private or corporate airplane but it took exactly the same amount of effort to develop as almost any airliner and employed almost the same number of people and the production labor force is only slightly less. And this doesn’t include the impossible-to-count number of people employed by the companies that made the instruments, the tires, the aluminum, the rivet guns used by the workers, the soft drink vending machine companies, etc., etc..

A variation on the corporate/private jet aircraft theme is Warren Buffet’s fractional-ownership, jet charter company, ExecJet. They own right at 500 small-to-large jets (Citations to Gulfstreams and Globals) and employ just under 4,000 pilots. They also employ a huge number of office personnel that sort out all of the charters that change on a minute-to-minute basis. Pilots are two-weeks on, two weeks off and are seldom at their home base. They are an aerial Uber that’s constantly on the move. And ExecJet is far from being the only provider of such services. The service, chartering jets to get around and avoid the TSA mess, appears unnecessary and extravagant to some. “Extravagant” is open to definition but, nonetheless, the service creates jobs.

You can look at any kind of wild-ass, expensive purchase made by any incredibly wealthy individual or company, from Ferraris to houses the size of small towns, to luxurious trips and what you’re looking at are jobs that wouldn’t exist if the money wasn’t there to be spent. Destroy the rich and it would do more harm than good to the underlings like us. There should be no jealousy aimed at those people. A little envy maybe, but that should just fire us up to work a little harder and work a whole lot smarter to become rich ourselves. We’d narrow the income in-equality gap by doing better ourselves.

When I hear someone talk about taxing the hell out of the top 1%, I know that’s someone who isn’t seeing the big picture. They are doing only half the equation and don’t understand the system.

But, of course, that’s just me. bd

20 Jan 19 - Blacksmithing as Therapy
Like everyone else on the planet, I have days when my mind is craving something lacking in finesse. Something relatively easy with lots of visual progress in a short period of time. Other times, my brain seeks precision. Right now, I’m finishing up something that combines both and yields both satisfaction and managed frustration each time I touch it.

A warning for the more philosophical among us: I’m about to go off in blacksmith mode that involves some technology but it’s old, old school technology that may not have any interest to someone seeking ethereal reading. There’s nothing about this that’s ethereal. It is “crude” redefined. Just warning you.

I’m building a new frame for The Banger car (The old racer. Yes, the one I wasn’t going to touch until The Roadster is finished) because 1. The original frame was amazingly butchered, twisted and crooked. I could probably save it but I went through that with the Roadster and wound up building a new frame after spending a lot of time on the old one. 2. There’s the offhand chance that the original frame has some historical significance and shouldn’t be modified. So, now it’s sitting behind the shop while I whittle steel into the right shape for a new one.

I needed to build smoothly flowing kick-ups at the back, but for the main rails, I found a guy with a gigantic press break in his back yard (he can fold 3/8” plate!!!) and had him bend up 10 gauge (,134") cold roll in square “C” channes that taper slightly to the front.

The only way to build the kick-ups was to cut cold roll plate into the outline I wanted and weld 1 ½” flanges top and bottom. This sounds easier than it turned out to be because welding something like that is guaranteed to warp it. Plus, the welds had to be deep enough and wide enough, both inside and out, that I could grind them to a radius that would match the frame rails and not lose any strength. That much welding means a lot of expanding and shrinking. Keeping the flanges square to the web and keeping the web straight was going to be a challenge.

First, cutting out the web had enough curves that I was being pushed by friends to have a local water jet outfit cut them out to my pattern. I had some kick-up webs (flat plate) that were already cut but they were the wrong shape and dimension so I used them for their steel. I tracked down the waterjet place and it was about 35 minutes each way and they couldn’t do it for two weeks. I sat there looking at the steel and thinking about how long that was going to take and said, out loud, “Oh, what the hell! I’ll do it myself.”

I tacked the two existing plates together, drew the outline of the pattern with a felt tip and attacked it with my trusty angle head grinder with a cutoff wheel. Lots and lots of steel was converted to sparks and dust but a little over an hour later I had my webs and they matched perfectly because they were both cut at the same time. That was less time than it would have taken to drive down to the waterjet cutter and back to deliver the pattern.

I was worried about getting the flanges oriented exactly square to the web, so I sliced some 2 x 2 x ¼” angle iron into short pieces that I could clamp to the web and form the flanges around so they’d be square to the web. . About 40 minutes of cutting and I had a stack of angle iron pieces. When I had the main frame rails bent up, I had him cut me some 1 ½” strips of 10 gauge (.134”) cold roll for the flanges. I bent the tight front flange radius at the front of the kick up around a piece of tubing and then bent the rest in position on the web around the clamped angles by heating the flanges to red hot with a torch and coaxing them around the corners with a hammer. Lots and lots of clamping was involved. I was in true blacksmith mode. Then, satisfied with the alignment I tack welded (MIG) them in place and prepared for the hard part: Welding them without warping them.

Bored yet? I wouldn’t blame you. See you next week, if you’re leaving. For the blacksmiths out there, hang with me.

To limit the heat distortion, I skip welded an inch at a time, both inside and out at the same time, skipping around the kick-up. I’d tacked some angle iron to a couple of 4” C-clamps and, after doing each weld, I clamped the angle iron right next to the weld so it sucked the heat out before it went anywhere else. Welding an inch at a time made for some semi-funky looking beads, but there was almost zero distortion. The webs were within about .025” of being perfectly flat. I wasn’t building a watch, so that was close enough.

Take a look at the pictures and this’ll mean more. Like I said, the project included both gross motions and some finesse. It scratched both itches. It’s like fireworks that were designed for mental therapy and it worked! bd

Kick up pattern on car
Card board pattern. Rounded end of it in production

kick up pattern on old ones
A friend sold me some 10 gauge kick-up webs but they were the wrong shape. So, I made a thin plywood pattern that I cut out using the old metal as on top one.

Kick up angle iron inside
Cut lots of 2 x2x1/4 angle iron and clamped it to the web to hold the flanges square while bending.

Kick up angle iron outside
Outside view of angle iron. I would heat the flanges red hot and form around the angle iron and clamp into position until I tacked them.

kick up tacked
Tacked in position. Note I didn't tack or weld the flanges where they would meet the rails. I wanted the ability to dado the kick up flanges into the rail flanges and make them perfectly aligned.

Kick up heat sinks
I welded some angle iron to a couple of C-clamps to act as heat sinks. I'd weld an inch or so inside and instantly weld the outside at the same time and clamp the angle iron right next to the weld to suck the heat out. I don't honestly know if they helped but everything came out flat and square. Welding such short distances made for funky looking beads.

Kick up rounded
The final result. I think they'll work fine. Most of the work was done in 15-20 minute mini-sessions between other stuff. Made each day feel as if I was moving ahead in life. Not just getting older.


30 Dec 18 - Old Age and Connectivity

Recently The Redhead and I visited one of our aging (if 78 can be considered aging) friend’s home. A widower, he had relocated to a trailer park community and was still moving in, but it was obvious that housekeeping was well down on his list of priorities. Worse, he was desperate for conversation. He wore loneliness like an overcoat. The experience forced us to project ahead to when one or both of us will be in the same position.

You get to a point in life when the effects of age are among the primary subjects of conversation. This joint hurts, that one needs replacing, my doctor says such-and-such, another tooth needs to be pulled. This is assuming you even have someone to talk to, which isn’t always the case. Our friend has few to talk to, so living in his trailer has to feel like long term solitary confinement. It’s a storage unit that will keep him out of the rain until he is through with life. Not much to look forward to. Depressing!

As we were driving home, I thought about his situation in relation to me, my friends and family and how we would all fair in the same situation. It was then that I began to realize that our special interests and computer savvy were going to make our final chapters totally different from his.

There are some very definite things people can do to keep those wind-down years interesting and bearable, depending, of course on their physical condition.

Hands down the best thing an older person can do to prolong their quality of life is to exercise. Nothing more than a daily walk will make their life a trillion times more bearable.

Certainly, however, the ugliest scourge of old age is loneliness. But in the digital age, that is totally unnecessary. A person can be bed ridden, but, if they have even the most basic of computer skills, they need never be alone. Or bored. Unfortunately, the older generations are prone to poo-poo (how’s that for a tech term?) the computer as a modern invention that they’ve never needed before, so why now? This is where every one of us can do our elderly friends a huge favor by becoming computer advocates and introducing them to a world they can’t even imagine exists.

Those of us who have been digital geeks from day one hardly notice the concept’s unreal growth and incredible diversity. We take it for granted. It has expanded and engulfed us and has been part of our lives for so long that we don’t realize that there are lots and lots of folks out there who have never even dipped a toe into the digital pond. They are put off by its perceived complexity. They don’t realize how easy it is to gain access to an entire world that is populated with so many subjects, concepts and people that they can spend their days being entertained. Better yet, if they have specific interests, they’ll be amazed at how easy it is to develop close friendships via chat groups. I can’t even guess how many close friends I’ve developed in the sport aviation community, many of whom I’ve never laid eyes on.

I do, however, pity those individuals who have no special interests. Can anyone reading this imagine life without all of those goodies we call “neatsh*? I can’t imagine a time in which I’m not building/modifying just about everything I can lay my hands on like guitars, airplanes, cars, guns, knives, cannons and stuff like archeology, paleontology, etc., etc.. Whether I’m hands-on, or simply surfing the web reading about them, I’m frustrated that I know I’ll leave so many interesting rocks unturned, when I finally check out. If a person has specific interests, they can jump into the web and build an entire life around them and never leave their bedroom.

And then there’s the ability to converse with family and friends by Skype (which I avoid with some people only because I’d like them to remember me as I was, not as I am) and other forms of visual communication. Inasmuch as all of our grandkids live on their phones and computers, this is one way to be part of their world (and vice versa).

Lonely? Only if we want to be. bd

23 Dec 18 - Bah Hum-whatever
This is my annual bitching about the holiday season. I have zero problem with the religion aspect of it, but I seem to get semi-morose because I’d love to see Bing and the gang (or any one) cascade on us and give us a family-like Christmas, which we won’t have.

Christmas with little family and zero kids around sucks! My kids and grandkids are in LA and NJ and Marlene’s boys have their significant other’s families so the best we’ll do is a tiny Christmas eve dinner. And we’ll have one of her ex-inlaws over who just lost his wife so he won’t be alone. Even so, I’ll still wake up early on Christmas morning with some joy in my heart but it’ll be because no one can logically expect me to work on an article or fly so I will get a chance to start the final welding on the frame kick-ups for the Banger race car. Ho-ho-ho, little boy. You’ll be building your own Christmas present! Which ain’t all bad.

I am just a little bummed out because I’ll be flying three times a day (takes a little over 7.5 hours) right up until both Christmas and New Year eves. Traditionally, those holiday gaps are when I often make major progress on shop projects and even might have kicked the latest novel in the butt in an effort at getting it moving. Ain’t gonna happen. However, I’m thankful for the work. It’s been the weirdest flying year I’ve ever had: first quarter, generally my busiest, was dead but summer, which is usually killed by temps was my busiest ever, so the year will turn out to be one of the best. Again, ain’t all bad.

A couple of numbers that might be of interest to the aviators reading this: last month my poor old 1974, S-2A Pitts turned over 8,000 hours total time. I’m on my fourth engine in it. And first quarter next year, I’ll turn over 7,000 hours in type, most of it in the pattern at seven or eight landings an hour. No wonder N8PB and I are both tired!

As a sort of Thinking Out Loud Christmas gift to all who have the patience to wade through these words, here are some links you might find interesting.

https://www.wired.com/story/scramble-claim-worlds-most-coveted-meteorite

When I was a kid, there was an exhibit in the big museum at the Univ. of NE in Lincoln that was a part of a garage with a Model A Ford coupe parked in it that had been sectioned lengthwise so you could see the path where a meteorite about the size of a cantaloupe came through the roof, vertically through the entire Model A and came to rest on its muffler. I thought it was cool as a kid and would love to know if it still exists because I still think it’s cool.

This is for those who think they’ve been target shooting. This is a range about 60 miles north of me here and it’s an annual event. Only in America! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2eV8N0bUzA0

For those who like to tinker. Try to imagine doing this! http://www.chonday.com/Videos /the-writer-automaton.

And just in case you think you’ve fired everything, how about this?
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7_TaK0WZj2k

Ya’ll have a good one. bd

8 Dec 18 - The Day After
Today is the 77th anniversary of the day after Pearl Harbor. Today is the day a very confused America tumbled out of bed to a world of uncertainty. And those in the Pacific to a world of fear. The world had changed in ways they could not yet comprehend. But, they knew it had changed.

The world of Dec 8, 1941 has to be put in context. For one thing, we’ve become adjusted to the concept of seeing world wide events happening on our TV screens in real time. The most classic example being that the entire world, from bedrooms in AZ to cheering terrorists huddled around TV sets throughout the Middle East, watched the World Trade Towers collapse in real time. It was happening before our very eyes. There was an immediacy that compressed geography until every person in the US was, for a time, a New Yorker at heart.

The news and reality of Pearl Harbor took some time to make its way around the world to the farms and small towns of Nebraska. Or North Carolina. Or ethnic neighborhoods of Brooklyn. Or Flatbush. For most, the concept of an attack on an island somewhere “out there” was abstract. They didn’t know where “there” was. Then, as attack after attack on islands called “the Philippines” and other unknown places was slowly relayed back the next day, it was difficult to assess the personal impact it had. Or would have.

To the citizens of islands spread throughout the central pacific, there was little doubt there would be a personal impact. The definition of what form it took or how severe it would be was lost in the confusion of the day. For Hawaii, today and the coming weeks 77 years ago began a months-long nightmare of invasion expectations. For the Philippines, attacked the same morning but on the other side of the date line, so it was the 8th, not the 7th, there were no doubts: the attacks began and continued until, four months later, the islands fell to the Japanese. Theirs was a four-year time in hell. The news of the fire consuming the Pacific was swirled into the massive amount of incoming information of a war that was now worldwide, with America pledged to winning it.

The day-after on Oahu is the stuff of legends. Memorialized in movies and novels. However, as the survivors—military and civilian— drift away from us, they take the immediateness of personal memories with them. We’re left with searing photos and interviews with high level actors in the drama. I, however, would like to talk to those who lived normal lives. Someone who was a grocer, or was delivering newspapers, or a housewife and hear their personal tales of the days and weeks after the attack. I’d like to sit with a young girl, now grown old, and hear her tell me what transpired in her life during those few hours that so transformed the world. But now, those memories are mostly lost.

The response of America to the attack is legendary. And absolutely unbelievable in the things we, as a nation working as one, accomplished. I often bring up one of the most amazing facts that is sometimes lost in the on-going rush of history: 7 December 1941, the concept of amphibious warfare, of invading an island or fortified beach, had existed for decades but had never been fully developed. Further, the US had no specialized amphibious assault forces or equipment and our standing armed forces were miniscule. Yet, EIGHT MONTHS to the day later, Marines waded ashore at Guadalcanal to violently gain possession of the critical airfield and port then protected by 30,000 dug in Japanese troops. I know I’m probably repeating myself, but in eight months we produced everything from amphibious landing craft, to the ships to carry those craft, to recruiting and training the men, making everything from belt buckles to bombers and fighters and then transported it all to the South Pacific. IN EIGHT FREAKING MONTHS!!! Under any conditions could we do that today? No way!

Would we have joined the war if it hadn’t been for Pearl Harbor? It’s hard to say and I’m not smart enough, nor clairvoyant enough, to say if we would have leapt to England’s aid at the last moment. The concept of war became much more palatable when a surprise attack dominated the headlines. If Japan’s political attaché in DC had delivered the declaration of war when he was supposed to, just before the attack began, so it had been a “normal” act of war, it might have made a difference in our attitude. The outrage might have been more subdued. Maybe not.

Also, don’t forget: we didn’t declare war on Germany. They declared war on us as part of its mutual support agreement with Japan. Would that have made a difference? It’s hard to say. But these are all moot points because what happened, happened, and the amazing effects, both positive and negative, changed the course of history. The pressures of all-out war became a catalyst of change on every front, physical, mental and cultural.

Would the nuclear age have dawned were it not for the need to subdue a fanatical enemy? Would the role of women in society have been so radically changed, when they exerted their power and abilities on assembly lines and in cockpits? Would the overnight national/geographical assimilation have happened as quickly? Small towns all over the country were suddenly deluged by thousands of troops from all over the nation as bases were built in their proximity. Suddenly, people in places like Friend, Nebraska were face to face to youngsters from Brooklyn to Los Angeles, locations which previously were as foreign as Hawaii and Japan. Would the jet airplane have been developed so rapidly? Would the path to supersonic flight have been shortened by so much? Would missile warfare become so real so quickly? And on and on!

The day of the attacks across the Pacific and the lives lost were horrific. But, the next day, when the thought processes of the nation and its population began to deal with what had just happened, “change” went into after-burner and the America-that-had-been became a different animal. Today, we’re the beneficiaries of that change and the improvements that evolved from it. Now, let’s just hope we don’t screw it all up by our current actions. bd

29 Nov 18 - Artificial, Artificial Intelligence
The other day at lunch the subject turned to WW II production and I was spouting out a bunch of interesting (to me) numbers. I pointed out (in a suitably amazed voice) that 49,324 Sherman tanks were built. The young man on the other side of the table said, “You do know that I can look that up on my phone, right? So why learn it?” I was floored!

I hated to admit it, but he’s right. I don’t know why we’re spending so much time trying to invent artificial intelligence, when we already have it. It’s called Google and to the millennials and Generation Z it is a substitute for both knowledge and experience. It’s truly artificial intelligence. We gray dogs, and a sizeable portion of the human brain, have been replaced. Our lifetime of experience and knowledge is obsolete and unneeded!

It looks as if part of civilization is at a curious tipping point. Digital everything is replacing so many things that we’ve taken for granted for generations that it’s changing civilization. No, let me rephrase that. For newer generations, that have never known lives without Google and the associated digital universe, the need to know things simply because knowing them feels good appears (to them anyway) to be pretty much unnecessary. So, they don’t bother to learn random facts that may be useful later in life. That can’t have a good long term effect.

At the upper end of the age spectrum, where loneliness is rampant, it’s sad that elderly generations that never bought into that whole computer thing are blithefully unaware of a massive world of constant companions that is only a keyboard away. While, at the same time, the newer gens have completely merged their social and mental processes with a gigantic digital blob that contains all the information they could ever need. The entire world of information is in their pockets and at their fingertips. And they depend on that. To them, it exists as an exterior brain. Disconnect that brain (kill their phones and/or iPads/computers) and they literally have a difficult time thinking for themselves. And they sure as hell don’t know how to converse or entertain themselves without digital help. God help them if, when the time comes, they don’t have You-Tube on which they can learn how to change a light bulb.

To my way of thinking, the ability to Google everything, making every possible form of information instantly available to us, is an unbelievably huge help to folks like those reading this. But it is crippling to those who didn’t have a life before Google. To the former, it is an invaluable tool. To the latter, it is a crutch without which they have a difficult time functioning.

BTW, what follows could easily be seen as a tirade against millennials but it’s not intended to be. There are lots of kids out there that really have their heads squared away. But, there are a few pumpkin heads, as well. That’s who I’m talking about.

In some areasm, what I may be seeing as problems being caused by digital partners in life, is simply a form of disinterest (and lack of educational support). Easily the number one area in that category is history. Corner a group of college-educated folks under the age of 30-35 and ask them what years WW II ravaged the world. I’ve gotten ages from the late 1800s to the ‘70s. Ask who we fought in WW II and more than half the time England will be tossed in the mix. Ask who Lee Harvey Oswald was and the most common answer I’ve received was that he had a band in the ‘80s.

In another area, ask how many feet are in a mile. Inches in a yard. Quarts in a gallon. The usual answer is a blank stare. They don’t know the answer. But Siri does and that’s all that counts. They don’t see that as a problem. They simply don’t care.

Watch how quickly they go to their Tip App, when figuring a restaurant tip. Mental math no longer exists for them. How hard is it to take .2 or .3 times a number? Or divide it by 4 or 5? They can’t do it because it’s not in their schooling. But, it is in their smart phones. Apple debuted their iPhone in 2007 (seems longer than that, doesn’t it?) which blew all the earlier attempts at the smart phone concept into the weeds and captured minds worldwide. My 8-year-old granddaughter has one and is more proficient at texting and other digital endeavors than I am, yet I practically live on the damn thing.

The forgoing is probably just the random bitching of a gray dog who feels as if someone is constantly moving his dog dish and he’s going hungry. He’s functioning just fine in the digital world, but is increasingly out of step with the overall outlook of what life should entail and that makes him uneasy. The general effect of digits and the general lack of interest in much of life seems to have happened almost overnight. What is the next five or ten years going to look like? It’s a little scary. However, it’s also exciting. It’s going to be a test to see how many of us can learn and acclimate and how many of us get left behind.

As for me, I’m already running as fast as I can to try to stay ahead of the newest of the new. At the same time, I’m finessing skills that in the digital age look archaic. Hey, knowing how to weld, shape wood and steel, keep an old timey engine running, and group less than an inch at 100 yards, may not help me on social media (I’m not on any), but the dirt under my fingernails contains more practical knowledge than a lot of millennials will ever acquire. That’s my story and I’m stickin’ to it. Screw ‘em! bd

18 Nov 18 - On Being Sick and Remembering a Friend
Folks, I coughed my way through last night, my usual introduction to a major cold. And remember: my coughing record includes cracking ribs two different times. I’m really good at coughing. So, this morning I’m one of the walking dead and I’m going to re-run a Grassroots column with which I’m certain most reading this can identify.

Grassroots – Obituary for my Friend
(published around 2007)

It was early the first day of the EAA Northwest Regional Fly-in (Arlington) and Marlene called me in the booth. She sounded a little strange so I walked away from the booth and stood in the middle of a wide, grass fire lane with lines of exhibit booths on both sides. Then a voice I knew, her’s, said words that I understood, but that I refused to comprehend. She said, “Budd, Nizhoni died about an hour ago.”

I can’t even describe the feeling. Nizhoni was our dog and, next to Marlene, my closest friend. I received a similar call twenty years ago, when a voice at two in the morning said, “Your brother, Gary, has died.” He was forty-two. Nizhoni was only eight. The impact was at least as bad.

When my brother died, it wasn’t until the next day that it set in and I cried. After a minute or two on the phone with Marlene about Nizhoni, I came completely unscrewed. Right there in the middle of an airshow crowd, grief rolled over me and nearly took me to my knees. I sobbed as I’ve only sobbed once before, for Gary. I couldn’t, and I still can’t, believe our little girl is gone. And I can’t believe I’m sitting here writing this. But, anyone who has read Grassroots for even a short time knows Nizhoni and I couldn’t let her pass without letting our friends know. I’ve put off writing this for several weeks because I knew it would be hard. And it is. I’m only glad you can’t see me.

She was part of everything we did. For instance, I so clearly remember flying home one afternoon with her and Marlene in our C-140A and the tach decided to eat its innards. It began making this incredible high-pitched scream and it was driving Nizhoni nuts. She couldn’t get away from it. Marlene was flying, so I just put my hands over Nizhoni’s ears and held her tight.

And then there was the time we spent at a friend’s house in a fly-in community. They had this really unusual sort of stiff grass, like a tall crew cut in front of their hangars. Nizhoni (generic Navajo word for something nice) was still a puppy and would go bouncing through the grass like a wind-up toy, leaping higher and higher, before diving nose first into the grass and burrowing into it like a gopher. Then she’d pop up and do it again. And again. Our hosts, who weren’t even dog people said, “You’re going to be sorry you don’t video tape her.” And they were so right. We are definitely sorry.

She was just a bundle of joy liberally coated with love and, like all dogs, asked for nothing back. There was the time, for instance, that our friend was taking us for a ride in his Sea Bee and was shooting landings in various lakes and channels. Nizhoni was standing up in the back seat on Marlene’s lap absolutely mesmerized. She was loving it!

At one point, we were sitting on the water and I opened the door to let her see what was going on, and she jumped down on the floor and poked her nose into the water just to be sure it was real. Watching her reactions to the sea plane experience was so much fun, it made the entire afternoon just that much better.

I fully recognize that a lot of folks aren’t dog people and haven’t the foggiest why I’m making such a big deal out of this. However, also know that every single dog lover out there is reliving their own grief at losing a dog even as they are reading this. Or they are dreading the loss of one of their dogs now.

A really heartwarming thing happened the instant I told the Bearhawk airplane builders chat group about losing our friend. One after another, guys who you knew were Marines and Vietnam vets, bush pilot types to border patrol agents, climbed all over one another on the site to tell their own stories of dogs they’ve loved and lost. Some were so poignant that you knew the writer had tears on his keyboard. I know for a fact, the rest of us did while reading it. Some of these guys are clam-like in their lack of willingness to share their emotions, yet, there they were, spilling their guts because of a love for a dog. In many cases, it was obvious that they hadn’t come to grips with it decades after the fact.

The loss of Nizhoni was one of those events that every single pilot who is part of my personal group can identify with. They are just that kind of person. At the same time, I wouldn’t be a bit surprised to find that the pilot population in general is more likely to count dogs as their favorite people than many other groups. Or it may be that those who aren’t dog lovers represent the majority of the general population, not just pilots.

Two comments popped right to the top of the discussions over the last of couple weeks.

- Don’t trust anyone who doesn’t like dogs

- The reason God gave dogs such short life spans is because if they were longer, the grief would be debilitating.
He’s right.

A note from 2018: Nizhoni left us 11 years ago and I still choke up talking about it. But, I had to leave for Oshkosh four days later. I wasn’t about to return again to an empty house so Marlene started auditioning dogs. We went to see one in a house on the outskirts of Phoenix and I was immediately repulsed by the woman (think Throw Mama From The Train). Smelled like cigarettes and house was a mess. But, the Pom puppy she had was a dynamo, racing around like she was on speed. Marlene was sitting cross legged on the floor while the pup ran around. Then, for no reason, the puppy ran straight at Marlene, jumped up in the air and dived nose down into her legs and instantly went to sleep. Sháhn-deen (Navajo for “ray of sunshine”) entered our life at that moment. I’m already secretly grieving for her even though, hopefully, she will be with us for at least five more years. Damn! I wish I hadn’t said that! bd

3 Nov 18 - Tricking Old Age. Sort of
Not long ago I discovered I had a super-common terminal disease. I was working in the shop on a hot day and found I was having unexpected difficulties. I’d go down on one knee and have trouble getting up. Stuff I’d lifted a thousand times had gotten heavier. I sat there and realized things weren’t likely to get better. I was getting older and that’s terminal.

This is going to be a longer than normal Thinking Out Loud because I’m passing on some stuff I think may be helpful to others.

For the rest of the day I spent a little time analyzing what was giving me the most trouble. Getting up and down was troublesome, especially going down on one knee. The right one. That put the load involved in getting up on the muscles on the top of my left leg and the tips of my right toes. Once I lost my balance and shot myself backwards into a pile of potentially damaging machinery edges. No injuries, but a serious lesson was learned: I learned that a given combination of my physiological parts had deteriorated to dangerous levels. At that moment I told myself that, as I have done dozens of times before in other similar situations, I once again had to do something about the situation.

I can’t do anything about aging, but I can sure as hell do something about distinct problems like kneeling. The following paragraphs list problem areas I’ve had to address in the long, some-times tedious journey towards the “end”, which hopefully is a long way down the road. Some of these might be useful to others.

Curing Kneeling Problems

Now every time I walk past the end of the couch in my office, I do two kneels. I’ve pushed those muscles enough that now I have no problems with kneeling on one knee. Also, when I’m standing in the bathroom waiting for the shower to warm up, I do deep knee bends until my upper legs burn. Now every problem about getting up and down has gone away.

Working Through the Pain

Like everyone else, I sometimes have pains here and there, but, like the good soldiers we all are, I ignore it and push through the pain, hoping it will get better. Then I learned a lesson from a friend that altered my thoughts in that area. He’s in his early 70’s and in terrific physical shape because he’s carried his exercising habits, which are pretty serious, right into his advancing age. This included a pain in one hip that he ignored and continued running, walking, etc. It started small but eventually got much worse so he had it looked at. It turns out the original pain was from a bone spur but, in the process of working out, the spur destroyed the socket and he lost a year of activity to a hip replacement. Had he had the socket X-rayed, a minor surgery would have clipped the spur and he would have had no further problems.

I learned something from that. Practically all of my joints from the hips on down give me heartburn from time to time. So, I set up a schedule with an X-ray lab and once a week had a different set of joints X-rayed, ankles up through my hips. All came through in good shape. In fact, the doctor said my knees were some of the best they’d seen in months. So, at least now I know, when I’m pushing myself, that local pains aren’t structural in nature: I’m not hurting myself by pushing through them. So, I keep on pushing. I may have tendons or something stiffening up, but so far, I’ve found if I keep pushing, the pain eventually goes away.

About That Back Pain

Like most folks I have a problematic back that has given me pain and periodically laid me low since a teenager. L-3 and L-4 and their associated discs are slowly deteriorating but I’ve learned what not to do to aggravate them, like I don’t drape myself over a fender to work on an engine. Even so, I’ll be just standing around minding my own business and it’ll suddenly go out and I’m in bed for a day or two. Then I started getting a new pain.

The new pain started as a low throb in my spine about level with the bottom of my shoulder blades. Over the years it finally progressed to where I couldn’t do my morning walks so I had my doc X-ray it.

About a week later I get a phone call and his voice on the other end of the line says, “What in the hell did you do to crack the crap out of your T-8 vertebra?! Do you remember? You have four healed compression fractions and they’re getting arthritic and bothering the vertebra under it.”

I replied, “Yeah, I know when it happened but I didn’t know it had happened.”

I was shooting air-to-air photos of a four-ship Pitts airshow team and I was in the front seat of an S-2A Pitts with both feet on the right side of the stick and was twisted around shooting over my shoulder. Pitts are great airplanes but truly lousy camera ships. We were doing formation loops and I was catching them going vertical and inverted at the top. Everything was working out great until the guy flying me must have taken his eye off of the lead ship and got late in the pull. He tried to make up for it with G and hammered 5-G on the airplane with me twisted around backwards. I swear I heard the bones break.

It took four guys to get me out of the airplane and I laid around in the hotel for a couple of days until I thought I could drive the 200 miles home, my back hurting like hell all the way. Since, my back had always been a problem, I didn’t go to a doctor and gimped around for a month or more and it slowly healed. Then, recently, it began flairing up and the doctor sent me to a specialist that had all sorts of cortisone and steroids that “might” help. I told him to hold off until I did some investigations of my own and this is advice I give anyone who has similar problems show up. I started looking at my daily life to see if I was aggravating the problem and found the following
- My typing chair back would slowly move forward putting the top edge right at my T-8, so I welded it in place.
- The cushions in my airplane ended right at my T-8 so I had new ones made that were 3 inches taller.
- Pulling the airplane back into the hangar with the tow bar loaded that part of my back so I started having students push on a strut and help me.

Two weeks later the pain had gone away never to return more than just a slight ache now and then. I’ve had the same thing happen with ankle pain: I was putting my feet in odd positions while typing and flying. Changed positions and they got well. This after all sorts of medical tests. My right wrist has arthritis or something and periodically hurts like hell. Now, when I feel it start, I put on a wrist brace that’s left over from curing my carpel tunnel (actual cure was putting a thick pad in front of my mouse to rest my wrist on). A couple of days with the brace, including sleeping with it, and the wrist is again good. I could tell another half dozen stories all with the same advice: look around and see if you’re causing the problem yourself.

I’ve been lucky in that every problem so far has responded to some kind of therapy or lifestyle change. I know that won’t always be the case, but right now I’m doing my best to hold physical limitations at bay. Look around and see if you are your own worse enemy. bd

28 Oct 18 - Daily Aggravations
At some ridiculously early hour this morning I once again found myself struggling to open a plastic bubble pack of allergy pills and again asked myself "Why don’t they make these things easier to open?" The world is complicated enough without having to find a healthy pair of scissors or a hand axe to get the damn pack open to take a simple pill!

The world is full of tiny aggravations that simply don’t need to be there. Some are in packaging, with bubble packs leading the way. Why does it take a full-on, frontal assault with a crowbar and a jack hammer to get a bottle, or a pack of pills, out of its transparent plastic/cardboard prison? This is flat assed stupid!

Same thing holds for opening a loaf of bread. At least the kind of bread we’re getting. It’s covered in some sort of heat-sealed cellophane inside of a healthy plastic bag. Getting into the outside bag is no sweat, but the cellophane is folded in on its elf at the ends as if it is some sort of origami puzzle. I know there is a folding sequence that probably leaves an edge you can grab, pull and it pops open. Unfortunately, it is so well hidden that, after a couple of failed attempts, I grab a steak knife and stab away at the cellophane forcing my way in. Opening bread should not include hand-to-loaf combat!

And why do two seemingly identical bags of the same brand of frozen blue berries have two different ways of sealing the bags? I eat a ton of frozen berries a day. Mixing the frozen berries in with yogurt freezes the yogurt on the berries and makes a great treat-at-the-keyboard. One type bag has an easy tear off strip that reveals the terrifically logical, snap-together re-sealing strip. The other, however, requires a pair of scissors (or a bowie knife) to cut off the end to get to the hard-to-seal strips. One’s easy. The other definitely isn’t. Why the difference?

The car key versus the key ring is another battle I hate. The keys with the built-in chip are really thick, so trying to put them on an old fashion spiral key ring means you have to force the ring to spring apart nearly 1/4”. That breaks thumb nails because thumb nails turn to glass as you get older. So, it takes a letter opener or screw driver to get the necessary leverage after I’ve again broken a nail trying. Yeah, I know, there are easier key rings, but that would force me to change my ways and I’m really not very good at that.

Then there are TV remotes: I wish they had some sort of indicator that gives you some idea how much life is left in the batteries. One of our TVs will once in a while display the life left on the screen but does so in a random fashion. As it is, when the remotes (called the “clicker” by most of us deplorables) start to die, it is unclear that’s what’s happening. Small symptoms, like being slow to change a channel, sometimes foreshadow a battery change. But, only sometimes. Other times it’s the TV that’s out of whack. It takes a lot of screwing round to figure out which is which.

What’s with the difference in shirt sizes? When flying during the summer I wear white golf shirts 100% of the time. They keep me from boiling over in the sun. I have probably 15 of them because I may change shirts mid-day as the get sweat soaked. I don’t tuck them in and have found that between the three different manufacturers there is a solid 2” difference between their length. Some barely make it past my belt and some I could tuck into my back pocket. When climbing into the airplane the short ones give glances of my unnecessarily bulging belly and built-to-be-grabbed love handles. It’s hard to be a heroic-looking Pitts pilot with your love handles on display.

And, as for clothing sizes: I’m a 43 in the jacket department, but, of course, they only make 42s and 44s, both of which obviously don’t fit me, when I’m wearing them. I can’t be the only guy in the world that falls into that gap. So, why not make 43s?

We all have daily aggravations that make us scratch our heads. Or bang our heads on the wall in frustration. However, at least they’re small aggravations. Who knows, maybe they keep us from fixating on the serious stuff that we have going wrong around us. How’s that for hard core rationalization? bd

20 Oct 18 - Gray Goodness: Experience takes time. Usually.
The other day we were in the office of an oral surgeon discussing the repairs being made to Marlene’s teeth due to an unfortunate encounter with a hotel night stand: seven emergency room stitches on the outside, five inside, cap broken, teeth loosened. As I watched him thinking and evaluating, I recognized that he was sifting through his years and years of sorting out similar traumas. I was seeing experience at work and it caused me to relax. It was going to be okay.

I’m certain I’ve written about the concept of experience, or lack thereof, before but my experience says that talking about experience bears repeating. And watching this surgeon examine and explain things reminded me of that.

“Experience” is one of those words that it is assumed has a universal definition. It is assumed that the experiences of someone who has been alive for a long time or has invested years of his life doing something is better at something than the next guy/gal. Subliminally it is assumed their universe of experience breeds talent. Sometimes that’s true. Sometimes it’s not. At least not in my experience (there’s that word again).

Generally, it is assumed that experience is something that everyone gains simply by being alive. It’s another way of saying experience takes time. And it does. Usually, anyway. Sometimes, however, for certain people who aren’t old enough to have experienced a huge amount of life and the lessons it teaches, they have gained “accelerated experience” often brought about by short episodes they’ve gone through. For instance, most of us learn to handle stress and failure by simply dealing with life. Now think about what a combat soldier brings back with him from the front lines. It may have only been a few weeks or months, but they are much older, when they return, than when they left. Their experiences have done that for them. Think about surgeons in a military field hospital or doctors who have dealt with major catastrophes like earthquakes, high rise fires, etc. They may pack a lifetime of experience-building situations into a few days. And they never forget what they saw or learned and it benefits their judgement and skill for a lifetime. But, again, however, that is also not universally true.

In my mind, there is something I label “retained experience.” It is comprised of things we have seen or done (“seen” being equally as important as “done”) AND WE’VE LOGGED THEM INTO OUR MINDS IN A WAY THAT THEIR INFORMATION CAN BE READILY ACCESSED WHEN NEEDED. Many people go through the road of life experiencing only that which is right on the centerline and affects them directly. This is “limited experience.” It is limited to what directly affected them with none of the contextual aspects that surrounded them at the time included. Other folks are experiencing the same central episode but their mental and visual scan is taking in everything that is around them at all times. The bandwidth they absorb from everything they’ve been around is enormous and comprises a huge amount of additional experience that can be brought to bear on a given project or event, when needed. They don’t have to have actually done something to gain knowledge of it because, while doing their own thing, they have, through observation, watched others and learned from their successes and failures.

Whether a person is focused only on the centerline, or is cataloging everything around them and storing it for future use, is definitely NOT a skill. It’s a personal trait that 99% of the time is unknown to the individual involved. It’s not something they do, it is something they are. Whether they want to or not, their minds are always on a swivel soaking in tons of collateral information and experience as they fight their way through the jungle that is life. They know more because they’ve seen more and they’ve seen more because their focus is much wider.

The net result of all of this is guys like the oral surgeon I was watching at work. There’s a level of comfort and confidence that comes with years of broad based experience. The person, the surgeon in this case, is totally unaware of it. It just is. Those around him, in this case the patient and her concerned husband, however, are very aware of it, but they not aware of what it is they are feeling. They just know that the expert they are dealing with is more than an expert. He is surrounding the problem at hand with so many unseen experiences that success is assured. That’s a very comforting feeling. bd

13 Oct 18 - The "Other" Women in my Life
It’s Saturday morning and last Saturday, when I should have been writing a Thinking Out Loud, I was in a really odd situation: I was in Bermuda walking a dear friend down the aisle in a ruined, roofless 1800s church. She doesn’t really qualify as an “other” woman, but there are those that do. Sort of, anyway.

I met Siri on my way to meet my daughter at Disneyland in Anaheim three or four years ago. I was on I-10 just coming into the LA highway conflagration when I saw a catastrophe taking place: I suddenly realized I had just missed my turn-off to the correct highway that would take me to D-World. I’ve driven in the LA basin almost continuously since I started road warrior trips during college out and back to play clubs and visit friends. Because of that I knew for a fact that I was screwed. If there’s one thing you don’t do in LA is think that you can jump off at the next exit and double back. Sometimes that works, more often it doesn’t and you become hopelessly embroiled in the snake nest of highways that make LA what it is. DAMN!

I have no idea why using my cell phone at that instant occurred to me. Maybe I going to try to bring up Map Quest. Instead I just keyed the “Home” button, and held it down while I spoke directly into the phone, “Take me to the Disneyland Hotel.” 10 Seconds later a pleasant female voice said, “In three and a half miles exit on XXX.” I had just met Siri! From that point on, her gentle prodding took me directly to the hotel lobby. Unbelievably easy. DOUBLE DAMN!

Siri has become my go-to-gal for lots of things. ‘Want to know the population of Ireland, just ask her (6,197,100). Want to know how far it is from Phoenix to McCook, NE, ask (1032 miles by car, 786 as the crow flies). She is my always-ready-to-help personal assistant and almost never lets me down.

And then there is Alexa: I just met her a month or so ago via this cross between a mini-computer and what looks like a radio alarm clock. It was given us by Marlene’s youngest. Alexa and I are becoming unnaturally close. As I drift through the kitchen, where she lives, we’ll exchange pleasantries. Or I’ll want something, e.g. “Alexa, play 1950’s rock and roll,” and Jerry Lee Lewis, followed by many in his peer group, bounds forth and I relive my teen age years. I’ll be sitting at my desk in the next room and my mood will change, so I shout, “Alexa, play 1940’s big band music.” Or maybe I’ll be more specific “Alexa, Play Glenn Miller and Benny Goodman.” I’ve even found she can answer much of the same stuff as Siri. So, while I’m fixing my breakfast (open face turkey sandwich and instant coffee), she and I will carry on a conversation in which I ask whatever is on my mind, and she answers. Inasmuch as I’ll be doing that at around 0430, it’s nice to have someone “human” to talk in addition to the cats and dog.

In one of my other worlds, Mary Ann and I have carried on tens of thousands of conversations over the 26 years I’ve been flying at KSDL. Most of our exchanges are short, “Eight Papa Bravo cleared for takeoff. Fly straight out until advised.” I dutifully reply “Roger, Eight Papa Bravo cleared on 21, tower’s got the turn.”

Mary Ann joined the tower crew only a year or two after I started at KSDL where I spend most of my time in the pattern teaching students the fine art of surviving landings in my sometimes-cantankerous little bird. By actual count, I’ve flown over 6500 Hobbs hours in the pattern there at 7-8 landings an hour. A good percentage of them were done with her choreographing the sometimes-tedious dance routine that fits me between jets and helicopters. She is hands down the best there is at her trade and, when the traffic gets out of hand during Barrett-Jackson or the Super Bowl, she is plugged in like a pinch hitter to straighten everything out. This is all done with every transmission laced with her calm, always cheerful and amazingly easy to understand voice.
Mary Ann, along with the Scottsdale tower crew, make my life flow so smoothly it’s almost obscene.

I could ramble on forever talking about some of my other women, like Shánh-deen and Eight Papa Bravo (the mini-redhead and the other-redhead), but you get the drift. The AZ Redhead is THE redhead, but the others sure do help. bd

29 Sept 18 - Mrs. Green and Me
There are maybe five people on the planet who will recognize the name, Mrs. Green of Seward, Nebraska. And all five would have been in the class of ’59 or ’60. I’m class of ’60, was a total gearhead, and the widow Mrs. Green haunted my very thoughts: she owned a pristine ’40 Ford deluxe coupe she and her husband had bought new and we all wanted it. Desperately!

My blog last week about small town speed put me in a car mood for the entire week and Mrs. Green again floated to the top of my memories. Actually, there were two cars in town that every gearhead wanted: Mrs. Green’s ’40 coupe and a ’50 Ford Club Coupe also owned by a widow, but her name has disappeared along with my youth. Both cars were super low mileage and, other than both being repainted in a bilious shade of beige, were as if they’d just rolled off the show room floor. Perfect in every way. So, both were obvious high-value targets for any kid who was into hot rods or customs. And I was into both.

Considering that there wasn’t a single hotrod of any kind in town (Hotrod—meaning old car, severely modified with a much bigger motor, no fenders), I can’t exactly explain where the interest came from. However, as I’ve mentioned in the past, I’m certain it was ignited by two high-boy roadsters sans hoods with chromed engines and no fenders parking beside us in West Hollywood while we visited my aunt Inez. I was ten years old. Periodically, that exact moment still pops into the theater of my mind in brilliant detail.

Customs— a car that’s been lowered, body mods, like pulling chrome off the hood and deck lid— were rampant in town. In fact, I made a fair amount of money pulling hood ornaments, filling the holes with brass (brazing), smoothing it and priming the area.

I left town to go to college in Oklahoma in ’60, but for the next three or four summer returned to work as a lifeguard at our big municipal pool. I’d do that six or seven hours a day, but both before and long after that (generally until midnight), I’d be out in the shop (a semi-used Quonset hut next to my dad’s store) working on the roadster or someone’s car.

A pivotal moment came, when I was getting ready for my junior year at OU and it was decided that I would need a car at school. I had to get back and forth to the north campus, where the airport was located, and I was starting to play a lot of clubs in the area. What car would it be? I decided it was going to be either Mrs. Green’s ’40 or the ’50 Club Coupe, which, at the time, was one of the more popular cars for customizing. ’50 Mercs were much more desirable, but I never saw a single one in town until Danny Niehart’s dad found one for him somewhere.

I descended on Mrs. Green but she wasn’t budging: she wasn’t about to sell her ’40 for any amount of money (It went to a grandson, whom I’m certain didn’t deserve it). I went as high as $150, which was a helluva lot of money in those days. The owner of the ’50, however, was much more obliging and $125 ($1100 in 2018 dollars) bought me my first real car. Before the engine had cooled, I had the hood ornament off and the paint sanded off around the holes, ready to braze. But, I didn’t stop there. The modification list included:
- Decked it (removed rear chrome)
- Tunneled and frenched headlights (Set them back in the fenders using welded-on and leaded ’54 Merc headlight bezels)
- Scoops like ’56 Pontiac above headlights
- Filled in hood where ‘50’s had the big circular grill piece
- Replaced circular type of grill with single bar between parking lights
- Welded grill surround to body, leaded it and painted same color as body so only the single bar was chromed up front.
- Tunneled and frenched tail lights
- Leaded in seam on top of quarter panels
- Molded license plate bracket into trunk lid
- Lowered car two inches.
- Had tuck and roll upholstery done locally.
- Had it painted Coronado Red, a cool truck color.
All body work (except paint and upholstery) was done by me and done in lead. This was before Bondo became a body man’s best friend. It was a good-looking car and served me well until I bought my brother’s ’62 Pontiac, which I mentioned last week.

I know there are a lot of meaningless details here, but there is an important point to be made. At the time that Mrs. Green’s ’40 coupe grabbed us all by our hearts, it was only 18 years old! Can you think of any cars built in 2000 that inspire that kind of enthusiasm among teenagers? Or enthusiasm in anyone for that matter? I can’t. And that’s a little sad.

If I had managed to get that ’40 coupe, I’d still be driving it. Count on it!
bd

23 Sept 18 - The Bandit Checks-out: Remembering Speed
With the passing of Burt Reynolds, it suddenly made me remember the allure of speed. It got me thinking about how, back in the day, speed was king and how many millennials today don’t know the incredible abandon of watching the center line flash past at over 100 mph in the middle of the night for hours on end. His passing made me remember how speed was a central component of many years of my youth. Same for a bunch of past generations, actually.

I got my driver’s license in 1958 and the family car was a ’56 Pontiac station wagon. Other than seeking out dark corners in which to park with my girlfriend, it didn’t show me much excitement. However, I knew where to find excitement: in the pages of the little Rod and Custom hotrod magazines. There I saw the embodiment of speed on every page and, whether I was experiencing it or not, I had a yearning for it.

Through those pages, I knew there were lots of cars out there besides our station wagon and every one of them was faster. Better yet, you could build a fast car yourself. And I did. Sort of. It still sits in the garage, 60 years later not totally finished, but it’s getting there. At the same time, Detroit was discovering that speed, or at least the illusion of speed, was a very saleable commodity and Seward, Nebraska, population under 3,000, proved that.

Enough of the twenty-somethings in town were into fast cars so that we had far more than the national average of Tri-five Chevys, especially the ‘57s, in town with Power-Paks and four on the floor. Some of the guys went with 56/57 Fords with what were considered big blocks at the time. All were nosed and decked (for any millennials reading this, the chrome on the hood and deck lid was removed) and they were lowered more than was practical. Some would leave a string of sparks every time they bounced over a railroad track.

My first experience with a fast car came when I talked my dad into buying a ’58 Pontiac Bonneville coupe with the tri-power engine. I only drove that car maybe 20 times and got in trouble every single time I was in it. This sucker was FAST and would smoke the tires for a solid block without even trying. The first time I did that my dad knew about it before I got home. The jungle drums in a small town spread news like lightning.

And then there was my first taste of real speed. Going north out of town in the Pontiac, I made the mistake of driving fast on a piece of road I hadn’t traveled first to make sure there were no cops with one of those new radar thingies lying in wait. The then-shiny new Bonneville, with 370 cubic inches and something over 330 horses, buried the needle at 120 mph in a little over a mile. It was breath taking! I almost peed my pants it was so exciting! However, the real excitement started about 15 minutes later. As I pulled into our driveway and my headlights hit the garage door, my dad and the chief of police where standing there waiting. It wasn’t pretty. But, I had discovered speed and found I loved it!

I went to college with a highly customized 1950 Ford business coupe that was a real looker that I dearly loved and it would cruise at 75 or so but that was about it. Then my brother bought the first GTO (1964) in Nebraska and sold me his ’62 Pontiac Catalina (not Bonneville) two-door hard top. This was a reasonably light, very special car that he had bought new (he was always better with money than I was) and I helped him outfit it. In those days, all of the Grand National Stock Car (now NASCAR) stuff was available over the counter at the dealer parts department. So, it had three (not four) on the floor, heavy springs and shocks, headers, big diameter dual exhaust and steeper rear gears. This thing was a real runner!

By that time, I was well into my college years and was making a run to NYC, LA, or San Diego, from Oklahoma about every six weeks or so. I’d leave after class on Thursday and play a gig Friday/Saturday nights and be back in Oklahoma in time for class Monday morning. 1,400 miles one way! That big dude would sit there at 100-105 mph like it was 60 mph and hum along as smooth as glass.

I lost that cruiser when I was hit from behind by an 18-wheeler and schmushed into the car in front of me. The insurance, plus a little more borrowed from my dad, put me in my first new car, a 1965 GTO with tri-power, four on the floor, positraction and 360 hp out of 389 cubic inches. This frigging thing was REALLY fast. In a straight line, anyway! It didn’t handle curves well at all so it got sway bars, heavy shocks and all the other neat stuff. But, it still wasn’t the road car the ’62 was. The speed was there but not the heavy-car, high speed handling.

Decades later, when my son, Scott, turned 16, I tried to get him interested in restoring the GTO, which lasted maybe two days. He just wasn’t, and isn’t, into nuts and bolts. No biggie! He drives a Beemer these days. So, it never got restored. However, the first day he came up from the basement workshop with his hands wrapped around about a six-inch thick stack of folded paper. He had opened the center console between the Goat’s front seats and found a gigantic wad of speeding tickets, the majority of them warning tickets.

“Dad,” he said, with a crooked grin on his face, “what are these?”

I never claimed to set a good example, as a parent.

I wonder how many millennials even know what The Cannonball Baker Sea-to-Shining- Sea Memorial Trophy Dash was! I routinely lived my own little version of it. God, how I miss driving big motors! Cubic inches are a sure cure for the blues.

PS
These days on our many runs to LA to see daughter/grandkids, I’ll run the speed limit plus 5-7 mph, usually 82 mph and people are blowing past me. I guess maybe speed addiction is a young man’s thing. Not sure. bd

13 Sept 18 - Tail Wagging the Dog
For reasons I can’t explain, every time I see the movie “Demolition Man” listed, I watch it. It’s an incredibly dumb film but I think I like to watch a guy named Sylvester blow things up and snub noses that need snubbing. As a child, I’ll bet he got kidded for the name. No longer. The point is, however, that the Demo Man story is built around a civilization in which an overarching organization governs all thoughts and conversation and I think there’s the possibility that we may be headed that way today.

First, a personal point: Based on the fact that I’ve gotten four e-mails in the last 24 hours asking if I was still vertical and part of the world, an explanation is warranted. I’m very aware that I’m always bitching about deadlines and crushing workloads but the last two and a half months have been the worse I’ve ever experienced. Most of it was because my summer wasn’t my typical summer. Normally, people have enough sense to avoid Phoenix during the summer so my flying usually drops almost to zero. Not this summer. Again, for reasons I can’t explain, I was totally hammered and to fly two hours takes five hours. And some days I was flying three and four hops in 100+ degree weather. Plus at least twenty magazine deadlines lined up behind each other and Flight Journal had to be shipped.

For the entire period I was up at 0330 hours and didn’t log off until around 2130 hours and I’d fall into the rack ready to do it again the next day. Towards the end of that period we rushed to LA to see my granddaughters in a play, which was capped by food poisoning putting me in the UCLA emergency room by ambulance: another two days down the tubes.

Then, almost as if by magic, last weekend I looked around and realized everything had lightened up and returned to the normal level of crazy and I can breathe again. I’m back to walking at 0430 (more on that another time) and actually got some good shop time in Sunday so, life is good. The Roadster shivered a little, when I touched it. It had been too long!

Back to Demolition Man and a world living under an umbrella of uni-thought.

You don’t have to look too hard to see that technology may be in the process of getting ready to nibble huge chunks out of our collective butt. The tail is beginning to wag the dog. We’ve already become so dependent on technology that it’s as if it is a civilization-wide narcotic has been injected into us, as indicated by our addiction to computers and smart phones. And I’m as bad as the next guy. However, looking ahead at the digital future, it’s about to get a helluva lot worse and it’s damn scary.

Because of our digital addictions and the way in which the universe has become totally interconnected, we are unbelievably vulnerable to control and damage at the digital level. Let’s take Google as an example of someone/something that is capable of wielding unacceptable levels of control on the world in general and America specifically. I think most folks are uncomfortable with the way our privacy has totally evaporated at every level. This is because our digital dependence is making our lives available to those who want to affect them. A recent release of a video of an internal meeting at Google shows just how vulnerable we are and how easy it is for corporate opinions to be foisted on others.

Go to Google and see how upset Google management was in 2016. When Trump won, their world had been turned upside down and they vowed to do something about that. “They”, Google, may well wield more control over communications than any other single entity and as such, they can force feed us their opinion at every turn.

The scary part about this is that Google is far from being alone. There are lots of entities out there that comprise the digital universe who see nothing wrong with filtering the communications they control to achieve their own ends. This isn’t a right or left thing. Yes, Silicon Valley is left leaning but that’s not the danger. The danger is that a small number of corporate managers in certain industries can point their fingers and make things happen that affect all of us right down to the guy plowing a field in Nebraska.

This is scary stuff but what do we do about it? I don’t have the slightest damn idea. God knows I wish I had an answer, but I don’t. This is way above my pay grade or my ability to theorize. But, the trend is well established. Who knows, maybe, when it gets bad enough, society will split, as it does in Demo Man, and part will go underground in an effort to live life in a way they think it should be lived.

Wow! This isn’t exactly what I thought I was going to write about, but it feels good to be doing it again. See you next week. bd


10 June 18 - Our Loss of Relevancy
It has become glaringly obvious to today’s parents, and definitely to grandparents, who might be only in their 40’s or 50’s, that there is one phrase we absolutely cannot use in advising our kids: “When I was your age…” ‘Can’t use it because we were never their age and practically nothing we experienced is applicable to today’s generations.

The social, cultural and technological changes that have occurred over the past two generations, call it 40 years at two decades per generation, are mind numbing. Many are the result of the way both TV and the app generation, born first, of the computer, and second, the smart phone and its bastard child, social media, have changed social constructs. In discussing this, it’s hard to know even where to begin.

First, we have to put things in time brackets: going back 20 years, it would be 1998 (which seems like it happened last Wednesday). By that time computers were a solid staple of life (Apple started business in 1978), cell phones were getting smarter and the Internet was already universal. So, if a kid graduated high school even in 1978 (technically he’d be a senior citizen by now), as an adult, he never knew life without a computer and his remembrances of pre-computer times would be his school days. A 1998 graduate lived with computers and cell phones from the moment he/she was slipped into their first diaper.

In the years since home computers arrived we’ve watched an overall evening out of the culture from urban to rural, West to East and North to South. The cultural differences of the different areas are slowly disappearing (but are still obvious) because there is so much interaction via social media and the immediacy of information transfer via every form of media. 9/11 is a classic example of that: Rather than reading about it in the paper the day after or seeing a TV broadcast of the high lights that night, at the time it was happening, my daughter called me and we watched the towers fall together on the phone, her in LA, me in Phoenix sitting on the floor next to the bed on Marlene’s side. It was unreal! It wasn’t something that happened in New York, which only a few years earlier was considered by most of us in the Fly-over States to be so far away geographically and culturally that it was located on the moon, it was something that happened to every one of us in our own living spaces at the same time.

This kind of immediacy was unimaginable only a few years earlier. Yet, today, you can’t fart in public without it being on You-Tube, Instagram and TV news alerts in the next five minutes. All of this has rendered most of the life experiences of folks in my generation and the one following it, almost totally irrelevant. I look back at the happenings during my high school years and don’t even bother bringing any of them up to my kids because the immense changes make them nothing more than quaint tales from a long ago time in a country that no longer exists. However, when you line a bunch of them up, they not only point out the differences but some are amusing. Here are some random remembrances of a time we’ll never see again. Bear in mind, these were in a small town in Nebraska.

Shotguns in School Parking Lots. We did a lot of pheasant road hunting before and after school so shotguns were always around.

Guns Were Just “There”: there’s a two-minute 16mm film floating around somewhere that I shot with my dad’s camera and my ten-year-old friends and I are using real Mausers and German Lugers playing war.

Offered first gun at 12: This was universal. In this case, it was a single shot and I turned it down in favor of roller skates (dad had a roller rink) and the next year I paid for my own Marlin lever action .22. Still have it. Rule was I couldn’t go out shooting with any of my friends for two years, but I’d be gone all day prowling around the rivers and small forests a few miles from town. The same year (this was NOT universal) I paid $25 for a wooden crate a vet brought back from WW II. Contained two live submachine guns (long story), a Mauser, American eagle luger, Walther PP and PPK, German flags. Still have most of it and the sub guns have been legalized. The money came from the $11.76/month I was paid for making boxes for shipping baby chickens (dad had a hatchery).

BB gun fights
: five or six of us sniping at each other around farm buildings. Also had Roman Candle fights. Never said we were smart.

Bike accidents: Constantly losing skin. Trying to see how fast I could get my new speedometer to go, hit almost 30 mph going down the hill past Hughes brothers plant. Hit the railroad tracks, the fork jumped off the axle and I went over the bars. Lost a lot of skin. Again.

Bike buried in snow: storm hit while we were in school. Had to dig it out days later. No big deal. Just part of living in the Midwest.

M-80s: They were common and we blew up everything we could find. Constantly in trouble.

Match guns: Modified wooden clothes pins to light and throw wooden matches at least 20 feet. Eventually started a fire under the wooden Third Street bridge and had to call the fire department. Did I mention we were constantly in trouble?

It Was All About Cars: As soon as my friends could drive, we started scouring the countryside for old Fords, mostly Model As, which were $10-$25. I had a bunch of them usually found in wind breaks (narrow rows of trees where everyone’s junk accumulated at the edges of fields). Found the roadster body stopping field erosion in a gully at 15 years-old and started building a hotrod because no one told me I was too young to be attempting such things. We didn’t know any better and no one thought to tell us. They just let us do what we thought we could do. So, we did.

Drag Racing: the highway north of town going past the cemetery had a nicely marked ¼ mile so we were racing whatever we owned or could con our parents out of.

S-turn challenge: the highway coming into town from the north had a pronounced S-turn supposedly to slow traffic. It was a game to see how fast we could go through it.

TAB-Teenage Book Club: This was a savior program. You could buy all manner of paperback books for 25 cents apiece. The new list came around once a month and I’d buy ten or 15 at a time and mom would go in to Lincoln once a month or so and drop me off at a book store, while she shopped. Also, spent hours at the local library. Books were our window to the world. Read late at night. This was before You-Tube and Google, which have turned the world of information on its ear.

Nothing here of use to pass along to later generations, except maybe that reading is important. But, I doubt any would listen. bd

3 June 18 - Digital Traveling Vs the Real Thing
I can’t begin to explain why it has been so long since I wrote something here. No particular reason. However, I just looked around and realized a month or more had gone by and I don’t know where it went. It’s just gone!

It comes as no news to any of us, but I still find it amazing how quickly time changes as you move past life’s mile posts. It has been said that life, like gasoline in an airplane, disappears exponentially: the last five gallons goes away much more quickly than the first five (actually, I think I said that). I’m suddenly seeing that weeks are now only about three days long and days are measured in minutes. I’m now on my summer time work schedule that sees my feet hitting the floor at 0330 to get work done before flying at 0600 to beat the heat and back in the office early enough to have an entire afternoon/evening to catch up.

I’m certain that everyone goes through the same time warp I’m experiencing but it is so obvious to me that it’s nearly surreal. I’ve never done acid (or any other drug), but during the ‘60’s I served as “ground man” on others that were tripping out and worked at talking them down to keep them from going off into the ozone layer. These days I find myself periodically reverting to being my own personal ground man to keep the dizzying whirl of life rushing past from reaching in and tweaking my brain in an undesirable way. In truth, it’s almost as if I’m on speed and spend my days racing from one project to another before I finally crash and purposely take a 15-minute power nap while sitting at the computer. My life-long complaint of “so much to do and experience and not nearly enough years to do it” is constantly flashing on the horizon like a beckoning neon sign. Damn!

The most amazing thing, however, is that the genes I’ve inherited (actually the result of picking the right parents), have kept my health at unrealistically high levels considering the miles and maintenance. For that I’m wildly thankful. And I’m trying to take advantage of those genes before they wake up one morning and decide to make me act my age.

BTW – the foregoing is definitely NOT what I sat down to write about. At 0400 I sometimes find my thoughts going in unintended directions. So, back to what originally crossed my mind, which is a recognition that it’s conceivable that the computer and You-tube is slowly reducing the motivation to travel to far destinations because they do such a good job of putting you there without actually going there. Although, in some, it may increase that motivation.

I’m noticing this because I’m coming to the reluctant realization that some of the items still on my bucket list are no longer on the “maybe” list and have been shifted over to the “ain’t-gonna-happen” list. Some are voyages of discovery. Some are hardware goodies. On the latter, just last week I saw this on the Bring a Trailer auction site (http://Bringatrailer.com) and my heart sank. Stuart. There it was, number one on my wanna-have-it list since fourteen years old (although I actually prefer the earlier M-3 version of the Stuart) and I knew I couldn’t bid on it (it eventually sold for $220k, a good price). Frustrating! For most of my life I just assumed I’d eventually own one. Ain’t gonna happen.

Then, my good friend Tom Atwood, with whom I’m constantly trading URLs on eclectic things of interest including stuff like tracing the actual development of mankind, understanding Neanderthals and generally answering historical questions, sent me some critical links. The latest from him addressed the number one destination still topping my travel bucket list: Machu Picchu in the high mountains of Peru. It’s a nearly-impossible-to-believe Inca ruin in a nearly-impossible-to-believe location that has tugged at my heart strings forever. However, through the power of the Web, there is little I haven’t experienced visually and intellectually about it. DON’T TO GO THESE LINKS YET. FINISH READING AND THEN GO BACK AND WATCH THEM.

Go to: Machu Picchu Which is an I-was-there video filmed in an amazing sort of way. Then look at http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x2mkswr which explores/explains the engineering involved in Machu Picchu.

Once you’ve watched both of those, you have to ask, what more could I learn by actually being there? Through videos like these, we now know all the facts and have seen the entire area from a multitude of angles, so, what would we gain by being there?

If you search You-Tube for any destination, from Egypt to Antarctica and everywhere in between, you’ll find a mind bogging amount of coverage on everything. Since archeology, long-abandoned stuff and ancient man are some of my hot buttons, I only have to step over to the videos featured on the right-hand menu of virtually every You-Tube link I receive, to find tons of videos addressing all of those things I love. I’d love to spend weeks prowling around abandoned military facilities, or climbing down into the digs where something ancient and unexplainable is found, etc., etc.. I see so much of that stuff, it would be easy to say that actually spending the time and money to be there might be overkill. Anything I see or learn on-site would be redundant.

Having said that and thinking about places like Machu Picchu, I know what I would gain and it’s something computer traveling can’t possibly give: the feeling of “presence.” You can see a million photos of the Grand Canyon, for instance, but until you’ve actually stood on the edge of it, teetering in space, you don’t have the visceral feeling that comes from actually being there. I know for a fact that, if you’re at Machu Picchu, the sheer sense of their immensity combined with the grandeur of their location would have an overpowering effect that would be as much emotional as it would intellectual and physical. Of course, virtual reality goggles are headed our way and those, linked into videos, may well give us that feeling. I hope not.

It’s easy to let a big screen monitor and TV Travel Channel adventures become a substitute for actually getting up out of the lounge chair and doing something. Of going somewhere. At the same time, knowing that there are a lot of folks who can’t get up and go somewhere, its nice to know that there’s an alternative to sports and TV game shows. It’s oddly comforting to know that there’s always a window to the world of travel and knowledge on the other side of our key board waiting to be opened. bd

22 April 18 -Deadlines, Commonsense and Realities
A couple weeks ago I forced myself to look at a deadline I didn’t want to face. Then, some realities rained down on me re-enforcing the deadline. Then a friend took me aside, explained life to me and commonsense took over.

This deadline is the one we all know is out there but for most of our lives we turn a blind eye to it because it’s so far in the future. Even though most of us know we’re not immortal, we tend to live as if we are. We put things off figuring we’ll get at them “someday”. Then, as we go past 60, the realization that someday, “someday” isn’t going to be there. The realities of not living forever begin to creep into our planning of everyday life.

This was all brought to the fore when, a few weeks ago, I suddenly realized that the old race car, which we call The Banger (four banger, get it?), was going to cost much more than I expected. When finished, I’d be upside down in it at least $7k. One of the realities here is that my ability to continue living as we do is contingent on my ability to continue working as I do. I know that’s not going to last forever. So, I can ignore the inevitable deadline no longer. I looked at what it was going to cost to finish the Banger and questioned the advisability of losing that kind of money at some point down the road right when we’d need that money the most.

This whole thing was made much worse when life’s realities intruded in the form of terrible health happenings in my extended family. A sudden diagnosis of stage-four lung cancer that almost immediately lead to a hospice environment. Another case where major cancer surgery was needed to remove major organs in a young person. A stroke that took a totally healthy man younger than I am and locked him in his own home with his world limited to a lounge chair and a TV set. The realities of life suddenly intruded on my usually bright, hard driving thoughts. As most of us do eventually, I had to begrudgingly admit that sh*t actually does happen and it can happen to any of us with zero warning. Plus, I’m entering the zone, where it is more likely to happen.

So, in a fit of responsibility, even though I had the funds squirreled away to finish the car, I declared The Banger Car a dead project. I was going to cut my losses (I have about $7k in it right now) and dump the remains for whatever I could get. Given that having a car like this on the street has been a serious dream of mine since childhood, this was not an easy decision. In fact it was damn hard. But, I knew it was the “right” decision. It was the “responsible” decision. This in spite of the fact that neither of those adjectives have ever swayed me before. It was “that” time of life, I reasoned and began thinking of how to sell the now-totally disassembled car (yes, I know I wasn’t going to touch it until the roadster was finished, but…well…you know). Then a friend stopped by.

I’m lucky enough to have a friend that I consider to be the most reasoned, most intelligent, and best at planning person I’ve ever known. He has a way of looking at any situation and coming up with a solution that is inevitably right. He stopped by and we were standing around the Banger’s remains, as he listened to me explain my reasons for selling it.

He said, “You figure you’re going to lose about seven grand, when you sell the car. When do you expect to do that?”

I replied, “In ten to twelve years.”

He said, “So, for $700 dollars a year, sixty bucks a month, you’re going to deprive yourself of the obvious pleasure involved in creating something you’ve wanted your entire life. You spend more than that on pizza, and you can’t resell the pizza!”

And he’s right, I’m deliriously happy, when I’m planning and designing and otherwise investing of myself in the old race car, whether I’m actually touching it or not. So, before he left the garage, I picked up the phone and set a date with another friend to help me disassemble the engine, which I had thought was good enough to use, but isn’t. Then I’ll take the block and crank/pistons to a guy that does babbitt bearings. The Banger will have a heart transplant.

When is the time of life, when you should start pulling your horns in and prepare for “that” time? The more responsible among us start when they are in their twenties. Of course, that kind of process is quite often disrupted by divorce, job loss, kids, etc. So, how many dreams do you give up because being responsible says you should. We all have friends who were determined to learn to fly as soon as they retired at 65. I know several and neither made it past 67 and neither learned to fly, one of their eternal frustrations.

I’m not going to die frustrated. I don’t think it is healthy and I don’t recommend it. Being frustrated that is. Dying is obviously unhealthy. So, damn logic and responsibility, I’m not going to change my stripes just because commonsense says I should. Besides, just because I’m going to die eventually, doesn’t mean the Banger has to die too. If I don’t bring it back to life I can guarantee no one else will either. It’s mostly a junk parts car. And my specialty is taking nothing and making something out of it.

So, now I see it as my civic duty to bring the Banger back to life. How’s that for rationalizing? Damn I feel good! bd

31 March 18 - Rants and Warnings
In the weeks since I last cobbled some words together and called it Thinking Out Loud, some things have happened that I want to comment on, but not dwell on.

On My Honor I Will Do my Best…
First, the Boy Scouts of America have finally pissed me off! They decided a kid with Down Syndrome hadn’t toed the exact mark for every merit badge awarded so they voided those he’d earned and said he couldn’t qualify as an Eagle Scout. I’m one of the BSA’s biggest supporters but this is BS! Totally BS!

One of the prouder moments of my life was when my mother pinned the silver Eagle Scout award on my chest in a small public ceremony. I was just short of turning 15 years-old and felt as if I had really accomplished something. I know being an Eagle Scout in today’s society doesn’t mean what it did when I earned it in 1957, but it still indicates a young man has an above average will to work towards a goal. More important, each step along that path is salted with the seeds of morality and social consciousness. You’re working within a code of conduct that, if not followed, means you’ll not gain your goal.

I don’t know all of the details (go to http://www.glennbeck.com/2018/03/22/shameful-dad-sues-boy-scouts-after-son-with-down-syndrome-is-rejected-stripped-of-badges/?utm_source=Sailthru&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=20180322&utm_term=Glenn%20Beck) but it appears he satisfied all of the requirements of each merit badge “within the limits of his ability” and the BSA higher-ups decided long after he had started the climb that wasn’t good enough. He hadn’t satisfied all the requirements. This is wrong.

It would be easy to equate this to the way in which the military has had to soften its combat requirements for LGBT and females, which I think is wrong. The role of the soldier is to support those around them regardless of the circumstances, which is almost always a physical challenge. And the goal is basically to kill or be killed and blow things up. It’s a very unequivocal situation. In combat, you can either cut it, or you can’t and the training can’t be compromised for any reason without hurting the organization as a whole.

The Boy Scouts are different. Their goal is to guide and mold young men in such a way that they can realize their full potential. This shouldn’t be available only to healthy, mainstream, males. It could be argued by some that including LGBT in their ranks is pushing the limits, but in my mind, they deserve the same opportunities as anyone. Besides, the number that would want to be Scouts has to border on zero but the requirements should still apply.

I put Down Syndrome in a different category and I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s because I know it’s just the luck of the draw. Normal human cells have 46 chromosomes, those with 47 or an extra Chromosome 21 exhibit what we now call Down Syndrome (named after the guy who diagnosed it in the 1860s). In recent times we’ve seen how Down Syndrome can slow an individual, but it doesn’t mean they can’t think, don’t feel and don’t have goals. It may take some a little longer to do something, but like the young man who wanted to be an Eagle, they’ll work their hearts out to attain a goal. In so doing he has done exactly what the Scouts stand for which, boiled down to the basics is: do your best and be a good person. I say give the kid his Eagle.

And now for a little warning about things to come.
If you don’t know the name David Hogg, you’re going to. He is a 17-year-old senior at Marjory Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida and is showing the rest of the world how powerful social media can be. He’s one of the student leaders (although some of the organizational and financial support is coming from outside) of the March for Our Lives movement. He started out as an anti-gun activist but has spread his wings to be an activist in general. He says, “…we’re about changing the world.”

He would be easy to dismiss. A 17-year-old kid. What can he do? How much effect can he have? Even though he can be belligerent at times and is clearly thinks a lot of his effect on the world, it turns out he’s not totally wrong. He and his peers are changing the world.

He was turned down by four colleges including UCLA even though this grade point is 4.2 and he scored 1270 on his SATs. Clearly a smart kid. But top colleges are experiencing extremely low acceptance rates because the competition is so fierce. Laura Ingraham, a Fox News headliner whose Ingraham Angle show is (or at least was) doing well, noted Hogg’s college dilemma in a tweet:
David Hogg rejected by four colleges to which he applied and whines about it. (Dinged by UCLA with a 4.1 GPA...totally predictable given acceptance rates.)

I don’t see where he was slammed or taunted, but apparently, he did. He took to social media asking his many followers to boycott Ingraham’s advertisers and they did. The result is that so far 11 major advertisers have bailed because of media pressure. She apologized, but Hogg was unimpressed. He tweeted:
“She only apologized after we went after her advertisers,” He said, “It kind of speaks for itself.”

Ingraham just announced she was taking a week off, which in Fox-speak, says that she is probably fired.

Folks, we’re in a different world where a high school senior can sit at his key board and so change public opinion that no one is totally safe. His latest targets have been Marco Rubio and John McCain for taking NRA campaign donations.

Right now, Hogg is the most visible social media warrior, but believe me, he’s not alone. Social media lets anyone with a grievance point such gigantic fingers at those they disagree with that it is awe inspiring. Hogg has clearly demonstrated that the traditionally powerful are no longer as powerful as they think they are, nor as they once were. There’s a new audience out there that can’t be swayed by rhetoric, position nor life-experience. And they all sit at key boards.

PS
I hope Laura Ingraham comes back. I like her show.


10 Mar 2018 – Frontiersmen, History and Daughters
This past Wednesday night (10 pm locally) the History Channel unveiled a new, 8-part series: Men Who Made America: Frontiersmen. The credits list Executive Producers as Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Davisson. So, you guessed it, this is me bragging again. And talking a little history. Or maybe a lot.

As the title says, the series spotlights those explorers, guides and adventurers who opened the West at a time when anything on the other side of the Appalachian mountains was considered to be outer space. In the first episode, which was built around Daniel Boone, the Revolutionary War and the development of Kentucky Territory, you quickly gain an appreciation for several facts: although the Kentucky Territory was known to exist it was a true wilderness with little general knowledge about it and no easy (a relative terms) access through the Appalachians into it. As was pointed out, anyone thinking of going into the Territory might as well have been going to the moon, because so little was known about it.

The history of the area is terribly convoluted because by the 1770s, when Daniel Boone became one of the few that had explored it in its entirety, there had been over 75 years of French and English explorers floating up and down the major rivers going through it and around it but never actually getting to know the territory. Still, they all laid overlapping claims to the land. Eventually, in foreign wars with France, England prevailed and essentially said The Crown owned everything from the Atlantic to the Mississippi and forbad any from the 13 Colonies from going over the mountains to settle.

All of this nationalistic bravado blithely ignored the fact that every piece of land on the other side of the mountains was fairly densely populated by various Indian tribes, all of which laid claim to their own areas but none of which claimed to actually own the land. The concept of land ownership was foreign to Native American culture. It was simply their home. Nobody owned it. It just “was”.

The Frontiersman Daniel Boone episode clearly points out, without beating us over the head with it, that every bit of frontier expansion existed in an aura of invasion. Even though the pioneers initially did their best to buy land from the Indians and sign treaties with them, it was a fact that, when Boone blazed a trail for settlers through the Cumberland Gap into Kentucky, he was under the employ of a real estate speculator from NC, Richard Henderson. Henderson had bought many tens of thousands of acres of Kentucky Territory land from the Cherokee. This even though the area had never been surveyed, The Crown claimed ownership, the Cherokee didn’t actually own the land they sold and other tribes, notably the Shawnee, lived and hunted the area and considered it their home. Conflict was unavoidable. Native Americans had to protect their home against invasion and settlers had to protect themselves from attack. As the episode pointed out, this was brought to a head, when the Revolutionary War British command on the western frontier allied with the Shawnee and charged them with destroying Boonesborough, the fortified settlement Boone and his party had built.

Some of the other facts that were made clear, although unspoken, in the episode is the incredible hardships of traveling 100s of miles in totally uncharted, often mountainous, wilderness. The individual determination and resourcefulness of all who pushed the frontiers is often forgotten. Life was as hard and as dangerous as it could get.

Incidentally, it is to Boone’s credit that, when, as a member of the militia, they were asked to massacre a Shawnee encampment, he refused and left Boonesborough never to return.

The entire series is done in docudrama format but the talking heads that explain the importance of what we’re seeing are kept to a minimum. The production value is super high. As good as any major movie and I can’t imagine what it cost to film it.

I am, and always have been, a history nut. My daughter, Jennifer, was dragged through hundreds of antique stores and museums as a kid, so some of that might have stuck to her. However, she tells me Leo D. loves history, so, knowing that, in my mind he just moved up the totem pole a couple of notches. She also says that although their company, Appian Way, is very much a for-profit operation, they really don’t think of the money aspect of these kinds of projects. That’s heartening to hear. Explaining history should be it’s own reward although a little profit is okay too. What is not heartening is to talk to the average millennial, or even those under forty, about history. They just don’t seem to care about it. And the clearly know little to nothing about it.

I could be wrong, but in looking around, I get the feeling that American History is becoming a generational thing. People who sport a modicum of gray hair seem to have a pretty good handle on how America was built. Millennials and lots of folks under 40 don’t. This is, of course, is yet another hole in our education system. Plus, I feel as if a good portion of the population figure, “Hey, it happened a long time ago. Why is it important today?” In fact, increasingly in the younger population it appears as if “today” is all that counts and yesterday and tomorrow come in distant seconds. But, again, I have to admit that I have limited exposure to younger age groups and actually shouldn’t be talking about them because I seldom talk to them.

Anyway, tune in. I think you’ll enjoy the series. I learned a lot out of this one. bd

PS
Not a single coonskin hat was seen, thank God! And did you know bat guano was critical to making gunpowder back in the day? I didn't.

24 Feb18 - Of Pets, Furry Kids and Families
Old habits take a while to die. This morning, as I stumbled down the dark hall, barely awake, heading for the office, it struck me that something was missing. Smoki Jo, the big gray cat wasn’t at my feet threatening to make me stumble. Then I remembered: we had to put him down yesterday. And I felt myself choke up. I’m betting most folks reading this totally understand because most are dog or cat people. Or both.

The relationship of man with his cats, dogs, horses, etc., especially dogs, is one that isn’t universally understood because not everyone buys into the concept of having something around the house that has to be fed. Or cared for. Or is a factor in making vacation/trip decisions. Or any of the other responsibilities that are attached to our personal animals, from gerbils to horses. In refusing to let those responsibilities invade their lives, those folks miss out on the incredible benefits of having something in your life in which you can invest love, knowing that, in one way or another, it’ll be returned. There will be no family borne animosities from something that happened long ago. They won’t read things into e-mails or texts that aren’t there. They won’t judge you by the color of your skin, your politics, who your friends are, whether you fart or drink too much, constantly swear or belong to a cult. They respond to how you treat them. They love to be loved and, in one way or another, they love the one who loves them.

We’re now down to two cats and a dog and in any discussion like this we have to set those two species in two totally different conversational categories. Dogs, almost regardless of the breed, even though their personalities may vary, in general, they truly do become your best friend. Some are smart, some are dumb, but they almost all have an incredible ability to love us. And we want to be loved just as they do. So, the relationship is almost human in nature but without all of the human characteristics that so often sour a relationship. With a dog, the relationship is pure. The devotion complete. With a cat, you never know what the relationship will be until you’ve lived with them for a while. In that respect, cats are like people.

Of our four most recent felines, two no longer with us, Corki, a big orange tabby, had so much dog in him, it was amazing. He’d come when called, he sensed when you were in a funk or feeling bad and would pay even more attention do us. He had very little cat in him. Abigail is a seven-year-old, coal-black, runt kitten who refuses to grow up and is an incredible hunter. She dismantles birds in our living room on a regular basis. She loves us intensely, when she’s in the mood, but only when she’s in the mood. In other words, she’s a typical cat. Meezer (Sia-meeser, get it?) was a typical Siamese, when we inherited him: nasty, combative with us and the other cats. Now, however, after six years of being in a loving household he is a scratching whore and will be in your lap in a heartbeat seeking attention. Cats vary as much as people, both good and bad.

The one we lost yesterday, Smoki Jo, a magnificent, huge, dark gray was what you think of when imagining a reclusive cat. He was sweet but would have nothing to do with anyone. Except me. He was constantly at my side and almost as soon as I started typing in the pre-dawn dark, he’d be by my chair meowing and reaching up with a paw, trying to drag my arm down to scratch him. Which I always did. I was his connection to the world. I was his social life.

Smoki was brought to us by Corki as a tiny feral kitten. We have no idea where he found him as our backyard has block walls around it. When Corki died, it had a bad effect on Smoki, who then retreated into himself, only letting me in. I always felt as if Smoki wanted desperately to be loved but didn’t know how to go about it so he avoided contact. I showered him with love and felt a responsibility to give him what I thought was missing in his life. Then about six weeks ago, he started losing weight like crazy. Vet said all his vitals were normal, blood test included. But, he finally got down to 8 pounds from 15 and was barely getting around. The vet suspected rampant cancer. So, we cuddled him and loved him. Then we gave him up. It was hard. Harder than I expected.

In the 26 years the Redhead and I have been together we’ve had three dogs and five cats. The first dog went the way of a divorce and lived out her life somewhere else. The second dog, died unexpectedly at 10 years and part of us died with her. I went for a solid month before I didn’t breakdown at least once during the day. The grief was almost unbearable. Only suddenly losing my brother at 42 hit me that hard. Still, we recognized that the good outweighs the bad and we got Shahn-deen four days later. She is like having a lovable, incredibly smart and obedient, fur-covered two-year-old in the house and at 11 years is still very much a puppy. It’s amazing! She is such an integral part of our life that, in a way, we’re already grieving losing her. That should be anywhere from four to six years in the future, but we know it’s coming. So, we love her as much as we can, while we can, and she returns it many times over.

This is why many people never want to have “pets.” When we adopt any kind of animal to share our lives it’s like having a child that you know you are going to outlive. That’s part of the deal. Many folks don’t want the grief, which can be damnably painful. Still, as long as I’m living life on an independent basis and not curled up in the corner of some old-age holding cell until I check out, I’ll never be without a dog. Never! They complete me. Dog owners know they give something that no human being can give yet not one dog owner can explain exactly what that is. It just is.

Incidentally, saying that we’re a dog owner isn’t exactly correct. None of us “owns” a beloved animal any more than we own our kids. You don’t own your family. You’re just blessed when you have one. And Smoki was part of ours. Adios big guy! BD

17 Feb18 - Another One
It hasn’t been a week since the Florida shootings and it’s pretty hard to find any station that is covering anything else. As far as that goes, it’s pretty hard to even think about anything else.

It’s really difficult to put thoughts about this into words. It’s terribly complex. This time it was a crazy teenager. In Vegas it was a…we don’t yet know what he was. In Orlando and Santa Barbara, it was terrorists. Yada, yada, yada. And the bloody beat goes on. Oddly enough, the terrorist’s attacks are the most logical. The killers had a specific motivation. We don’t agree with the ideology, but at least it’s there. We can’t even begin to understand the causes of the others.

Thinking of Sandy Hook, I can’t get the image out of my mind of looking through the sights at a toddler’s face and pulling the trigger. Over and over. What kind of animal does that kind of thing? How can anything or anyone do something like that? But they can. And they do. And they live amongst us.

Of course, the bodies hadn’t even cooled or moved before the media jumped on the anti-AR-15 band wagon. And I totally understand that. If I could push a button and make every gun disappear, I would. If that gun hadn’t been available, those children wouldn’t have died. Or would they? Crazy people come up with imaginative ways to kill. The worse school massacre in US history killed 44 (38 students) in Bath, Michigan in 1927 (Google it). A nut case planted dynamite under the school. Still, I can see how anti-gunners become anti-gunners. Especially the anti-AR crowd. Their thoughts make a certain amount of sense. If there were no guns, children wouldn’t have been shot. Get rid of the ARs.

First, let it be known that I don’t have a dog in this hunt. I don’t own any ARs and probably never will. I just don’t like the way they feel while shooting. I feel as if they should be stamped Made by Mattel. But, confiscating them won’t solve the problem. Plus, confiscating them is impossible, just as bussing illegal immigrants out of the country is impossible. The numbers are too big. The logistics too difficult. There are roughly 5-6 million ARs in the country. That is one for every seven men between the ages of 20 and 70 in the US. How do you round all those up? And, if you try, you turn a bunch of otherwise law abiding citizens into criminals, when they don't obey. More important,, that’s not the mass shooting problem.

Just as the reason that the drug trade is so lucrative and difficult to stop is because the US is such a huge drug market, the same is true of mass shootings. Stop drug use in the US and the drug trade will dry up. In mass shootings, the operative word there is “mass”. You need a lot of people in one place to make the concept work. Further, it is helpful if that mass is unarmed with easy access. Look back at all of the mass shootings. Few, if any, have taken place in a zone that wasn’t gun free. Schools, concerts, churches, etc. They were, and are, all soft targets and soft targets attract mass shooters.

Don’t tell me we have to get rid of mass shooters. We all know we have to identify and treat the mentally unstable. That’s a wonderful idea but just as impractical as getting rid of ARs. Or the drug market. There will always be the crazy amongst us. There will always be an increasing number of terrorist tracking our civilization. The threats are huge and you only need a small number of nut cases or terrorists to cause catastrophes. Six or eight a year in a population of 330 million is all you need to perpetrate the most horrific acts. Finding them all is impractical and impossible. It is, however worth a solid effort. In doing so, we might catch a few, like the one in Washington state this week that a grandmother turned in. But, try as we may, we’ll never get them all.

Our children are our softest and our most valuable target. So, the debate about guarding them shouldn’t be a debate. It should be a concentrated bi-partisan effort to come up with a method that makes the targets harder to penetrate. We don’t know where the bad guys are but we very definitely know whom they would like to harm. So, let’s concentrate our efforts at guarding those. Bad guys are like running water: They’ll almost always take the path of least resistance. The harder a target, the more likely they’ll go looking for some place easier. It’s not by accident that so many of the shootings we’ve had are aimed at unprotected targets. Shooters are often crazy, but not always stupid.

Let’s take a look at what Israel has done in this regard. Their entire country is a battleground and they’ve developed the methods and the technology to make defensive perimeters work.

It is far past time that we stop foraging around in the wilderness trying to placate and treat the hostiles, when we can simply throw up defenses around our known targets. It’s just not that complicated. bd

3 Feb18 - Thought Sandwiches
As I’m sitting here at the key board, I’m suddenly aware of how random the human mind can be and how many thoughts can sandwich themselves together at one time. Is this A.D.D. or just part of modern life? I’m going to illustrate this mental peculiarity by stripping thoughts off the top of my mental stack like rounds out of a loaded magazine.

Right now, even though it’s mid-afternoon on Saturday, I feel like going into the bathroom and trimming my beard (‘supposed to be a Monday morning ritual). It’s a 90-second exercise I keep forgetting to do because it carries requirements all its own. This time of the year, I usually wear black T-shirts under an unbuttoned, untucked long-sleeve shirt, wearing it like a light jacket. This means I have to remember to trim my beard (using electric clippers: I like it a really short, a salt and pepper shadow). I must do it before I shower. Not after. Why? Because, if I trim it after, the, tiny, cut gray hairs that are loose but still nesting in my beard, fall out on my black T-shirt and look like a torrent of dandruff.

At the same time, I’m recalling our two days last weekend in New Jersey. For a change the weather cooperated and didn’t freeze us out and the time spent with my son, daughter-in-law and grand kids (one of each flavor) was absolutely perfect. Basically, all we did was talk and kitbitz our way from one meal to the next and the feeling of family was palpable. We LOVED it!

A third layer of thoughts keeps my mind skipping back out to the shop where I’m waiting for a little Bondo to cure on a piece I’m working on for this month’s installation of Shop Talk in EAA’s Sport Aviation magazine. The subject centers around the necessity of trusting our eyes and reflections/shadows, rather than our hands, in deciding whether a surface is level or not. I’m especially hounded by my mind trying to figure out how to photograph the shadows/reflections in a way that makes sense. It won’t be easy.

Popping up into every vacate space between neurons is the “deadline disease.” Lots of writing and magazine editing to be done and some dark corner of my mind is constantly working on meeting those schedules. It’s the cricket chirping in the corner that periodically turns into an enraged Doberman.

And then there is the big, gray cat, Smoki Jo. I can’t get him off my mind, no matter what else I’m supposed to be thinking about. He started losing weight about a month ago and, according to the vet yesterday, is down to 9 pounds from his usual 15. We didn’t catch it earlier because he has a really thick, long coat. The vet says all his vital signs are good, but he seems to have lost interest in eating. To everyone else in the world, he is a hermit that associates with no one. To me, however, he is my ever-present little office buddy who is (or was) constantly begging for head scratches and food. I’m his only social connection with the world and I take that responsibility very seriously. He’s 12 years old, so we may lose him and I’m not good with this kind of thing. Not good at all. I can’t shake the feeling that I’ve somehow let him down.

I know for a fact that multiple thought patterns are totally normal for everyone reading this. Sit back for a moment and listen to what’s going on inside your head. I’ll bet there are so many themes in progress that it sounds like Saturday night in a neighborhood bar. If it’s quiet up there, you’d better check your pulse. bd

21Jan 18 - Random Thoughts on 2018
We’ve just completed three weeks of the new year, with the first two in our household dominated by the flu and watching TV. It’s hard to tell which was worse.

A Clear Decision on Politics
So far, if you watch the news, especially recently, it’s pretty damn hard not to be overwhelmed by all that’s happening. It is SOOOO hard to keep track of everything that’s coming out of Washington but the net-net of just about everything is that I clearly hate politicians. All of them, regardless of flavor. For crying out loud! You have hordes or supposedly smart, talented individuals standing around in a mob pointing at each other like a bunch of kids screaming, “You did so.” “Did not!” “Did too.” And it goes on and on. It’s almost impossible to remember that we-the-people sent them there to run the country, not play games.

You have the congressionally fanned flames of “The Memo” that is supposed to be released this week that has one side gleefully claiming it’ll be the end of civilization, as we know it and “they” did it.

We have investigations launched from one side or the other seeking to prove that the leaders of the other side were smuggling gophers into the White House or holding séances and planning witch burnings. Or whatever. As I’m typing this, I honestly can’t keep track of all the investigations and claims being made and I can’t remember who is making them.

Right now the government is “shut down” although it really isn’t. What is a fact, however, is that Congress still gets paid but members of the Armed Forces don’t. That flat ass sucks!!!

This is disgusting!! And disappointing and I don’t care which party you ascribe to. Both are wrong and neither are doing what we sent them to Washington to do.

Artificial Intelligence (AI)
Technically we already have Artificial Intelligence in process. You just have to look at virtually every one in DC. They’ve managed to dumb-down the very concept of intelligence making it artificial. That having been said, however, Artificial Intelligence in computing is becoming a VERY big deal and could well become the savior or the killer of our world.

I’m hearing AI being compared with the invention of fire, the wheel, etc. in terms of what it will do for society. The concept of computers, and, therefore machines, being able to think and reason for themselves has been the basis for a lot of science fiction movies (iRobot, Terminator, etc.) but it is now a very real thing and developing rapidly. The lightning is definitely out of the bottle. There were two rather disturbing things about AI that have come up recently.

First and mildly disturbing was the announcement by China that it is their national goal to become the world leaders in AI. That one statement sounded the opening gun for the AI Race and everyone will be doubling down on something that could easily end civilization (yes, I’ve seen the Terminators too many times.)

Second, and definitely something to think about, was the report that just for the fun of it, two experimenters sent up an eBay sort of face-off where two computers were negotiating to buy something. They were given basic parameters and the two computers started going at one another. In a matter of only a few minutes the computers started talking in a coded language no one involved recognized or could figure out. Even more intriguing/frightening, they somehow arrived at a price. And continued talking with one another in their own language. It was scary enough that those involved unplugged them.

The concept of computers/machines developing self-consciousness and the ability to think and reason has good and possibly really bad consequences. The problem is, you won’t know if it is bad until it has already gone bad and at that point the computers will be far enough ahead of us that they can’t be unplugged. If you haven’t seen iRobot, don’t. Put it against where we are right now in regards to AI and, if you have any imagination at all, it’ll scare the hell out of you.

The point at which computers equal man is called “singularity” and apparently that point is in sight.

An ARF World
Within in the model airplane society, there’s a category of kits called ARF, Almost Ready to Fly. They come completely covered and ready to be bolted together and the radios installed. The same thing is true of the sport aviation, experimental market. The homebuilt kits have become so well designed and thought out that the concept of actually scratch building an airplane from nothing is alien to the majority of builders. Same thing within hotrodding. Rather than pulling a hulk out of a ditch (as per my Roadster) and scrounging or fabricating parts to make it into a car, you just go on the internet and buy whatever component you want, ready to go. We call those 1-800-hotrods.

You can buy steel bodies for most of the Fords from 1927 (Model T) through 1940 (skipping a few years). Complete frames with full independent suspension and motor mounts for anything you can think of are available for practically every car into the 60’s. Think how complicated a frame would be that a ’57 Chevy body or something similar can be simply bolted to and a new motor installed. Very complex jigging and manufacturing involved!

Practically all of society has adapted an ARF mentality. Whether it is trips abroad, clothes, food, whatever, increasingly people want everything to be plug and play. No one thinks about taking nothing and making something out of it. Imagination and creativity appear to be dying before our very eyes.

Traditional Hobbies are Dead or Dying

A follow-on to the above, the traditional hobby market, model airplanes, cars, boats, trains, etc. is on the edge of disappearing. A few months ago the oldest, biggest hobby distributor in the country filed Chapter 11. This because the entire market is aging out. Kids don’t build model airplanes any more, just like you see very few of them at fly-ins or car meets. The predominant color in the hobby world is gray. It’s only the gray dogs who put their time into whatever the activity is. Kids just aren’t part of the equation any more. Yes, all of it is expensive and some is difficult to get into, still the interest just isn’t there. I can blame it on computers and malls, but it’s more than that. There is something fundamentally missing in the younger generations, when it comes to doing things with their hands, and I haven’t a clue what that is. I only know it’s sad.

And, on that happy note, have a good week. I’ll be late again next week because we’re going to see my son and his family in NJ for the weekend. Think of that concept: a guy from Arizona voluntarily going to NJ in January. It’s frightening what we’ll do for love. bd

PS
It’s going on a month and we’re still coughing. Do what you can to avoid getting it. And a plane ride to the East coast in the dead of winter isn’t the way you avoid it.

7Jan 18 - Survived. Barely!
Yeehah! Yesterday we both felt, and began to act human again. After two straight weeks of living as if we might die, suddenly, we’re not totally well, but we’re not on the edge of dying, either. So, life is good. When the doc said this could last two weeks, I didn’t believe her. But it did.

This whole sick-thing has been an education, if nothing else because, for the first time in my life, I had a hard time writing. It was as if half of the brain wasn’t in the game. More important, I didn’t want to work. Not once in my life have I not been able to motivate myself to get my work done, even if it meant I had a roll of toilet paper on the desk and blew my nose or coughed and hacked between every sentence. That part of my consciousness seemed to run on automatic pilot. Not this time. And it hasn’t totally returned, so this is going to be a shortened Thinking Out Loud, backed up by an old Grassroots.

One thing that did happen is we made up a list of provisions that we should always have in the house should this kind of thing happen again. Or in case we happen to get old.

Another thing that happened is we discovered television. I guarantee I haven’t watched this much television since Kennedy was killed. Or 9/11. What was different this time was that we weren’t locked into the networks. With all the cable channels and the ability to record, we rediscovered things like Walker: Texas Ranger and Gun Smoke. I was surprised to find them as entertaining as we did back in the day. By recording on different channels at the same time, we managed to put together enough John Waynes to last for an entire day and a half. I wonder what happened to the 4 ¾”, single action Colt with the yellowed ivory grips that he carried in a lot of his movies. An afternoon of the Duke makes any sickness almost tolerable. Sure beats the hell out of being too sick to read and just laying around groaning.

Anyway, we’re a week into 2018 and the national/international news is as chaotic as ever but I predict the year will be a good one. For one thing, I’m certain we’re not going to come to blows with North Korea. But, the national political stuff is hyper volatile with one side or the other constantly stoking the fire, so anything could happen there. However, as I told Maria, our house cleaner/friend, her daughter, a dreamer who has gone through med school and is now in her residency, is NOT going to be forced to leave. If nothing else is accomplished this year, I think the DACA thing will get worked out. Which is a good thing. bd

GRASSROOTS
Fast Forward, Please
Sept, 2001

(17 years later, it's interesting to see what was going through my mind at the time)

As this was being written, it is September 11 plus one week. The ruins of the World Trade Center are still smoldering and an aerial armada of potential retaliation is streaming across to Air Force bases in the Far East. As I sit here struggling to find words that won’t sound trivial, I know for a fact that no matter what I say or think, by the time these words are read, several months from now, they will be dated. So much will have happened to change our world that it is frustrating to even guess at those changes.

Perhaps it is the sure knowledge that “something” is going to happen, but we don’t know what, that is making so much of the current situation untenable. The list of possible incidents/actions/outcomes is long and maddening. However, when these words finally find their way into print, most of our concerns will be history. We will know much more, when I next read these paragraphs, than we do now.

It’s not that often in history that a single event casts such a long shadow that an entire civilization strains to see ahead to guess the outcome. I was born shortly after Pearl Harbor, so that event didn’t imprint itself on my mind as being that kind of event. During my lifetime, the momentous happenings that call forth images of where we all were at that exact moment include only an assassination and a man in a bulbous suit making a giant leap for mankind. But, as momentous as those events may have been, they didn’t carry with them the endless “what if” scenarios that are attached to the sudden introduction of terrorism into the fabric of daily life in American. We know our lives have been changed. We just don’t know how. In the months ahead, we’ll have a better handle on what the effects will be. Now, however, we just wish we could fast forward into the future and see exactly what lies there.

Right now limited VFR flying has returned, but my part of aviation, flight training is suspect because we were made unwitting accomplices in what is turning out to be the single most dastardly act in mankind’s history. Some of this came close to touching me personally. It turns out one of the terrorists was trained right next door to me and I undoubtidly flew the pattern with him. The thought of being within sight of a man who is willing to sacrifice his own life and thousands of others for some obscure political/religious agenda is mind numbing. If I had known he was ahead of me in the pattern, would I have been willing to sacrifice my own life and take him out of the sky in an Arizona version of a Kamikaze attack? I’d like to think so, but I don’t know.

Another of the terrorists took training at a school operated by old college flight school friends of mine. It sickens me to think that the brethren of flight instructors were duped into helping develop the essential tools for mass murder.

Flight training, as defined by the FAA and the world in general, is simply teaching people to fly. What goes unnoticed is that for many of us, flight instructing is a way of life. It isn’t something we do, but what we are. Yes, there are thousands of instructors who are simply transiting through the seemingly obligatory CFI thing to pad their log books as they lunge towards the first rung of the airline ladder. However, there are also thousands of instructors who for some unknown reason have decided that this is what they are going to do with their lives. Every kind of job pays more. Every job includes more recognition. Every job has less overall aggravation and responsibility. So, what keeps us coming back?

Flight instruction, if it is done right, is the best combination of a calling and a challenge. The attraction is similar to what makes school teachers what they are. They too could find better jobs but those other jobs wouldn’t scratch an essential itch. A good instructor HAS to instruct. We are almost driven to teach. Something about the process of passing along hard-won knowledge is satisfying enough to ignore all the downsides to the career. Also, as the instructor builds hours, he or she builds a psychological understanding of the cockpit environment that continues to increase until they realize that the more they instruct, the less they feel they know.

I’ve been instructing for 36 years, not a long time compared to many, but long enough to give me a perspective. At about the twenty year mark I was thinking that I’d seen it all and nothing would surprise me. I thought I had my instructional road show down pat and it wouldn’t change. But, I was wrong. Increasingly I find myself discovering new and wonderful things about flying I didn’t know before. Correspondingly, I’ve discovered new and wonderful ways to get a point across to my students more clearly and I’m doing a better job of understanding each student’s needs. I used to think that instructing would get static and boring, but instead it has become more dynamic and exciting than ever.

It is this thought pattern that has me looking down the road wondering exactly what the FAA has in mind for flight instructors. Regardless of how it is phrased, when their grand pronouncements say “flight training” they are actually saying “flight instructors.” We are the hands of the body labeled “flight training.” I wish I know now, what you readers already know. I wish I knew what they are going to require of flight instructors.

Underlying all of the vague suspicion pointed at the flight training community is an unspoken assumption that we don’t know a possible danger, when we see one. In the past, as recently as several weeks ago, that was true because that particular danger hadn’t yet manifested itself. Today, however, we all have our antennae up. Unfortunately, there are going to be incidents of inadvertent cultural profiling by instructors who refuse to fly with Far Eastern appearing individuals. In the short term, that can’t be avoided, but at least the FAA and the nation won’t have to worry. We are aware of the problem and are looking for the bad guys too.

Regardless of what the FAA implements, every policy and procedure will depend on the individual instructor to make it happen. Now that we know what to look for, don’t let anyone kid you: there will be no more terrorists trained by American instructors and it makes no difference what new, cumbersome rules are instituted. We’re going to be safeguarding our little corner of America because it’s the right thing to do, not because it’s a new FAR.

31 Dec 17 - 2018: The Germs are Winning This one
It is New Years Eve day. Mid-morning. And I’m not convinced anything I write is going to make any sense because the flu has run away with a good portion of my brain. However, what is left has made some observations that have previously escaped me and are worth discussing.

First, from what the news has to say, I’m guessing that about a third of you receiving this have, or already had, the flu. Something like 36 states say it is rampaging through their area. So at least you can identify with what I’m feeling. First, I’m amazed how fast it hit me five days ago. In the morning I felt normal, mid-afternoon I could tell something was changing. By dinner time I was absolutely coughing my guts out with my brain threatening to extrude out of my ears with every cough.

And, before you ask the question: Yes, we did have our flu shots.

A little context, which I’m certain I’ve mentioned before: when I get any illness that includes coughing, I know I’m in for a bad period. I’m the only person I know who has actually cracked ribs coughing. I’ve done it twice. So, when I say I’m coughing my guts out, I am. Violent beyond imagination. That first night was the worst I’ve ever experienced: No more than 10 seconds between spasmodic, long-term coughing bouts for the entire night. No let up. My doctor was booked forever but I made it into an Urgent Care facility the next day and the doctor said the flu was the most widespread and vicious as she had ever seen (she looked to be about 18, so…). Her calendar was packed with touristas. I pitied the thousands of folks who had come to Phoenix to escape winter only to get violently ill.

The upside here is that I’ve lost six pounds and Marlene has lost ten. And we’re still basically down for the count.

Marlene had come down with it a couple days before I did so, this morning, after five days of us being barely able to care for ourselves I found some interesting thoughts roaming through my mind. First, it should be noted, that in our nearly 30 years together, this is the first time we’ve both been sick at the same time. Usually, one of us (most often me) would still be functioning and could keep the boat afloat and off the rocks. This time the USS Davisson, was totally adrift. After the first three days, I regained a little footing after coughing my way through a shopping spree at Walgreens, where I bought everything they had that looked like it would subdue coughing and congestion. Even rat poison was beginning to look inviting.

One of the good, but not necessarily pleasant, things to come out of this is that it’s not until both in a household are down that you fully realize how dependent we are on one another. That’s not just us. That’s in any partnership. But, this time it happened at a time in our lives when part of our daily mindset is focused on our future. How many more years can I work 70-80 hrs a week and shrug it off like it’s nothing? How many more oddball ideas can I come up with and put into print? How much longer will my brain be capable of orchestrating the Pitts Rudder Shuffle and stay ahead of a student who seems bent on killing my airplane? All of those kinds of thoughts rained down upon me, when I realized how easily a couple can become helpless when serious illness, or something as simple as age, erodes their self-sufficiency? I looked around at the last few days and realized we may have been living our future! This is what old age can look like. This is a pretty damn scary feeling! And depressing! Just another thing to be planned for.

Some of the planning goes back to my age-old discussion about the dozens of projects we all know I’ll never get finished. So, I sent out a feeler this morning to see if there’s any interest in my artillery piece project: Field Gun, 3.2”, Model 1885. Something I thought I’d never do. Wheels are finished, rest needs serious restoration but I have all the parts. Bring a trailer.

3.2 Gun
It will look like this, when finished. It's a breech loader but uses powder bags.

At one point, the two of us were laying back in our favorite chairs, hand-in-hand covered in blankets, watching TV, floating in and out of consciousness. Right then, the thought went through my mind that we should probably tell someone that, if they don’t hear from us in the next 36 hours, send the coroner and bring body bags so the mess doesn’t kill the value of the house.

And that’s the way 2018 will be coming in at the Davisson Household.

Ya’ll have a good one! bd

PS
I probably shouldn't blog while running a temperature. Sorry!

23 Dec 17 - Bah, Humbug and Other Christmas Sentiments
For unknown reasons, I’m a long, long way from being in the Christmas spirit. Not sure why. Just not. Some of it may be because my family is spread coast to coast. Some is because Christmas is on Monday, which means you show up for work on Tuesday with a food hangover and don’t get to wind down slowly. And some is because we’ve had overly cool weather (for us, a high of 65 is close to being intolerable), which makes me miserable.

This morning I was looking at the weather for the day on my phone while I was taking care of a morning ritual and couldn’t believe what our week was going to look like. Damn! Enough is enough. But, my trusty iPhone weather service said today would be in the high 30’s, which isn’t unheard of here but is very rare. Then I noticed the entire week was going to have lows in the high teens. Double Damn!!

I’ve only seen a hard freeze, in the ‘20s, three nights since I’ve been here. 25 years! And they’re talking about six days of high TEENS at night! 30’s during the day! This is going to be a city-wide plumbing disaster! My mind was racing as I was trying to remember where I put the little heaters I have for the water pipes that are exposed outside the house. DAMN! I couldn’t remember where one of them was. My day was going to be dominated by prepping the house for those kinds of temps, which wouldn’t be easy.

A little background, which I’m certain I’ve mentioned before: it is standard practice throughout Phoenix, especially in older homes like mine (1974), for water lines to be exposed. My main water line comes out of the ground a foot in front of the house and then goes inside a foot up the wall. Two foot of exposed copper piping! And my house is better than most. Many have water lines running across their flat roofs. When we had the three nights of hard freezes about ten years ago, every plumber in town was driving a Mercedes two weeks later.

According to my smart phone, we were going to have five or six straight nights in the high teens. I was going to have to build tents over my exposed water lines (house and irrigation system) and put 100 Watt bulbs in drop lights in them. And leave the water slowly running at night. Our vegetation was going to be slaughtered. Bougainvillea can’t begin to survive in this and we have lots of it. Palm trees will be severely damaged. I know I’ve said it before but, Damn!

Then I looked at the top of the phone screen—I had accidentally switched it to Newark. Went to PHX and our weekday highs are going to be low 70s, night lows, high 40’s.

I just remembered why I love it here so much.

That two-minute scare took the edge off my non-Christmas mood, but I’m still in it. Christmas without young kids and family doesn’t actually suck, but it leans in that direction. We’re splitting a step son with his fiancé’s family, which is just part of living, so the “family” part of the day is seriously truncated. Basically, it’s just Marlene and our furry kids, which we love more than is logical.

Adding to this is I’m about caroled-out. I can’t find a channel on my shop radio that’s still playing old-time rock and roll or country. Just carols. That’s the best part of the day after Christmas. Radio will get back to business. However, someone forwarded me a link of a musical genre I didn’t even know existed: worship bands. And, while I’m certain some readers are going to be put off by their rendition of Little Drummer Boy, I’m really loving it! If you watch this, go to some of their other videos in the side menu. To me, it’s a really enjoyable way of modernizing religion and still getting the message across. And this is from a non-believer! https://youtu.be/5l1CS0Jhk90

Then, for a change of pace in a non-Christmas-holy-crap way, go here. This I know you’ll enjoy. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=txiR7oEVGd0

Have a merry, happy and healthy Christmas. I know that’s a platitude, but I seriously mean it! bd

17 Dec 3 - Rainy Day Frustrations
Right now it’s 0515 Sunday morning and it’s raining. Rained all night. And it’s cold (for AZ). 48 degrees. I opened the garage door intent on stealing a few hours from my responsible-life and investing it in my irresponsible-life by working on The Roadster. That, however, ain’t gonna happen. Maybe.

I’m still paddling around in a sea of deadlines and we’re shipping Flight Journal this week. This means “frenzy” is the operative scheduling word until we ship on Thursday. However, I have it all under control courtesy of a leaking propeller that has to come off, which means my little red playmate can’t leave the ground for a week. This gives me about 25 extra hours during the week to take care of business. This is HUGE! So, I can screw off this morning and not cause any major scheduling problems. But, will I?

Right now, The Roadster is up on jack stands just inside the garage door. So, it can’t easily be moved. During last month’s work session, I wrestled (literally) a leaf out of the rear spring and now have to replace the electric fuel pump and rewire it. This requires removing the roll bar braces (done) so I can remove the trunk floor (done) to gain access to the fuel pump wiring (not done). I know—too many details of interest only to me, but to do all of this I have to work through the open trunk. Last time I worked on it, it was about 80 degrees out and sunny so the garage door was open and I could stand in it working on the car. It was pleasant. Right now, it is anything but pleasant and I can’t leave the garage door open because rain will get on unpainted metal and there’s not enough room to work with it closed. Buggers! This kind of gloomy weather reminds me of why I hated living in NJ. I border on being morose on days like this.

So, here I sit, more than a little frustrated with my mind wandering in circles. One of those circles keeps coming back to me sitting in front of the TV last night watching John Wayne’s 1950’s movie, Red River. I was certain I’d seen every one of his bigger movies, but this was as if I was seeing it for the first time. It’s a good movie! Walter Brennan, Montgomery Clift, Noah Berry, both Harry Careys, Jr. and Sr. (fixtures on any of the Duke’s films). It was old home week and I found myself sinking into the chair, as enjoyment forced me to relax, which I hadn’t realized that I hadn’t done for some time. My wife is having minor blood pressure problems, so, when I came to bed, the high-tech BP machine was between us and just for the helluvit, I plugged myself into it. 115/70! Lower than usual. Did it twice, same numbers! I guess going back to a simpler time for a few hours has its benefits.

I’m positive that Marlene and I spend too much time watching the news. And I don’t think it’s healthy. Usually it’s Fox, but we do networks and CNN periodically just to remind ourselves why we don’t watch them but we do want the other points of view. Basically, there is absolutely nothing uplifting or remotely enjoyable on any news station. “The Five” on Fox comes closest to that because there’s so much sometimes-entertaining back and forth banter and Juan Williams, a staunch liberal, is there to let the other side be heard. He doesn’t hold back, which is a good thing.

We know it’s not good for our blood pressure, but we still seem drawn to keeping abreast of what’s going on, and, what is noticeable, is the way that news coverage seems to run in cycles.

There is the Russian collusion cycle that seems to be losing steam as it is replaced by the OMG-look-at-what-the-FBI-is-doing cycle. Every bit of frat-boy-like behavior (Al Franken, one of my least favorite persons) is lumped in with deserve-to-go-to-jail behavior (Matt Lauer, Harvey Wienstein) as it sweeps the nation under the ratings-sensationalist flag. The liberals even pummeled Matt Damon, himself a hyper liberal, when he pointed out the error of equating a pat on the butt with out-and-out rape. Trump always leads the news cycles, which are usually tied to his often-unnecessary tweets and the palace intrigue within the White House. Considering how many big political guns are constantly firing at him, I have no idea how 1: he gets any sleep and 2: how he gets as much done as he does.

With all the foregoing soaking up news time, North Korea is mostly forgotten until the troll that is Kim Jung Un (actually, that’s being unkind to trolls), decides he’s being left out of the lime light so he fires another missile. He’s our number one, most serious problem, yet the possibility of having stolen a kiss in high school making headlines has Congressmen giving up their seats. It’s nuts.

In the meantime, I haven’t seen one single news story about how Texas, Florida and the Islands are recovering from the storms. Right across the board, the media, the government and, it seems, the population, really suck at setting priorities. bd

PS
Forget everything I said. The sun just came out and I'm going out in the shop. :-)

3 Dec 3 - We Ain't Nothin' Special: Just Robots Within Robots
Fasten your seatbelts, folks. And put on your thinking caps (I’m going to prove we aren’t actually thinking) and read the following essay http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-39482345 Don’t try to continue reading Thinking Out Loud without soaking it in or nothing I say will make any sense, assuming it ever does.

The opening line of the essay says, “The cognitive scientist Daniel Dennet believes our brains are machines made of billions of tiny ‘robots’ – our neurons, or brain cells.” So, the author asks, “Is the human mind really that special?” This is an intriguing thought (or internal robotic reaction. Having read the essay, I’m not sure which).

The single most depressing part of this essay is that being an engineer, both at heart and by training, is that I agree with Dennet. What he is saying is “The total is the sum of the parts,” and, if each of the parts (a neuron) is capable of some level of internal activity and control, we are just a very complicated machine comprised of trillions of little bits of learned information that is being carried around in a not very reliable chassis.

For most of my life, I’ve held that there is such a thing as “perceived Intelligence” which is what my daughter used to see in me before she became a self-contained movie mogul. When she’d ask me a business question and I’d give an answer and, when it proved to be right, she’d say, “Oh, dad, you’re so smart.” When she’d say that, I’d reply that what she was seeing as intelligence, is actually just “long term trend analysis:” After you’ve seen the same thing 19 times, you have a pretty good idea what’s going to happen the 20th time. That is how Dennet says our brain works and each of our bazillion neurons has been learning from our experiences since our chimpanzee days.

An observant human being catalogs what he has seen and, with knowing it, recognizes the trends and, when the time is right, he will recall the results and guide himself accordingly. This, according to Dennet, is essentially what each neuron has been doing for millions of years and it has made mental evolution akin to a series of hard drive and operating systems upgrades. With all of that trial and error and trend analysis our brain takes on what appears to be an ability to actually “think”. However, it is really just us using the experiences and stored observations subliminally passed down by our ancestors to apply logic to many situations. This is Dennet’s theory boiled down to coloring book level. And I don’t think it is off the wall at all.

While all of this is probably/maybe true, I also think that there are shades of gray in this concept in terms of the degree to which it applies to individuals. I think some brains are more observant than others. There are bound to be groups of brain cells floating around out there that don’t see or retain the trends as well as others. This, is why we have so many gray dogs who haven’t learned crap while aging. As I’ve said before, it’s quite easy to live a lifetime and not learn much. Just look around and you’ll see lots of proof of that.

A problem in all of this is that there’s a “something” about humans that makes us different from most other organisms. It’s interesting how our collective chimp-to-modern day experiences can be combined to generate emotions like hate and love, charity and greed. It’s even more interesting to see how the collection of our neurons’ past can result in such different individuals. Some of us are cute and lovable, others are jerks.

There’s probably lots about Dennet’s theory that I don’t truly understand. I guess some of my neurons didn’t get the right experience along the way to give me that little bit of perceived intelligence. Oh, well. I can still fly better than a chimp. Most of them, anyway. bd

24 Nov 17 - Guilt, Blogs and Grassroots
It’s the day after Turkey Day, usually labeled Black Friday, for what reason I don’t know. I’m so far outside of our cultural mainstream, I routinely miss some of the more obvious stuff. However, what I’m feeling right now is NOT the usual Turkey Day food hang-over. I’m feeling guilt. I’m feeling bad that I haven’t been able to attend to Thinking Out Loud as I usually try to. But, I have a fix. And an explanation.

First, an explanation: I’m experiencing an explosion in every revenue-producing aspect of my life. For the last two months and for the next eight months, I routinely have a day or two a month where I have four to six articles due on the same day. This is unheard-of in the world of article writers (I think). And this is going to be the second highest flying year I’ve ever had, so I spend five or six hours a day at the airport, seven days a week. I’m getting all the work done but it means my feet hit the floor at 0400 and I don’t log off until 9-10 pm. Again, seven days a week.

On the one hand, it slows all my personal projects, including Thinking Out Loud, which I complain about. But, on the other, it keeps beans on the table and seems to hold Old Man Age at bay. Pushing my brain and body has very positive effects but I can’t allow very much white space to intrude on my schedules. I do, however, purposely log off for a few hours every couple weeks and let my brain coast (more on that later).

Now, the proposed fix: Yesterday I was digging through my computer looking for something and ran across a folder marked Grassroots and, just for the helluvit, I popped it open. For 46 years, I wrote and published a column beginning in Air Progress magazine in 1969, then it moved to Private Pilot and then Plane and Pilot. Last year the new PnP editor decided he didn’t like my writing (I was wondering how long it would be before someone discovered I’m not actually a writer) so Grassroots was dropped and I disappeared from the masthead. The net result of that 46 years of monthly columns is that I have a hundred or so of the more recent ones, starting in the ‘90s, in a folder on this computer.

Some of these Grassroots are on Airbum.com, but a lot aren’t. So, I’m proposing that on those occasions where I just can’t take the 3-4 hours needed to crank out a blog, I slug in one of those Grassroots. One is pasted on the end of this Thinking Out Loud.

Now about forcing some white space into a clogged schedule: last Saturday morning at around 0600, I was hard at work grinding out something for some magazine but part of my brain was already driving to the east side of town. I knew the street rods and customs were already lining up to wind their way into the annual fall Good Guys Rod and Custom show at Scottsdale. Something over 3,000 of my favorite kinds of cars would be there. But I wouldn’t be. I couldn’t afford the time. This even though I knew my right, rear jeans pocket held three free tickets and a vendor parking pass courtesy of my buddy who is a major manufacture of chassis and was exhibiting.

I successfully ignored the tickets until about 0730. Then, the Screw-it Alarm went off in my head: I called two of my good friends, and we met at the airport next to the car grounds, jumped in my 17-year-old Maxima (Marlene’s old one) and proceeded to immerse ourselves in car heaven. Truth is, I actually go to Good Guys for the huge swap mart and I scored a couple of old spoked rims identical to those on my newest project, the four-cylinder race car we call The Banger (four-banger engine). They are 19” Model A hubs re-spoked to 16” rims. I thought the four on the Banger were one-offs, but apparently not. Then we had to carry them to the car!

We were joined by another of our friends and the non-stop ribbing, insults and guy-stuff did a lot to revitalized my brain, that had become seriously overwhelmed. There’s nothing like roaming through acres of fantastic and largely unexpected cars with irreverant good friends to scrap the crud off of a soon-to-be-stagnant brain.

Anyway, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it. Enjoy the Grassroots below and drop me a note at buddairbum@cox.net to let me know if you like the idea of running the old columns from time to time. bd

GRASSROOTS
Dreams:
They only die, when we let them
(From 2012)

I just discovered an important fact of life: dreams don’t die. And, if they do, it’s our own fault. We kill them through inattention. I realized that when I met Lloyd Baker this week. I’d like to tell you where Lloyd lives but he flashed through my life so quickly that I missed all but the most important facts about him: his name, his age, and his dreams. I tried to track him down before I wrote this, but couldn’t. So, Lloyd, if you see this, give me another call. It’s time to go flying.

Lloyd has called me probably half a dozen times over the past year. Each time, the years in his voice made me think that he was mostly calling to have someone to talk to. That his words about buying an airplane and needing my flight training were just that: words. Or so I thought. I enjoyed the short conversations, each of which ended with, “I’ll be seeing you.” But, I knew that would never be. I get dreamer calls like that more often than you’d imagine. And I welcome every one of them. Then I got yesterday’s call.

It was Lloyd again. I knew it as soon as he uttered the first syllable. Then he said he was in town. And I was incredulous. He hadn’t given me any warning at all and he’d flown in specifically to see me. And to do some flying. I instantly put him in a different category. If he was a dreamer, he was someone who acted on his dreams. And now he was on my doorstep. What to do?

A fantastically patient young airline customer service agent came on the line and it turns out that he had come in the night before and went down to the main airline airport, Sky Harbor, the 5th busiest airport in the US, thinking I was based there. I only got part of the story, but she told me that Lloyd was asking around the airport for me and she called for him to find out where I was based. I’m at Scottsdale, diagonally across the city, from Sky Harbor. She said, he’d get him a taxi and I told her to make sure she told Lloyd’s driver to drop him off at the Main Terminal, not one of the FBO’s at SDL.

I didn’t give much thought to him until about the fifth touch and go that morning and I saw a slim figure in a white shirt, sleeves rolled down and buttoned, fedora pulled down over his eyes standing at the end of the row of hangars. I knew instantly who it was, but couldn’t imagine how he got there. SDL is locked down tighter than an auditor’s heart but he’d somehow found someone to take him out to my hangar complex. Then he found his way to the runway side of the hangars and spent most of an hour watching us ricochet off the runway. I later found that the taxi had dropped him off on the wrong side of the airport but somehow he’d gotten someone to take him to the other side of what is a major airport AND take him through the security gates to where I saw him. I had to admire him. He was hardcore tenacity personified.

As I climbed down off the wing and stuck out my hand, he grasped it with both hands and I found myself looking into a pair of rock steady eyes that absolutely defied age. He stood straight. His walk was a quick gait, with just a little spring to it. There was no hint of what I knew had to be at least 80 years stacked up behind those eyes. And he didn’t find it unusual that he had made his way to Phoenix (from Arkansas, I later found out) by himself and, even more remarkably, had figured out how to get where he wanted to go on a high-security airport with no problem. I can absolutely guarantee that the majority of folks reading this couldn’t have done the same thing. Like I said, tenacity personified.

We went to lunch and talked about airplanes, his early jobs traveling for various aerospace companies and how he thought he wanted to buy an airplane like mine, but he wanted to fly mine to make sure. I sat back and marveled. Although I didn’t know his exact age, I knew it was long past the point that most people settle for what is, rather than dreaming what might be. But, he was definitely dealing with the future and what he wanted to do with it. However, when I asked why he didn’t call and let me know he was coming, he said, “At this age, I don’t schedule things, I just do them to make sure they actually get done.”

Finally his age came out: he’s an incredible 95 years old! That’s right…95 years old! And he flew half way across the country and dealt with the vagaries of finding his way around the big city to accomplish what he’d come for. More important, he’s still dreaming. He still has goals.

I have to say that I was a more than just a little flattered that Lloyd had gone to so much trouble to make me a part of his dreams. Unfortunately, I was scheduled to take my airplane to another airport for maintenance, but my hangarmate, Ron, took him up in his S-2C Pitts (a real hotrod). Ron said Lloyd absolutely loved it. Plus, they did more than their share of cavorting (loops, rolls, snaps, etc.). Lloyd apparently came down with an excited smile on his face and the dream of doing more of the same was stronger than ever.

As the miles pile up and the gray takes hold of us, it is so easy to forget what it was that made us young in the first place. It was not the small number of years behind us or our slim, strong bodies. We were young because of the way we looked at our future. It was unlimited. We knew anything was possible and we had time to do it. But, then, one day you look around and realize that there is more sand in the bottom of the hourglass than the top and our future looks neither as bright nor as inviting as it once did. At that point, we start living the life we have and don’t think past that to what, or who, we would like to be or what we would like to accomplish. We stop dreaming. However, as Lloyd clearly shows, that isn’t necessary. As long as our minds can conjure those dreams into existence, there is no reason to stop dreaming. And no reason not to act on those dreams.

So, now I’m having trouble prioritizing all those dreams that Lloyd’s unexpected visit reawakened. Suddenly, it’s fun being me again. I have an unending list of things to look forward to and Lloyd’s next call is one of them.

8 Oct 17 - Micky and Bangers
It’s been a while since I’ve thrown words on these pages and I don’t even know where to start, so much has happened. Some good things happened in my life. Some bad things happened in all our lives. First the good things.

Disney Gets It Right
I did something entirely out of character: I went to visit my daughter in LA alone (Marlene was/is recovering from a ligament separation in a foot) and we went to Disneyland. D/L was in full Halloween Freak-out Mode and it was terrific! My daughter set up a guide for us so we didn’t have to wait on rides and everything was smooth as can be. The two granddaughters, Alice (7) and Rosie (2.5) were absolutely amazing and it was fun being part of the action.

Just going through the gate, I could feel my brain open a dump valve at the bottom letting every negative thought I had drain out. The problems of the world disappeared for the better part of a day.

ßI was supposed to drive home that afternoon (383 miles), which is typical for me, but we got home late and I was pretty beat up. So, I got as far as Palm Springs, three hours, and holed up, only to find I had left my bag and computer case in the parking lot at my hotel. Called them and had to drive back in, the three worse hours of traffic in the US, the next morning and then back out headed home. A 6.5 hour trip became a 12+ hour trip. But, it was worth every second of it to be with the California Davisson Clan. Love her and those kids!

Doing Another Stupid Thing
Although I had sworn I wasn’t going to add any more major projects to my to-do list, I knew I was lying at the time. I’m too compulsive and out of control to actually do that. Especially since one of my dream projects was out there staring me in the face: a 1930’s open wheel dirt track racer. The staring in the face thing changed dramatically this weekend, when my friend, Ron Johnson, showed up from Rockford, IL with said dirt track car on a trailer and it now sits in the shop where the Honda sat. The ’90 Honda (never to be sold) is wrapped up in its personal cocoon in the drive way.

First a note: the roadster is on the street and going through the inevitable tweaking necessary to get it “right” and making everything work as advertised. All very minor stuff like getting the generator to charge right, tune the carbs, etc. It drives fine, but I don’t take it farther away from home than I’m willing to walk at the moment. My goal is to get it so I can treat it as a “normal” car and take it anywhere in town. Then, I’ll yank the engine out so I can paint the firewall then complete it. It only needs upholstery and paint to be finished. With a little concentration, I think I can do that in a year (he says with great hope in his voice).

Another note: I’ve promised myself not to do anything that’s either time or money consuming on the racer until The Roadster is totally finished. Totally!

Some background race car history: During the ‘30s and into the ‘40s there were only two types of dirt track cars: Midgets and Big Cars. The Sprints, etc. come on the scene after WW II. The difference between the Sprints and the Big Cars is that the Big Cars had transmissions like a regular car where the Sprints only have “crash boxes.” They were either in or out of gear. This racer, hence forth referred to as The Banger, has a regular three-speed transmission. This is important.

Banger
Picture sitting at a stop light and a gray dog in this pulls up beside you! I LOVE IT! It'll have the same red and black paint scheme my Pitts has.

The Banger is going to be restored to racing status with a few minor changes: it’ll have small head and tail lights and a license plate holder in the rear (AZ doesn’t have front plates). I’m going to put it on the street. The engine is a Model A Ford four-banger, as many of them were in the day, and shows signs of maybe not needing rebuilding. But, I won’t know until pulling it apart, but with the head off, the cross hatching in the bore looks fresh, so…. It turns and is possibly the simplest engine on the road, so, I’m going to lube it up with Mystery Oil, make sure it’s free and ignore it until ready to work on it.

It’s a much simpler project than The Roadster, so hopefully it won’t take 60 years like The Roadster has.

Vegas
There’s nothing I can add to the massive amount of media coverage to come out of this. However, we’re a long way away from understanding why the shooter did what he did. It appears the planning leading up to this was long and intense, so he had plenty of time to re-consider what he was doing. I’ve heard lots of theories, including a drug interaction break down (go to, https://www.facebook.com/notes/john-ringo/a-theory-on-las-vegas/10155111388257055/) but nothing I’ve heard sits right with me. My BS meter hasn’t come off the peg since this thing happened. ISIS has claimed credit three times, which is probably just them trying to take credit for something they didn’t do, but the vote is still out on that too. We’re going to learn a lot in coming weeks.

It took about five minutes for gun control to enter the fray. The bodies hadn’t even cooled. But, I can understand why folks on the side did that. This thing is so horrific we’re all looking for causes and cures, but I’m afraid this is one of those cases that neither exist. Yes, I’m for regulating Bump Stocks. They have almost no accuracy and are essentially a “range toy” but I can see looking into them. The kill-shots would have been higher if he’d had a better, more accurate, sighting system (a scope) and had just fired it in normal mode without the bump stock. In fact, if he’d been sitting up there with a very slightly modified bolt action and a good scope, there would have been fewer shots fired but they would have been much more accurate. But, I can think of no scenario that would totally prevent this. This guy was so methodical that even engaging in Monday Morning Quarterbacking, I can’t see a way he could have been caught. That thought alone is incredibly depressing.

BTW – if the entire crowd had been carrying hand guns, not a single thing would have changed. Nothing. They were all helpless.

So, looking back over the last couple of weeks, I prefer think of Mickey and Bangers. They make me smile. The other stuff definitely doesn’t.

Incidentally, have you noticed how little North Korea has been talked about in the last few weeks. Too much news covered them up.bd

10 Sept 17 - Surviving Blowhards
This is the third straight weekend that environmental disasters have dominated the airways and we’re barely half way through the hurricane season. Then, of course, there are the ancillary tornadoes hurricanes toss off like weeds growing around the edge of our yard. All of this got me thinking about my version of a house for all seasons and locations.

I’ve never lived in hurricane country, but I was born and raised in Nebraska and Oklahoma so tornadoes, epic thunder storms and killer hail are just part of my childhood. I’ve seen far more piles of kindling that used to be some’s home-sweet-home than I care to think about. And I’ve had a house in mind that I’d build, should I ever yield to the temptation to move back to Oklahoma. Or Texas.

Here in AZ, we really don’t have much in the way of natural disasters. The closest we come are forest and desert fires. And don’t think a desert fire is something like a front yard grass fire. It’s not. It’s a wall of flame 20-feet high moving faster than the average man can run. But, with the right equipment (airplanes, etc), they’re relatively easy to contained.

When I think of places like Oklahoma, or Florida, parts of Texas and other similar places. I think of Moore, Oklahoma which was only a few miles from where I went to college (OU, Boomer-sooner, boomer-sooner, yada, yada). I knew Moore fairly well because there was a little airstrip close to the middle of town just off of I-35 where an airplane scrap dealer held court. I got a lot of pieces from him and was temped like crazy by a couple of dilapidated old Staggerwings that could be bought right, if you were handy with your hands. Of course, if I had bought one, it still wouldn’t be finished and that was 50 years ago.

The reason Moore fits into this conversation is that five times in the last 18 years it was flattened by tornadoes. All were F4 or F5s, the last three were 2010, 1013, 2015 and it was totally obliterated. If you live in any of the states from Nebraska to Texas, when the sky turns that sort of sickly looking dark color you’re keeping your ear to the radio/TV looking to see what’s headed your way.

The ability to predict hurricanes and track tornadoes (which are less predictable and happen almost too quickly to be tracked) has revolutionized life in those areas. Think what it would have been like to live in Texas or Florida over the last three weeks in 1900. You wouldn’t have known the storms were coming until they came over the horizon.

Knowing a storm is on the way is at least half of survival, but that doesn’t help your home. Or provide instant protection, which the right kind of home would.

I know the discussion that’s about to follow probably has some holes in it, but bear with me and please, let me know where you think I’m wrong in the way I’d build my house in a disaster-prone state.

First, I’d avoid flood plains. All of them. Even where there are no major rivers, oceans or dams. There is almost never a drawback to high ground. If you move to any coastal area, you do so knowing things like hurricanes and tsunamis, etc., etc. are your neighbors. Ditto known earthquake zones. Tectonic movement is a given. The Earth is unlikely to ever be done moving. Some areas are worse than other.

Then, if I’m building my very own Okie-proof house, it wouldn’t be a house as such. Essentially, it would be a bomb shelter masquerading as a normal house. The core would be a re-enforced concrete cube including a poured concrete sloped roof. You could do something similar with cement block but pour the blocks full, use re-screen every other course and drop re-rod down through the block (of course, with that much steel in the walls, your wireless connections would suck).

The outside of the concrete shell could be made to look like any kind of house, with wood siding, bricks, whatever, because the outside would essentially be an ablative shield that is expected to be destroyed and then replaced. It might even have a normal pitched roof, but the concrete sloped roof is underneath. Sloped so it would drain, if the outside roof were destroyed or damaged.

The windows would be the highest tech money could buy. Or, if blast-proof glass isn’t financially viable, the ornamental, normal-looking shutters would be plate steel (1/8” plate, minimum) with gaskets around the edges. The alarm sounds, you race around the outside with a drill with a socket attachment and bolt the shutters shut. Or, if you want to complicate things, they could have latches that can be worked from the inside. Or thumb screws on the outside. But bolts are simple and quick to tighten. All of the outside doors would be similar: steel and able to be locked with a water tight seal.

A part of the structure would probably include a natural gas-powered generator and maybe a well.

You could fancy this up with all sorts of solar power and other gee-gaws, but, if you keep it plain and simple, I’m betting you could build it for around 25-30% more than stick-building the same house. And it wouldn’t stick out in any suburban housing development (until after the tornado).

The upside to the extra cost is that, assuming you haven’t thoroughly pissed off Ma Nature, you would never be without a home. After a serious twister or hurricane is done with it, your house is going to be really ugly, but livable. And re-buildable. Plus, it gives you all the protection needed against anything that doesn’t generate a mushroom cloud. And it might even work there. Think about it. bd

2 Sept 17 - Impossible Logistics
On the one hand I’m pretty much Harvey’d to death. I’d think I’d get tired of watching guys dragging sodden people into their boats and taking them to safety. On the other, it’s like a train wreck: You can’t NOT watch. But the more I watch, the more overwhelming the logistics of the recovery become. I can’t imagine it!

They were talking about the schools being indefinitely suspended until they’re rehabbed and ready for kids. Let’s look at that one problem for a second.

You have a building that has been five feet deep in water and may have bad roof damage on top of that. So, what do you need? You need crews that will come in and rip out sheet rock, kill the mold, redo the sheet rock. Plus all the electrical and air conditioning work. And then the “But…”s begin.
-But the required crews work for some sort of rehab company
-But that company was flooded too and probably needs its facilities rehabbed and its equipment rebuilt or replaced.
-But the crew that would do that and work for them have to rehab their own houses.
-But, they don’t have vehicles to carry them either to and from work or around the area to get sheet rock.
-But sheet rock and building supplies of all types are also needed by tens of thousands of others in the area.
-But, the suppliers of building supplies have been flooded and their facilities need to be rehabbed, but there’s no one to do it.
-But, even though the companies that supply building supplies to the building supply companies are located somewhere out of the flood zone, they are overwhelmed and there’s not enough sheet rock in a three-state area to come close to satisfying the demand so it has to be trucked in. Maybe manufactured.
-But the local building supply companies can’t absorb the sheet rock (etc.) anyway because they aren’t really open for business (this all assumes their facility can even be rebuilt).
-But even if the schools were magically rebuilt, they can’t re-open until replacing all the desks, books, etc., etc. required to be a school. Plus, their entire staff is distracted by trying to solve their own problems.

This scenario is focused entirely one problem: sheet rock and one building. Now magnify that by every other single product and/or service in an area that includes the fourth largest city and covers a flooded, densely populated area that totals 11,000 square miles. That’s the same size as Maryland. Or Hawaii. Or it is DC, RI, DE, CT and half of NJ combined. More important it has affected 2.5% of the total population of the third most populous country in the world. This is unreal!

In watching it, I’d sometimes find myself choked up because of the incredible way in which people jumped in to help one another. They came from all over. The son of one of my Bearhawker friends lives in Seattle and he and a friend ran down to Texas a few days ago, rented a truck and some boats, and then joined the rescue fray in Houston. It’s unreal and is actually inspirational: maybe the whole country isn’t going down the tubes after all. However, the next several weeks is going to test all concerned to their limits.

Phase One was getting them out of the water. Phase Two is what to do with them. A good percentage of the flooded houses that can be saved will be uninhabitable for weeks. Black mold is not a good house plant and is aggressive as hell. A big percentage of those houses will be condemned. So, it’s either build a new house or move out. The “new house” option is an entire chapter in itself: the financing, the labor, the city inspections. Think about how much it takes to build one house. And there are tens of thousands! And those houses will all be competing in the labor market against government buildings, commercial buildings, small businesses, and the houses that can be saved but need a rehab crew.

The immediate labor solution is to bring them in from the outside. But, from where? More important, let’s say the area needs 10,000 construction workers and magically comes up with them. Where do they stay? FEMA is going to be up to its butt trying to house those that were dispossessed. Even if the temporary housing units were available for the dispossed, it would take time, too much time, to get them to Houston. And then where do they set them! They’ll have to build small cities and that too takes labor. And time. And land. And then a wave of construction workers shows up.

Damn! Double-Damn! This is going to be a very interesting six months, leading into a year or two of ferocious work! I’m just glad I’m helplessly watching from the outside. Somehow, however, I know Texas will work it out. I just hope the federal government doesn’t get in their way too much. bd

27 Aug 17 - Harvey, Wolfman Jack and Random Thoughts
We haven’t watched this much TV since 911. Harvey (not the giant invisible rabbit…and if you get that you’re a gray dog) has taken stage center nationwide and it’s difficult not to watch the drama unfolding live and in real time. Here it is a Sunday afternoon and rather than being out in the shop sweating, I’m sitting here ruminating on the past week.

Harvey
When talking about this particular storm it’s difficult, when watching all of the flood footage, to remember that Texas is only a day and a half into what is projected to be a four or five-day nightmare. The numbers sound like science fiction. 20” of rain already in some spots and 30 to 50 inches are predicted. That’s insane! They’re already talking about this being the biggest natural disaster in US history and the rest of us are sitting in our living rooms watching it happen. It’s a disaster movie in real life only Dwayne Johnson is nowhere in sight. We’re sitting here watching thousands and thousands of lives being destroyed. The kind of flooding they’re going to be looking at will know no mercy and countless people will lose everything.

And don’t forget, it’s not just people’s homes. All of the businesses, large and small, are going to take a hit. At a time, when the people are going to need grocery stores and gas stations, they’ll be shut down. And tens of thousands of people will be told not to report to work. The problems feed upon themselves. On the personal level, it’s going to be grim.

The oil business is going to come to a standstill. They say something like 40 refineries are in the area. The drilling rigs in the Gulf, of which there are 100s, won’t feel the effect of the flooding, but, they can’t keep pumping because there’s a high probability that the oil facilities will be incapacitated for weeks. And there’s no telling how much the storm surge is going to damage the docking facilities for tankers. This is going to be felt nationwide in the form of higher gas prices. Locally, it’ll be felt in the form of human tragedy.

How serious is this? They just showed an alligator on someone’s steps and someone else catching a fish in their living room.

A Week of Batteries
This falls into the category of “minor stuff”, when judged against Harvey. But, so far this week, I’ve had the battery in my car go to hell (8 months old but it’s August in AZ and it gave up and died), the battery in my airplane died and we still don’t know why. On a 105-degree day, the inside of a closed hangar is 115-120, when you first open the door, so I’ve been trying to diagnose it in spurts. The Roadster battery, a high tech Odyssey dry cell, is also giving me fits. I suspect some sort of wiring issue, but don’t have the energy to tackle it.

Public Service Programs
If I’m going to be in the shop on a Sunday, I try to be in the office at 0500 so I can be in the shop at 0600. Like all good dirt-under-the-fingernails guys, the shop radio is as important as the tools and mine is wired into the main light switch. Lights come on and the radio comes on. At that time of the day on Sunday, my usual classic rock station has some public service programs that range from worthwhile stuff like autism or foster parenting to the need to neuter your cat/dogs. I just let it go because the program is only an hour long and it’s an old radio and it’s hard to find specific stations. This morning, however, I was driving to the airport during that time frame and had the luxury of a pre-programed push button radio. Imagine my dismay, as I pushed one button after the other, to find that seven of the nine stations were doing public service programming. I could not believe that even my hardcore country rock station came on with this same somber, serious-sounding, self-important PBS tone of voice. Different people. Same voice. Fortunately, it’s only a 15-minute drive, so I survived.

No Wonder We’re Screwed up
There’s this catchy song floating around by Ed Sheeran that I’ve found myself liking. His age group audience is reportedly 15-25 year olds, so what does that say about me? Then, on the way to the airport I had a chance to actually listen to the lyrics. The name of the tune is The Shape of You and the lyrics lead off with, “I’m in love with your body. And last night you were in my room and now my bedsheets smell like you…” and on and on. DAMN! I’m not even sure how to process that.

Changing Desert Radio
Talking about the radio, for most of the years I’ve been driving to LA to see my daughter, often in the dark early morning or late night, there would be a couple hundred miles I’d find myself listening to Spanish stations. I would be within 5-10 miles of the Mexican border and that’s all I could pick up. If it was on a Sunday, I could swear that Jesus was Hispanic as all the religious programing was in Spanish. Lately, however, some sort of radio conglomerate has established stations in Tuba City, Ship Rock and a few other places across the high desert. It’s obvious that each is a little one-person electronic outpost by all of the local radio ads. Aunt Martha’s Killer Chicken, Johnny’s Gun Store, that kind of thing. It might be remoted out of one major station with localized ad inserts, but I prefer to imagine Wolfman Jack in the Fresno station in American Graffitti. Those kinds of little independent stations do still exist, but most have been gobbled up by corporations and remoted.

This week, however, is, and will be, centered around an American Tragedy in progress. Harvey, try to be gentle. bd

13 Aug 17 - Make 'em all Count!
As the whole universe knows, we lost Glenn Campbell a few days ago. I’ve been watching myself all week as I processed that information and I’m surprised. It aroused so many thoughts and got me thinking in so many different directions that, as I’m sitting here typing, I still haven’t sorted out my thoughts.

First, I want to clarify that, although I hated to see him go, I’m not talking about losing-a-legend stuff. What I’m talking about is the “way” he left us (Alzheimer’s) and what that can say about each of our own lives. I’m going to put a couple of links at the end of this missive, one of them to an article that USA Today did about him a month or two before he died. It chronicles his recognition of the way in which he was slowly losing himself and what he did about it. And this got me thinking about the rest of us because, in one way or another, we have, or will, face similar facts of life.

The process of aging that leads up to the inescapable conclusion, varies considerably from person to person. The lucky ones are plugging along doing their thing and suddenly the lights go out. I had a friend who laid down to take a nap under his T-6 before flying another show and quietly died. Simple as that. Unfortunately, we all have many friends and loved ones who slowly decayed, watching one thing after another being taken from them. In the case of people like Campbell, whose personal identity has always been intensely focused on one narrow facet of their lives, in his case, music, it has to be excruciating to watch it slowly slip away. Especially, when it is so obvious. The USA Today piece touches your heart as it describes the process he went through.

It makes you angry to think of the absolutely unfair character of aging. However, each time we see someone being slowly sucked under like Campbell, an alarm should go off that says, “Hey, this could happen to me at anytime, anywhere. Do something about it!” Our first downhill step towards the pearly gates could start at sunrise tomorrow and there’s not a damn thing we can do to prevent it. What we can do, however, is so obvious that it’s a cliché, but few of us do it: we can live today on the assumption there will be no tomorrow and set our priorities accordingly.

The bottom line is to leave no white space in our lives until the time arrives when we have no choice. Don’t let our lives become a worn recliner, a six pack and a wide screen until that is absolutely forced upon us. Resist the fatigue, the aching joints, the favorite TV shows and peck away at the to-do list that makes our life worth living. End each day by looking back at it and experiencing a warm feeling because we made headway, however small, and didn’t waste it.

Read the following. It’ll make you sad but is, at the same time, inspiring. Either way, it’s instructive to see how Campbell dealt with what he knew was his future. Bear in mind that music and playing a guitar were as natural to him as breathing. And he was going to lose it. There’s something to be learned there.
https://www.usatoday.com/story/life/music/2017/06/08/exclusive-hear-glen-campbells-funny-how-time-slips-away/102639556/

Both Alice Cooper (the rocker) and Glenn Campbell were local Phoenix boys for a long time and, from the outside, you couldn’t have picked two individuals who would appear to be farther apart. But this wasn’t the case. They were close friends. I hope there is someone out there who, when I’m gone, will talk about me with the same love and humor that Cooper talks about Campbell. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B6q2hsdXenQ
bd

6 Aug 17 - Oshkosh, Gray Dogs and Health
Okay, I’ll admit it: I’ve been back from Oshkosh for a week and I haven’t said anything about it. That’s because I rolled into the house Sunday about midnight after 13.5 hours on the road and it took over two days for my body and brain to start to feel normal. Fun can sometimes be totally exhausting!

Oshkosh, or AirVenture (its new millennium marketing label), was, as it always is…huge! Actually, bigger than huge. The official stats say only 5% growth but to those of us who have going since Orville and Wilbur were both kids (this was number 49 for me), it felt much bigger than usual, which I can’t exactly explain. The crowds, number of aircraft and the spectacular spectacles we all witnessed were all grandiose and numbingly wonderful. I’m not going to dwell on those here as the tale is currently being told everywhere on the web. You all know we saw two B-29s up together, three P-63s, a trio of F-86s (be still my heart!) and on and on. But, I’m going to rattle on about other aspects of the Big Show, all of them positive.

For one thing, the military was there. Big time! During the last Administration, budget cuts kept the military out of the spotlight. Not this year! As if having the Blues’ brilliance center stage wasn’t enough, we saw B-1, B-2 and B-52s, F-22s and F-35s in formation. For the first time ever, I saw an A-10 Hawg do a roll. F-35s, BTW, had to have deafened every gopher in a ten-mile radius…they are LOUD! The center exhibit square on the grounds was packed with all sorts of military stuff: America’s might was on display right along with the overtly patriotic attitude of the crowd. It was hard not to feel good about America when watching something like 100,000 people scattered down the nearly two-mile flight line, drop what they were doing to salute the flag or put their hands over their hearts, when the airshow started and the Star Spangled Banner was played. It felt as if red, white, and blue had returned to the land of the airplane freak.

I arrived there a couple of days before I usually do, so, when the show weekend came around seven days later my forums were all behind me and my article note book was nearly full. This gave me the rare opportunity to just hang out and watch people. In so doing I found myself surprised that one of my current pulpit-rant subjects was not necessarily true. At least not on the grounds at Oshkosh.

Everyone has heard me ranting about the way that just about every special interest niche is graying out. I’ve been saying that everything from model airplanes to hotrods to airplanes to every kind of narrow niche area you can think of is dying because most of today’s youth don’t seem to have any interest in any of those subjects. In fact, except for the Internet and associated digital activities, I don’t know what they are interested in. However, when I started actually watching the crowds milling around the grounds at Oshkosh I saw I was at least partially wrong. When carefully studied, it became obvious that there were lots twenty-somethings, often couples pushing baby strollers, mixed in with the crowd. In fact, although the crowd had its share of gray dogs, there were actually lots and lots of folks in the under-40 brackets. Even teenagers. So, maybe everything isn’t totally going to crap after all. At least not in that little corner of the world.

I was also struck by the number of wheel chairs, canes and crutches in evidence. Some were playing out their final days in the place that still made them feel young. Others, however, were suffering from differing cruel acts of nature, but they didn’t let that slow them down. Those that could, were wheeling themselves. Others had those who loved them the most helping them enjoy what they loved the most. It was humbling. Suddenly, your back and feet no longer hurt.

Oshkosh/AirVenture was, and is, the way most of us signify the beginning and end of each of our personal years and this one was more than memorable.

On a different, initially scarifying subject:

I wasn’t going to talk about this for reasons that will be obvious in a minute, but it was something new to me that I think is worth passing on. The last two days of the show I began having balance difficulties. I wasn’t exactly dizzy, but I wasn’t right either, and the grueling 13.5 hours getting home didn’t help. I have had that happen a few times in the last few years. Generally, it is gone in a day or two, but this time it hung on for nearly four. I’ve avoided going to the doctor with it because I didn’t want it in my medical records because of the FAA can do unpleasant things with this kind of information. But a light bulb went off in my head that said I was being silly. This could be something serious. So, I went to the doctor and it took him about two minutes to explain and fix what was going on.

Some background first: I’ve never had allergies in my life but they’ve developed in the last few years and this year they were really bad. My doctor said here in AZ and in most of the country it was the worse allergy season he had ever seen. I have no idea what I’m allergic to but it manifests itself as various forms of post nasal dripping that results in coughing. This is important.

When the doctor scoped my ears, he said I had a little fluid in them and that was messing with my inner ear. And that was the result of my allergies. A couple squirts of Flonase, which the FAA is okay with, and all was right with the world. Considering that I was expecting to wind up with a surgeon opening my skull with a sawsall to take out a cockroach nest or something, I was more than a little relieved.

Just letting ya’ll know that there are still a few of life’s problems for which there is an easy (and FAA approved) fix. bd

18 July 17 - Small Victories: Progress on the Home Front
When I sat down to write this, I scanned back over past blogs and re-read the one I wrote on New Years day. There I said that project-wise I was only going to work on The Roadster and an iBook. And now, half way through the new year, I’m pleased and amazed to report some progress.

The iBook hasn’t moved but the roadster is not only licensed and insured but I have nearly 20 miles on it running around an ever-increasing number of city blocks as I expand its envelope. It’s far from finished. It still needs paint and interior, but I’m doing neither of those until I drive it enough to know what’s wrong with it and fix it as I go. The last thing I want is finished paint or upholstery on a car I’m constantly banging on fixing one glitch at a time.

As I backed it out of the garage for the first time and ran down to the end of the block, I was elated but, at the same time, worried. The engine didn’t want to take the throttle on shifts. The clutch (hydraulic) was/is much too stiff. It’s drivable but too much work. The steering was just loose enough to be a little worrisome. And it took me some time to re-acclimate to driving a three-speed transmission with reverse where first is in a five-speed car. I was constantly moving back, when I wanted to go forward. Plus, it’s a ’39 Ford trans so neither reverse nor first is synchro-mesh: you have to be dead stopped to get it into gear, although double clutching will let me into first while rolling, if I’m careful.

I have to admit that after the first couple of miles (a series of different around-the-block trips), I was just relieved that it didn’t catch fire or blow up. So, I did something unnecessary and spent a weekend getting the grill insert finished. That turned out to be a MAJOR job that I’ll do a separate story on when I finally chronicle the building of the car. However, one thing worth sharing (if you don’t like details, skip this paragraph): there was a major gap (2”) at the bottom of the stainless steel strip that surrounded the insert itself. I hadn’t the foggiest how to fix that but had a brain storm. I went to the hardware store where they have those little displays of small tubing and sheet metal for hobbyists? Sure enough, they had thin-wall, ½” stainless tubing. Six bucks! So, I sliced pieces of that down one side, and flattened one side making a “J” shape out of it. The straight part would go under the surround to be riveted in place. But how was I going to join them in a V-shape to match the shape of the grill? Again, no idea at all, but again had an idea. I’ve never actually welded stainless before, especially stuff that’s nearly paper thin. However, using a tiny weld tip and stainless safety wire as rod, I fumbled my way through the welding process and after filing and sanding found it all polished up great with a buffing wheel and came out looking like it was factory made!! Something about pigs finding the random nut fits here.

roadster street 4thJuly17
This was shot on the Fourth of July, where I celebrated by taking it around the block for the first time. Very cool! You can't believe how "right" it sounds.

I now have the engine tuned so it takes the throttle like a normal car. The loose steering was traced to the nut holding the steering wheel needing a .032 shim under it. The battery died a couple of times and then I found it was only rated to 113 degrees and ambient temp was 106-110 and an exhaust pipe ran right next to the battery box! Duh! Made a new pipe with more space and a stainless shield between it and the battery. Also insulated the battery box. Problem solved. I hope.

Next big steps are to build a new clutch arm for the transmission with better mechanical advantage and make a top for the hood. I’m going to leave the sides open to show off the old flathead.

So, now, I’m going to continually drive it farther and farther, with the goal of gaining enough confidence to drive it to the airport and back (nine miles each way). Right now, the fastest I’ve had it is 40 mph (due to gearing changes the speedometer isn’t even close, so I use the Speedometer app on my phone, rubber banded to the steering wheel. I’ve identified 1,200 rpm as 35 mph so far). I need to push that to 50-55 so I don’t hold up traffic. Baby steps.

If I get enough miles on it that I’m satisfied with its reliability and handling, I’ll pull the engine out of it this winter to paint the firewall, body and frame. Then, maybe do the interior and some chrome (windshield posts and windshield frame).

Hey! ‘Know what? After working on it for 60 years this month, it’s actually possible I may get this thing finished! This is a very big deal in my life. bd

PS
I'll be gone the next two weekends at Oshkosh. It's part of my job. No, really!œ

28 June 17 - Long Rifles and the Internet
You’re going to find this next statement hard to believe: there actually was life before the Internet. No, really! Before computers too! I was reminded of this, when a long, skinny crate arrived at my door this week and an artifact from my earlier life rejoined me.

When the crate, which was about 6”x4” x five feet (!) arrived, I held my breath. I knew what was in it and I knew how easily they were broken in half by UPS. Been there done that. It held the very first Kentucky muzzle loader I built. The year was 1980 (an unbelievable 37 years ago) and it has been hanging on a good friend’s wall for the last 20 or 25 years. I hadn’t seen it for that long. As soon as it came out of the crate in one piece and I breathed a deep sigh of relief, I couldn’t help but reflect on what had transpired in the 37 years since I started hogging on a big piece of maple. A million things in life have changed, and many of them can be seen in the rifle. Or at least in the way I approached the project.

Let’s think of the year 1980. It represents a watershed period, although wasn’t an important year itself. Apple opened its doors in 1978, so, if you graduated high school anywhere in that general vicinity, you’ve never known life as an adult without computers. However, although computers immediately became a mental appendage for most of us, the Internet didn’t become common place for another decade. Computers changed our lives, but the Internet turned everything on its head. Suddenly, everything and everybody was instantly available and the trend accelerated like a top fuel dragster.

In 1980, I decided I wanted to get good at building Kentucky rifles (If you don’t know the type, go to http://www.airbum.com/NeatShtpix/LongRifle.html .) and, from this vantage point, it’s hard to believe how hard researching everything was at the time. We had libraries, the postal service, telephones and telegraphs. That was it. In fact, our communication/research capabilities hadn’t changed one iota since before WW II. And we fought a war that way! However, being a typical guy, I hate waiting for answers and I hate reading the directions. But, in those days, I had a system for getting information. It was a crude method that did what Google does for you today. But, not as well or as fast.

When I’d get into any kind of specialized niche where the skills and knowledge required were hard to come by, I’d look up the top magazine that fed that niche (wooden boats, machinist, etc.). Then I’d buy all the back issues the publisher had available, usually three to five years. I’d spend the next month reading nothing but those magazines. Think about it: If you bought the past five years of Plane and Pilot, by the time you read all of them, you’d have had a crash course in aviation. You’d know about all you needed to know to jump into it. That’s what I did for building Kentucky rifles. I buried myself in Muzzle Blast magazine, which is dedicated to those passionate about recreating black powder weapons.

By that time, I’d been a magazine guy for 12 years, so, after reading all of those articles, I not only felt as if I knew the editor’s taste and article preferences, but I’d singled out the individual whom other authors often quoted as a point of reference. Read five years of any airplane magazine and it’s impossible not to know who Patty Wagstaff, Chuck Yeager and others of their ilk are. The name that popped up in reading about black powder rifles was John Bivins of Winston Salem, NC. So, I pitched an article on Bivins to the editor (I was pretty good at writing pitches), he bought the idea and I quickly found myself standing on the porch of Bivin’s restored 1890s Victorian home knocking on the door.

To cut to the chase, Bivins and I turned out to have one of those instant connections you see only two or three times in a lifetime and he became my friend and mentor on the rifle building side of things. He was an incredibly unique individual and known worldwide not only for his rifles but for his expertise in many other things like colonial architectural decorative arts.

So, I’d gone through the whole magazine-reading thing as a way of gaining access to the leader in the field which would give me instant access to all the knowledge that individual possessed. He was my personal Google guy. And I thought of that, as I pulled my old smoke pole out of the crate and instantly saw a dozen things about it that I would have done differently had I known then, what I know now. And the reason I know those things now is because of all the Google searches I’ve done on the subject in the last 20 years. I don’t think I embarrassed myself in building this rifle, but I would have done it differently, if my friend Mr. Google had been there to hold my hand, as he does almost every day in almost every area of my life. And I know I’m not alone in that.

We’ve become so used to having everything in life available to us through a key board, from asking Siri to take us to our destination to finding the caloric value of a blue berry (less than one calorie/berry) that we’re psychologically dependent on the Net. This is very convenient, but I’m afraid it also lets our brain take the easy way out. Plus, this means we’re dependent on something that can break down or be shut off, and invites bad guys to poke around inside our digital life.

How hooked are we? I don’t know about anyone else, but we’ll be watching television and I’ll hear my brain ask, “I wonder how old that actor is” and the next thing I hear is Siri giving me the answer. Or as soon as I park my butt in a doctor/dentist office, out comes the phone and I’m Googling something or checking out what’s for sale on Backpage.com. This is not good.

Do I have a solution? Oh, hell no! You don’t ask an addict how to cure other addicts. He might have to give up his addiction to cure the other guy. So, if you have ADD (Active Digital Disease), you’re on your own. I’m not about to give up my phone or computer. Will you?

FYI-I’m kind of sorry the rifle was shipped here because it has me foaming at the mouth to build another Kentucky rifle. And I’ve already started. bd


PS
About the rifle: Today you can buy high dollar kits all day long for a wide variety of blackpowder rifles, but this definitely wasn’t a kit. I didn’t have a band saw, so I laid a heavy board of curly maple scaffolding lumber (3” thick, ten feet long) up on two saw horses. Then, I stood on top of it and roughed it to shape with a chain saw. I cut a lot of the fittings out of brass or 4130 and bought the lock, barrel, trigger guard and butt plate from Dixie Gun Works. Today we have Track of the Wolf for that kind of stuff and it’s mind boggling what they have (https://www.trackofthewolf.com ). Incidentally, the .45 caliber barrel is the usual Kentucky length of 42”. That’s a foot and a half longer than a Garand. Very cool!

Kentucky cheek piece
I hadn't worked up the guts to do the requisite Roccoco carving at this point, which is just as well because stylistically the star and butt plate shape would have been wrong for it. Mr. Google would have told me that.
Kentucky Patch box
The Lancaster style patch box is "okay" but not the right historical match. It's actually brass, but has tarnished to where it looks like steel.
Kentucky Patch Box
Flint locks can be frustrating but once you get them right, they're cool. Click-fizz-bang!


20 June 17 - It's Summer Time!
It’s June in Phoenix, which means we’re nearly halfway through summer. What? You say the official first day of summer is just this week? Summer just started? I guess that depends on your definition of summer.

Summer in our neck of the woods starts as soon as we hit 100, which is usually mid-May. It’ll bounce up and down between 95 and 101 for a month. Then June arrives where we seem to have one week, only one week, that the weather goes bonkers. This is that week. I just checked the ATIS at the home aerodrome and it says it is 115 degrees and the relative humidity is 6%. This one week of bat-sh*t weather early in the season seems to be a desert tradition. It’ll threaten the record books and make national news and then return to “normal.” If the forecasters are right, we’ll have 118 tomorrow and 117 the day after, which I’ve only seen a couple of times in the last 25 years. Then it’ll drift back down to what June in the desert usually is: 105-108 with humidity in the 5-8% range. Believe it or not, but that is usually tolerated well by almost everyone. Even those from back East that haven’t acclimated yet.

As I say the above I can hear people repeating what they ALWAYS say, “How can you possibly live somewhere that it’s hot enough to fry cats on the sidewalk!?” I used to try to explain that a) it’s not that hot all day and b) we only have those kinds of spiked temperatures a few weeks a year. I used to say, “Let’s have this discussion in January and see what you have to say.” But, I don’t try to explain any more. First, they don’t believe me and second, I’m not doing myself any favors by trying dispel Arizona’s national reputation. Now I use that reputation to protect what we have out here.

My approach to the subject these days is to sadly shake my head and agree with them. I say, yes, it’s a terrible burden trying to survive out here. And think of all of those poor fried cats stuck to sidewalks all over town! It’s such a tragedy! You’re right, you should never think about moving down here. Besides the heat, we’re surrounded by nothing but flat, featureless bare sand, with the occasional cactus breaking the monotony. And north of us we have this gigantic ditch they try to glorify by calling it a “grand” canyon. There’s nothing grand about it. In fact, it has now been proven that sometime in the late 1930s’s a bunch of tourists from Brooklyn dug it by hand as a place to dispose of their trash. It’s such an eye sore that there’s now a local project aimed at filling the ditch in and making it into a skateboard park. They are right now letting contracts to knock down the tall, skinny rocks in Monument Valley and using them to fill in the grand ditch. It’s a really boring, nothing-to-see area and it badly needs a skateboard park, so it’s a win-win for everyone. Monument Valley gets cleaned up. The Grand ditch gets filled in. And all of the skateboarders in the area (it’s a Navajo tradition) have a place to do their thing.

As if the topography isn’t bad enough, you can’t step out of your car without the rattle snakes (or the scorpions) grabbing you by the ankles and dragging you under the car to lunch on your tender vitals. It’s just terrible! It’s not fit for man nor beast. However, during the winter, we do have maybe a bazillion golf courses and hotels with swimming pools you might enjoy. So, yeah…come on down and visit, suck down your fill of Matai’s and abuse some golf balls in the sun (which almost never actually shines), but don’t think about staying. You’ll hate it.

Oh, yeah, I forgot: we’re a really rude, obnoxious people. And we lie a lot. bd

4 June 17 - The Battle Between Love and Grief
This week was unique in a couple of ways. Not the least of which I was forcefully reminded that grief never actually goes away, regardless of the years. Regardless of the source.

This is probably a little too much information, but I do some of my clearest thinking and planning while I’m taking a shower in the morning. Hence the SCUBA diver’s note pad hanging on the shower head. There’s a floor to ceiling window in our shower that looks into a little patio that is faced by a glass door into the bedroom. Since I usually shower around 0430-0500 (depending on when I walk), I keep the lights off so they don’t wake Marlene. Having better sense than I do, she’s not up that time of the morning and she has a hard enough time sleeping as it is. I’m so damned considerate I amaze myself. :-)

Standing in the steaming hot water (I like it REALLY hot!) in the dark, it’s almost as if I’m in an isolation chamber. The world is far away and exists only in my mind, so it tends to ramble all over the place. Sometimes it’s tackling the day’s goals. Other times it’s picking away at personal long-term dreams. I have little or no control where it goes. Which is largely on purpose. Sometimes, however, it decides to focus on something that catches me by surprise. This particular morning, it was my late brother, Gary, whom we lost totally expectantly in 1985 to a massive heart attack at the age of 42. To say it caught me flat footed is a gross understatement. And 32 years later, it still gets to me.

There I was, stark naked, the water doing its best to boil me and I suddenly found myself crying like a baby. Sobbing. My body wracked from top to bottom in a way that it hadn’t felt for years. Everything in my being was reacting to the grief and it surprised the hell out of me. I hadn’t seen that coming. At the same time, I was pleased to know the grief was still that strong. It felt good. And I felt closer to the bro I’d always been close to. Then I thought about my dad. And other dad’s.

The day before I had written the Memorial Day blog about Ernie Pyle and, standing there in the dark, I thought about all the gold star fathers and mothers who, on Memorial Day, had memories that brought forth much more grief than what I was feeling. I remembered my father at Gary’s funeral. He was a strong, but at the same time, emotional man. But, that day he was a shell of the man I had known. In his early 70s, he was moving and talking in a mechanical, zombie-like manner. A hard-core, tough Midwesterner who had weathered the depression and a half-dozen wars, he wasn’t purposely hiding his grief, as was traditional with his generation. Now I know that his grief was so strong and overwhelming, he simply didn’t know how to let it out. How to deal with it. It was far, far beyond his comprehension and left him totally numb and incapable of feeling anything.

As I’m writing this, I feel guilt at not being able to be there to help him over the mountain that grief had placed in front of him. However, at that moment, standing in the shower, I realized that he had never conquered that mountain. A father or mother losing a son or daughter never do. As that thought went through my mind, I momentarily thought about my own kids but I absolutely refused to let the thought of losing one enter my mind. I couldn’t. If I did, it would haunt me for the rest of the day, rather than flitting around the edges of my thoughts as it does for every parent. We all know the possibility is there. But we refuse to let the thought gain traction in our mental processes. We hold it far out there in a dark place where we put things we don’t actually want to face. We have our heads mentally and emotionally buried in the sand, but the thought never actually goes away.

In retrospect, last week, instead of writing about Ernie Pyle needing to be remembered on Memorial Day, I should have focused on the gold star families. Included in the awful statistics of those killed in war are the innocent civilians who are always part of the collateral damage. During WWII, that number was much bigger than the actual combat deaths. However, a statistic that is never included in any of the cost of war statistics, is the immeasurable damage a single death in combat does to those surrounding it. Especially, the parents. Each death generates grief that lasts a lifetime, knows no boundaries. It’s universal on both sides of every conflict. And there are no monuments to those who suffered the loses. But, there should be.

The pleasant memories of my brother, Gary, never leave my mind. Never. But, as the years go on, when I least expect it, the grief comes to visit. And that’s a good thing. It proves that I’m still human. Better yet, it proves that love can go toe-to-toe with grief, and will eventually outlast it. bd

28 May 17 - Memorial Day: Remembering the Typewriter Warriors
Tomorrow is Memorial Day and I’m once again mentally immersed in a million images of long ago battles. Of strangers faces I know are gone. And the few I did know who we've lost. Tomorrow we’re going to remember the blood and guts warriors. Today, however, I’m choosing to remember another kind of warrior. Those with the typewriters. Specifically, Ernie Pyle.

I’m betting that the majority of those reading this are either gray dogs or heading that way. Many will remember Ernie Pyle. However, I also know of at least a few millennials reading this who I know for a fact don’t know of Pyle. I’m also betting that few in either group give much thought to guys like Pyle, the war correspondents and photographers who were in the middle of the fight and brought us the images, mental and photographic, that have made all of our wars so real to those of us who cared but weren’t there.

In the world of war correspondents, Ernie Pyle looms large for a lot of reasons. The biggest being that during WWII he was the nationwide voice of the dog face. Just as Bill Mauldin graphical brought the public the war with his sometimes irreverent “cartoon” drawings of G.I. Joe, Ernie Pyle kept a steady stream of columns streaming back from the front to newspapers throughout the US. Plus, four books came out his efforts, Ernie Pyle in England, Here is Your War, Brave Men and Last Chapter.

When I was in Junior High and High School in the last half of the ‘50’s, Ernie Pyle and his ilk were my heroes. I devoured every book written by anyone who was actually there and Here is Your War and Brave Men were nearly bibles to me as was Richard Tregaskis’ Guadalcanal Diary. If you go back and read any of his words, you can see why Pyle was awarded a Pulitzer for his work.

One of the things that sets his work apart is the voice he gives war. It is him talking, Mark Twain style, in a spare, to the point voice that makes you forget you’re reading something. It’s more as if you’re hearing it. More important, he doesn’t talk about the tactics, the high-level planning, or the campaigns. The Pattons and Eisenhowers of the war are seldom, if ever, mentioned. He talks about the individual men, by name, and the experiences he shares with each in their foxholes. When reading it, you can sense the mud that’s under his fingernails while he’s writing.

Pyle is a long way from being the only war correspondent/photographer in our history. Every war, of almost any kind, has had its scribes keeping the action alive on paper. Most, however, talked about the war in the third person, from a distance. Only a few were right there on the front lines exposed to the same life and death combat lottery as the troops themselves. As such, in the enemy’s eyes they were no different than the infantrymen in their sights and many paid the price. However, I was surprised when I did a Wiki search and found the number killed during WWII was only nine. I would have thought it to be higher. Korea lost five, Vietnam three. However, Iraq saw 27 killed (many local Arab state reporters) and Afganistan has so far racked up 20 (BTW-I don’t believe the numbers).

Memorial Day is our time to remember those who died in the service of our country. This time, I’d like to remember those who died bringing the tales of the everyman soldier to our country. Ernie Pyle is one of those. On April 18th, 1945, on a small island next to Okinawa, Lejima, a 7.7mm machine gun bullet caught him in the left temple just under his helmet and the brilliant, communicative mind of Ernie Pyle was no more. War correspondents all leave a lasting legacy out of proportion to their numbers. They should not be forgotten. bd

20 May 17 - Is Technology Killing our Past and Damaging Our Future?
We drive a 27-year-old Honda, a 17-year old-Nissan Maxima, a brand new Maxima and a 1929 hotrod powered by a 71-year-old engine. Which one do I think will still be running 20 years from now? The old hotrod! Why, because technology is going to eliminate antique cars for the future because we won’t be able to service their computers. Same thing with electronic documents, digital pictures, etc. Model A Fords and flathead roadsters, of course, are bullet proof.

We have become so addicted to digital everything and are so accustomed to the absolutely mind-boggling speed of changes in those fields that we’re slamming the door on our past. Actually, the door is already part way closed. Besides the older cars, we have a couple of older Nikon digital cameras and two higher-end Canons, one that I use in my work, and every one of them uses a different storage medium. I have no way of reading at least one of those, so the personal history represented by those photos is gone. Ditto for the 5 ¼” floppy disks on which I wrote the welding book on an Apple IIe for the EAA back in the dark ages. I haven’t researched it, but someone like Data Doctor may be able to read the mess of 3” floppies, Ziequest, Jazz Drives, etc. that I have around here, but I doubt it. Even the Word documents I’ve carefully copied to each new computer and new software variant are about 30% unreadable. In fact, although I’m writing this blog on my super new MacPro, I have to put it on the web via my 6-year-old Mac because the new one was specifically designed to not recognize nearly half of the software or files/photos in my nine Tb of storage (If you don’t know storage, that’s a helluva lot!).

Smart phones are where rapid obsolescence has become most obvious. The other day I dragged out my old Motorola Razor flip phone and found I’d totally forgotten how small and convenient it is. My new 6s iPhone is a wonderful machine and I depend on it just as I do my computer. In fact, SERI and I have become close friends. Maybe too close. But, as fantastic as it is as an electronic companion, it’s only so-so as a phone. It’s cumbersome, unnatural and big. The Razor was a great phone. You just flipped it open to answer it and it fit in a shirt pocket. It was, however, more than a little irritating to text on. Technology does have its draw backs. Still…

A tangential phone story: getting into my airplane is a major physical exercise. I have to get over a 3-foot cockpit side, whether I’m in front or back. Starting sometime last year, I found it more difficult getting in the back. Old age, it seemed, had started to limit the amount my right hip would move. But, I soldiered on, forcing it and finding handholds to help me. Then, a couple of weeks ago I realized that my new iPhone, which I carry in a BD-designed holster inside my right hip pocket was about 1.5 inches longer than my earlier 4Gs and was stopping my leg from going up as it should. I took it out of my pocket, clipped it on the shoulder harness and found I could swing that leg into the cockpit like a teenager. So, yes, digital electronics can make you feel old.

Incidentally, I save all my old phones and my digital recorder and periodically charge them all up to protect the batteries. No, I don’ t know why I do that, but it seems like a smart thing to do.

Our cars, like Marlene’s new Maxima, are typical of how dependent we are on digits and how quickly everything is obsolete. It is essentially a four-wheel computer with a million different systems just waiting to fail. It’s the first car I’ve ever owned that the first step, should you have problems, is to shut it off and reboot it (I think).

Look around you right now. Should we have a big solar storm or the Krazy Korean succeeds in an EMP attack, what around you would no longer work? My watch wouldn’t work. My desk lamp would be kaput. I couldn’t write, and you couldn’t read, this blog. All of our cars with the exception of the old hotrod would be doorstops. Our heating/air conditioning unit would no longer receive commands from the thermostat, which might be moot because I doubt if the natural gas plant is shielded from solar damage. EVEN OUR DAMNED DOOR BELL WOULDN’T WORK!

In essence, should the Sun or The Korean Kook decide to play electromagnetic games with us, we’d be back to the stone age in something like 10 seconds and there would be little or no help coming. Civilization, as we know it, would cease to exist and we’d immediately have a dog-eat-dog (or whatever munchies you can lay your hands on) existence. Estimates are that nine out of ten of us would be dead in a year. And, I hadn’t thought about this until just now, but a high percentage of the survivors would be Amish (horses don’t have many digital systems) or high country or desert native Americans who still cling to the old ways (not many of them left). The rest would die a miserable, slow death, except for those of us who would go down in a blaze of something-or-other while defending or acquiring food for our families.

In short, the more we depend on technology the more we lose our past and threaten our future. What’s the alternative? Short of retreating to the hills and becoming a mountain man, there isn’t one. What’s the solution? The only one that comes to mind is to use technology to protect our technology. Come up with a way of “hardening” even the most elementary devices (pot them in lead-flavored epoxy?) so they’re protected from EMP effects. However, there is no way to protect the photo history of our lives. That was doomed the instant digital cameras were invented. And on that happy note, enjoy your day! bd

16 April 17 - Is 117 Years Enough, or Too Much?
This week, crammed between the North Korean crisis, the China meetings and ongoing revolts against the Administration, was the news that Emma Morano of Verbania, Italy had died. None of us knew Emma, but she was the last known person to have been born in the 19th century. She was 117 years old and officially the oldest person in the world. Was living to 117 a good thing or a bad thing?

The whole concept of living is open to definition. What exactly is “living”? Also, does that definition change when the pearly gates are staring us in the face? Will we want to hang on to life, no matter how fragile, no matter what the aggravations, when there’s a possibility we won’t see the next sunrise? I have no damn idea, but I have some thoughts on the subject.

Let’s begin with the definition of “life.” This, I am convinced, is a very fluid subject that differs wildly from person to person and is dependent on their age and quality of life. Even the terms “age” and “quality of life” are open to definition. BTW, this indicates that I’m about to walk off of solid ground into a swamp of intangible definitions.

How old is old? Theoretically, there should be no question of the definition, but I’m not convinced of that either. The other day a student was laughing about me and my hangar-mate and the banter between us that would qualify as a working script for Grumpy Old Men II. This was going on while we were climbing into our respective Pitts Specials to either work the pattern (the definition of staring death, or worse, embarrassment, in the face) or to teach a newby about inverted spins and such. Pitts aren’t usually seen as mounts for gray dogs.

The student said, “It’s wonderful to see you still doing this at your age.”

Naturally I pulled myself up to my rapidly diminishing full height and said, “What age? What does that have to do with anything? We ignore it. Besides, from my view point, I’m still in my mid-forties. A person seldom sees their own age. That’s an external observation made by others. We see ourselves as Seenagers.”

Even as I was saying that I knew I wasn’t necessarily speaking for my generation. I don’t have to look very far around me to see lots and lots of folks who are younger but think of themselves as much older. The definition appears to be driven first by how relevant a person keeps themselves by continuing to function in the real world. If a person’s definition of “world” is a living room, a TV set and a beer, they have no choice but to grow old, no matter how you define it. A sedentary life is the soil in which old age grows. However, if your world is a tiny cockpit filled with thunder, a view over a steering wheel of a pair of chrome carburetors, a chisel shaping a long range shooting device, or constant communication with people where your words matter, age becomes a non-factor. “Functionality” is all that counts. That is, of course, driven by health. Some of our health is out of our hands, but it’s a known fact that sitting in front of a TV, beer in hand isn’t helping it. There’s a great line in a current commercial that fits here. It says, “Sitting is the new smoking.” Enuff said?

Then comes the question of “quality of life” and I think that may be defined by the functionality issue, which itself is defined by the individual. How much of your life style are you willing to give up due to limited functionality? Some of that is again, driven by health while some of it is driven by finances. Sooner or later I know I’m not going to be able to fly but I’m hoping that, as I’m driven into the narrowing tunnel of age-related finances, I can still make a keyboard talk and some income will tumble out as the result (this blog being one of the less productive, but still necessary, enterprises.). But, who knows? My dad, at 90, was in an extended care wing of a hospital for the last years of his life but continued researching and writing his newspaper column until his last two weeks, when my mother died and he slipped into a coma. He was still relevant up to the end and that sustained him.

At some point, as with Emma, who was bed-ridden for the last four years and unable to leave her room, is it actually worth continuing the fight? What we “do” is what defines us as a person. At least that’s how I see it, and, if I can no longer do any of my things, how am I going to cope with that? How does anyone cope with it? But, many do.

At this stage of the game, I’m thinking a person should have the ability to say, “Okay, this is no longer living, I want out.” And they should have the right and the mechanism to do that with no repercussions from authorities, friends or family. When I can no longer “do”, life would no longer be life.

I’m not usually quite this morbid. Blame it on Emma, who, incidentally, was not the oldest verified person on record. That would be a Frenchwoman, Jeanne Louise Calment who died in 1997, aged 122 years. The official title of oldest living person in the world now goes to Violet Brown of Jamaica, aged 117, born on March 10, 1900. However, Mbah Gotho, of Indonesia, is unofficially 146 years old and Indonesian records say that is true, but they have yet to be verified. That would have made him 43, when WWI started. Zowie! bd

2 April 17 - Big Data Versus the World
This is gonna make your head ache. We all know we have a digital footprint. So, what? Who cares? After an essay I received yesterday, I care. I care because those digits that we so thoughtlessly toss around have become an unimaginable tool that can be used to alter our world.

What this Thinking Out Loud will develop into is a reading assignment. I want you to read something that’s on the Web. But, I’ll give you a Cliff Notes version of the essay before I give you the link. It’s a little on the long side and a little involved, but it’s well worth the read because it makes the reader aware of things that are developing in the background of our lives. And no, Russia has nothing to do with it. Nor Wikileaks. Not even Donald Trump. It’s just a way of looking at more-or-less commonly available information and using it to predict behavior.

This whole thing started with one guy in Europe, Michael Kosinski, who was doing some data analysis of social media five or six years ago to determine what it said about the people using it. Then, almost overnight the concept gave birth to some huge companies doing “interesting” things with that data. And no, these aren’t bad guys doing bad things. They’re just using our habits in interesting ways.

The basic concept is that, using Facebook as an example, they can tell a lot about your psychology and the way you make decisions by measuring Facebook data. It’s called Psychometrics. The Facebook subjects that get your likes, the way you respond, all say something about you (I say “you” because I’m on no social media) and allows them to judge five factors: Directly from the Web, these are: openness (how open you are to new experiences?), conscientiousness (how much of a perfectionist are you?), extroversion (how sociable are you?), agreeableness (how considerate and cooperative you are?) and neuroticism (are you easily upset?). While the info doesn’t say that much concrete about the individual, when thousands of these are lumped together, they can come up with serious conclusions.

The essay says, “In 2012, Kosinski proved that on the basis of an average of 68 Facebook ‘likes’ by a user, it was possible to predict their skin color (with 95 percent accuracy), their sexual orientation (88 percent accuracy), and their affiliation to the Democratic or Republican party (85 percent). But it didn't stop there. Intelligence, religious affiliation, as well as alcohol, cigarette and drug use, could all be determined. From that data it was even possible to deduce whether someone's parents were divorced.” That’s pretty wild stuff!

Interesting, but so, what? What can they use that kind of stuff for that’s of any importance? The short answer is “lots.” They can do lots of things with it and the concept has given birth to several companies that have built a form of marketing around it. One of the more interesting clients they’ve had lately is the Trump campaign (among many others, including the Brexit folks, Ted Cruz, etc.). Using psychometrics, they can isolate the characteristics of groups of people as small as a few square blocks, which allows folks trying to sell something, like a candidate, in a much more efficient manner. Rather than casting an advertising net over large audiences while hoping for the best, using the web/net, they can fine-tune their message so it exactly matches tiny audiences that would largely ignore TV-type messages that don’t match them. This is apparently what Trump’s people did. The consultants treated him like a product and used the same message slanted in different ways to exactly match the reader/listener/watcher.

There’s an old advertising mantra that my dad repeated all the time that says “Only 25% of your advertising does any good, but you don’t know which 25% it is.” The psychometric approach addresses that problem and increases message effectiveness like crazy.

This concept is going to be a game changer in so many ways. But, we won’t know it’s even happening because eventually everyone who has anything to sell will all be using the same methodology. But, they’ll be much better at selling. The question is whether we’ll get better at analyzing whether what we’re buying is actually what we want. Or it is just what we think we want.

Here’s your reading assignment. Have at it:

https://motherboard.vice.com/en_us/article/how-our-likes-helped-trump-win

25 Mar 17 - Stars, Stripes and Dual Exhausts
For those who don’t know, Goodguys Rod & Custom Association produces something like 20 car show/get-togethers, all of them huge, in almost every part of the country. It was at the Spring Goodguys in Scottsdale a couple weeks ago that I caught a welcome glimpse of Americana: respect for the flag.

To put it in context, there were tens of thousands of people spread throughout the thousands of cars. It was a mob scene covering acres of grass and asphalt, with pole-mounted speakers continuously overlaying the sound of thundering dual exhausts with vintage rock and roll. Hotrodding has an ever-present 50’s/60’s vibe to it and rock and roll is part of the culture. On the grounds, you couldn’t avoid the music. Or the mob. Or the heat. Or the pervasive happy attitude. You got to where the music was just white noise on top of other white noise. Then a song came on that caught us all by surprise with equally surprising results.

A vaguely rock and roll version of the Star Spangled Banner settled over the crowd. At first you didn’t notice it because you weren’t listening to anything. Then someone did listen. Then another. Then folks started to notice others standing still, hand or hat on heart, staring at the horizon. In maybe 30 seconds the entire crowd came to a standstill, hats came off and we found ourselves searching for a flag. We found them in different places. On top of distant food stands. Hanging from a chopped Merc’s antenna, standing tall and proud on the tongue of a teardrop trailer. Where ever there were stars and stripes waving in the sun, people found them and focused on them for the duration of the oh-so-familiar song.

Flags are where you find them. And we found them.
goodguys flag

As I looked around, I found myself choking up. It had been a long damn time since I’d seen such overt demonstrations of love of country. And it literally brought tears to my eyes. I don’t go to ball games. Nor, apparently, am I often in crowds when The Anthem is played. So, I can’t judge how other crowds behave in these situations. But, I was so goddamned proud to see the universal reaction of the hotrod crowd that I couldn’t keep it all in. It was one of the most gratifying things I’ve experienced in a long, long time. And I think we’re seeing more of it. It’s as if there is a rebirth of national pride. Or, more probably, I’m just more aware of it and it hadn’t actually been gone.

For far too long it felt as if flying a flag automatically said something about a person’s politics, when it shouldn’t. Now, however, I think I’m seeing more flags and less resentment. That may be a Pollyanna attitude on my part. Or it may be misplaced optimism, but I don’t think so. I hope it’s not.

Standing there with a cowboy hat clutched to my chest, a Deuce roadster in front of me and a heavily chopped shoebox Ford behind me, I felt as if I was home again. And it felt good. REALLY good! bd

19 Mar 17 - Random Frustrations
Alright! Who is jacking around with the calendar?! How did 2017 show up so quickly? I’d see that far away date on my driver’s license and dismiss it as nothing to worry about. Until Friday, when the bank notary pointed out it out that my license had expired! Damn!

That discovery pretty much capped off a week of similar surprises/discoveries/near-disasters.

Monday I did something I NEVER do: I took the entire day off to make a gigantic leap on The Roadster. I had done barely three hours of “real” work early in the morning, when my friend showed up with his truck and trailer to take the little road toad to the DMV to get a VIN number. Model A Fords didn’t have them and, even though I had a Nebraska title (from 1962) in my name, there were no numbers on the car so I was expecting a real hassle convincing them it was the same car. I took a bunch of photos to convince them. Me working on it as a 16-year-old in 1958. It sitting in dad’s Quonset hut covered in junk. Me pulling it out with a tractor in 2000. Me unloading in in AZ 2001. Me working on it in 2008. They were convinced (and mildly amused) and slapped the genuine VIN number sticker on a door post. I was over the moon!! I thought I had it made! I figured I’d take my old title in and they’ll convert it to an AZ title. WRONG!!!

8 hours later, after driving back and forth across town (125 miles total), $630 paid to an insurance company to give a bond to the state I still didn’t have a title. BTW, the car is worth less than $10k in its current condition, but the bond was to cover $42,300 which is what the State Computer valued it at including a 50% margin for the State. Now, I have to get a legal statement from Nebraska that says this is a clear title. That required a local notary stamping my request application (plus sending them $1!). And that’s how I found out my license had expired. This after at least a half dozen State licensing folks handling that license never noticing it had expired. Whew!

So, now I wait until Nebraska responds.

This was one hassle.

Then I get a phone call Monday from the gunsmith I had sent a bunch of stuff to as part of my birthday gift to myself that it hadn’t showed up. It had been ten days and sent Priority Mail. So, I trace it and find it has gone to California (it was headed for New Mexico) but was returned to our local post office. So, I stand in line there for a while. Yes sir, it was here but it isn’t here anymore. No, sir, I can’t show you our internal tracking information. Why not? Because!

A call to USPS customer service puts one of the most helpful, pleasing customer reps on the line that I’ve ever had in any situation. I was openly amazed! She tracked it down and found that the post office where I’d mailed the package (it was a big one) accidentally put their own zip code on it so it kept going back to them. Two days later it was in NM and I was relieved.

While all of this is going on I’m flying four times a day which drains me of anything resembling either energy or patience. This was aggravated by someone again jacking around with the calendar. The temperatures were in the low-to-mid 90s! Hey! It’s only March! It’s snowing in New York. We’re only supposed to see 70’s. And half of that flying was in an S-2B that has a solarium attached that’s masquerading as a canopy. Blistering hot! What the hell happened to spring?!

Then every night I was being pestered by those half-awake dreams we all get where we think we’re awake, but we’re not. Reality gets seriously blurred. There was something I was supposed to be finishing for work, but I wasn’t getting it done and soon someone was going to find out and I’d be in deep guano. I’d wake up with this horrible feeling of guilt that I was letting everyone down. I don’t remember the subject of the first dreams but the last one had to do with some sort of program I was supposed to be running in which I was training moles. No, you read right! Moles! The kind that root around in your yard! I’m feeling guilty because I’m not training my moles!! Try as I may I can read nothing, sexually or otherwise, into the symbolism represented by training moles.

The good news is that I got my VIN number and my package made it to my gunsmith. The bad news is I’m about to start another week will begin with me standing in line for my driver’s license. Why do I have such a strong feeling of foreboding over such a menial project? bd

7 Mar 17 - Grandma's Parrot
My old friend, banker and former neighbor, Jay (Johnny) Cattle, who was a year behind me in high school, just sent me a cryptic e-mail. BUDD - Blog requests = Skunk hollow and Grandmother's parrot in the old store! That’s the first time I’ve ever gotten a blog request and both ideas are good ones.

The subject of Grandma’s Parrot uncorks a bunch of really pleasant memories. However, these memories are unlikely to be shared by anyone who didn’t drift in and out of the House of Davisson, the big store on the north side of Seward, Nebraska (population about 4,000) during the late 1950’s.

In those days, if you had walked through the front door, you would have found a relatively tiny, rounded, gray haired woman sitting in a rocking chair surrounded by a bizarre blizzard of merchandise and stuff that’s hard to categorize (antiques, bear traps, stuffed shrunken bodies, etc.). The first indication that this is not your normal, bigger-than-average-rural-sell-anything emporium, is that the woman, my grandmother, always had a parrot next to her. Sometimes in a cage. Sometimes just sitting on the back of her rocking chair as if she was some sort of wizened pirate queen.

Looking back at it, I now realize that I didn’t really pay much attention to the parrot. It had been there as long as I had been alive, so it was just part of the woodwork. Didn’t everyone’s grandma co-exist with a parrot? The fact that it was pretty exotic to my friends and dad’s customer was lost on me. It’s obvious I pretty much ignored the bird because, given my propensity for getting myself in trouble at that age, had I given the bird any thought I would have taught it to swear like a sailor just because I could. Its name was Polly. Not a terribly original name, but, it was the only parrot in town so he/she could get away with it. I also only remember its vocabulary as barely making it past “Polly want a cracker.” Apparently, Nebraskan parrots aren’t given to witty, nor creative, banter.

Incidentally, I just did a Google search to find out what kind of a parrot it was and found myself in Parrott Hell! There must be a zillion different types and they can live as long as 100 years. Most do about 50 years, which I find pretty amazing. That being the case, I’ll have to ask my older sister if she has any idea when Grandma got the parrot, but I’m betting it may have been before WWII. My dad/mom started the store in 1934 and Grandma had lived with, or around, dad, since he was 18, IIRC.

The store sat in the middle of something like five acres in a high-end residential section with a big U-shaped driveway with the parking lot and store at the apex. Grandma had a warm-feeling little grandma-house right in the middle of the “U” where she (and the parrot) lived for the entire time I knew them (16 years). She passed in 1959 (or thereabouts) and the house came down shortly thereafter. The Time Capsule (http://fox42kptm.com/news/local/worlds-largest-time-capsule-in-nebraska-shows-glimpse-of-history ) now sits where her house did.

Another clue that this wasn’t your normal country store was that for years, just to the right of Grandma and her parrot was a substantial sized cage that housed George the Monkey. George was a Java monkey (My sister, Mona says it was a Mona monkey…no, really! She may be right.) and had a definite attitude problem. Plus he was a born kleptomaniac and lightning fast. If anyone ventured closer than one monkey arm length of the cage, their glasses and everything in their front pockets immediately became property of George The Kepto. Immediately! I remember many, many confrontations between George and my dad, while he tried to retrieve the lost items. I also clearly remember when Dad had me walking George on a leash one day and that damn thing turned into an enraged Doberman. He weighed no more than three or four pounds but he came screaming at me with sheer hate in his eyes, mouth open, fangs bared. I was about 12 years old and not prepared to do battle with a maniacal primate. So, I beat feet and let dad worry about catching him.

Then for a time there was Napoleon the Mexican burro. He lived just behind the store and, although passive enough to let us ride him, he was just as mentally derranged as George. He loved getting up a head of steam, stiff-legging his front legs, and unloading the urchins on board by lowering his head. Even though you knew it was coming, you couldn’t avoid a face-plant on the ground. As a side note, he was also the only burro in town. At the time, I didn’t find that unusual either. Now I do.

There was also a Shetland pony behind the store that didn’t last long. He loved biting you on the ankles while you were playing Long Ranger and was a generally bitchy little animal. He ran away one day and dad told the guy who found him to keep him.

FYI-as a kid, I never had a dog. Or a cat. Nothing normal lived in the Davisson household, which might explain a lot about how my life turned out. bd

PS
Any more blog requests out there?

19 Feb 17 - The Ziegarnik Effect
TMI ALERT (too much information)! It was 0500, I was sitting there tending to my required anatomical introduction to the day and I found myself reading psychologist Kurt Koffka on the actual goal of Gestalt psychology. WHAT?! Koffka/Gestalt is pretty heavy stuff for a small town boy from Nebraska to be reading while riding the porcelain pony (told you: TMI).

I wasn’t reading Koffka for Koffka’s sake. It was part of a research project. Gesalt is an attempt to understand the laws behind the ability to acquire and maintain meaningful perceptions in an apparently chaotic world. That’s a quote from Wiki and it took me three readings to understand that one sentence. And the only reason I was reading any of that stuff was to gain a better understanding of something pointed out to me by one of my B & B/flying students.

He was a doctor and we were talking about the fact that my very existence appears to be based upon unfinished projects. Dozens and dozens of them, big and small. I’ve mentioned this here before because it’s a constant irritant. However, he pointed out that my apparent ability to tolerate a massive number unfinished projects, while maintaining interest in them all, may well be contributing to what appears to be my pretty favorable mental health. This is especially true considering my miles and maintenance. In short, he was saying that the very fact that I wasn’t finishing all of those projects was keeping my brain limber because of what he called, the Zeigarnik Effect.

I’m the first to admit that it takes very little to remind me that there’s a helluva lot out there in the world that I know nothing about and the Zeigarnik Effect was one of them. So, I called on my friend, Mr. Google, to better educate myself on what he was talking about. And, yes, he may have something there.

The Zeigarnik Effect was developed by a Lithuanian psychologist (who knew they even had such), Bluma Zeigarnik, in 1927. She was studying the ability of people to remember details about the tasks they were assigned to do. Initially, she noticed that waitresses had far less trouble remembering the details of orders that hadn’t been completed than they did those that were finished and served. In other words, once a project is finished, it tends to fade from our memories where one that still has work to be done on it remains alive in our mental hard drive. This is because, although we’re not actively working on the project or task, some portion of our mind is still thinking about it and mulling over the tasks that have to be considered and completed when we finally do start working on the project again.

My doctor friend/student mentioned this and we began building some theories based on the usefulness of not finishing projects. You can see where this is headed, right?

First, basically the brain is nothing more than a muscle. As such, it reacts to being exercised. Ignore it and it just sits there, getting fat and flaccid. We were talking about various older relatives we know who are sinking into a couch watching television just waiting to die. To a person, everything having to do with their cognitive connection to the world is in the process of being dulled to the point of uselessness. Their brain is corroding from the lack of being used. It’s bad enough that we all let our bodies atrophy as we get older, but there’s no excuse for letting our brains rot.

Almost everyone I know is into building and doing things so their brains are awash with the details of those projects. When we’re at lunch, it’s obvious that our being together, gives them a chance to voice some of the project-oriented stuff that’s been occupying their thoughts but they often can’t voice at home. This isn’t putting our spouses down at all. It’s understandable that The AZ Redhead wouldn’t be excited about my finally finding the long-sought-after old long range peep sight. Nor can she expect to willing sit through my thought processes in developing a router guide to be used in quickly inletting Mauser trigger guards on stock blanks. So, when we’re with a kindred soul, we start sharing all of those bottled up thoughts knowing they’ll be understood, appreciated and possibly improved upon.

The mental health benefits of having a bunch of tasks/projects always underway is now obvious to me. As are the benefits of doing work-related tasks (articles, etc.) in several pieces rather than in one long sitting. When I’m writing, I always do a bit here, a bit there and it continually amazes me how, when I sit back down and start typing, the words seem to come easier than before. That’s because my brain has been thinking about it and writing paragraphs while I was doing other things. The studies on the Ziegarnik Effect clearly point that out. Disruptions/interruptions are not necessary bad for progress and may actually benefit the task at hand.

Studies also show that the degree of the effect is determined by the motivation of the individual to finish. If you don’t really care if you finish the project, when your not working on it, your brain isn’t drifting back to it. If, however, you’re motivated to finish, your brain is constantly poking at it even though you aren’t even close to physically working on it.

All of this being the case, I tracked down a vintage, long-slide Lyman receiver sight on eBay for one of my Mauser actions and shipped them off to John McGlothilin, my recently discovered magic gunsmith in NM. I’ve always wanted to build a rifle similar to the .308 competition PALMA rifles where they shoot 800-1000 yards with iron sights. No glass. This’ll be that rifle (as if I actually have the time to go shooting).

My excuse for starting yet another project is that I thought I felt my brain slowing down and had to do something to stimulate it. So, can I claim this as a medical expense? I’ll let you know how that pans out.

The Ziegarnik Effect is now my latest go-to bit of rationalization to start another project. Don’t you just love it!! bd

9 Feb 17 - On Being a Piece-Worker
Okay, I’ve been MIA for nearly a month and it’s driving me nuts. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been at the keyboard to write a blog (usually to get something off my mind) and something happened to stop me. It’s as if I have zero control of my life 24 hours a day. But, then, that’s often what life is all about. Is that a bad thing?

Right now it is 0530 and I went to bed 7 hours ago (lost a half hour to bathroom necessities after getting up) with the promise that I’d hammer out a blog. I’ve been getting “are you okay” notes from readers and figured I owe everyone a note to assure them that I’m still kickin’. And still frustrated. I hope I can finish this and jump over the various digital hurtles my computers represent in getting it up on the web. I write it on one computer but have to use a different one to comm with the web because my new one refuses to cooperate.

Going back to the losing control of one’s life: I should probably explain that. Although I often feel as if I’m a chip of wood being pushed along by a wave, there are lots of us who feel the same way. Almost anyone who is in business for themselves feels that way. Whether it’s a big business or a teeny one, like me and mine, small business is driven by the never-ending thought that “I could be doing more. I can’t afford any white space in my schedule. I have to find business.” We subconsciously create our own pressure and, when that pressure isn’t there, we know we’re goofing off. Or have forgotten to do something.

Every one of us continuously bitches about a sometimes-oppressive lack of free time. But, given that we’re pushing hard to fill in the revenue gaps (remember: this is universal, not unique to me), when we suddenly do stumble upon some free time, our inner self tells us that something is wrong. If we have free time, we know it’s not free. It came from somewhere in our schedule and it’s not paying for itself. This, I believe is what underlies the so-called workaholic, which I think is a term that is often mis-applied.

I’ve heard that term applied to me, when it is anything but true. To me, a workaholic is someone working because he/she would rather work than do anything else. That’s not me. Nor is it most small business owners. I think most of us have tons of interests outside of the business that we’d dive into if we didn’t have that last deadline to meet or that last little bit of book keeping to complete or that last phone call/e-mail to take care of. Our priorities are doing what has to be done, when it is supposed to be done.

One of the difficulties a lot of small business types have is balancing a family and personal life with the business life. That’s definitely me. But I think I more or less have the family/wife part under control. Even though my office is in the house, The Redhead and I actually don’t see each other much during the day (BTW- it’s a helluva big home office, a double garage long-ago converted to a family room is now a comfortable work space for Marlene and me). We whiz past each other in the hall or I’m at the airport. But at night, we spend a minimum of two hours entertaining ourselves on the tube or voicing our rage by watching the news (BTW-has anyone caught the series The Shooter, Lethal Weapon or Designated Survivor? Surprisingly good). Incidentally, we miss Meghan Kelly. Then I get back on the computer for an hour or two before hitting the sack.

My personal life is what suffers, which is I’m betting is the same with just about everyone making a living the way I do. When you’re a piece-worker (magazine guy, plumber, dentist, etc, we’re all the same), if the crank isn’t turned, no revenue is produced. So, we give up doing personal projects in the interest of keeping the pipe-line filled. To me, this is just about the only aggravation in what is otherwise a really fun-filled life.

I’ve said this before, but if I were to hit the lottery tomorrow for a gazillion dollars, there is not one single thing that I do on a daily basis that I’d stop doing. This I’m certain is one thing that separates me from many other small business types. I’m head-over-heels in love with what I do (edit a magazine, write articles, flight instruct, etc.). Each of my endeavors scratch a psychological itch and, as the saying goes, “…they complete me.” So, even though I’m far past the point that most people retire and am still regularly doing 80 weeks, I wouldn’t change it if I could. I’m only thankful I still have so much work to do and enjoy it all. Many aren’t so fortunate.

Just a couple weeks ago, when the weather in Phoenix looked and felt more like New Jersey (cold, wet, raining, low ceilings), I took off with a student to give the tower a report on the actual ceiling. My little red toy rocketed off the runway at 1800 fpm climb and almost instantly I was in hard IFR. The clouds hadn’t looked that low and a quick, forceful push at 500 feet was needed to keep contact with the ground by looking straight down. A hard turn around the tower kept everything in sight and I arced around onto downwind and dropped clear of the clouds (“We can see you now” said the tower). Then, in a hard slipping turn I put it on the numbers. As I pulled around the tower in what was at least a 60-degree bank at less than 500 feet, a little voice in my head literally screamed, “This is so damn much fun, I can’t believe I’m being paid to do this!”

So, I have nothing to complain about. Except I sometimes have a hard time getting Thinking Out Loud out the door. Please, bear with me.
bd

15 Jan 17 - Lottery Losers
For reasons I’m not sure I can articulate, I’m vaguely disturbed by the series of TV ads being run by Publishers Clearing House (PCH). Their pitch is that they give the winner and one of their kids, after they pass, $5,000 for the rest of their lives. On the surface, this sounds like a good thing. But is it?

This is a semi dumb subject to be discussing, but I had to get it off of my chest.

A normal lottery, where you win a lump sum, doesn’t bother me. I personally know two people who have won big ones (relatively speaking). One hit it for $25mm but I can’t comment on how it affected her because she instantly disappeared. I have no idea what happened to her. Another got $12mm, which was a little ironic because he was already a self-made millionaire (and a nice guy). But, at least he knew what to do with it: he put it in an account to be used by him and his brothers to finance further business ventures. At last, a lottery winner who didn’t squander it all and wind up living in a cardboard box!

This $5k for life thing bothers me because I can’t help but wonder what happens to the winners. More often, however, I’m thinking about their kids.

First of all, although $5k a week is a lot ($260k a year or about $180k after taxes), it’s not as much as it sounds. Everyone would like to have an extra $5k a week. It would make all of our lives easier, but it would not be big enough to suddenly hang it up and begin living like a millionaire, which I’m willing to bet is what a lot of the winners do. I’d like to know how many Ferraris or Cadillacs show up in their driveways the next day. That’s a helluva lot more $$ than I have ever made, but I’d hope I’d be smart enough to know it’s not enough to go Hollywood on. If handled properly, it would give a normal working guy a security blanket for the long haul that he/she might never achieve otherwise. That would be me. So, it’s well worth having. However, I can easily see where it could royally screw up a life. Especially the winner’s kids. If they know they have $5k a week coming to them forever, what’s that going to do to their motivation? Chances are that right from the beginning, they’d see themselves as rich kids and would live their lives accordingly.

And then there’s the problem of equitable distribution. If you have two kids, which one gets it? Also, if the key to their windfall is you croaking and there’s a bad seed in your litter, you’d be worth more to them dead than alive. Not a terribly comforting thought.

BTW, this is definitely NOT the kind of thing I can bring up to Marlene. Her comment would be, “My God, Budd! Do you have to worry about EVERYTHING!?”

Hmmm! I guess the answer is yes.

Sorry. bd

PS
If PCH is thinking about sending me $5k a week, do it. I won’t turn it down (actually $100 a week would be fine). The concept doesn’t bother me THAT much!

8 Jan 17 - Adios Friend
Recently, the world lost one of its real characters and prototypical males: Mike Dillon of Dillon Precision. I started to write this blog a couple of times in the weeks since he passed but couldn’t get my head into it. Now, I guess I can.

Mike was a longtime friend (45 years) and is the reason I moved to AZ: he had me run his company for a year with the goal of expanding it, which we did. He and his wife, Carole, were central to me surviving a really bad time in my life (divorce, businesses going to hell, two kids in college, etc.) and I lived in their home (huge house) for the first three months I was out here until I found an apartment. They’re family.

Mike was an unusual character. In fact, he was almost totally unique in my experience. I don’t think I ever saw him not smiling and chuckling, even when we were thrashing out some business challenges. He was one of the most invigorating guys I’ve ever been around and loved it because his enthusiasm was hyper-contagious. You couldn’t help but be fired up. And he was enthusiastic about just about everything. Because of that, he played as hard, or harder, than he worked and expected those around him to play with him. It was exhausting in a very pleasant sort of way. :-)

One of the many aspects that made him so different is that he was a borderline genius in a number of areas, including machine design and marketing, which don’t usually go together. Plus, he basically built his business so he could fully enjoy his two main passions, airplanes and machine guns. Because of that, when he and his friends played, it usually involved those two interests totally intertwined and included another of his serious interests, making videos.

You need to get his Machine Gun Magic DVD to fully understand the previous paragraph (Dillonprecision.com, search it by title). The first half of it is explaining the machine gun hobby and shows him and his grown kids firing various vintage machine guns. But, the real reason for making the video was so a bunch of us could stand on a firing line in the desert at dusk firing 100% tracer out of a wide variety of weapons at six and eight-foot R/C model airplanes trying to blow them out of the air.

Mike was serious about everything he did. Serious to be point of being border-line obsessive in a sort of happy, comedic way. When he decided to start shooting models out of the air, he knew he’d need a lot of models so set up a full time, one and two-man production line hot-wiring the delta-wing foam cores and building models by the dozens. But, these weren’t just any models. They had Cyalume glow sticks on their leading edges and tips so we could see them well into darkness. Eventually, they also had bottle caps filled with black powder and blasting caps taped onto the airframe in various places. Hey, if you’re shooting models with machine guns, you just have to include explosions! It’s only logical.

Hitting one of them was incredibly difficult. This, even though, when firing full auto, full-tracer, you essentially have a brightly lit, visual fire hose. With six or eight shooters on the line, the air in front of us was literally laced with tracer, but we’d repeatedly see a model fly through a veritable cloud of tracers and not even get scratched. At one point, I was firing a French Minime (Mike had two them before the Army adapted them as the SAW249), and had a guy standing next to me feeding the belts while I fired from the hip. I waved the visual string of 5.56mm tracers onto one of the aircraft, literally keeping the “hose” right on it for a few long seconds before it split-S’d into the ground. I just knew it was going to look like screen wire with dozens of holes in it. However, when I picked it up, it had exactly one hole that happened to hit a servo.

The only time I ever saw one of them shredded was when the R/C pilot (who was fantastic by the way) made the mistake of coming directly at Mike’s son, Steve, who was firing the .50 cal. quad-mount. But, rather than having four fifties, the mount was equipped with one of Mike’s 7.62 Gatling guns. Steve centered the airplane at 3,000 rounds/minute and it came apart like a party balloon. Outstanding!!!

The coolest things I ever did with Mike included a number of occasions, when we were shooting film for a video he never finished. He owned and flew a bunch of airplanes, including a Hughes 500 chopper, a fully armed UH-1H Huey, 3 T-34s w/big motors and aTemco TT-1 Super Pinto jet trainer (Google it). One of the T-34s was a YAT-34. It was one of three T-34s modified by the Canadian government (if scuttlebutt is to be believed) to include hard points under the wings and one gun bay per wing mounting a Browning .30 cal. We shot video of it firing the .30s, with Huey Mini-gun pods under each wing (REALLY a kick!) and mounting chain guns under each wing. I cannot even guess how many tens of thousands of rounds of 7.62 NATO (.308) we fired from that airplane.

Our targets were usual 50 gallon drums filled with black powder and shredded magnesium. A hit was REALLY spectacular, and always accompanied by a Dillon Chuckle over the intercom. Those flights are not in my log book only because there is no “strafing” column!

So many times we’d be out looking for ranch land for him (he dreamed of having thousands of acres where he could shoot what he wanted, when he wanted). We’d be in the Hughes 500 and scooting along in canyons looking for Indian ruins and possible wrecked warbirds. Or just looking around for the hell of it.

Mike started as a crop duster pilot, flew 707s for TWA (and positively hated it), managed to buy and rebuild a P-40 while living on a shoe string, but all the while was pursuing a dream. I remember him saying very concisely, “I didn’t want to be rich. I wanted to be obscenely rich!” But, it wasn’t the money that attracted him. It was the freedom the money would give him to buy and fly what he wanted, when he wanted. But, the process had to be fun. The work had to be fun.

He designed and built his first ammunition loading machine in his garage and, while a TWA pilot, would carry one in the cargo bay so he could demonstrate it to police departments on layovers. Then he designed one for the average shooter for pistols. Then one for rifles. One that does everything but make coffee for you. And on and on. Dillon Precision became the 800-pound Gorilla of the ammo reloading community. You might think that’s a pretty small community but, while I learned a thousand things working for Mike, one has always stuck with me: now matter how small the niche market may be, if you own most of it, you’ll be doing well. And he owned, or got patent payments on, much of it. And he did well.

Another lifelong lesson was the value of a committed customer base. Every Dillon machine carries a lifetime warranty assigned to the machine, not the purchaser. If you find one in an alley that has been run over by a couple of trucks and set on fire, drag it into the lobby or ship it to them and, no-questions-asked, it will be repaired or replaced. That’s one reason Dillon customers may be the most loyal customers on the planet. That and the fact that his machines are really good.

I also came to value the concept of running your life by simple rules. He was very much a what-you-see-is-what-you-get guy. And if he said something, he not only meant it, but you could count on it. He was as honest as he was inventive and as much fun as anyone I have ever met, or am likely to meet.

It took three or four years for the Alzhiemers to grind him down. And, he fought it all the way. He knew no other way. He was the very definition of a man and, on so many levels, set a standard for the rest of us to aspire to.

He was fond of saying “adios.” So, I’ll do the same: Adios friend. If there’s a heaven, you’re going to be a super star in it. Just as you were on Earth. bd

31 Dec 16 - 2017: A Personal Pivotal Year?
Today, New Year’s eve day, a Saturday, it’s raining, dreary and doing its best to make Arizona look like New Jersey on a bad day. It’s supposed to rain tomorrow too. Not an auspicious beginning to the new year. Still I feel something I haven’t felt for a long time on this day: optimism. And it’s not political optimism. It’s personal optimism with a tinge of determination.

I have a long standing New Year’s resolution to make no resolutions. This is mostly because of the personal disappointment I feel, when I don’t stick to them. Sound familiar? This year, may be a little different (he says with great hope in his voice). For reasons I can’t quite explain, I feel as if I can resolutely state a few things that sound suspiciously like resolutions.

No, I’m not going to resolve to lose 15 pounds, which I obviously need to do. That’s an on-going thought pattern that will come to fruition only when my brain indexes into that small mental notch it needs to find before the losing-weight machinery kicks into gear. And it will. It always has. I’ve lost thousands of pounds, so I know the cycle will start eventually.

And I’m not going to resolve to finish The Second City (novel number three) this year. I’m a third of the way through it and it too depends on a mental pendulum swinging in the right direction at the right time. Forcing it would only result in another resolution failing.

I think this may be the first New Years that I’ve been in position to make resolutions (of sorts) that I’m confident I can make happen.

Incidentally, I’m writing this more for me to read than for you to read. I think that part of me knows that, if I put my thoughts down in black and white, they’ll be more concrete. Therefore, making more sense and increasing the chance they’ll actually happen.

What differs this year is that the tattered remains of many past years’ resolutions have actually produced enough movement forward that I can make them work this year. I’ve tried and failed on them, but in the process, made halting steps forward in several areas and those steps have put me only a step or two short of the goals originally set on several fronts.

For the past few years, when I’ve had a half hour or so available, I’d invest it in The Roadster, making mini-steps forward. As I look at 2017 for the little road toad, it’s obvious that I’m out of little things to do. I crawled around it yesterday and realized that fine tuning the parking brake, an hour project, is all that’s needed to take it to the DMV and get that all-important VIN number that stands between me, AZ registration, insurance and taking it around the block. Even though I have a Nebraska title on it, I can’t transfer it to AZ registration without a VIN number and Model A’s didn’t have VIN numbers so I have to physically take it to the DMV for their blessing and a tag. I’ve already set it up with a friend to use his car trailer this week for the all-important DMV trip. A HUGE step forward for the project, officially anointing it as being ready for the street. Sure, there are a lot of cosmetics (interior, paint chief amongst them) to be attended to, but those are unimportant in the big scheme of things.

I have my first eBook in about the same condition. The words are all written and ready to be edited, an enjoyable process. The photos are sorted and ready to be scanned. It just takes some commitment on my part to take the final steps to get it layed out and ready to be digitized. Then, of course, I need to figure out how to market it. I’m hoping this e-book will give me enough experience that I can get serious about that market. I haven’t gotten myself totally educated yet on the marketing process, but I’ll figure it out. I’m hoping I can make this into a viable revenue source to cover us, when I can no longer bounce around the pattern in a Pitts. Damn! Is that realism sneaking into my thought patterns?

The working title is “Warbirds and Me: A Grassroots Pilot Flies the Big Iron”. It is a compilation of my thoughts when I flew solo in such icons as the Stearman, Texan, Mustang, Bearcat, P-38, etc. and is profusely illustrated with my photos of each.

Probably the biggest reason I’m confident I can accomplish these two goals is that I’m not only down to the wire in terms of work to be done, but they are the only projects in which I’m going to invest any significant time this year. Rather than spreading myself over the dozens of projects I have hanging fire, this is The Year of the Roadster/eBook. Period.

So, that’s 2017 for me. What about you? Let’s make it a goal for us to meet 12 months from now and compare notes on our progress. Deal? bd

24 Dec 16 - A Weekend Christmas
I have no idea why, but, here it is Christmas Eve day and I don’t have a hint of Christmas spirit. None. I’m not really in a humbug mood. I’m in a normal, Saturday morning mood. And that may be part of the problem. Among other things.

First, when Christmas falls on a Sunday, there is no wind-up to it. There’s no rapid tapering off of everything in our workaday lives leading up to Christmas Eve like when it’s on a Thursday or Wednesday. Nor any wind down afterwards, although some businesses are seeing themselves as being benevolent by giving their worker bees Monday off. That’s a three-day weekend, of which two were already owed most folks, so it doesn’t feel like they’ve gained anything. I don’t know why that bugs me, because, being very self-employed, none of this actually changes my living/work patterns. However, the general feeling of the population seems to reflect my own. Thanksgiving, always being on Thursday, creates a sizeable hole in everyone’s calendar and the general vibe changes as everyone anticipates it. Not so a weekend Christmas.

With the thought of picking a given day of the week for Christmas, as we do for Thanksgiving, I got to wondering: what day of the week was Jesus actually born on? Inasmuch as you can Google one of those calendar sites that tell what day any date in history fell on, I did just that and got hit right between the eyes with a major lapse in my understanding of history. I have a feeling I may be the last person on the planet to learn some of these facts, but maybe not.

First: no one actually knows when Christ was born! No one!! I’m not talking about what day it happened. Not even what month. I mean no one knows for sure what YEAR he was born in! Here’s some interesting facts from Wiki (who we all know is ALWAYS right, right?):

Two methods have been used to estimate the year of the birth of Jesus: one based on the accounts of his birth in the gospels with reference to King Herod's reign, and the other by working backwards from his stated age of "about 30 years" when he began preaching (most scholars, on this basis, assume a date of birth between 6 and 4 BC).

Look more closely at the last sentence “…assume a date of birth between 6 and 4 BC…”. That’s a shocker, if nothing else because BC means Before Christ. Holy Crap! Is nothing in our lives cast in concrete? So, they think Christ was born before he was born?! Or something like that. My head hurts! This is stomping what little Christmas spirit I had into the dirt.

Wiki goes on to say:
The first recorded date of Christmas being celebrated on December 25th was in 336, during the time of the Roman Emperor Constantine (he was the first Christian Roman Emperor). A few years later, Pope Julius I officially declared that the birth of Jesus would be celebrated on the 25th December.

Think about this: the date was chosen out of thin air. It’s arbitrary. It relates to nothing. For all we know the Pope could have picked the date that his favorite dog was born. Or made it a celebration of the last time he got laid (there’s a last time for everything, especially if you’re a pope). Picking this date had major impact on a huge number of aspects of modern life.

He could just have easily picked August 3rd. Or March 1st (by coincidence, my own birthday). If he had picked dates during which the weather would be more inviting, think of how that would impact us today.

— The concept of a “white Christmas” would be shattered
— Santa Claus would be wearing Bermuda shorts and driving a hay wagon
— Some of the best Christmas movie musicals would be made on the beach
— The snow man wouldn’t be a seasonal celebrity
— Jimmy Stewart’s AWonderful Life would have him wandering the streets in a T-shirt, sweating, rather than freezing.
— I, for one, would enjoy it more if it were warmer. And I live in Phoenix! That speaks volumes.

Anyway, in the hopes that other folks are feeling more festive than I am, Merry Christmas to all of you. I truly hope that enough of your loved ones will be visiting that you can throw your arms around them. The day may be named after one man, but Christmas is actually a celebration of what that man stood for and that centers on love of family and friends. So, enjoy! bd

18 Dec 16 - Talking Tools
This morning I fired up my ancient, but trusty, Rockwell 6 x 48 stationary sander to reshape the nose of an open-end wrench. As I did, my old friend, Ken Brock, danced through my mind, as it always does when using this sander. It’s my everlasting connection to him.

A lot of folks won’t know the name Ken Brock because, unbelievably, it has been 15 years since we got the sad news. He was known by many as the guy with the wild airshow routine in a gyrocopter. To others, he’ll be remembered as the manufacturer of wide range of specialty parts for a wide range of homebuilt aircraft. Still others will know him from his aerospace manufacturing company. A lot of folks, however, those who knew him, will remember him as one of the most straight ahead, what you see is what you get, friendly people in their lives.

When he died and it became obvious to his widow that she’d be selling their house in the Anahiem area of So-Cal, she called me with an unusual request: she told me that Ken would want me to come and browse through his workshop behind the house and take whatever I wanted. I was choked up by the end of the phone call. It was something that had never entered my mind and I almost couldn’t reply.

I’d never seen Ken’s private workshop and, when I did, I was blown away. It was about the size of my current house and contained every tool and machine known to man. Everything from Pexto box breaks and slip rollers to big Clausing lathes and DoAll band saws. And I could have what I wanted. Part of me wanted everything. But, I recognized two things immediately: this treasure trove of “stuff” represented a sizable source of potential cash for his widow. Second, even if I could figure out how to move something like the lathe or a metal break, I’d have no place to put it. My shop isn’t that big and was maxed out for space.

I wound up taking three multi-drawer drill index files which gave me every drill bit from wire sizes to 1/2 ” in fractional, numbered and lettered sizes. I also took the 6 x 48” Rockwell sander which, in typical Ken Brock fashion, runs microscopically true and I use it constantly. Now, every time I retrieve some sort of odd sized drill bit or fire up the old sander, I think of Ken and Marie and remember some of our good times together.

The walls of my shop/garage are lined with dozens and dozens of tools from long gone eras and I quite often find myself using one to solve some kind of problem. Some of the tools, like the blacksmith tongs that were part of an old blacksmith shop I bought while still a teenager, are handmade, each for a special purpose. They each started out as a thick strip of steel that some unknown blacksmith stuffed into a coal forge and hammered into the shape needed to do a specific job for him. A few have worked for me. The rest just hang there taunting me with the mystery behind them: who made them and how long ago? And what were some of their purposes? I don’t have the Ken Brock connection to them.

I also have a smallish anvil (60 pounds) I picked up at a hotrod swap meet a few years ago that has seen a lot of use. It’s chipped and scarred and clearly shows the hard life working anvils always live. I use it periodically, but, more important, it’s always sitting there as I walk in the shop, trying hard to tell me its background. Who forged what on its anything-but-smooth surface constantly frustrates me. But, that’s generally the case with most old tools. They can’t tell us their history, which is one of the most pleasant things about the 6 x 48 sander. As I stand there making sparks, I envision Ken doing the same thing and it’s nice. It’s a special moment that never loses its attraction to me.

I have dozens of my own wrenches that I’ve cut and welded, bent and ground on and otherwise mutilated to serve a specific purpose. Each has a stripe of yellow fingernail polish around it to identify it as being a “special purpose” tool. They’re all strung on a gigantic carabiner ring so they stay together. Years from now, when my kids are struggling with what to do with all the crap in my shop (a major problem), I’m certain there will be an indiscriminate garage sale in which a bunch of the stuff winds up in boxes on the curb, the carabiner ring of wrenches among them. Someone will hand whomever my kids have running the sale a single dollar bill and walk off with all those wrenches, many of which will make absolutely no sense to anyone.

My hope is that some rabid “toolie” will buy those wrenches and hang them on the wall, with the sure knowledge that the time will come when one of those tools will solve a problem for him. When that moment comes, I hope a thought goes through his mind, “I wonder who modified this and why? If I could find him, I’d thank him for saving me a lot of work.” If I’m remembered, even as an unknown, that’s fine. At least something containing my DNA has worked for someone, the same way it worked for me. Maybe that’s my way of paying it forward. bd

11 Dec 16 - Random Stuff
This has been an “interesting” month in terms of things just not going right. Or more properly, a whole bunch of things reaching the point that they’re worn out. This was made obvious this morning when I bathed via sponge-bath from a bucket.

No, I’m not camping out but I am doing my best to survive the latest in a long string of “Guess what? Everything around you is aging out”. This time it was hot water bubbling out of the carpet in front of the master bathroom door. I sensed that was probably not supposed to happen. That illuminated epiphany was rapidly followed by “Crap, the carpet is laid on a concrete slab so, the fix ain’t immediately gonna be easy or cheap.” And it wasn’t. On both scores. And the fix hasn’t been completed yet. So far the recovery process has only been a long day of plumbers and a guy with an electronic pipe locator saying things like “Holy, crap! Where does that pipe go and what does it do? Why would anyone design plumbing like this?” Very disheartening.

The fix is in sight, as are numerous gapping holes in both sheet rock and concrete. However, as is ALWAYS the case, this happened on a Friday so we had three nights of bucket bathing and pouring swimming pool water into toilet tanks to endure.

Modern living is so much fun!

It did, however point out how spoiled we are. You don’t have to look outside of our own borders to find hundreds of thousands of people who don’t have hot water. Or maybe even running water. Or worse yet, are wandering around homeless with nothing remotely resembling a civilized existence.

During the early ‘90’s, while suffering through what my kids call my “dark period”, when a money-sucking divorce coincided with just about every revenue-producing thing in my life taking a hard, left turn, I spent plenty of time thinking about being homeless. Although I never was, for a couple of years I was close enough for it to be a constant worry. I was eyeing vacant buildings and groves of trees I passed as possible dwelling sites. I also became acutely aware of how little it took to put someone on the street. And, how quickly it could happen. More important, I analyzed how difficult it would be to come back from that condition. Once you’ve been on the street for more than about four or five days, with no shower, no way to shave or clean yourself up, you’re not in condition to interview for any kind of job. And, it gets worse from there. It’s a nearly hopeless situation that only help from family, friends or institutions can act as a rescue rope. I told myself, that if it ever happened, I couldn’t bring myself to ask for help. That I would wander out into the wilderness and become a caveman or something. But, even that’s not possible: how do you get out into the wilderness from a major city? You can’t, so you wind up trying to survive in the wildness that a city becomes, when you’re homeless.

So, this morning, as I was drying myself off in my waterless bathroom after using a bucket full of the hot water that was still available in the kitchen, it never crossed my mind that this was inconvenient. I just remembered how lucky I was to have that bathroom. And that towel. And a roof over my head. And the opulent luxury of hot water.

I will, however, be obscenely happy, when I can take a shower again!!

And now for some slightly weird stuff I stumbled across this week.

How’s the following for something right out of science fiction? Russian, Valery Spiridonov, a guy, is having a team of Italian surgeons do a HEAD TRANSPLANT!!! Yeah, you read that right. He’s going to have his head transplanted onto a healthy body. And the head surgeon (not a play on words) says the process has a 90% chance of success! Unreal right? I wonder what the guy is going to think if he wakes up and finds that the original donor body wasn’t available and they had to substitute that of a twenty-something, very well constructed female? The possibilities are endless. See this link!

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/09/20/russian-man-set-for-worlds-first-head-transplant/

Now for news of a slight variation on the head transplant theme, but a different head. The Secretary of the Air Force has decreed that Air Force pilots who are in the process of gender re-assignment (read that as removing their personal pitot tube) can skip physical fitness tests. Any following typos are the result of me laughing my butt off. Is this really a problem in the Air Force? We have so many pilots facing that problem that an official policy from the head honcho is necessary to deal with it? Damn! I guess being raised amidst cornfields many generations ago hasn’t prepared me for thought processes like that.

http://dennismichaellynch.com/transgender-military-pilots-can-now-skip-physical-fitness-testing/

And so the world turns. And us along with it. I’d like to hang around and chat, but I feel the need to go bounce a happy little biplane around the pattern. Later! bd

13 Nov 16 - Forging Ahead
I’m not certain why I’m writing this except I’m once again watching myself doing things as if I’m having an out-of-body experience. I’m physically and mentally taking steps in a direction that makes no sense and I know I shouldn’t do it, but I’m doing it anyway. Am I the only one with this affliction?

Given the political turmoil of this week, you’d think I’d be ranting about that. However, I figure everyone else is beating that horse to death, so I’m going to explore a totally different mental factor of my own that has been overshadowing the whole election thing: my fascination with working steel. Specifically making knifes and, now, forging steel.

Bear in mind that I’m up to my butt in magazine deadlines and flying and basically always worried about paying the bills (THAT everyone can identify with). Add to that a determination to get my little roadster on the road and I really shouldn’t be even glancing at any other projects. I have no such thing as free time. But, I can’t help myself. I’ve always been a closet case knife maker, y’all know that. But, I’d never considered forging because it’s so much easier to just buy a blank of steel and grind it to shape. To that end, over the past couple of years I’ve spent a lot of money buying the specialized belt sanders, the right steel and building materials and all that stuff is still in the boxes they came in. I have the equivalent of a knife factory stacked up in a corner waiting for the day I have the time to jump into it. Then, I stumbled across a cable TV show, Forged in Fire. Bad mistake!

This is a border-line hokey reality show/contest in which four contestants are given three hours to rough forge a blade that is to meet the criteria set by the judges. They have to use steel they salvage from something different the judges give them each week. One week it was a chain saw, where the only hardenable part of it was the chain, so we got to see them chop the chain into little pieces, load it into a mild steel canister, heat and forge it together into a form of Damascus steel that would take an edge. Another time it was the bucket from a back hoe. Another time a big coil spring. Through forging they have to make the junk into a blade that can be heat treated and tempered.

The assigned blade might be a chopper, a stabber, whatever. It’s never the same thing week to week. Then the rough blade is judged and one contestant is cut (clever use of words, right?). Then the blade is finished and equipped with a handle in another three hours. They are put through a series of tests that judge its cutting capability and toughness (severing a huge fish and chopping at a 50-pound block of ice, for instance). One more contestant goes away.

The remaining two are sent home to their own shops with the order to forge/make some sort of historical cutting “thing” assigned by the judges that range from wildly-shaped swords of Indonesian head hunters to Zulu stabbing spears. The assignments are always something seldom seen and they have a week to complete it. Then they come back, the item is put through a torture test and the winner crowned. And given a check for ten grand.

It’s one of those kinds of shows, like the old Biker Build-off, where you get to see craftsmen doing their thing and, in the process learn so much it’s amazing. In this case, you learn a lot about forging and heat treating steel, something that’s always fascinated me. When I was a kid, we had a for-real blacksmith shop in town and I’d watch the three ancient brothers working over a coal forge doing everything you can think of. They let me try my hand at hard facing plows that involved running a layer of hard arc welding over the edge, then forging it to shape, heat treating it and shaping it with a grinder. I was 12-15 at the time. Can you imagine a parent letting a kid do something like that today? Can you imagine a worker letting a kid incur that kind of liability today? Of course not, but that was then. This is now and I’m again feeling the “steel disease” boiling up in my system.

This past week I ordered a stack of 2.5-inch-thick fire bricks, should I ever want to start building a propane forge (a very "in" thing). Then the yellow sticky pad on my desk started showing sketches for a tube-shaped forged lined with the aforementioned bricks (incidentally, I ordered the bricks through Amazon mid-afternoon and they delivered them at 10 the next morning. FREE! Damn!). Originally, I was going to use a piece of 10” square tubing with 1/4 ” walls. But it would be too heavy and the inside dimension and curved inside corners would mean trimming the blocks like crazy. But there was another solution.

Yesterday, in an out-of-body experience, I watched myself stop writing and take a break at about 0745 and climb into my car. Then the person that I know was me, found himself at a steel yard where he ordered 10” wide, 3/16” steel sheared into four 12-inch pieces. At the same time, he bought a foot of 2”, 1/4 ” wall DOM tubing. He would use two inches of that to mount the burner tube that would come in from the side through the fire bricks. It would heat the 4 1/2 ” square, one-foot long cavity formed by the fire bricks, when they lined the square tube that he would eventually create by welding the steel plates together. This way the inside corners would be square and exactly dimensioned to hold the bricks. If he ever gets around to it.

The plate and bricks safely stored away, this guy then scrounged through the pile of crap behind the garage and pulled out the vaguely-remembered truck spring. Springs are usually 1095 steel, which forges well and is heat treated by oil-quenching. So, he could do it all himself. Something he found attractive, it not practical. The web sources said such a forge could easily produce the 1800-2000 degrees needed to forge steel. The same guy then brought the bathroom scale out to the shop and wrestled the old anvil he had bought years before knowing he’d eventually find a use for it. It tipped the scales at 68 pounds. A little light, but workable. Now, all he needs is a tree stump to lag-bolt it to. And he knows where to get one custom cut. If he ever gets around to it.

So, now all that stuff is sitting on shelves and in corners waiting. Biding its time. I know it’s there. It creates an awareness of its own. How long it will wait is unknown. But, what we have here is another example of a person who is clearly not remotely in control of his impulses. I wonder if that’s illegal. Yet. Please tell me I’m not alone in these kinds of mental lapses! bd

5 Nov 16 - A Mary Jane Surprise: If I hadn't Seen it...
A side note in many states during this election cycle, besides the obvious and catastrophic differences in the two parties’ views of our future, is legalizing marijuana. Arizona is one of those states. Last week, while I was giving some thought to this subject, a very surprising thing happened.

Incidentally, I don’t understand how something that is patently illegal under federal law can be made legal in a state. But, then, think of sanctuary cities that ignore federal immigration law and nothing happens. Just saying…

First, a couple of facts to put this in context: I neither smoke nor drink and may have set a record during the ‘60’s in that I was a hard core guitar player and never did ANY drugs of any kind. I’ve never taken even one toke off a joint. I’d take a little Dexadrene (low level speed) during those 1,400 miles non-stop drives to play a club somewhere to keep me awake, but that was occupational, not recreational. Some part of me has always rebelled at the concept of giving up any control of my senses to anything. This may be because I have enough trouble keeping them under control as it is. I’ve thought that way since a teenager and I can’t really explain why. It just is.

Also, I don’t draw a hard line between alcohol and drugs. Especially marijuana (MJ, Mary Jane). If you are mentally impaired, I don’t think the cause is important. Only the impaired state and the problems it can cause not only for the individual, but for innocents around them, matter. And, to be frank, that pisses me off. I think that any drug dealer who sells drugs is in the same category as those who willfully drive drunk. If either kills a kid, I think the parents should be given a hunting license and the offender given a two-hour head start and the hunt is on. And legal. I have zero tolerance for either. None.

Incidentally, here are some interesting stats on marijuana, alcohol and firearms.
In 2014, there were 88,000 deaths due to alcohol, roughly 10,000 were traffic accident related. Alcohol is the fourth leading preventable cause of death in the US.

At the same time there were 32,000 deaths due to firearms, with 21,000 of them suicides (which would have happened regardless). Firearms are the 12th highest cause of death with homicides being a fraction of that and the vast majority of those being gang related.

There are apparently zero cases of MJ overdose deaths with healthy people but a couple that involved a pre-existing cardiac condition and past alcohol abuse. However, MJ is starting to be a major cause of traffic deaths, with Washington state saying they’re seeing 17%. So, it’s just taking up where alcohol leaves off, which is to be expected. In my mind it’s also criminal.

All of this having been said, I’ve always considered myself a fairly open minded type and thought I pretty much had a handle on MJ and its uses. But, this week I found that was absolutely not the case. I had lumped medical MJ in with the recreational use of MJ which is a totally wrong thing to do, but I didn’t know it. This was made abundantly clear by a personal experience.

We have a long-time book keeper and friend, female in her 50’s, that over the years has become positively deformed because of the pain from her spine and pelvis, which were damaged while lifting something 25 years ago. She has had any number of surgeries, none of which helped. The net result is that her pelvis was so tilted that one leg was essentially about two inches too short, her arms and legs had trouble doing what they were supposed to do and she was in constant, close-to-debilitating pain and on a wide range of drugs. She needed someone to drive her everywhere and help her.

Today, she was working here and I noticed she didn’t seem so “bent” and I asked her about it. She bounced up out of her chair, did deep knee bends, balanced on one leg, the other out behind her swan-like. Her body was completely straight, normal and capable of anything. And I mean anything. I was astounded!

She’s taking zero pharmaceuticals and hasn’t had any for well over a year. She switched over to what we’d usually call medical marijuana, which is not as I would have expected it to be. They’ve extracted the CBDs (whatever that is) and put it into salves and tinctures that she rubs-in or places under her tongue. There is absolutely no buzz or mental alteration of any kind. All she feels is relief from the pain.

But, it has done MUCH more than that.

This stuff has totally straightened out her body. Every joint is normal. I had no idea this stuff could do that. The results have floored her normal doctor who thought she was going to be the way she was permanently.

I’m only passing this along because I guess I didn’t really understand what medical marijuana could do. I thought it just got people high enough that they didn’t mind the pain. Here there is no high and no pain. It has actually cured her. Absolutely amazing!!

Of course, I’ve been told that I’m the last person on the planet to know this, but I’m betting I’m not, so I’m passing it along.

I did just a little research and found that the high associated with MJ comes from the THC in it. CBD, however, also a major ingredient has no mental effects at all. It also turns out that they can grow marijuana that has almost no THC but is CBD-heavy. They can also extract the CBD and that’s all that’s in the medicines that are legal in a lot of states, including AZ. Right now, however, CBD is still a Schedule 1 drug and requires a permit to purchase.

Inasmuch as marijuana has about the same effect as alcohol but has negatives attached to it like cartels, black market, questionable quality, etc., I’ll probably vote to make it legal for that reason alone (not to mention the ability to make it a cash crop and tax it). However, given a choice, I’d prefer the ability to push a button and make every kind of mind-altering material like alcohol and drugs disappear. Not illegal. Disappear. Civilization would be the better for it. However, man has been fermenting alcohol and chewing cocoa leaves almost since Neanderthals roamed the Earth, so there is little chance of that.

Of course, I have my own intoxicants. You haven’t lived until you’ve experience the high associated with ripping up off the runway in a high performance airplane. Or pushed the nose down from level flight curving into an outside loop. Or experience the total abandon associated with a three-dimensional machine that is unlimited in its aerobatic capability that reduces gravity to a minor irritation. There are highs and then there are highs.

Go here to do a little CBD research: http://www.leafscience.com/2014/02/23/5-must-know-facts-cannabidiol-cbd/

30 Oct 16 - Coming Full Circle...Sam Phillips, Life and Me
This from Deadline Hollywood:
EXCLUSIVE: Paramount Pictures has acquired the Peter Guralnick book, Sam Phillips: The Man Who Invented Rock ‘N’ Roll. The film will be developed by Appian Way’s Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Davisson for DiCaprio to play the title character, the pioneering music producer.

The release goes on to explain how Sam Phillips and his tiny Memphis-based Sun Studio made stars of the likes of Elvis Presley, Ike Turner, Howlin’ Wolf, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash and Carl Perkins. Above all, he was a major player in bringing black musicians to mainstream America and a force for integration.

This is a dream project for my daughter who, for some unknown reason, picked up on my own very special connection to Sam Phillips and his so-called “million dollar quartet.” From the time I picked up a guitar in the mid-50’s (I have yet to lay it down), the most influential musicians to me were those under the Sun Label. In fact, Scotty Moore, Elvis’s original guitar player, can be heard resonating in a lot of the stuff I still play (Chet Atkins too). Those four, Presley, Cash, Perkins and Lee, were, and are, the sound track from my youth. And somehow that bled over to my Hollywood mogul daughter. And from her to my granddaughter, Alice. Very, very unlikely match-ups.

In the background of all of this is a subtle structure that affects both movies and popular music that is so intimately familiar to everyone in the universe, yet is generally not recognized.

Rock ‘n roll and so much more of American music (which then became an art form worldwide) is based on the blues that came out of the African American experience. I’m not smart enough to explain how the music of the slaves during their dark period evolved into the blues sometime around the turn of the 20th century. It probably started with “field hollers” but it established the soon-to-be accepted musical structure, which everyone recognizes without realizing it. It’s commonly called 12-bar blues, which is almost simplistic, but very comforting, in its structure: 12-bars of three, four-beat periods each and three chords. Sing any rock ‘n roll song you can think of to yourself while counting the beats, one to four, then starting over and you’ll see what I mean. It is the very essence of the majority of popular music. We all sense the structure, but seldom think about it.

“Standin’ on the corner, baby
Match box is holding my clothes.

Yes I’m standin’ on the corner, honey
Match box is holdin’ my clothes.

Ain’t got no matches
but I sure got a long way to go.”


Invisible structures are all around us. Take the almost cast iron way of telling a story, which is most evident in the structure of the majority of movies and novels. They are all three-act plays with Act I being very short, Act II is long and Act III, inbetween the two in length.

Act I can be as short as three minutes in a movie but is more likely 5-15 minutes. It will be as short as two or three pages in a novel. During that introductory time frame, all of the main characters are identified and set in motion and the conflict/mystery is set in place (a strong story ALWAYS has some sort of conflict/mystery to be sorted out, some obvious and big, some internal and maybe emotion-based). Act I also sets a goal that must be met to solve the conflict.

Act II is the longer, middle section where the writer has his main characters flailing around in various ways focused on solving the mystery and/or conflict. Then, a light bulb goes off in the lead character’s mind or something pivotal happens and the way to solve everything is clear to the hero. It is this plot point that kicks off Act III.

Act III is always a fast pace, downhill run during which a lot of action and solutions resolve everything that was set in place during Act I.

Very few movies or novels stray very far from this formula. Just as most popular songs stay close to the 12-bar, three chord structure. The Beatles were among the first to wander away from it.

I had a bunch of the old yellow-labeled, Sun 45’s as a kid and listening to Cash, Presley and especially Carl Perkins (I like his Blue Suede Shoes version better than Elvis’. It’s raw rock-a-billy) really drove home the 12-bar concept. And Jerry Lee couldn’t survive without it. As I got into writing I began to see how the three-act play concept wasn’t that much different than wailing away in 12-bars. There was the set-up, the acting out and then the wrap-up in each verse just as there is in each novel/movie/play. And, to a certain extent, life is lived by the same structure.

We spend the all-too-brief first years of our life, usually entitled “youth”, getting set up for Act II. During that time, the character we are going to be and the way we are likely to develop is clear to us and everyone around us.

Then we hit life’s Act II: that usually covers mid-life where we’re raising a family, struggling to get a career moving, facing our conflicts, etc. It’s a hyper active period during which too many of us fail to remember the lofty goals (also called dreams) we had during our youth/Act I.

Then, a critical plot point is hit, with 65 years being the artificially imposed point for many, and we drift into the final chord change/Act III. For many, that plot point is gleefully accepted as a time to lay the tools down and just “live.” For me, that kind of finale isn’t a finale. It is a vague, intangible flat-line existence that, if a person isn’t careful, can become nothing more than a waiting period, playing the same chord until physically unable. For most reading this, I suspect that isn’t the case.

I’m guessing that for most folks reading this, their Act III is/or will be a free form guitar solo where they do and become all the things that life prevented in Act II.

Personally, I haven’t hit the plot point yet that says Act III is about to begin. I’m still bouncing from wall to wall solving conflicts and living adventures that seem to be choruses unto themselves. They are moving the song along but the finale is nowhere in sight. This is just as well because I don’t know the last verse so will just keep playing riffs as long as I can manage. When I can no longer do that, physically and mentally, I’ll know Act III is about to begin. Hopefully Act III be only a page, or a couple bars, long.

PS
I’m dying to see what my little girl does with the legends on which her old man’s life and much of musical and cultural society was built.

23 Oct 16 - Cars, Jerk Politicians and Realities
My wife Marlene, AKA The Arizona Redhead, accomplished a major goal this week when, after ten years of saving, bought us our first new car in 16 years. Then, that night I watched a few minutes of the Al Smith Catholic Diocese dinner and made a resolution that’s as firm as Marlene’s desire to have a nice car (which by the way is a real head trip).

Watching Trump and Hillary savage each other at that dinner in completely inappropriate ways in the totally wrong venue sickened me to the core. Whatever happened to common decency? Both of them should have known better and Trump didn’t just cross the line, he wound up in the next county. And I think it’s going to get worse until this frigging election is over. So, to protect my mental wellbeing I’m going to do my best to stick my head in the sand and not watch a single bit of political television until it’s over. I’m going to vote, but I’m going to hold my nose while doing so. This election is where the old cliché about thinking you can pick up a turd by the clean end fits. Damn!

On to happier subjects: a multitude of revelations came from Marlene’s new ride. First, she’s been squirreling away (and paying taxes on) her B & B money almost as long as I can remember with the sole purpose of us having a reliable, classy car. Our last new car is still with us. It’s a 16-year-old Maxima that’s still running and looking great (if a little frumpy). Further, I’m still driving my own last new car, a Honda Civic hatchback that is now 26 years old and couldn’t run better if it tried (234,000 miles). I had the body cherried out a while back so it looks good too.

Warning: what I’m about to get into concerning Marlene’s new car is probably really old news to most of those reading this. However, during a celebratory drive up to Sedona for Mex food (100 miles each way) yesterday, I suddenly found myself driving something several generations ahead of what I’m used to. Our 2000 Maxima is a good solid road car, although it has too much wind noise at 80 mph. The biggest change is that a 2017 Maxima is, as I’m assuming all new cars are, nothing more than a four-wheel computer. This thing has so many sensors giving the driver so many informational inputs and warnings, it’s unreal! The monitor that’s where the dash should be can even link up to my iPhone and run all its apps of which there are about 50. I’m positive that if we keep scrolling through the menus, we’ll find one that senses when the driver needs to pee and will give directions on how to get to the closest peeatorium.

The forward traffic sensors are really wild! Again, I know every single person reading this has experienced them, but I find it amusing that I can set speed control and, when the sensors say I’m about four car lengths behind the car in front of me, it slows me down and holds that interval. Then, when I slide into the left lane, it accelerates back to the original speed.

I played with those in slower traffic and found it worked as well at 25 mph, as it did at highway speeds. The downside however showed up immediately in traffic circles (yes, those damnable things are now popping up in Arizona). It will happily accelerate you into the path of an oncoming car, when the car ahead of you moves on.

The car’s dash/instrument panel is a wonder of technology but I think it’s dangerous as hell. If we’re not supposed to text while driving, why should we be allowed to play on a computer while driving? All that stuff is entirely too distracting. Not to mention I bet a high percentage of it will die long before the vehicle does.

The Maxima was solved one personal crisis, but my tools are another crisis-in-the-making because they’re reaching their own end of life well ahead of when I’ll reach my own. My trusty old Black and Decker radial arm saw, for instance, bought new only a little over 40 years ago, had the audacity to totally fry its motor. The motor is one of those sealed, exotic looking things and I don’t know whether it can be rebuilt or not. I need to get the time to take it down to a motor shop and find out. All my power tools are over the hill or getting there. If I expect to be having fun at the work bench as a greying Gepetto in a few years, I’m going to have make some investments.

It’s pretty obvious that I believe in wringing the last possible drop of use out of every tool or mechanical contrivance I buy. “New” has no allure for me. Eventually, however, you reach a point where, if you want to own something worthwhile during that slow-down period at life’s end, you’d better buy it now, while you’re still making money. But, you have to do it with a different mindset than you’d use five or ten years ago. We can’t just say, “Screw it! I’m going to buy it and take my time paying for it.” I, for one, don’t want to find myself in my 80’s with monthly payments hanging over my head. At the same time, some things that we buy will last a lifetime simply because there’s not that much life left. For instance, assuming the new Maxima lasts as long as the old one did (which I very seriously doubt), it is very likely we just bought the last new car in my life, which is a scary thought in itself.

Anyway, The Red Head looks good in her shiny new, gun metal gray, high-tech toy. Fortunately, I still look like I usually look tooling along in my hatchback antique, which is just fine by me. bd

16 Oct 16 - A Trunk Latch Versus the Real World
As I’m sitting here trying to think of something to write about, I’ve become aware that I’m sick at heart. I actually feel vaguely nauseated at what I see around me. But, I think I have a silly, but viable, temporary escape, and maybe a cure. At least for me.

First, I look at the two candidates and I can’t help but want to throw up. I’m embarrassed by both of them. So, I’m going to just ignore the entire circus. I don’t care who wins any more. In three weeks it’ll thankfully be over so we can begin to deal with the realities of the final victory…except that it won’t be a victory. Everyone loses. But, I have a fix for my mental/emotional state that has rescued me multiple times in the past.

People like me have our own kind of “safe place” where we can go to temporarily escape the crap storm and give our hearts (and heads) a rest. It’s called The Work Shop. Or, in this specific case, the escape is called “Coming up with a trunk latch that’s better than the last one I came up with.” I’m talking about my little roadster, of course. And, while I know "trunk latch therapy" may not sound very profound sounding, it is part of a type of a mental process that is an excellent anesthetic for diverting the mind from truly ugly thoughts. There is simply nothing better for mental health than forcing yourself to concentrate on solving some sort of tangible/mechanical problem.

In this particular case, the challenge at hand is, on the surface, absurdly simply: come up with a latch system for the truck lid of a lifelong project ('been working on this roadster for 59 years so far). Should be super easy. It’s a Model A Ford. How difficult can it be? But, now it has no trunk handle, so the old latch won’t work. And any latch designed for it (I picked up a small “bear claw” latch at a swap meet) is more or less done in the dark because you have to be inside the trunk to see it in action. I solved that by removing the trunk floor (again!).

Without getting into the details, I wound up modifying the hell out of the swap meet latch and mounting it only to find that the matching protrusion on the trunk lid won’t clear the lip of the trunk. But, there’s another way (there is ALWAYS another way) and I hope to get time today to start working on that. I estimate that, when I’m finished, I’ll have at least 30 hours tied up in that stupid latch. But, the first time it precisely clicks into place and I pull the invisible handle under the body and it pops open, I know for a fact that a wave of achievement will roll over me and make every second invested worth it.

Part of the success of using hands-on work to cure our mental/emotional aches and pains is just that: it’s hands-on. It’s tangible as opposed to being some sort of ethereal, philosophical “thing” (like politics) that is gossamer in concept. Politics, for one, have no finite edges and are impossible to quantify in terms of the effects we have on them. Making sawdust and sparks (not at the same time) is unbelievably satisfying because the achievement is clearly quantifiable. At the end of just a little effort, we find that we have made measurable headway on a project so we know for a fact that we are better off today than we were yesterday. We set a goal and we achieved it. Those kinds of feelings seldom happen in society today.

So, if you find yourself throwing things and screaming at the TV, it’s time to take a short trip out to the garage/shop/garden/whatever. It’s time to get your hands dirty and your mind clean. You’ll be the better for it. bd

27 Sept 16 - The Debate Circus 2.0: Random Observations
It’s interesting to see what has happened to the concept of truth. We used to think that a person who lied was the lowest. And then there were the debates last night. Now, it appears a person who lies is bad...unless they're a politician or running for office. Or both. In my book, neither side won the debate. But, we, the people, lost.

This is going to be super short, as I have more important things on my plate than worrying about The Donald and Hillary. So, here’s a quick summation of what I saw last night—nothing new. Trump was Trump and Clinton was Clinton and never the twain shall meet (what exactly is a “twain” anyway?)

We didn’t need the fact checkers, who went nuts the second the thing was over, to tell us the stage was awash in BS from both sides. So, we’ll ignore that and call the debate a factual draw.

You could clearly see the difference between the preparation each received. In Hillary’s case it appeared closer to indoctrination, or maybe even hypnosis, than strictly “preparation.” I’m not kidding one bit when I say that, as she answered her first question, I honestly thought she was reading from a teleprompter. Even her eyes were tracking the rehearsed answers being projected on the teleprompter in her head. And this served her well throughout the evening. There wasn’t much improvisation in her act last night because her handlers had foreseen 90% of what she was likely to run into and had all the tapes queued up in her head. It was very well done. She did, however, have a smug, almost contemptuous look on her face part of the time, while listening. That irritated the hell out of me and I’ll bet I’m not alone.

They also had her programmed to go on the attack, which she did well, putting Trump on the defense for most of the night. That pushed him to the edge of “non-presidential” a number of times, which I’m certain was part of their game plan. In general, however, he didn’t totally derail. He came close a few times though. And he did land a few good zingers (“I’ll release my tax returns when you release the 33,000 e-mails you deleted.”)

Donald’s prep appeared to have been mostly sitting around in a bar somewhere BSing about the world and politics in general. “Casual” would be the word to describe his prep. And that didn’t serve him well.

At the very least, Trumps troops have to prep him better on what to attack and what to do about explaining his own programs. I was disappointed that he didn’t leap on the question about bringing companies back into the country and explain how dropping the corporate tax rate to 15% would do that. He assumed people would make the connection between a lower tax rate making us a much more attractive place to do business than it is now. We tax corporations higher than any place in the world. So, it’s only natural they look for safe havens. Lowering the tax rate is not rewarding the rich. That’s common sense and will eventually mean more jobs as companies move back. But, he didn’t spell it out and should have.

There were lots of missed opportunities like that one and that tells me his handlers didn’t have him very well programmed. Wait…did I just say “programmed” and Donald Trump on the same page? Sorry!

So, what happens now?

There’s a high probability that, while you’re reading this, Trump and his advisors/family/handlers are in a dark room somewhere watching game tapes and going back over what he did right and what he did wrong. He’s a smart enough guy that when he watches himself in action with a critical eye, he’ll see what needs to be improved.

It can’t be forgotten that this was Trump’s first debate. Nor can it be forgotten that it was far from Hillary’s first. One of the talking heads said that Hillary had been involved in over 100, which I find hard to believe, but a talking head said it, so it must be true…they never lie.

Let’s see how he does in the second debate. I think that he’s a quick study and is entirely capable of upping his game. Hillary was very much at the top of her game, so the Trump camp now knows clearly what they’re going to be faced with next time around and will prepare accordingly.

The next debate might actually be worth watching. Last night’s wasn’t. bd

24 Sept 16 - The Debate Circus
I don’t want to talk about politics. In fact, the first thing I looked up this morning was the guest cameo of Jack Lord, the original Steve Garrett, that showed up on the first episode of Hawaii Five-Oh for the season. I thought he’d be ancient. But, he wasn’t. WTF? But, the debates are looming out there and ready to steam roller over us. So, I’ll make a quick comment or two and revisit the subject on Tuesday.

I doubt if any Presidential debate ever held had the audience this one will have. I won’t be among those watching. I try to avoid seeing things that are either painful or embarrassing. And these debates definitely have the potential for both. I’ll let the talking heads on CNN and Fox sum it up for me afterwards. Combining those two should give me a view from different perspectives.

If there is one word that fits the debates at this juncture, it is “unpredictable.” And that’s what’s going to draw the audience.

People aren’t going to be watching to see each candidate’s position on important matters. They are going to be watching to see how nuts the two of them get (both have high “crazy potential”) and this will depend on several possibilities:
1- Will the moderator, who is a hardcore liberal, go out of his way to trip Trump up with questions that require knowledge Trump has been proven not to have? Will he be baiting Trump trying to set him off? I doubt it, but could be.
2- Will Trump be able to contain himself and maintain a presidential demeanor? Actually, will he even be able to remain civil? If he doesn’t, he’s toast! This is the biggest question every one has about the debates.
3- Is the moderator going to soft ball Hillary or go for substantive stuff with her? Even though he’s a liberal, it’s his moment in the media spotlight and I’m betting he uses it to build his reputation and he won’t cut either of them any slack.
4- Has Hillary’s preparation team loaded her with comments she can make which are guaranteed of setting Trump off? I would, if I were them.
5- Will the moderator be able to ask Hillary anything for which her team hasn’t pre-loaded her with the correct answers? I don’t mean the moderator giving her the questions ahead of time. I mean her team has been grilling her with all the most likely questions and will the moderator be able to come up with some they hadn’t thought of? That’ll be tough to do.
6- Will Hillary be able to stand up there for 90 minutes under intense pressure without it causing her to deteriorate? This speaks to the question of her health.

This election cycle is as much circus or Kabuki as anything else. It is so hard to believe that, as a nation, we’ve come to this. However, both candidates are there because voters put them there and that says something about both sides of the aisle.

Incidentally, and I’ve said this before, the thing that amazes me most about this cycle is that the Clinton Machine, which we thought was invincible until BHO beat it (which might have been part of a Soros-type plan), is anything but invincible. Ditto the DNC machine. Hillary was nearly beaten for the candidacy by a 74-year-old grandfatherly socialist that not a living soul in the Nation had ever heard of prior to him announcing. Now, despite her spending millions and millions on advertising and has a ground crew that is the size of a small army and very good at what they do, she is neck and neck with a total non-politician who is continually putting his foot in his mouth and has even pissed off many in his own party. How can this be? Again, this is a reflection of the voters and this too is something we’ve never seen.

I’m going to try to put another Thinking Out Loud up Tuesday and give a country boy’s opinion on the circus. And, yeah…I’ll probably watch. Who can ignore a train wreck in progress?

PS
Jack Lord did a cameo on the new version of Five Oh courtesy of CGI. It was very convincing and a nice nod to the original series, which ran ’68-’80 and was the biggest cop show to that time. Lord died in ’98. Just thought you’d like to know.

11 Sept 16 - 911: What Have We Learned?
It is 0600, Sept 11, 2016. 15 years ago at this time, I was sitting on the floor leaning against my bed, phone in hand talking to my daughter while we watched our world changing right before our very eyes on television. It seemed unreal then. It seems unreal now. But, what have we learned, and what have we become, since then?

911 is this generation’s December 7th. Both are dates that will live in infamy, to quote FDR, but December 7th was, and is, unequivocal in its effect and in our reaction to it. We had been sucker punched at Pearl Harbor and suffered an extreme act of international, state-sponsored, terrorism. We lined up behind our country and didn’t waiver for an instant. Although Admiral Yamamoto didn’t actually say it (a script writer for Tora, Tora, Tora did), his attack did indeed “…awaken a sleeping giant and fill it with a terrible resolve.” To a very real degree, the attacks of 911 did the same. At least in the short term.

For several years, after that terrible morning, the American flag was everywhere you looked. Then slowly and irrevocably the national enthusiasm began to wither and die. I’m not sure why. Maybe the war in Iraq wore us down. I don’t know. By a few scant years later, 2008, we were no longer the country we were on September 12th seven years earlier. Our solidarity had withered to be replaced by different opinions that over the next eight years became a national divide that was/is the equivalent of a continental drift.

A lot of us came of age in the 1960’s when history would have us believe that we were terribly divided, as a nation, and we were. But, it was nothing compared to where we stand today. I find it difficult to believe how far apart we’ve drifted and how hard it is to have civil discourse over our communal problems. And that is horribly sad.

We were one nation following 911 because we sensed a common enemy. The planes that hit the Trade Centers didn’t recognize party affiliation, gender, race, religion or culture. The pilots of those planes only recognized that they were attacking Americans, whom they saw as a monolithic entity, rather than the wildly diverse nation that we are by nature. America is one of only a small handful of nations that actually have no defined ethnicity. We are born of immigrants who bonded together to form a nation and following 911 that bond was clearly evident.

Today, we are facing the same enemy but terrorism is slowly but surely creeping into our consciousness making us aware of the threat. As I look around, however, the real terrorism isn’t the result of radical Islaam. It is the result of our own peer group-induced dislike for any who have opinions other than our own. Or who are different than us. It’s sort of a social terrorism, the result of which is intense fighting, not squabbling, but actual verbal (sometimes physical) fighting between every group of every definition. They might be defined by color, gender, sexual orientation, political, you name it. If there’s a difference, there’s an environment of discord surrounding them.

I’m guessing that even folks who are left handed are beginning to feel put upon by a right handed world. I know that being chromatically challenged (color blind), I think it showed some ignorance/arrogance to make red and green so critical in controlling our lives when 8% (call that one out of twelve) men can’t tell the difference. Think of that the next time you pull up to a